A Weekend of Frugal Travel

Today is my last work day of the week! I’m headed out to a camping, hiking and star gazing bonanza this weekend at Big Bend National Park. My boyfriend and I are taking a mini vacation and checking this park off the list. (It’s a dream of mine to visit all the US National Parks!) Big Bend is far away, even from Austin. #ninehourdrive I know if I don’t go now I will never make it!

Travel is a priority for me, but I can’t do it at the expense of my budget. You’ll never hear my tell someone to quit their job, travel the world, and figure it out later. That’s pretty terrible advice.

I’m also taking another trip in May, a two week trip in August and traveling for a month in the fall, and I spent five days in Jackson Hole in March. How does someone living on less than 4oK a year make travel happen so often?

The answer lies in frugal living and hardcore planning. All those nights of catering leftovers means money saved. As a matter of fact, my lunch today was 90% comprised of catering leftovers!


Everything pictured is leftovers! I added hard boiled egg, which I paid for.

Even on a tiny budget, aggressive savings means more freedom. By sacrificing in areas like food costs, transportation costs and clothing costs, I can add to areas like my travel budget.

I also utilize travel hacking for some of my travel. I scored credit card bonus reward points earlier in the year that I am cashing in this summer for flights around the country. If someone is going to give me something for free, I’m gonna take it!

More important than the saving and rewards points, though, just may be the planning. I’ve actually been planning this Big Bend trip for almost a year! I wanted to go last spring but couldn’t find time. I wanted to go last fall but we were rained out. So I resurrected the plan for this spring.

I know how long of a drive it is, so I can plan for gas costs. I know how much campgrounds cost. I know how many meals we’ll be eating out, so I know how much food to buy and prep before hand. Knowing as much as you can before actually embarking on your travel adventure means you can control the costs. 

We’ll be taking some catering leftovers with us to eat on the trip. (At least two meals worth!) We’ve also planned meals like oatmeal, veggies and hummus, and bagels with peanut butter. These are all cheap, healthy and easy meals- exactly what you want for a camping trip!

By estimating beforehand how much the trip will cost, I can put away that exact amount of money. I’ve got more than enough for this trip in my travel fund at the moment. Plus, with two of us the costs are split in half.

The style of travel is also important. I take budget flights when I get on a plane, often with layovers. Not convenient, but definitely cheap. This road trip features sleeping outside and no restaurant meals. It’s not exactly glamorous, but it is fun and wallet friendly!

If you’re on a strict budget you don’t have to sacrifice all travel! I really believe that. You may be too exhausted to travel, but financially speaking, you can probably make some sort of trip happen.

Plan for it far in advance and sock away some cash.

Lose the frills. No hotel suites, no fancy restaurants ,and no souvenirs.

Stay with friends, family or budget options like couch surfing if you can.

Eat from the grocery store as often as possible. If you’re going on a road trip, empty your own cabinets before you head to the grocery store.

I do all these things and low and behold, I’m going on five vacations this year! And I’m excited about all of them. I’m not sleeping in a ditch by the side of the road to do it, ad you don’t have to either.

Check my instagram this weekend for pictures from Big Bend and the road out there. I’ll be back Monday!



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16 Replies to “A Weekend of Frugal Travel”

  1. Traveling sounds so much more fun when you don’t have to think about paying big bucks for it! Great advice, Kara:)

    1. Thanks Latoya! Lowering the price tag really lowers the stress. And who doesn’t love vacation?

  2. Sounds fantastic. Look forward to the pics. Agree it is great to research beforehand then you don’t feel the need to impulse buy or cornered because you don’t have any other options.

    1. The biggest thing is avoiding temptation at gas stations! Having a full cooler of snacks helps though.

  3. That looks to be a great trip! enjoy it. I do look forward to the pictures. the national parks in the US are great spots for photography hiking and ranger talks!
    Your planning and food system seems to be a great way to travel a lot on limited budget.

    1. Thank you! It was lovely. Ran into some rain that put a damper on some things (literally and figuratively), but I loved it!

  4. Hope you’re having an awesome time on your trip! I love all your tips for making trips frugal — we’re the same way when we’re paying for the travel (ahem, biz travel is a different story…). I pretty much always have a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter with us, along with lots of dried and fresh fruit. And if you see a weirdo firing up a camp stove at the gas station and grinding coffee beans by hand… that’s probably me. 😉 Can’t wait to see your pics!

    1. I say treat yourself on business travel! Why not? 😉 I ate so much peanut butter on this trip and it was delicious!

  5. Sounds like an awesome trip! We vacation more often because we camp, usually sharing a site with friends to add to the fun and save even more. And we do this with two little kids. We even went when they were babies as young as 4 months old. It was busy but still fun, and honestly, way more fun than being stuck in a hotel room or a rental house full of breakables. Being able to cook on a camp stove saves a lot on food, too. Great tips!

    1. I just bought a camp stove! We actually didn’t even use it because we had so much other food, it wasn’t necessary to cook. But I’m glad I have it! I’m so impressed you camped with children that young. I bow to the camping expert!

  6. The transport and rooms are the most important in the budget of a trip. But travelling with friends and with good offers are cheapest solutions.

    1. Once you lock down cheap transport and lodging you can get really frugal with everything else, you’re right!

  7. […] light of my last post about taking a frugal road trip (which was great! See photo evidence of greatness here) it’s actually kind of perfect that […]

  8. Hope you have a wonderful time at Big Bend, Kara. I just discovered your blog, and am already a fan! Thanks for sharing your life journey with us to financial independence. (I’m personally a nut for the American Express Starwood Points card for free hotel nights! Saved many a family vacation! :)) Congrats on your last day at work! xo jane

    1. Thanks Jane! Big Bend was beautiful. I’ve heard great things about Starwoods, but i think i’m still too low an earner to have more than one card. Talk to you soon!

  9. […] max out my IRA two years in a row and really get my retirement savings going. I’ve been able to travel more, which is a passion of mine. Saving money for whatever goal I have- travel, retirement, quitting my […]

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