How to Adventure More and Spend Less

10 Tips for Planning Your Best Travel Year...CHEAP!

Posted on: August 16, 2018
By: Robyn Smith
How to Adventure More and Spend Less

If you worked as hard on making memories as you do at your job, what would your life look like?  Most of us punch the clock for one, maybe two, vacations each year.  A lack of time and funds are most widely cited reasons for failing to launch on more adventures. Break down the excuses and find some solutions for adventuring more in 2018.

Problem: Not Enough Time to Travel

In the United States, there is no federal requirement to pay an employee for a single day they are not actively working; this includes holidays, vacation, and even sick days.  Nearly 1 in 4 American workers do not earn a single paid day off.  The remaining 75% are afforded an average of 10-14 days of paid leave.  Only half of the days the average worker is entitled to are actually used.  Worse still, roughly 60% of Americans continue to work while they are on vacation.  Despite volunteering to work for free for an average of 4-6 days per year, passing up paid days off has no statistical correlation with raises or bonuses.

The American obsession with working harder, longer, and more diligently than the next guy is draining more than personal time.  Productivity, health, and relationships all suffer the consequences of an unbalanced life.  Surprisingly, the economy itself suffers from all work and no play.  Forbes reports “The economic potential of returning to the pre-2000 vacation patterns, according to the new analysis, would result in a $284 billion impact across the U.S. economy “.

Without paid days off, a vacation away from home is often a luxury that up to half of the US just can’t afford.  Don’t let that stop you from making the most of the days you do have off. The weekend is a reasonable amount of time for an amazing adventure with the right approach. 

Problem: Vacations are Expensive

The average American vacation is 4-5 days and costs roughly $1,000-$1,500 per person.  With a price tag like that it’s not surprising that American’s don’t vacation enough.  But having a passion for adventure doesn't need to cost a fortune. The majority of the average vacation expense is lodging and transportation, both getting there and getting around when you get there. 

10 Tips on How to Adventure More and Spend Less


Make your weekend a vacation 

Vacation doesn’t have to mean taking days off and dropping a ton of money on exotic destinations.  Packing up the car and heading out after work is a great way to make the most of your days off.

Set your Scope

Stay Local(ish). Don’t fly.  The time, frustration, and expense of hopping a flight and renting a car is simply not worth it for quick weekend trip.  Drive:  Using your own vehicle as a mode of adventure saves on transportation to and at your destination.  You also have the freedom and flexibility to adjust your plans and discover new places along the way.  What’s cool within 100-200 miles of where you live?  Wherever you live, there is some authentic experience not too far away.  Check Google Maps and figure out what you have to work with within a 2 hour drive. 

Plan it

Fill in your calendar with more than just appointments and tasks.  Make a list of places you want to go and fill up your days off.  Not only will you have something to look forward to at the end of the week, you’ll be able to budget better having a plan. Some sites may require reservations and fill up fast so start making your plans before the season starts to give yourself lots of options.  Don’t be afraid to exercise the cancellation policy if your plans change.  Pack up your Weekend Adventure Kit Thursday night and leave directly from work or school on Friday.  You’ll beat the crowd to the best spots and roll in right around dinner time.


Nature is good for the soul and the pockets. The average hotel room rate in the US in 2017 was around $145 per night.  A high quality tent you sleep in 20 weekends a year for 5 years will cost you $4-5 per night.  Camping for free is easier than you would think on public lands.  Bureau of Land Management lands, National Forests, State and National Parks are great options to find secluded spots to set up for the weekend.  Even major cities like San Francisco have camping options near by for a fraction of the cost of a hotel. AirBnB even offers camping options.

Eat Great Food

Three Meals a day at restaurants is the most expensive method of refueling. Burgers and Brats aren’t the only options for good eating at camp. Mix it up with these great camp food alternatives:

“Outdoor cooking” is the second most popular activity while camping in the US.  Seeking out locally grown seasonal ingredients is a great activity to immerse you in your destination while keeping your costs, calories, and carbon footprint down. 

Delivery Food Services are quick, easy, and delicious.  HelloFresh, BlueApron, HomeChef offer endless options for great meals that are conveniently pre-portioned and packed on ice for travel.  Most services offer a discount for your first month of service so you can try them all this summer while saving money and cutting down on food waste at camp.

Take out:  Eating at a restaurant is 20-40% more expensive than takeout due to tips and drinks.  Snagging a fabulous meal to go from whatever restaurant your dying to try is affordable, easy, and you won’t need to do the dishes!  Grab yourself a private table under the stars, BYOB, and enjoy!

Frozen Burrito Breakfast:  There’s some pretty amazing stuff happening in the frozen food section.  Toss a few aluminum foil wrapped burritos on the camp stove in the morning and your ready to go.

Go out to Dinner:  You saved $300 on a hotel room this weekend by choosing to camp.  Treat yourself!

Share it  

Mini-trips and camping are the ultimate bonding experiences.  Getting out of town and experiencing something new is a cost effective way to impress a date, reconnect with friends, or make time for family.  You also get more quality time for less than the standard dinner, drinks, and a movie.  

Invest in your Experience Bank

Reflecting on the past makes us happy (think of the #throwbackthursday phenomenon).  Every novel and exciting experience is a deposit in your bank of memories, which is an investment in future happiness.  The short term excitement of loading up your cart as Costco fades quickly, but a selfie with Dad around a campfire holds its value over time.

Taking a few minutes to write, tweet, or Instagram your adventure isn’t narcissistic. Although your friends in the 5th hour of a Netflix binge may feel a pang of envy, most of your audience will be inspired.  Even if you’re not into sharing your adventures, Facebook is a great way to journal for those that don’t keep a journal.  Status updates and photos set to the “only me” privacy setting are a great way to keep all your memories, public and private, in once place.   

Gather TONS of Activity Options 

Travel and camping are worthy activities in and of themselves but having a handy list of activities helps you get the most out of your adventures. 

Location Specific: As you plan your summer trips, make note of things around it that might interest you.  Having more options than time is always a good thing.  Tick off the ones that best fit your mood and the weather; anything you can’t fit in can be accomplished with a return trip!

Date Specific:  Farmers' markets, street fairs, free concert series, wild flowers blooming, elk migration. The options are endless so focus on what’s happening around the places you defined in your travel scope and you’ll discover things that aren’t on the TripAdvisor Top 10. 

Free and Cheap Adventures:  Walking around outside, a.k.a hiking, is an easy and free go to activity wherever you are. But there’s so much more!

    • Photography: Most camera phones and basic editing apps are good enough these days to take some great shots.  Architecture, flowers, landscapes, even tree bark can make great mini collections.
    • Fishing: Getting into fishing is pretty affordable and you can do it for hours.  Second hand gear shops or even starter set ups at big box stores offer sets ups for under $100. 
    • Get Cultured: Museums, Zoos, Botanical Gardens:  Many have free or donation based admission. Art Galleries are free even if you don’t buy anything.
    • Swim
    • Grab the local paper; Many local gems are best discovered in print.  Small towns, events, and businesses are often not well versed in digital marketing and can’t compete for the top search results on google.  The free local paper usually has interesting things.
    • Visit the local rec center.  Climbing walls, swimming pools, ice skating…you’ll be surprised what’s available.  Also a great place to take a shower while on the road!
    • Go to the Animal Shelter: Play with a dog for an hour; even if you’re not taking her home it’s time well spent!

Down Day Activities:  Few people look back at their weekend and think “I wish I watched more TV”  but sometimes you just need to chill.  Sometimes the weather is less than inspiring.  Planning for down days will keep you motivated on your adventure schedule.  Weekends are as much about slowing down and unplugging as being an aggressive adventurer.  Here’s a starter list of lazy day activities:

    • Books: Make a list of books you want to read and have a few handy in your Weekend Adventure Kit.  Listening to the rain fall on your tent or gently swinging in your hammock are the perfect setting for some good reading. 
    • Skills:  Collect some short how to’s of things you want to learn how to do.  Putzing around camp can be fun and educational.  Teach yourself things like making a fire with a bow drill. Tyng knots. Building a shelter. Foraging for edible plants.  Bookmark some websites on your phone, grab a bushcraft book from the library, or print out some how to’s and practice for your Naked and Afraid debut.
    • Games: Always have a few games on hand and think beyond cards and dice.  Crainum, CodeNames, Catch Phrase, Monopoly are great for rainy days and lots of laughs. Sudoku and Crosswords also make for great alone time.
    • Movies:  Lap tops and tablets hold a charge; there’s no shame in indulging in the outback for a few hours.
    • Get Artsy:  Paint a canvas, or a rock; whatever inspires you.  Starter art kits are typically less than $20; add a bottle of wine and you’ve got a DIY Paint and Sip Session.  Sketch your view.  Teach yourself the Harmonica.  You’ll be surprised how being out of your element can get the creative juices flowing on the cheap.

Prep your Weekend Adventure Kit 

Having all the stuff you’ll need on hand and ready to go makes heading out on an adventure quick and easy.

Tent: The most important part of your adventure kit is your home away from home.  A good tent that is versatile and lasts for years is essential for budget friendly adventure.  We recommend the Sibley 400 Pro for the weekend warrior with 2-4 people.  Look for these key features:

  • Versatile:  Your tent should be able to handle any weather condition so look for breathability, waterproofing, and structural integrity.  If you aren’t confident about weathering a hard rain, a strong wind, or a hot day, you’re limiting your adventure ability to ideal conditions.
  • Big:  80% of camping occurs within 100 yards of a car so choose comfort over weight.  Cheap plastic tents that claim to accommodate 4 people are often too small for a single person to stand up in. Your tent should be your basecamp and should be as spacious and comfortable as possible.  Each occupant should have enough room to stand, walk around, sleep, eat, and store all of the gear they need inside.
  • Easy to pitch.  It should take you 10-15 minutes to set up your tent.
  • Fit in the trunk of your car.
  • Durable and Repairable: You’re going to use it heavily for years; plan for repairs and not replacements.

Camp Kitchen: Make it convenient.  You should be able to fire up coffee in the morning and cook a real meal if you want to.  A single plastic Rubbermaid tub should be able to hold all the stuff you need and be ready to load up when the weekend finally arrives.  Hitting up a second hand store like Goodwill is an EXCELLENT way to source the stuff you don’t already have.

  • Camp Stove:  You can cook over an open fire, but a good two burner camp stove and some propane will make your life on the road much more convenient.
  • Pot and Pan
  • Silverware, mugs, and bowls
  • Soap, Sponge, Bucket, Towel
  • Spatula and/or tongs
  • Paper Towels, Garbage Bags,
  • Hot Sauce, Salt, Pepper
  • French Press or Instant Coffee Packets
  • A Lighter

All the other Stuff

  • Bed or Camp Pad
  • Sleeping Bag or Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Camp Slippers and Welcome Mat: Keep your tent clean and shoes on a mat. A broom is ideal for bell tent camping.
  • Down Day Activity Stuff
  • Map of the Area:  Print or download maps in your Travel Scope.
  • Medical Kit


What did we leave off the list?  Let us know in the comments!