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Where To Explore Next

A couple living in a tiny house truck with a passion for travel and adventure and a love for photography!

10 Tips To Exploring On A Budget

Today I'm going to let you in on a little secret... it doesn't take a lot of money to be able to travel, adventure or explore. All it takes is a little planning and some motivation.

It's easy to look at social media and see accounts full of stunning photos of scenic landscapes and think, "I wish I had that life", but the truth is you can! You don't have to be a social media influencer or independently wealthy in order to have a life full of adventure. And you don't have to visit the Maldives, Iceland, or Paris to get stunning scenic photos. No matter where you live or what your schedule looks like, YOU can live a life of adventure!

To help you discover out of the box ways you can get out and explore more with the time and money you have, here are are 10 tips to exploring on a budget:

Our 10 tips to exploring on a Budget:

1. Look for unknown places near your home, ideally places you could visit on a day trip.

You can start by searching the internet for things to do in the area but chances are your search will come up with local restaurants and nightlife that you're already familiar with, so think outside of the box. Try searching for ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’ places to explore. Or search specifically for certain things that might interest you. For example, Daniel has a love for photographing water so we frequently search for waterfalls or lakes in the area.

Our constant web searches for ‘things to do in the area’ have lead us on countless adventures to places like:

  • Indian Ruins & Pictographs
  • Secret Caves and Caverns
  • Sand Dunes
  • Canyon Overlooks
  • Abandoned Houses
  • Ghost Towns
  • Waterfall Hikes
  • A Lava Tube Cave
  • Groves of Aspen Trees – great during fall colors

2. Take advantage of a 2 or 3 day weekend: Search for places within a 5 hour radius of you.

We have discovered that we can have tons of mini-vacations each year by maximizing our time on the weekends and or holiday weekends. When you’re able to go somewhere overnight, you’re able to get outside of your own backyard and it really expands your opportunities for adventure!

We have found that a 5 hour radius is the perfect distance for us to really be able to feel like we’re seeing new landscapes, but still keeping it in a timeframe that’s achievable in a weekend getaway and also budget friendly. If we’re staying within a 5 hour radius we opt to road trip and that’s half of the adventure! These road trips are when we’ve been able to cross state lines, go camping, or visit many National and state parks.

3. Be open to the unplanned - see an opportunity for a detour and take it.

The true definition of an adventure is when the unexpected occurs; it’s the unknown that becomes adventurous! When you’re out and about exploring, keep an eye out for signs noting points of attraction - things like ‘Crater’, ‘Dinosaur’, ‘Ruins’, ‘Sand Dunes’, ‘Historic’, ‘Lake’, etc. These points of attraction are often only a few miles out of the way and can lead to some fun new experiences you wouldn’t have otherwise stumbled upon. If you have the time to take a detour do it! If not, make a note of it as something you’d like to explore next time.

One of our favorite detours is simply seeing a dirt road and Daniel saying, “I wonder where that goes…” Before we know it, we’re headed down some unknown path to who knows where. Therein lies the adventure!

4. Become a lover of Camping.

Camping is without a doubt the least expensive way to spend a night anywhere away from home. You don’t have to own a ton of gear in order to camp; sure it can make things more enjoyable in the long run, but for starters all you really need is a hammock or two. We absolutely LOVE sleeping in our hammocks, and when the weather is nice we don’t even need a sleeping bag, just a pillow and blanket. Last year we invested in a roof top tent for Daniel’s Jeep, but we still enjoy a night in the hammocks under the stars.

*Speaking of hammocks, Daniel constructed his own hammock stand that attaches to the tailgate of the Jeep. It means that even if we don’t have trees in the area, we can still string up a few hammocks in minutes and spend the night almost anywhere!

When it comes to camping, you don’t need to pay an exorbitant campsite fee. Search for BLM land in the area, it’s almost always free to camp and is sure to be a lot less populated, and quite likely more scenic!


5. Bring food and drinks with you.

By bringing your own food and drink you avoid spending unnecessary money at restaurants or on fast food. Better yet, it also means your stomach is not going to dictate when you come home. We have made it a habit to bring a bottle of wine and often some cheese and crackers with us every single time we go on an afternoon adventure. It allows us something to snack on, but it also makes for a romantic setting for watching sunset wherever we end up.

Whether we are road tripping for a few days or just going for a Sunday drive down a forest service road, we always have food and drinks in tow. Pack a cooler with some ice and you’ll be set to bring anything you need on your adventure!

6. Forest Service roads are your friends!

You don’t need 4 wheel drive or a high clearance vehicle to get out on most forest service roads. Many of them lead to nowhere, but are scenic beautiful drives to landscapes that are not highly trafficked.

Forest service roads have lead us to almost every single one of our favorite campsites, and often have lead us to some sweeping high canyon views we never would have otherwise found. Don’t be afraid to just drive! Let the dirt tell you where to go, don’t have an end result in mind, just see where the road takes you!

7. Buy a National or Local Parks Pass.

The idea of this tip is to save money, and although a Parks pass isn’t usually cheap, it’s almost always worth it! Depending on the park, one entrance fee can cost you anywhere from $10 - $50 whereas a parks pass for an entire year is going to typically run $80-$100. You’ll find that if you invest in a parks pass you’re more likely to use it.

8. Talk to Park Rangers.

Whether visiting a State or National Park, who knows that landscape better than the people who live and breathe it? Park Rangers have the inside scoop on what places are less populated, how hard a hike is or isn’t, what areas are the best for sunrise or sunset, and where the park secrets are hidden. You’re not going to get the inside scoop if you don’t ask, and sometimes it is knowing WHAT to ask.

Talk to the rangers about what you’re looking to achieve from your visit. They are used to directing people to the popular spots, so let them know you’re looking for something special, something out of the ordinary. If they understand that you’re up for an adventure and that you want to get away from the crowds they are sure to give you the inside scoop. Be aware that sometimes they won’t have every detail on how to find a special place, but they will at least have information about something or somewhere that you wouldn’t find in the guide books.

9. Ask your co-workers friends and neighbors about hidden gems or places they know of or have heard about.

It’s amazing what the locals will know. We have discovered that the best ‘secret’ spots are not found online. These are places that won’t be geotagged, and if you do find information about them it will be vague, and that’s intentional. We all know what can happen to a place once it becomes popular, or over-trafficked. If there’s a hidden gem, most people wish to keep it that way.

Sometimes we’ve had people send us pins they’ve dropped in an area, or drawn a map on paper. We’ve discovered secret caves and taverns, located specific old trees, and found hidden waterfalls simply by asking around. You’ll find that many people won’t offer up detailed information freely, so be willing to trade information to some of your favorite spots in exchange.

*Note: Be sure to respect the sanctity of these special places. Pack out what you pack in, leave no trace, don’t geo-tag them online, and don’t share their locations with people who can’t be trusted to treat them with the same respect.

10. Get creative with your time off.

Have a week of vacation you can use? Who says you have to take it all at once? Why not stack it with a couple of days off for a short trip somewhere, or how about taking 5 three day weekends throughout the year?

At my last job I had to work every holiday, but I would get an extra day off that same week to make up for it. I would often turn that time into a 3 day weekend and tack on one or two of my vacation or PTO days to give me a 5 days off in a row without really using up much of my vacation time. The best part about that is that since I was working the holiday, I was getting to travel when everyone else was going back to work. Some of you may have the ability to stack 2 days off from one week, with two days off from the next giving yourself 4 days to go do something without using any additional time off than normal. Think about what flexibility you may have that you're not currently taking advantage of and get out there to explore!

So that's it... Anyone can have an adventure anytime, anywhere. Travel and adventure are really more about being open to new experiences, and being willing to pull yourself off of the couch than they about money.

Comment below if you find these tips useful, or if you have any of your own tips to add. We'd love to hear from you!

Happy exploring!

-Kayla (and Daniel)

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