41 days of vacation for only $2,110

John and I love to travel. And we're DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids), so we have that luxury right now and take full advantage of it.

When spring hit this year, it dawned on me that we had big travel plans (involving local and national trips) for the next few months. I knew it would be a bit of a financial commitment. Let's be real here, I was anxious. We have bills to pay, people!

But then I saw the silver lining in this otherwise financial nightmare.

The silver living? It could be worse. That's right. It could be worse.

We could be traveling to places that increase our carbon footprints exponentially, or we could be spending double, or triple, what we currently spend on travel and only get outta Dodge for a quarter of the time. Interesting notion, isn't it? I thought so, too.

So I decided to track our travel dates and expenses from April to August (our prime traveling months) to see how many days we spend traveling, how much we really spend, and how much we really save by traveling using the methods we do.

Now, in efforts of full disclosure, I would estimate 80 percent of our traveling involves camping. We have a Jayco Jayfeather travel trailer that we pull to most of our destinations, which is paid off. John owns a Ford diesel truck, which is also paid off.

Note the expression of sheer joy on John's face. That's the expression he wears after cutting wood. I know, lucky me. 
These two characters give us plenty of exercise while we're traveling. Sometimes we get into a lethargic state while on vacation, but not when we have two energetic terriers to walk every day!

When we vacation, all we pay for is our campsite, gas, and any entertainment while there.

Also, we bring our dogs with us so we don't have to pay to board them (or vaccinate them for Bordatella - which is very pricey!) or pay for a dog sitter to check on them several times a day. I'll get into other smaller expenditures and how we save some moo-la later, tater.

Here's the break down:
From April to August, we spent 41 days traveling - i.e. not sleeping at our home
From April to August, we spent an estimated total $880 on campsite expenses (the actual cost of reserving the campsite)
From April to August, we spent about $1050 on miscellaneous traveling expenses (gas - a major expense, entertainment while 'on location', park entry fees, etc.)
From April to August, we spent $180 on food (to stock up the camper before we left, or dine out while gone)

This means we spent about $2,110 on 41 days of travel.

Now here comes the big number:
(I apologize in advance for shoddy math. I teach English for a reason, people!)

We spent an average of $51.46 per day traveling.
Can you go on a vacation for that many days for that amount per day? Can you even go for a 7-day vacation for $2,110? Our honeymoon (in 2010) was almost $3,500 for 6 days, and thinking about the cost-efficiency of the vacation now almost makes me ill (but I wouldn't trade it for the world!).
The point now becomes this: We think YOU can reduce your carbon footprint while traveling, travel more often, and travel for less money by making more conscious choices. Here are some tips we have for you:

1. Spend some time in the great outdoors. Even if you're not an outdoors-y person, there are some really fantastic parks with cozy, clean cabins all over the U.S. where you can drive to. Most times, if you get off the beaten path, you can find some real natural gems - places that make you feel like you're in another world.

2. Drive, don't fly. One of the things John likes most about our 'style' of traveling is that the trip to our destination is just as exciting as the destination. It would be even more eco-friendly if I could get John to leave the camper at home and tent camp instead, but he's not sold.

3. Bring as much of your own food as possible, if driving. It also helps that we get our pork and beef from my parents and only pay the processing at our locker. Additionally, I do a lot of canning and plant a garden so much of our traveling food is fresh or unprocessed. It's rare to travel and eat wholesome, good food. Also, we grill or cook over an open fire almost every evening. During the day we picnic in a new place with a lunch we made before leaving our campsite.

4. Plan, plan, plan. Book in advance. Map your route. Make lists. We also have travel guides and do a lot of research about the area we'll be visiting. We've scored some sweet entertainment deals this way, cutting costs even more. The times we spent the most while traveling was because of poor planning.

5. Plan a vacation that doesn't require you to purchase anything new before you go. This is probably my favorite part of camping and traveling the way we do. My parents do a lot of traveling abroad, and many times my mother ends up buying new swimming suits, dresses, or cute clothes to match the weather she'll encounter. Once they even bought their own snorkeling gear to take with them. I don't have to buy new swimming suits or dresses most times when we travel. We don't have to buy new gear of any sort - we just pack up what we have and hit the road.

6. Get a group of people to travel and camp with you! Camping is a bit of work, however, spending time with friends and family makes it more fun. Plus, unlike a typical vacation where you stay in a hotel or are without a vehicle, you can still have privacy and do your own thing during the day and meet up with your travel companions in the evening. You can also do a potluck-style supper to cut down on costs. And if you have dogs or cats - bring them along!

7. Book your campsites in advance. This is very, very important. Because many campgrounds tend to fill up during peak seasons (more on peak seasons later), booking online or over the phone early ensures you have a place to download at the end of the day. If you are traveling quite a distance, you can find a roadside park where you can sleep in your camper, often for free, before waking up the next morning to continue your journey.

8. Vacation, especially camp, in off-peak times. Many campgrounds offer a nice discount on their campsites during off-peak dates, or months that are not May, June, July, August, or September. We live in the Midwest, and the weather is really nice in April, October and sometimes November, which allows us to travel at a significantly reduced rate.

9. Think about your impact when you travel. Just because you are traveling economically in terms of money, doesn't mean you are traveling economically in terms of your environmental impact. For instance, many travelers, campers especially, use a ton of disposable paper products (paper plates, paper napkins, etc.). I know it might be easier, but don't do that. Get a few lightweight, cheap plates from a consignment shop and keep them with your traveling gear. Pack a few old towels and kitchen towels that you won't miss on a daily basis to keep with your gear as well.

10. Challenge yourself. Yes, it is harder to travel is this manner. It isn't as convenient. It requires effort and forethought. But the rewards are greater. What are the rewards? You'll have to see for yourself.

My request for you is to see if you can beat our numbers. Can you travel for less than $51.46 per day? Do you have methods that make traveling for environmentally friendly, and financially responsible? Blog about it, share it, spread it.

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