The wildlife loop at custer state park

How I Afford to Travel with a Family using simple proven secrets

One of the funniest things I’ve heard is “You must be rich”, and “How do I afford to travel, especially with kids?” When I first started DayTripping I was flat broke. I had absolutely no money to travel and was bummed to see all my friends going on so many trips.

I started blogging for the people that felt just like me, trapped with little disposable income. Little did I know it would drive me to join the ranks of Travel Blogger World.

Through the years, we’ve had difficulties financially. We went from a dual-income family to a single-family income. All the while, we’ve still been able to travel just the same as before. Today, I’m sharing some of my tips on how I afford to travel.

DayTripper is reader-supported. When you purchase though links on our site, we may earn a small commission. I never promote things I haven’t vetted myself.

How I afford to travel and what you can do now

Stay Local

I first started the Day Trip mindset it was to avoid the cost of staying overnight. The cost of a hotel can be a sizeable portion of a family travel trip budget. That overnight say usually comes with 2-3 extra meals needed and so much more.

Whenever you can cut out overnight stays, you’ll save money and see the potential for more vacations go up too. Think about how far you will drive and head out

For some inspiration here are my Top Family-Friendly Day Trips & Favorite Small Towns to Visit in Minnesota.

Pack a Lunch

I love supporting local businesses. But when things are tight, a meal at a restaurant for a family of four can easily cost upwards of $60. Packing a lunch will eliminate one meal on the trip.

We fill up our cooler with a healthy snack. Another option is to choose to eat lunch versus a dinner in town. Dinners are one of the most expensive meals.

I also fill the back of the car with healthy snacks. I’ve got granola bars, energy bars, raisins, nut packages, and drink mixes.

Anything and everything that I know won’t melt on a summer day or I need to worry about it spoiling. This saves a ton of money when it comes to roadside stops. Once a month we splurge and try out a local restaurant.

Picnic At The Landing

Utilize Digital Rewards

Something new to the market is GetUpside. This app is great for saving money at the gas tank and grocery store. It also saves some money when you dine out. But I don’t use it like normal people. Before getting gas, groceries, or to a restaurant, I check and see if there are discounts close by.

If it’s something I intend to buy already, I’ll prioritize that location over the next. After finalizing my purchase, I upload my receipt and save my discounts.

Instead of cashing out right away, I use it as a vacation savings account. Over the course of a month, I can set aside $50 on the app in cash. I save up that cash to cover the extras like amusement park passes, dinners, or admission to other fun things.

GetUpside isn’t the only digital reward out there. You can earn gift cards by doing daily searches on the Bing Search Engine. First thing in the morning, I take three minutes and do my maximum number of searches.

Once you earn enough points, you can get gift cards to places like Target or Amazon. Over a year I can earn almost $100 in rewards points. I use that money to buy some more travel gear.

Another good one is Shopkick. This one I’ve used a lot in the past. Basically, you go into a store like Target, open the app and scan a few items on the shelf.

They reward your time with things like Target or Amazon Gift cards. If you really want to up your game, get a PayPal gift card so you can put the money back in your bank. This is a huge money saver.

Go on Free Day’s

Museums, State Parks, and other activities around the have free days. Check with your hometown’s list of activities. I’ve found free days for local attractions just for residents.

The MN Landscape Arboretum offered free admission once a month for Chanhassen Residents, pre-pandemic.

I’m hoping this offer comes back soon. Either way, these opportunities are available for everyone. This is a great way to see more of your town. If you ever are curious, ask your local parks and recs department to see what kinds of offers they have.

If you have a Library Card, you can also take advantage of the smART Pass. This is a great opportunity to see some local theatre performances and museums.

Ticket booth at Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins, MN

Get outside more

I love getting to see epic destinations outside. That’s why I made it a priority to see some more MN State Parks. For the price of an annual pass, $35, we could go into any MN State Park and spend the day.

But there are some that you can get into for free. Like on the Open House days. Or if the State Park doubles as a Rest Area. There are three along MNs North Shore that qualify.

Gooseberry Falls, Tetteguche, Temperance River (Road Side Parking), Cascade Falls (Road Side Parking), and Grand Portage. You are limited to the main parking lot but can explore as much on foot.

Also, hiking on the Superior Hiking Trail and remote camping is free. It’s a great way to get outdoors more without having to drop a bunch of cash.

Regional Parks around Minnesota are starting to offer free admission. There are plenty of opportunities to explore their trails and activities. You may even find some free programs there.

Three Rivers Park, Dakota County, Carver County, Minneapolis and St Paul public parks are all free admission. The parks that do charge cost under $10 to visit. It’s well worth the money.


Invest in the right things

When it comes to outdoor activities, it helps to have an extended family with similar interests. We often pool together our gear when we want to go camping, snowshoeing, or other fun outdoor activities.

If you don’t have a family with similar interests, look on Facebook and look for used gear or gear swapping groups. You can also rent gear at State Parks and Regional Parks, and at stores like REI.

Sometimes you do have to spend a little money on good gear. But if you spend it on the right thing, it can last a lifetime.

The biggest investment we made a few years back was to get a Travel Trailer. We knew we wanted to camp and stay overnight more and the easiest way to make us mobile was with a camper.

What was surprising to me was how inexpensive they were to purchase. We got ours for close to $10,000 with a low monthly payment.

I know what you are thinking, that’s still a lot of money. But when you think of staying in hotels and the extra food cost, you could easily spend that much.

We also have a dog that we’d have to find accommodations for. In the end, we found a Travel Trailer that was cheaper and let us have more flexibility to have a home on wheels.

I also have a lot of DIY gear and modifications I made. I’ve made my own backpacks, stair covers, camper modifications, and other gear. If you have a sewing machine or any crafting skills, you can probably figure out something on your own. Or take a quick look online at other options.

Amazon Prime

This is one of my biggest cost-saving measures. You’ll notice that I like to promote a lot of products on Amazon, that’s because I love prime. It has a lot of hidden benefits way beyond free shipping.

We use Amazon Prime Music for road trip playlists. Watch the latest videos on Prime. We’ll use their shipping option to have stuff sent to the hotel before we arrive at a destination.

But my all-time favorite is the unlimited photo storage. It’s no secret that I take a lot of photos. I can store them all on Amazon’s cloud, so I never worry about losing them.

Use Travel Credit Card Rewards

With travel, you can do a lot with places close by. But sometimes your wandering spirit takes you a little further away. That’s why I started using travel credit card points to go to different places. This is a huge money-saving tip.

We’ve saved up enough points with Delta and Chase to do a free flight to Washington DC, New Orleans, Disney World, and even an upcoming trip to Hawaii. And I’ve never had to fly budget airlines. Plus, if you get a card like the American Express Delta Sky Miles card you won’t have to pay for any carry-on bags.

The trick with credit cards points to gathering up the introductory rewards. Chase Sapphire Preferred was our first card and is amazing.

Before the year was up, my husband opened a card and we transferred the points to him to avoid paying any membership fees. In the Credit Card world, they call this travel hacking.

They have huge bonuses that often will cover your airfare or first couple of nights at a hotel. Make sure you pay off your credit card every month. If you can’t, the amount you pay in interest is equivalent to paying for the airfare yourself.

Prioritize What Matters

For many people, it comes down to priorities. If you want the extra money to afford to travel, cut costs somewhere else.

I don’t normally wear makeup. I rarely go clothing shopping unless I have to. When I do it’s always for at discount stores like Target or Sierra Trading Company.

We try to limit eating out during the week and Caribou Coffee is only a treat done a few times a year. There is no gym membership, especially when you have a free outdoor playground.

I use the library’s collection of books and DVD rentals. They also have a vast collection of online learning opportunities. We don’t have cable, instead; we use 2 different streaming services at a time. You can even get free state maps for our road trips.

If you prioritize your spending on a travel fund, you’ll be amazed at what you can do.

Where to get free state maps

What about freebies from blogging?

There is a serious misconception about Travel Bloggers and Social Media Influencers. The perception is that we travel the world for free, getting comped stays and visits everywhere. T

here are some that do. But the vast majority of us are in a constant state of hustle. The travel dream doesn’t always come cheap.

We pay for a lot of the experiences ourselves. We spend hours writing, photographing, and editing blog posts because we want to share our joy with you.

Most people’s blogs will never generate 6 figures. Most bloggers, like myself, are just happy to see the blogging income cover the cost of hosting the blog.

Are you making travel a priority for you?

When it comes down to traveling, it’s all about your mindset. It doesn’t matter even if all your budget allows is a quick trip to Stillwater to see the lift bridge, it’s an adventure!

Find a way to escape your house and see a few things of the things you’ve been dreaming about. Attend a local festival and take in the festivities. Find a hiking trail. Or save aside some of your money and go somewhere epic.

Similar Posts