Friday, June 8, 2012

The Frugal Road Trip - Saving (and Making) Money On the Road

As a person who loves to “road trip” and do so frugally, I am constantly on the outlook for ways to cut on expenses while still enjoying life “on the road”. In order to up the experience and lower the cost, I go to a variety of sources. I check my inbox for deals and steals am a preferred customer at every place I go, have a personalized cooler, and use many other tricks. I also read as much of the literature out there as possible. Believe it or not, I often read online motorcycle magazines and forums as they have all kinds of tips. I read all the archives at the American Road forum and its accompanying website. Occasionally I visit RV websites for hints on off the road side trips, even though I travel in a car.

What interests me today are nontraditional ways to save, and ways to make money while going about your vacation. In some instances we may be able to support our lifestyle while on the road. Fear not, fellow travelers, I am not speaking of picking fruit. I recognize that most of my readers are boomers. While many of us are fit, most of us are not interested in doing a lot of “heavy labor” in support of our travel lifestyle. There are however, other options. As many of my readers know, I buy and resell everything from books to collectibles. I have my situation set up so that if I buy a book in Denver, I can list and sell it while I am there. I consider finding the books to be a good time. This means that I make money while traveling while spending little money and almost no time. I can explore Santa Fe for a few days, spend perhaps an hour or two mailing books, and have made money on my “vacation” Because I am a quilt artist, I have the ability to do shows, sell to shops on the road. Lately I’ve been looking at other options with regards to travel writing or photography. The point is, there are many options for working-and saving money on travel. Your opportunities may be different from mine.

There are really two ways to supplement your travel income beyond the traditional ways. The first way may result in little cash in hand, but in discounted or free rates at RV parks or national park cabins. You may volunteer in the RV park, at a public park, or do another volunteer service. While these options work best for RVers (especially those planning to stay in place for a while), no one should rule these ideas out. I’ll be talking about more of these options in depth later as I do my own exploration.

The other option is to make money while you vacation. Again folks, I’m talking about realistic options for our lifestyles and times. I at least, am unlikely to wash dishes, pick peaches, or dig a ditch (although I have done a few of these things in younger years, and know folks who still do). I’m looking in a different direction here. Options here range from having an online business (or money making blog) that goes where you go, to using an interest or skill on the road, to buying and selling at local flea markets or swap meets. More enterprising long term travelers may be willing to step out of the box more.

Of course most of my suggestions above are more applicable to long term travelers than the one week vacation. On the other hand, it’s worth considering that having a portable income streams allows more flexibility. If your income stream can travel with you (in a small portion of your car, and/or online), then it’s served two purposes. First it’s enabled you to be able to “take off” with fewer worries, and second, your income stream (no matter how small), can give you flexibility in terms of finances. Finally, “work” while travel may enable you to make new friends and have new experiences.

Food for thought, as we enter the (frugal) vacation zone.


  1. Love ths post.. I don't travel bt it's good advice for anyone really! I make extra $$ with sewing, scrapbooking, photography, etc... It allows us little indulgences that we wouldn't otherwise have!

  2. Have you thought about the idea that you could write off part of your trip as business?
    You have some good ideas here. If you ever venture to Kansas I have a few places to take you to find things you could sale...and you could stay at our house for free !

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