Tips for Traveling Cheap

Forth of July Picnic

Forth of July Picnic

We traveled 3000 miles in three days on $300.  It was an ADVENTURE!  Jennifer and I traveled from Virginia to L.A., CA.

I love a good challenge, don’t you?  Where do you want to go or need to go this summer? Does it seem impossible?  Then do it!

I’ve got my master’s degree in pinching pennies after raising five daughters. On top of raising them, we sent all five to college and have married four of them, so far.  Many days there’ve been no pennies to pinch.   So, we’ve had to work harder.

Several years ago Jennifer got an internship in L.A., CA.  She needed to get there with all her belongings- on the least amount of money possible.  We looked at the three big budget needs of travel: Mode of transportation, food, and lodging. We calculated every mode of travel meticulously- plus shipping her belongings. Every way we sliced it, we came up with car travel being the cheapest.

This is how we traveled 3000 miles on $300 in three days:

~Our VW Bug could go 45 miles to a gallon on the highway. We needed approximately 66 gallons of gas for 3000 miles. We mapped out the cheapest places to get gas and drove wisely on the highway.  We didn’t carry heavy luggage or coolers that would add drag to the fuel consumption.  We made the whole trip on $220 in gas.

~We calculated that we would need three nights of lodging.  We asked friends in TN (Micca Campbell) and OK (Tammy Dennis) if we could stay overnight with them on our journey. We made WONDERFUL memories with them.  Our last night we stayed at the cheapest hotel (THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED). It was definitely a memory which could be a post all on its own.

~We brought ALL of our own food. Loaves of organic bread, peanut butter, jelly, bananas, apples, boiled eggs and water.  Not once did we buy fast food.  Not once did we visit a convenience or grocery store and not once did we sit down in a restaurant. Not once did we buy a bottled water.  We filled up jars with water at home and refilled along the journey.

Traveling is expensive, if you aren’t careful.  In I Corinthians 4:2 We are told that, “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” I want to have been found faithful with all the Lord provides for our family.

It’s a holiday weekend.  Yay!  Dale and I traveled to the beach to be with our children and grandchildren.  For the trip, I packed a picnic lunch.  I  poured chili in the bottom of mason jars, poured homemade corn bread batter on top of that and topped with shredded cheddar cheese.  I then baked the jars in the oven on 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let the jars cool before putting tops on.

To add live enzymes to our meal, I included my Cucumber Salad and watermelon stars.  I filled mason jars with water for drinking and added organic chips to the basket! YUM!

You can also make my Chicken& Dumpling cobbler in mason jars.  Where do you plan to go this summer or where do you wish you could go? I would love to hear what food you bring on trips to save money!

  • Lori Fitzgerald said:

    Definitely have to use your smarts not only when traveling, but in everyday life, to make those dollars that God has entrusted to/for our care stretch!! There is no way that we could have made it without being good stewards! We not only took care of the day to day needs of our little family, we were also able to let the boys play sports, go to Kings Dominion (picnic in the car/refillable water bottles), go to the beach/mountains/ etc. (again with picnics/snacks/coolers in tow); numerous ball games (ate before we went); and just about anywhere else we wanted, within reason (and budget)! The lesson of good stewardship has, I believe, been passed on to our sons over the years! There are so many stories that we all could share relating to this!! :). We have reaped the blessing of being a good steward time and time again -- truly beyond imagination! :)

  • Kim Cordes said:

    We take tortilla wraps and make sandwiches. We also freeze water bottles so we don't have the ice melting and ruining bagged foods (like cheese). When the ice melts in the water bottles we have deliciously cold water to drink. Love your ideas, Sharon. I hope to try the cucumber salad soon!

  • Joanne Peterson said:

    The cucumber salad looks delicious! and I will try it. We always brought food with us to eat in the car or at a park or wayside to stretch our legs when we are traveling. It could be finger food, like chunks of chicken that was roasted, fruit, vegetables, whole grain crackers, cookies, frozen water, sandwiches, main dish salads in a sweet sour vinaigrette, etc. We always figured to stop for a meal or a snack to stretch our legs and use the bathroom and play with our kids. If we were traveling up north, we always made it a point to stop at a particular wayside to pump water using an old-time pump and had the most refreshing ice-cold, sweet tasting water and would re-fill our water supply.

    We would check out books and music from the library on audio to listen to and we all would sit engrossed during part of the trip listening to a classic story, or to music, or we would play car games to pass the time. Listening to the authors read the story on audio would really be enjoyable. The trip could then be long, but fun. When we stopped for gas, we brought out homemade treats so the kids weren't tempted, and had a bathroom break.

  • Elizabeth Shields said:

    Suggestions Appreciated: Our family of 5 (inc 3 teenagers) will be spending a few days in Luray at a motel. The motel has a small fridge and a microwave. I'd love some suggestions of meals I can pre-make so we can just zap and eat. The motel has a continental breakfast so I'm looking for lunch and dinner ideas.
    Thanks, Eliz

    • Since you're traveling near home you can bring a rice maker, crock pot and or one electric burner. If you need the burner I have one. I think Luray would have affordable grocery stores for your fresh meat everyday since you have such a small fridge. Google and find out. (Rice maker can also make oatmeal and quinoa)

      1. I always bring dry oatmeal, honey and milk. Use the coffee maker to heat the water. Serve with fruit for lunch.
      2. Fry bacon before leaving home. It doesn't take up a lot of space in small fridge. Bread a loaf of bread and butter.
      3. PBJ sandwiches can't go bad and they are fail safe.
      4. Boil spaghetti on the burner,cook homemade sauce in crock pot serve w/fresh veggies.
      5. Chicken in a crock pot with onions, carrots, etc all day. Cook rice in rice maker and serve with fresh veggies.
      6. Make Quinoa in the rice maker. Slice chicken breasts thin,sauté in skillet with butter and seasonings on the one burner. Serve over quinoa with avocado, fresh tomatoes and herbs.

      Have fun on your family adventure Elizabeth!

  • Karen said:

    So how did you move her belongings or did you just take some items in the VW? I am moving across country with 3 people and need to bring at least some items with us. I drive a 1991 Toyota van and have checked on pulling a trailer, renting a Penske truck which is cheapest, or getting a POD.. not sure about driving the van all the way especially pulling a trailer over the Rockies, but also want to camp on the way and days of keeping truck and trailer cost more.. PODS are most expensive but easiest and most convenient.. isn't it the way? any suggestions? we always take our food, etc but have never done this before.. last time I traveled across country I was still hitchhiking every where!!

    • She brought clothes, bed linens, books, and basic need items. When she got there she got other needs from thrift stores. Let me know how your trip goes!!

  • Megan said:

    As a stay at home on a tight budget mama to 2 littles that will be taking our first vacation as a family of 4, I love these ideas! Where did you get the mason jars with the red lids? Maybe it's just the picture, but they don't look as sharp as the typical gold metal ones. Thank you!

    • The one's with the red tops are vintage. I got them at a thrift store.I love them. I get almost all my jars from thrift stores for pennies. If you have a Goodwill near you, you can typically find them there.

  • Mary P. said:

    When you make the canned jars of chili and cornbread or with the chicken and dumplings does this need to be kept cold while traveling? It did not sound like you were canning it since it said you let the jars cool before you put the tops on. We are a gluten free family of 5 and I am always looking for ideas for food to take on the road with us. Thanks for this post!

    • Mary, I made these jars for a day trip, so I didn't can them. Blessings!