One of my favorite things about visiting the Sierra’s on the eastern side is all the free camping. Camping allows you to get out in nature in a much closer more intimate way. Cooking your own food and surviving the elements are so much fun (both of which we did on this trip as a huge storm blew throughout the entire night and the next morning we cooked an entire brunch on our fire!). Much of the land in the Sierra’s is BLM land which is generally free to camp in year round. Many of the campgrounds become free in the off season as well. We like Holiday Campground near Tom’s Place, Glass Creek Campground near Mammoth, and Buckeye dispersed camping near the Buckeye Hot Springs (probably the best in the sierras that I’ve been to). Make sure to get a fire permit (available for free online) and put your fire completely out. We don’t need the forest burning any more than it already has.
If you follow my blog you know that I am always looking for the best travel deals. I love traveling well (not 5-star but not bunk beds in hostels either) and Airbnb is one of the best sites I know for doing that. I’ve take 8 trips in the last 12 months with Airbnb.
Yesterday I was doing some shopping on Ebay when I stumbled upon this great deal: Buy a $110 Airbnb Gift card for only $100! I went ahead and bought one but am thinking about buying several more since its basically a 10% discount for free! I’m not sure when the sale ends but I wanted to pass it along.
If you have never used Airbnb, its basically rooms or entire houses that people rent out to travelers. So you can stay in a comfortable homey environment instead of a hotel for a price that is normally much better than hotel. I use it a lot for groups of people when we all want to stay together but need a lot of room. If you’ve never used it before use my link for and extra $40 credit on your account for your first booking!!!
Outside of friends and family, camping is often your cheapest option. I’ve seen 8-10 people put 3 tents on one $20 camp site and literally pay about $2/each. There are some places you can even camp for free (Iceland and New Zealand are known for allowing people to camp for free on much public land and even the US has some free primitive sites). Being outside with nature is a travel experience everyone should have a least once a year if not much more.
Drawbacks to camping include, cold or hot nights, the need for camping gear, set up and take down, and limited facilities.
To avoid weather extremes, I’d recommend camping in the fall or spring. Bring proper warm clothing and blankets to stay warm. Plan to share a tent in cooler weather and perhaps sleep in a hammock in hotter weather.
Build a collection of camping essentials. These include (but are not limited to) a tent large enough for the group you wish to travel with, a warm sleeping bag, chairs, headlamps and lanterns, cooking utensils, fire starters, lighters, extra blankets, a tarp, a rain fly (if your tent doesn’t come with it), and a large cooler (for food to cook over your cozy fire).
Only camp if you have at least two days to stay at the site. Preferably 3 or 4 nights. While set up and take down may only take a couple of hours, this adds up significantly when you add cooking time and inconvenience of showering off site. If you must pay to camp, look for a spot that offers on site showers, has built in fire places with grills, and allows you to make reservations in advance.
One of the last times I went camping was in California in the Inyo National Forest. There were two of us and we stayed 3 days. It was about 45 degrees at night which was rather chilly, but we had 3 extra blankets and two sleeping bags which helped. Set up and take down was about 2 hours total. We did have a couple of fires and cooked our meals on them which was quite enjoyable. Cost was about $18/night plus $5/night for firewood. We already had all the equipment so that wasn’t a new expense.
If you plan on camping overseas and must fly equipment out there, make sure your cost of flying the equipment is worth the hassle. If you are only planning on camping a few nights and flying your gear is going to cost you $$$’s, you may find another lodging option is more affordable and convenient.
How do I afford housing while I am traveling? Especially when I am usually paying rent on at least one place in the US during the same time?
One of the first places I look when friends complain about not being able to afford travel, is at how much they spend on hotels. I rarely spend more than $25/per person per night when traveling. And yet I see people who will literally spend $300/night on a weekend in LA and who can’t seem to understand how I travel so much more than they do. If I spent that much per night traveling, I honestly don’t think I could afford more than 3 weeks a year if that!
I’ll be honest, I don’t need anything super fancy when I travel. I don’t find that the return on investment is usually worth it. Most of the things I want to do don’t involve the place I am lodging in. I’m not one to spend hours relaxing at a resort.
But I also like my privacy. I’ve done the bunk beds. I’ve done the couches. They work for a time. But they aren’t my favorite option. I prefer a bit of relatively clean place to unwind at the end of the night.
Thus most of my suggestions focus on this niche: people who want to travel economically, who want some privacy, who want something clean, but nothing fancy, nothing over the top, no extra champagne perks if you will.
There are basically five ways to stay when traveling: hotels, hostels, Airbnb, Camping, and with friends or family. If course there are more which I will briefly cover, but these are the primary ones that I use. Let me explain how I use each one to its fullest potential in the following articles which I will post over the next few weeks! Stay tuned 🙂