One of the first problems I faced as a travel blogger was figuring out how to afford to travel more often. Like many recent college graduates, I am short on cash and cheap to boot! At first, I ignored my problem and spent every minute of the few trips I did take snapping pictures, which made it hard to enjoy them “in the moment.” I also had this crazy notion that only tropical or international destinations were worth writing about. Sound familiar?
I’ve learned a little bit more about optimizing travel opportunities since my first year blogging and I want to share my biggest lightbulb moments with you! Hint: making travel more affordable involves redefining your definition of travel and finding some new adventure buddies. And who says social media keeps people from being social? Here are my favorite tips to help you explore more for less!
TRAVEL BLOGGER TIP #1 - Embrace the Staycation
I have lived in the Greater Milwaukee area since the day I was born and part of the reason I got into travel blogging is because I was SO OVER IT. Do you ever use the words boring, suffocating, dull, or even done to describe how you feel about your hometown? When I thought about the destinations I was qualified to write about, though, Milwaukee is the only place where I truly feel like an expert. And even though I never look for blog posts to help me plan a Milwaukee vacation, I’m exactly the kind of person that someone planning a Milwaukee vacation would want to talk to. Learn from. Ask for restaurant recommendations from. That’s the weird thing about blogging in general; the expertise you have to offer through your blog is always hard to identify, because it’s never what you’re searching for. It’s what you already know. You’re not going to find that in your Google search history!
If you think that starting local means sabotaging your dreams to travel the globe, don’t worry; it won’t. Though it might be less fun to write about your hometown than an exotic destination, it’s a short-term step that will best help you accomplish a long-term goal. Travel writing, is, after all, your dream job, right? The fact that it’s not all fancy getaways and modeling Icelandic backpacks is why it still is – and therefore still feels like – work. It doesn’t have to be the worst experience ever, though. Once I made the decision to become a Milwaukee expert, I realized how many iconic things in the city I still had yet to do! Since that realization, I’ve hiked at Lakeshore State Park, visited the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, and cruised with Riverwalk Boat Tours & Rentals. Being a local tourist is more affordable than buying a plane ticket and the content you’ll create is a great portfolio builder.
TRAVEL BLOGGER TIP #2 - Make Like a Puppy & Tag Along!
My most recent adventure (and the inspiration for this blog post) resulted from a Craigslist search my dad did. He texted me on a Wednesday asking if I wanted to take a day trip from Milwaukee to Crivitz with him that Friday so he could pick up a snowblower. Naturally, I said yes! While we spent six hours in the car that day, I was able snap a few cute shots in town and convince him to take a short hike with me at nearby Governor Thompson State Park. I paid nothing, got to spend time with my dad, and checked another state park off my bucket list. I’ve also tagged along with my sisters to state parks and will be road-tripping with my mom to Florida in January so I can help her move into her new apartment. If you ever thought there weren’t rewards for helping people, think again!
Wondering whose errands you can tag along on today? Reach out to family members or close friends and see if they need any help. Sure, you might have to actually help them, but if you want the content, it’s a great deal. The texts with the highest ROI will likely be from anyone who may be moving, so be sure to note if someone you know mentions an impending move on social media. Note that if they are moving everything in one trip, or if you only catch the tail end of their shuttling, you might have to arrange transportation for the way back. You don’t have to slow them down a ton – find a town along the way with a cool mural you can pull over for a quick photoshoot at or pick a key activity you two have in common to stop and do! The memories and content you’ll make along the way will be totally worth it.
TRAVEL BLOGGER TIP #3 - Pay Everyone You Know a Visit
I first started doing this when I went to Jackson, Wyoming and remembered that a friend of mine from high school now lives in the area. She suggested an awesome local restaurant to meet up at and gave us great recommendations for places to ski. I have since connected with friends in Atlanta, Georgia and Des Moines, Iowa, too. This might not save you money, but I’m getting to that part. If you have friends or relatives who live near a destination you want to visit, reach out and ask if you can stay with them for a few days. Finding free lodging is one of the best ways to reduce your overall travel spending.
While I was growing up, every single member of my family lived in southeastern Wisconsin. While my friends were visiting their family in Denver and New York every Thanksgiving, I would drive no more than two miles for my holiday feast. If you are fortunate to have relatives elsewhere and the opportunity to visit them, take it! They might have weird political views, but the views from their backyard might make for the perfect cover photo. If you don’t have cross-country relatives, consider friends you’ve lost touch with due to moves, college, etc. or reach out to a fellow blogger you’ve connected with online. There’s nothing better than using social media to make new friends IRL and you can always offer them the opportunity to stay with you if they want to explore a new place too!