Traveling is great. There is so much to see and experience. However, the cost of travel, food, and stays (campgrounds or hotels) can be overwhelming.

This leaves less money for the activities. Things like Jeep tours, big-name museums, whitewater rafting, and zip lining are great fun but are extremely expensive. You don’t want to travel without enjoying your time, but there are so many free or low-cost options out there that you won’t feel cheated.

Hovenweep National Monument has no entrance fee.

Less expensive options: There are ways to save money even while doing the things you love.

  • The National Park Senior Pass is a great buy once you turn 62. The one-time payment of $80 gets you free entrance and discounts for campsites under the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Of the 419 national park sites, only 118 have entrance fees. Check out the free options.
  • Investigate state park passes. If you are visiting parks for multiple days in the same state, these can be worthwhile.
  • Look at variations of an activity. Instead of $3,000+ for a raft taking a week down the Colorado River, we took a four-hour raft trip from Page for $85. It was still enjoyable and we didn’t have to book a year in advance!

Trail found on the AllTrails app.

Hikes and bike trails: Being outdoors is the epitome of getting away from it all. Enjoy the views and the exercise while hiking or biking trails.

  • Get trail maps from parks when you check in at your campground. Ask for advice on which are best or which are currently closed. RV parks may not have trails, but they may know of nearby ones.
  • Use the internet and apps like AllTrails to find trails near your destination or along the way. I like hiking a short trail on the way to our destination as a break.
  • Try out geocaching. This gets you hiking on trails, biking back roads, or driving to new places.

Museums: To me, travel is about learning. There is always something new to learn at a museum.

  • Some of the bigger museums can be expensive. Check out their website for discounts or discounted days.
  • Look for the free or low-cost museums. Small local museums can be fun. The Smithsonian museums are free.
  • Museums on military bases are free and quite interesting. You need an approved driver’s license (REAL ID) or passport for identification. You may want to call ahead if you are from a foreign country.
  • Be sure to visit the museum or visitor center at state and national parks during your visit.

Cadillac Ranch in Texas is still my favorite weird place.

The unique: Try something different besides the standard tourist places.

You can decide which activities to splurge on but keep in mind these other options. Making memories doesn’t require spending a lot of money!