How to be a Weekend Warrior (On a Budget)

By Colleen Guilfoyle, Girls Who Hike Inland Empire Ambassador


We all know the overwhelming feeling of jealousy while scrolling through our Instagram feeds looking at travel and adventure photos. One of my biggest reservations about social media is how photos can make us feel like our lives are less significant than a stranger on our screens. 

First and foremost, let us all remind ourselves that we do not need to be anymore exciting, giddy, or candid than we already are. Our families, friends, and experiences are real. Perfectly posed and edited photos are not real. 

Secondly, most people on Instagram (even the most popular “influencers”) still work normal jobs, have ordinary relationships and live in average apartments. That said, here are my tips to be a weekend warrior on a budget. 

1. Trade in long weekdays for weekends off.

Most of my weekdays are 15 hours long. I attend class and fulfill my research commitments from 8-5, then head to work from 5-11PM. There are some days I absolutely do not want to do this, but I know how much happiness hitting the road on Friday afternoons brings me. Having the money and time to travel takes sacrifice. 

2. Skip restaurants.

This part is so hard. Who doesn’t love to sit down and devour a meal you didn’t have to cook while travelling? But the mark-up on food in the restaurant industry is astronomical. Once you arrive in a new town, skip the sit-down meal and hit up the deli. Even better yet, pack your own food on trips! Ramen, oatmeal, trail mix and blue Gatorade are my broke graduate student staples.


3. Don’t forget your public lands!

Outside many National Parks are huge stretches of BLM land (Bureau of Land Management). These lands belong to the public and you can camp here without cost. Remember the Leave No Trace principles and check in with a ranger at the specific area you plan to stay to find out fire, seasonal and other regulations. Here is an article with more information about your public lands. The photo below is of a hot spring on BLM land.


4. Drive when you can.

Find a couple of friends and split gas costs. Transportation is usually the biggest price tag for travel. Some weekends I drive as far as 8-9 hours. If you can fill your car with friends or (even better) Girls Who Hike members, road trips can be super affordable. 
There are also a few ways you can increase your fuel efficiency without upgrading your vehicle! Driving slower, keeping your tank more than half full, and having adequate tire pressure all increase your fuel economy.

5. Gear doesn’t have to be new, brand name or expensive.

My sleeping bag is from Walmart, my tent was 50$, my sleeping pad is often my yoga mat and so on. A good tip for finding off-brand gear is to use Amazon and search for the product you want, choose products with an average rating of four or more stars, then rank the results by price. 
Used gear is also quite a steal! REI has semi-annual “garage sales” and Facebook pages are constantly turning over gear. While there are many advantages to upgrading your gear, this shouldn’t detour you from getting outside!


6. A penny saved is a penny towards travel.

Returning cans at 5 cents each? Yup. Trading in clothes to companies like ThredUp for cash? You bet. Selling possessions I no longer use on eBay? Sure thing. Another company that can save you a few dollars on your electric bill in Southern California is called OhmConnect. They pay you to decrease your energy use. You can use my referral link to get 10$ for signing up! These small actions can add up quickly and give you the spending allowance for travel. 

7. Most importantly, just go!

It is unlikely you will ever have enough time, enough money, or more freedom than you do right now. Pack your bags, wait for the clock to strike 5, and hit the road!


Colleen is the Ambassador for our Inland Empire chapter. You can join her local meetups and discussions through the Inland Empire chapter by clicking here.