Ways I’m Saving Money on My Katy Trail Hike

Hiking the Katy Trail is a pretty cheap activity on a daily basis. However, since I’m hiking the trail both ways it will likely take over a month to finish the hike. Over that long of a time period even small daily amounts add up to a fairly substantial amount. There are several things I’m doing to try to keep the cost of the hike down while still enjoying the hike. These tips are specific to my hike, but some of the tips can also be applied to biking and other forms of travel.

The biggest potential expense for the hike is accommodations. This should actually be a rather small expense for me. The main way I’m saving money here is by sleeping in my car. I have converted my Ford Focus hatchback to a sleeper car in the back. This would be easier if I would have gotten a station wagon instead of a hatchback or if I were about half a foot shorter. There is barely enough room for me to lay down. The sleeping area still needs to be improved, but I have been getting full nights of sleep in the car. I’ll post a picture if I improve the sleeping area as planned this weekend.

Not everyone is willing to sleep in their car. Camping is another cheap option. The city I started from offered free camping in back of the city community center which included free use of the showers in the community center. That was a good deal. You can’t beat free. The city I’m in now has camping available for just $10 a night, but it doesn’t include showers so I’ve just been opting to sleep in my car.

The main two things I want from an accommodation is somewhere to sleep and somewhere to shower. The sleeping part is supplied by my car so I don’t need to worry about that. Showers are all I really have to worry about. After hiking all day in the sun a shower feels great. I’ve tried cleaning up with wet wipes and baby powder; they help but aren’t anywhere close to having a shower. A cheap place to get a shower besides at a campground is a local gym. The gym where I’m currently at only charges $5 for a day pass. That is a bargain when you’re dirty and grimy and really need a shower. I’m also a member of a national fitness center chain. The chain doesn’t have any gyms where I’m currently at but they do have some at towns I’ll be going through later in the hike. That will allow me to have a few free showers.

Sleeping in the car and taking showers at the gym save a lot of money, but sometimes one does want the privacy and luxury of a hotel room. I’m trying to keep the hotel room stays to once a week. After sleeping in my car for a week a mid-range hotel seems luxurious. I’m keeping the cost of the hotel stays down by using my free travel redemption from my Barclay Arrival Card. I should have enough points available to redeem for travel to make all of my hotel stays on this hike free.

The other major cost of the hike is food. Since I have to eat whether I’m hiking or not I don’t consider all of the cost of food to be a hike-related cost. I’m trying to keep the cost of food down by eating food from the grocery store and not eating in restaurants all the time. I haven’t done great on this so far as I’ve been eating fast food twice a day most days. I do at least usually get dollar menu items or specials. As a plus, I get free internet access while eating which does influence where I eat.

There are actually more ways I save money that I was planning on including, but this post is already long enough. How do you save money when traveling?

8 thoughts on “Ways I’m Saving Money on My Katy Trail Hike”

  1. Things we saved on during our recent trip to Ireland —

    Earlybird specials — this helped us save a bundle on food, and they were very common. If we ate before 7 p.m., we spent 15-17 euros for a two or three-course meal…if we waited until afterward, it went up to 25-30 euros. (Plus we stayed at hotels and B&Bs that included a “full Irish” breakfast for no extra charge.)

    Rarely sodas – coffee, tea or water, instead. (Tea was the only thing that could be refilled in Ireland — one cup of coffee, and that was often instant. Not so great.) I also brought protein bars in the suitcase for extra breakfasts and snacks, and we purchased some cookies to go with tea/coffee in our room. If we did stop for a snack, it was tea/coffee with a baked good — 3-5 euros ($5-7 US) versus 12-17 euros for lunch. (We generally stayed with breakfast/early supper, with an occasional snack in between.)

    Bought a lot of souvenirs at the grocery store — food is rarely wasted! (Including ‘pinhead’ oatmeal, speciality cookies and Kitkat bars in dark chocolate — the latter are incredible.)

    Slowing down — not worrying so much about how much area we covered, and giving ourselves permission to stop for a while in any towns we really enjoyed. Some days we only made an hour or so of driving — the most we did was about 4 hours. (A BIG difference to Coloradoans who are used to driving hours and hours to get where we need to, especially now that a lot of roads are closed due to flood damage.)

    Went to as many ‘trad’ music sessions as we could — people stop by the local bar, bring their instruments and play traditional Irish music for a few hours. The only price of admission to these wonderful concerts: buy a beer or two while you’re there.

    We also saved a lot by booking lodgings as we went, rather than booking them ahead of time online. In every single case, we saved more and got breakfast thrown in. I booked lodgings for the first and last nights we were there — paid more, and no free breakfast. (They were nice, though.)

    Visited only where we wanted to — and often stopped at castle and abbey ruins to explore. Cost us nothing except time.

  2. The tent might get some use still. It would make for a softer bed than my car. I would have used it the first couple of days but the campground was too bright and too close to the highway for me to sleep so I gave up and slept in my car.

  3. Anytime Fitness has over 1700 locations in the US. It’s the perfect gym for a van dweller. Once I start traveling more I’m getting a membership. I have slept in my SUV and as long as I can find a flat piece of land, I get a good nites rest.

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