If you prefer more unconventional means of travel such as long distance biking or hitchhiking, there is no cheaper than free when it comes to travel and accommodation.
Before you begin hitching, a few things that will come in handy are: good maps, multiple writing instruments, a hat, a flashlight, a pocket knife, sunscreen, and, obviously, a comfortable pair of shoes. If you can help it, try to hit the goldilocks luggage amount (not too much but more than nothing) and travel with a member of the opposite sex — making your duo more attractive to individuals of both sexes. Gas stations are good spots to ask for rides if you are in a pinch, so long as you’re polite and not pushy. Otherwise, it is best to find a long, straight stretch of road out-of-town with ample room for drivers to stop and pull over. Additional ways to increase your chances for rides include wearing colorful and clean clothing, smiling, making eye contact with drivers, and using a clear and specific sign (humorous signs can also be effective). If you are in a foreign land, make sure the signs are in the local language and that they make sense.
To stay safe on the road, commonsensical decisions prove to be the best decisions. For instance, remember that you make the decisions and don’t have to get in the car with people that seem dubious or sketchy. Moreover, never hitch at night, always keep your mobile phone charged, and avoid getting dropped off on dangerous roads or in the middle of nowhere. You can also write down the make, model, color, and license plate number of the vehicles you enter in case you need to report them to the authorities at a later point time.
You should also know that hitchhiking on “green roads” or motorways is often illegal, as there is not enough space for drivers to pull over. In a hurry? Avoid hitching in semi trucks as they are often legally required to drive slower.
If you are traveling via bicycle, there are countless modifications you can make to your bike to increase storage and enhance rideability. Handle bars and seat posts are good for concealing extra spokes, cable, or any other small item. Straps (Voile straps are particularly nice) are often used to affix belongings to the frame, handlebar, and seat post. Frame bags (either store bought or home made) allow you to store items safely while maintaining a good center of gravity. A good item to have in your tool/repair kit is Gorilla Tape. To save space and reduce weight, you can wrap a lighter, tire pump, or other semi-cylindrical item with a few dozen layers of it rather than bring the entire roll. If you are attempting to hitchbike, the best way to get a ride is to wave/shake your tire on the side of the road (people are more inclined to stop if they think you’re in distress).
Unlike car camping, when you’re hitchhiking or bikepacking, weight and efficiency is the name of the game. Water bottles are crucial, but Vapor’s Anti-Bottles are even better. Made from flexible plastic, these bottles can be folded, rolled up, and crumpled to save space. There are even filter attachments that will make virtually any water you find potable. Regarding hygiene, single use soap slivers can be made by slicing a regular sized soap bar with a vegetable peeler (which is also good for relieving itchy mosquito bites). Once you are nice and clean, make sure to use your microfiber towel to dry off like a champ.
Tyvek (an air-resistant and water-proof fabric used to insulate houses) has many uses, including as a ground pad, a waterproof blanket, or even a roof to a makeshift shelter. It is relatively cheap and can often be found for free at construction sites. Garbage bags and beeswax are also great for waterproofing.
Another multipurpose item that wise travelers often pack are Crayola crayons. Not only can you use them to scribble on signs, but they can also act as a slow burning fuel source, perfect for a beer can stove. Doritos also smolder nicely and can be used as kindling to start fires. For holding spices, toothpaste, antibiotic ointment, or lotion, melt one end of a straw shut, fill it with what you need, them melt the other end. If you happen to be a coffee fiend but aren’t a fan of cowboy coffee, you can make a coffee teabag by filling a coffee filter with grounds and tying it off with fishing line or unflavored dental floss.
If you find yourself with no place to stay, a good place to lay your head at night is the roof of a McDonalds restaurant. There is usually an access ladder in the back or around the side of the building, which leads to a flat, private, and comfortable roof.