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    This Couple Traveled To All 61 National Parks In Seven Months And Actually Broke Even

    Taking an extended vacation might be easier — and more affordable — than you think.

    Meet Lauren and Steven Keys, a twentysomething couple from Florida. They just finished an epic American road trip where they visited every single national park. That's right, all 61 of 'em.

    Courtesy of Keys Photography / Via

    "Sounds great, but we're not all millionaires!" —You, probably. But neither are the Keys. Their entire seven-month trip cost $36,875, or $2,634 per person per month (including all living expenses like health insurance).

    Courtesy of Keys Photography / Via

    Granted $2,634 a month is still a lot of money, but in some major US cities it's less than the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment. Check out the full budget breakdown on their blog.

    They took their first extended vacation back in 2015 when they went on a six-month trip to Hawaii for their honeymoon. By living modestly and working here and there, they were able to return home with more money than they left with.

    Trip of a Lifestyle / Via

    So when they started joking about visiting every national park on a single trip, it didn't take long to turn that lofty dream into a reality. In January this year, they packed up their lives in Florida and headed West.

    Courtesy of Keys Photography / Via

    Seven months and 61 national parks later, they arrived back home, no worse off financially than when they left. Now they're on a mission to spread the message: It's not as hard as you think.

    Courtesy of Keys Photography / Via

    BuzzFeed Bring Me spoke to them to find out how they did it, and what advice they'd give to anyone interested in doing the same.

    1. Get yourself a van you can sleep in.

    Courtesy of Keys Photography / Via

    The Keys bought a Nissan NV200 — a compact cargo van juuuuust big enough to fit a full-size mattress in the back. Being able to sleep in their van instead of paying for hotels every night is ultimately what made their trip so affordable. "It probably saved us around $15,000 across the course of the trip," the Keys say.

    2. Avoid campground fees by parking overnight in public places where it's allowed — like Walmart parking lots.

    Trip of a Lifestyle / Via

    "Typically campgrounds costs as much as like $30–$35 a night. That's a pretty significant cost," the Keys say. They took advantage of the fact most places in the US have a Walmart and as a general rule, "Walmart is open to the idea of having people parked overnight in their lot."

    Sleeping under the flickering fluorescent lights of a Walmart sign might not be as romantic as the Milky Way. But if you're trying to be frugal, it'll save you a bunch of cash.

    3. Set up multiple streams of income so you can keep earning money while you travel.

    Courtesy of Keys Photography / Via

    Instead of quitting altogether, Steven kept his job at a tutoring company but arranged to work remotely part-time (around 10 hours a week). Lauren left her digital marketing job and focused on setting up their blog. Later on in the trip, she picked up a social media freelance gig.

    "Be creative with freelance work in something you're good at," says Steven, who also made a bit of money selling photographs on the side. "Or negotiate with your employer for some part-time work. There's just a million things that people can do if you get creative with it."

    4. Sublease or rent out your home while you're away

    Courtesy of Keys Photography / Via

    "If you have no housing expenses back home when you're on the road, that immediately frees up thousands of dollars in the budget," the Keys say. They leased out their Florida condo, and the money they got from rent helped cover their travel expenses. If you're a renter, you could sub-lease your place or plan your trip for when your lease ends.

    5. If you want to cut down on costs even more, skip the more remote parks.

    Mpilecky / Getty Images, Yinyang / Getty Images

    Around 40% of the Keys' budget was spent on visiting national parks in Hawaii, Alaska, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands, which all required expensive flights. "People could cut out those really remote parks if they want to do something similar," the couple says.

    6. Sign up for a gym membership at a national chain so you can access the showers.

    Mr. Blue MauMau (CC BY 2.0) / Via Flickr: bluemaumau

    The Keys made the most of their $20/month Planet Fitness memberships, using the gyms to shower (and work out) while on the road. "Most of them are open 24 hours as well, so we kind of factored that into our route planning."

    In remote areas where there weren't any Planet Fitness locations, they turned to laundromats — many rural ones have showers you can pay for, just like a load of laundry.

    7. Use the flexibility of sleeping in a van to your advantage and explore the parks at night.

    Courtesy of Keys Photography / Via

    Since the Keys didn't have to waste time driving to and from their accommodation, they got to spend more time exploring — especially at night, when they'd often have the parks all to themselves. "When people were turning around heading out to eat dinner and go back to their hotel, we were just driving in," they say. Midnight hikes, skies full of stars, and sounds you can only hear at night were some of the perks.

    8. If you don't want the hassle of cooking, find cheap places to eat on the road.

    9. Be willing to plan and adapt your journey as you go.

    Courtesy of Keys Photography / Via

    The Keys hit the road with a loose route mapped out, but did most of their planning a few days in advance. "I'd just use Google Maps and do some research on the parks themselves from the government website," says Lauren. They were also forced to change course when they couldn't access parks due to things like bad weather and the government shutdown in January.

    10. And as for which parks are the best? Yellowstone, Death Valley, Yosemite, American Samoa, and Hawai'i Volcanoes are their top picks.

    Courtesy of Keys Photography / Via

    "The parks are all so different — it was tough to pick just one favorite," says Lauren. One highlight was the varied landscapes of Death Valley, in particular the salt flat called Badwater Basin. "We hiked about two miles to get out to it, and the experience was amazing. It's so remote there; you can see every star, but the salt makes the ground look snow white, so it's super reflective. You could actually see where you were walking without a flashlight because of the star light reflecting on the salt."

    Check out Steven and Lauren's blog, Trip of a Lifestyle, for more.