Top Ten Tips for Integrating Buy Nothing Day into your Travels

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Jun 03, 2018 / 4 comments

Have you heard of Buy Nothing Day? It's a day celebrated worldwide to protest consumerism. Here in the US, it's celebrated on Black Friday, probably the biggest shopping day of the year. Buy Nothing day started in 1992 in Vancouver - and now is celebrated by over 65 nations. There's even a hilarious Buy Nothing catalog of items you want for Christmas and already have.

Can taking one day to buy nothing really change your patterns of spending? It can get you started thinking about buying less, for sure. It might even change the way you travel.

Top Ten Tips for Integrating Buy Nothing Day into your Travels

How does this translate to travel? (Because that really is the point, here on Wandering Educators). There are a plethora of books on traveling on a budget, starting in 1957, with Frommer's series of travel on $5 a day, which really changed the way that people thought of travel (as do-able!). When you've blown your daily budget on a big theater performance, or a five-star meal, or buying a few rounds for the entire pub, what do you do?

What we've learned in our family travels is that having a few down days (staying at home, mostly) rejuvenates our desire to get out and see things - no matter the cost.

You CAN spend whole days with buying nothing, when you think of creative ways to explore your surroundings. Often these days are our most favorite.

Here are our Top Ten Tips for Integrating Buy Nothing Day into your Travels

1. If you're renting a home, like we do when we travel, spend time in your front yard

Since we're always on water, we swim, fish, rowboat, pick up stones, skip rocks, watch fishing boats head in and out, see what the tide washed in.

Pier Cottage, Co Kerry, Ireland

Our front yard, Pier Cottage, Co Kerry, Ireland

what did the tide wash in? Co Kerry, Ireland

what did the tide wash in? Co Kerry, Ireland 

2. Explore local parks - and meet new friends

Kids in playgrounds gravitate toward one another. Not only does this make your kids happy (someone new to play with!), but you can also learn from the parents - and perhaps, make new lifelong friends.

Golden Gardens Park, Seattle

Golden Gardens Park, Seattle

3. Read!

One of our first stops in a place is the local library. We check for events, free resources, games. We sit and read - I will never forget reading new (to us) picture books to our daughter in Shannon, Ireland - we discovered new authors we'd not heard of and perused WHOLE SHELVES of books in Gaelic.

Shannon Library, Ireland

Shannon Library, Ireland

4. Explore Free Museums - there are often free museums wherever you travel!

It could be a small museum, a free day at a larger museum (they often offer this once or twice a month), or a free city pass. You can find local events in Europe with Art Galleries! Admittedly, we LOVE art and are always looking to learn about and view more. Visiting art galleries? FREE!

Dayton Art Institute

Dayton Art Institute

5. Learn from the experts

Our friends at SoulTravelers3 recently wrote about exploring BoraBora on a cheap budget  - many of the things they did were free. Google free events in (wherever you're staying). You will be amazed at what you can find.

Travel Bloggers at TBEX

Travel Bloggers Everything Everywhere's Gary Arndt, Irish Fireside's Corey Taratuta and Liam Hughes,  Wandermom's Michelle Duffy at TBEX I, the Travel Blog Exchange Conference

6. Visit with friends

I love making a meal, and inviting friends over. Whether they are newly found friends, ones we'd known from before, or ones that we found while researching our travels, these times are full of laughter and comraderie.

Crab, Co Kerry, Ireland

Our friend Dan found a crab, Co Kerry, Ireland (also an eel!), on our beach

7. Couchsurfing is a way to stay somewhere for free, in someone's home

The above article from SoulTravelers3 shares their experience with couchsurfing, with a family. Our friend and Photography Editor Sherry Ott from Ottsworld shared her experiences with Couchsurfing. Donna Hull from My Itchy Travel Feet has a great article that includes couchsurfing and other options.

local traffic, Co Kerry, Ireland

local traffic, Co Kerry, Ireland

8. Get Outside!

Most outdoor sights and activities are free - from drives (the Ring of Kerry) to local beaches. Look for dolphins at Chanonry Point, Inverness. Pick up rocks at Lake Michigan. Explore local beaches in Hawaii. Visiting the extensive grounds of Muckross House (Ireland) is free. Visiting temples and cemeteries are free, around the world.

Get Moving! Running, biking, swimming, walking - not only will you help your body and mind, but you never know what you will find. Watch the sunrise, sunset, changing tides. Look for Nessie. Find a rainbow (or two).

Gardens, Muckross House

Gardens, Muckross House, Co Kerry, Ireland

Lake Michigan Beach

Lake Michigan Beach

Cemetery, Co Clare, Ireland

Cemetery, Co Clare, Ireland

9. People watch

Whether sitting in a park, on a beach, or at a local tourist spot, people watching is free and a GREAT way to learn about a place. We often play a game where we find people wearing red. Or blue shoes. Or wearing a hat. It's all about noticing the details.

People watching, Co Kerry, Ireland

People watching, Co Kerry, Ireland

10. Take photos

We love finding and photographing crazy signs (and reading about them - there are books about crazy signs, including our favorite Peep Peep Don't Sleep), small details (find a shell that is half worn away), spots in nature (find the slowest moving waterfall in all the Torc Waterfalls). Our daughter loves to take closeup photos and then regular photos - try to guess what it is closeup, and then confirm (or deny your guess) in the next photo. You'll find that your travel photos will never be the same.

smallest of the Torc Waterfalls

smallest of the Torc Waterfalls, Co Kerry, Ireland

fishnets closeup

Guess what this is?

Fishnet, Portmagee, Co Kerry, Ireland

Fishnet, Portmagee, Co Kerry, Ireland


By stepping off the tourist path, and finding ways to just BE, exploring your surroundings, you'll uncover a richness in daily life that is unsurpassed.



Want to read more great articles on Buy Nothing Day and Travel? Head to:

6 Tips to Make Solo Travel Cheap from Beth at Wanderlust & Lipstick

4 Cool Ideas for Short Term Work Abroad from Wil at Spot Cool Stuff



Note: this article was originally published in 2010 and updated in 2018.



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