If you want to be a nature photographer, you have to go to the nature. Nature most often will not come to you. If you're looking to make great images, you need to be infront of great scenes. While most everyone has something in close proximity to their hometown they can visit and photograph, it's the desire of most nature photographers to travel to exotic places and put themselves in front of exotic scenes. How can we achieve this without breaking the bank or skipping a mortgage payment? In this article I am going to share some tips on how to travel for cheap. First things first. Save your money. Basic and simple I know, but its often very hard. Cancel your cable TV, buy store brand food, sell gear you don't use, skip on the second camera body or new lens. Don't run out and buy the newly released gear. I know it sounds simple but when a new photography items come out it's hard to hold off the urge to buy it. Trust me I know. I look at it this way. That new camera body or the new professional lens, it's often times a weeks worth of travel. Do I want the new lens or do I want to spend a week in Yosemite or Yellowstone? I often pick the trip. What is a camera and lens worth if I can't get to the places I want to photograph?
Secondly, take advantage of points, miles, cash back, clubs, memberships etc.. Often times these things are free to enroll. I am a member of a couple rental car clubs, hotel clubs, and airline miles programs. I get discounts, upgrade options, free checked bags, free days for car rentals, free nights stay at hotels, etc. For those of you with good credit and pay your bill off each month, reward credit cards are also a great thing. An example would be the Barclay Arrival Card. After I spending $3000 within the first 3 months you get 40,000 points. That's $400 worth of travel. Thats a flight, or 3 or 4 nights in a hotel, a weeks worth of a rental car. I have this card and so far I love it. It's not affiliated with any one entity. I can use the points as a statement credit on anything that is classified as travel. The only warning I give for the rewards credit cards is that you should pay them off each month. The interest rate is high, upwards of 25%. I also have a airline credit card. Each year I get a buy one get one airline ticket. My wife travels every once in a while for work, so when she is headed to a location I want to go to, we both fly for a one ticket price. I then use points and such for a rental car and a couple nights hotel stay in a desirable location while she attends her conference. Food, gas, road tolls, and other misc expenses are the only thing out of pocket. You could enroll in gas station memberships and punch cards at national restaurant chains, and it's possible your trip could be dang near free!
My last tip is to travel in groups. Maybe you have friends or members of a camera club that would like to travel. If you all pitched in, shared a rental car, hotel room, etc..., your trip price could be upto 75% off if you split it 4 ways. Even if you have to take a sleeping bag and sleep on the floor of the hotel room, it would be worth the savings. Don't forget things like hostels and campsites. These are often very cheap. Say $40 for a hostel room or $10 for a campsite. It really depends on location, but it can be done. In theory, you could travel with 4 people to Yosemite, at a campsite for $10 per person per night. A rental car for a week is around $300/4= $75 per person. The flight is dependent on where you live so lets just guess $500. If you live off of ramen noodles and PP&J's, plus gas and other expenses, I am willing to bet you could spend a week in yosemite, for around $800. If you have air mile discounts, rental car discounts, in theory you can spend a week in yosemite for a few hundred dollars or less! So if you wanted to buy a camera or lens for $2000, you could possibly take that money and make 2 trips out of it.
If you want to travel and photograph iconic locations and just cant figure out how to get there, I hope this gives you some ideas and helps you reach your goals!