Family World Travel for Less: How to Save Money on Travel Gear

I know, I know… walking down the aisles of an REI or any other travel or outdoor store doesn’t make figuring out how to save money on travel gear feel like a particularly realistic goal.

But honestly, it doesn’t have to be so ludicrously expensive to gear up your family with the right bags, clothing, shoes, or anything else for travel. You just need to plan in advance, do your research and get a little creative.

Here are 9 ways we’ve found to save money on travel gear for our trips:

Buy used

Particularly for those big ticket items, it always pays to search your local Craiglist, Kijiji, etc. before looking at buying new.

Now, you may want to go to a store and try bags and brands on for size and preference first, so you have a better idea of what you’re looking for. But then by all means, see if you can’t find something used that will work.

Family World Travel for Less: How to Save Money on Travel Gear: It doesn't have to be so expensive to gear up your family for extended or adventurous travel. Here are 9 ways we've found to save money on travel gear.

It’s also definitely worth looking for items like kids shoes and coats, since kids often use these items lightly before growing out of them like bad weeds, and many parents would like to recoup some of what they paid for them.

I recently needed waterproof pants and warm layering sport tops for our kid’s Forest School program. Not wanting to spend hundreds of dollars to buy it all new, I actually sourced it all from thrift stores and a big church rummage sale. It wasn’t all gorgeous or what I would have chosen new, but it was all practical and useable and perfect for our needs.

I’ve also found barely-used Keen sandals for the kiddos from garage sales and thrift stores. Plus, I’ve scored excellent fleeces, hoodies, high-quality rain/shell jackets (like Columbia and North Face), and shoes/sandals from consignment stores as well. In Canada, I love the store Once Upon a Child. (Does anyone in the USA have a consignment store to recommend?)

Check your local store for special deal days

Most REIs have a “garage sale” day where they sell previously opened/returned goods at clearance prices (note: you need to go early to get the good stuff). At the larger REI locations, you may also find a “bargain basement” set up with their cheapest clearance items. I once scored an excellent jacket this way.

The Canadian store Mountain Equipment Coop has an online gear swap that’s pretty sweet, and sometimes local stores offer special clearance sales once or twice a year or gear swap events hosted at their location.

Family World Travel for Less: How to Save Money on Travel Gear: It doesn't have to be so expensive to gear up your family for extended or adventurous travel. Here are 9 ways we've found to save money on travel gear.

Try REI Garage

Previously REI Outlet, the REI online store now has something called REI Garage which carries discounted gear, often up to 30-50% off.

For example, the 18 L REI Tarn backpack for kids is $39.95 from (in the newest colors/updated style) but REI Garage has last year’s model in two different colors for $26.73. Trust me – you don’t need the latest colors. Take the cheaper one. (Note: I highlighted both of these size bags in yesterday’s video.)

(Although I will say that I was super excited looking at the new kids backpacks- there seem to be more great options every year, so much more than when we started traveling four years ago!)

Also, be sure to get an REI membership and earn your dividends as you make purchases, because they become credit to put towards gear, and you can use this while shopping online.

Always shop around

When you find a brand or item you like, always search the web and compare on places like Amazon to see if you can find a better price. I don’t always, but a few times I have and the savings have been worth it.

Consider brand sponsorship

Do you already have a blog or large platform of some sort? Look into sponsorship with companies you’d like to work with.

While we never used this option for our travels because we actually wanted to do it ourselves with no obligations, I’ve done a lot of brand sponsorships previously with my old blog and it was fantastic (and something we may consider for future travels).

Family World Travel for Less: How to Save Money on Travel Gear: It doesn't have to be so expensive to gear up your family for extended or adventurous travel. Here are 9 ways we've found to save money on travel gear.

Spend your big bucks wisely

It pays to be choosy about what’s worth buying expensive and what isn’t.

Our “expensive” list: Backpacks (though we still look for deals), jackets, primary pair of shoes (like Keen sandals or hiking shoes), one warm layering fleece or sweater when we travel in cold weather, one pair zip-off pants per kid, bottoms for adults (since we don’t grow and are likely to be able to use pants or a skirt for several years/trips), adult underwear, liquid containers for toiletries/medicine (ie. ain’t nobody got time for spills).

Our “who cares” list: The bulk of our daily clothes (especially for the kids), a second pair of shoes (like runners or flip flops), kid underwear and socks (the only exception is high quality socks for cold weather), laundry bags or zip pouches for inside our bags (holding clothes or dry items).

Take one down, pass it along

In our storage room in the basement, I’m forever saving all the best clothes and shoes from each child to pass down to the next. When you’ve got five kids, you save everything that’s in good shape.

We’ve been able to easily pass waterproof pants, expensive layering pieces, jackets, gender-neutral backpacks, and shoes down as our small kids grow into the big kid’s hand-me-downs.

You never know when a deal will surprise you

I’ve learned to always be on the lookout. Now that I know the types of gear we like to have for our travels, when I see something that would work, I grab it.

Whether it’s too-big sandals at a thrift store or last Christmas when I stumbled on beautiful warm layering pants on clearance that would work for our girls, I just snatch them up and set them aside.

Once you know that you’re either a) planning a trip with a general idea of when you’ll go or b) you know travel is becoming a regular part of your family’s lifestyle, it just makes sense to keep your eyes open and stock up when the price is right.

It’s not exactly saving money, but…

One last way to afford gear is not by saving money on it, but rather by getting rid of stuff so you can afford it.

Before our year long, round-the-world trip, we did a whole lot of purging before packing up our belongings. As part of that process, we held a garage sale and sold some larger items on Craigslist.

We then put the earnings towards purchasing our gear and truly, every little bit helped.

31 Days of Family World Travel... for Less. Do you wish you could travel internationally, especially as a family, but worry that it's too expensive? This series is for you.

This post is part of the series Family World Travel for Less:

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