How to Pull Off a Bike Overnight on a Budget

November 20, 2015

For many years now I’ve loved biking and camping, but I could never quite wrap my head around combining these two loves into one amazing adventure. Lugging camping gear on two wheels baffled me. I was skeptical about how a tent, sleeping bag, and other camping gear would attach to my bike. 

Fortunately, my husband, something of a magician with bungee cords, packed and secured two panniers on each bike with our gear and honestly, our bikes only felt a bit more weighted-down than usual.

So, with this problem successfully tackled, my husband and I poured over maps, made a few calls, and planned our first-ever overnight bike trip, a bike overnight. For our journey, we picked the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park, the longest rail-trail in Michigan, connecting five counties along 93.5 miles.

We travel a lot and that’s only possible if we plan every trip on a tight budget. I learned a ton from this biking experience, especially how to save money and look for deals along the way. Here are my tips for pulling off an overnight bike adventure on a budget.

Find Deals for Cyclists at Campgrounds

Right before we hit the four-hour mark on our journey, we arrived at Mecosta Campground in the tiny town of Morley, Michigan. The going rate for a rustic tent site was $26, but the host offers a special deal of just $10 per person if you arrive on a bike. 

Keep an eye out for bike-friendly campgrounds like this one when you’re planning your route!

Look for Hostels as Alternate Accommodations

What if it’s raining? What if you start coming down with the flu? New bike travelers have their concerns, and yes, you might occasionally need a roof over your head.

So, look for a hostel. In the U.S., finding one can be a hit-or-miss endeavor, but you'll want to keep your eye out, because hostels tend to be much cheaper than hotels, cabins, and B&Bs, so if you can tolerate sleeping on bunk beds and sharing a bathroom with a few new friends, then it’s your most budget-friendly choice next to tent camping. A quick search on or should do the trick.

The Food Splurge "Problem"

There’s no denying I’m a craft beer fan, and Michigan has some amazing breweries conveniently positioned along bike routes. On our long-distance ride in Michigan, we made two beer stops: Founders Brewery at the start on day one and Rockford Brewing Company at the end of the ride on day two.

There's also no denying I'm an ice cream fan. About 20 miles in, we stopped at KC’s Ice Cream along Main Street in Cedar Springs for an afternoon treat, and my ultimate junk food weakness.

Then there's the food stops: At the recommendation of our campground host, we also splurged on a big pasta dinner at Moe-Z-Inn nearby.

Do you see where I'm going? This stuff breaks the budget!

So, if you’re biking on a budget, pack your own tasty treats and meals to resist the temptation to splurge when you take a break. Not only will you eat healthier to sustain your energy for the ride, but you'll also give your wallet a break. 

Save your splurge meal for when you’ve completed the full ride to celebrate and feel good about what you just accomplished. 

Scope out Local Travel Deals

You know those little newspaper stands you see in bars and restaurants by the front door? Pick those up wherever you go and read them! Not only do local entertainment publications offer the best insider tips for festivals and concerts in the area, but they often have useful coupons and deals tucked inside too.

I’ve often made use of deal sites like Groupon and Living Social for restaurant inspiration when I travel by bike or otherwise. Of course, if you’re a student or part of a military family, you might be able to snag some other travel discounts along the way too.

Bike Overnight

If you’ve never given overnight biking a try, mark your calendar June 3-5, 2016, because that’s National Bike Travel Weekend and a great opportunity for beginners. Keep these budget-friendly tips in mind as you join thousands of other cyclists across North America for an unforgettable challenge that will change the way you think about cycling forever!

For a little inspiration, here’s a short video of my first overnight ride on this wonderful Michigan trail!

Story and photos by Alyssa L. Ochs, guest post for Adventure Cycling

Alyssa is a writer and nature lover currently based in Atlanta who enjoys cycling, hiking, climbing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. She and her equally-outdoorsy husband recently bought a pop-up camper to tow behind her Jeep, marking the next era of adventure travel! Keep up with Alyssa's adventures at


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adventure! November 20, 2015, 9:28 PM

Good stuff! Some great advice in here. One thing a bike tourist should always ask if they are staying at a hostel if there is a special bike touring discount, some hostels will still give you a break if you are traveling "by your own steam".

And because I'm a stickler: The right spelling is "pored" as in "pored over maps." Oh, homophones!

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