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10 smart travel ideas (or gifts) for under $125

$125 won’t get you to the other side of the world, but here’s 10 ways you can use a relatively small amount of money to further your travel adventures.

A suitcase full of stickers of various countries sits in an airport departure area. $125 travel ideas
Speed through customs and security with TSA Global Entry and PreCheck © Justin Case / Getty Images

Apply for TSA Global Entry with PreCheck

Ever wish you could breeze through customs and security without waiting in a long line? With TSA Global Entry you can enter the US at most airports by just checking in at a special kiosk – no processing, no paperwork. It also includes TSA PreCheck, which speeds up security screening. After creating a Trusted Traveler Program account and paying a non-refundable $100 fee, you’ll need to schedule an interview, but after that it’s smooth sailing whenever you travel.

Find an ultracheap round-trip flight

No one likes to overpay for air travel; that’s where sites like JustFly, Skyscanner, CheapOAir, Scott’s Cheap Flights and Kiwi come in. You might not have as many options as the typical booking sites, and you’ll probably have to settle for a budget airline without as many amenities, but your savings can be substantial if you’re looking for a quick getaway on a shoestring budget – especially if you’re in a position to drop everything and go at a moment’s notice.

Tour guide talking about Washington to tourists on the top level of an open-air bus. The guide is wearing a red baseball cap and white shirt. The passengers backs are to the camera and it is a sunny day.
You'll definitely learn something as a tourist in your own town © anouchka / Getty Images

Take a tour of your own town or nearest city

As travelers, we’re always looking to expand our horizons by getting out to new and exciting places. But unless you’ve ever been a tourist in your own hometown you might be missing something new… or old. Do you know how the streets got their names, local Native American history or where the first settlers established their community? Schedule a tour from a knowledgeable guide and find out what you don’t know.

Upgrade your luggage

Still lugging all your stuff through the airport with a duffel bag or un-wheeled suitcase? It might be time to make things easier for yourself. With $125 you can outfit your whole family or give yourself plenty of options for your own travels with a set of AmazonBasics Hard Shell Spinner Luggage.  The set comes with three bags in 20”, 24” and 28” and each has four wheels that roll in any direction – no more tipping luggage or wide turns.

A man and son start a fire as the sun begins to set in the woods of coniferous trees. A small blue tent is near the campsite. They both wear peaked hates and checked shirts.
Camping doesn't cost much and is a great way to have an easy adventure © visualspace / Getty Images

Buy a tent and go camping

Camping has one of the lowest barriers of entry of any kind of adventure travel. But you will want a tent to protect yourself and your stuff from the elements. Tent capacities are notoriously underestimated, but you can get a classic like the Coleman Sundome Tent from Amazon for 4 or 6 people and still have enough money for a sleeping bag, lantern or campsite fees at your local state park

Carry your library with you

Take your entire collection of books wherever you go, with exceptional battery life and the ability to read in direct sunlight, with a good e-reader. The new Amazon Kindle with front light is $109 right now, and you can often find our favorite, the Kindle Paperwhite, on sale as well. If audiobooks are more your style, right now you can get a full year of Audible membership and 12 audiobooks for less than $125.

A set of silver and black headphones with a twisty cord sitting on a selection of flags on a wooden table. The flags include Japan, Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Spain.
Learning a new language might be one of the most rewarding skills you can pick up © alexkich / Getty Images

Take a language course

Get a better appreciation for another country’s culture – and your own – by learning another language. A 12-month subscription to Rosetta Stone’s language learning software is currently on sale for under $100. Or take some online classes from a live instructor via TakeLessons. Sessions are convenient, inexpensive and effective and taught by knowledgeable instructors. You’ll be ready to speak to locals on your travels in no time.

Enjoy a fancy $125 meal

For most of us, fancy dinners are reserved for special occasions. After all, as travelers we’re often trying to save money for our next trip. But maybe it’s time to have a special dinner ‘just because.’ With $125, you can try the cuisine of a foreign country you’re not familiar with, or just splurge on a gourmet dinner from a local chef who’s getting rave reviews. Check out our Ultimate Eatlist for ideas from around the world, or our article on travelling with your tastebuds.

A stack of photo books and the top one is opened to a two-page spread of a live oak alley with a path running under the trees.
High-quality photo books will give your snapshots more exposure © grass-lifeisgood / Getty Images

Collect your digital memories in photo books

It’s sometimes said the photos app is where memories go to die, and it’s easy to see why. With thousands and thousands of photos in our pockets, finding one – or reliving a trip – can be more hassle than it’s worth. Instead, why not order some high-quality photo books with your travel snapshots? Companies like Shutterfly will give you template options, let you create a custom book, or even curate hundreds of photos for you in a keepsake you’ll actually look at.

Get inspired with Lonely Planet guides and reference books

Looking for your next excursion? Use a Lonely Planet guide book to research your destination, with the best advice from hundreds of travel experts on the ground at every point of interest. Perhaps you want to get your kids excited about travel or learn how to take better photos. Whether you’re into food and drink, solo or group travel, or an exploration of the world’s cultures, there’s a Lonely Planet reference book just waiting to dive into.

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