If you’re looking for a fun and affordable family vacation, camping may be at the top of your list. Most of the activities you can do in the great outdoors are free – think hiking, biking, and swimming – and with a little research, you can find affordable campgrounds that offer great amenities and exciting activities.
Camping is generally affordable, however, it’s not free. Whether you’re planning your first trip or you’re just looking to save a few extra bucks, here are 7 tips for camping on a budget.
1. Buy Used or Discounted Camping Equipment
If you’ve visited a sporting goods store recently, you are aware of how much new camping equipment can cost. While it is possible to rough it and head out with the bare necessities, many of us appreciate a few luxuries, like a camping stove or sleeping pad.
There’s nothing wrong with buying used gear. Garage sales are excellent for finding pots and pans, dishes, and games – and you may get lucky and find a gently used tent. If online is more your style, you can search for gear from private parties (like Ebay or Craigslist), but do be sure to check out the equipment before you buy it. And keep in mind that lanterns or camping stoves would probably be great from one of these sites, a thirty-year-old sleeping bag, not so much. If you want new equipment, there are sites out there that sell discounted gear, like Amazon, but only go this route if you are comfortable ordering something without ever seeing it in person.
2. Borrow Your Camping Gear
Don’t want to spend any money on gear? Ask friends and family if they have camping supplies you can borrow. If someone can loan you the must-haves, you can be frugal with food, batteries, and other smaller necessities.
3. Try Group Camping
Do you know another family, couple, or a few individuals that like camping? The financial burden will be much easier to bare with multiple parties. Split the cost of gear, fuel, and food, share what you already have, and get ready to have blast.
4. Choose a Campground Close to Home
The last thing you want to worry about is spending your hard earned money on gas. Choose a park close to home. The kids aren’t going to care where you are as long you’re having a good time and they have activities to keep them busy. And, if you save money on gas, you can put it in your pocket or spend a little extra for campfire food or gear. It’s also a good idea to research campgrounds. Many parks offer wonderful amenities like restrooms, showers, and fire pits, and you may even find one that has a game room, mini-golf, or outdoor movies. Not sure where to look? Check out Camp Native and explore campgrounds near you online!
5. Simple Meal Planning
Camping meals don’t have to be fancy. Consider buying inexpensive foods like ground meat, hot dogs, and veggies that can be cooked over a fire. If you don’t want to buy everything at once, make a list a couple of months before your camping trip and grab a few items every time you go to the store. At the campsite, keep your cooler in the shade to preserve your ice, and if you want to save on water, bring along gallon jugs filled at home versus smaller bottles. Most campgrounds have drinkable water available so you can refill your jugs when needed.
6. Use Items You Already Have
There’s no need to go out and buy brand new gear if you have barely used items sitting around the house. If you have perfectly good cooking utensils stored away at home, bring them along and turn them into your official camping gear. Sleeping bags are great, but if you don’t want to spend the money, old comforters and blankets work just as well. Pack up toiletries you don’t use and dig out those old folding chairs. Rummage through the cupboards, closets, and the garage and make a list of items you already own.
7. Enjoy Free Recreation
Camping is all about getting closer to nature and bonding with family and friends. Skip the tourist traps and pricey attractions and enjoy the great outdoors. Hike, bike, climb, swim, play games, watch the stars, tell stories around the fire – the options are endless.
Discover Your Perfect Campsite
Ready to plan your budget-friendly camping trip? Camp Native makes it easy to search by campsite type, services, and activities, and you can do it all online. Your perfect site is only a click away!