With hotels costing hundreds of dollars a night, you may choose to take your family on a camping trip instead this fall. If you’re looking to avoid overspending, then you made the right choice. Saving money and camping go hand in hand!
Just because it’s naturally cheaper to enjoy the great outdoors, doesn’t mean you can splurge. These tips will make your camping trip even more affordable.
Avoid Campground Fees
You’re already saving hundreds by skipping the hotel, but that doesn’t mean campground costs are inconsequential. Some campgrounds gouge visitors that don't plan ahead by charging high nightly rates and surcharges for extra vehicles. A common culprit of this practice is National Parks. Although beautiful and memorable, these parks often charge entrance fees and the campgrounds cost a premium. If you’re trying to keep your budget in check, avoid these well-traveled locations and find something off the beaten path.
Primitive camping is a good option for many that are willing to skip some of the niceties of modern campgrounds. Primitive camping is often free, but you’ll need to go without things like bathrooms and running water. If you know how to purify water or bring your own, these campsites are serene and worth the work.
Bring Your Own Firewood
Another way campgrounds attempt to profit off unprepared travelers is firewood. Families that don’t regularly camp will buy firewood from the camp hosts at a premium, but you can often get firewood for half the price if you stop at a store before you leave the city. Firewood could also be free if you plan weeks in advance and have room in your car. Stores often throw away wooden pallets that make for great firewood if you have a hammer to take it apart.
Many inexperienced campers make the mistake of traveling to popular parks or neighboring states because of reputation alone. The truth is that nature is all around us, which means you can avoid travel costs by camping somewhere close to home. Once your tents are set up and the car is unpacked, you won’t notice much of a difference. Not only will this save money on gas, but you’ll learn to see the area near where you live in a new way.
Use Dual-Purpose Items
If you’re the type of camper that only makes it out once or twice a year, buying new gear is often a waste of money. There are likely a number of items you already use that would be a great addition to your camping collection. Sturdy cookware such as metal spatulas and cast iron pans make fireside meals possible. Older blankets that are easy to clean make for great sleeping bag replacements. Look through your home and find other durable items that would make your trip outdoors more comfortable before you go to the camping store!
Find Second-Hand Gear
Millions of families love to camp, which means you can benefit from their gear when it’s not being used. Borrowing equipment from family and friends is a proven way to save money. Campers love getting others to enjoy nature as they do. You can also often find help from neighboring campers while you’re at the campground. It pays to be friendly!
Thrift stores are also a great place to get gear for your next camping trip. Don’t worry about getting pretty camping clothes or ultralight camping cookware. Second-hand clothes, pans and shoes can often do the job for less.
Plan Your Meals
Meals around the campfire are almost always cheaper than at a restaurant, but planning your meals can make it even more affordable. Portion control is a healthy way to eat, but it becomes more important while camping. Most food that isn’t eaten will spoil by the time you return to civilization. Keep this in mind and only bring what you need. Snacks are great, but bring them in easily resealable containers so they last longer.
Pack a Cooler Correctly
Depending on the number of people you camp with, you’re probably going to need a cooler for drinks and food. However, don’t just throw a bunch of items together and buy some ice from the store. Planning ahead can make your cooler a money saving tool on your next campout.
First, freeze any meat and water that you’re planning to bring. These items will keep the rest of your cooler cold, and it means you can skip on bags of ice. Next, strategically pack your cooler using air-tight containers instead of storebought containers. This will keep you from wasting food since you’ll only bring what you need and it will be properly protected. Buying a carton of eggs only to see half of them cracked in the cooler is one of the worst feelings. Lastly, make sure your cooler is always in the shade so your food items don’t perish while you explore during the day.