Summer Vacation on the Cheap: 10 Tips for Camping Frugally

contributed by Maria Rainier

English: Gallanach Campsite. Looking south ove...
English: Gallanach Campsite. Looking south over the campsite with the Sound of Kerrera in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer vacation is finally here, and, whether you’re a student yourself or a parent of elementary to college-age students, the time has come to figure out summer plans. When you’re on a budget, one of the best ways to get away from home and enjoy the summer months is to go camping. While there are plenty of people who spend way too much money trying to camp in style, you can camp just as well, and probably even better, with a frugal mindset. Here are some of the top ways to cut down on your costs and plan a camping trip to remember for years to come:

1. Carpool.

If you are camping with multiple families, or if you have children of driving age, resist the urge to try to make everyone comfortable my taking several cars to the campsite. While it’s nice to have your own space and your own vehicle, it only wastes money on gas. Find the largest car available in the group, and try to cram everyone in to one or two.

2. Stay close to home.

Another good way to save money is to camp close to home. There are plenty of beautiful camping locations all around, and there is no need to trek for hours to the most popular sites. You will still feel like you’re away from the day-to-day action in the woods near your own back yard.

3. Head for water.

Water always creates a peaceful scene for camping. It also provides hours of fun for young ones and adults, alike. If you camp near water, you won’t have to worry about finding sources of entertainment or an area for the adults to relax.

4. Skip store-bought meals.

Instead of stocking upon chips, dips, sodas and pre-made sandwiches, try the best you can to figure out a menu with the least expensive ingredients that can be made into delicious meals. This usually means making more things on your own, and, if you live frugally, this is probably already second nature.

5. Bring several coolers.

The best way to save money on food is to bring everything you need to cook on the campsite. It’s a good idea to have several coolers do you can divide up ice, drinks, produce, meats and dry goods without having to run to a nearby store.

6. Borrow sleeping supplies.

Sleeping bags can cost an arm and a leg. If you know someone who has extra lying around, try to see if you can borrow as much sleeping gear as you can. This goes for air mattresses and pumps, too. The easiest way to make camping feel luxurious is to sleep well.

7. Find a second-hand tent.

There is really no reason to pay full price for a tent unless you absolutely have to. It’s easy enough to purchase them second-hand and bring along tarps to cover up in case of holes or scratches in the material.

8. Prioritize free camp grounds, within reason.

Not all camp grounds are created equal. Because your campground will determine the quality of your stay, it’s best to look for the best deal, rather than simply the cheapest. Put a priority on finding free camping areas. There are some great camp sites that don’t charge, but always remember to put safety first. It’s better to splurge on the 12 dollars for a well-protected site than opt for a free one that makes you and your kids feel uncomfortable.

9. Stay put on the camp site.

The easiest way to waste money on a camping trip is to jet off to local area and attractions as soon as you set up camp. This will only cost you more money in gas and food when you’re away from the site. Make sure to set up your tent and stay put.

10. Plan for free entertainment.

There is no reason to spend money on expensive games or equipment to ensure you have a good time on your camping trip. Bring games and equipment that you already have at home. Things like cards, board games, foot balls, Frisbees and toys are fun to bring along and don’t cost a thing.


Maria Rainier makes her living as a freelance blogger. An avid follower of the latest trends in technology and education, Maria believes that online degrees and online universities are the future of higher learning. Please share your comments with her.



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