Frugal folks already know that camping is a great way to save on vacation, but the costs can still add up if you’re not careful. Though the basic costs, like campsite fees and food from home, are fairly affordable, you can still overspend if you aren’t watching your budget carefully. If you want to save on a cheap camping trip, make sure you use these helpful frugal tips.
Stay Close to Home
If you’ve got your sights set on a national park located halfway across the country, your camping trip won’t be as frugal as you think. The cost of a road trip is heavy, especially when you factor in gas costs, meals on the road and the general wear and tear on your car. For most travelers, there’s likely a great campsite within an hour of home that can provide just as much fun. Many of the smaller campsites are also much cheaper and have greater availability. Best of all, you won’t waste half your vacation in the car just getting there. Instead, you can start enjoying the great outdoors right away.
Plan Meals Ahead of Time
Don’t throw just any food into a cooler for a weekend camping trip. Instead, take the time to plan out each meal and pack accordingly. This is essential for preventing wasted food, which is just money down the drain. An added bonus, however, is that you can prioritize easy, healthy and affordable meals. Think of group dishes that are simple to make and can be enjoyed as leftovers if necessary, like pasta or tacos. Don’t forget about all the little extras you’ll need, like salt, garlic powder or butter – you’ll save by bringing your own from home rather than buying from an overpriced camp store or convenience store.
Bring Essentials From Home
It takes a little extra time to gather up a pack of essentials from your house, but it’s so worth it when you don’t have to shell out for these odds and ends during your trip. Some of the most common items you might forget but could likely need while camping include batteries, Tylenol, sunscreen, bug spray, matches and duct tape. And of course, don’t forget your first aid kit stocked with plenty of band-aids and other essentials.
Shop for Deals on Camping Equipment
Just about every type of camping equipment can be found used or on sale if you’re willing to put in the leg work. There are plenty of ways to find great deals on tents, sleeping bags and other essentials. Check out yard sales, Craigslist, eBay, outlet stores and other resources in the months leading up to your trip. And if you have friends who camp, ask if you can borrow some equipment while you shop for the best deals on your own.
Don’t Buy Unnecessary Gear
Just because something is made specifically for camping doesn’t mean that a regular version won’t do in the great outdoors. Take cooking equipment, for example. There are plenty of fancy camping stoves, but your own pots and pans from home can often do the trick. Meanwhile, you can just bring pillows, blankets, dishware, silverware and other essentials from home rather than buying camping versions. If you don’t want to risk your regular home items getting dirty, pick up super-cheap used versions at a thrift store.
Buy Reusable Travel-Size Containers
Though it may seem less frugal to buy things for your camping trip, you’ll actually save money in the long run when you purchase travel-size containers. As anyone who has done it knows, the camping bug is sure to make you want to take more trips in the future. Therefore, you can get dozens of uses out of a single travel-size container rather than buying a travel-sized product over and over. Get clear bottles for your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash and other bathroom needs. Label each one and just refill it as needed before each trip. These bottles are super-cheap and much more cost-effective than overpriced travel-size toiletries at the store. Best of all, they save space when packing for each camping trip.
If you’re camping in a place where the weather can be a bit unpredictable, find out if the campsite will allow you to pay on a daily basis instead of paying for your entire stay up front. This can be essential if the weather takes a turn for the worse and you want to leave. If you’re paying day-to-day, you can jump ship due to crappy camping weather without worrying about losing your money.
A camping trip can be one of the most affordable vacation options, but only if you do it right. Make sure you use these tips to maximize your savings on your next camping getaway. With a little planning, you’ll be able to keep your trip well under budget.