Camping is a great way to vacation on a budget, especially for families. But if you’re not careful costs can quickly add up, from purchasing a tent with all the modern conveniences to splashing out on top of the range BBQ equipment and cooking gear.
That’s why camping on a budget is important if you want to get costs as low as possible. So in this guide, we’ll talk you through our top tips for family camping on a budget.
Camping Food on a Budget
So first up, camping food ideas on a budget. Costs can quickly spiral in the food department, especially if you don’t plan ahead and end up buying lots of prepared food or takeout items. So here are our top tips when it comes to keeping food costs low.
Replace Some Meats With Veggie Options - You don’t have to deprive your family of delicious BBQ burgers and hotdogs, but you can switch out meat in some meals for veggie options. And another great feature is that vegetarian proteins don’t spoil in the heat like meat does, so it’s far safer to store for a day or two in a cooler before you cook it.
Take as Many Cooking Utensils from Your Kitchen as Possible - We know that buying a shiny stainless steel grill set is very tempting, but your kitchen cabinets will contain most of what you need to prepare, cook, and serve food. Obviously, don’t bring your best cookware with you, but those old pots and pans are perfect for the camping stove. For items that you don’t have or don’t want to use camping, buy them second hand.
Plan Meals With Ingredients That Overlap - Try and buy as few ingredients as possible, and for those ingredients that you buy, buy these in bulk. You can achieve this by planning meals with ingredients that overlap, and that only require around half a dozen ingredients per meal. Check out our camping food ideas for families for some inspiration.
Make Sandwiches For Lunches During Day Excursions - If you’re hiking or driving to some nearby beauty spots during your trip, you’ll need to refuel for lunch at some point. Avoid the over-priced tourist restaurants you inevitably find at these places by making sandwiches before you set off and taking them with you.
Camping Equipment on a Budget
Next up when it comes to family camping on a budget is the equipment. Camping gear is an investment. An expensive tent will last for years if looked after correctly, but as with all investments, you need to calculate your likely return; do you see your family regularly using the tent or other pricey gear over the next five to ten years?
If you and your family are only occasional campers, then don’t splash out hundreds or thousands of dollars on new gear. Instead, take advantage of these money saving tips.
Borrow or Rent Camping Gear - Okay, we don’t want to state the obvious, but this is often overlooked when planning a camping trip. The chances are someone within your friends and family circle will have a tent and a few other items which they’re probably not going to be using on your vacation dates. Or if your friends and family can’t help you with this, there are companies that offer family camping gear rental services, such as Outdoors Geek.
Take Your Regular Bedding - Sleeping bags and mats are only really a necessity if you’re doing wilderness camping and are hiking with your gear, or if you’re camping in cold weather conditions. For car camping in the summer, your regular bedding will be fine. Take two comforters per person, so you can lay one down as a mattress. And for carrying your pillow, check out our bag the Pillowpak, the world’s first bag designed to carry your pillow.
Be Creative with Camp Games - Again, resist the impulse to buy brand new and expensive camping games at the outdoor store. There are loads of games you can play with your family that are either free or cost very little money. Read our guide to fun camping activities for families for some ideas.
Buy Firewood Before Your Arrive - If you’re planning on having a campfire each evening, then buy enough firewood before you leave. Check out Craigslist or local options for the cheapest prices. If you wait until you arrive and buy it from the campsite-store you’ll have to pay a hefty markup.
Other Budget Camping Tips
As well as food and gear, here are some other ways you can cut down costs on your family camping trip.
- Avoid Holidays and High Season - This inevitably depends on your vacation days, but it always pays to avoid holiday weekends if possible. Also, if you can avoid weekends during high season and camp Monday to Friday you’ll be able to secure better prices.
- Choose a State or Local Government Campgrounds - There are plenty of state and local government-owned campgrounds that charge less than $25 a night, which can be much cheaper than private options. Check out The Dyrt which has a national database of campgrounds with pricing.
A little bit of monetary discipline can really help you save money when trying to camp on a budget. Just as you no doubt write up a family camping packing list before you head off, write up a camping budget too, so you know exactly how much you’re spending and on what.