Go camping on a budget
When you think frugal family vacations, camping comes to mind. How much can a tent and some bug spray cost compared to airfare and hotel accommodations, right? Unfortunately, if you’re a novice camper and don’t plan ahead, it can be far more expensive than you anticipated.
How have you camped on a budget? Do you have any camping tips?
Here are a few ideas to keep your camping expenses to a minimum.
You can get by with a tent and tarp, sleeping bags, toiletries, clothing, a cooler for food/water and dinnerware, but you might want to consider additional items such as a cook stove or Dutch oven (for campfire cooking), sleeping pads, pillows or air mattresses, flashlights, first-aid kit and a plethora of items to make your trip more comfortable. Visit www.lovetheoutdoors.com/camping/checklists.htm for a handy camping checklist.
Check with the campground (don’t try primitive camping if you’re a novice) on their prices, availability (some accept reservations, while others are first-come, first served) and amenities. If you don’t own camping gear, see whether you can borrow any from friends or family, or possibly chip in together to buy gear and ask them to join you. Window shop at sporting-goods stores. Check prices and make a list of items you are interested in buying. Ask a salesperson for information and learn about the products you like and need. You can also check other sources such as Army surplus stores, garage sales, eBay Classifieds, Freecycle and thrift stores for equipment or consider renting equipment to try before you buy. Don’t forget to give new equipment a test run at home before your trip, and arrive at your destination before dusk to setup camp.
Prepare your food as much as possible ahead of time. For example, it’s easier to reheat pancakes you made at home than it is to make pancakes when camping. Foods such as fruit, raw vegetables, cereal, cookies, muffins, granola bars, nuts, crackers, instant oatmeal, popcorn, canned or instant soup, hot dogs and sandwiches are easy foods to pack. Remember you can bring along a skillet, and aluminum foil (foil-packet meals are tasty), and if you have electricity available, bring a slow cooker. Remember food safety. Put food away so it doesn’t attract animals. (In your car works best.) Keep your cooler packed with ice, be careful handling raw food, don’t keep hot foods out too long and keep your site clean. Check your local library or websites such as www.scoutorama.com/recipe for camping recipes, too.
— Have a separate cooler for drinks and snacks because they get opened more often. Water frozen in milk jugs works well for coolers.
— Large plastic bins help organize everything and give some protection from rain.
— Consider how you pack your vehicle. What will you need first?
— Remember to pack jackets, warmer clothing and a spare pair of shoes.
— Bring garbage bags. They’re helpful for dirty clothes, too.
— Pack cards, books or board games in case it rains.
— Hand sanitizer and toilet paper are your friends. Camping is the perfect time to use those free samples of shampoo, toothpaste, etc., too.
— Wear flip flops or water shoes for campground bathrooms and showers.
— Bring a dishpan or large pot for cleanup.
— Don’t forget bug spray and sunscreen.
— Have a good attitude and practice camping etiquette.