If you're looking to save a few pennies on your family vacation this year, you can't do better than to plan a camping trip. First and foremost, the savings on housing is staggering. Where you would pay anywhere from fifty to hundreds of dollars a night for a hotel, campground stays are far more reasonable. Almost as dramatic is the amount you'll save on entertainment. Most campgrounds and RV parks are near gorgeous natural areas where you and your family can play all day for free, or for a minimal admission fee.
To get the most bang for your camping buck, plan your trip well in advance. Many campgrounds and RV parks offer reduced rates for weekly or monthly stays, so you can save by planning to stay put in one place for longer. Try to choose a park that's near a place you'd like to explore, such as a scenic mountain range, a great fishing lake, or a new stretch of desert.
You'll also want to scout out your campground options. What other amenities does each park offer? Will you be interested in cable TV hook-ups? Wi-fi internet access? Rainy-day activities for the kids? You'll find RV parks with everything from swimming pools and work-out rooms to fishing ponds and onsite boat launches. Many parks charge for TV and internet hook-ups, but some do not. Do a little homework in advance so you won't be surprised by any costs when you arrive at the park.
Most RV parks and campgrounds welcome large groups, and camping with friends or family can be a great way to keep the costs down. Your campground may offer a special group rate if you reserve a certain number of campsites in one booking. This is a great way to plan a family reunion or to get a group of friends together. And it also keeps the workload down! With a large group, you can easily delegate the meals and rotate the duty around, so each family is only responsible for a few meals over the course of a long weekend.
Get into Campfire Cooking
Once you've chosen to take a camping vacation, the second most significant thing you can do to save money is to decide to cook your meals at your campsite. By not going out to eat, you'll dine just as cheaply as you do at home. Most campsites have their own fire pit and grill, which makes campfire cooking easy so long as you remember to bring all of your pots and pans with you. If you prefer, you can invest in a Whisperlite or other gas-fueled backpacking stove that you can set up on the picnic table. Even a small backpacking stove is perfectly capable of cooking meals and hot drinks for two people. If you enjoy fishing, you'll love the feeling of satisfaction you get from catching your own supper!
Invest in Good Gear
Aside from your RV, trailer, or tent, you'll need good recreational gear for your camping trip. A visit to a snowy mountain is a lot more fun if you have all the sleds, skis, and snowshoes you need for a day on the slopes. Plan ahead by doing some off-season shopping. In the summer, look for discounts on cold-weather gear. Late fall is a perfect time to find sales on boating and hiking equipment, when stores are trying to clear out their stock. Garage sales, rummage sales, and used equipment stores are also a great place to go for bargains. While you're shopping, keep an eye out for cooking gear you can use to stock your RV or camping stores.
Camping has a way of making a person appreciate the little things, from a hot and hearty meal to a comfy bed for the night. When you spend your days hiking and boating in the great outdoors, enjoying the spectacles of nature, you don't need money to have a good time. With a little planning and savvy, you'll be amazed at how economical a camping trip can be!