Vacations can be so expensive! That’s exactly why a Frugal Camping Trip is so appealing for families. Camping is one of the best ways to take a family vacation and stay on a budget. You get the chance to spend time with the people you love and NOT blow a month’s paycheck while you’re at it.
Is It Really Possible to Be Frugal While Camping?
Out of the many different types of family vacations, camping is your best chance to have a frugal trip.
There are a lot of possibilities for cutting expenses that won’t limit the fun you have, either. Camping actually lends itself very well to following a tight budget.
Let me point you in the right direction. There are ways to do it all wrong and end up spending way too much money on your trip. So check out these great tips.
Read another one of my posts, Camping Essentials – 17 Must-Know Camping Tips
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12 Frugal Camping Ideas for Families
Related Reading: Things You MUST Take Camping With Kids
1. Get Only The Gear You Actually Need
It’s very common to overdo it when it comes to camping gear. Part of the problem is that we want all the comforts of home. And, part of the problem is that we’re inexperienced and just don’t know what will come up and how we’ll make do.
How to combat these feelings? Keep in mind that you are just on a short trip. You can probably do without many things as long as the basics are covered. Spending the least amount of money possible on gear is a great way to make your trip frugal.
Tent Camping is far more frugal than RV camping. Even if you buy a brand-new tent like one of these.
2. Download the Camping Essentials Checklist and you’ll be on the right track.
3. Borrow What You Can
One of the best ways to get cheap camping gear is to let your friends and family know about your upcoming trip. I bet they’d be happy to let you borrow some camping gear so you won’t have to buy it. This is a great way to get your feet wet, try things out, and see what you like, don’t like, and wish you had.
4. Buy Used When You Can
Buying used camping gear will save you a ton of money on your camping trip, too. Keep in mind, though, that used REI equipment is still going to cost more than brand new Coleman gear. Be sure you know your prices before you buy used items.
There are a ton of places to find used gear. Here are a few:
- Garage Sales
- Thrift Stores
- Used Sporting Goods Stores
When you buy used, just make sure you try everything out before handing over your cash. You don’t want to get all the way to your campsite and discover a hole in your tent, a missing pole, find that your cookstove won’t work, and you need mantles for your lantern.
5. Stay Close To Home
If you take your camping trips closer to home, you’ll be using less gas and probably eating less junk food on the road. Driving a long distance away can turn your frugal weekend into something that costs hundreds of dollars.
6. Frugal Campsites
There are many campsites that are expensive. Typically, those that have great amenities like laundry rooms, electrical hookups, swimming pools, and nice toilet/shower facilities cost a lot more than the basic State Parks.
You can even do something called Boondocking, where you find places to stay for free. Here’s a great article on Boondocking from GoneWithTheWynns.com with lots of information for you to check out.
What About Frugal Camping Food?
Related Reading: Easy Road Trip Meal Ideas for Families
7. Frugal Camping Meals
This one can get you. I’ve easily spent $150 on groceries for a long weekend camping trip. This is way more than a whole week’s budget for us. I don’t think I’m the only one, either. It’s pretty common to do that.
It happens for a few reasons:
- We buy things we don’t usually have on hand
- We pick up a lot of fun snacks
- We buy things in individual-sized packages
I’ve learned a little bit about reducing our food expense by changing up the menu a bit and focusing more on what we have on hand. Base your meals around inexpensive foods and food that you already in your pantry/refrigerator/freezer.
8. Make Snacks at Home
Before your trip, make some snacks instead of buying them at the store. Think things like brownies, GORP (trail mix), fruits and veggies.
9. Don’t Buy Individual Snack Packages
It’s always more expensive to buy small bags of chips, nuts, jerky, etc. Buy the size at the best price and serve them on a paper towel or napkin. This will reduce a lot of trash, too.
10. Reduce the Number of Snacks You Bring
Everybody is so busy having fun that they really don’t eat all those snacks anyway. Plan on two snacks per person per day.
11. Plan Your Meals Well
Use my free printable Camping Menu Planner to plan out all your meals. You don’t want to end up bringing half of your food back home because you bought too much. And, you really don’t want to throw a bunch away because you end up with leftovers or have spoilage.
After creating your camping menu, make a great shopping list and buy everything on one trip.
I love taking my Instant Pot on trips to make simple, fast, frugal meals all in one pot.
12. Sample Frugal 5-Day Menu
Here are some frugal camping meals that are easy to prepare and delicious, too.
- Cheerios w/yogurt
- Bologna Sandwiches, Grandpa’s Potato Salad
- Hot Dogs, Brown Sugar and Bacon Baked Beans, Chips, Apple Slices
- Breakfast Burritos
- Snacky Lunch – Crackers, Cheese, Beef Stick or Lunch Meat, Fruit
- Baked Potatoes with Chili, Carrot Sticks
- Muffins, Yogurt, Fruit
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
- Black Bean Nachos
- Pancakes (make the mix at home)
- Bagels with Cream Cheese, Oranges, Chips
- Ham & Cheese Hoagies (wrap in foil and toast in the fire)
- Oatmeal, Fruit
- English Muffin Pizza, Sliced fruit and Vegetables
- Kielbasa & Potato Foil Packets, Cottage Cheese & Canned Fruit
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to have a frugal camping trip. By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to saving money on your family vacation. Do your best to buy only the things you absolutely have to and figure out ways to do without or borrow what you can. You want to SAVE Money, not Waste Money.
Related Reading: Ultimate Guide – Family Road Trips