The summer vacation is considered a staple of the American experience. Not all of us, however, can take off for a full two weeks. Whether money is tight or you have obligations at work, a full-blown vacation might not be an option.
At times when you just can’t take off for a vacation, why not go camping? When you’re camping, you’re not only enjoying time with family and nature, but you’re also spending very little money.
Plus, since you go camping in two to three day stretches, you can go more than once during the summer. It makes a great weekend getaway that won’t break the bank or interfere too much with work.
It’s the perfect staycation.
Planning Your Camping Trip
My son and I go camping two or three times during the summer. We really enjoy it, and now that we have the gear, it’s pretty inexpensive. The good news is that you can save money even when buying the gear.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare for a camping trip:
- Start small and simple. Don’t assume that you have to go on a four-day trip — especially if you haven’t been camping before. Start out with an overnighter at a nearby campground. You can start simple, too, with a small tent, inexpensive mats to sleep on, and mid-range sleeping bags. Most casual campers don’t need to load up with fancy gear.
- Consider camping without the tent. If you don’t want (or can’t afford) to buy a tent, you can sleep in your car. My brother, a truly hardy type, often sleeps in his hammock or on a mat underneath the picnic table at the campsite. If you can handle it, this can be a way to save on gear.
- Create a camp box. A couple of years ago, I put together a camp box. It includes old dishes that we didn’t want in the kitchen (including pots and pans), matches, old dishtowels and rags for cleaning up, and other items. I didn’t have to spend very much to put it together, and now when we’re ready to camp, it’s easy to just load into the car. All I do is check it at the beginning of the summer for items that need to be replaced.
- Shop end of season sales: When I was ready to upgrade the tent my son and I share, we shopped for it at the end of the summer. You can get tents, cots, sleeping bags, and other items for between 25% and 75% off if you shop the end of season sales. They start about mid-July and run through September. Prepare for next year by buying on sale this year.
Lastly, don’t forget to consider the needs of your party. My family often camps in areas with flush toilets and running water, since there are children involved. It’s much easier to camp if you’re just going with one or two adults. Make sure you also account for needs like allergy medicine, a First Aid kit, and other supplies.
What are your tips for a fun and affordable camping experience?