Why Camping Is Our Favorite Frugal Vacation

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Back in October 2018 we cash-flowed a 5th-wheel camper for $6,900 as one of our big financial goals for after we became debt-free. However, that’s not where our camping adventures began. My husband, Daniel, and I have been camping together since before we were even married. Camping is so much a part of our relationship history that we actually went tenting camping for our Honeymoon.

Back-in-the-day camping was basically the only kind of vacation we could afford…same goes for both of our childhoods…so over time we had learned to love it for its many positive aspects and now choose to do it for more than just the frugal reasons.

I know many people who turn their noses up to camping, but hear me out on my reasons why our family loves it so much, and why it’s the perfect frugal vacation.

1. lodging

Whether you decide to camp in a tent, cabin, or save up to buy an RV, these options are usually still more frugal than staying at a hotel or fancy resort. Camp site fees are typically around $5-$30 per night depending on the amenities or type of park (national, state, or privately owned); which is much cheaper than a typical night at a hotel that could cost you anywhere from $70 up to well over $200. Add in the cost of a brand new tent (assuming you or someone you know doesn’t already own one) and you’re still only looking at a fraction of the price of staying in a hotel.

What if tent camping isn’t your jam? Do a Google search for cabins or even an AirBNB to rent, chances are this will still be a more budget-friendly option than a hotel, resort, or a cruise vacation.

And yes, RVs + Campers aren’t the cheapest thing in the world to just to up and pay cash for, but now-a-days you can rent RVs from places like Outdoorsy.com for around $100-$200 per night. Or if you’re like us and obsessed with camping, think about adding “cash-flow an RV” to your goals list for after you’re debt-free. If you do your homework and shop around for older models that are still in good condition (ours was 12 years old when we bought it) you can find some pretty budget-friendly options. Yes, $6,900 was a good chunk of money, but over time we know that we’ll get our money’s worth out of it and it’ll still more frugal than a lot of other family vacation options.

2. Food

Let’s talk food. No matter where you are…home or vacation…you’ve got to eat. The difference between other vacations and camping is that camping doesn’t really require much more in the grocery budget than just staying at home, especially if you stay in an RV, cabin, or AirBNB with a kitchen.

Back when we used to tent camp we actually spent even less on food than if we would have stayed home because we’d eat things like crackers + sausage, dry cereal, and turkey sandwiches, which are pretty frugal compared to staying in a hotel and having to eat at a restaurant for every meal.

3. essentials

Other essential items needed for camping are also much simpler and cheaper than other vacation essentials. Yeah, if you’re a newbie camper you might have to buy some new camp chairs (I personally love these $6 chairs from Academy) or maybe a lantern, but that’s about it…everything else you probably already have laying around your house. You can easily pack the blankets, dishes, and kid’s toys you already have instead of splurging on new stuff in the name of “vacation”. No need to buy new luggage like you’re flying internationally, or an evening gown like you’re going on a cruise, or even matching t-shirts and trunk-load of souvenirs like you’re going to Disney World. All you really need to go camping is food, your regular clothes, toiletries, and blankets, a flashlight or two, a deck of cards or a book to read, and some outside toys for the kids. Pretty simple.

4. activities

The best part of camping is the frugal activities. On regular a vacation you might spends hundreds of dollars on expeditions, museums, tours, entrance fees, etc. However, with camping you can spend your days doing basically free activities like going on walks, riding bikes, fishing, playing on the playground, swimming, sitting around the campsite talking, or (my favorites) eating snacks and napping.

Best of all, when you take your family camping you get quality time together. You’re doing those little things that make life so sweet like sharing meals, cuddling, and talking. You don’t need to spend money on fancy meals, new clothes, or souvenirs to have a worthwhile family vacation. With camping it’s all about quality over quantity.

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I'm the wife to my high school sweetheart, Daniel, + homeschooling momma to our 3 girls. I'm the Budgeting Coach + Motivational Speaker behind 
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My family used to be in $490k of debt + living paycheck-to-paycheck, but after we hit rock bottom everything changed for us!

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