Saturday, March 13, 2010

Guest Post: Camping on the Cheap

I'm so excited it's almost camping season!  We love going camping as a family for a weekend away.  We're blessed that there are lots of very inexpensive campgrounds all around us.  My friend, Rachel from Room To Grow has written a great article on camping for less!

"*We camp on vacation instead of staying at hotels. This saves about $100 a night (have you seen hotel prices lately???).

*Bring your own food! Buy food and bring homemade snacks so you aren't tempted by gas station food or the expensive campsite grocery store.

*Look for coupons and deals BEFORE you go. Check out websites for the places you'd like to visit as you travel.

*Look for coupons after you arrive. Make sure to check out the visitor center for coupon books.

*Set an amount for souveniers. We each get $5-10 to buy something. This cures the "gimme's" during the trip. The kids know they must choose wisely.

*You can also look for trinkets at the thrift store and bring them out when the "gimme's" hit.

****Manda note: I absolutely LOVE hitting up Antique Malls while I'm on vacation!  Some of my most treasured souveniers have come from thrift stores and antique malls away from home!

*Garage sales and craigslist are GREAT places to buy inexpensive camping gear. I've been able to purchase a tent for $30 and kid sleeping bags for $1. I see coleman stoves and coolers once in awhile, too.

*When decluttering your kitchen consider adding some of the items to your camping gear. Old pots and pans, utensils, cups, etc all come in handy.
Don't forget to bring foil, baggies, paper towels, dish soap and a dish pan. (I once forgot my soap and had to pay $2 for a tiny bottle! )

*We try to camp at a site that has showers. This is great if you are using it as a "hotel" and sightseeing during the day.

*Do not go to hot spots during peak season. Many places charge a lot more during peak season (usually summer and holidays). If you can travel out of season you could save a bundle.

*Take things for the children to play with in the car. I usually get a couple things from the Dollar Tree or the dollar spot at Target or Michaels. These keep the kids occupied during the drive....Movies work, too.

*National Parks are wonderful for family vacations. Most of them have Jr. Ranger programs for children ages 6-12. The free activity books are educational and can be filled out while exploring. Many places give badges when the booklet is completed. Check out the website before you go for additional activity pages and learning opportunities!

*Consider staying local. Save a ton of gas and time by going to a vacation site in your own state. You might be surprised how many opportunities are in your own back yard.

*If you want to visit a hot spot get reservations EARLY. Some places will take reservations up to 12 months in advance. Other take no reservations and are first come first serve--and fill up early in the day. Plan ahead to avoid disappointment.

*Above all relax and bring a patient attitude! Have fun, don't stress. Give yourself time and don't try to rush through your trip just to check off a list. Enjoy each moment!"

I love Rachel's tips!  I especially love the idea of using a campground more as a "hotel" rather than just staying on the campground site the entire time!  Another tip is to ask your local Boy Scouts if they have any tents and gear to loan out instead of having to buy everything. Just make sure you make sure you give it back in as good as or better condition that you got it in! :)

Have any thrifty camping tips or vacationing tips? Please share!  And thank you again, Rachel of Room To Grow for your great advice.

If you are an "expert" on a topic that's frugal and fun and would like to do a guest post--PLEASE let me know!  It would be so much fun to do this more often!

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