Save money on family vacations by camping

Do you want to take the family on a relaxing, rejuvenating vacation this summer, but the cost of doing so might just break the bank? Consider taking your family camping for your next vacation. Not only will you all have a blast, but you could also save a small fortune.

Vacation Expenses

Even if you purchase airline tickets way in advance, you can still plan to spend a minimum of $300 per person for flights to the most popular vacation destinations. For my family of five, this means that I’m already $1,500 in the hole, and that’s not counting the extra fees for checked luggage or premium seating.

On top of your flight, you will need a hotel, a mode of transportation, and money for dining out. Depending on how long you plan to stay, these expenses alone can throw your total up above $5,000. At this point, we haven’t even factored in your entertainment costs.

Forget that! Taking the family camping will cost way less and give you more quality time together. While it’s true that standing in 1.5-hour lines under the blazing sun for theme park rides does provide ample bonding time with the kids, it also means heat exhaustion, sunburn, and sore feet.

Family Dynamics and Relationships While Camping

Family camping trips are wrought with benefits. Of these benefits, the most important is the relationships you build within your family. The simple act of setting up camp involves each family member taking on a role and following through with a job. Everyone is included, and everyone is needed. You are able to truly behave like the team you are.

After the hectic school year, you will finally have some time, and some peace and quiet, in nature to get to know those kids you shuttled back and forth to school and extracurricular activities. Now is the time to find out what makes them tick, learn about their interests, and share yours.

It is well-known that a solid family background built on respect gives your child the confidence to make his way in this often-overwhelming world. While camping, you have the chance to disconnect from electronics and your hectic everyday life and build upon your background.

When you take your family camping, you also teach your kids valuable skills they can always use. Setting up your tent, catching and cleaning fish, and learning how to start a fire are all things that give you a chance to pass your skills on.

Other Benefits of Camping

A few other benefits of camping, beyond the great cost savings and family time, include:

Instilling a sense of awe in your children
Reducing screen time
Immersing yourself in the fresh air
Teaching your children to be present
Teaching your children about nature and preservation

How to Keep Expenses low when Camping

Keeping your expenses to a minimum is relatively easy when you go camping because there is so much you can do for cheap or even free. Let’s begin by discussing the basics.


Generally, campgrounds charge a nightly fee anywhere between $13 and $60 per night depending on their amenities. Some campgrounds have showers, toilets, trash receptacles, grills, electricity outlets, and even swimming pools while others are much more primitive.

Primitive campsites will likely require you to carry more gear in on your own which also must be carried back out. Decide what amenities are most important to you when choosing your campsite. For example, choosing a campground with grills means you do not need to purchase a camping stove.


A tent is a necessary component to protect you from unexpected weather and expected insects. Most tents claim to sleep a certain amount of people, but it seems like these measurements were taken with side sleepers all smashed together. Opt for a tent that claims to sleep at least 2 more people than are in your party, unless you plan on getting really close.

An average 6-person tent like this Coleman tent averages about $130 brand-new. However, you can also find used tents for sale at rummage sales, second-hand sports stores, and thrift shops for considerably cheaper.

Sleeping Bags

You do not have to get all fancy with sleeping necessities. A simple air mattress you keep at home for guests and some pillows and blankets off your bed make a perfect tent bed. You can always rough it and sleep directly on the ground, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re over 40. Ouch.


A part of the fun of camping is cooking your own food over the campfire. This is another activity that the entire family can participate in together. Since you are most likely bringing your own food to cook, you will save tons of money by not eating out each day. Check our prior blogs for information on what to cook while camping.

Other Camping Necessities

Other gear you shouldn’t leave home without includes a large cooler for your food and drinks. It goes without saying that you need to keep the food you cook fresh, but a cooler—especially one that locks— will keep your food safe from wildlife in the area.

It is also smart to pack items like a first aid kit, flashlight or lantern, rope, pots and pans, dinnerware, and a fire starter. If you plan to fish, take along your poles and tackle. You will also want to pack any games you might want to play. Most of these items are things you probably have at home already. If not, again check out secondhand stores and rummage sales for the best deals.

Inexpensive Camping Activities

If you’re camping at a national park your site is already loaded with inexpensive things to see and do. You can hike along and check out the natural sights and wildlife. Beat the heat by swimming at the beach, in a lake, or pool if your site offers such.

Start a friendly rivalry at horseshoes or bocce ball if you have open space near your campsite. These games are inexpensive entertainment that you may already own. At night, make s’mores around the campfire while telling ghost stories or take turns telling each other the best thing that happened that day.

Finally, since you’re away from much of the light pollution in more populated areas, you will have a great view of the stars and possibly the Milky Way. Watch for shooting stars or simply enjoy the wonder of the night sky.

If you’ve never considered camping as a family vacation option, we hope you do now. Not only will you save enough money to feed a small country, you will also get to know your family on a level you can’t always reach in today’s hectic world. Happy Camping!

Scott Woodruff is an avid camper who regularly blogs over at Tents n Trees. He enjoys getting out and camping with his wife and 4 kids. He writes about tips and advice to help other families get out, go camping, and grow closer.

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