Summer vacations are where memories are made. Traveling together strengthens family bonds and gives you the chance to explore places both near and far. Unfortunately, vacations can be major budget-busters.
Camping to the rescue! Whether it’s for a single night or a whole week, a family trip to the great outdoors can be a budget vacation that everyone will remember for years to come. With advance planning and an adventure-ready mindset, your family can take a great camping trip this summer.
Consider Your Shelter
Most campers choose one of two shelter options: an RV or a tent. With mattresses, bathrooms and air conditioning, RVs can be more home-like, but tents are a more traditional way to camp.
Purchasing an RV is, of course, a much larger investment than buying a tent, but some families consider the comforts of an RV worth the purchase price. And because an RV can be used for years to come, buying one may save you on the price of family vacations over the long term.
If you can’t imagine forking over all of that cash but like the appeal of this camping style, consider renting an RV for your trip.
Find a Public Campground
If you’re choosing a camping vacation in order to save money, you might encounter a bit of sticker shock when you see the prices of some campsites. Private campgrounds often offer many amenities, but they can have a price tag to match.
Instead, consider one of the many public campgrounds around the country. These include state and county parks and US Army Corps of Engineers facilities. Public campgrounds often have reasonable fees.
Pack Clothing That Can Be Layered
Temperatures can vary tremendously over the course of 24 hours in the outdoors. While overnights and early mornings may be downright chilly, afternoons in the sun can be blazing hot. Layerable clothes will help you stay comfortable throughout the day without having to do a full outfit change.
Handy hint: Pack a soft beanie to wear. Not only will it keep your head warm while you sleep, but it will also cover up any bedhead first thing in the morning.
Plan Your Food in Advance
For many people, cooking in the great outdoors is one of the best parts of camping. Before your trip, peruse lists of camp-tested recipes and plan which you’d like to make. “Country Living” has a good recipe collection to get you started.
When shopping, select as many shelf-stable food items as possible. This will save on cooler space. For the items that do need to remain cold, place a large block of ice in your cooler. It will melt less quickly than individual cubes. It’s still a good idea to fill in the extra space with cubes, however.
Make Your Own Fire Starters
A roaring fire is the heart of every campsite. It’s so much more than just a place to cook your meals. Your campfire is where you’ll warm your hands in the morning and tell stories late at night.
To ease the process of building your campfire, make handy fire starters before your trip. One of the easiest methods involves coating cotton balls with petroleum jelly. These little bundles of flammability will each burn for about four minutes. For portability, make a large batch before your trip and store them in a zip-top plastic bag.
Prepare for Rain
If you go camping for any length of time, there’s a good chance that you’ll encounter some rain. If you’re prepared for it, you can make it through the wet spell without too much inconvenience.
Bring plastic bags into which you can stuff important gear to keep it dry. One or two large tarps can also protect your belongings. A canopy, whether store-bought or rigged up with strings and a tarp, will let you hang out outside even as rain falls. Once the rain stops, use a microfiber towel to dry off any supplies that got wet.
Come with Activity Ideas
The great outdoors are full of adventure just waiting to be explored, but if you don’t have any advance thoughts on what you want to do during your trip, you might find yourselves just staring at one another in boredom.
With a pair of binoculars and a guidebook, you’ll be armed for investigating the flora and fauna of your campground. Children will stay entertained for hours if you pack their bicycles and allow them to pedal around the grounds. Check in advance whether your campground offers swimming facilities; if so, pack swimsuits, pool toys and beach gear.
Don’t forget to bring entertainment for the rainy times. Board games, decks of cards and books to read are all good options.
Finally, remember that camping can be unpredictable. Weather, campsites, fellow campers and wildlife can all throw wrenches into your well-laid plans. Go into your trip with a flexible attitude, and you’ll be ready to face whatever may come.
Are you a camping novice or a pro? No matter your experience level, I find that camping can be one of the best family memory-makers of the whole summer. What’s your best piece of camping advice? Jot it in the comments section. And as always, don’t forget to share this article with your friends!