Guest post from Kristin of The Touring Camper:
Our family loves to go camping — or perhaps I should say “glamping” given we camp in a travel trailer?
Either way, having a camper has enabled our family to save money on more expensive destination vacation experiences by staying at inexpensive campgrounds rather than condos, lodges, or hotels. However, the cost of gas is high these days, so we are always trying to find ways to save money.
Here are a few tips we have learned along the miles:
1. Look for Government Campgrounds First
When picking a campground, first check out state or government-affiliated parks (like the Army Corp of Engineers). Typically these parks will have a cheaper rate per-night of camping. KOAs and private campgrounds usually offer more amenities, like pools, cable, and wi-fi, which bump up the nightly rate.
2. Plan Your Activities Ahead of Time
To save money on touring the area we implement three strategies:
1. Use the Visitor’s Center
During our 2014 trip to Charleston, S.C., we stopped at the visitor’s center to sign our kids up for a free passport program. As we visited local sites that were connected with the program (many were free) the kids collected stamps in their passports and earned rewards.
2. Buy an “All-Access” Pass
If you plan to visit several area attractions, sometimes you can get a discount by buying a pass that gives access to several linked attractions. During our 2013 trip to Johnstown, Pa., we purchased one pass at a discounted rate that gave us access to historic sites as well as a children’s museum.
3. Purchase Memberships for Locations you Visit Regularly
Consider purchasing a science center, museum, or zoo membership that has reciprocity with locations you plan to visit. This past year, we had a Carnegie museum membership in Pittsburgh that also gained us free access to COSI during a Columbus camping trip.
3. Pack Carefully
Once you plan your activities (see #2 above), take the time to carefully pack what you’ll need for those various activities to avoid last-minute shopping stops at expensive camp stores.
However, even with careful planning, you may still need to head to the store for a necessity. So before you leave on your trip, know where budget-friendly dollar stores, Walmarts, or Aldis are located!
4. Consider Becoming a Good Sam Member
This program is similar to AAA, but geared for campers. The membership comes with roadside assistance but also offers fuel discounts at Flying Js.
Another option is to sign up for your preferred gas station’s fuel discount program.
5. BYOB (and Meals!)
Save money by bringing your own beverages… and your own meals.
Although it takes extra planning, we avoid expensive restaurant meals by having breakfasts and dinners at the campsite and packing lunches while we are out exploring.
To make the vacation as enjoyable as possible, we pick easy meals that can be reheated, quickly assembled over a campfire, or cooked in a crock pot while we are out touring. Additionally, when we camp with family or friends we generally take turns making dinner meals, which gives everyone at least one night off from cooking.
What are your best tips to camp (or “glamp”) on a budget?
Kristin and her husband Jarrett share additional camping tips and ideas over at The Touring Camper, where they are searching for adventure on and off the beaten path while reviewing places to camp and highlighting awesome places to visit.