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Save Money by Camping, And Have a Cheap Vacation

Save Money by Camping, And Have a Cheap Vacation

Camping is a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and family.  Bud did you ever associate camping with saving money?  Probably not.  Today, camping is fresh on my mind, as we are going to Wisconsin Dells camping this Memorial Day weekend.  The more I think about camping, the more I realize that it can be a very inexpensive way to entertain you and your family.  Of course, it will only be inexpensive if you do it right.  Here’s what I’ve learned.

Let me start by saying that when I talk about camping, I really mean resort camping.  That’s where you go to a campground that has a swimming pool and other activities.  These resorts typically have water, electric and sewer hookups and often have campers or cabins that you can also rent.  Although you can camp in a tent, most people use campers.  Anyway, let me start by talking about what doesn’t make camping cheap.

How Not to Save Money Camping

I’ve watched some relatives and friends over the years that have spent a fortune on camping.  First of all, they start by buying a brand new camper and spending around $20,000 on it.  Actually, my wife has a friend that used to buy $300,000 motor homes and trade them in on new ones almost every year.  If you camp enough, a $20,000 camper is probably worth it, especially if you buy a campsite lot and use it as a vacation home.  However, unless you’re ultra wealthy, a $300,000 motor home is probably not worth it.  It loses $40,000 just driving it off the lot.

Anyway, my point here is that spending a lot of money on a camper that you only use a few times a year is not a good way to save money.  Besides the cost of the camper, you also have to store it somewhere, pay for the insurance, and keep it maintained.  You also have to keep a truck that can tow it and install an expensive hitching and braking system.  The best way not to save money camping is to make poor camper purchases.  That brings us to ways to camp for less.

Camping on a Budget

While most campers I know don’t think twice about buying their campers and all the costs that go with them, it may actually make sense to rent your camper.  There are camper rental companies that lease them for a few hundred dollars a weekend or week.  Or, you can rent a cabin or camper from the campground you choose.  When you think about it, renting a cabin or camper a few times a year will probably only cost you about $1,000.  Storing a camper for a full year can cost that much.  In fact, if you spend $20,000 on a camper and keep it for five years, your annual cost of ownership will probably be over $4,000 per year.  That includes 75% loss in value of the camper, storage and insurance.  If you only camp a few times a year this is a great way to save money and get rid of the hassle of ownership.

If you insist on having a camper, at least look at used campers.  I know for a fact that a lot of people upgrade their campers every few years, so there should be a lot of high quality, like new campers available.  Save even more money by buying directly from the owner.  Visit your local online classifieds or search craigslist to see what I mean.

If you’re like me, you can save even more money camping by staying on other people’s sites.  When we go camping, my wife and kids drive home or to the nearest relative’s house to spend the night.  And I crash in my parent’s camper.  It works out pretty good and actually makes my camping pretty much free – sometimes I need to pay the amenity or visitor cost, but it’s still a pretty cheap vacation.

Of course, there are lots of other ways to save money camping.  One is to cut your own firewood.  If you don’t, a $5 bundle of wood will last about 30 minutes on your campfire, and could cost a lot over your vacation.  Also, plan your food and drink in advance so you don’t have to eat at the campground or restaurants.

Okay, those are my quick thoughts on camping, let’s see what others on the web are saying about saving money camping.  Janet Glaser at Life 123 had the following ideas about how to save money:

Insurance Insurance for your RV is an often overlooked camping expense. It pays to shop around for your insurance policy. Many homeowners insurance policies cover your RV so you can save by not having to purchase extra insurance.

Save on fuel Don’t let the crazy fluctuating fuel prices keep you at home. The high cost of fuel is taking a bite out of our traveling budget, but you can do something about conserving fuel. Purchasing a lightweight RV allows better gas mileage than the heavy units. Speeding only burns more fuel. Keep your engine and vehicle systems in top running condition.

You and your family can have just as much fun by staying close to home instead of traveling miles away to a campground. Perhaps you could get a group of friends or family together to stay at the same campground close to home or park at someone’s large field. The important part is that you are camping together and away from the usual routine of life at home.

Choose a campground that is near the attraction or event that you will be attending. You will save fuel costs traveling to the activity and time on the road.

These are some great ideas.  You can read the rest of her ideas at how to save money when camping.

Do you have some money saving camping tips to share?  We’d love to hear them.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • MelissaCassie May 27, 2012, 11:34 am

    I don’t know about you but camping always ends up costing me as much money as a vacation. I guess its because I usually rent a cottage because I can’t stand bugs lol. I do find that one way of making camping less expensive is to bring your own food. Somehow in a week of camping I seem to spend more money on take out food then I do in two months at home. Its not really something people think of but it really helps!


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