My folks made sure we had a ‘proper’ 2 week family holiday every summer, but with 4 kids, budgets were tight and we went camping a lot to make the holiday funds stretch. We had some awesome trips that I have very fond memories of. I remember the excitement of seeing the car all packed up with the big old frame tent on the roof rack! My poor dad had to deal with 3 over-excited boys vying put the tent up while my mum and I made something to eat out of whatever was left of our travel picnic. Curly sandwiches, slightly sweaty ginger cake and tepid tea from big old flasks in plastic beakers. We loved every minute of it ♥
I’ve used everything my parents taught me to create fun frugal camping trips with my own son, especially when my budget was lower than a snake’s belly button. We’ve camped a lot as it’s a great way to get away and reconnect. It’s such an adventure for kids to sleep under canvas (and the BEST way to have a total digital detox). We’ve even had fun on rainy camping holidays!
Top Tips For A Fun, Frugal Camping Holiday
1. Buy a used or clearance tent
Seriously, do you need the latest, greatest tent ever to have fun as a family? I think not. We searched Facebook, eBay and Gumtree for used tents before finding one that hadn’t even been used, but was being sold for less than 1/3 of the original price. A lucky bargain from a family who were emigrating. Buying from an outdoor specialist at the very end of the season works too, as they will usually offer clearance deals to shift unsold stock.
2. Seek out bargain basement camping supplies
I wouldn’t buy used sleeping bags, but camping supplies that can be cleaned and disinfected with a good scrub in hot, soapy water are well worth buying. Check out boot sales, charity (thrift) shops and online sources too and build up your camping supplies with bargain items.
3. Do your homework before booking your campsite
Hunt online through all the campsites in the area you want to visit. I found the variation in price from one site to another completely staggering. Try to book direct with the campsite, as this is often cheaper (in my experience). We would have paid substantially more than we did if we’d not checked.
Also experiment with your dates (if you can be flexible). The price often varies according to date, so you could save more if you can flex on your dates.
4. Use things you already have at home as part of your camping kit
One of my mum’s ideas was to take our duvets from home with us, instead of forking out for new sleeping bags. For a summer trip, this works perfectly well – and duvets are so much more snuggly than sleeping bags!
Freezer bags are perfect for transporting food. They also make a make a good substitute for ice packs if you don’t have any – just fill up with water and freeze oversight.
5. Take food stocks with you
Shops on campsites are ALWAYS pricey! Take the perishable food from your fridge with you as well as all the store cupboard staples and fresh fruit/veggies you might need. We found that perishables kept for up to 24 hours in a good cool box, packed in with ice packs.
6. Save small clear plastic boxes
They are perfect for storing food, first aid kits, packs of cards and anything else you need to be able to keep clean and dry, and to identify without opening the box.
There’s something about all the fresh air of camping holiday that turns kids into ravenous monsters, hunting for food like heat-seeking missiles. Home-baked cake is the ideal solution, and you know they’ll burn off the sugar by running around the campsite. Chocolate banana loaf is my son’s favourite.
8. Puzzles, board games and colouring books
Yes. It sometimes rains on camping holidays. Get prepared for those days with plenty of fun things for kids to do. Buying games locally can be a huge budget drain. My son found a new (super competitive) love for Monopoly and dominoes on our camping trips. I also taught him to play Poker and then lost continually to him…
9. Take outdoor games/kit
Campsites are very social places. Part of the magic of a camping holiday is how kids mingle and want to play together. Packing a cheap badminton set and an old football made my son very popular! Bubble mix is always a winner too – who doesn’t just feel happy watching kids blowing bubbles?
What are your favourite frugal camping tips? Do share in the comments as I’m always keen to learn new ways to stretch our holiday budget!
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