When it comes to affordable family vacations, camping usually ranks at the top of the list. Cheaper than a hotel with activities built in to the location, it’s a classic family activity that allows you to build memories on a budget. Here are four frugal tips for camping with the fam this summer season.


Creative Commons License photo credit: tamaramarabobara

Chain Discounts:

Finding a particular campground chain with amenities you can count on at a price point you can afford is a huge part of making the family camping experience both frugal and fun. Some chains offer discounts to regular campers. For example, KOA offers a ten percent discount to loyalty card holders, and has campgrounds across the United States. My husband and I have stayed at several when driving down the East Coast. They provided tree-lined natural camping spots with water, electricity, free WiFi, swimming pools, showers, laundry facilities, mail access if we had stayed longer and a campground store. There were also playgrounds and club houses for families. Since many of KOA’s campgrounds are near major cities or attractions, this is a great way to combine camping with other sightseeing opportunities.

Free Camping:

Parking your tent or RV for free meets anyone’s definition of frugal. If you’re looking for a way to find these sought-after freebie sites, check Boondocking.org for tips and tricks to the free camping scene. Word to the wise, boondocking means exactly that. You’ll be out in the boondocks with virtually no amenities or power. If that’s cool with you, then just be sure to pack the appropriate gear for responsibly handling toilet needs, food preparation and camp fires.


Check discount stores and Craig’s List for affordable prices on the gear you need. We’ve found higher-end tents, sleeping bags and loads of other camping and travel gear this way. If you just want to get outfitted quickly, then check Amazon for seasonal deals or Retail Me Not for online coupon codes. It’s important to remember that if this is your first summer of family camping, there’s really no pressure to outfit yourselves for the ultimate wilderness adventure. A simple tent with some cooking supplies paired with bedding and some waterfront fun toys will get you started. Fill a cooler with ice and pack a few books for extra measure. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to decide if this is something you want to do more often and whether or not the investment for more specialized gear is something you want to commit to.


If you’re going to be near a body of water that’s safe to swim in, the kids will likely be entertained with sun, splashing and sand alone. Bring some craft supplies for making beaded friendship pins when shade is required, or if rain keeps you in the tent for longer than you expected. Parking the fam in or near national parks is another simple way to have your activities built in to your location. Hikes, fishing and wildlife spotting are all fun nature activities that require minimal funds and gear. Birding in particular is an educational activity that is fun for the whole family and easily paired with a camping agenda.

When it comes to tips for camping, you don’t have to worry about having advanced wilderness knowledge your first time out. Just choose affordable venues and activities for a successful first experience.

Myscha Theriault

Myscha Theriault

A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.