Camping: The Affordable Vacation Alternative

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How much do your memories cost?

Alright, when you think of vacations, what typically comes to mind? Is it a tropical beach, a cruise, or visiting family?  We enjoy those, but within the last month we’ve taken two vacations that throw our thoughts into huge comparisons when we look at time/cost and complexity.

One trip was a great trip to Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah.  The other was a family vacation to Chicago and Wisconsin to see the sights and visit family.


Planning for the camping trip was much simpler, partly because we’ve camped so much and have a system down that we didn’t have to spend a ton of time on that.  You may have to.

The big contrast is the cost.  Let’s show you some specific examples from each 4 night 5 day trip:


Flying Trip

Camping Trip

Lodging$120 –  1 night hotel, 3 nights w/ family$36 – 4 nights at campgrounds
Entertainment$150 – Museum and Aquarium$20 Park entrance feeFree – lizards, rocks, and cousins
Food$350 – eating out, food for cooking and snacks$150 – eating out, shared cooking meals, snacks
Travel$1500 – airfare, car rental, gas$200 – Gas
Miscellaneous$15 – SouvenirsFree – souvenirs – sand, rocks, pictures

TOTAL                                $2085                                                         $406


We can do 5 epic camping trips for the cost of one other vacation (where we mostly stayed with family and bummed a lot of food off of them).

Basically, as you can see, we can take about 5 camping trips for the same price that we can take one flying trip of the same length. As the times get longer, a week, two or more, you start to get more and more disparity between the two and camping day by day is less and less.   That’s one of the reasons that we get out so much, is that we don’t have a lot of money and we don’t have to spend a lot of money to make these trips happen.  We don’t spend any more on food when we camp then we would had we been at home.  We eat regular food and it is great.

This whole post is about the affordability of camping.  Even if some of these aspects aren’t simple on their own, when compared to a regular vacation, the one time cost that can be spread over years of use is actually very reasonable.  Then you get to enjoy many more adventures because the per adventure cost really isn’t much more than gas and food.


Here are a few other aspects of camping to really put it into perspective:


Lodging – One comment I hear a lot is when looking at buying a tent, especially a family tent, people are hesitant to spend very much money.  Let’s compare…One night in a hotel, typically you’re in a dump or found a steal if you can get something for $59/night.  Typically you are looking at the $100 to $150/night range.  For the same price as a night or two at a hotel, you can get a pretty sweet tent.  For the price of three nights at a hotel, you can get an awesome tent!

Then throw on a few more things.  Let’s say you want to go backpacking.  You can simplify even more.  One of our favorite options is a hammock.  Grand Trunk makes a double hammock.  Instead of taking the whole tent you can either bring a tarp, or have the whole system incorporated with a fly and cover for your hammock. This is a simple way to save both on space and weight and the kids love it!  It’s also a great way to hang out in the backyard on a warm afternoon with your hot spouse!  Who wouldn’t love it – it’s relaxing!

Cooking – We usually use a 1 burner butane stove when we camp.  It cost about $20 and has been going strong for 7 years.  As a bonus, we pull it out during every power outage to cook dinner on.  Although you can invest a lot of money in fancy camp cookware, most of ours is old pots from thrift stores that work just great (and we don’t have to feel bad about banging them up).


Sleeping – Keep it light and warm.  Sleeping bags can be pricey, but a good nights sleep will make you want to keep going!  Whether you are backpacking or just car camping, a good sleeping bag is important.  Especially when it comes to your kids.  All of our bags are rated 20 degrees or colder for the kids and the great thing is that we have never had a kid wake up in the middle of the night or even in the morning saying they were cold.  Yes, we buy kid specific bags since they keep them so much warmer (not a lot of extra space to try to warm up with their little bodies).   We plan on spending about $60 on a good kids sleeping bag, and $80-100 for adults.  Don’t skimp on this one – get good sleeping bags, especially for your kids!


After you take care of these 3 basic needs, food shelter, and warmth, you can make camping as simple or complex as you want it to be.  It’s not unrealistic to think that a family of 4 could get all of their basic camping gear for under $600 (and that’s for really good gear – go to a discount store and get in for under $400).  Consider that you can use a lot of this gear for 10-20 years, and it’s a major steal.  Compare that cost and the benifits to one other vacation.  It’s a no brainer – I know which one I’m choosing!

Here’s to saving money, making memories and having a blast doing it!

Recommended Product

Grand Trunk Double Hammock –  Do you need a hammock to go camping?  Well it’s debatable.  Should you want one?  YES!  Taking a hammock on your camping trip allows you to do the one thing that camping is best known for…relaxing!  The hammocks from Grand Trunk Goods are amazing.  Made of parachute nylon, they’re super packable and weight just over a pound.  As we already mentioned, these are great for the backyard and the backcountry and everything in between.  These hammocks go up nice and easy with caribeaners attached to the ends.  I


Inside there is room for 3 hooligans to come and romp around next(though it’s a tight fit with 4) to you while you’re trying to relax.  They are a perfect size for cuddling up with your favorite person!  One piece of advice:  Kids can’t get enough of these hammocks, so if you don’t want to share, put it up nice and high so they can’t reach it!  Luckily, if they do manage to get in, Grand Trunk hammocks are really tough and take the abuse without any problem (trust us, a pack from our neighborhood put it to the test).  Cost – $65


One lucky winner will score a Grand Trunk double hammock.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Grand Trunk for supplying the hammock for this review.  


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