Thousands of people know and embrace the amazing relaxation and fun you can have on a camping holiday. This is probably the most affordable type of family holiday – especially if you take advantage of America’s various state parks and campgrounds.
It costs around $12-$25 to spend a night at these campgrounds, which is much less than the cost of a motel room these days. The parks are typically run by park rangers, who also provide security at the campgrounds.
Each campsite will likely have a fire-pit, charcoal grill, and a picnic table. There will be an area to set up your tent and a place to pull your car off the road. These parks usually have buildings that enclose bathrooms and showers. You’ll also find drinking water available, places to do your dishes, and trash containers.
You can choose to camp the old-fashioned way with tents, or you can rent an RV for added convenience. A typical RV motor home will rent for $90-$200 per day.
Some people feel that camping with an RV isn’t truly camping, but we think the point of a holiday is to spend time together doing things as a family. Whether you sleep under the stars or in a bed inside an RV makes little difference, but renting an RV allows you and your family see more of the country. A camping holiday is all about what you make it!
Most public parks have hiking trails, and many parks have lakes for fishing, boating, and swimming. Imagine the sight of your kids seeing a deer cross the path or a raccoon snooping through the campsite at night. There may also be a playground with swings, basketball courts, and other amenities.
Also remember to bring along bats, balls and gloves, board games, Frisbees, or any other favourite game or toy. There will be plenty of opportunities for the family to play together.
Many state parks and other public parks offer nature programs for the kids, and some even show outside movies on weekends. Since most of these parks are located in remote areas away from city lights, they make great places to watch sunsets and to gaze at the stars at night.
If you don’t have any experience camping and are without camping gear, that’s alright! You can generally get everything you need for tent camping for under $600. What will you need?
• For a family of 4, you should have a tent that sleeps 6. You’ll appreciate the extra room that a 6-person tent provides.
• Next you’ll need sleeping bags. Since you’re probably not camping in cold weather, consider a 3-season bag. These are still rated for 30 to 40 degree weather, and if they get too warm at night just unzip the zipper. Mom and Dad might like the cosiness of sleeping bags that zip together.
• For added comfort and insulation from the cold ground, you might consider putting a pad/underlay under your sleeping bag.
• Your campsite will likely have a charcoal grill, which is great for some cooking, but dishes that require a pot or skillet won’t get all black if you have a propane camping stove. You can find a 2-burner propane stove for around $35-$80. The propane cylinders are $2-$3 dollars and will probably last a week.
• To keep drinks cold and food from perishing, you’ll need a cooler. Pick a cooler large enough to accommodate your needs
Other items to take camping can be found at home or bought at the grocery store: pots and pans, cups and glasses, silverware, pillows, flashlights, extra batteries, and food.
You may want to buy a cheap tarp for around $10 to place under your tent. This will help protect your tent floor against tears and to prevent water from seeping into the tent in case of rain.
Don’t bother with a lantern, because they get hot and attract bugs. Instead, buy a 9-volt battery lamp for around $10 and use it sparingly so that you can enjoy the night sky.
Here’s a little shopping tip: rather than shop online for your gear, save even more money by going to a Wal-Mart or Target store. They have everything you need at the lowest prices.
Figure $600 for a one-time cost to buy new gear, $200 or less for campground fees for a week, and $200 for food, gas, and ice, and you’ve got a great holiday for a family of four.
Once you’ve acquired your gear, each subsequent camping trip will be even cheaper. You’ll add to your gear from time to time, and some items need replenishing. For economical and adventurous holidays, take your family camping.
We’ve found a couple of places online that just keep popping up when talking about affordable family holidays. While we don’t necessarily endorse them ourselves, they seem to be top picks when it comes to enjoyable family travel.