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Warmer weather means more time outside to play and relax! If you are making plans to go camping this summer but looking for ways to cut costs on campsites, check out my 5 tips for saving on campsites below.
8 Tips for Saving on Campsites
Purchase campsites in advance
By purchasing in advance, you are able to pick the type of site you need and for the best price. For example, some parks will let you put a tent on an RV site, but most of the time you still have to pay the RV price. Plus, parks will adjust their rates based on the season and demand for spots. Save money by doing your research early and securing the spot you want!
You can also call the park directly to see if you can reserve your spot and avoid having to pay an online reservation fee. If you are nervous about picking a date far in advance, contact the park and ask about their cancellation and transfer policies.
Look for park specials
State parks love to run specials throughout the year to encourage more families to enjoy the outdoors. Before you head out without a reservation, take a look online at the state parks in your area. You will often find early bird, seasonal specials, and discounted rates for state park members. On of the most common discounts is staying 3+ nights, it’s worth considering an extra night if they are going to make it free!
Join A Discount Club
If you plan to do a fair amount of camping and traveling, a AAA Membership or Good Sam Membership can save you a chunk. Personally we’ve found the Good Sam discount better since it also comes with a discount at Camping World and 5¢ off a gallon of gas a Pilot Stations. These discounts will help mostly at private campgrounds, it will be rare to get a discount through a membership club at a state or national park.
Note: Good Sam is currently offering $50 back in credit at Camping world when you sign up for a 3 year membership. That makes it $25 for three years.
National vs. State Parks
Generally National Parks are cheaper than State Parks for most camping sites. While there aren’t a lot of discounts, and some parks stay booked months in advanced, the price can’t be beat! You’ll be surprised when you start digging at the number of federally run camp grounds. Not only do you have the official sites through the National Park Service, but there are hundreds of campgrounds run by the Army Corp of Engineers that are along lakes and rivers. You can search all of them through Recreation.gov, but the Army Corp site actually offers better details on each.
For us finding the Army Corp parks was a huge win. We have found 5 campgrounds within a few hours of us that are all gorgeous and offer sites starting at $10 a night!
Split the cost between families
A lot of parks allow more than one tent per campsite and up to 6-8 people. If you are wanting to save money and spend a night by the fire, pick another family to join you and split the cost. Or, if you have an RV, pull-behind, or fifth-wheel, and there isn’t enough room to fit two of them, you can ask another family to join you in a tent and save money by splitting the cost in that way, too.
You also don’t have to stop at splitting the cost of the campsite to save money. Before your trip, you can split the cost of groceries, meals, gear and other items you might need.
Note: RV sites tend to be more expensive than standard tent sites because you need water and electricity hook-ups.
Pick a primitive site
If you’re thinking spending time outdoors in a tent without electricity or water sounds like your camping style, then look for primitive camping spots. Primitive camping spots in state parks will be cheaper than the standard sites since you are not using any electricity or water.
If you are ready to carry your tent and gear on your back, look for trails that allow trail-side camping. These spots are usually free to backpackers and you will most likely only have to pay to park your car at the trail-head.
Tip: The Appalachian Trail runs through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia in the South, and its a great place to check out if you are looking for an adventure in the backcountry without paying for a campsite.
Consider Dispersed Camping
If you are already up for taking a primitive site, then step it up a notch and look at camping for free on Public lands. There are a number of places around the country through the US Forestry Commission or out west through the Bureau of Land Management (mostly Utah, Arizona and Alaska) that you are welcome to use for “dispersed camping”. These are not campgrounds and have no power or water. You are just getting a place to park for free while you enjoy being in the wild!
Head to the backyard
For the cheapest option possible, sent up your tent in the backyard! This is also a great option for kids who are still young and learning how to camp. It’s nice to have the bathroom close by with little ones and fresh coffee in the morning. This can be just as fun as camping in a park and it’s definitely the most frugal way to camp!
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