How Camping is the Answer for an Affordable Family Vacation

great american backyard camping 2014

As the Memorial Day holiday weekend approaches, many people and families will be going on vacation, but not all can afford it.

In the FatWallet Travel Survey, we found that 19% of people never take a vacation. That number is higher, 39%, for people who make $30K per year or less. People without children go on multiple vacations, 56% more often than people with children.

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Family Vacations Expert from did the internet research and reported that “parents take shorter vacations than non-parents,” and the “average American leaves 3.2 days of paid time off on the table each year.”

This is crazy! Take your vacation days! If you don’t get very many vacation days, combine them with a holiday, like Memorial day, for more time off.

If you’re looking for an affordable vacation, try camping!

Vacations can be expensive, but camping is not. With campsites renting for $5-$30 a night, camping is a super affordable way to getaway.

Could there be a better way to get away, anyway? Okay, okay. Many might say a getaway at a luxury hotel on the beach would be better, but here are some words people associated with camping. “Happiness, Peace, Escape, Fun…” they all sound pretty great, don’t you think?

Words associated with camping.

May is a Great Time to Save Money on Camping Gear!

If you’re new to camping and need gear, or are a seasoned outdoorsman and want to upgrade your equipment, now is the time! In our Best Things to Buy in May, Shopping Trends blog post, we shared that there are many sales on sports and outdoors equipment, specifically fishing, camping, and hiking gear! Watch for great deals over the Memorial Day weekend as well.

camping games

Things to do while camping:

Here are a bunch of simple ideas to make the most of a backyard campout. Let’s go outside and have some cheap family fun!


  • Pitch a tent
  • Light a campfire in a fire pit or weber grill
  • Make dinner on the campfire: Pie iron pizzas, roasting hot dogs, foil packets with chicken and veggies, etc. (See Recipes Below!)
  • Roast marshmallows and make S’mores
  • Have a picnic

Enjoy Nature:

  • Take a daytime hike
  • Take a nighttime hike
  • Nature scavenger hunt
  • Bird watching or listen for bird calls
  • Collect bugs (identify them)
  • Identify plants
  • Collect rocks
  • Watch the sunset and rise
  • Study the stars

Camping Crafts:

Outdoor Games:

  • Casting contest
  • Flashlight Hide and Go Seek
  • Run through the sprinkler
  • Simon Says
  • Charades
  • Fly a kite
  • Play frisbee
  • Play catch

Quiet Time:

  • Write a Haiku about nature (3 line poem, 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables)
  • Read books
  • Snuggle and tell stories
  • Write words to each other on the tent ceiling with a flashlight and while the others try to guess what you’re saying
  • Talk about your favorite parts of the day

Help Mother Nature

  • Neighborhood clean-up
  • Plant a garden
  • Plant a tree
  • Do some backyard weeding

More Camping Activities for Kids:

Ashley Sears from @QuirkyInspired has a fantastic list of 55 Outdoor and Camping Games for Kids you should totally check out!

camping recipes

Camping Recipes and Food Ideas:

One of the best parts of camping is cooking over an open fire. It gives you a chance to try out new recipes and recreate family favorites with a twist!

Essential Camping Equipment:

When you’re camping in the backyard you don’t need much more than a place to sleep and a tent of some kind to keep the dew off. A tarp, stretched across the backs of a few lawn chairs, over your sleeping bags will do the trick.  If you love to enjoy nature’s backyard, investing in some camping gear is a great idea. Here are some things to start collecting for your camping kit:

Top 10 Camping Essentials:

Essential Camping Gear

  1. Tent ( has a great resource on choosing a camping tent)
  2. Sleeping Bags
  3. Folding Camp Chairs
  4. Knife
  5. Hot Dog/Marshmallow Roasting Sticks
  6. Cast iron cookware: frying pan and dutch oven (Lodge Cast Iron Cookware)
  7. Pie irons
  8. Mess Kit
  9. Flashlights
  10. Lantern

10 Commandments of Camping

  1. Remember toilet paper
  2. Be responsible with your camp fire
  3. Take a buddy to the outhouse
  4. Remember bug spray and sun screen
  5. Check for ticks
  6. Be able to identify local poisonous plants (No poison ivy on your privates)
  7. Pack a first aid kit
  8. No food in the tent! Pack food away from your tent and away from animals
  9. Avoid scary wildlife (carry a bear bell)
  10. No farting in the tent

Other Camping Necessities:

  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • First Aid Kit
  • Matches
  • Dish soap
  • Hand soap
  • Container of water

What are your favorite camping tips or activities? Please share them in the comments below!


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