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Camping On a Budget


Camping is one of the best ways to enjoy nature, connect with family and friends and see our beautiful country.  Either by SUV, sedan or RV you can move around the country, enjoy the scenery and create life-long memories.

Here are seven tips for making the experience one that doesn’t break the budget.
1. Choose a campsite on public land.  
There is the perfect website with tons of information to help you plan, prepare and reserve a campsite which is either free or very inexpensive.

Visit the website – www.FreeCampsites.Net
There you will see a trip planner tab to help you find locations along the journey you are taking. You put in your starting location and ending location, and the site will create your travel plan with directions to your destination, mileage and drive time.  Alternate routes are provided to give you an option for other routes which may be more direct or scenic. You get to choose!

29349922 - camping outdoors
Photo credit:  Andrey Kryuchkov


You will also receive a map with camp stops along the route. Many of the campsites are in Wildlife Management Areas which may be free or require a small fee.  You can plan ahead of time which stops work best for you and your trip.
You will find all the details of the specific stop listed. Things such as:

  • Any membership requirements
  • If reservations are required
  • Many are free, and some require a small payment
  • Campsite elevation
  • How many parking spaces are available
  • Any regulations about the type of camping allowed – car/van, RV, Tent
  • Site address and telephone number
  • Amenities – look for those with comfort amenities
  • Activities – hunting, swimming, hiking, horse trails, biking
  • Recent activities
  • Review comments and add some of your own
  • Some stops have photos which have been added

You can also register on the site for more details and options.

2. Research those public land sites which are free
To ensure this is the right place to camp for you and your family. Remember this is where you will be putting up tent… in some cases literally. So you want to make sure it has facilities you are comfortable with and that you feel safe, and secure. Free and inexpensive doesn’t always spell the best option for you.

10199275 - young family relaxing on beach camping holiday
Photo credit:  Graham Oliver


3. Check out The Bureau of Land Management
Their website is filled with great information for planning interesting and adventurous stops along the way.  Visit their site to plan trip
activities which will be fun and memorable, and may break-up the miles and miles of road between stops.  And, you can camp there too. They offer unique opportunities for outdoor experiences.

You can search a location and activity to see what’s available along your route
On their site, you can learn a lot about their mission – which is all about sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of our public lands.
They handle everything from disputes, to providing land records and tribal consultation.

4. Did you know people camp in Walmart Parking Lots?
Well, yes you can and here’s how you can do it!

It’s not only the place for camping supplies and equipment, but you can also camp in the parking lot of many Walmarts across the county.  I was also surprised to see they allow motorhome campers to stop overnight for free in their parking lots.
The website has a listing of Walmart locations by state.
You do need to sign up for this site if you want to use all the bells and whistles, but you can use the site for free as well to do a bit of searching for Walmart stops
You can download the list of Walmarts and take the sheet with you… there is a $4.97 fee to have the list in-hand.

1173728 - truck pulling a recreational vehicle

Photo credit:  maxfx


If you have time, you can do a bit of searching yourself.  But, the main note for Walmart RV’s overnight is this:
Contact the store manager – don’t just pull up and park. You can’t just do that.
Permission to park is granted by the individual managers at each store.
He/she will base it on the available parking spaces and local laws. Contact them ahead of time – so you are prepared if the answer is – “no spots available.”

On the site – you can find a list of Walmarts where parking is available and where it is prohibited.

There are some rules:
No BBQ grills, awnings, and chairs – it’s not your backyard
Leave the area clean – no dumping trash
Purchase items you may need from the Walmart store as a way to show appreciation
Stay aware of your surroundings – leave if the area or situations feel unsafe. Remember you’re sleeping here!

5. Many National Forests will allow you to camp overnight
Not only is this a good idea, but you’ll find parks that offer many activities and fun things to see and do visit the site:
You’ll find over 130 parks sites to choose from.
On the website, you’ll find featured campsites too. They are handy if you’re still deciding on the best destination for your road trip.  On their site, you’ll find a map to help you locate parks with camping opportunities
Always check to make sure you can camp and contact the local ranger to make arrangements, find the perfect spot for your campsite and learn the rules for the particular park

6. Contact Family & Friends
On any long road trip, it’s always a good idea to check in with family and friends. Many times a long road trip is a once in a lifetime journey or at least something you don’t do on a regular basis. Use this opportunity to visit those you do not see often. There may be an opportunity to camp out on their property or enjoy an overnight stay in their home, with a well needed planned hot meal and shower.

As with all visits and camping on the road. Call and plan ahead. Do not assume family and friends are going to want to welcome you in with open arms for a long visit or for a vanity stop (shower, shave, hot bath, etc.).  Call first!
Do not expect them to have a huge home cooked meal waiting for you without warning or even if you’ve planned.  It is best to set your expectations appropriately. Offer to go out for dinner and you pick up the bill as a thank you for the overnight stay with all the amenities.
No need to turn long-time friends or gracious family members into someone who dreads your visit – take their situation into consideration when visiting and act appropriately.

3765452 - happy family with dog near campfire
Photo credit: Gorilla Images


7.  Make your own meals and skip the pricey restaurants
When traveling with an RV, you can cook and take advantage of making your meals. But also search the internet for out-of-the-way spots for meals.  Many times you can find really delicious meals for a reasonable price at local spots.  And, you can enjoy meeting people who will share a bit of history and points of interest about their city.

• Camp Resources –
◦ Websites: – National Park Service – Bureau of Land Management

Opening photo credit –   Good Luz

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