Frugal Vacation Option: The 24-Hour Camping Get-Away

DH = Dear Husband

There’s our canoe up there. Soon, we’ll be hoisting it down to strap to our van for a camping trip. Of 24 hours.

It’s good to get away.

DH is self-employed and runs a home business. Although there are many great perks to this situation, one complaint I do hear from time to time is, “I find it so hard to relax at home! There’s always a job to do – administrative paperwork to finish – e-mails to answer . . .” When we recently went on a 3-day road trip, DH in particular LOVED it. “Wasn’t that great? We had so much fun! It was a real break,” he said more than once afterwards.

For DH, getting out of the house is important. But the demands of his work make it so that he can’t leave for too long. And our goal to be completely debt-free in another three years makes it so that we can’t spend too much on these get-aways. What to do?

What to do when time and money are limited?

Camping has got to be the most frugal form of vacation out there. All of the paraphernalia of tents, sleeping bags, cooler, camping stove, and canoe cost quite a bit to start with, but we’ve had all of the above for years and years. At this point, a camping trip costs us the gas to get there, the food we eat, and the overnight fee (a fraction of the cost of a hotel).

What are we going to do with our measly 24 hours? Here’s the plan:

  • Arrive at 2:00 and set up the site.
  • Go for a swim at the beach.
  • Prepare a dinner of steak and salmon (this is Fruclassity, my friends!)
  • Canoe around the lake.
  • Build a camp fire.
  • Early morning run (which ends with a sweaty plunge into the lake in running gear – except for footwear).
  • Omelettes for breakfast.
  • A few hours of reading, swimming, canoeing, Frisbee-tossing.
  • Sandwiches for lunch.
  • Pack up our site.
  • A short hike followed by a final swim.

Just writing it all out makes me happy!

“What if I’m not a camper?”

From what I can tell, just about everyone who loves camping was raised camping. DH and I are no exceptions. I went on my first camping trip at the age of one.

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 That’s me getting potty-trained just outside the family tent back in the day.

For adults who are new to the tent-and-sleeping-bag scene, there is a sharp learning curve that can make the whole experience seem like more trouble than it’s worth. How do you set up a tent? Blow up mattresses? Work a Coleman stove? Pack a cooler? If you’re committed to frugality for the sake of debt-repayment or the goal of financial freedom though, let me encourage you to press into that learning curve. You will get the hang of it! And once you do, you’ll love it! I (almost) promise. (Alas, there are some who just don’t like camping. Period.)

It’s a versatile activity too – and you can adapt to suit your needs. You can:

  • camp for two weeks or one day.
  • “glamp” or go really basic.
  • go conveniently near a town with grocery stores, or far away from any signs of civilization.
  • set up at one site, or go wilderness camping and portage from site to site.
  • go with friends, with children, as a couple, or solo.

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  Glamping.*

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Basic camping** – which is what we do.


Can you think of a more frugal get-away than camping? Did you camp as a child or learn as an adult? What do you like best about it? (Absolutely nothing?) If you run your own business, do you take mini-vacations of a day or two? Your comments are welcome.


 *(Glamping photo courtesy of Ronnie Watts)

**(Basic camping photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net)

24 comments on “Frugal Vacation Option: The 24-Hour Camping Get-Away

  1. My first time camping was in the Adirondacks with my then boyfriend and another couple when I was 22. There were bears. There was a plunge in a very cold lake when the showers were closed down 5 minutes before we got to them. I fell asleep at the restaurant table. I think my body had finally relaxed after the cold water shock. I love your idea for camping. I love canoeing! However, I think I’ll wait until we get a motor home. I am just not as hardcore as you are Dear Ruth! HAVE FUN GUYS! 😀

    1. Bears on your first camping trip? That is just not right! Poor you. I’m pretty sure that would have been it for me too. Here’s to your future as a “hardcore” canoeist : )

  2. We camp all the time now. We have a trailer and use it for probably 20-25 nights a year. I never camped a day in my life growing up but, as you hinted at, my wife did, so she got me into the whole thing.

    1. That’s great that you were able to take on camping as an adult. 20-25 nights a year is a lot! 3 cheers to your wife for making you a convert : )

  3. I camped as a teen, but haven’t gone since. My husband camped a lot when he was younger, but my suggestions that we take the kid camping is met mostly with “Well, let’s try a backyard campout first. ” I don’t know if he doesn’t want to, or if he questions my outdoor cred (which, admittedly, is pretty weak.)

    1. There’s only one way to make your outdoor cred stronger, Emily. I hope you call your husband’s bluff and actually have a backyard campout! Your daughter would probably be thrilled with it, and then there would be nothing to stop you from trying the real deal.

  4. Love that you’re having steak and salmon for dinner, and that pic of you is SO adorable!!! We camped as kids a little bit, and we camp now with our kids. I always tell Rick I want to rent the bunkhouses they have at some campsites here (they’re about $60 a night to sleep six and have beds and that’s it) but he’s not on board, so we pack up the tents. Other than feeling a little grimy when I’m camping, I like it lots. 🙂

  5. Love this post, Ruth! And thanks for sharing that adorable picture of you as a child!

    My parents took me camping twice, but they weren’t much for the outdoors. But I love being outdoors – my husband and I have camped for the past 22 years together and with our kids. At one point we were camping at least 5 weeks a year. We’ve tried almost every way to camp there is. In the beginning, we tent camped with the basics. We have even rented “camping cabins”. When we started borrowing my grandparent’s pop up camper, and then their trailer after we had kids, we got spoiled and eventually bought our own.

    We just got back from a week camping in Colorado, right outside Rocky Mountain National Park (I was considering writing about the costs of camping based on this vacation). We spent a fraction of what it costs to rent a hotel room around there, even though we had to pay quite a bit for the gas to pull the trailer. If we had tent camped, it would have been dirt cheap for a week long vacation.

    Glad to hear you and your husband are getting away, even if just for 24 hours. Your schedule (and the food) sound like a wonderful getaway. Have a wonderful, relaxing time!

    1. That’s amazing that at one point, you were camping 5 weeks of the year. I think I could spend the entire months of July and August camping . . . Rocky Mountain National Park must be beautiful! I hope that you will write a post about it. Pictures included : )

  6. Enjoy your trip! Most of my vacations as a child were camping trips! As a family of seven, camping was a great way to keep summer vacation inexpensive. I have such great memories of camp fires, fishing, hikes, swimming, canoeing, and the car rides, all great stuff.

    We have made a few camping trips with our kids and they have been just as fun. We want to make a trip up to Niagara falls. It was one of my favorite trips as a kid.

    1. We were a family of seven too, Brian, and we all slept in the same tent. It was an old-style canvass tent that weighed about 500 times more than today’s tents weigh. I’m glad you’ve continued the tradition of camping with your own kids. Happy planning for that trip to Niagara Falls!

    2. Brian – I live in Niagara Falls, Canada and I love it. Make sure you come to the Canadian side where all the action is. We have a new zipline attraction and new Maid of the Mist boats. There are tons of things to do, but bring plenty of money and your passports to get across the boarder. Hope you enjoy your trip.

  7. I love the “idea” of camping, but have never quite gotten used to it because I never grew up camping. I really wish I did. I find the logistics to be kind of a pain, and I can barely sleep in a tent, but I really wish that wasn’t the case, since it is frugal and there are so many cool places you can go. It’s so simplistic!

    1. I’m pretty sure there are organized group excursions for camping. That would allow you to shop around for the type of trip that would suit you, and at the same time get support from experts who could advise you about what to bring, where to buy equipment, etc. You love the outdoors, so I’m sure there is a camping style out there for you, Tonya.

  8. Your 1-day getaway sounds lovely!

    I didn’t try camping until well into adulthood, but I love it! I’m not sporty, but I love to cook outside and just hang out in nature, so camping works for me!

    We’ve camped in the woods, in the desert, on the beach, and at Burning Man events… We love it all!

    1. I have a 17-year-old (who shares your name) who has been telling me about “Burning Man” and how much she’d like to go some day. I’d never heard of it before, and here you are telling me you’ve been – and I don’t even have to Google it to find out what it is! Like you, I love the way life gets whittled down to basics when you camp. Cooking, reading, napping, cooking some more. You are rare, I think, to love camping even though you didn’t grow up in a camping family. Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth : )

    1. It really does seem to make a difference whether or not you did it as a kid. I hope you get a great “indoorsy” get-away this summer, Mackenzie!

  9. I love your 1-year-old photo! Adorable. We’ve camped with babies and toddlers (and both at once)–so it can be done!

    We are able to vacation much more often with camping. There is some start-up cost involved but you can ask for equipment as gifts, find some of it at garage sales, and even borrow a friends’ gear if you just want to try it out.

    It’s also shown to increase long-term family cohesiveness: http://www.pretendtobepoor.com/camping/

    1. I never knew about all of the side-benefits for family cohesiveness connected with camping that you mentioned in your post. Thanks for the link! And what you say about start-up costs is true. You don’t need to buy everything all at once.

  10. Camping sounds like fun even though I have never actually camped outside. I’ve hung out at campsites, but then ended up sleeping in a near by hotel. (City raised) I applaud your debt freedom focus and you will find freedom soon. Good luck with the next 24 hours vacation.

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