The Hidden Luxuries of Camping

We’re gearing up for our annual camping trip to Florida. Many people view camping as “not a vacation,” worse than a last resort when it comes to travel. Us, we’d rather travel more often in less style, than vice versa. Camping allows our family to take more trips while sticking to our annual vacation budget. Between now and the end of summer, we have five camping trips planned, with talk of a couple more one-nighters in the works.

Some camping trips are more “glamping” than others. To me the difference is all in the bathroom facilities, proximity to water, and electricity hookup. Other have preferences about the foliage, campground amenities, nearby attractions, or the size of the sites. Our Florida trip is definitely our most glamping trip—it runs us around $700 including a rental car. Here’s why I consider this camping trip luxurious:

  1. A room with a view. Camping is the ultimate room with a view. Rather than paying $150+ per night for a beachfront hotel, I pay $100 for the week and open my tent door to beautiful Florida foliage and sunshine–most days at least! Just a couple miles away, within the campground, is a gorgeous, expansive beach.
  2. We eat food I didn’t prepare. Between a couple inevitable (and budgeted for!) Bojangles stops on the way down and back, and the meal rotation we participate in with friends, I get to enjoy a few meals I didn’t cook myself. That’s a relative rarity and one I thoroughly appreciate. We also eat more processed foods, which is simultaneously gross and glorious, and makes my life so much easier for that week.
  3. We will rent a car. As part of our overall car cost strategy, we rent a car for this annual 2000 mile trek. Renting allows us to avoid putting undue wear and tear on our already-older vehicles. It costs us around $200 and sometimes we are able to use coupons. Though the main reason is to be kind to our vehicles, it’s an added perk that should something go wrong, we won’t have to halt our trip to personally fix it—a not unlikely scenario in the cars we own. And of course, driving a newer rental vehicle is quite lavish compared to our 14- and 15-year old rides.
  4. I will shower without my children in the same building. I’m really excited about this one! At home, I’m liable to be interrupted when someone has to use the toilet (we have two, people!), beg to join me (the toddler), or just ask me random questions about Star Wars plot points. In the camp ground’s remarkably nice shower house, the water temperature and pressure might not be ideal, but at least I am alone.
  5. We use paper products. Disposable napkins, cups, plates, forks…the irony of depleting earth’s resources while enjoying her beauty is not lost on me. Some friends wash reusable camp dishes, but I soak in the glory of simplied meal clean-up.
  6. We have instant entertainment. The campground contains a beautiful ocean beach, kayaking, nature trails, and a turtle pond. Then there is biking, the playground right next to our site, and the fact that over 100 of our friends are there with us. Not only are we in good company, our kids have a dozen of their pals right there to play with. No need to break out the calendar to schedule play dates. We just mosey on down the road and see who’s out. It’s a child’s dream—being outside all day with your friends, riding bikes, going to the beach, and best of all, being dirty.
  7. Speaking of which, I can look a mess. I’m not one for fussing over hair and makeup, but in normal life I feel compelled to at least look presentable, and maybe like I’m even trying a little. At camping, I refuse to straighten my hair, put on mascara, or anything of the sort. Ponytail and sunscreen is the extent of my beauty routine there. I always find it a bit comical to see the young ones getting done up in the bathroom. I’m sure they find the sight of me comical, or perhaps horrifying. Maybe I’m the reason they’re in there with their makeup bags!
  8. I don’t have to clean my house. In essence there is less cleaning because dirt is just part of the experience. No vacuuming, dusting (not that I actually dust), less dishes and laundry. Yay! I always pack too many clothes for the boys, forgetting they don’t change often while camping. I’m also secretly looking forward to using the dryer instead of my laundry lines at home.
  9. My husband will be there. One of the best parts of camping trips is having Neil with us all week. I suppose this goes for every vacation, but it’s more noticeable there because camping with kids absolutely requires us to work as a team. I always leave feeling closer to him and more cohesive as a family.
  10. I take a break from technology. My phone, my laptop, and Internet connection are all wonderful luxuries I wouldn’t want to live without. They’re also conveniences I didn’t miss one bit last year. I was completely offline all week last year and didn’t even notice until we were on the way home. It was a much-needed break from status updates, the blogosphere, and all the random distractions of the Internet. It was awesome to just enjoy the moment with my family, friends, and nature.

Perspective is everything. I could think about the drive, the dirt, the bugs, the kids getting off their schedules…or I could think about just how refreshing it is to camp in a warm, beautiful place with my family and over 100 friends. Not to mention the savings. An affordable spring break beach vacation? Yes, please.

More on camping, if you’re interested:

Open the Door to a Lifetime of Vacation Savings

How We’ll Save $500 on Our Next Vacation

10 Fun Facts From Our Camping Vacation

Have you ever reframed a frugal choice as luxurious? Have you/would you consider camping as a way to vacation more often?

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21 Responses to “The Hidden Luxuries of Camping”

  1. Tonya says :

    I wish I grew up camping because although I love the idea of it, I struggle with things like sleeping in a tent. Well, in all fairness I struggle with sleep in my own bed too. I love the idea though and love the simplicity of it as well. I do prefer washroom facilities and that sort of thing…car camping if you will. I’ve never done a hardcore backpacking trip.

    • Kalie says :

      I didn’t grow up camping but since all my college friends camped, I got into it early enough that it wasn’t hard to adjust to. In fact, my mom always says she can’t believe that I like camping! It can be rough if you’re a light sleeper. I’ve had great nights of sleep and terrible ones in my tent!

      I’ve never backpacked but Neil has done one-night trips. I would like to backpack with him at some point but I love the car camping!

  2. Bethany (Dose of Discovery) says :

    I love camping! Chicago doesn’t have great options, but we’re hoping to explore more of the state parks this year.

    • Kalie says :

      We are fortunate to have some decent campgrounds within a 2 hour drive. Though for this trip we drive for 14 hours!

  3. Amanda says :

    Your trip sounds amazing! Though our camping days are coming to an end (for a few years), we have so many great memories of camping with our kids (for over a decade). And I’m totally with ya on the makeup and hair (and dishes)! I hope your family has an great, fun-filled trip.

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks, Amanda! It’s always fun to hear from another family who has camped with kids for years. Some avid campers stop when they have kids since it can be a bit overwhelming that first trip.

  4. Hannah says :

    So much fun! Enjoy the trip!

    We’re planning our family camping trip too! Only 4 nights this summer, but I think its a huge luxury to have Rob around and to cook and clean less.

    To combat the gross feeling off too much prepared food, we usually buy tons of grapes, apples and berries. That way we can munch on healthier options.

    PS- I thought Bojangles was a Mexican restaurant. Imagine my confusion the first time I ever stopped at one (also on a camping trip).

    • Kalie says :

      Four nights is plenty with a baby and a toddler! I’m sure you’ll have fun. That will be great to have your husband with you.

      Yes, we also snack on fruit, and nuts, as a way to balance out some of the garbage.

      That is hilarious about Bojangles–that would be very confusing!

  5. kim domingue says :

    The hubs and I camped often with another couple when our kids were young. Then the oldest children entered highschool and life got busier and camping disappeared off of our radar. We took some vacations here and there but the cost of hotel rooms and eating out twice a day was ungodly expensive! We didn’t vacation often because of the expense.

    Well, we started talking about camping again a couple of months ago. We’re edging up on turning 60 and want to travel more but don’t want to drop five hundred dollars for a three day trip somewhere. Our daughter’s wedding was the middle of March and took most of our discretionary funds so fancy trips were out of the question. So we pulled out our old camping equipment (some of which was over 25 years old!) and tested it all in the yard. Well, an attic evidently isn’t the best environment for a tent if you live in the deep South, lol! We spent about $600 on a new tent, comfortable cots, some dri-weave clothing, hiking boots for me and hiking poles. All set!

    We took our first primitive camping trip this weekend, the hubs, our Lab and myself and it was glorious! The hubs looked at me from across the campfire (that we’d grilled steaks over earlier) as Lucy snored at my feet and asked why we had taken so long to get back to something we enjoyed so much.

    Total cost of our trip was approximately $50 not including equipment purchases. We hope to camp for, at least, the next ten years so the cost of the equipment averages out to about $60 a year. If each trip averages out to be even $100 a trip, if we take ten trips a year then we’ve still spent less than $1000 per year to travel and vacation. Ten trips is better than two, amiright?

    To be alone with the hubs in the great outdoors without the distractions of a TV and social media and social obligations and household chores is wonderful. It’s a chance to recharge our batteries and enjoy each other’s company on a different level.

    • Kalie says :

      That’s wonderful that you are re-discovering the joy of camping and finding it a great way to connect with your husband! I look forward to camping getaways without the kids one day when they are grown. I imagine when we get a bit older we’ll need to invest in some cots. The equipment purchases can seem daunting up front, but $600 is an inexpensive vacation by most standards and if you reuse it, it’s a steal!

  6. Josh says :

    My wife can’t stand camping. I grew up camping. So this is one area I compromised in our marriage. We try to rent houses when we travel through VRBO instead of staying at hotels so we at least get a full kitchen and still costs less than a hotel.

    I will say it is convenient not having to constantly keep dirt out of the tent/popup, having more space inside if it rains, etc., but we had a lot of great memories around the fire & just being in nature.

    As you mentioned about “glamping,” we did stay in a pop-up for a long weekend this past summer & there are a lot of very nice campers like they never left home. Maybe it’s always been that way & I just realized it as an adult or campgrounds have had to boost amenities (& prices) to remain competitive.

    • Kalie says :

      We all have to know when to compromise in marriage! We usually do one vacation per year as you described–rent a VRBO or AirBnB house with a kitchen. It saves so much just to be able to cook–and you can eat much healthier if you want. We enjoy the cleaner, more comfortable perks of the “inside” vacation, as my toddler called it.

      And depending on the camping equipment, it can get very luxurious! We’re still in a tent but many of the older families we camp with have pop-ups or even larger campers.

  7. DC YAM says :

    I haven’t camped in probably five or so years :0 Last time I camped my allergies were awful, so that kind of ruined it. I would consider it again, though, now that I’ve taken allergy shots for nearly four years. I’ve also considered cabin rentals but some are even more expensive than hotel rooms, which makes me question whether it’s worth it.

    • Kalie says :

      I have camped with some friends who had allergy flare-ups and it didn’t look fun 🙁 Hopefully the allergy shots would do the trick, though! I agree that cabin rentals are often more expensive than hotels, including in state parks. I guess you’re paying for the scenery!

  8. Ms. Montana says :

    I totally agree with all of these. We love camping. It’s just an easier, more relaxed form of travel. Plus shoving 5 little kids into a hotel room isn’t my cup of tea. Plus we can put all the kids in bed, sit around the fire into the night and have a glass of wine. It’s awesome.

    • Kalie says :

      I agree that it’s more kid-friendly than hotels, for lots of reasons. And it’s nice to be able to relax around the fire after they go to bed, which isn’t really possible when you’re all in the same hotel room.

  9. Troy says :

    I love camping, but I can’t go very often! My blood type attracts a ton of mosquitoes. I get stung like 50 times just by visiting the corn maze in the fall. That’s why I spend most of my down time at the beach. No bugs and awesome surfing.

    • Kalie says :

      That’s too bad about the mosquitoes. They do seem more drawn to some people than others. We do spend a considerable amount of time at the beach during this camping vacation.

  10. David says :

    I would like to try camping again. I know of two girls that are so desperate to get out of Canada in the winter that they go camping in Mexico every year. Myself I would be worried about my personal safety there but they’ve never had a problem

    • Kalie says :

      I’d be desperate to get out of Canada in the winter, too! I can barely take the Midwest here in the States!

  11. David says :

    Depends on area of Canada. Southern Ontario where I live not so bad but those long winters in Manitoba? Those are probably really bad winters.

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