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Camping Without A Fortune

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You're stressed out from work, the kids are getting rowdier and unmanageable by the day, and your wife is giving you that look. It's time for a family vacation. It was time for a break several years ago, but you kept putting it off because you could never afford it. Or don't you? I've known many people who have wanted to take a well-deserved vacation for so long but never got around to it because they thought it took a lot of money to make it work. I'm telling you, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Perhaps it's time you consider taking your family out on a camping trip. Sure, it's nothing like going to Disneyland, Italy, or Hawaii, but we're talking cheap here. Don't get me wrong, though. An inexpensive camping trip doesn't mean scrimping on the fun. For starters, let's talk about the places you could go. There are many great camping grounds at state/national parks and forests, plus some other public recreation areas. These places make great camping sites for everybody without a hefty price tag.

It only costs around $12 to $25 a night at these campgrounds, so you could stay for up to 3 days without burning a hole in your pocket. The amenities at these campgrounds usually include a fire pit, a charcoal grill for those barbecues, picnic tables, and benches. A campsite will be provided for setting up your tent. Bathrooms and showers can usually be found in nearby buildings. Drinking water will be no problem, and you can easily find a convenient area to wash dishes and clothes and dispose of your trash.

A while ago, I mentioned that camping at these places doesn't mean scrimping on the fun, and I told it. Hiking trails are abundant in national and state parks and forests, and most public parks also have lakes for fishing, boating, and swimming. Usually, public parks also have playgrounds for the kids and playing areas for sports like basketball and volleyball. You can also find great spots for a game of baseball or just throwing around the old pigskin. Remember to bring your Frisbees and your bicycles, too. Adults and children love trying out their R/C cars and boats in these places. Some public parks even show movies on weekends and nature programs for everybody interested.

If you already have your camping gear, then you're all set. All you need to pay are campground fees, gas, and food. But if you have no equipment available, there's no need to fret. You can get outfitted for less than you might think.

For family tents, you can find some that sell for around $300 or even less. If you have four members in your family, you might want to get a tent that fits 5 or 6. You'll be thankful for the extra room. Sleeping bags will net you around $150 to $200, but you can also find good sleeping bags for under $100. Get a 3-season bag rated for 30 to 40-degree weather; you can always unzip it if it gets too warm. You might also want sleeping pads for additional insulation from the cold ground; these can be bought for around $40.

There's always the charcoal grill for your cooking needs, but if you need a stove, you can buy one for around $45 to $80. You might need coolers, too, for your beverages, fish, meat, and other food items that need refrigerating. Coolers can go for around $30 to 80, with big ones for $100—the pots and pans you can always bring from home, as well as utensils and condiments. The only things you'd need to buy are a tarp to protect your tent and a 9-volt battery lamp. A lantern gets too hot for me and attracts a lot of insects so I wouldn't use one.

The bottom line? An estimate of around $800 is only a one-time cost for getting new gear that you could use for more camping trips, not only this one. Once you've got your camping gear, your next camping trip will be even cheaper. Campground fees should be around $150 a week, plus another $150 to $200 for gas, food, and ice. You'll only need to replenish once in a while, especially for batteries. There you go, a fun-filled, adventurous vacation without spending a fortune!







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