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Camping hacks for a budget vacation

Lucy Miller 16th Jun 2022 One Comment

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Camping is one of the most cost-effective holidays you can have, especially as a family with kids. The coastlines and counties of the UK offer hundreds of prime camping spots, with everything from rugged beaches to soaring mountains within reach of the pitch sites. As we all look at ways to save as we head into the summer holidays, there’s never been a better time to pack up the tent and pitch up somewhere in the countryside. And of course, a few camping hacks can’t hurt… especially if you’re new to camping! 

Of course, we’re still thinking in a budget conscious way, even if we are holidaying in the UK. Here’s how you can keep your family camping trip fun and memorable, without spending a fortune….

Why choose camping?

Plan ahead when you go camping to save money

Camping is always a great option for a holiday – many of us are on much tighter budgets than before, thanks to the state of the economy and the cost of living crisis.

Going camping is perfect for solo travellers, couples, and families. You can even take your dog with you! Once you’ve got the gear, your holidays will be so much cheaper for many years to come. Plus, it’s a great way to get fit and explore the country. You can teach your children about nature, or even take a bushcraft class to learn more about wild camping! If you’re a fan of the outdoors, camping helps you connect with nature – and, with the right gear, you can go camping any time of year. Just pack your thermals for the colder months!

camping hacks: Before you go…

Plan ahead to make the most of money-saving tactics!

Borrow a tent 

No, you don’t need to go out and buy all your camping equipment brand new. Chances are you’ve got a friend, neighbour or family member who has got everything you need, and that they’ll be able to lend it to you with no trouble at all. Maybe even get them to demonstrate putting the tent up so you don’t get stuck once you’re trying to pitch it yourself. Better still, get them to show the kids so you can sit back and relax for once! 

Only buy the essentials 

If you are shopping for your camping kit, try not to get sucked in by the deals that you’ll undoubtedly be faced with. Do you really need that elaborate grill set-up, or will disposable BBQs actually do exactly the same thing? Is that new outdoor plate set essential, or will you actually be able to survive perfectly well without it? If you know any experienced campers, have a chat with them. They can advise on what you really need and what you can definitely leave on the shop shelf.

Look for offers

As the sunny weather turns our thoughts to holidays, homeware retailers will be vying for customers who are ready to spend on tents, outdoor seating, BBQs, wind-breakers, kids’ sports equipment… and because they know you’re coming, the deals they’re going to be offering and likely to become increasingly competitive. Wait for the offers to come rolling in before you start buying your camping or outdoor activity equipment! Look to supermarkets as well as more obvious places for the very best deals. Aldi are often the best for one-off items like this – they even have a camping section on their website

Stay close to home

Instead of venturing to popular tourist spots at the other end of the country, why not embrace a camping holiday closer to home? There are campsites in every county of the UK, and of course due to the size of the UK the coast is never more than a couple of hours away. This article in the Telegraph picks 20 coastal campsites, from Devon and Cornwall to North Yorkshire, Northumberland and Inverness, via the Isle of Wight, Norfolk, Lancashire and more. Look closely and you’ll find a hidden campsite closer to home than you think, saving you a LOT on petrol costs or expensive train tickets.

Camping hacks: While you’re there…

Have a veggie BBQ when camping to save money

You’ve borrowed your tent, got the basic gear, and have managed to avoid overspending on equipment. Great! Now, while you’re on your camping staycation, consider these ideas:

Consider wild camping 

This is a great way to get back to nature and really save on campsite fees at the same time. If you’re an adventurous bunch, why not pick a spot to pitch up your tent wild camping style? 

What is wild camping, you might ask? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like: camping out in the wild, away from the shower blocks and games rooms that you might associate with a traditional campsite. This is a great option if you’re in Scotland or close to Dartmoor National Park, although it is possible elsewhere in the UK too. Our article about Cheap UK Holidays explains in more detail how to wild camp.

It’s a great idea if you’re a hiker and aren’t intimidated by the unpredictability of the great outdoors (and by that we mean, of course, the weather). If you’re hiking to find your wild camping spot, you might want to make sure you’ve got some tarp and paracord to create a makeshift shelter if needed, too.

Learn the basics of this most low-key of outdoor activities with adventurer and all-round wild camping extraordinaire Phoebe Smith on her blog, which includes a guide for complete beginners. 

Explore the area on the bus 

Maybe not one if you’ve got younger children, but hear us out. Instead of heading for one specific location in the car, why not buy a day rider ticket for the area you’re camping in and do a bit of a village hop via bus? You’ll find new places, and can embrace a local way of life off the tourist trail. This is a great idea for a summer trip if you’re camping with friends or with a partner. Take a picnic and a blanket and stop off by a lake or river for a relaxing afternoon out. And when you’re done, just hop back on the bus to the next village. You never know what you’ll discover! 

Have a veggie BBQ 

BBQs are a staple of the British camping tradition, but we all know that meat can be expensive. So why not keep it fresh and budget-friendly by having a veggie BBQ instead? Think roast vegetable skewers, bbq-ed halloumi, Linda McCartney veggie burgers and lots of fresh salad. You never know, you might discover a whole new way of living that you’ll decide to stick with… 

Create your own mini Olympics 

A great, budget camping activity for the kids, especially the younger ones. There’s nothing you need to buy to create your own mini Olympics – all you need is a little bit of ingenuity. Why not use the items you’ve brought camping (pillows, pans, books – anything!) to mark spots, and devise sporting challenges around them? Aside from keeping the kids entertained and active in the sunshine, it could help them to make new friends by getting other kids from the campsite involved too. 

Got any other great camping hacks for a UK holiday on a budget? We’d love to hear. Share them with us over on the forums. 

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4 years ago

Some good ideas here. Thanks.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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