When I was growing up my parents and I used to camp a lot.  We would go on week-long excursions to Northern California, or camp along the Baja peninsula on the way to our timeshare in Cabo San Lucas.  My dad even rigged out the bed of his pickup truck with drawers that ran the length of the bed and a huge foam mattress making a self contained sleeping unit someone could nap in during the drive, and an extra sleeping space at the camp site.  (It was as rad as it sounds and I would totally consider setting something like this up again in the future)

When I was a kid I just loved it.  It probably had something to do with my not being responsible for packing, setting up or taking down the campsite, but also because I got to spend time with my parents that wasn’t interrupted by school or work and occasionally because I got to take my friend with me.  When we road tripped in Mexico we got to camp right on the beach so first thing in the morning my friend and I would bust out the back door of our camper, already clad in swimsuits, and race each other into the surf.  

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Camping on the beach at Conception Bay, Baja California Sur

Flash forward to 2017 and I honestly can’t remember the last time I camped.  But then I saw an event posted on my meetup group for a weekend camping trip to Cachuma Lake outside of Santa Barbara and thought, why not?  My mom even gave me a tent for my birthday.  

If you haven’t considered camping as a thrifty alternative to hotel accommodations while traveling, keep reading to see three reasons why you should.  

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1. You can camp almost anywhere

Camping doesn’t always mean ‘in the woods’ and you might be surprised by how many campgrounds there are.  Check out ReserveAmerica or Recreation.gov to find campgrounds near you, or where you’re thinking of traveling.  You can search for tent only campsites, but most sites that advertise for RVs will allow you to camp with just a tent in an RV spot.  But be aware that in these sites there can be some sites that are reserved for RVs because of the hook ups provided.  In this case the site will say RV only. If you are feeling particularly adventurous/spontaneous many sites offer walk-up only sites, basically spots reserved for people who don’t have a reservation.  These are particularly abundant in the National Parks in California – there are about half a dozen in the Yosemite.

 

2. You’ll get a few days free of technology

If you’re like me, you probably spend 10+ hours on the computer.  And when you’re not on the computer you’ve got your face stuck to your phone.  When I was at Cachuma Lake, it didn’t take long for my phone to die.  And thanks to my car charger giving up the ghost, it was dead for the rest of the weekend.  In anticipation of this happening, I also brought a small point and shoot camera as back up.  I had to rely on my carpool mates’ GPS when we need to navigate to the trail head or to the restaurant where we ate lunch but it it was actually really nice to not be consumed by Facebook for awhile.  So depending on how well you can read a map, or if you use your phone as a camera like I do, you might want to have a phone charger in your car, but challenge yourself to keep it off when it’s not absolutely necessary to use it.  The benefits of unplugging for even a few days are monumental.

 

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Joshua Tree National Park has several first-come first-served campsites. This is the view from the White Tank Campground.

3. It’s cheap!

Campsites run anywhere between $10 and $40 a night depending on the location and time of year which is already much less than a hotel room.  Plus up to 8 people are usually allowed in one site so you’re getting a pretty great bargain.  Take it one step further and save money by cooking at your site instead of eating out every night. Campfire cooking is fun, economical and you can make any number of dishes from low maintenance like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to full on grilling.  A couple of easy takes are oatmeal and pre-made breakfast burritos wrapped in foil (stick ’em in the campfire or on the grill), corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and of course s’mores.  Pack plates, bowls, utensils (don’t forget the can/bottle opener!) and some older pots and pans for the cooking.  Check the campground’s website to see if the sites are equipped with fire rings and grills.  Practice fire safety like not building a fire if it’s too windy and always keep the fire in the designated fire ring.

 

Bonus: Kid and (at most sites) dog friendly!

What’s better for kids than wide open spaces?  Especially when you normally live in a city.  I live in Los Angeles, but there are plenty of places to camp within a few hours drive from home.  If you have a pooch whom you hate to leave at home when you normally go on vacation, when you camp your puppy can come too!  Check the campground’s website to see if pets are allowed.  Almost all the sites I’ve checked in the local area have been pet friendly.  The only stipulation is that dogs must be leashed, and you can’t leave them behind in the campground.  So you might not be able to catch a movie or eat at a certain restaurant during your trip, but look for dog friendly activities like hiking, or dog beaches when doing your planning.  

 

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Ship Rock in Sedona, Arizona

 

The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to camping.  Just about anywhere you want to go you will find a campground.  Whether you are a spontaneous traveler or a meticulous planner, looking for a weekend away from it all or planning a longer road trip camping is a great way to save money, spend quality time with friends or family, and enjoy the all beauty this earth can provide.

 

 

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