3 Ways Camping Can Cost Way More Than You Expect

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  • Camping can be a terrific experience for families and friends.
  • It's important to budget appropriately for a camping trip, especially if you've never taken one before.

Don't assume hunkering down in the woods won't cost any money.

Camping is one of those things that certainly isn't for everyone. For some people, the idea of having to sleep on the ground in the woods is overwhelmingly unappealing. But if you're the outdoorsy type who loves being in nature, then camping may end up being a rewarding experience for you (and a great bonding experience for your family). And often, it's a much less expensive vacation option than staying at a resort or hotel.

But that doesn't mean camping won't cost you anything. In fact, you may be surprised at the different ways the costs associated with camping can add up. Here are a few reasons your first camping trip might cost more than anticipated. 

1. You'll spend a large chunk of money upfront if you don't have any gear

Years ago, my husband and I invested in a bunch of camping equipment, like a good tent, a stove, and all-weather sleeping bags, knowing we intended to camp a lot. Through the years, we've purchased additional gear for our kids, like extra sleeping bags and lanterns.

At this point, it's possible for us to pull off a camping trip at a very low cost. But that's because we own all of the things we need to go camping. If you're new to camping, you'll need to purchase the right equipment to pull off a trip. And that could mean running up a fairly large credit card tab. 

Now, the good news is that once you have all the gear you need, your next bunch of camping trips won't cost nearly as much. But prepare for that initial outlay (and ideally, save up in advance so you don't end up having to carry a credit card balance forward).

2. You might pay a lot for a campground with more amenities

Some people like the idea of bare bones camping -- you hike to a certain point and set up your tent for the night. Others require a campground with amenities like bathroom facilities. And some campgrounds offer a wider range of amenities, like playgrounds, kayaks, and more. 

If you're okay with camping in the deep woods, then you may not have to pay a dime for an overnight stay. And if you stay at a state park, the fee for camping may be minimal. But once you start asking for amenities, the cost can rise, so be prepared for that.

3. You could end up paying a premium to bring your dog along

Some state parks don't allow dogs to camp overnight. That's the case in my state, so to camp with our dog, we need to either travel to a different state or pay up for a private campground that allows pets. But those private campgrounds can cost a lot more. That's something we know to budget for, and if you intend to camp with your pet, you may need to do the same.

Camping can be a wonderful experience, but it's important to budget for it accordingly. Keep these points in mind as you plan your first camping trip so you're not caught off guard.

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