Family Vacations: Camping vs. Traditional

These VW camper vans are cool - this one was camping just a few spots down from us

These VW camper vans are cool - this one was a few campsites down from us

Camping is a great way for a family to get away and do something together, but it can also be a very economical compared to traditional vacations. Here are our costs, from a recent weekend of camping at one of our state beaches:

  • Campground (2 nights): $57.50
  • 77 miles (roundtrip) at $0.44 per mile: $33.88
  • Meals for five (breakfast, lunch, dinner for two days): $20
  • Firewood: $8

The entire weekend cost about $120, which is fairly typical for us. Sometimes we might have steaks instead of hamburgers, or have to travel further, but a weekend of family camping usually falls within the range of $120.

A traditional vacation, in which the family is staying at a hotel and eating at restaurants, is much more expensive. Travel costs, like hotels and restaurant meals, are highly localized so you will have to plug-in numbers from your area to make a comparison, but our costs here in Northern California would be:

  • Hotel (2 nights): $150
  • 77 miles (roundtrip) at $0.44 per mile: $33.88
  • Meals for five (lunch, dinner for two days): $160

The entire weekend would be a little under $350, and only if I could get a beachfront hotel room for $75 (including taxes) a night. Of course, food is also a big expense when you have to eat at restaurants, but my numbers assume that the hotel offers a free breakfast, as many do these days.

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