Tips From A Frugal Camper

As I have mentioned before, camping is one of my all-time favorite activities. Right now I do mostly car camping with my family.  While camping isn't extremely expensive, costs can still add up fast with equipment, food, activities, etc.  Here are my favorite ways to save money when car camping as a family.
Money saving tips for car camping.
  • Go to a National Forest. They are much cheaper than most National Parks and State Parks/Forests. The downside is that they usually have fewer amenities and vaulted toilets. Although, last year we stayed at a NF campground that had a swimming area. 
  • Simple meals. We generally keep our meals very simple when camping. This helps contain costs and allows us to spend more time enjoying the outdoors instead of cooking. 
  • Cook over the fire. No extra equipment required. There are a surprising number of things that can be cooked over a fire. 
  • Take advantage of free activities at the campground. Hiking, swimming and the like are generally included in the cost of a campground, if there is any cost at all. Bonus: most of these require little or no extra equipment. 
    Money saving tips for car camping.
  • Take friends. You can't share the cost of a campground, but friends provide cheap entertainment for the kids. Bonus: you can also take turns preparing meals. 
  • Borrow or buy used/inexpensive gear. The first tent I owned as an adult was from Walmart and I took it on every camping and backpacking trip for 5 years. I even survived a thunderstorm in the Everglades, staying completely dry. There are plenty of inexpensive gear options.
  • Make your own equipment. The best DIY project I found this past year was a hand washing station using only a old laundry detergent bottle. The handle was a perfect place for hanging a towel. Check out my DIY Outdoor Gear Pinterest Board at the bottom of this post. 
    Money saving tips for car camping.
    DIY hand washing station from a laundry detergent bottle. 
  • Camp close to home. Last year we lived in southern Indiana, pretty boring geographically. But we were only a couple hours from the Garden of the Gods. You can always find something interesting close to home. Plus, for my family, a large part of camping is just being able to spend time together.
    Money saving tips for car camping.
  • Buy a year pass to your local state parks or forests. They generally include a discount on campsites plus you can get onto the property as often as you like. If you go regularly enough this can save you money.
  • Do without. While there is a lot of gear that makes camping more convenient, you really only need the basics. 
How do you cut costs when you are car camping as a family? 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Tree Identification Nature Walk for Preschoolers (free printable)

Even preschoolers can start to learn the basics of identifying trees. Without much help from me, my son learned to identify pine trees and still enjoys pointing them out. To continue fostering this interest I came up with a game.

I designed this for my son who just finished up his first year of preschool. I was not as concerned about him memorizing the many types of trees but wanted to encourage him to start recognizing the differences between leaves.
Tree Identification Activity for Preschoolers (free printable)

The Basics: Here are few things to start helping your kids understand before and during the game.
  • Conifers: These trees do not loose their leaves every fall. They are also referred to as evergreens because they stay green all year round. Use game to show your kids the shapes for needle-like and scale-like leaves of conifer trees. 
  • Deciduous: These trees loose their leaves every fall. Their leaves are generally broad and thin. Check of these posts activities for teaching kids about trees in the fall and winter
The Game:
Click on image to download pdf. 
  1. Print out the pdf on card stock or mount on cardboard. 
  2. Cut along the dotted lines. Make sure cuts remain small. 
  3. Get outside and collect leaves in your neighborhood, at the park, on a hike, or on your next camping trip. Slip collected leaves into the small cuts.
  4. Once all the leaves are collected you can secure them with a small piece of tape on the back and hang the game in your kids room.
Tree Identification Activity for Preschoolers (free printable)

What are you favorite outdoor activities for teaching kids about nature? Please share links to blog posts if you have them.

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image sources: arbor day foundation and
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

Helping Kids Deal With Their Fear of Bugs

Do bugs get in the way of your kids enjoying the outdoors? My son hates bugs. If he gets one on him he immediately wants to go home. There have even been times he hasn't wanted to go outdoors, especially hiking, because of bugs. So I have had to come up with a few tricks to help him deal with his fears and make our outdoor time enjoyable. Hope they help you as well.
Helping kids deal with their fear of bugs?

Set a good example and don't overreact. Kids follow our examples. If we are overreacting to bugs on ourselves or our kids, they will probably overreact as well.

Introduce your kids to the fun, non-threatening bugs. Butterflies, ladybugs, rolly polly's are great places to start. Help them see that not all bugs are going to fly in your face or sting you.

Learn to ID bugs. Helping your kids to be able to identify the less desirable ones gives them the power to know when to be scared and when not to be.

Explain why bugs are important. A lot of bugs help plants and humans. I tell my son that some bugs help plants grow and that we need plants to live. Explain whatever is appropriate for your kids.

Use bug spray. Duh, I know. But sometimes kids feel safer just having been sprayed (placebo effect).

Carry calamine lotion or aloe in case of a bug bite. They both help reduce the sting.

Wear long pants and sleeves to reduce the amount of exposed skin. There are a lot of light weight options that can be comfortable when hot.

Carry a stick to knock spider webs out of the way. Sometimes there are so many spider webs across a trail we just wave a stick in front of us the whole time we are hiking.

Adults go first. That way you can catch any webs or nests before the kids get to them.

Don't go out at dawn and dusk. They are the cooler parts of the day but that is also when bugs seem to be out in force.

Don't go to an area where bugs tend to be thickest, like water fronts.

Check out this fun activity from Rain or Shine Mamma for introducing you kids to bugs in a non-threatening way.

What do you do to help your kids understand and overcome their fear of bugs?

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Bonbon Break

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

The Liebster Award

My fellow #outdoorfamilies blogger, Val from Val in Real Life, tagged me for the Liebster Award. Have you heard of it? I hadn't. The Award has been around for almost 10 years and is a way to get to know the bloggers and their blogs.

So here goes...

The Rules:
  1. Link the person who tagged you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions that the person has asked you. 
  3. Look for 11 bloggers and nominate them.
  4. Come up with your own 11 questions for your nominees. 
Val's Questions:
  1. Name your top 3 outdoor adventure activities: hiking, camping & playing at the beach
  2. What is your favorite type of solo adventure? Hiking. But really I like alone time. So I am happy doing almost anything by myself, even things like cleaning. 
  3. Who is your biggest supporter in your adventures? This is a hard question to answer. I am very thankful for my husband putting up with all my outdoor mania even though he prefers to be indoors. But my mom encouraged me to study forest management and work as a park ranger, which really sealed my fate as an outdoor enthusiast. 
  4. What's your luxury item on an adventure? Good quality chocolate. I take it hiking and I only bring Ghirardelli chocolate chips for s'mores. Seriously, try it. You'll never go back to Hershey's. 
  5. What's your ideal ratio of urban to outdoor adventure? When I was single I would have said mostly outdoor but now that I have kids I will take what I can get. Although I still prefer outdoors. 
  6. When did the adventure-bug bite you? The outdoor adventure-bug must have bit me as a kid because I have always loved camping, backpacking and the like. The travel adventure-bug hit in college. I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica, Canada, Europe, around the D.C. area and India and haven't wanted to stop. 
  7. What's your favorite day-trip adventure? Hiking! There aren't many things I would rather be doing.
  8. What type of travel companions do you like best? Myself. When I was in college I studied forest management and as a result spent A LOT of time in the woods with my classmates. I guess I would take off by myself so often they started referring to time spent away from a group as "Mae time". I had no idea until my friend mentioned it in passing years later. It was an eye opening experience as to how my actions are perceived by others. 
  9. What's the longest you've traveled non-stop? I traveled for 5 weeks in Europe on a study abroad trip. We studied forest management, watersheds and local history in the Czech Republic and Germany. But I visited Holland, Austria, and Berlin on my own time. So fun. 
  10. Would you even consider going totally nomadic? No, like having a place to go home to and recover from long trips. 
  11. How do you give back to your own community when you're not out adventuring? I volunteer at my church and local nature center. 
My Nominees:
  1. Rain or Shine Mamma
  2. Mountain Mom and Tots
  3. Joys of the Journey
  4. My Nearest and Dearest
  5. Betsy's Photography
  6. Mud Mud Marvelous Mud
  7. Garage Grown Gear
  8. Run-Hike-Play
  9. Active Kids Club
  10. Outdoor Kids Play
  11. 1000 Hours Outside
My 11 Questions:
  1. How did you develop your love of the outdoors?
  2. What portion of your vacations include outdoor activities? 
  3. What is your favorite outdoor activity?
  4. What is your favorite piece of outdoor equipment?
  5. What is your favorite outdoor location: beach, forests, dessert, mountains etc.?
  6. What is your favorite outdoor adventure memory?
  7. What outdoor adventure is on your bucket list? 
  8. Besides the outdoors and blogging, what are your hobbies? 
  9. What inspired you to start blogging?
  10. What do you love most about blogging?
  11. What is your least favorite aspect of blogging? 


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