A couple of my most memorable family outdoor adventures using these ideas are the 2000 mile road trip we took summer 2013, camping in the Garden of the Gods, the day trips we have taken from Oklahoma City, and our most recent 2014 holiday travels.
Spending time outdoors as a family and having amazing adventures is possible, no matter where you live or your budget. I hope you find these tips useful as well.
- Camp instead of staying in hotels. It is an easy way to save a bunch of money on lodging. I even devoted an entire post on why I believe camping is better than staying in hotels when traveling with kids. New to camping? Check out my post Tips for a First-Time Camper from a First-Time Camper where my brother-in-law shared the best advise he received before his first camping trip last year. Trying something new is the best kind of adventure! Here are some more tips for frugal campers.
Our kids love camping! They ask when we are going again.
- Beg, borrow, but don't steal equipment, if you don't own it and want to camp. Gear can be a big barrier to people camping. Another option for cutting costs when getting outfitted for camping is buying used gear. My post Tips for Buying Used Outdoor Gear has some easy recommendations for getting the best quality used gear. Don't like either of those options, buy gear from Walmart. My first tent was from Walmart and lasted for five years with fairly heavy use.
Using our second-hand carrier at the Petrified Forest National Park.
- Take advantage of government attractions and campsites, they are generally cheaper than privately owned venues. You can also save money by camping at National or state forests instead of national or state parks. Forests are generally cheaper. The biggest downside is that they don't always have showers or the other amenities that parks offer. But those amenities don't matter to us as much on shorter trips. You can read about some of our experiences in my Garden of the Gods trip report. The same is true for government attractions (historic sites, parks, etc.) verses private venues. Government is cheaper. If you need help finding recreation areas to visit, check out my post Finding New-To-You Recreation Areas; plenty of helpful tips.
Fort Ticonderoga was cool but pretty expensive.
- Visit FREE attractions. Duh. But I think we sometimes assume the best things require us to spend a lot of money. In reality, the most important part of family outdoor adventures is building memories. That can be done almost anywhere. Local/regional magazines can be a great recourse for finding special events and pricing.
Many state parks near us have no entrance fees AND have plenty of fun activities for the whole family.
- Avoid eating out AT ALL COST. Eating out is just plain expensive and there are a lot of options for meals that don't require you to eat out. Here are my ideas for camping that could easily apply to hotels. We often eat sandwiches, frozen dinners or buy a rotisserie chicken and such from a grocery store deli for dinner in our hotel room. This also gives the kids more time to run around and swim after so much time in the car. On our summer 2013 road trip we ate out less than once a day. We followed the same pattern on our Christmas 2014 road trip.
One of the many picnics we have had over the years.
- Turn traveling to visit family into an adventure. Most of our major traveling is done to visit family. We just take longer traveling out to and home from family because we see the sights. Once we are with family we involve them in our outings. Plus you have a free place to stay, which helps contain costs tremendously.
We took a day trip to Montezumas Castle National Monument during our holiday travels.
- Stay close to home. Gas is usually expensive (although it is cheap right now, take advantage) and no matter where you live there are interesting things to see. I am a firm believer that you can make adventure happen no matter your location.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center is only about an hour and a half from us but the whole area offers an array of outdoor activities.
- Buy what you can from the dollar store. The dollar store can be especially useful for toys and non-electronic entertainment for the kids. Twin Dragonfly Designs has some great ideas for dollar store camping supplies.
- Use gift cards or ask for gift cards for birthday's and holidays. Easy way to "save" towards trips with out having cash on hand or in the bank.
- Use points from your credit card to purchase a gift card or for deals on hotels and such.
- Use public transportation when possible. If you are flying to an area, public transportation is generally much less expensive than renting a car. Wild Tales Of has some great tips for using public transportation with babies.
Here are some other awesome tips for traveling and adventuring as a family.
- 10 Steps to Planning A Family Road Trips from Southern Fried Mouth
- 25 Ways to Survive (and Enjoy) Your Next Family Road Trip from Lasso The Moon.
- Teaching Kids What To Do If They Get Lost from BonBon Break
Your turn, what are you money-saving tips for family outdoor adventures?
Never miss a post!