The Actual Cost of a Camping Weekend

Beautiful view inside and out from our camper window!
When we started talking about camping as a family, we felt that this would be a great way to spend time together outdoors.  My husband had happy memories of camping in the mountains of Southern California as a child.  My family was not a camping bunch.  But, we did travel out west each summer.  Camping was a way for us to do the things that we both loved - travel and time outdoors.

I see posts often in camping groups about the cost of a camping weekend.  Some campers feel that camping is an economical way to travel.  Others consider camping weekends to be more expensive than what they would like to spend.  So, how much does a camping weekend actually cost?

Our son is happy to spend time playing with his blocks or cars.  It is hours of easy entertainment!

Costs can vary greatly based on:

1.  Type of campground
2.  Food preferences and planning
3.  Size of the group
4.  Distance to the location
5.  Activities planned on camping trips

We camp in state parks.  The cost is reasonable.  These are the campgrounds that appeal to us.  Most state parks have spots available for a rate of between $20 and $30 per night.  These costs do vary.  If you are looking for economical camping, state parks can really save you money.

We loved this large outdoor eating area at this state park in Northeast Mississippi - Tishomingo State Park.
And if you are more adventurous, look into free camping.  Campendium has free camping broken down by state.  These are typically boondocking or tent camping sites.  Read the reviews and do your homework.  But, if you are looking at cost, free camping can be done.  I follow some people on Instagram that use lots of free camping sites.  Connecting with other campers that camp at free locations on social media is a good starting point for exploring these locations.

Resort style and private campgrounds are more expensive.  These campgrounds average from $40 per night to over $100 in some premium locations.  Beach locations can be well over $100 per night.  Depending on how much you want to spend, a private campground and resort-style locations may be more than you want to spend.  However, they can offer more amenities.  It depends on your specific wants and needs for camping.

Resort style campgrounds are perfect for special events or camping trips where you want to provide lots of activities and things to do.  If you have an active bunch that wants to do more than hike and basic outdoor nature activities, resort style camping may best suit your needs.  But, it will cost more.

My family is relatively simple with food.  I cook breakfast and evening meals.  We snack at lunch.  I'm a planner.  And, I plan and determine what we need and try not to over pack.  I have learned over time how much we need.  I pack a few extras but not too many.  I don't want to waste food.  And, I don't want to haul a ton of things to the campground and back home again.

Pancakes are a family favorite at the campsite.

Beyond the camping location and food, other expenses include things like firewood, travel (gas) to the spot and activities while camping.  These activities might include paddle boats, canoes or other excursion activities that you might do.

I was unsure as to what this might actually cost to do this for a weekend.  We are a family of 3.  Most of our camping trips are 2 nights.  Sometimes we do a 3-night long weekend.  I did a breakdown of meals, site costs, gas and more.  For a 2-night camping trip, I calculated $210 for a trip like this.  My cost included a steak dinner on the first night along with other meals.

$200 for a weekend trip is pretty cheap.  It can be done for less.  However, if you compare this cost to a trip where you would stay in a hotel and eat out, this is a fraction of the cost.  The best part of camping is spending time together outdoors.  We don't feel the need to spend tons of money on lots of extras.  Our son is happy playing at a picnic table with cars, hiking or playing games.

Nature provides plenty of excitement while camping!
If you want to see the breakdown of these meals and how I achieved these costs, you can view my worksheet.  Camping Cost Worksheet  You can make a copy of this sheet and plug in the numbers to calculate your costs if you are so inclined.

Regardless, camping can be an inexpensive way to travel.  It all depends on planning that you do as a family.  And, because nightly spots are inexpensive, you can have foodie meals that are a little more expensive.  Or, you can have simple meals on the cheap.  No matter how you plan, camping is still one of the best ways to kick back, relax and just enjoy some downtime in the great outdoors!



  1. We hadn't been on a vacation for YEARS until we recently got our "New to us" popup. The cost of going anywhere after figuring in hotel and eating out was way too much for our pockets. Now, our once a month get-aways cost about $150 - if that... The state park sites range from $27 to $37 per night and I have as yet to find a bad park. In addition, the state DNR has a rewards program so that you can redeem the points you earn on free nights. Awesome!! As far as food, I try to do this on the cheap as well. All throughout the winter and into spring, if I'm making a dish that would be easy to prepare or reheat at the campsite, I will make a couple extra servings and pop in in the freezer. Extra chili? Put it in a freezer bag... Taco night? Brown an extra pound of meat and put it in the freezer. Also, keep a bin in your pantry for non-perishable items. Add one or two items like taco shells, spaghetti sauce or minute rice to your grocery list and put them straight in the bin. It won't strain your budget and you'll end up with plenty of items for your camping trips come camping time!

    1. I love your make extra and freeze to take with you idea! I do some of this but not enough. Thank you for sharing. Camping is a really economical way to travel while having a great time. We love it!!!

  2. Great article. I have always included cost of camper which includes: Purchase price divided by 10 years to get annual cost, yearly license plate, insurance, maintenance, average repairs, and gasoline. The bigger and more expensive the camper the higher the per trip cost is. The more you camp the lower the per trip cost is as well. I have found most people camp 3 to 4 times a year which gets very expensive if you buy a $35, 000 camper. Seems like you guys have it figured out with the pop up. Thank you for sharing!! Jason.

    1. You are spot on! I really look at all of it. It seems like you are as well. We love to RV travel and are doing more of it each year! Have a great time out there on the road, and thank you for following our journey.


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