How to Budget for a Car Camping Trip

How to Budget for a Car Camping Trip

Car camping is a fun and affordable way to travel. It gives you the flexibility to camp in many areas and still have some extra comforts.

It may be cheaper than a hotel or even an RV vacation, but there are still expenses to factor in when you’re planning a trip. These expenses will also depend on your destination, camping preferences, and spending style. Here are some tips on how to budget for a car camping trip.


How to budget for campsites on a car camping trip
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Usually, lodging is the biggest expense when it comes to planning a vacation. Thankfully, RV parks and campsites are cheaper than hotels!

Plus, with car camping, you can fit into smaller (and cheaper) campsites, like tent camping sites. There are also options for free camping to make this even more affordable. Look for free and paid campsites on websites like Campendium and

Think about your comfort zone when it comes to free camping vs. paid campsites. You can also share campsites with friends or find other discounts to save on camping.

Check out this article for more information on where you can (and can’t!) sleep in your car.


How to budget for food on a car camping trip
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Eating on a car camping trip is similar to eating while tent camping. Any food you pack will be in a cooler and you may have to buy ice along the trip to keep your food cold.

Packing your own food and stopping at grocery stores along the way will save you a lot of money. However, you may pass by some really awesome restaurants, so budget for trying out the local cuisine.

If you’re road-tripping through cities or towns, it may not be convenient to pull out your cooking equipment in say … a parking lot. This is when your eating expenses might jump. Keep this in mind, depending on where you’ll be traveling.

Whether you pack your own meals or eat out, you’ll want to have snacks on hand. Check out this post for the best car camping snacks.


Your budget for gas will depend on how far you’re traveling and where you’re going. You can look up gas prices for any area ahead of time (and find the best prices) using the Gas Buddy app. Another way to save at the pump is rewards programs.

My Kroger grocery store rewards card gets me gas savings across the country at any Shell station. A little saving can go a long way! See if your grocery store offers gas station discounts.


How to budget for experiences on a car camping trip
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This category can vary as much or as little as you want. On your trip, you might pay to visit state or national parks. You might also want to rent a kayak at a campground or go to a really cool museum.

If there are can’t miss experiences along your route, see if you can fit them into your budget, especially if you won’t be passing near that area again anytime soon. Always look online, at your campground office, or in visitor’s centers for coupons and deals.

You can also find so many free activities and experiences. Check the tourism websites for the towns you’ll be visiting. Look for the “what to do” and “events” sections to see what is going on in the area.

Want to stop at a few super awesome roadside attractions? Check out this post!

Souvenirs and Shopping

If you are not a souvenir shopper, then you won’t have to worry about this category. I LOVE really cool gift shops. There’s nothing like driving through the Redwoods in California, spotting a Bigfoot themed gift shop, and buying yourself a pair of socks with Bigfoot doing the disco.

Maybe Bigfoot socks aren’t your thing, but you might want a t-shirt or something! Either way, plan for this category if you like to browse the gift shops.

Other Expenses

The last section of your car camping budget is the catch-all for any other expenses. This can also be your back-up in case you go over budget on another category.

Your “other expenses” might include little emergencies, like replacing a headlight, or buying something that you forgot to bring, like a toothbrush. If you’re going on a longer trip, you may also want to consider buying travel insurance.

You car camping budget is as unique as you are. You can customize it to your personal preferences and now you know what to plan for!

I hope you enjoyed learning how to budget for a car camping trip. If you need any camping supplies, we have everything you need here at Gander Outdoors, just don’t forget to add a supplies category to your budget!

Have any questions or thoughts? Leave a comment below!


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