Why Camping is a Very Expensive Holiday Option for Me

camping costs

Last Sunday we drove to the airport and my son boarded a plane.

On his own and he is only thirteen.

He is off for a week camping with a friend and his family.

Why we are not with him, you may ask?

We are staying put because, contrary to popular belief, camping for me has always been a very expensive holiday option. “Always” as in the three times I’ve tried it, that is.

I tried camping for the first time about twenty years ago; we were young(ish) and my step sons were still at an age when sleeping in tents and getting smelly is the ultimate fun.

Back then, we decided on a ‘safe’ camping holiday where we booked two weeks in different camping sites in Europe. As camping goes, it was luxury: the tent is up, there were camping beds and all equipment. Still, I failed to see the fun in the insects crawling around, the hard bed, the widely varying temperature and the long nightly walk to the toilet. Once the novelty wore out, the boys were not that keen on it either and we ended up having a ‘break night’ in a hotel every four days or so.

Because I’m a slow learner, we repeated the experience on a bolder but smaller scale with our third son. This time, we were also skint so camping being reputed to be a cheap way to have a break sounded as something to get into.

We bought a tent; we bought and borrowed all equipment we need. We got in the car and drove to a campsite about forty minutes away from our house – just in case we had to come back in the middle of the night, you see. We went with some experienced camping people.

Still, it wasn’t worth it for me.

When I thought about it, my problem with camping is the tent. Which is obviously no good.

We could try buying a caravan; there are some really good ones. There are caravans with kitchens and bathrooms and everything.

In my book this will be cheating: camping is supposed to be rough. Camping is supposed to be about cooking outside, trudging in mud, not washing for days and living a life close to nature. Camping is supposed to be basic and can be wonderful: some love it.

I’ve now accepted that it is not for me!

Camping is not for me because apart from all the things I dislike about it, it also never works out as a cheap (or cheaper) holiday option for me.

This is why.

Costs of camping

Let me give you the costs of camping for a week. We’ll be talking more civilised camping: if I can’t crack going to a campsite I certainly have no experience with completely ‘free’ camping.

And while my experience may appear limited, I did keep a note of our expenses and did some research about prices. Note that the expenses are for three people over seven nights stay.

So here it is:

Camping equipment

I’m not going to assume that you have all camping equipment you need. We didn’t. By the time we’d bought the mere minimum (tent, mattresses, sleeping bags, light and cool box) we were talking over $500.

And we borrowed the rest like cooking stove, utensils etc. One problem with this is that when you don’t know the equipment coping is even harder than it needs to be.

Campsite costs

I can’t really remember what we paid when we last went camping. The shock of having to put up with throngs of angry flies made me repress this memory.

A simple search on the internet (isn’t it easy today to find things out) tells me that during the summer holidays it is difficult to find a campsite that offers semi-decent facilities for less than $50 per night.

For seven nights this takes us to $350.

Food and drink

Don’t know about you but I do find it really hard to cook anything sensible when camping.

Because the cooking conditions are so primitive what I end up cooking is either something you boil/ heat (ready meal, for instance) or something that you throw on the fire and grill.

On top of everything, because cooking is so hard we end up eating in a pub at least once a day (lunch or dinner).

I’d say that food and drink costs an average of $50 per day and this is a conservative estimate (yes, it is possible to eat for less but it will be unsatisfactory indeed).

Over seven days this is $350.


Yes, camping means driving around; at a minimum you’ll need to get to the campsite. This line of expenditure will vary depending on how much you drive and what you drive. Let’s be conservative again and estimate $120 for petrol (this is if you decide to stay close to home).

What’s the deal?

You see, camping while staying close to home costs $1,320 if you are a camping virgin and include the initial minimum outlay for equipment or $820 if you are a sucker for angry flies and smelly toilets and are doing it again.

Other costs

Now come the really large expenses for me.

Osteopath and massage

Every time I go camping, I end up with back pain, neck pain and all kinds of ache because of having to sleep on the ground, on blow-up mattress that is not very comfortable.

On top of that, I usually end up really stiff because I’d been cold during the night and my muscles have started to protest.

Osteopathy and massage don’t come cheap. After our last foray into camping (and it was only two nights) I needed four sessions at the osteopath and couple of massage sessions.

This is another $320, you know.


I don’t even want to start telling you how much this costs me.

Camping can be traumatic for border line Asperger’s syndrome people who score very high from obsessions. One of my obsessions is about cleanliness. You get the picture.


People tell me that camping is for people who want to have an inexpensive holiday. I say BS! Camping is not that inexpensive although you can probably tweak some of the costs I’ve given you down.

Camping is for people who really enjoy camping!

I don’t. So what is wrong with going on an all-inclusive holiday (these are the holidays that include flights, hotel, food and drink) somewhere in Southern Europe. After all, seven nights in this four star hotel in Crete (70 meters from a sandy beach) including all meals, drinks both alcoholic and soft, access to tennis, basketball and beach volleyball courts costs $1,128 for two.

If we want to be mobile, I’ll still forego the tent and the campsites and get me a great, big RV like this one:

camping costs

Call me spoiled!

Where do you stand on camping?

photo credit: doviende via photopin cc

photo credit: Kathy McGraw via photopin cc

21 Responses to “Why Camping is a Very Expensive Holiday Option for Me”

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  1. Great post. Most of my family vacation as a kid were camping trips and we had great times. Just spend 3 day rafting with my family. I do agree the initial investment for all the gear can be costly, but can be used for years to come to reduce overall cost. I think if you compare it to hotel and eating out for a vacation it will be much cheaper. We rented a cabin mid-week and save a ton of $ compared to weekend rates for our trip.

  2. Debt Hater says:

    I’m actually the complete opposite stance on camping, though I do understand your points but I still think it is cheaper than a standard vacation. Obviously the initial equipment outlay is on he expensive side but if you get quality stuff it should last you for years, and you can always get used equipment from others.

    Most campsites I’ve been to are $20-$30 a night and these include bathrooms with hot showers (shared between 20-30 campsites and not your own). These are your standard “car campgrounds” so I’m not really roughing it or going to an expensive private campground where I do agree you might as well go to a hotel!

    I also bring a propane camp stove and a small charcoal grill with me and try to plan out all my meals ahead of time. I guess this is one of things that I do enjoy about cooking is grilling everything and taking it easy though, so I can see your point there. Having these helps me create some variety in my meals though and not having to worry about a campfire for all my cooking. I can usually cover all the food costs for $100 or less though, and that’s for an entire week.

    But hey – if it’s something you don’t really enjoy and you gave it a real chance which it sounds like you did, no need to keep forcing yourself into it. It’s all about doing what you and your family enjoy.

    • Maria Nedeva says:

      @Debt Hater: I know some people love it and do it regularly. We have friends who go camping most weekends (weather permitting) and did go even when their kids were little. Of course they have everything they need and loads of experience.

  3. Michelle says:

    I really enjoy camping, but yes, the initial equipment costs are very expensive. I think we have a few thousand dollars worth of camping equipment but that is because we go for the high-quality light-weight equipment because we plan on going on long hiking trips with them (husband is planning a 5 month hike next year).

    • Maria Nedeva says:

      @Michelle: I believe it is worth investing in equipment if one is to camp regularly. Good luck on the hike – sounds really good (well, I’d like to do one of those if I could only stay in hotels for the evening; will investigate).

  4. I love camping! I think that people who went camping as children end up loving it as adults, and people who never went as children can’t fathom what the appeal is. I went camping for the first time at age 1. The youngest of 5 children, I loved sleeping in a tent with the 6 other members of my family, swimming, roasting marshmallows, catching frogs . . . My husband (also a camper from childhood) and I have taken our three children camping since they were babies. They love it too. We’ve acquired some very comfortable equipment over the years, so there has never been a one-time big expenditure. For us, camping is not only an inexpensive holiday; it’s a great one!

    • Maria Nedeva says:

      @Prudence: You mention something very important: it is probably important whether you’ve been camping since you were a kid. When thinking back, I seem to remember one attempt where my mum and I moved to a hotel after one night. Am I repeating a pattern?

  5. Lynn D says:

    I enjoyed reading your post!!! I also agree after many years of not camping (tent) in 2011 the 3 grand kids and daughter decided we would try camping!!! Experience for the kids!! So starting from scratch, tent sleeping bags reservations food etc etc…. lets just say after the second time…. Grand ma was done!!! What alot of work and expense . I agree an RV is the way too go!!! Too old for camping!!! I am glad to have the memories of our first camping with the grand kids!!! The End

  6. JD says:

    Personally, for those that enjoy camping I say have it. I loathe it and prefer a motel, restaurant and more for a vacation. If we can’t afford that then we stay home.

    • Maria Nedeva says:

      @JD: Yep, agree. Each to their own. Many people forget that given the level we work at what we need is a break we enjoy. Some like lazying about by the sea, others hiking in mountains. Some, love camping, others were not cut out for it. As to price, people can get so inventive even without a tent.

  7. Tre says:

    We take our boys camping at least once a year. It’s nice to put away all the eletronics and just spend time together. We do limit it to a weekend though 🙂

  8. Amanda says:

    We never spent anything close to this on an camping individual trip. If you are actually a thrifty person, you’ll buy all your gear from people like you who blow all their money on new equipment (seriously, who does that? Why wouldn’t you borrow equipment first if you weren’t sure) and then realize they don’t like it. We also added to our collection over time; you don’t need every single camping gadget on your first trip (or probably ever). If you are not a moron, there are plenty of super cheap, easy, and delicious meals you can make on a grill or over a fire.

    Sorry, I’m being really rude, and I know I shouldn’t be. This article just makes me want to slap someone. This article is a good reference point for how to NOT start a new hobby, ESPECIALLY camping. Please have a guest poster instruct all these poor readers how to enjoy camping, a cheap and awesome hobby, on a budget ASAP to repair the damage!!

    • Maria Nedeva says:

      @Amanda: Thanks for sharing and hope this outburst made you feel better! I’d just like to point out that if there were no morons, there can’t be thrifty people either Iusing your definitions, of course). To be able to buy stuff used, someone should have bought it new and used it before. I happen to be a moron and I get really good value of the things I buy; usually because I’m not perfect.

      As to this article being a refence on how not to start a new hobby, I’ll agree with you: camping, as I made it really clear, can never be a hobby of mine. I dislike most things about it (some because of being obsessive).

      Do you fancy writing a guest post on how to enjoy camping? We on EOD are a very tolerant lot and enjoy sharing different opinions.

  9. Michelle says:

    I absolutely love camping-but, it’s much, much cheaper when I go. I borrow the equipment, the campsite rental is $20, and the food is the normal cost. I also live in a state where people LOVE camping, so it’s easy to borrow equipment form other people.

  10. Elisabeth says:

    HA! Yes, osteopath or chiropractor! Too funny! As I’ve gotten older the aches and pains of sleeping on a thin mat have increased. This I could definitely do without, but even with them, I love camping. We took our son and daughter when they were just 3 years and 2 months old. (That proved to be a ton more work than I was prepared for, even as an experienced camper!) But tried again when we had three kids ages 5, 3, and 9 months old. Much better experience.

    As for the cost, yes. It can add up pretty quickly. But, like another poster mentioned, if you buy quality, the costs average out over the years you go…with each passing year of camping, it gets cheaper and cheaper. I honestly just love being outside and have loved it since I was a kid. The ick factor seriously is lessened when a fresh water source is nearby for a dip.

    • Maria Nedeva says:

      @Elisabeth: Thanks, friend, for noticing the funny side to it. And camping near a lake is probably a good idea. Someone I know has decided to take me ‘wild camping’ as a result of this article (my ability to get in trouble even by operating a keyboard).

  11. NZ Muse says:

    Add in the cost of campsites and quite honestly, I don’t see the point!

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