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Are you and the fam ready to get out and go camping this summer? Let’s face it, after 2020, who isn’t? As more and more states, parks, and campgrounds re-open, chances are you’ll find the perfect getaway. Skip the expensive Airbnb and camp instead! It’s affordable and can be as lux, secluded, or as nature-y as you want.
Download the KCL app for money-saving tips, deals, and coupons.
1. Go with Hipcamp to avoid busy campgrounds — it’s like Airbnb’s hipster cousin.
What’s your worst campground experience? Mine is listening to a party of tweens singing “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift on a portable karaoke machine, full volume, for four hours straight.
With Hipcamp, you say adios to all of the drama that comes with a busy campground, because you can rent someone’s private land to camp on. Sure, you can also book spots at public campgrounds too, but the real beauty of Hipcamp is getting away from all that.
It’s like Airbnb — people list their own properties with camping specifically in mind. It can be very affordable too, like $25 per night. Of course, prices vary based on where you choose to camp.
TIP: For some great deals on camping gear, check out our KCL Dick’s Sporting Goods Deal Page.
2. KOA’s always got your back.
KOA, or Kampgrounds of America, is a national treasure, dating back to 1962 — in fact, your parents might have memories of camping at a KOA.
Depending on where you’re camping, you might not get the deepest outdoor nature experience, but KOA has over 500 locations nationwide, so it’s a reliable option to just get you outside. Amenities include showers, laundry services, and sometimes a pool, making it a no-brainer if you have kids.
Plus, many KOAs now offer cabin rentals. Prices vary a lot depending on where you’re camping and whether you’re using an RV site, a tent site, or a cabin. For example, a KOA tent site in Lake Isabella / Kern River, CA is $34.40 per night, while a tent site at Lake Conroe/Houston North, TX is about $50 per night.
3. Hoping to skip the dirt and hassle of camping? Consider “glamping.”
“Glamping” is luxury camping. It can be done in anything from a yurt to a cabin to a treehouse; the qualification is that there are amenities ready and waiting for you when you arrive. So, no setting up a tent or rolling out a sleeping bag.
To find a glamping experience in your price range, use GlampingHub.com. Enter the location you want and your check-in and check-out dates to browse options.
Sort by price to see what’s the most affordable and go from there!
4. Check out the camping options in New York.
Campgrounds in Upstate New York and the Hudson Valley are currently open, being listed as “essential,” as long as owners adhere to proper social distancing and cleaning measures.
As for New York State Parks camping, you must have reservations. May 15 through Columbus Day you can make a same-day reservation (until 3 p.m.). No walk-ins allowed.
Other options include private locations like Lushna cabins at Eastwind Hotel and Bar. You can rent a Scandinavian-inspired cabin in the Catskill Mountains. Cabins have one queen bed, a private bathroom, and electricity and run about $360 per night.
Or check out Terra Glamping, just a little over two hours away from New York City — prices run from $300-375 per night to rent a safari tent with Hudson River views.
5. Camping in California state parks can happen later in the summer.
Also, look into private campgrounds in California, in case you can’t get a reservation at a state park. Check out El Capitan Canyon on the Santa Barbara coast, where you can glamp in a safari tent, yurt, cabin, or more. Rates start at $155 per night and go up from there.
Collins Lake camping in northern California is open with some modifications. No more than six occupants at a campsite. Plus, you’ll need to wear masks inside the campground store. Cost ranges from $40-$74 per night — and camp during the weekdays, as weekends at Collins Lake fill up quickly every summer.
6. Plan to go camping in Texas whenever you want this summer.
Texas State Parks are open for reservations through September.
Or check out these options:
- Camp Comfort, Comfort, TX: North of San Antonio and west of Austin, Camp Comfort is a historic (I’m talking 1800s) bowling alley converted into cabins. Prices start at $220 per night.
- Meadowmere Park, Grapevine, TX: Sitting just outside Dallas is Meadowmere Park, boasting 50 lakeside camping sites. Cost is $35 per campsite for up to six adults and two tents.
- El Cosmico, Marfa, TX: Located 60 miles east of the Mexican border, El Cosmico offers yurts, tepees, and renovated vintage trailers for overnight stays starting at $75 per night.
7. Enjoy RV camping at a winery or farm for just $79 per year.
via Harvest Hosts Facebook
Pay a yearly fee and get access to RV camping at hundreds of HarvestHosts.com sites nationwide, like wineries, distilleries, and farms.
This means your overnight stay is free, but Harvest Hosts encourages you to buy something from your host as a token of appreciation since hosts receive no compensation for your stay. For example, a bottle of wine at a winery, produce from a farm, etc.
You can only stay 24 hours at each location, but you can do an unlimited amount of stays per year, so you’ll pay $79 annually and get unlimited camping anytime you want, 365 days of the year.
Other rules include: You must be self-contained in an RV of some sort. You won’t get access to the host’s facilities; they’re basically just giving you a place to park your RV. Some have electricity or water, but not all. Absolutely no tent camping.
8. Go camping in Florida and get a Florida Keys beach camping experience, or get lost in the woods.
You can go camping at Florida State Parks. If you want to camp on the beach (and who doesn’t?!), scope out these open campgrounds in the Florida Keys.
- Long Key State Park: The main campground is closed for reconstruction, but the primitive, walk-up sites are still open and available.
- Sunshine Key Resort and Marina: Rent a tiny house for about $325 per night, or park your RV so it has an ocean view for about $230 per night. Sunshine Key is currently under an evacuation order due to Hurricane Laura, but consider visiting when hurricane season is over.
Just be sure to check Florida State Parks storm updates before you plan a trip.
If you want to be in the woods, consider Ginnie Springs camping, a 200-acre wooded area with primitive campsites on a first-come, first-served basis. Adults are $30, children 5-12 are $8, and kids 4 and under are free. Prices are per person, per night.
9. Looking for free camping? Best bet is dispersed camping on BLM or National Forest land.
BLM, or Bureau of Land Management land and National Forests both have open public campgrounds that you can use. Public campgrounds will include fees that you pay on site or in advance, so the best way to camp for free is dispersed camping.
Dispersed camping is “off-grid” camping — no services or facilities and no designated camping areas. And it’s totally free. That said, in order to not create more disturbance in nature than what’s necessary, look for spots that appear to be used for dispersed camping already. They’re flat and clear and might already have a fire ring, built by someone else.
Also, for BLM camping, you can’t camp at the same site for more than 14 days. On day 14, you need to move to a new site at least 25 miles away. This changes to 16 days for National Forest land and a 5 mile move instead of 25 miles. National Forests also require 100 feet of distance from streams or water sources. Both require a strict “pack-in, pack-out” camp.
10. Camping options at National Parks are hit-and-miss right now. Here’s what’s up at popular parks.
- Yosemite camping: Upper Pines Campground is open at reduced capacity and Wawona Horse Campground opens June 15, 2021, at a reduced capacity. Reservations are required for both.
- Joshua Tree camping: Joshua Tree National Park is open for individual, family camping, and group camping.
- Grand Canyon camping: The South Rim is open for overnight stays, and the North Rim opens May 15, 2021. Check out these Grand Canyon camping options for the South Rim. They’re outside the park, but not far!
- Sequoia National Park camping: Potwisha, Lodgepole, and Sunset Camp are open for reservations only. Due to the Castle Fire, some trails may be closed. Plan to check current air quality before your trip, and if you can’t reserve a campsite, consider a stay at Sequoia Campground and Lodge instead — average price is $87 per night for a tent site.
- Yellowstone camping: Aside from a few services like the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center, most of the facilities and services at Yellowstone will begin opening the last week of April. Campsites and lodging are typically hit-and-miss, and all require reservations. If you strike out, check campsites near Yellowstone.
- Death Valley camping: Furnace Creek, Emigrant, Mesquite Spring, Saline, Eureka, Homestake, Wildrose, Thorndike, Texas Springs, Stovepipe Wells, Sunset, and Mahogany campgrounds are currently open while everything else is closed. Dispersed camping is allowed with a permit!
PRO TIP: Every fifth grader gets a free Every Kid Outdoors park pass. The pass will get the fifth-grader and the vehicle they’re in free entrance into all National Parks (not free camping, though). It’s good for the summer before and the summer after your child’s fifth-grade year.
11. Ready to hit the road with the fam? Here’s an idea…
Rent a camper through RVShare and save $0.10 per mile.
OK, so you have to have a motorhome for your camping road trip. I get it!
Another option is to rent your motorhome through RVShare.com. Prices are similar to that of Outdoorsy.com.
RVShare says they offer pop-up campers, but I could only find trailers and motorhomes.
Rent a pop-up camper through Outdoorsy.
Pop-up campers, also called tent trailers or folding trailers, are an economical option that gives you the convenience of a trailer but without the bulk.
You can find a pop-up camper for an average price of $99 per night through Outdoorsy.com. Plus, another benefit of renting a pop-up trailer over an RV is that you don’t have to pay mileage in addition to a rental fee, which is common with motorhome rentals.