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Off the beaten path: 7 tips to camp on a budget.

Need plans for the summer?

Camping is a fun and cost-effective way to take advantage of warmer months, and a great way to connect with friends and family. Plus, it’s been shown to have a positive effect on your health and well-being.

Whether you’re a seasoned camper or just dipping in your toes, we share some tips to help you do camping right.

Million dollar views at a bargain

Imagine unzipping your tent to reveal the majestic mountainscapes of Banff and Lake Louise. Immersing yourself in Canada’s natural beauty shouldn’t set you back financially.

Parks Canada offers free admission to national parks if you’re:

  • A newcomer or new Canadian citizen

  • A support person for someone with a disability

  • A veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces or family member of one

  • Under the age of 18

If you don’t fit into any of these criteria, adult admission at most national parks is typically pretty low. If you’re planning several visits and camping excursions, it might be worth investing in a Discovery Pass, which gives you unlimited access to more than 80 destinations, including parks and historic sites. And if you’re over 65, you get a special discount. You may also want to consider a group pass, which covers up to 7 people in a vehicle and gives you the best value.

Live close to the border and have a full tank of gas? It might be worth researching campsites down south. The U.S. is home to countless national parks, boasting some of the world’s most breathtaking views and landscapes. Just be sure to double-check daily fees and factor them into your research, as rates can vary. And don’t forget to pack your passport!

Plan way ahead

While long weekends might be your preference, their popularity can limit your options. Try to book your camp reservation months in advance to secure your spot. And if you don’t get lucky, set up camp in your backyard and prepare for a relaxing staycation. It’s a great way to practise sleeping outdoors if you’re not a seasoned camper, and kids love it!

Get your gear

Before you drop any cash, reach out to friends and family for camping gear you can borrow, like a tent or camp stove. If this is a one-time thing or your first time camping, there’s no need to invest in items that may get little use. You can also check online marketplaces for the essentials. Rule of thumb: function over fashion.

Review this camping checklist to ensure you’re packing right.

Outback kitchen

You’re not gonna want to eat s’mores all weekend (or maybe you do!). Make-ahead meals like bean salads will go a long way as a side or a main dish, but you can create some pretty tasty meals on-site too, like campfire nachos and open fire Tandoori chicken. To help ensure food quality and safety, follow this guide for storage recommendations.

Camping carpool karaoke

Carpooling with a group of people is both fun and frugal, because you can share the cost of gas or ride-share fees. And if you purchase a Discovery Pass (mentioned earlier) with a group of people you feel comfortable enough belting out ballads with, your admission fees are automatically reduced.

Pack up and prepare for the adventure

There’s more to camping than setting up a tent and roasting marshmallows. Depending on your interests, you can find affordable ways to enhance your outdoor experience without increasing the cost. Interested in swimming? Choose a location near a lake or one of Canada’s beautiful saltwater beaches. Hoping to raise your daily step count? Go for a peaceful nature walk near one of your campsite’s trails. What about cute and fuzzy animals? Into them? Who isn’t! Add wildlife watching to your itinerary and admire Canada’s adorable puffins and prairie dogs from afar. But no touching!

Don’t forget to have fun!

Being mindful of your budget is always important. But you work hard for your money, honey. So enjoy yourself. It’s time to play! Aww, we wish we could join you 😞.

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