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Filed under: Family Camping, Traveling Tips

What To Do When Fuel Prices Are High?

March 24, 2011 by · 13 Comments 


By Karen Brucoli Anesi

The Outdoor Recreation Association says there are now more campers than soccer players in the United States.  That comes as no surprise for us because camping is easy on the toddlers and the grandparents, too, as long as families are realistic in their planning and expectations. But as gas prices top $4/gallon many camping families are forced to become resourceful in their search for affordable, wholesome family entertainment.

Where do smart families start when it comes to saving money while camping?

1.      Consider off- season, off-weekend pricing if your work schedule permits. Many campgrounds are deeply discounted if you camp between Sunday and Wednesdays. Families save upwards of 40% and they have wide open site selection, not to mention easy use of amenities. If you are not using the swimming pool, but like to fish, the weeks prior to Memorial Day and after Labor Day can offer ideal pricing and recreation tailored to filling these less occupied weeks.

2.      Park it where you’ll use it. If you visit your favorite campground three or more times a season, consider why you keep returning. It may be the year to seek seasonal/permanent membership. Haul it once, stock it for the summer and return to the woods without factoring in high fuel costs.

3.      Set a summer outdoor education goal and measure your progress. Have you been putting off learning about the hardwoods, flora and fauna of your region, identifying the wildflowers and wild mushrooms that grow under the pines? Use a library card to access book resources or stop at a used book store or thrift shop. You can tuck a reference book in the corner of your car’s trunk and have instant “edu-tainment” and an outdoor learning lab for learners of all ages.  Offer incentives for families being “on the move.” Hiking is good for the heart –literally and figuratively.

4.      Plan, plan, plan. Teachers will tell you which parents give children decision making responsibility during summer months. What better way to save money than to have your pre-teen make a packing list, a meal plan and associated grocery list. Teach organization where there are real world consequences, then reward kids with the money you saved because you remembered to pack the pancake syrup.

5.      Look for fuel saver specials. Some campgrounds offer discounted packages for campers returning two weekends in a row. Many have safe weekday storage and incentives NOT to haul goodies home on Sunday afternoon. Check now, as often these specials are first come, first serve and dependent on storage space available.

6.      Think of hidden vacation costs that camping vacations avoid. Have you checked into the cost of kenneling a pet lately? Keep them with you and not only will they be happier, you will, too.

7.      Let the campground reservation folks know your wants and needs. If you tell whomever answers the phone that you are seeking inexpensive quality entertainment for your family, then not only can they tell you when the campground’s free fire truck rides are offered, but they might point you toward charming local festivals, celebrations and local attractions within minutes of the campground. Build a full vacation experience by being aware of “out of the tent” opportunities.

8.      Summer birthday? In this day of over-the-top birthday celebrations, consider how you can make a lifelong magical memory by taking two or three of the birthday boy or girl’s best friends camping. Rather than 4 hours of noise, sugar and stressful planning, invite partiers to a camping overnight. You’ll get to know them and they’ll get introduced to a wholesome alternative.

Happy camping,

Karen and the Lock 30 Woodlands Crew

About the Author:

Karen Brucoli Anesi, along with her husband, Frank, own Lock 30 Woodlands, Ohio’s only Best Park in America and the highest-rated campground in the tri state area of Ohio, PA and W. VA. She is a member of the Board of Regents and an instructor for The National School of RV Parks and Campground Management. Karen has a home in Durango, Colorado, where she’s a contributor, former columnist and special assignment reporter for the Durango Herald.


13 Responses to “What To Do When Fuel Prices Are High?”
  1. Tracy Virden says:

    If you would like to read more submissions from this author please for “Poking The Campfire” at

  2. Ty says:

    Great article. Need to do one of these as well for boaters. With the price of Gas out here in CA its going to be interesting to see how many campers bring their boats!

  3. Janet says:

    We have a suggestion that doesn’t actually save money but it gets you more for your money!
    We usually leave the morning of the day we are checking into the campground if we only have a long weekend to enjoy.
    That could put us into the campground mid afternoon and then comes set-up time.
    Last weekend we knew we could not drive 240 miles after work and get to the campground before registration closed. Since setting up in the dark is never fun we decided to leave at 9pm the night before. We avoided bumper to bumper rush hour traffic and reduced stress on the trip.
    Then we boondocked at a Walmart where 10 other rigs were already tucked in for the night. The next morning we rolled the last 100 miles and were at the site by 10:15am and set up by 11am. We had ALL day to enjoy our day off of work instead of only a half day or less!
    FYI- Depending if it is off season may determine if you have an early check fee if you arrive early. Be sure to ask about a fee it if you think you will need it before you arrive at the campground.
    If there is one you can either adjust your departure time from home or from where you boondocked!

  4. I agree with all the suggestions. We are seasonals and it saves us on fees and gas, not to mention hassle.
    I love the idea about overnight birthday party-I need to try it for my son. He is a July boy and he always celebrates at our campsite anyway.

  5. BBKKYY77 says:

    You can also evaluate whether you really need campgrounds with all the bells and whistles. A state park campground will allow you more space between you and other campers for about half the price per night than others. Get out and enjoy nature. You won’t be distracted by the pool, parades and neighbors that are only two steps from your RV.

  6. Harold Jennett Jr says:

    Sell your RV while you still can?

  7. Shari says:

    Might be time to get that conversion from gasoline to alternative fuel for your RV. Never were we so happy to be using propane as we were when we found a government alternative fuel station near Redlands, CA, where it cost $1.23/gallon!

  8. Don McVee says:

    Some good advice here, but I’d like to see a list of campgrounds that are deeply discounted from Sunday til Wednesday. I have never run into one of these.

  9. Kevin says:

    One of the comments suggested you sell your rv while you still can, i say continue to seek out ways to save money and not give up on the one thing that has brought many years of good fun and great family times, ill never give up on rving, it wonderful

  10. Skip says:

    Nice article, but it missed some of the most crucial points. To combat high fuel costs you can do these few things and they work for everyone.
    1) Travel less distance.
    2) Make your stays longer as you fuel cost becomes less significant when you break it up over more days.
    3) Lighten your load. Only take what you will be needing for the specific trip. Less weight = better mileage (not to mention more tire life
    4) Lower your speed during travel. Any speed over 50 consumes more fuel than really necessary.
    5) As an extreme measure, you could even consider downsizing your RV.

    With all just steps 1-4 above, even for a party of two a 4 day camping trip (with all other things being equal) camping should be a less costly and better quality experience than a cheap hotel and cheap food plus the fuel to get there.

  11. Kathy says:

    Some of your “resort” and KOA’s have stay 2 get third night free sunday through thursday. Also, you’ll find free tuesdays out there. I can list at least 3 camp grounds off the top of my head. Hidden Ridge Resort offers discounts during the week. Sunny Brook Resort in South Haven MI. KOA’S in Indiana offer stay two get third free during the week. Your best bet would be to check individual websights and see what their deals are.

    ALSO, bring the bike. Park the TT, 5vr, TV, or any other camper and use your bike to get around. That’s our realistic goal for out two big trips this year.

    Or stay closer to home.

  12. Bill Norris says:

    Dont forget, there is a political component to high fuel costs, and that is the speculation that goes on. Washington has said that they will work to control the speculators. We need to write, or speak to our congress people and senators. The oil companies are making huge, obscene profits, at everyone, including those of us with RV’s, demise. How much profit is enough ?


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