Fun Family Camping on a Budget (Checklist Included!)


Last summer, my husband and I took our kids camping for the first time. We had been on a few camping trips of our own before kids came into the picture, but camping with a 2 year old and a five year old was completely uncharted territory. Lucky for us, we went with a group of friends who were a lot more experienced in the art of family camping. With their suggestions and expertise helping to guide us, we felt prepared. And we ended up having a really great time. This summer, we can’t wait to get back into the great outdoors with our kids!

Fun Family Camping on a Budget from Albuquerque Moms Blog

If you’re a camping family (or want to become one), Albuquerque is a GREAT place to be! We have lots of beautiful campsites in surrounding areas, as close as a one-and-a-half to two-hour drive away. For our family camping adventure, we chose the campground nestled within Villanueva State Park. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Albuquerque. They have an awesome group campsite that was perfect for our group of five families (10 adults and 13 kids total)!

Here are a few of my biggest takeaways from last year, which I will make a point to improve on this year:

Don’t skimp on the tent/bedding.

Our tent was big, but really old. We practiced pitching it at home, but when we got it set up at the campsite, half the stake loops disintegrated and broke. Plus, we spent close to 45 minutes pitching our tent. And all our friends had theirs up in under five. We made it work, but you better believe we bought a nice new tent for our next family camping adventure! Our new tent is a 12-person cabin tent that supposedly takes two minutes to set up. With the new tent, plus the air mattresses/cots that worked so well the first time around, we’ll have lots of space to get comfy with none of the hassles.

Don’t bring crappy coolers.

We have older coolers. And we were really strict about when and how long they could be open. Still, our ice didn’t last. We ended up having to share space in another family’s cooler so our food wouldn’t spoil. It is definitely worth investing in a good quality cooler that will keep your food on ice.

The kids will get SOOOOO dirty!

They looked (and probably smelled) like Pig-Pen about 10 minutes after crawling out of the tent each morning. Luckily, our campsite had plumbing! We had a bathroom with real toilets, sinks, and even a shower. There was also a foot shower outside the bathroom. We gave our kids quick cold showers at the end of each day. I also brought a washcloth that I wet down and wiped them down with before/after meals, etc. Baby wipes always come in handy, too–but I LOVED having running water, not gonna lie.

Plan out every single meal you will eat. It’s worth it!

This was such a good idea. We knew exactly what we were going to throw together/cook/eat for each meal during our trip. This made it smooth sailing come mealtime. A couple of our meals were prepared ahead of time and just needed reheating on the camp stove or campfire. Others were things that we prepared on-site. The meal we all enjoyed the most (and that all the other families were jealous of) was the breakfast burritos that I made at home and then wrapped in foil. They were so simple to get ready at the campsite. We kept them wrapped and let them heat up over the campfire. They were SO good! Crispy tortilla with hot potatoes, egg, bacon, cheese, and chile inside. Yum!

Be flexible.

If you’ve had kids for more than a minute, you know flexibility is key. We knew that bedtimes would be all over the place. Naps would likely be cut short or non-existent. We also realized that the lack of a consistent schedule would probably send our kids into hysterics at some point (it did). We could have stayed up to three nights, but planned to only stay as long as we were all having fun. After the second night, our two year old was three days deep in no-nap territory. We were all feeling pretty tired, so we decided to pack it in around lunchtime that day.

I hope that you feel inspired to get out and explore the great outdoors on your own family camping adventure! Here’s my personal camping checklist. Anything I forgot that you’d like to add?

Fun Family Camping on a Budget from Albuquerque Moms Blog

Originally published June 2018.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.