Affordable Travel Guide to Campgrounds

An Alternative to Costly Hotel Accommodations

Campgrounds

Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization. — Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974)

While Lindberg may have been correct in his simple quotation, he has broken the surface of what we are addressing as “camping”, not only as an outdoors vacation lifestyle, but as a form of overnight accommodations for travelers on a stringent budget.

Camping as a Vacation Choice

Although camping, together with hostels, is widely regarded as the least costly form of accommodations, it can be more than just a place to sleep while on vacation, it’s a personal vacation option, too. Camping found its general peak of popularity for vacationers in the 20th century, but prior to that, it was an essential form of shelter for the likes of business travelers, armies, explorers, hunters and trappers, and adventurers. With the urbanization of the world, camping brought people back to nature in a way that gave them relaxation and common-purpose social interaction. Add to the natural cachet of sleeping in a tent, the ability to fish locally, go boating nearby, do some hiking in the immediate vicinity and barbeque your dinner, people embraced it as an alternative to their hectic lives.

Camping as an Accommodations Option

Camping is cheap. It ranges from free, if you can find a suitable spot to set up your tent and you don’t need anything more than a private spot to use as a washroom, to as much as $50 per day for a water and electricity hook-up for a luxury RV.

Savvy tourists know that they can camp en route to their holiday location, and rather than blow their travel budget on hotels, inns and motels along the way, save their funds to enjoy their destination when they arrive.

Travelers of both persuasions (vacationers, or just passing through) tend to enjoy camping for its social aspects; those who are also outdoors enthusiasts are particularly fond of the sense of nature little else can provide. But it’s not for everyone. If the concept of being outdoors during the night (assuming you’re sleeping in a tent) disturbs you, then you’re better off at an inn. Even an inexpensive roadside motel will give you more peace and protection than a tent.

It’s easy to romanticize camping as communing with nature, but the hard fact is that a lot of campgrounds are noisy at night, despite all the posted rules of each campground, and if you’re on the road, droving every day, you’ll need a solid sleep to be safe at the wheel.

Beyond the Tent — a Mobile Motel

Purists and camping aficionados advocate staying in a tent, and even though tents have improved (tougher, more waterproof, more spacious) in recent years, the fact is that there is still just a layer of fabric between you and nature. This is highly appealing for some, especially city dwellers who feel the need to escape to the wilds, but savvy campers have adopted other forms of camping to suit more sophisticated needs and desires.

Camper trailers and motor homes are versions of camping accommodations that offer a more secure environment and boast all the bells and whistles. They’re more like homes away from home. It’s a matter of personal choice and just how far you want to take it when you say you want to get away from it all. If bugs and public toilets bother you, then pass on the tent and find a suitable RV to transport and accommodate you.

In the past, there were rentals of RVs available, but you had to return them to the same place where you picked them up; such is no longer the case. You can now, for example, fly from New York to Arizona, pick up a rental RV, drive through to Los Angeles, and fly home from there. This recent option has expanded the possibilities for camping as a form of accommodations. RV (as opposed to tent) campers are known by the coined phrase “glampers”, but it’s just a word, and the folks in the tents will be knocking at your door when the thunder storm hits! Older adults tend to prefer this type of accommodations; they let the “youngsters” camp in the tents. Finding a Spot To Pitch Your Tent (or Park Your RV)

Throughout North America, South America, and Europe, there are hundreds of privately-owned campgrounds; some of them, like Koa Campgrounds, are chains, not unlike budget motel groups. These private campgrounds offer a range of rental spots for tent campers and RV-ers. Depending on the campground that you choose, some may offer recreational activities such as boating and fishing, and trails for hiking and mountain-biking. They may also offer amenities like hydro and water, as well as a variety store stocked with supplies and provisions; some boast casual restaurants, too. You may also choose to stay at a national or state/provincial park, or other public nature areas, like a conservation area; in certain places, there are beaches specifically for the use of campers (we know of some in Nova Scotia Canada, and in the area of Goa, India). These campgrounds are invariably budget-friendly and well-maintained; some have 24-hour security services and lifeguards at their pools or beaches.

The Camping Accommodations #1 Rule: Book Ahead

Booking a reservation at a campground, national/state park or other public nature area is the best means of guaranteeing a campsite, especially if you want to stay in a certain area. On busy weekends and in peak season, just arriving at a campground without a reservation is risky; they are often full. While reservations are not always necessary, do yourself a favor and book your campsite before you set out on the road. To find out more about camping in the Canadian national parks system, and its reservation schedule (and to book a campsite), please visit the Parks Canada website. For camping at U.S.A. national parks, visit www.nps.gov; state parks in the U.S.A. are governed by individual states. In Europe, try this site for helpful information: www.campingeurope.com. If you’re planning to camp in more exotic locales, such as Africa, India or the Far East, we suggest you contact a qualified travel agent for the most comprehensive facts, ideas and conditions.

In addition to overall national park information, Parks Canada also has a useful checklist for anyone camping, be that for vacation or just stay-over convenience. To find out what they recommend savvy campers bring along, please go to the aforementioned Parks Canada website and click on “Learn to Camp”. If you’re up for it, camping is a viable accommodations alternative, but it’s not quite as easy as driving up to a motel, checking in and getting a good night’s sleep. There is effort required. But it is the east expensive type of accommodations available to travelers, and that may serve as sufficient motivation. Be safe, be smart and save money with camping accommodations. And don’t expect to bump into Charles Lindbergh as he waxes poetic about the great outdoors!

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