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If you love the great outdoors, then you may want to plan your next vacation at a nearby campsite. Camping can be a great way to get family and friends together for the summer. However, if you aren’t careful, it can be very costly.

Here are some steps to help you save on your next camping trip.

1. Plan Ahead

You may want to consider planning your next camping trip ahead of time to make sure you stay within budget. If you can, try planning your trip six months in advance; this will give you enough time to save money and prepare. Try to cut back on air conditioning and other nonessentials to save extra cash. You may want to create a separate savings account to help you stay organized.

When thinking ahead, consider planning a menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, especially if you’re bringing children. You may want to also invest in a cooler to pack all your freezer foods for your trip. Snacks, salads, veggies and fruit can be easily stored in Ziploc bags and fit perfectly in your cooler. Consider purchasing those, Tupperware and tableware at your local Dollar Store.

2. Buy in Bulk

If you plan to go with a large group, then it might be in your best interest to buy food and drinks in bulk. Wholesale superstores sell items in large supplies at a fraction of the cost. You may want to include packs of water, juice, eggs, pancakes, chicken and grilled pizza; frozen foods are another ideal grocery item. You may also want to throw in some homemade dishes instead of buying all of your meals. Fruit baskets and trail mix are other great camping essentials.

3. Pick the Location Wisely

Consider finding a campsite near home to save money on gas. (For another way to potentially save on gas, you can find an expert guide to credit cards gas rewards here.) If you are bringing a truck or travel trailer, then it can be costly if you are traveling far. You will also save more money if you camp at a National Park. Make sure you do your research, as some camp sites charge entrance fees and others don’t. Some parks even offer multiple days of free admission, so consider planning your trip around then.

If you plan to take more than one camping trip a year, then you may want to look into a member pass or State Park Pass to get more bang for your buck. An annual pass will provide unlimited visits. You can also use the pass at other federal recreation sites such as beaches and parks.

4. Look into Discounts & Transportation

Before planning your trip, try to research transportation. Some campsites offer a shuttle service so you don’t have to spend extra money on gas. You may also want to consider taking your trip during off-peak season; admission is usually cheaper during this time. If you are planning your camping trip over summer, then look into online discounts for entry fees and park passes. You can also call the park and try and negotiate savings.

5. Bring Your Own Entertainment

Look into bringing and creating your own entertainment when planning your camping trip. This will save extra money and can also be fun for your family. If you don’t have any games to bring, then plan your days around Mother Nature. Hiking, fishing and observing the local wildlife are not only frugal activities but very entertaining.

6. Purchase Camp Gear Online

It’s important to have the proper supplies when planning your camping trip. Try to purchase camping supplies from local garage sales or online. You can find a lot of quality, cost-effective tents at superstores or sites like Walmart and Amazon, for instance. Try purchasing toiletries in advance during sales. And make sure you bring a first aid kit — you never know what can happen in the wild.

[Editor’s Note: You can monitor your financial goals, like building a good credit score, each month on Credit.com.]

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