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Valley families discover affordable ways to camp

Posted at 4:00 AM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 20:52:09-04

PHOENIX — Heather Carter says, "The biggest thing about camping is you don't realize that it really allows all of you guys to destress."

For Carter and her family of four, they look forward to spending quality time with one another outside. After falling in love with tent camping, they invested in a travel trailer.

"It's just it's easy. It's mindless, and it's relaxing,” says Carter.

ABC15’s Christine Stanwood asks, “Is it expensive?” Carter replies with a smile, “It's not expensive. I would honestly say that we probably could camp easy for $100."

Carter says the most expensive part is simply having the trailer. "Other than paying for our travel trailer, and yes, you got to pay for fuel and propane. Other than that, I do it on a budget. It's really easy."

As a self-proclaimed bargain shopper, Carter has a wealth of affordable camping tips. Here's how she does it:

Tip #1: "I literally shop from my pantry,” says Carter. “I stockpile when things are on sale. If ketchup is on sale. Well, I don't have to forget ketchup in the travel trailer. I leave one in the outside fridge, specifically for the travel trailer. Same with S'mores. There's always Hershey bars outside. We always have graham crackers in the house for snacks anyways.”

Tip #2: "We boondock or dry camp. Some people call it two different things, which is basically not at an RV park. So in the middle of nowhere,” Carter says. RV parks often have fees.

Tip #3: Carter looks for places offering to dump waste from the trailer for free.

Her family is now planning for their next camping trip this summer in Payson, Arizona, and traveling to New Mexico and Colorado.

She says that trip is much more affordable than going to an amusement park and resort.

"I actually wanted to go to Disney World, and I can't, for our family of four, I can't figure out how to do it for under $6,000,” says Carter. “We will probably easily go enjoy a week together for I mean, $1,000 I would guess, at most."

Carter says the best part of camping is to see her husband, who works 18 hours a day as a nurse, be with family.

"To see him sit and relax or to see him just play with the kids, it's worth every penny."

And if you're interested in affordable camping, the Arizona State Parks is offering a program called 'Family Campout and Stewardship Program' at a variety of state parks. It's $90 for a family of four.

Arizona State Parks says, “The program offers families inexperienced with camping the opportunity to have an organized camping weekend at an Arizona State Park without having to provide their own camping equipment (this will be provided as part of the program). Each family will participate in a variety of “clinics” to learn more about how to safely recreate in the public parks.”

Arizona State Parks says, “Clinics will be geared toward both children and/or adults so that each family member can learn and grow individually and together from the experience.

Examples of clinics vary depending on park location and include:

  • “How to safely set up Camp”
  • “How to use a Barbeque” for adults
  • “How to Geocache”
  • “Things to explore in a Natural Environment” for youth

The majority of the clinics will encourage total family participation and include:

  • “Safe Hiking 101”
  • “Mountain Biking for Beginners”
  • “Astronomy 101"
  • "Paddle Boarding 101"
  • “Archery 101”
  • “Starting and extinguishing a Camp Fire”

Arizona State Parks says, “The cost of participation for the weekend will be $90 per family of 4, which includes park entrance, and camping equipment. (Including tents, sleeping mats, chairs, camp stoves, flashlights, and backpacks.) The families will be responsible for providing their own food, bedding, a sleeping bag or comforter, etc. Children must be age six or older.”

Arizona State Parks says, “If you are interested in having your family participate in this incredible opportunity at one of the selected State Parks, please e-mail Louis Juers at or by calling 480-261-9154.”