How We Went on a Super Frugal Beach Camping Trip with No Car

I wrote about our super frugal beach camping trip already, but now that we're back home, in civilization, I wanted to share about our last day camping, and what we did, lessons we learned, etc.

First of all, as our second time camping as a family, and as our first time camping at the beach, I must say that there certainly are perks of camping at the beach over camping in a forest, such as the ability to easily pop into the water to cool off, the entertainment of playing with the sand, the calming of the waves... but there also is a big benefit of camping away from the beach: there isn't sand everywhere!

Usually when we come to this part of the country for a week, we try to go to the beach every day or so, but at the moment, I am soooo sick of sand. Sand in my food, sand in my clothes, sand on the floor of our tent so that it pressed into every exposed bit of skin that I had, sand scrubbing my body unintentionally and giving me a body scrub all over and making my skin sort of raw.

Star wars fans... and everyone else... this video that I came across really puts my feelings about sand into words, after our beach camping trip.

I am happy to not see another grain of sand for a long, long time. I am hoping my aversion goes away at least by the next time we come to the beach town, next summer.

So the second night we were at the beach, we had dinner of hot dogs, roasted eggplant, roasted zucchini, and beef kebobs, using up the last of our food that needed to be cooked, as well as some new stuff that I purchased at the grocery store a short walk from the camp site. Once the food finished cooking, we wrapped potatoes in aluminum foil and let them cook in the coals.

That night, fortunately, it was more comfortable to sleep in the tent. The first night sand all over every surface made sleeping very uncomfortable because it dug into any exposed skin. And the way we were positioned in the tent meant that many of us got kicked while we were sleeping. On top of that, the ground wasn't soft enough because of the packed sand underneath us.
We tried to make the second night more comfortable by emptying out the tent from as much sand as we could before bed. We also moved people around in the tent. I thought to sleep outside the tent on this blow up raft that we had, because it was softer. but I ended up being too cold, so went into the tent to sleep.

In the morning, we were up at 6 am. We had thought about getting back to where we were staying in the nearest city, and we could have taken a bus there the same way we arrived at the beach. However, there is also a hiking trail along the beach that takes us all the way there, and this hiking trail is considered to be a beautiful and well traveled hike in our country, divided into many portions. We figured we'd walk back once we saw that it was a 3.67 mile/5.9 km distance, something that google maps said should take an hour and forty minutes. We figured that traveling with our things and the kids, it would take us a few hours, more than the Google maps prediction, but as long as we left early enough so we'd back by the heat of the day, and took lots of breaks to splash in the water, we thought it would be a good idea, and better than just taking the bus back.

Before we left the beach, we splurged. There was a vending machine that made slurpies on the spot, really overpriced, but we figured it was worth it anyhow, to get one for each person at $2.85 a pop, before we headed back.

The walk back, as predicted, was beautiful. And we had a great time, especially when we found beautiful pools of still water, where we splashed around and discovered different sea creatures like these little tiny crabs and colorful fish. We ate salami and sausages for a late breakfast/early lunch.

Another benefit of leaving really early in the morning was that most of our walk back was in the shade from the nearby cliffs that loomed above the beach.

One highlight for me was discovering a new to me edible wild plant, searocket, known by the Latin name cakile maritima. I knew it was edible and in the mustard family, and was able to confirm it as sea rocket. It was thick like a succulent and tasted like a salty arugula!

A few people asked how we actually managed to camp with no car, especially because when they camp they fill their entire car to the brim with things. So I will tell you what we did, what we packed, and how we packed everything, as well as things we did wrong and will be doing differently next time.

On the way there my husband arrived in the car with some of the bags, so we weren't trying to pack as lightly as possible. We brought along some heavy things including a cooler filled with frozen chicken, a giant can of corn, a watermelon, etc. If we were traveling by foot we wouldn't have brought those things, as there's a local supermarket a 10 minute walk from the camp site that I would use to stock up on next time we go camping. So other than those heavy things, we brought with us:
6 towels, one for each person.
A bathing suit for each person including rash guard cover ups, and a change of clothing; we wore one and packed the other. We figured we'd be spending all day in the water, no need for multiple changes of clothes to get sandy.
A knife.
A can opener.
A disposable grill.
Lighter fluid.
Lighter and matches.
Disposable plates.
Disposable forks.
Disposable cups.
Aluminum foil.
1 lightweight 4 adult tent that folds up really small.
1 sleeping bag that folds up really small
Coats/sweatshirts for each person.
A few packages of gluten free buns.
Zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, sweet chili sauce, tahini, and ketchup.
A book for me to read.
Beach toys including an inflatable raft/boat that was big enough for all 4 kids to go in at once.
Portable chargers for our phones.
Water proof cases for our phones.
Waterproof shoes/sandals/flip flops
We carried it in one large backpack, one smallish duffel bag, and two canvas tote bags. My kids didn't carry anything except for water; my husband and I split the luggage.

That was it.
The person who was camping with us one night brought a mat to go down on the sand, but we didn't have it the second night.

Yes, it was very minimal, and things we would have preferred to have.
We put down our towels on the floor as cushioning, and either wore our coats/sweatshirts, or used them as a light blanket. (In the tent it was hot enough that no more than that was needed.) One kid had a sleeping bag because we only had one sleeping bag that was lightweight and folded small. Before we go camping again, we're going to make sure each person has their own sleeping bag that folds up small, and we'll have each person carry their own sleeping bag.
Because our kids are still small, we managed in the 4 person tent, but do plan on getting a second lightweight one before our next camping trip.
We also definitely will be buying a shade to go over our camping area before the next trip.
One thing we definitely missed was having a table or some other elevated surface where we could put food without worrying about sand getting kicked into it. There were picnic tables a little further off that we could have used, and next time I think we will do that, because bringing a table when you're camping without a car simply isn't an option.
Additionally, next time we'll have a backpack for each person to carry their own things, including a sleeping bag, and maybe a yoga mat to soften the floor. It'll also make it easier for us to find things and stay organized.
And of course, we'll need to bring along a sheet or two or some other thing to put on the ground where we can sit down and put things down not in the sand.
And a little broom to sweep away sand from inside our tent.

Next time we won't be bringing any food with us other than gluten free buns and fresh produce, because the local store had everything else we needed. We'll bring my metal shopping trolley, and it can be turned on its side and covered to be used as an elevated surface. And we can then lug groceries back from the store instead of needing to carry it with us.
Would having a car make camping easier?
Well, in some ways, certainly .But then again, not having a car means that our car won't get stuck in the loose sand and need to be pulled out, as happened with the person who joined us for a day.
Additionally, we don't have a car, and neither my husband nor I have up to date licenses. We could pay for a taxi to bring us; we request someone to drive us and bring our things, or we can not go camping. I'd prefer the alternative and just go camping without a car, like we did. It is definitely doable. We even met another family there who also came without a car, bringing everything by bus, and they've been coming yearly for quite a few years.

Are you a fan of camping? Do you go beach camping ever? What are your tips to do so without getting sand everywhere, or at least to not be uncomfortable from the sand?
Have you ever camped without a car? Do you think that would be remotely doable for you? 
What is your camping packing list?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Where did you camp?

    1. If you know you live in my country, email and I'll tell you.

  2. I'm looking forward to doing this. I think yoga mats are really handy to have as you can use them when camping to cushion you when you sleep. I have a sleeping bag liner which is super light weight and folds up into a tiny bag so I'll bring that with me as it's so hot at night that a sleeping bag would be overkill. I've always camped elsewhere with a car and hauled lots of stuff but you've inspired me to just go with minimal supplies. Your kids will always look back on their camping trips with affection; my son had to write a paper for a college English class this summer about a favorite memory and he wrote about the camping trips we took when he was young. He even remembers the time I took him camping and a hurricane hit! ;-)

  3. One thing I remember camping with my parents,we usually had one outfit for church and trips to town. I hadn't thought about it but I think when I've camped with my kids I usually brought a clean outfit for each day. I always wondered how my mom coped with the laundry, I think you've explained it.

  4. I was one of the folks who asked about camping with no car. We head off next week for our summer camping trip and we will be one of those families with a full car!

    It appears you live in a warm/hot climate (I am pretty sure I know where =)). We, however, live in Canada. These days it is quite warm during the day, but we have had summer camping trips where the nights drop into the single digits (celsius) - so good sleeping bags, extra clothing, and so on, are musts. We also don't have access to shopping so must bring all our food and water. I also pack some cards, board games, crossword puzzles, and a range of cooking supplies. We are fortunate to have access to hydro so I actually bring a coffee maker. We are also "forest camping", though with walking access to a lovely beach.

    It was fun to read about your trip. Hope you had a lovely holiday.

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