Our Frugal Beach Camping Vacation: The First Three Days

I've been planning this five day beach camping trip with my kids pretty much since our similar but shorter trip last year. Slowly I've been stocking up on supplies from cheap places, learning from our mistakes last year, to make this trip as great as possible, but still as the date approached I was filled with trepidation. We went on a family vacation in January, first time on a family vacation as a single mom, buta camping trip, 'far' from civilization, without a car, and being solely responsible for everything was still intimidating. I guess lots of firsts as a single mom are that way. 

Fortunately, despite some things going less than perfectly, this still so far has been a great trip, and this is our third day in. 

On Friday, a family who was going to come camping with us contacted me to let me know that a website about camping in my area said that the campsite where we intended to camp was closed. I tried verifying that information bit couldn't find any site that said concretely one way or another and I'll admit it really got me panicking and I was ready to ditch the whole trip. As a family with 4 children and no car and on a budget I have pretty strict list of requirements for things I need at a camping site and finding another thing that fit the criteria was a tall order and I didn't think I'd be able to find one at all or definitely not in time for our trip. Fortunately before canceling entirely I called up the parks authority of the area and they confirmed that the camp site was open contrary to rumors. So that's good and our trip wasn't off. 

The other thing that was a big stressor was that last time because we read it was against the rules to bring dogs, we left our dog with a dog sitter while we camped and she hated it, and then when we got to the camp site there were so many dogs there and we felt like the losers who actually listened to this non enforced rule. So this time we brought Snickers but the entire time we were coming we were so stressed out that we'd have to turn around and go home because of the dog.... 

Fortunately that has not been an issue, and apparently no one is aware that this is even a rule, and people even specifically bring their dogs because this is known to be a dog friendly beach/camp ground and even the life guard has a dog and the beach is filled with lots of dogs running around off leash. Snickers has been having a blast. 

On the way there we had quite a long journey by public transportation. Two buses, three trains (one which was packed to the gills like sardines), then one more bus, and finally we arrived.

The other family who we were camping with picked a wonderful spot for our camp site, the closest to the showers and bathrooms and we set up camp. We had a tent for me and the girls, a tent for the boys, a shade tent between them and a blanket for the ground.

And then into the water we went.

Rose loves the water. 

So does Snickers.

And the boys.

We made a bunch of friends at the beach and the kids had a great time playing. A little after we got there my camping buddies watched the kids playing in the sand while I went off to grocery shop, since I brought only minimal food with us.

My shopping list was: hot dogs, chicken wings, bean thread noodles, ketchup, sweet chili sauce, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, frozen mixed veggies, canned tuna, canned corn, pickles, salt, garlic, cereal, shelf stable soy milk, watermelon, disposables, charcoal, lighter fluid, a disposable grill, a six pack of large water bottles and ice.

For dinner we had hot dogs in buns (gluten free and gluten that I brought from home), as well as roasted eggplant.

Bed time went easily enough for the kids, they were excited to sleep in their tents...

Unfortunately the middle of the night didn't go so well. There was music blasting from another campsite even at 2 am and I didn't feel like getting up to tell them to shut it off. Also I was sweltering in the tent so switched to sleeping under our shade tent and then the rest of the night went better. But it wasn't a good first night and understandably our camping mates decided to leave early.

The second day at the site we ate cereal and milk for breakfast and then wanted to swim, but it was a black flag day and the beach was closed to swimming entirely which was really sucky. Fortunately the night before it was so windy with such large waves that this little pond was created on the beach, so the kids were able to splash around and play there. They built sand castles and dug and had fun, even without swimming.

My boys wanted more 'grown up' swimsuits instead of the more covered ones they wore in previous years, and despite countless applications of waterproof sunscreen they ended up getting burned that first full day.  So today they're in shirts.

Lunch was supposed to be simple, rice pasta with cheese, tuna, and corn, plus bell peppers. Only despite using my portable burner, the water did not want to boil and the noodles didn't want to cook so it took almost 2 hours for that to be made. 

In the afternoon a friend who lived nearby came to join us with wine, chips, and salsa and that was amazing.

Supper was chicken wings, grilled zucchini, tomato salad, and grill toasted buns. With the ice and the cooler the chicken wings had only just defrosted by the time we started making dinner.

Second night's sleep was actually perfect. The kids went to sleep early, it was quiet the whole night, I read a lot and socialized with a family near us, and I slept out of the tent, under the shade tent, and had a perfect sleep.

In the morning, our camp mates gave us their leftovers as they were packing up, and meanwhile I took the kids with me to the grocery store.

I bought more hot dogs, more ice, apples, peppers, more cereal, shelf stable milk, tea, honey (starting to get a sore throat), gluten buns, rice cakes, peanut butter, body wash, and ice cream which we ate while walking back to camp.

We came back to camp and discovered that our camp mates left us tea and honey, cereal, tuna, chocolate spread, rice cakes, pasta sauce, pesto, lentils, etc.... So I didn't even need to buy some of what I bought. I'm finding people are so generous while camping, it's like this big family, with people constantly offering each other food and drink, especially when they're packing up and don't want to take their leftovers home with them. We also got some icey cold water and orange juice this way.

Today fortunately has been with waves calm enough that we've been able to enjoy swimming, and jumping the waves.

After yesterday's disaster with our portable burner, today I decided to cook my pot over our charcoal burner, and it worked beautifully. Once the water boiled, I added the noodles (bean thread this time), strained it with the cover, added the frozen veggie mix, tuna, soy sauce, and a little sweet chili sauce, and ended up with a delicious lunch that got compliments from people passing by when it literally was super easy!

We enjoyed that with pickles, and now we're back swimming at the beach.

I just wanted to share one last thing today. If you spend a lot of time at the beach in the sand, you may end up getting chafed from the sand. But I've found that as long as you shower and soap up well frequently you will be able to stop the chafing from occurring and help heal stuff that starts, even once staying in the sand.

Looking forward to updating you some more soon.

What are your favorite camping tips? What do you eat while camping? 

Penniless Parenting

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


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  1. My boys often experience the sand chafing, especially on their inner thighs when we're at the beach. What has helped them is wearing boxer briefs or a jammer swim suit under their regular trunks. They prefer board short with no mesh liner and this solution works perfectly.

  2. Looks like fun. I have never camped on the beach before but we do a lot of camping in the woods. We often camp when it is cool so one thing we like is Chili which I make before we go and heat it up there.

  3. Sounds like fun! For sand: bring a box of corn starch: you sprinkle it on and give it a rub and the sand falls off like magic. It's probably advisable to take a shower, still, but cornstarch makes it so yo don't have to do it as often.

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