Camping in the Midwest – What You Need to Know

The Midwest isn’t as remote or inaccessible as the Rockies, making the region a family-friendly place to camp out. Thousands of families from Illinois, Indiana and beyond camp here each summer to take advantage of the natural lakes, beaches, forests, hiking trails and beautiful scenery.

Just know that even a simple camping trip can bring some unexpected expenses. Plan as you would for any vacation: with an eye toward smart budgeting and small actions that can save you dollars that eventually add up.

Consider Money-Saving Camping Strategies

Dozens of Illinois State Parks make camping available to visitors – and that’s just the tip of camping opportunities throughout the Midwest. There may be no hotel fees, but the costs of camping can still add up. Here are some ways to lower your potential price tag and stay on budget:

  • Find out about camping fees in advance. The cost may depend on whether you’d rather rough it, or prefer a shower and electricity on your campgrounds. Make sure you figure out the true cost of where you’ll be staying in your overall budget. Camping and cabin fees at state parks range from $10 to $35 and may be higher on holidays. In addition, find out whether you need a reservation or a two-night minimum stay is required. However, there is no entrance fee for any Illinois Department of Natural Resources land – with the exception of Wildlife Prairie Park and sites with beaches. (Beaches charge $1 a day per person).
  • Travel close to home. High gas prices have taken a toll on road trip budgets. Check out a map and locate the one whose travel requirements will still fit within your budget.
  • Invite a friend. A fun travel companion can also share the cost of gas, food and fees.
  • Bring your own food. Have you ever racked up charges on your bill simply from buying lunch on the road? Especially with inflation affecting the prices of just about everything, packing drinks, snacks and sandwiches for the road (and the camp site) is a sure way to keep your spending under control. Freezing meat products before hitting the road is a little trick to make perishable items last longer.
  • Avoid unnecessary gear. As summer approaches, countless shops and websites begin touting the latest camping gear, tents and hiking shoes on the market. Use that leftover bug spray from last summer, bring those comfy old shoes, and avoid getting suckered by sales and clever commercials.
  • Camp in colder weather. During cool and cold weather seasons, buildings on campgrounds can get shut down, and water may be shut off, both of which typically reduce the fees.

Protect Yourself with GPS & Good (Topo) Maps

Don’t take elements like distance, geography and hiking risks or other physical challenges for granted. Familiarize yourself with your route and bring a good map in case GPS issues arise. A well-planned camping trip should be exhilarating but not dangerous or scary. Calls for road service or making a sudden change of plan can also cost an unprepared camper extra cash.

Get Your Transportation and Finance Needs Met First: Visit CCEA

Finally, visit a Community Currency Exchange (CCEA) before hitting the road to make sure your funds and mode of transportation are in order. CCEAs offer many financial, boat and auto-related services, such as:

  1. Auto title & registration
  2. Boat title & registration
  3. Check cashing
  4. Prepaid debit cards
  5. Prepaid phone products

Finally, budget for the unexpected in case of a crimp in your plan. You may need to be flexible with locations to have a fun and peaceful camping experience that also stays within your means.

Your nearby CCEA will have loads of information and services to help you make fiscally wise choices for the whole family this summer. Stop by your nearest location today and take advantage of our many convenient and reliable services.

A tent in a forest.

With over 350 locations, many open nights, weekends, and holidays (and several stores with 24/7 availability), you can rest easy knowing your financial needs can be taken care of when you need them most. We’re in the heart of every community. Don’t believe us? See for yourself.