Let's face it: summer travel is expensive. From the cost of actually travelling, to lodging, to food, even a rather modest long weekend with the family is sure to set you back at least $1,000, a price that, for many American families, is downright prohibitive. And yet, just because you're travelling doesn't mean you have to shell out the big bucks.

 Indeed, for the outdoorsmen and women among you, camping provides a fun, rustic, and astronomically less expensive alternative to more ostentatious vacations, allowing you and your family to escape the real world without breaking your budget. In honor of that, we have listed, below, three great tips for planning the camping vacation your family can afford - a low-cost guide to fun and memories courtesy of the great outdoors.

Save on Equipment 

Don't believe the hype advertised by sporting goods stores. You don't need the latest, twelve thousand dollar inflatable tent to be comfortable in the woods. On the contrary, any standard tarp (as long as it's free of holes) and some rope will keep you generally safe from the elements. Or, if its nice out, why not just sleep under the stars? There's no better way to experience nature than actually experiencing nature. Or, if you're not totally committed to the whole "outdoors experience," consider sleeping in the back of any minivan or station wagon. It'll keep you the safest from the outside world, without costing a single cent in equipment fees.

Save on Food

Another way to cut costs is by being smart about food - don't wait until the last-minute to fill your coolers and backpacks for expedition weekend. As it turns out, many camping stores (and even supermarket stores near campgrounds) jack-up prices, knowing that families will pay the extra dollar for those jumbo marshmallows or six-pack of hotdogs to keep their kids happy before it gets dark. But by going to your local retail store, you can get the same food for a discount. Just be sure you bring enough! There's nothing worse hungry children in the woods.

Save on Location 

This last item might seem the most suspicious. After all, if you decide to camp close to home, then what's the point of leaving in the first place? The answer: everything. Trust us, from the first second you walk into the woods, you won't feel like you're at home anymore, allowing for just the sort of rustic getaway you always dreamed of. Plus it saves untold amounts of money on travel expenses - driving an hour to your local campground conserves exponentially more gas than hauling your family nine-hundred miles to Yellowstone. In other words, even though it may not seem as exotic, a vacation that's closer to your hometown will ultimately be all the more fun, both for your family, and for your wallet.