I’ve heard many times that Las Vegas is the perfect place to spend the weekend. Who wouldn’t agree? There are many things to do from shopping at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, hitting the tables and slots at the casinos, clubbing at Tao, sipping on cocktails at the pool and seeing great shows like Cirque du Soleil.
But doesn’t it get tiring? Every time I come home from Vegas I’m always worn out. The only time that I get to really relax is when I go to the spas, which is very costly to say the least.
The recession has taken its toll on people, and obviously many can’t afford to go on fancy vacations like they once could.
But we shouldn’t fret. There are many ways to enjoy a weekend getaway without adding one more financial burden, such as camping.
Los Angeles is constantly busy, and it would be nice to go somewhere serene every once in a while to escape the chaos. But let’s admit it, we sometimes can’t stand a long drive, especially the traffic, and the last thing we want to do is be stuck in gridlock to go on vacation. There are several campsites to go to within a two-hour drive from Los Angeles that won’t add more stress to your load.
When planning and budgeting for a camping trip, consider the location, lodging, food, gas and activities. Spur-of-the-moment trips are always fantastic, but a little preparation is still advisable.
Here are some pre-vacation tips:
• Before you start packing, make sure that you know exactly what activities the campsite has to offer. It would help to make advance research online. With this, you will be able to get an estimate of how much you will spend at the campsites. There are usually fees for parking, rentals and sometimes even for showers, so be prepared. You can find information about campsites, the activities and the costs at www.reserveamerica.com.
• Even though driving means spending money for gas, it wouldn’t be too much if you fill up your tank with a low-grade gas. If your car requires premium, look for the cheapest gas station. Trust me, a few cents matter. Have your friends or relatives pitch in for gas, too.
• Take more than enough food for your trip. Food at campgrounds, if available, is way too expensive. Take a cooler with you to store food items and make sure you bring enough charcoal for the barbecue. If you run out of charcoal, you can always find wood at the campsites. Just make sure the camp ranger is OK with it.
Food 4 Less has a variety of groceries that are less expensive than Vons and Ralphs. Costco and Smart & Final have merchandise in bulk, so stock up on the essentials.
• You can buy camping tents from Wal-Mart or Target for a decent price. A tent that fits at least three people costs about $30-$40. For those of you who can’t sleep without the comfort of a soft mattress, Wal-Mart sells air mattresses for $19. Big Lots sells canopies from $25-$35.
So, have you decided where to go yet?
You can find three state beaches an hour away in Ventura County for your camping trip: McGrath State Beach campgrounds, Point Mugu State Park and Emma Wood State Beach RV Campground.
Although McGrath State Beach does not look out over the ocean, this is my favorite out of the three because of its family-friendly nature and its bathroom facilities. There is a $35 fee for an individual camping site, which covers the rig and one vehicle. If you have a big family and need to take a few more cars, three is the maximum allowed and you will have to pay extra for additional cars. It is also important to make reservations in advance.
Another great destination for camping is the lake. Big Bear Lake has several campgrounds that you can choose from. The north shore of Big Bear Lake has access to the lake and offers numerous recreational activities. Bike and boat rentals are also available at most campsites. It is only a two-hour drive to Big Bear from Los Angeles.
Lake Piru is an hour away from Los Angeles. It is located in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County. The fees vary according to season. The daily parking permit during the off-season will cost you only $8; just add $2 during peak season. The same rate applies for the boats. It will cost you about $80 to reserve a picnic area, but you can definitely split the bill with your family and friends. Lake Piru also has a campsite called Primitive Campsite, which has you living a primitive lifestyle, such as with no water, electricity or toilets that flush.