Cheap Family Vacations

Camping in Montana Will Give You Inexpensive Family Vacations

Are you looking for cheap family vacations? You can’t do any better than a Montana camping trip for truly enjoyable and affordable family vacations - maybe even free family vacations.


If you already have camping gear or a camper, your costs will be really low - gas for traveling - incidentals like propane and ice - campground fees - that’s it!


Food isn’t really a vacation expense because you have to eat when you are at home anyway and you won’t be eating expensive restaurant meals - you'll be eating delicious and easy meals cooked outdoors which help to make cheap family vacations.

You probably haven't thought about this - but camping in Montana can also mean cheap honeymoon vacations!


Camping Supplies Don't Cost A Lot!

Even if you have to buy some equipment, it won’t break the bank!  You can buy a good tent for $200 or less - for a family of 4, I would recommend a tent rated to sleep 6 or more.  The low cost plays a part in cheap family vacations.

You will really appreciate the extra room - you might even want to look at some large family tents.



You will find good cold weather sleeping bags for $50 or less - another contributor to cheap family vacations. 

Nights can be cold in the Montana mountains - so you should have a sleeping bag rated for 20 degrees or lower. Even then, you might want to take along some extra blankets. There’s nothing worse than being cold all night long!


Your warm and cozy bed will be cold and hard unless you have a good inflatable mattress air bed to put your sleeping bag on. It would be my recommendation that you buy the best air mattress you can afford - you won’t regret it!  Even then, you're still looking at cheap family vacations.


Other pieces of equipment that you need are lights - there are no street lights out in the boonies and unless there is a full moon, it is really dark! You should have lanterns - either propane or battery powered lanterns or both - and good high power flashlights with extra batteries.  These are available in the $20 range - how good is that regarding cheap family vacations?

When all is said and done, it won't cost a lot to buy what camping gear you need to have cheap family vacations.

cheap family vacations cooking scrambled egg
cheap family vacations cooking hot dog
cheap family vacations cooking pancake
cheap family vacations - cooking hamburger

Cooking outdoors is fun.

Meals cooked outdoors can be quick and easy when cooked on propane camp stoves. You will be able to find a good stove for $50 or less that will allow you to make easy and delicious meals.

You will save a lot of money by cooking meals instead of eating in restaurants all the time - a good point for cheap family vacations!


You will need a cooler to keep food and drinks cold - it’s best to have one for each. Block ice lasts longer and should be used in the food cooler - cubes are good for drinks.


These basic items are the things that you really need - you can find more camping supplies that are nice to have - but you can get by just fine with the above items if you are looking at cheap family vacations.


You will already have other things at home that you can use like pots and pans, blankets, pillows, etc. Be sure you have a pack list so you don’t forget something important.

Cheap Family Vacation Ideas

Your family will find many fun family summer vacation ideas while on a camping trip that won't cost much:

cheap family vacations - kids floatin

How is this for cheap family vacations?  It doesn't get much better!


If you are camping by one of the beautiful Montana lakes, kids can spend hours playing in the water..

  • Remember life jackets and sunscreen!
  • Bring lots of blow-up floating toys.
  • How about catching frogs?
  • Small kids like sand buckets and shovels.
  • A blow-up rubber raft would be fun.

cheap family vacations montana trophy trou

Fishing fits right in when it comes to cheap family vacations!


Check out different things to do in the area where you are camping - lots of them are free!

  • Look for crystals or garnets - or mining gemstones.
  • Visit Montana ghost towns.
  • Museums usually ask for a small donation.
  • Visit fish hatcheries.
  • Check out city parks.
  • Try Montana rainbow trout fishing.
  • Go to state parks.
  • Pick huckleberries and wild raspberries.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Campgrounds sometimes have activities.
  • Take tours.
  • Visit an art gallery.
  • Check out activities and events in Montana towns.

cheap family vacations campfire game


Campfires in the evenings can be special --

  • Tell funny ghost stories.
  • Sing camp fire songs and play an instrument.
  • Make smores and banana boats plus other campfire treats.
  • Play campfire games.
  • Present campfire skits.
  • Talk about the day and what was special.
  • Locate constellations in the night sky.

cheap family vacations campfire singin

Isn't this special?



Dad and big brother might like to try out their fishing skills - learn about Montana fishing regulations at Montana Fish and Game.

Food Ideas

Food when you are camping won’t cost you any more than it does at home and is a big part of cheap family vacations because you won't have to pay the high restaurant prices.


Perishables should last for 3 days in a camp cooler with plenty of ice. Put meat in a ziplock bag so juice doesn’t run in the cooler - open the plug so the water from melting ice will run out - wet cheese isn’t very good!


Block ice lasts longer for a food cooler - cubes are best for drinks. Of course, if you have a camper and a refrigerator you don’t have to worry. We still like to keep drinks in a cooler with ice even though we now have a fifth wheel trailer.


You can cook most anything on camp stoves that you cook at home. One thing I have learned - more than one large pan or skillet doesn’t fit on 2 burner stoves. My solution - I take a single burner stove along with my 2 burner camp stove - that way I can use 2 large pans if I need to.



Try some of our easy camp recipes for some really good meals.


If you have room to pack it, it might be good to take along a grill in addition to your camp stove - either propane bbq grills or a heavy duty charcoal grill. There is nothing quite like the aroma of meat cooking on a grill when you are outdoors!

Where to Stay

You will find many, many campgrounds in Montana from the most primitive camp site to a luxurious RV resort. I’m going to focus on the public campgrounds - mostly forest service ones because we are talking about cheap family vacations!


National forest service campgrounds usually are very inexpensive - $5 to $15 a night. The most expensive ones are around Glacier Park and Flathead Lake, but even then, some are really cheap and some are even free!


Some fishing access sites allow you to camp overnight - check out different ones at Montana Fishing Access Sites


Many of the State Parks also have camping facilities - check these out at Montana State Parks.

cheap family vacations montana campgroun

Click here to see the National Forest Service Campgrounds in Western and South Central Montana - that’s where the mountains are and that’s what I am familiar with.




Some Special Cheap Family Vacations

Yellowstone Park Vacation

A family vacation in Yellowstone National Park is one of those times you remember with fond memories.  There are so many things to do for everyone, no matter what age.

There are 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone that you can choose from.  The ones that can be reserved are:

 Campgrounds that are first-come, first-served:

You can stay in the same campground for your entire vacation or move around to different ones.  The campgrounds do fill up in the busy months of July and August, so it might be a good idea to make reservations if you plan to move around.  But if you arrive at a campground before 10:00 am, you should be able to find a spot.  Check out time is 11:00, so you might check around and find someone that is leaving, and put a registration form on the post for you.

Whichever way you choose, plan to see a different section of the park each day. 

To make reservations for Yellowstone Park campgrounds click here





Day hikes are a popular activity for families - check out these popular hikes:



Then there are the geysers - they are Yellowstone Park's most famous feature.  Old Faithful, Steamboat and Riverside geysers are probably the best known.  Below are some videos of different geyser area - check them out!



West Yellowstone Area Vacations

This is an awesome place to have cheap family vacations.  There is so much to do and see here - you will find something to please everyone in your family.  

First and foremost would be a trip into Yellowstone Park - you should plan on 2 days.  One day go one direction from Madison Junction and the other day go the opposite direction.  Pack a picnic lunch and stop at all the attractions, along with stopping on the roadside to watch a bear, moose, elk, wolves or whatever else might appear.

A night at the Playmill Theatre is a fun experience - the performances are outstanding, in my opinion and very entertaining.  Tickets cost around $20 per person, so if that is in your budget, you would really enjoy it.

The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is a most interesting place - you can learn about and watch bears, wolves and birds of prey.  The bears have been nuisance bears that have learned to get food from humans and will destroy property in the process or have been orphaned as young cubs and would not survive by themselves.  The wolves have been born in captivity and could not survive in the wild because they haven't learned how.  The birds of prey have usually been injured and cannot adapt to living by themselves.

Quake Lake Visitor Center provides information about the 7.5 earthquake that triggered a massive landslide about midnight on August 17, 1959 and blocked the Madison River forming Quake Lake.

Hebgen Lake is a great place if you have a boat and want to fish or play in the water.  There are 2 forest service campgrounds that are on the lake - Rainbow Point and Lonesomehurst and 2 private rv parks - Madison Arm Resort, Yellowstone Holiday RV Park.  You can also rent boats at these places if you want. 

The Historic Museum of the Yellowstone is well worth seeing - rare Indian, US Calvary, Mountain Men artifacts, as well the history of how visitor travels came to Yellowstone Park.  This museum is situated in the abandoned railroad depot and has a low admission price. 


The Imax Theater will bring all the beautiful scenery, majestic wildlife and other outstanding features of Yellowstone Park up close and personal.

Montana Lake Vacations

Montana has so many nice lakes and they all offer cheap family vacations.  They are good if you own a boat, or even if you don't, they are fun for families to enjoy.  We  have camped at all of them and they are magnificent.


Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi and is located in northwest Montana.  It offers excellent fishing and boating and you can rent boats at different locations.  You can camp at State Parks along the lake - Big Arm, Finley Point, Wayfarer's or West Shore.  If you choose to stay in one of these state parks, you need to make reservations.  Montana has done a huge disfavor to people of Montana by making most of the campsites in their campgrounds reservation only.  You no longer can go early in the day and find a campsite available - they are all reserved!  There are 3 RV resorts on Flathead Lake - Edgewater, Woods Bay and Big Sky.  Wildhorse Island is accessible only by boat - grab a picnic lunch and go spend the day.  The Bigfork Summer Playhouse is a great place to go for some outstanding evening entertainment.


Swan Lake is a gorgeous lake surrounded by lush forests and is close to the Bob Marshall wilderness.  It offers excellent fishing, as well as boating.  A wide array of boats can be rented here, if you don't have one.  You will find many hiking trails that are close by if you want to spend some time on them.  A really nice forest service campground is across the road from the lake and some of the sites can be reserved.  These are dry camping sites, but you can get full hookups at close by Swan Lake Trading Post.


Whitefish Lake is very scenic with lush trees on 3 sides, homes and condominiums on the east side and a railroad track on the west side.  A nice state park campground is located here - make reservations if you want to camp here or you won't be able to find a spot - and there is a public boat launch.  The town of Whitefish has many fun shops to browse in and Big Mountain ski resort is close by.  You can rent boats here if you want.  Huckleberries are all over the mountains the first two weeks of August.


Holland Lake is a beautiful lake located in the scenic Seeley Swan Valley in northwest Montana.  It is popular for fishing, as well as other summer water recreation activities.  The campground on the shore is really nice and has lots of trees.  Click here to reserve camping sites - Holland Lake reservations.


Hungry Horse Reservoir is a gorgeous, remote lake in the Flathead Forest and close to Glacier Park.  It is popular with recreational boaters with the scenic shores and surrounding mountain,  Fishing is not great, but the bays could offer some cutthroat and mountain whitefish.  The most popular campgrounds are Lost Johnny's Point and Lid Creek on the west side and Emery Bay on the east side.  These campgrounds do have sites that can be reserved, which is a good idea in the summer as they do fill up.


Koocanusa Lake is a beautiful lake in northwestern Montana and is formed by Libby Dam backing up the Kootenai River.  It is really popular with fisherman and also those who like to play on the water.  The most popular campgrounds are McGillivray on the west side - the only sites that can be reserved are the group camping sites Peck Gulch and Rexford Bench are the most popular on the east side.  Rexford Bench Campground has some sites that can be reserved. The only RV park that I know of is the Koocanusa Resort.


Tally Lake in northwestern Montana is a gorgeous lake surrounded by lush evergreens.  It is quite popular for any type of water recreation activities except fishing - not so good.  There is a really nice campground here which would make a great family vacation place.  Individual campsites can be reserved, as well as 2 group sites. Tally Lake campground reservations


Thompson Chain of Lakes consists of 3 separate lakes along the highway.  The Upper Thompson, Middle Thompson and Lower Thompson lake are managed by the Montana Fish and Game.  Logan State Park is located on Middle Thompson.  The Thompson Lakes are very popular for bass fishing and the catching is good.  Reservations can be made for Logan State Park Campground.


Clark Canyon Reservoir is located south of Dillon and is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation.  It is well-known for fishing and water recreation.  Clark Canyon is great for a cheap family vacation - the campgrounds are free and the lake offers a lot of fun.


Georgetown Lake is a shallow lake that offers trophy fishing in the Beaverhead mountains.  It is also quite popular for water recreation of all types.  There are 4 campgrounds here - Piney, Phillipsburg Bay, Lodgepole and Stewarts Mill Bay.  Phillipsburg Bay Campground and Lodgepole Campground sites may be reserved.  This lake is great for cheap family vacations.


Red Rocks Lake is an extremely remote lake in a wildlife refuge located in southwest Montana next to the Idaho border.  It is absolutely beautiful and you would have an incredible experience camping here - great fishing, abundant wildlife and beautiful scenery - plus isolation.  Not many people venture here.  The lake is open to non-motorized boats only.  There are 2 campgrounds - upper and lower and they are primitive.


Hebgen Lake is a very scenic mountain lake close to West Yellowstone.  It is hugely popular with fishermen and water enthusiasts.  It gets warmer in July and August, so the trout fishing tapers off, but playing in the water becomes the thing to do.  There are 2 nice forest service campgrounds on the lake - and they offer electricity in some sites.  Reserve Lonesomehurst and Rainbow Point   camp sites here.


Seeley Lake is a nice lake nestled among large larch and pine trees.  It is  very popular for fishing and boating, especially water skiing.  Right close is the Clearwater River Canoe Trail giving you 3.5 miles of unsurpassed wilderness beauty.  There are 3 forest service campgrounds on Seeley Lake - River Point, Seeley Lake and Big Larch. 


Here's hoping you have wonderful cheap family vacations by camping in Montana.



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