Thrifty Glamping (Or Wilderness Survival with a Toddler)


Camping is my favorite way to travel. Why? Because it’s fun and cheap, of course! When my boys were little and I was a single mom, camping was pretty much the only way we could afford to go on trips. So I just made sure I got really good at it. We had some failed trips (torrential downpours, sand gnats), but overall we always had fun. We tent camped at beaches, lakes, and mountains, just the three of us. Spurred by our successes, I took a wilderness survival course. I built and slept in a debris hut, drank water from a stream purified with iodine, and learned to navigate with a compass (not well at all.)

Alas, I haven’t been camping at all since Emmie entered the picture. I credit all that earlier training with knowing a normal camping trip with a toddler would test the limits of my sanity. Enter glamping. “Glamping”, for the uninitiated, is glamorous camping. It’s one of those trendy word combinations I normally detest. However, glamping has become a thing in its own right. And I kind of love the spirit of it. It’s not really “camping-camping” but you still get to be outside. Plus, there’s more chance that the ones you love can be persuaded to join you there. Of course, with all things glamorous comes a price tag. Mine just happens to read, “Goodwill of North Georgia.”

This is a tour of what I hope will be the first of many glamping (or hopefully soon actual camping) trips with Emmie in tow. I absolutely love Lake Hartwell, which sits right on the border of Georgia and South Carolina. It’s a much quieter lake than the crazy Lake Lanier, which is nearer to where we live. The South Carolina side has the benefit of these great little “Carolina Camper Cabins” at Lake Hartwell State Park. There are only two of them in the park, let alone the entire state. They consist of one tiny air conditioned/heated room with a twin size bunk bed and a double bed. There’s no kitchen or bathroom. It’s sort of like having temperature controlled tent, and it is just awesome. Especially with a small child and a teenager.

Just look at how great this is!



In order to feather this spare nest, I brought along some supplies. A rug and lamp from Goodwill, nice sheets, comforters, pillows, and towels. I made little Dollar Tree-supplied girl and guy toiletry baskets to take back and forth to the campsite shower. That wine box is holding our flashlights as well as acting as a bedside table.

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I needed a guardrail for Emmie’s bed. I found a few suggestions on Pinterest using a pool noodle tucked under a sheet. I happened upon these foam pipe covers at Goodwill for .77 instead. I lashed them together with a few rubber bands. They ended up being the perfect size to fit between the bunkbed ladder and the head of the bed. She was very cozy.



As soon as we got to the campsite, I sent my husband out to forage for leftover firewood from vacant campsites. After my rookie camping years, I realized that most southern summer campers want a campfire, but they almost never use all the wood they purchase. There are tons of it. It’s all pre-toasted and ready to go. He brought back all of this, and we still had about half of it left. The next camper will be happy.


This is the camping kitchen I made from an old cabinet I had in the garage and two Ikea DVD shelves my older son left when he moved out. Those DVD shelves fit perfectly on top to give my campstove a non-flammable resting place and add some valuable work space. I made a hand washing station (thanks, Pinterest!) from a jug I bought at Goodwill velcroed to a board. I used some twine to tie a bottle of soap to it. I screwed an “L” bracket to the board to hold the paper towel roll. This was the very best thing I brought. I used it so often while I was cooking that I wondered how I had ever camped without one.



After much hand-wringing, I decided to splurge on a screened tent house for over the picnic table. It was around $50 at Walmart. I think that’s practically as much as I paid for two nights at this place. Totally worth it! We ended up with a few summer storms right at mealtimes. Everything stayed dry and lovely.

The tablecloth is a vintage quilt I bought at Goodwill for $5. I love that thing so much. I also bought the mirror and Ikea lantern at Goodwill. the lantern still had the original tags on it. The fancy looking, but paper, plates and very realistic looking, but plastic, silverware came from Dollar Tree.


Yum. We ate so much! In addition, to feasts like this, I also brought along some Bailey’s in which to dip our roasted marshmallows (again, Pinterest). It was even better to dip the entire s’more. But very messy!


We had coffee overlooking the lake made in our french press and served in these mugs. The mustache one is from Dollar Tree, the herringbone, Goodwill. A $2 total special purchase for the trip.


And lastly, my favorite parts of our adventure in glamping. The company. the kayaking, and kayaking with the company.

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