Camping can be fun for the entire family. That said, there are SO many things to consider when it comes to how to plan a camping trip! The following shares how to plan a camping trip that everyone will enjoy.
Why Plan a Camping Trip in the First Place?
First, think about why you want to plan a camping trip. People camp for all sorts of reasons, such as family bonding, time with a pet, the opportunity to practice a skill with friends, the chance to see a new area or a desire for some peace and quiet. Your planning approach will be entirely dependent on your reason for camping.
When to go Camping
Next, consider when you want to go camping. When you plan a camping trip, you’ll definitely want to think about the weather. If it is pouring rain or freezing cold, you’d best be prepared! Try to find a time that will be most comfortable, if you’re just starting out. Also, think about how long you want to be away. Depending on how remote the area you visit is, you’ll need to pack enough supplies for the entire trip. If you want to travel during a popular season or holiday, make sure to make reservations well in advance!
Styles of Camping
The whole world of camping can feel a little overwhelming when you're a total newbie, so here's a quick overview of different styles of camping to help you decide how to plan a camping trip:
- Regular old tent camping (an oldie but a goodie!)
- Camping our of your car or van camping
- Truck bed camping
- You could even get a truck bed camper shell
- You can make a road trip of it or stay in one place the whole time
- RV camping is always an option, with tons of rentals available
- Cabin camping
Where to go Camping
You will then need to decide where you are going to go. There are many campgrounds and sites available for use, from local parks to upscale camping communities – and they all play host to different groups of people who use different equipment. Popular options include world-renowned national parks that tend to book up months in advance, state parks which are smaller but tend to provide a more nearby experience with tons of amenities, and private campgrounds such as KOA and Jellystone which often offer epic adventure experiences, classes, on-site dining and more.
Consider the amenities that different places offer, as well as the price point that works best for you. Do you require running water and flushable toilets, or are you cool with winging it in the woods? Some public lands in the United States – such as National Forests and BLM areas – have large regions dedicated to camping without a permit. That means it’s free to pull up and park for up to two weeks!
With a little research, cheap camping is totally doable!
Remember that some campgrounds do also offer same-day first-come first-served reservations, but trying that angle at a popular campground means you’ll likely be up against others who have the same strategy. Check the rules at your destination and make a reservation if you can. Check the Forest Service and Parks & Recreation websites in your area for details, or find a campground nationwide through Recreation.gov.
Now that your destination is decided, make a list of everything that you want to take on your camping trip. This will depend on how you’re camping and who’s going with you. Make sure you have plenty of time to gather the essentials – don’t leave packing until the last minute! You should also make sure all of your equipment is operational. If your tent has been sitting unused, open it up to make sure that it’s clean and doesn’t need any sorts of repairs.
Camping Packing List:
- Food and a way to cook it (we like to bring a camping stove, and don’t forget utensils)
- Water bottles and a way to fill them (purifier or bottles of water)
- Sleeping bags and pillows
- Extra clothes to stay warm and dry
- Communications (a cell phone or radios to communicate directly with your group)
- Entertainment such as games, books and other activities
- First aid kit with essentials such as Tylenol, bandages and burn cream
- Hiking shoes and gear if you plan to explore
If you have a family in tow, we have a whole list of camping essentials that make this experience as easy as possible with little ones. These aren't necessarily essential as a solo camper or with a group, but things like extra tarps, specific toys and added protective gear can be helpful when you're dealing with crawling toddlers or little ones who get bored. The truth is, your camping supplies can be totally customized to meet your family's day-to-day needs. We even have a camping diaper bag list if you have babies.
It's not a bad idea to add some camping gifts to your holiday wish list if this is a pastime you really want to get into!
Meal planning is relatively simple, if you start by figuring out which proteins you want to eat and then plan sides around that. Foil packet meals with chicken and veggies are wildly popular camp meals, as are stews with beans, hot dogs, sandwiches, hash skillet meals and burgers cooked straight over the campfire. We even use this ridiculously easy hack to bring vegetables camping.
You should also keep in mind that not all campsites come with a picnic table, so don’t count on that. The above camp gear includes the basics, but there are a ton of ways to customize your experience. If you love fishing while camping, you may want to bring along some poles. Bringing pets? Don’t forget their stuff, too. I’ve also known crafters who love to crochet around the campfire! The trip is what you make it. You will also want to research the area and plan outdoor activities for the days during your camping trip. There are usually hiking trails to explore, and you can always revive classic camp games and activities as well.
It’s also a good idea to make a list of other things that you will need to do before you leave, such as making arrangements for plant watering, leaving destination information with a friend in case of emergency, etc.
If you do decide to to hike while camping, consider who will be coming along with you and what they may need.
- Baby packs are needed for babies (like when we went to Lake Isabella!)
- If you're hiking with kids, you'll definitely want proper boots and snacks
- Hiking with the elderly or disabled? Consider your route accessibility
Have an Exit Strategy
Be aware that camping can include all sorts of unanticipated elements: rowdy neighbors, animals, uncooperative weather and more. Be prepared to bail and go to another location or head home if your site doesn’t work out.
Finally, when you are camping up, it’s imperative that you leave no trace that you were ever there. This is a standard motto for campers, showcasing the idea that nature was here before us and we want it to be here long after – for everyone to enjoy. Trash should be packed up in your own trash bags and disposed of properly. When you wash dishes, make sure you’re using a soap that is nontoxic to the environment. And definitely don’t leave food waste sitting around, as that can lure pests into the area.
A camping trip can be a lot of fun, but you want to plan carefully. Consider the above tips when it’s time to decide how to plan a camping trip, and you’ll be having campground fun in no time!