Is planning a camping trip really different from planning a “regular” vacation? Yes and no. The biggest difference is that you need to remember to pack all of the gear you need, so a checklist is important. You don’t want to get to your campsite and realize that you don’t have tent stakes. Right? Of course, if everything is already in totes you can probably skip this, as long as small children haven’t snuck things out of those totes.
With this blog we’re covering planning, but we aren’t above loading up on a whim and heading someplace new. We went to Clifty Falls, Indiana with zero notice, for example. That’s about ten hours from us. Just because hubby’s friend called and we happened to be picking up camping equipment three hours in the right direction! It was a lot of fun.
Anyway, let’s get started on how to plan. We can talk about impromptu trips at another time.
- Look at your budget (if you don’t have one then this is a great time to create one). Make sure that you either have enough to pay for your trip or have a time frame for when you will have it to take your trip. Make sure you budget for the campsite, gas, food, entertainment, and emergencies. Nothing like calling family from out of state because you blew a tire and all of your extra money is sitting in a savings account somewhere. Not that it’s happened to us or anything…
- Decide where you want to go and how long you want to stay there. You may have to refer back to your budget to see if and when it’s feasible. Or, look at Passport America to see if there’s a place you’ve never been and find things to do once you get there.
- Some state parks and federal properties offer tent sites on a first come-first serve basis, but there are usually several tent sites. Often there’s a large grassy area that is dubbed, “tent sites”. If you’re worried that they may run out, get there early and have a back up plan.
- Do you have all of the gear you need or will you have to pick up a few things? If you do need something make sure that you budget for it separately.
- Plan your route. Is there a cool place on the way to your destination? Is it farther than eight hours away? Plan to stop and see a few things on your way. It will make your trip more fun because you won’t be as tired once you reach your destination. The same is true when you’re returning home. We personally don’t travel more than five hours because our one year old has a built in timer that goes off after 5 hours and two minutes. lol
- Set some goals for stuff you want to do. You don’t have to be specific at all. You can simply plan to hike, swim, go somewhere new, etc. Be open to try new things, you will have a lot more fun! We try to do at least one new thing every where we visit, even if we have been there several times before. It keeps that place new and exciting for all of us!
- Give yourself 1-2 hours bumper room on your leaving schedule to make sure that you aren’t trying to pitch your tent in the dark. You also won’t get as aggravated when you want to leave at three, but your wife and kids aren’t ready until five. You can pitch your tent in the dark, according to my husband, with a Streamlight headlight.
- Purchase all of your groceries before you leave. Nothing like standing in line at Walmart when you’re on vacation! This also keeps you from paying “tourist pricing” as well.
- Check your oil, tire pressure, coolant, and trans fluid (if possible) a day before you leave. Just in case anything needs to be topped off. You can do this while you’re filling up with gas before your trip.
- If you are traveling with children, or husband, know where the nearest urgent care or emergency room is located. If you do need it, and I hope you don’t, you don’t want to waste time hunting it. If this doesn’t make sense to you, then you don’t have enough kids. lol I have three and an accident prone husband, I can tell you five hospitals within a fifty mile radius of our home and how to get to all of them!
- Remember when you arrive at the campground, get your campsite, to ask Robert’s three questions. What’s the best place around here to eat? What do y’all do for fun? Are there any special events going on? You will be surprised what you can find that’s not online! The secret question is, “Do I need a day pass to stay longer on my last day?” You may still have to pack up, but you can still enjoy the amenities until you’re ready to go home. Like the beach, hiking, playgrounds, etc. You would be amazed at how many times this has made the trip epic instead of just good.
- Bring homemade ant spray. Kids + food = bugs. We were reminded of this doing our test run last night. Mix water and vinegar 50/50 in a spray bottle and add a little Dawn dish soap. We can’t use traditional insecticide because our youngest is allergic, but this stuff works better any way.
- Leave on your adventure and plan to have a great time!!
Let me know if these suggestions helped you in the comments section and in the word’s of Carl Frederickson, “Let’s go have an adventure!” Happy camping!