Are you ready to take a family camping trip, but are not sure where to begin? Find out all the tips and tricks for preparing for a family camping trip.
Family camping trips are the best vacations we have taken together. Preparing for a camping trip can be overwhelming. But if you take it step-by-step and prepare ahead, family camping will make memories to last a lifetime.
About 10 years ago, I decided that our family needed to go camping. We are raising our kids in a very urban area, and I wanted them to get out and experience nature. I’d never gone camping with my family as a kid, and neither had my husband. So we asked a few friends for advice, borrowed a bunch of camping gear, and went camping.
Over the years, we’ve learned a few things about preparing for family camping trips and how to make them successful. One way to stay organized is with this Camping Planner. You can print one out for each camping trip.
How to Prepare for a Family Camping Trip
Decide Where You Want to Camp
You can pretty much camp anywhere! National parks, state parks, local campsites, amusement parks, beach camping, mountain camping, desert camping – it’s all available. Take a fun tour of Nevada ghost towns and camping along the way. Decide where you want to go and start searching online for a campsite nearby.
Choose tent, RV, wagon, glamping, or a cabin:
Camping comes in many different forms. We are a tent camping family. We enjoy sleeping outside, and tent camping is pretty inexpensive. But there are so many options for camping.
We’ve camped in a teepee outside Bryce National Park. We’ve stayed at campgrounds with western wagons for camping in. Most KOA campgrounds offer cabins. Later this summer we are heading to Utah for our very first “glamping” trip where our tents will have beds in them. And if you want more indoor options, you can even rent RVs or campervans.
Look for campsites with amenities:
While we love to tent camp, we also like to have a few amenities nearby for convenience. Check out campsites for things like bathrooms, showers, swimming pools, laundry facilities, and firewood. We always make sure there is somewhere close by to grab a cup of coffee in the morning. While we can make coffee over a fire, we just prefer not to.
A nice bathroom is one of the other amenities to look for. Some campsites have really nice bathrooms with complimentary showers. Others have only toilets and showers that take quarters.
Watch the Weather:
Make sure to check out the weather of where you will be camping. Some parks have a lot of varying elevations, and one area of the park can be snowing while another area is sunny and warm. Check the overnight lows and make sure you have the proper gear for the weather.
Book your camping site:
When to book your campsite really depends on where you are going. Do some research on your destination. Most popular campgrounds, like National Parks, will book up 6 months ahead of time. But if are willing to stay outside a park or a further distance from your destination, then you can usually book a site within a few months and sometimes even a few weeks.
Choosing the actual site in the campground is a little daunting if you aren’t familiar with the campground. We always make sure to find a site with a shade that’s near the bathroom, not too close. You may want to be close to a playground or pool or even the dog park if you have pets with you.
Plan and Pack
Decide on Food and Prepare Your Menu:
About 2 weeks prior to a camping trip, start to plan your menu. Use the Meal Planner in our Camping Planner to plan your meals. Keep foods simple and easy to make. The traditional hamburgers and hot dogs are great, as are grilled chicken kebabs. Take cold cuts for sandwiches for lunches. Scrambled eggs and toast are easy to cook on a fire or a grill.
Next, make your Grocery List and go shopping. The Camp Planner also has a printable shopping list so you can easily keep track of what you need. A day or so before leaving, start prepping your food. Freeze the food you’ll eat at the end of the trip, and it’ll stay colder longer.
Organize and Pack Your Gear:
The Camping Planner includes a packing list to make this easy to keep track of. Make sure you know how to set up your tent if you are tent camping. Double-check that air mattresses don’t leak. Yes, it’s OK to use an air mattress! We do every time. Pack what you will need to cook. Check out our list of Useful Camping Gear for Beginners for more ideas on what you will need to pack. Bring along some sturdy rope for a clothesline to dry off clothes, towels, and swimsuits.
Pack Your Personal Clothes and Needs: Depending on where you are camping, you will need clothing for both warm weather during the day and cool weather at night. You will need sandals and closed-toe shoes. Pack old clothes for the entire family that can grubby and dirty. Flip flops or slide on sandals are good to keep in the tent and easy to slip on and off.
For toiletries, you will need to pack everything as campgrounds don’t supply much. Bring small bottles of items and make 2 bags: 1 for the boys and 1 for the girls. That way, you can shower at the same time. Pack old washcloths and towels that you don’t care about so they can get dirty.
Pack the car and have fun: You will most likely be shocked at all the gear you will need to pack in your car. We pack most of the gear in plastic tubs and then pack those into the car. Put all the kitchen gear in one tub, for example, to find it easily when you need to cook. Just don’t forget to leave room for the kids!