How to Plan for a Camping Trip

With our mother/daughter trip already a month in arrears, Ashton and I still haven’t stopped talking about our exciting adventure.  Looking back, I wonder what made this trip such a fun adventure and total success. No doubt, I attribute it to good planning and organization which ultimately lead to a wonderful camping trip experience.zion national park

Our Utah excursion was one of the best trips my daughter and I have ever shared and that’s saying a lot. Let’s face it, it’s no easy feat beating a trip to Disney World. Our Disney vacation and a trip we took to South Dakota a few years ago still rank pretty high on our list of epic excursions, but this trip to Zion National Park may have topped those two previous vacations.

When Ashton and I decided we were long overdue for a gals get away, our scheming began in earnst weeks in advance. So what exactly did we do that helped make our camping trip so successful?how to plan for a camping trip

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OUR TOP 9 TIPS FOR PLANNING A GREAT CAMPING TRIP…..

1. Location & Budget: Where to go on vacation? Ashton and I pulled out the atlas and began searching within a large radius around her home in Phoenix, Arizona. First and foremost, we discussed budget. Our budget was the main reason we decided to drive versus fly and camp versus hotel.

The length of our trip would be five days and four nights. We looked for a scenic location that we could drive to in one day but could also break up the drive if there was a scenic place to stop along the way. Zion National Park fit the criteria for our excursion perfectly.

Once we decided on a national park as the destination, we knew we wanted to tent camp. In my opinion, camping is a much more intimate experience with the environment than staying in a hotel. Camping puts us up close and personal with our surroundings and wildlife. Trust me, I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for the comforts of a hotel room, I just feel closer to nature when I camp, especially in a national park, but I do like mixing it up depending on where my travels take me. Ah, this is why an RV is the best of both worlds 😎 I do love my RV!

Since taking the RV for this particular trip to Zion National Park wasn’t an option, tent camping was the best choice for these two gals and at $20 a night, we easily stayed within our budget. We knew driving and camping would be the biggest bang for our buck.

2. Create check lists.  Our first list included the items needed for camping which obviously encompasses the tent, air mattresses, bedding, flashlights, ax/knives, lighter/matches.

We started a second list of equipment needed for cooking which included the Coleman Stove(s), cookware, plates, utensils, cleaning supplies, towels.

Our third list was for our personal toiletries and clothing. When you’re camping, you need to think about where you’ll be cleaning up and showering. A beach bag and flip flops have served me well over the years in keeping me organized while using a public facility. However, when a campground offers no place to shower, like the South Campground at Zion National Park, there’s nothing better than a package of baby wipes to keep you feeling fresh especially after a long arduous hike. Who knew baby wipes had multiple uses?

how to plan a camping trip

Bring equipment that serves a multi-purpose use. The use of the dish pan soothed my aching feet after the hike to observation point.  Filled with warm water, you could use it for a sponge bath – in the privacy of the tent 😉

When it came to clothing, we focused on bringing items we could layer and made sure we brought rain gear and cold weather gear. Hiking shoes with good traction were also a must. Be sure you have a realistic grasp and understanding of the type of climate and landscape of your location and pack accordingly.

3. Food planning and preparation.  Ashton and I decided we didn’t want to eat out much. Plus, we’d be traveling through some remote countryside while passing by the occasional small town. It was important to us that we be totally self-sufficient, eat healthy, and not rely on trying to find a place to grab something to eat.

how to plan a camping tripWe made a meal plan (another list) and then divided up the grocery list and cooking preparation.

We cooked meals at home weeks in advance (like spaghetti and chili) and then froze these meals. During our trip when it was time to eat, we simply needed to reheat the food at our campsite.

We also pattied out burgers, marinated chicken breasts, then seasoned and individually saran wrapped everything and froze. The morning of travel, we took all the frozen items and placed them in our cooler topped with a bag of ice. Which ever item thawed first, dictated the order in which we ate the meals.

I could do a whole separate post on our meals and snacks. We really did well in our planning and prep. We never felt hungry, we ate healthy, and stayed within our budget.

4. Plan for travel. I’m a huge believer in physical maps. We’ve all heard the horror stories of a GPS leading folks astray.  There’s nothing wrong with using a GPS, but in remote country, it’s always wise to confirm the route with a physical map so you don’t find yourself on a one lane gravel, rutted road in the middle of no where. It happens!

You can’t possibly do too much research or have too much information. Always stay updated on weather and road conditions.

Are there forest fires anywhere near your destination or along your route? How about road closures, landslides, construction? If you have a reservation, call and confirm ahead of time. If you don’t have a reservation what are your chances of finding a campsite or lodging? What are your backup options?

Have a plan A, B and C. When it comes to travel, flexibility is key and things DO go wrong. Never did we think we were going to get snowed on during that first night at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Thank goodness we packed extra blankets. It sure got cold! There was never a mention in the weather report or on radar about the severity of the storm we experienced. I did my homework and things still went askew. But it added to the adventure, thus no complaints.

5. Don’t procrastinate and wait until the last minute to throw things together. Planning ahead of time is crucial. Off in the corner of daughters garage, we started gathering a small pile of camping gear weeks in advance.  We spent time checking and rechecking the equipment. We practiced pitching the tent in the backyard, which made us look like pros at the campground. Yes, we impressed 😎

We also made sure all the gear was clean and in good working condition with no missing parts. And in the case of tent stakes and propane bottles, we made sure we had extras.

how to plan for a camping trip

you can see our camp with all our stuff – daughter putting on her makeup

6. Organization – load up. I like using water-tight rubber bins to keep us organized. As long as we’re not in bear country, we can keep the bin with kitchen supplies (pans/plates/utensils/matches) handy on the picnic table. It’ll keep squirrels, mice, and water out. We used another bin for our dry foods but did keep that one in the car at all times.

We used different sized bins determined by the amount of supplies and separated by subject.  BUT before filling the bins, we made sure they, along with the cooler, fit into the back of the Honda CRV.

By having everything organized in one spot in the garage, on the day of travel, it was convenient to load up and hopefully not forget anything. This made life easy for Ashton considering she was loading the car by herself. I was located an hour away.

7. Review essentials – medications and camera gear. A day or two before travel day, make sure you pack medications, check your first aide kit, review your camera gear making sure batteries are charged and you have extra media cards, have emergency contacts written on paper in case cell phones die or won’t work, pack last minute things.

I love this power inverter. We were able to keep things charged. We couldn’t find any outlets at the campground not even in the restroom. Thus, this inverter saved us by keeping our phones and cameras charged.

8. Communicate with loved ones regularly.   In this day of technology, it’s easier than ever to stay connected. Keep your loved ones back home up to date on your where abouts. That way, should something unfortunate occur, your loved ones will have a general idea of your last location. This is also the perfect excuse to take selfies and share, but please don’t overdo and annoy your friends and family stuck back home working.

how to plan a camping trip

Don’t leave loved ones in the dark – let them know where you are and what you’re doing.

I usually texted my husband once in the morning letting him know our general itinerary and again later in the day when we returned to camp. My daughter would do the occasional post to Facebook or Instagram.  When we overnighted at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, we had no cell service but the ranger was kind enough to allow us to use the land line so I could call hubby and let him know where we were spending the night. Thus, we didn’t how to plan for a camping tripdisappear for five days leaving loved ones back home worried.

9. Be flexible. Things happen and may not go according to plan. The weather may not agree on the day you have that epic hike planned. Don’t force the plan, adjust. Maybe a rainstorm is the perfect excuse to visit local stores, or a coffee shop, or brewery. Or spend a little extra time at the visitor center learning about the area. How about a museum?

Remember safety and prevailing on the side of caution should always be paramount. Changing plans at the last minute on a whim or due to unforeseen circumstances, has provided some of my most memorable experiences.

 

So let’s review my top nine tips on how to plan for a great camping trip ….

  1. choose a location and budgettop 9 tips for camping
  2. create check lists
  3. plan meals and do food prep ahead of time
  4. plan the travel and do research
  5. don’t procrastinate and wait until the last minute 
  6. organization is key
  7. review essentials and continue to review your check lists
  8. communicate regularly with loved ones back home
  9. be flexible and have a good time

And how’d we do on that budget? Awesome! First, let’s not take into consideration our groceries. Whether on vacation or at home, we still have to eat. So that cost is an everyday expenditure and not associated exclusively with the trip, but I will included the two meals that we did eat out and the stop at the coffee shop at the Zion Lodge. I’m also not including my $80 seasonal national park pass which I had purchased at the Grand Canyon a month earlier.

Five days and four nights cost us just shy of $200 which covered our campsite fees, gasoline, and eating out (2 meals). Ashton and I split the cost making our five day camping trip a whopping $100 per person for the entire trip. Quite the deal, wouldn’t you agree?

So are you ready to get out your camping gear and visit the nearest national park? I know I am and can’t wait to go again!Observation Point Trail Zion

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39 thoughts on “How to Plan for a Camping Trip

  1. Good post! I think what’s most important is the food and water preparation. I also bring some roadeavour water bottle full with water. Just in case we have to consume more than we have to.

    • Thanks, yeah we took plenty of water with us and there were filling stations in the park which made it easy to fill our water bottles.

  2. Oh, how I missed my RV bathroom during my camping trip with daughter. Eating well always makes a trip more enjoyable 😋 All the planning and prep did make the trip that much more fun and affordable.

  3. Good looking planning list and it seems to have provided you with a great adventure,
    Your comments about getting closer to nature in a tent still ring true with me.

    • Yeah, not everyone is into the tent camping thing, but I find it to be rather fun and adventurous. And our planning definitely helped make our trip special 😁

  4. From a fellow list maker – I love your list! I have similar lists for RV trips, day trips, and car travel trips that I pull out and start to work on before departure.

    Your comments about getting closer to nature in a tent still ring true with me. I really miss the closeness to nature, staying in a tent, vs what you experience in an RV. We camped over thirty years in tents before our pop-up and eventually RV were purchased. I would still be in a tent if it wasn’t so hard to get off the floor at this point in my life! I do love having my own bathroom… it makes up for some lack of nature sounds inside!

    • Oh, how I missed my RV bathroom during my camping trip with daughter. I’d say that was the biggest issue I had, but other than that, I loved our camping experience. I grew up camping and hubby and I did a lot during our younger years. It’s not for everyone. Good planning though makes for a good experience 😊and a love of nature is a must!

  5. Great list! This sounds much like the way my family and I camp, so it’s always nice to see how other people plan and pack and travel on a budget. Glad you guys had such a fun trip!

  6. This was great! I’ll pass it along to my daughter-but she’s into Glam-ping! So we’ll see! Actually, I think it would be a great primer for her to use for their family. But I think their future trips will include our motorhome! Lol

    • I use a similar list even traveling with the RV. Food prep is the number one key for me considering I have to be careful with certain foods – sensitivity issues. My daughter has come a long way in her open mindedness and camping. Several years ago she wasn’t nearly as amenable.

  7. I am not a fan of GPS either..Give me a map or Atlas any day! My concern is the tent…When we went to Alaska, I was very aware of the danger of bears…and we didn’t camp on that trip. We were observing the bear fishing for salmon in Hyder, and one of the rangers yelled at someone that was eating a apple…”NO food anywhere NEAR a bear!”…Hence my fear of cooking outside with only a tent between me and Yogi..I love your daughter and her make up..A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!!! Loved your advise!

    • We’ve had some close encounters with black bears up in MN and WI but they’re a lot smaller and tamer than the ones in Alaska. Ashton and I are both make-up wearers. It’s rare for me to go out and about without at least lipstick and mascara. No surprise… I’ve been playing with make-up since I was 13 and then of course as a Flight Attendant back in the day, make-up was required.

  8. A very affordable and unforgettable vacation indeed!! Preparing for a camping trip takes a lot of time and thinking, as we have realized before. Well done, gals! 🙂

    • Food is always an issue for me because I have some allergies. Thus it’s important for me to plan meals and doing so actually makes life easier. As you know, Zion is incredible and I hope to return soon.

  9. You are amazingly organized! One of the things that pushed us over the edge into fulltiming is that we were tired of loading and unloading our trailer for every trip. I love having everything we need—and I mean EVERYTHING—in our big rolling suitcase that travels behind our truck. :-)) But we do have some adventures coming up without our trailer, so I’ll refer to your handy list.

    • I too love having everything with me and I really missed the comfort of the RV during our camping trip. I’m so glad we did all that meal/snack prep. We maintained our energy by eating healthy. Can’t wait to hear about your upcoming adventure. Hmm, travel abroad?

  10. Great planning advice! When our kids were young we took them tent camping many times. We had a camp box that was filled with cooking and other essentials. The storage containers we use today hadn’t been invented yet so we had a homemade wooden camp box that weighed a ton! Now that we travel in a fifth wheel most of our essentials are already loaded up so we just have to stock up on food. I always take a few frozen dinners with us for easy meals.

    • We’ve seen some really cool wooden box kitchens, but they are definitely heavy, but such a great way to stay organized. I do the whole meal planning/prep thing in the RV when we know we’ll be on the road a lot or dry camping. Sure helps to eat healthy and conserve water usage.

  11. All such great points Ingrid! Like you, we always have an old fashioned map on hand to refer to. GPS has taken us down a lane on a dirt road more times than I can count!

    • I’m not a fan of using a GPS. By studying a map and relying on my own navigational skills, I learn my way around a new area and discover some amazing sites.

  12. Organization is key for us and our travel life and I see your skills stood you in good stead! I totally agree with you about using paper maps. It’s really important to use all the tools you have to be informed and paper maps are my first “go to”. Google maps are wonderful to have, but you can’t ignore maps. We rarely use GPS since we’ve been led astray too many times! Thanks for taking us along on your most personal trip…

    • Al likes using the GPS but I don’t and I always double check our route via a map when traveling to unfamiliar territory. Being informed and organized lends itself to having a good time traveling. I enjoyed sharing our mother/daughter adventure 😊

  13. Fantastic post, Ingrid. I really like all your organization techniques, and share your methods; but I had never thought of making some of the meals ahead and freezing them, that is brilliant. Your list is wonderful, great photos, and I know what a great time you both had because I thoroughly enjoyed your posts on the trip. In long and adventurous trips like this, success doesn’t just happen without plans, organization, and cooperation. Wonderful.

    • Thank you Jet. I’ve always been one to function better when I’m organized and I do regular meal planning and prep routinely for those times we’re on the move in the RV. I didn’t always though. Over the years, I’ve developed some food sensitivities. Thus it’s really important for me to think about meals/snacks so I don’t succumb to fast food 😉

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