Our family went through a rough patch awhile back. There were a lot of changes that happened all at once. Life was overwhelming with a lot of things needing to be balanced. I noticed that we were so busy scrambling to get things done that we were playing catch up before the day even started. The worst feeling ever is opening your eyes first thing in the morning and already feeling overwhelmed. Things needed to change. We needed to rest, to unplug, to spend more time together as a family.
When we lived in AZ we used to camp all the time. We did lots of primitive camping in the middle of nowhere. We even camped when I was pregnant and with a nursing infant! Some of our best memories were of those trips. Since moving to Florida we just haven’t seemed to have the time or resources to camp. We tried it a few times, but it always seemed like sooo much work as our family size doubled and we quickly gave it up. We decided to look for a camper. Not that we don’t still enjoying “roughing it”, but we have had plenty of “roughing it” experiences, that we thought it would be nice to have a little vacation away from home.
We prayed about a camper, and God quickly provided one for us last Fall! We were able to purchase a used camper in excellent condition from another homeschooling family and we set off to make it our own! Right before New Years, my husband and I were discussing our camper and our plans for camping in the New Year. That is when we both laughed and came up with the theme for our family for 2016. We call it “A Year of Camping!” Our goal is to camp at least once a month with our family every single month.
With every good goal, there needs to be a solid plan to implement that goal. So here it is:
A Year of Camping – How I plan and prepare for monthly camping trips with my family:
Decide Where You Want to Stay:
At the beginning of the year, my husband and I sat down and began researching. We looked for places about 3-4 hours from us and then we began making a list. I picked about 18 campgrounds to choose from. Since we are planning on camping 12 times this year, I chose some extra ones in case some were booked up, so that we had some other options to choose from. This list has the name of the park, location and the price per night.
I then broke this list up into two sections: Cool weather camping and Hot Weather camping. There are some parks that have amazing hiking trails that go through or over a swampland. You do not want to be hiking there when it is all buggy! Having a list like this is extremely helpful when you are planning your trips and helps with being able to stay on track with a budget too. If you don’t know where to begin to look you can check your state park website, and ask friends in your area of town their favorite locations to camp. There are even facebook groups for camping that can be very helpful.
Here are some great articles to help you get started:
The Best State Park in Every State from Thrillist
The Best State Parks in America with clickable links on a map from Roadtrippers.
The 26 Best Places to Pitch a Tent in the U.S. from Greatist.
Start Booking Those Camp Sites:
Here in Florida, we have some amazing state parks that are well maintained and very inexpensive. They also book up extremely fast. Some parks you have to book at the 11 month reservation window if you want to get in. This can be tricky if you aren’t used to planning so far in advance. Our state park system uses Reserve America to book. If there is somewhere that we want to stay I will make a note to check daily for any openings. There are cancellations quite often, so we have been lucky to snag some awesome spots that I never thought we would be able to get.
Private campgrounds do not usually fill up as fast as state parks do, so that is a great option if you don’t have the ability to plan ahead. Private campgrounds cost more than a state park does, but they usually have lots of amenities. Some of them even offer free pancake breakfasts! These are fun to book for a special weekend.
Create a Monthly Camping Budget:
Since our family is camping so often, it was important for us to create a spot in our budget for camping trips. The first couple of trips we had to book in advance, so that gave me a good idea on about how much it would cost for our campsites. I also look at where we are going and make sure that I get an average cost of gas to travel to and from the site. I add in a little extra for stops at a convenience store or a drive thru. This has averaged out to about $120 for our family of 6 to have a great weekend away camping. That is less than the cost of a hotel room! Sometimes we will fall under this amount and then the extra can get set aside for a more expensive campground.
This budget has been really helpful to keep us on track, and it’s also really nice to have the trips paid for in advance. That really makes our time away together as a family a lot more enjoyable if we aren’t stressing about money! I do not budget food to cook in this cost because that doesn’t effect us in any way since we cook our meals from scratch at home. We are just cooking in a different location that weekend!
Create a Meal Plan:
If you camp often, having a list of favorite meals will make planning so much easier! Our family has a list of some of our favorite meals that are special for camping. We also like to try new things each trip as well. Before we leave, we will pick what we want to eat and then we will usually add one new thing to try that weekend.
Here are some great meal plans and printables for camping if you get stuck:
Camping Menu Meal Planning Printable from Stuffed Suitcase
Weekend Camping Meal Plan & Recipes for only $50 from Little Family Adventure
Camping Meal Planner and Guide from I Share Printables
80 + Camping Recipes that Everyone will Love
Create a Master Packing List:
Since we have a camper it’s a lot easier for us now. We have everything packed in the camper all ready to go. There are still things that don’t stay in there that we need every trip, so I make sure to keep a list handy at all times. If you are tent camping I suggest you have tubs labeled just for camping supplies. This makes camping so much quicker and easier!
If you are new to camping here are some lists that may be helpful:
50 Things to Pack for Your Camping Trip
The Ultimate Family Camping Checklist FREE Printable
FREE Camping Packing List Printable
Here are some of our favorite camping supplies:
If you are looking for more camping recipes here are some great books you can get for the Kindle for FREE: