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How to Plan a Camping Trip: 7 Steps to an Unforgettable Outdoor Experience

How to Plan a Camping Trip: 7 Steps to an Unforgettable Outdoor Experience

by Mikayla Merchant | June 08, 2020

The best outdoor experiences start with a great plan. When it comes to camping a little advanced planning can go a long way toward ensuring your trip is a success. If it's your first time camping, the entire process may seem a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be if you take things step-by-step. Planning is actually half of the fun! Here’s everything you need to consider when planning a camping trip, including how to decide when and where to go.

1. Choosing the Best Time for Your Trip

When you begin to plan a camping trip, timing is the first thing to consider. The weather and season have a huge impact on every other aspect of your camping trip, from your destination to what you need to pack. Whether it’s wet, cold, or sweltering hot, weather extremes can lead to a very unpleasant trip.

So, when’s the best season to camp? It depends. Places like Olympic National Park get 150 inches of rain each year, with few rain-free days in the spring. On the other hand, Joshua Tree National Park, and Death Valley National Park are located in the Southwest Dessert. The weather is quite pleasant at both parks in springtime but is miserable during the summer when temps hit the triple digits.

The season can affect your trip in other ways, too. If you’re planning your trip in the summertime, you’ll want to keep in mind that many popular camping destinations are super crowded whenever kids are off school. If you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful trip, consider timing your getaway in the offseason. 

Check out websites like, Reserve America and Hipcamp to find weather conditions and reviews for hundreds of campgrounds throughout the US. Be sure to consider free days at National Parks if you want to save a little money. Everyone’s priorities are different, so plan your trip according to what’s most important to you.

2. Choosing Your Destination

From desert to rainforest and backcountry to national parks, the options for camping destinations are virtually limitless. Whether you want to stay close to home or you’re willing to travel, you’ll also want to be thinking about your destination as you plan the timing of your camping trip. 

The United States offers a diverse variety of camping landscapes, from forests near cozy little towns, plains in the Midwest, oceanfront, and cliff camping on the Pacific coast, or beach and swamp camping in Florida. And, let’s not forget about camping by a hot spring or near gorgeous waterfalls! 

Your local area probably has some awesome camping spots, too, if you want to stay close to home. While many camping destinations are accessible by car, others may require boating or backpacking in. Choosing your destination is a lot of fun, so get the family together and do some research online to help you decide where you want to go.

3. Plan Your Camping Activities

While you’re thinking about the timing and destination of your trip, you’ll also want to think about what activities you would like to have available. Do you want to spend your time relaxing in camp or would you rather be active and swim, fish, hike, mountain bike, or do some rock climbing?

The options are endless, but you’ll want to consider your activities as you choose the timing and destination for your trip. Many campgrounds will offer hiking, biking, and running trails. Some will have swimming pools or lakes for swimming. Whatever style of outdoor adventure you’re looking for, make sure you choose the right season and location to accommodate those activities.

4. Consider Who Will Be Camping with You

Will you be camping solo, with a group of friends, or will this be a family camping trip? Considering who will be camping with you will have a huge impact on the success of your trip. Not only does the size of your group play into what type of campsite you’ll need, but it also affects how much food and other essentials you’ll need to pack in.

Many campgrounds accommodate large groups while others are geared more towards small family groups. If you’ll have little ones with you, car camping is probably a better choice than a backcountry destination you have to backpack all of your gear into. However, backpacking is a fantastic way to camp for solo campers, couples, or intimate groups of friends.

5. Reserve Your Campsite

Once you’ve chosen the perfect time and destination for your, reserve your campsite before you move forward with your plans. This is crucial because popular campgrounds can fill up quickly, especially in the summer and on weekends. Check out our tips on how and where to reserve.

When you make your reservation, be sure to confirm all the important details. Do you need permits to hike or climb in the area? Is your campsite pet friendly? Does the campground have any group size or age restrictions? Are the activities you want available during the time of your trip? Will firewood, ice, and other necessities be available close by? Asking these important questions now will prevent disappoint later. 

6. Rent Your Camping Gear

Now that your campsite is reserved, it’s time to rent your gear. Arrive Outdoors has everything you’ll need for any season no matter what type of camping trip you’re planning. From tents that keep you dry to sleeping bags that keep you warm, we deliver premium gear from top brands right to your door at significant savings. Simply send it back using the prepaid return label and drop it off at any FedEx location when you’re done. Check out our Camping 101 guide for tips on selecting your gear. 

7. Packing for Your Trip

Now that you’ve got your destination and gear all worked out, you’re reading to back for your trip. Packing clothes that can be layered is a good way to ensure that you’re prepared for all types of weather. Create a camping menu and pack your food around it. If you’ll have little ones with you, don’t forget about comfort items such as pillows, stuffed animals, games, books, and snacks.


Planning a successful family camping trip is all in the details. Following the steps in this guide will ensure that you’ve considered all of the most important factors. Now, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the great outdoors!

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