I have always thought of camping as a family event, even though as an adult, I mostly camp solo on road trips with my dog. Growing up, my best friend’s family was really into camping, and many of our summer weekends in junior high and high school were spent at a campground. Her grandparents owned a cabin at a lake resort, her parents kept their RV there each summer, and all us kids would pitch a tent outside the RV. We all got to do our own thing each day, but would come together for a family dinner in the evenings. My own family camped once a year on our big road trip out west, and the tradition continues with a family camping and canoeing trip each summer. With many years of multigenerational camping experience under my belt, here are some of my best tips for planning a family camping trip that everyone will love.
Family Camping Trip Tips
Why Try Multigenerational Camping?
In our family, what started as a canoe outing has turned into an annual family reunion camping trip. My Uncle has an RV that they use throughout the summer, and I always love tent camping, so we started to plan a group camping weekend around the canoe outing. We have tried hotels for this gathering, but I find that family camping is the best option for a trip like this. Not only do you have different generations coming together, but different income levels as well. If you choose a hotel for your family gathering, it can be a real challenge finding one that suits everyone's tastes and budgets. Not to mention, individual hotel rooms make gathering as a large group challenging, and offer limited space for children to run around.
Fortunately, campgrounds today offer something for everyone, including cabins for those who aren’t into camping. Cabins are also a great way to get non-campers on boards with a family reunion camping trip. KOA Cabins are perfect for these family members! Campground cabins can range from a single room with no electricity and running water to an almost-luxury glamping experience.
Choosing Your Family Camping Site
This is where campgrounds are really great for a family gathering. Each person or family can choose the site that works best for them, but the rest of the family is never too far away. I enjoy some quiet time on my camping trips, so I like to pick a tent site close to the woods. Families with small children may want to choose a site that is near a playground or open space, so the parents can relax while the kids run off their energy. Bathrooms are also a consideration if you are not in an RV or cabin equipped with a toilet. If you anticipate mid-night runs to the bathhouse, you may want to choose a site that is close to the facilities. In my experience, it’s best to defer to the RV crowd and let them choose the campground, as they will have specific hookup needs for their camper.
Meal Planning Tips for Multigenerational Camping Trips
I over-plan everything, so if I had my way, we’d have a spreadsheet for every meal during our group camping trips. Surprisingly, none of my family members share my love for spreadsheets, but it’s still helpful to try and coordinate meals ahead of time. Without a bit of meal planning, we will inevitably end up with seven bags of chips, six desserts and one package of hot dogs! Some families will adopt a single-meal approach where each family unit owns one meal during the weekend camping trip. Other times, it’s easier to plan a time for dinner and let each family feed their own crew.
While dinner may be a group meal, it is often easiest to leave everyone on their own for breakfast and lunch as different sleep schedules or plans for the day can make group meal a bit more difficult to coordinate.
There’s another group camping trip I join occasionally with certain members who love to cook in Dutch ovens. On these trips, the cooks prefer to just take up a collection to pay for the supplies and groceries, while other campers provide side dishes or snacks.
If your family is anything like mine, expect lots of leftovers. An extra roll of foil or reusable plastic containers are priceless for storing leftover food and ensuring nothing goes to waste!
Tips for Planning your Family Camping Trip
Here are a few tips, which apply to any camping trip, but especially if you have first-time campers joining you. You want their experience to be as positive as possible, so that they’ll want to go camping again!
- Location – consider nearby activities and attractions. Are there cute towns with boutiques for the shoppers, or fun events such as summer carnivals or festivals?
- Timing – depending on your region and climate, keep in mind which seasons are most conducive to camping. We try to avoid the heat of summer, with humidity and mosquitoes. In the Midwest, fall is the perfect season for camping.
- Keep a loose agenda -don’t plan everything down to the minute, as inevitably, you’ll fall off schedule and get frustrated. Instead, be prepared to go with the flow and just enjoy the company of your family.
- Read online reviews -after a terrible camping experience at an Oregon campground infested with midges, I make a point to quickly scan online reviews before making a reservation. You can often get good tips on which campsites to reserve, too.