How To Plan A Camping Trip: Ultimate Step By Step Camping Planner

Last updated:

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure

Camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with family and friends. But if you’ve never been camping before, it can be daunting to know how to plan a camping trip. We will walk you through every step of planning your perfect camping getaway.

So whether you’re a first-timer or an experienced camper, read on for all the tips and tricks you need to make your next camping trip unforgettable!

campsite with tents and campervans

The Ultimate Guide For How To Plan A Camping Trip

Whether you are looking for a beginner’s guide to camping trip planning or you are a seasoned camper looking for a few extra tips to stay organised, this guide will help you create the camping plan for your next outdoor adventure!

Make sure you also check out our guides for how to create a travel itinerary and how to plan a road trip.

Types Of Camping

There are many different types of camping, from car camping to backpacking, so before we get too deep into how to plan a camping trip, let’s explore a few of the most popular types of camping:

Tent Camping Or Car Camping

Tent camping is the most popular type of camping and is great for all levels of campers, from beginners to experts. All you need is a tent and some basic camping gear, and you’re good to go!

This type of camping is often referred to as car camping or base camping as you load up all your camping gear into your car or trailer to make your way to the camping site.

RV or Van Camping

jucy campervan next to woolgoolga water tower

RV camping, campervan or caravan trips are perfect for those who want to enjoy the fresh air outdoors but still have some of the comforts of home. Many RVs and vans come equipped with cooking appliances, beds and even air conditioning!

This type of camping is great for families with young children, and older campers who prefer the benefits of extra comfort. It is also a great way for first-time campers to get some experience.

This type of camping is often referred to as glamping since you certainly don’t need to ‘rough it’ as much as you do when putting your tent up.

It also incorporates your vehicle and accommodation in one, making this type of camping perfect for road trips.

Backpacking

Backpacking is a great way to explore the wilderness and get away from it all. This type of camping is perfect for those who love to hike and be one with nature.

For backpack camping, you need gear that is light enough to carry in your pack, including everything you need for sleeping and eating!

This type of camping can be more challenging than car camping or RV camping, but it can be the best way to see some amazing places that are off the beaten path.

Now that you know a little bit more about the different types of camping, let’s explore the types of campgrounds before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to plan for a camping trip:

Types Of Campgrounds

There are several different types of campgrounds available for your camping trips. The type you choose will depend on your location, the facilities you require and the type of activities you have planned.

These may have slightly different names and requirements depending on where in the world you are from.

Public Campgrounds

south island new zealand cust domain freedom camping

Public campgrounds are public lands maintained by the government (federal, state or local) and managed by agencies such as the National Park Service, the Forest Service, or state park systems.

They sometimes have developed facilities such as restrooms with showers, running water source, and picnic tables.

Private Campgrounds

Private campgrounds are just that: privately owned businesses that provide camping sites on their property. They tend to be smaller than public campgrounds.

However, a private campground may offer more in the way of amenities, such as swimming pools, Wi-Fi, camp kitchen, and laundry facilities.

Freedom Camping

freedom camping south island lake pukaki

Freedom camping, also known as dispersed camping in North America, is when you camp in undeveloped areas on public land that has been approved for this purpose.

This type of camping generally has no amenities, so you need to be completely self-contained and follow Leave No Trace principles. In some cases, there may be a toilet block nearby.

This is the type of camping we did a lot of when campervanning around New Zealand. It’s a great way to keep costs down for camping road trips.

Holiday Parks

Holiday parks are a type of campground that is becoming increasingly popular, especially in Australia and New Zealand.

They offer a wide range of facilities such as swimming pools, mini-golf, playgrounds, barbecues, and even on-site restaurants and cafes.

Many also have cabins for rent as well as powered and unpowered campsites for tents and RVs.

While they are usually more expensive than other types of campgrounds, they offer a lot more in the way of activities and amenities, making them great for families with kids.

Now that you know the different types of campgrounds available, it’s time to start planning your first camping trip!

The Ultimate Planning A Camping Trip Guide

printable camping trip planner overview

There are a few things to consider before planning your camping trip. These essential steps will help you plan the perfect family camping trip, so you can be confident you haven’t forgotten anything important during the planning stage!

Step 1: Who, What, When and Where

First, decide who you are going camping with. Will it just be you and your partner or family? Or will you be camping with other friends and family members too?

Once you have decided on your camping companions, it’s time to start planning the details of your trip!

You need to decide when you will be going camping, since the time of the year can impact where you go and for how long.

Once you know this, decide where you want to go camping. There are many different types of camping, from car camping to backpacking, as detailed above, so it’s important to choose a destination that matches your interests and equipment.

If a campground can only be reached by 4-wheel drive or via a hike, you need to have the right car or backpacking gear to make this possible!

If you looking to plan a camping road trip, make sure you check out our mammoth step by step guide on how to plan a road trip.

Step 2: Reserve A Campsite

family on a camping trip

If you are planning to go camping during the peak season, it is important to make a reservation for your campsite as soon as possible.

This will ensure that you have a spot at the campground of your choice and avoid being disappointed when you arrive to find that all the sites are full!

Each camp site has different methods of booking, which may include visiting the campground’s website or giving them a call.

Be sure to have your dates, how many people will be camping and any other relevant information ready so that you can make your reservation quickly and easily.

It is also important to consider the types of facilities at the campsite. If free camping, you might not have any facilities available and therefore you need to be fully self-contained, such as with a motorhome.

If you want a few more comforts, especially if camping with kids, choose a camping ground with toilet and shower facilities and also consider places with recreational facilities, such as a camp kitchen, picnic tables, a playground and equipment hire.

This can often mean you can leave some stuff at home you might normally need to bring, such as certain cooking essentials or water sports equipment if you can instead use what is available.

TIP: If camping in National Parks and State Parks, you may also require a permit to do so. Make sure you do your research before you head off so you have all the required documentation.

Step 3: Plan Things To Do When Camping

kids at campsite looking through binoculars

Now that you know where you will be staying and have a campsite reserved, it’s time to start planning some activities for when you are on your trip!

If camping with kids, this is especially important as they can often get bored if there isn’t enough to do. However, even if not camping with kids, it can still be fun to plan some outdoor activities to do as a group.

Some camping activities you might want to consider are:

It also helps to have some wet weather activities for rainy days while camping. Being confined to the tent isn’t so much fun for most people unless you’ve got plenty to keep you occupied when bad weather happens.

Knowing plenty of campfire games that don’t require any equipment can also help entertain a large group.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to things to do while camping. The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy being in nature!

Step 4: Prepare What To Bring On A Camping Trip

Now that you have an idea of when and where you will be going camping, as well as some activities to do while you are there, it’s time to start preparing what to bring!

This can seem like a daunting task, but luckily a camping checklist can help make sure you don’t forget anything important! You can check out our complete guide on what to bring for a camping trip to get you started.

Here are some essential checklist for a camping trip items:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillows
  • Camping chairs or stools
  • Fold-out table
  • Cooler for food and drinks
  • Drinking water & water bottles
  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Cookware (skillet, pot, spatula, tongs etc)
  • Eating utensils (plates, bowls, cups, knives, forks, spoons)
  • Trash bags and paper towels
  • Extra tarp and ropes
  • Food and drinks
  • First aid kit and medications
  • Bug spray and sunscreen
  • Clothes for all weather conditions (hats, sunglasses, rain gear, etc.)
  • Hiking shoes or boots
  • Beach/swim clothes
  • Flashlights or lanterns and batteries
  • Toiletries (toilet paper, soap, towel, etc.)
  • Entertainment (books, cards, games)

This is just a basic camping checklist to get you started.

Depending on your specific needs and the type of camping trip you are taking, you might need to add or remove items from this list.

There are extra items you will need to pack for a winter camping trip compared to the summer months.

For example, if RV camping or using a camper trailer, you won’t need to bring a tent, but you would still need to bring all the other items on the list! You can find our essential RV packing list guide for extra tips.

One last thing to consider when packing for your trip is how you will be transporting everything. If hiking or backpacking, you will need to pack light and only bring essential items that you can comfortably carry.

If driving to your campsite, you will have a lot more space to bring larger items and more supplies.

No matter how you are getting to your campsite, be sure to pack everything securely so it doesn’t get lost or damaged on the way!

Step 5: Plan Your Food For A Camping Trip

One of the best parts of camping is all the delicious campfire meals you get to eat!

Planning your food in advance can help make things run smoothly and ensure you have everything you need.

It’s a great idea to make a list of all the meals you want to eat while on your trip, as well as snacks. Then create a shopping list before you head to the grocery store.

Our free camping meal planner can help you get started with your camping meals to ensure you’ve got something sorted for each meal of your trip.

Grab our free camping meal planner here:

free printable camping meal planner

When packing your food, be sure to keep perishable food like meat and dairy in a cooler with ice packs.

Make sure food is packed in a way that will prevent contamination, such as raw meat leaking into other foods.

The last thing you want is to get sick when you are camping! Ick…

Pack non-perishable items in airtight containers or bags to prevent them from getting damaged, spilled or attracting bugs. This will also help avoid attracting wild animals to your campsite!

And don’t forget the campfire marshmallows and s’mores essentials!

Step 6: Packing Gear

Now that you’ve got your food and supplies sorted, it’s time to start packing your gear!

Be sure to pack everything securely in bags or containers to prevent it from getting lost or damaged.

This will also help you keep everything organised for when you arrive too, as items may move about in the back of the car or trailer while you are driving.

TIP: Have a tarp or cover over your roof racks, ute tray or trailer if you have exposed camping gear as this will not only protect your camping gear from the weather but also reduce the likelihood of something falling out as you are driving.

If you are backpacking or hiking to your campsite, you will need to pack light and only bring essential items that you can comfortably carry. It is also important to make sure your pack is waterproof in case of poor weather.

TIP: Be sure to leave any valuables at home as they can be easily lost or stolen when camping. This includes things like jewellery, laptops and other electronics that aren’t essential for your trip.

Planning A Camping Trip With Kids

3 kids in a blue tent checking if it is raining

If you are planning a camping trip with kids, there are a few extra things to consider!

Be sure to pack enough food and snacks as kids tend to get hangry (hungry + angry) easily. Especially with all the extra outdoor time and the energy they are burning off!

It’s also a good idea to have some easy-to-prepare meals or make-ahead recipes on hand in case you’re all exhausted after a big day of fun. This means you can get dinner on the picnic table quicker at night.

You will also need to pack extra clothes and gear for kids, as they tend to get dirty quickly and may need more clothes than adults.

Pack items to keep them entertained such as books, games or toys.

Have a couple of activities they can do during times when you are busy cooking or setting up equipment so you know they are safe, occupied and in your line of sight.

Craft kits, colouring books and even a couple of tubs of playdough can be great for these moments.

Be sure to pack any essential items they may need such as diapers, wipes, formula or medications.

Allow them to bring some extra comforts from home if they are younger and a little nervous about the outdoor sleeping experience. This might be a stuffed toy or a favourite blanket that reminds them of home.

Having a small night light on in the tent can also bring them comfort if this is something they have at home. You can get small hanging solar lights that can hang in your tent for this purpose.

And make sure you have plenty of sunscreen and bug spray so you can avoid the upsets that come with sore and itchy bites or burnt skin.

Choose a developed campground with extra amenities for your first family camping adventure. This is a great way to ease yourself into the more primitive camping where you are completely off the grid!

The Ultimate Camping Planner

printable camping planner

Want to make your camping trip planning even easier? Grab our ultimate camping guide and printable planner with everything you need to pack gear, food, activities, plan your dates, camping sites and costs and so much more!

Get your camping trip planner HERE:

Just follow these simple steps and you’ll be sure to have an amazing time in nature.

Planning a camping trip can seem daunting, but with the right planning and preparation, it can be an amazing experience for the whole family. By following our step-by-step guide on how to plan a camping trip, you’ll have everything you need to make your next camping trip a success. And don’t forget to download our free camping meal plan kit for even more help!

Like This Article? Share, Bookmark Or Pin It For Later!

how to plan a camping trip