A camping trip with family or friends is one of the most relaxing, laid back vacation trips you can take – assuming it is well planned.  If you don’t plan it out well, then you could be up at 3am, covered in mosquito bites, and wishing for a motel.  Camping is an ideal way to reconnect with nature, bond with friends, and enjoy a vacation for a fraction of what it would cost at a hotel.

Borrow Before You Buy

Camping requires some gear and if you’ve never been camping on your own before, you probably don’t have the gear required. Before you go off and invest in some camping gear, borrow as much as you can from family and friends.  You’re going to need a tent and a camping stove.  Before you head out, make sure that you practice setting up and taking down the tent – nothing worse than having to sleep outside because you can’t put up the tent.  You’ll also want to decide whether or not you want to bring an air mattress or whether you’ll just sleep in a sleeping bag.

Location, Location, Location

While you might feel super motivated to try rustic wilderness immediately, take it from me: start slow.  Do a little research about what kind of terrain fits your personality best – beach, forests, deserts, mountains – there are lots of options and each option has its own benefits and drawbacks.  Ask friends and family what they like best to get recommendations for campsites.  Also, make sure you reserve your campsite ahead of time.  I like to use ReserveAmerica, a central booking site for many campgrounds, to make my reservation online.

Get the Lay of the Land

On your first camping night, be sure to arrive well before nightfall so you have plenty of time to set up your space, figure out where the bathrooms are, and do some exploring before dark.  You’ll also have enough time to cook some dinner – think easy for your first meal, something like cheeseburgers or spaghetti.  Make sure you set up your campsite for optimum use – a space for eating, a space for lounging, a space for sleeping, a space for storage, etc.  Don’t forget to pack away food before bed so animals aren’t drawn to your site.

Plan for Safety

Make sure you pack lots of light – in the forms of lanterns and flashlights, to avoid tripping and falling.  Make sure you pack a first aid kit that also includes insect repellant and hand sanitizer.  When you arrive to the campsite, be sure to check for poison ivy, broken glass, or other potential hazards.


Camping is a great way to explore the outdoors, bond with friends, and have a low-cost vacation.

[Photo Courtesy of Flickr User Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and used with a C.C. 2.0 License]