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Expert Tips on How to Plan Your First Camping Trip

Here’s what you should know before you embark on a summer camping trip

With hotels closing their doors or opening with limited capacity, those stuck with a case of wanderlust must look elsewhere to satisfy their vacation needs. Travelers and globetrotters alike have started to turn to the great outdoors for their summer retreats. Camping might not have always been a top choice for a weekend getaway but it could very well be the only choice for some. The art of camping has evolved over the years, transforming from simple hotdogs and hamburgers over a fire to a chic glamping spot with a retro kitchenette to cook up your meals. Embracing the wilderness doesn’t mean you must forgo all of your luxuries.

Below, we have a few top tips for a first-time camper from Caleb Hartung, CEO of Campspot, Dawn Walker, Assistant Manager of the Kentucky Horse Park Campground, and Dan Yates, Founder and Managing Director of Pitchup.com. So, pack your bags, head outside, and prepare for your first camping trip with these tips.

Caleb Hartung, CEO of Campspot, an online booking site where travelers can browse and book their next adventure at RV parks, family campgrounds, glamping resorts, and more.

1. Consider both nearby and onsite amenities:

Some parks shine based on the amenities they offer directly on their properties, such as expansive waterparks, laser tag areas, or themed weekend events. Other campgrounds are desirable for their proximity to historic sites, national parks, or famous attractions. Both factors are important to consider when planning where to stay, based on your appetite for adventure vs. relaxation.

2. Book online:

Camping should be considered no different than the hotel industry in terms of ease of booking and accessibility. Use sites like Campspot for easier browsing and booking in a seamless platform so you don’t need to struggle to reach parks via phone or find contact information online.

3. Find your brand of camping:

A rustic tent site in a dark sky region with no internet access may be your cup of tea. Or, perhaps a canvas glamping tent with a kitchenette, queen bed, and lake access is more your style. There’s no one right way to camp. Feel empowered to find the type of lodging that best fits you.

4. Explore lodging in your neck of the woods:

Camping doesn’t have to mean trekking cross-country to a remote area. There are likely many wonderful campgrounds and RV parks within a short driving distance to where you live. Campspot is working to make such data available at your fingertips and to make spontaneous local camping trips the norm.

Dawn Walker, Assistant Manager of the Kentucky Horse Park Campground in Lexington, Kentucky, the “Horse Capital of the World” with 400+ horse farms and home to a 450-million-year-old ecosystem.

1. Plan your stops:

Campgrounds offer many amenities and have a variety of sites available. If you make reservations, you will be assured of a site that works best for your needs and enough space for your RV/tent. Be sure to check the campground websites for rules, hours and any updates.

2. Firewood:

Some campgrounds will not allow out of state firewood. If you are traveling across state lines, be prepared to buy local firewood at a hardware store or check if the campground has a shop that sells firewood on site.

3. Be flexible:

Weather, traffic and other issues can seemingly ruin a camping trip. Don’t let these things ruin your change to explore, experience nature and meet new people! But in case Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, bring a deck of cards for a game night, have extra clothes in case of extreme weather changes, pack sunscreen and bug repellant, and remember to have fun!

Dan Yates, Founder and Managing Director of Pitchup.com, a booking site for campgrounds, glamping sites and RV parks:

1. Do your research:

In the words of UK medical chiefs, it’s a “biological truism” that outdoor environments are safer than those indoors. But the outdoors industry is going even further to meet requirements to keep people safe. On Pitchup.com, campgrounds can include the precautions they’re implementing in their listing to make people feel confident in wherever they book their stay, and I’ve seen everything from contactless check-in to only allowing socially distanced sports, such as solo tennis, onsite. Many have also relaxed their cancellation policies to allow free changes. With capacity being reduced amid a surge in interest in camping, book ahead if you can.

2. Start slow and play fair:

If this is your first time camping, it’s best to avoid very remote areas, and you could even consider forgoing a tent for a self-contained RV or cabin. To allow everyone to enjoy the great outdoors, consider a shorter two-day camping trip, especially since many campgrounds will be reducing their capacity for the near future.

3. Brush up on your outdoor skills:

Acquaint yourself with your camping gear, making sure you take your own water bottles, cutlery and so on, before you get to your site. A checklist is always a good plan, as forgetting something will be more inconvenient than usual. Stock up on hand sanitizer, detergent and other essentials, and take an emergency cash supply if you’ll be in a remote spot. Try setting up your new tent in your backyard: one time, it took three times as long as expected to get to our camping site, and it was pitch black when I got there. Putting up a six-man tent straight out of the package in the light of the headlights, while all the other campers were getting angry watching, isn’t an experience I’d want to repeat.