Camping Life: A Beginner’s Guide

Where To Begin?

Planning your travels can be a bit stressful, especially when there are a lot of moving parts and different things to consider. Planning a camping trip or a road trip, however, is a bit different than just booking a flight and a hotel. So here’s step by step on how I prepared for my lengthy summer travels. 

Consider your starting point.

Where will you be taking off? My starting point was Dallas, Texas. This seems self-explanatory, but it determines a lot.

What are you looking for?

Are you a waterbug? Do you prefer hikes and beautiful mountain scenery? What have you always wanted to see and do? Because the U.S. has so much to offer along with a vast variety of destinations to choose from, it can be hard to narrow your choices. I wanted beautiful sunrise hikes, hot springs, and dog-friendly campgrounds. I based my trip on my desires, not what “made sense.” And it paid off immensely. 

How long will you be going?

For those who don’t work remotely, it can be a challenge to delegate time off. You should nail down some dates that work for you and base your trip on your timeline. You then need to calculate how long it will take to get to each destination, and how long you’d like to stay at each spot. Will that fit your schedule? You may need to shave off some time by skipping locations.

Think about the mileage and hours on the road.

Using Google Maps or a road trip planner, enter your destinations in chronological order. Now you’ll be able to see the number of miles and hours it will take you from one stop to the next and the total of the whole trip. If you’re pulling a trailer or driving a van/RV, tack on two or three hours for pitstops, cautious driving, and any unexpected weather.   

Apps To Help You Plan Your Roadtrip:

  • Roadtrippers- This app is a great tool to learn all the essentials. The Roadtrippers app will tell you about attractions, eateries, lodging, travel time, etc.
  • Alltrails- The location-based app gives you all of the information needed about nearby hikes. It shows photos, reviews, the best times to go, and other helpful tips! Plus, you get to discover hidden gems.
  • National Parks Passport- Whether your trip is a national park excursion or not, this is a great app with information and photos for 400+ units managed by the National Park Service, including monuments, seashores, rivers, and forests!
  • The App- You should check the weather forecast daily to prepare your clothing, excursions, and other weather-dependent variables.
  • RV Trip Wizard- This is an all-in-one road trip master app! You can visually plan your trip and see the route you are taking, tolls, gas stops along the way, campgrounds, points of interest, hazards, and much more! It offers unbiased opinions and 20,000 campgrounds with reviews from real people. It provides information about hookups, relative park information, and more

Personally, I used an excel spreadsheet to record the dates of driving, the miles/hours the drive will take, the dates I would arrive, the dates I would leave, the location, the campground and its address, campground information, and things to do nearby. I also added all destinations to my phone’s weather app.

Where are you going to stay?

Choose campgrounds nearby the points of interest, hikes, and swimming holes you’d like to visit. You’ll be doing enough driving in between stops. It’s nice to just walk out of your home-on-wheels, and head out for your beautiful adventure.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Campground:

  • Does the campground allow dogs?
  • Does the campground offer the hookups needed for your vehicle (water, electricity, sewage, etc) If not, does it have on-site facilities?
  • Does the campground allow older trailers? Our trailer is from 1971, and some RV parks will not allow older trailers unless they’re up to the renovation standards.
  • Are you close to the landmarks/hikes you wish to see?

Other Tips:

  • Write down the address of the campground and find nearby essentials such as hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, laundromats, etc that are nearby to save time.
  • Get to your campground before dark. Map out your trip so you arrive while the sun is still shining. It’s important to see your surroundings and adapt.
  • Safety first!!! Pack an emergency roadside kip, check your tires, get an inspection, oil change, etc. 
  • Take a practice run nearby home. This will help you get an idea of what your future experiences will be like. Plus, you can add anything to your shopping list that may have slipped your mind.
  • Exercise and stretch between drives. Moving and stretching your body is important to avoid cramps and soreness. An achy body is no fun on vacation.
  • Triple check your route.
  • Plans will change. No matter how thorough you are in the planning process, there will always be changes and adjustments.
  • Rest when needed. This trip is meant to relieve stress and burnout, not add to it. Don’t be afraid to nap instead of going on your planned hike. Take care of yourself.
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