Ultimate Guide to Planning a Family Camping Trip

February 28, 2024

Taking your family on a camping trip is one of the best experiences you can give your kids in this day and age.

With technology primarily ruling our lives (from smartphones, to laptops, to televisions, and more), the best way to connect with your kids is to unplug from everything, and get out in nature. Your kids will welcome the break from homework and all their after-school activities, and the chance to let loose and just enjoy some quality family time.

However, taking your family on a camping trip does not come without lots of planning. Maybe you used to go camping alone, or with a few friends, and you were able to do that on-the-fly.

But, this is a different time, and kids require a lot more prep than a group of adults.

Thus, the planning.

But, do not let the prep turn into a daunting task for you. There are ways that you can involve your kids in the planning that will make things fun for them, and for you too.

A father and two kids sit in chairs around the campfire at a KOA campground.

Why Go Camping?

Camping with family is a great way to reconnect with each other through a shared experience. When parents go to work, and kids go to school on a daily schedule, family members experience separate realities. But sharing the same tent, RV or cabin on a family camping trip has a way of uniting and strengthening family bonds. Some additional benefits of camping include:

1. Quality Time Together

Use camping as an excuse to get away from work, school, and technology to focus on family. Limit your use of screen time on smartphones, TVs, and computers to cut back on distractions. Turn to each other to supply the entertainment. Statistics show that teens like to camp because they see their parents relaxing. Playing physical campground games like corn hole and Frisbee will help the effects of the daily grind fade away. Find fun things to do nearby and immerse yourself in the company of family.

2. Multi-Generational Outing

Bring generations of family together at a Kampgrounds of America campground. Grandparents want to join in the family camping fun. Book a few campsites together to create a family compound. Grandparents can stay in their RV and kids can sleep out front in a tent. During the day enjoy activities together or split off for an all boy’s outing and a girl’s only adventure.

3. Explore a New Environment

A simple change of environment can create a fresh perspective. Depend on family members to help navigate the new area. You do not have to go far away to experience something new. Get to know the natural beauty of locations within an hour or two of where you live. Of course, visiting a totally new part of the country will certainly expose your family to new opportunities for exploration.

4. Time Outdoors

Ever wonder what nature is up to while you’re busy at home? Take the time to get outside with your family to appreciate what is happening around you. Quietly observe animals in their natural habitats. Sit on camp chairs and take in breathtaking ocean views, blood-orange sunsets, and sparkling night skies. Feel cool moist forest and arid desert air against your skin. Let the outdoors invigorate your senses.

A young boy helps pitch a tent on a KOA camping trip.

5. New Skills

Grandparents and parents have tons of knowledge to pass down to the younger generations. Convey some of that education during a camping trip. Pitching a tent together, starting a campfire and cooking outdoors are useful teaching moments and accomplishments that everyone will feel good about. Take the time to introduce the kids to a lifelong love for assembling s’mores. Create new family traditions to look forward to during your next trip.

6. Physical Activity

Camping, by nature, is a physical activity. Setting up tents, prepping food, gathering wood for a fire takes energy. But beyond that, campgrounds usually have access to nearby sporting and recreation activities. Pick a physical activity the whole family would enjoy like horseback riding or river rafting to experience together. Feel refreshed and healthy when you breathe in clean mountain air, swim in mineral hot springs or feel a sense of awe hiking to a scenic overlook.

7. Educational Benefits

Going camping is an excellent opportunity for your child to learn outside the classroom. As you camp, your children will have the chance to learn more about the natural world. Unlike in a school, where they may only see pictures of the flora and fauna, going camping allows your kids to see them in person. Your children may also learn about themselves as they gain new experiences and transfer their new skills and knowledge to situations back home.

8. Affordable Vacation Option

Camping is one of the more affordable vacation options as all you need is a tent, food and some basic camping supplies, like a sleeping bag. While it may be expensive to get all of the items you need at first, by investing in quality materials, you and your family will enjoy hours of fun.

Many campgrounds, such as KOA, also offer on-site amenities. For example, you may find pools, playgrounds, hiking trails or bouncing pillows that provide hours of family fun without needing to leave the campground.

9. Life-Long Memories

Spending time together as a family is a great way to make life-long memories, and choosing a location like a campground to make these memories is a great idea. From spending the night telling ghost stories around the campfire to spending the day hiking, these are all priceless experiences that you and your children will remember for a long time after returning home.

10. Reconnect With Yourselves

If your household largely depends on the clock, camping is a great way to enable everyone in your family to reconnect with their natural rhythms. Since you have limited access to a clock, you can let the rising sun and moon dictate your schedule while camping.

A male couple camps in the woods with their two toddlers.

6-step Guide to Planning a Family Camping Trip

Planning a camping trip the whole family will enjoy is a breeze with the following steps:

Step 1: Choose Your Desitnation

It is pretty hard to plan what you are going to do during your camping trip until you have decided where you’re going.

You may find it easiest for the adults to decide on the location, and let the kids help with some of the other decisions.

You will likely want to look for campgrounds that have toilets and showers to make things more comfortable. You can save more in-the-wild camping experiences for down the line after you’ve got a few trips under your belt.

There may be places you have in mind that are kid-friendly, and that you have been wanting to visit. Or, you may opt for a place you have camped sans kids before, so that you’re more familiar with the site and its offerings.

Whatever destination you decide on, know that there is a KOA nearby. The amenities that our campgrounds offer vary from site to site, and you can find all the info on each campground’s individual page.

Decide what amenities are important for you and your family, and find the KOA that best suits your needs.

Stwp2: Test Out The Gear

This is a great opportunity to involve your kids with the camping trip. If you are tent camping, let the kids sleep in the tent at home before taking it out into the wild.

Round up some of the other gear you will need (such as sleeping bags and rain gear), and give the kids the “job” of testing it before embarking on your trip.

There will be plenty of other gear you will need that you do not necessarily want your kids testing out, but that you will want to test out yourself. This includes:

  • First-aid kit (make sure it is fully stocked and ready for use)
  • Camping mattresses
  • Camping stove and fuel
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Headlamps
  • And more

Step 3: Pack

Full disclosure: packing will likely be the hardest part of planning for your camping trip. Ensuring you have everything you need is hard enough, but making sure your kids also have everything they need is an added challenge that is not to be taken lightly.

So, if your kids are old enough, involve them in the packing process. Make sure they have proper clothing, but allow them to pick their options. For example, if they need to bring two jackets with them, give them the opportunity to pick out which jackets they’d like to take.

An easy way to do this is to provide them with their own “special” packing list, and have them check through it (though you’ll likely want to double-check).

Also be sure to let them pick out their favorite toy or item from home to bring along. This will help them feel more comfortable in a strange place.

Once you think you’ve got everything rounded up for the trip, go through your checklist to double-check.

This is another place that kids can play a role. Give them the list of items to read aloud as you check and then cross the items off.

Step 4: Choose Your Route

With your destination figured out, now you can go about determining how you will arrive there.

Find fun things to do along the way, and give your kids the option to choose which ones they’d like to experience.

This is a great way to build up some serious hype about your trip. The more the kids feel involved in the trip, the more they are going to enjoy it. No one likes being dragged around from place to place against their will, especially little kids.

Step 5: Plan Snacks and Meals

Regardless of how far you’re traveling to go camping, you’re going to want to have snacks.

Because really, what fun is a road trip of any distance without some snacks to go along with it? Plus, your kids will jump at the chance to pick some of their favorite snacks to munch on in the car.

Once you’ve got snacks figured out, you’ll want to move onto meals, which is no easy feat.

Keeping it simple and kid-friendly is definitely your best option, and what better way to do that than to have your kids pick some of their favorite meals, and see if you can make them camping-friendly?

Prepping ahead of time what you can will be a life-saver. You can do things such as:

  • Chop vegetables
  • Make soup to simply be rewarmed at the campsite
  • Pre-make pancake batter for breakfast
  • Mix together meat marinades (just be sure to keep it separate from the meat until you’re ready to eat)
  • Make lasagna or other filling meals that can be easily heated over a campfire

Whatever you do, do not forget the most important meal while camping: dessert. And when you’re camping, dessert means one thing: s’mores.

Let your kids pick out their favorite chocolate for s’mores, and we guarantee this will be one of their favorite parts of the trip.

Step 6: Plan Activities

While it seems like so much of the work (and hopefully, fun!) comes before you’ve even left for your trip, you want to be sure you set aside time to plan the fun things you’re going to do once you’ve arrived at your destination.

And, of course, this is prime time to let your kids play a role in your camping trip.

“What do you want to do when we go camping?” you can ask.

You may want to do some research ahead of time on your own to find out what activities are available, and give your kids a list of things to choose from.

Planning activities also involves bringing along with you some things from home that your kids can enjoy while camping, such as:

  • Kites
  • Books
  • Board games
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Stargazing kits
  • Fishing gear

This time out in nature, and truly connected to your family (without the distraction of buzzing phones, and blaring television screens) is some quality time that most of us are in serious need of.

In order to ensure that your trip is a success, and that the planning process is enjoyable for you and your family, involve your kids.

As you can see, finding ways to get them to help in the planning process is very easy, and incredibly rewarding for both you and them.

How to Pick a Camping Spot for Your Family

If this is your first-ever camping trip as a family, choose a location closer to home. While your children will ideally be having a great time, camping closer to home allows you to quickly leave and return to your house if your children are not enjoying the experience or something goes awry. Some additional tips for selecting the right location include:

  • Choose a camping location with trees or a water stream for a natural playground for the kids.
  • Look for camping spots that are not too remote so you and your kids can go into town to enjoy museums, restaurants or shopping on rainy days.
  • Select a camping spot close to other people so your kids can make friends, and you can easily ask for help if you need help with the tent or other camping gear.
  • Research the campground to learn more about the amenities and if there is any local wildlife to be aware of.
  • Choose a spot that allows you and your children to participate in activities. Some campgrounds may offer craft time or games the entire family can enjoy.

Start Making Memories at Kampgrounds of America

With hundreds of locations across the United States and Canada, KOA is the perfect place to start making lasting memories with your family. Many locations are close to national parks and other major attractions to make them a convenient option for finding endless family fun. Book a campsite at a KOA near you today to start planning a one-of-a-kind family vacation!

About the Author: Kampgrounds of America

Kampgrounds of America is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting

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