As summer transitions to fall in the United States, a lot of families might be thinking of taking a camping trip.
After all, ’tis the season: Think jackets (maybe even sweaters!), bonfires, sleeping bags, and, of course, lots and lots of s’mores.
Going camping during the health crisis might feel a little intimidating, but if you’re thoughtful about it, there’s no reason why it can’t be done. After all, a lot of natural spaces inherently invite you to socially distance yourself from others, which makes a national forest or state park the ideal location for a family trip.
There are also a lot of people out there who have had the same impulse to go on a camping trip — and who have given in.
Whether you are looking for a campground that is following safety and health precautions or you’re ready to level up and take your family primitive camping but aren’t sure how to find a spot, this is the guide for you. Here are seven tips for taking the family on a camping trip this fall.
1. Pack your car wisely.
When it comes to camping or long-distance road trips, a rooftop cargo carrier is absolutely fantastic when you’re packing for yourself and for kids. It’s so nice to have a little more space for everyone so stretch out, and you’ll appreciate tucking everything into the bag on top of the car all the more if you’re also traveling with pets.
It’s also a good idea to be thoughtful about how you pack the car for your camping trip. For starters, keep only the most essential items upfront with you.
2. National parks are great, but so are other spots.
It makes sense to want to visit and camp in a national park — and everyone should — but right now, the website Recreation.gov is being flooded with reservations and requests. There are plenty of other places to camp in this big ol’ country of ours. National monuments, preserves, and recreation areas are also run by the National Park Service and usually offer campsites that are relatively accessible and often just as beautiful as the usual suspects.
3. Consider dispersed or primitive camping.
If you and your family are ready for a more wild experience, consider going off-grid and go dispersed camping instead! There are tons of spots all over the US where you can camp for free if you’re willing to camp without a lot of amenities. You can use the Bureau of Land Management’s site to find spots that work for you, and we even have a great guide to taking your family primitive camping.
4. Don't take everything that you want to.
When it comes to camping with your family, remember: Usually, less is more. It can be tempting to bring every single thing under the sun, but trust that your kids will have an amazing time just being outside with no scheduled activities and no reason to do anything other than play. Make sure you have the basics (sleeping bags, PJs, something to cook with), and resist the temptation to make your campsite exactly like your home.
5. Bring your virus-related gear just in case.
Even though you’ll be outside and probably fairly far from others, don’t forget to bring your virus-related gear to keep everyone safe. I’m talking about face masks, hand sanitizer, soap, and anything else you’ve been using to keep yourself and your family members healthy. You might end up closer to people than you think!
6. Buy everything ahead of time.
It’s definitely a good idea to buy everything you will need, including food, before you head out. That way, you don’t have to worry about stopping on the way unless you really, really have to. It’s also a good idea to find a camping spot that’s not super far from your house, so you can minimize needing to stop for gas or bathroom breaks.
7. Camp only with your family or pod.
While it might feel like it would be a great idea to go camping with a few other families or friends, it’s better to play it safe and go camping only with the people you live with or whom you already have an established pod with. There are two big reasons for this: Larger groups are harder to keep safe, and a lot of campgrounds and campsites have a limit on how many people can occupy the same space anyway.