How To Go on an Impromptu Camping Trip

Not every camping trip has to be a weekend-long affair. If you just want to get out, see the stars, and sit around a campfire you can go (pretty much) any night of the week-even if you have to work the next day! You may not find the best campground you've even been to, but you still get the relaxing, natural experience that camping provides.

  1. Go online and find 3-5 campgrounds within an hour and a half of your home (or however long you're willing to drive). If you can make reservations and you know where you want to stay, great. If not, having multiple campground options ensures that you'll have a good shot at finding a site.
  2. Toss your gear in the car. All you need is a pillow, sleeping bag and ground pad (or Thermarest) for each camper; a tent, flashlight or two and a few camping chairs. If you happen to have firewood and matches at home bring those along. And don't forget to bring your dog camping with you if he likes the outdoors!
  3. Start driving. Get away from your house and the city (if you live in one). Get your friends and/or family excited about going camping! Don't spend too much time preparing for the trip, or it'll seem like too much work. Get on the road within 30 minutes of starting your campground search.
  4. Stop at a grocery store along the way. After you've driven about 30-45 minutes, take a break from driving and stop at a grocery store. Grab the essentials and anything else you want. This may include graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate (s'mores anyone?); firewood, a newspaper and a lighter or matches; wine or beer; food for dinner (a pre-cooked chicken and a couple of sides from the deli is a great choice...don't forget plastic forks and knives!). If you have any of this at home, bring it along, but don't spend too much time planning meals out.

    You can also buy some breakfast bars, but remember that you're only staying one night (and you might need to be at work by 9am). Just grab a coffee or muffin from a Java Stand on the way home.

  5. Find a campsite. Keep in mind that during weekend nights and peak times (such as holidays) it will be more difficult to find a site, as campgrounds will be crowded. If you're OK with sleeping in your car as a worst-case scenario, don't worry about the crowds and take the risk. A lot of campsites have cancellations and revert to a first-come first-served policy. If you can't sleep in your car, be aware of which night you are choosing to camp as well as the popularity of your campground choices during the current season.

    When you arrive at your first campground, pull in and talk to the ranger, or, if there's no ranger, consult the message board to determine which sites are available. If it's full, you can drive around and look for open sites that may be available because someone cancelled their reservation. If your first campground is full, try option #2 and so on.

  6. Camp! Set up your tent, start your fire and tear into your grocery store chicken. Don't forget the s'mores, campfire stories and stars.
  7. Wake up, pack up and drive home. Wake up, take some time to look around and enjoy the scenery, pack up your sleeping bags and tent and head back home. If you have time to stop for breakfast or coffee, find a place on the drive home...try something new.
  8. Get home, get ready and go to work. Leave your camping equipment in the car, take a shower, get ready for work and go! If you wake up at 6:30 or 7am and you're only an hour or so from home, you should have time to make it back, shower and start your day as usual. Clearly timing will vary based on what your morning routine consists of and what the morning traffic looks like in your area. Take these into consideration when determining what time you should start heading back.
  9. Smile at work. You were just camping last night!


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