Road Trip Planning

“And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.” –Dave Barry

My childhood vacations were spent camping. I have many wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) memories from those trips: my dad cooking breakfast over the campfire, setting up camp one night in the pitch black and pouring rain, exploring the forest around our campsite and coming back to camp with my 3 siblings covered head to toe in mud, running to take cover when a massive thunderstorm rolled through and tornado sirens were blaring (and watching the neighbors tent roll away in the wind), and meeting all sorts of wonderful families who loved being outside as much as we did. Growing up camping and exploring our beautiful national and state parks and forests shaped who I am today.

My husband and I have continued the tradition of the great family camping road trip with our own children. We started camping and road tripping with them when they were babies as we both believe it’s good to start them young. This year we are headed west to the Black Hills where we’ll camp, hike, explore and attempt our first real backpacking trip since our daughter was born (she’s now 4).

To prepare we made campground reservations months ago and are now sorting through camping gear, planning our camping menu, creating a grocery list for Costco and setting a budget. I’ve printed pages to track our gas and mileage, as well as keep track of spending.

Our road trip planning binder and camping journal
Our road trip planning binder and camping journal

When we first started camping after our son was born we bought a camping journal to keep track of all our adventures. At each place we’ve camped I record notes on the provided page: campground information, ideal site for next time, things we did, what we enjoyed most, people we met, and things to remember for next time. We have entries that stretch from Denali National park, down the Alaska Highway, throughout Wisconsin and all the way out to Acadia National Park. Not only is it a wonderful record of our adventures, but it also provides an excellent record of things to do better for next time and places to we want to go back to (and which campsite to reserve).

A page from our camping journal
A page from our camping journal

Throughout the years I have developed planning pages to help with planning camping trips (from weekend to multi-week road trip). I’ve been tweaking them throughout the years and adding pictures from a few of our favorite family adventures. They’ve been a great help to us and thought I’d share them to help others get out with their families.

Planning the menu for our trip to help ensure we stick to our food budget.
Planning the menu for our trip to help ensure we stick to our food budget.

Let me know if they’re of help to you and please share your own tips and thoughts on planning a successful family road trip!

Road Trip Overview

Camping Gear Checklist

Road Trip Itinerary

Campground Journal & Activities Planner

Road Trip Budget Worksheet

Camping Menu Planner

Menu Planner for Long Weekend Trip

Gas & Mileage Log

Spending Log

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” –Miriam Beard

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