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  • Jessica Rider

How to plan a camping trip with friends

I wanted to talk about planning camping trips with friends and how we have made all the mistakes in the past and how we plan camping trips these days.

Step one, choose a place that’s a central location for everybody.

When we’re a planning a camping trip with friends we choose a central location. We try to pick a place either with a lake or something fun to do so that everybody kind of has a central place to go to, and that it’s not like four hours for one person and two hours for somebody else. We try to choose a central location that is good for everybody. If you can find somewhere that’s two to three hours from everybody, then that’s a great location. I know here in Missouri, for where we live and where our friends go, anywhere that’s like two hours south or two hours north is a good proximity to where all of our friends are. Everybody can get there within two or three hours.

Step two, choose your food

The second thing is food.

Make a decision right up front, if you guys are going to eat everything together, or if you’re going to do things separately and maybe one meal together. I know we’ve definitely done trips where people thought we were going to do every meal together, and we were like, “Uh, no. We will do one or two meals together and/or no meals at all.” These days when we camp with friends, typically I’ll do one or two breakfast meals that are really fun for the kids, so those meals are taken care of. And then maybe we come together for dinner, where everybody brings their own meat and maybe a side, and then we just kind of throw everything in the middle.

Side note

The best way to plan a friends trip is to choose a restaurant before you even go out on the trip, everybody meet for drinks and dinner, and just hammer everything out over drinks and dinner, and then you’re ready to go for the trip. We don’t necessarily do this anymore, just because we’ve done a couple of these friend trips so many times that it’s just like a quick text message and that’s it. But early on, before we knew everybody’s way of camping, we would meet for drinks, usually margaritas at a Mexican restaurant, and we would all meet together to plan the trip out and then that way there was nothing unexpected once we got on the trip with all of our friends because everybody has their own campers.

Step 3, beverages

The next thing to go along with food is beverages. There’s nothing worse than that one friend who is constantly reaching in your cooler for beer. It’s one thing if you offer. It’s another thing if they just go in and start grabbing beer. Set a rule, unspoken of course, that everyone brings their own drinks. Or if you are someone like me, and sometimes I like to make frozen margaritas, I’ll make it for everybody. Just make sure that you have enough for everybody if you’re going to do that. Otherwise, keep your beer to yourself.

Step 4, toys.

This has been one of those things that I’ve seen in the past be trouble for people, is when you bring the side-by-sides or you bring the boat or the jet-skis, and a friend doesn’t have any toys. We are the friend that doesn’t have any toys, Rusty and I. We have the big camper. We let people stay with us but we don’t have the toys. But we also don’t have expectations to use other people’s toys when we’re camping either. So if you have one of those friends that doesn’t have anything, make sure that there’s an expectation of how you’re going to use your toys so nobody gets their feelings hurt.

One of the things that we do on our friend trip, because we have three this year where friends are going to be there, is Rusty and I will bank ourselves somewhere on the beach or on the bank somewhere off the lake. We don’t expect our friends with boats to shuttle us around so we will go and bank ourselves somewhere, and make the central hub for everyone. Then they can bring their boats in, we can swim and if people want to go out on their boats, cool. If not, we have the central location.

Step 5, schedule

Next thing is schedule. Every family has their own schedule, right? They are going to go and come as they please, they’re going to get up when they please. Don’t set a schedule for people to be up at a certain time. It’s never going to work out that way. We are early birds. We are up at five or six. Now, I have kids that wait for me at five or six o’clock. They’re waiting for fried donuts or waffle bar, which is usually what I make for breakfast. But don’t actually set a schedule, like we’re going to be on the water by 8:00 AM. Just let people flow the way they want to flow.

Early on, I would set a schedule, and I would always get aggravated because people aren’t up or I wanted breakfast at this time or whatever, and you’re waiting on friends. And it just gets too complicated. Now I always tell people, just do you. If your family sleeps till 10 and you don’t get on the water till noon, cool. That’s you. Do it. If you are up at 6:00 AM like us and you want to drink your coffee and you want to go slow and you want to do a walk and all this kind of stuff, do it. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to do every second of every day with your friends. You’re there to spend time with your family as well as your friends. So don’t stress over a schedule. I would not set one at all. You’re just going to get let down.

Step 6, relax

Next thing is to relax. Remember, you are there to have fun and relax and recharge. So don’t be high strung the entire time. I always say, now, I don’t have kids, but I’m always like, eh, just let the kids do whatever they want. And I get it, there’s some limitations and this and that, but relax. You don’t have to be the mom yelling all the time. You don’t have to be this or that. Just enjoy your time and relax.

Miscellaneous tips

Couple other tips that I have for you. I’ve seen this and more times than not I have been this person. One person should stay sober out of your friend group, because we all know people drink, people get loud, people get rambunctious and if everybody in the group is like that, it can cause problems within the campground. So if one person can make it a conscious effort to stay sober or not drink as much, that way if you have two or three of those friends that get loud, there’s one or two people that can hold them back.

Bring a projector. It is so much fun to set up an outdoor movie on the side of your camper. We’ve done it on the side of our rig a couple of times. Just set up a white sheet. We had a projector, we would play a movie, and the kids would have a complete outdoor popcorn bar. It’s a great thing to do after dark, especially if you have kids that still have energy and obviously you’re not going to let them ride their bikes when it’s dark. Set up an outdoor movie, bring three different kinds of popcorn, all the mix-ins, let them do a popcorn bar, and do an outside movie. It is so much fun, and the kids really enjoy it.

Another thing, it is okay if you have a friend that goes home early. It’s no big deal, no feelings hurt at all. Like, dude, if you’re just not feeling it, go home. Don’t be mad at the friend that goes home early. Let them go. They weren’t enjoying their trip, let them go. We love our friend that goes home early. We love him. And sometimes it’s just kids get crabby or husbands get crabby or whatever. It’s totally fine if somebody in the friend group goes home early. As long as they’re not the ones with the camper.

And then the last thing is enjoy your time. How many of us just didn’t get to see our friends last year or get to hang out with them? I’m really looking forward to our friend trips this year because we didn’t get to do that last year. We are excited to go out with our friends this year.

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