January is one of my favorite months, and not because my birthday happens to fall at the end of it. I love it because it's the start of a new year – kind of a “do over” if you will – and a great time to start getting ready for the coming Spring. Of course, what better Springtime activity is there than camping? This month is a great time to begin making plans for those first few camping trips you plan to take in the Spring. Maybe your first trip will be during your kids' Spring Break holiday (for us that's in April). Perhaps you will start earlier, in March or even February. If so, you really do need to get on the ball!
Let's take a look at some things we can do over the next four weeks to prepare for the coming season. As always, you want to add/subtract some things – that's great! These tips are just meant to get you started.
Sit down with your campsite books (we love KOA's directory), your calendar (hopefully you already have everyone's schedules on the calendar) and the people who will be camping with you. Try to plan out the trips you would like to take for the next 2-3 months. You're not going to book all of these trips just yet; I only want you to have a good idea of where you might be going, how long you will stay and an estimate of what each trip will cost you. TIP: Get a 3”, 3-ring binder, some loose leaf paper, a few plastic pocket pages and some index dividers. Split the binder into months, one section for each month of your camping season (our season runs from April to October, for example.). Into each section, put some paper and a plastic pocket; as you plan your tips for each month, put all the information for that trip into the section for the month in which you will camp. For example, if you're going camping in the Outer Banks in May, insert all your trip plans into the May section. Use the plastic sleeve for any gas cards, discount cards, tickets, coupons, etc., you will use for that trip. (I like to have a sleeve for each trip we take, but I'm also a little OCD when it comes to planning trips.)
For each trip, try to calculate what gear you will need to bring; an overnight camp out won't require the vast amount of stuff you would take on a week-long trip. Plan out how long the travel will take, the costs involved (gas, camp fees, food, etc.), and who will be going with you/meeting you there. Don't forget to add in a few dollars for miscellaneous spending! My kids always find something in the camp store they must have. (It might be good to start your kids on a reloadable debit card and just put their allowance/earned money on the card. That way they're spending their own money instead of budget money.)
Once you have your first few months' trips planned out, start contacting the campsites you have chosen. Some never book up but others book up well in advance. If you can, go ahead and book at least your first two trip sites. Check the sites' cancellation/refund policies before you make any payments! Emergencies happen; it's never fun to have to cancel a trip but it's even worse to cancel and lose deposits. If possible, ask the sites to mail or email you a confirmation notice, map of the site, and any other information they feel might be helpful for your trip. Place this info into your trip binder. I prefer email because it's almost instant and I can print everything off right away, but choose whatever works best for you.
Devote this entire week to just planning your trips. Depending upon how far out you plan, it could take all week. This can be a fun after-dinner family activity and it's great for helping the kids get excited about the upcoming season.
Next week we will start getting into our gear. I hope you are ready for a yardsale!