How to Plan a Last-Minute Family Camping Trip

Photo MyPinerary on Instagram

You’re probably wondering why you’re seeing a story about camping on my blog when I’m the very last person who should ever give advice about planning a camping trip. However, I do know that camping is a great option if you’re looking for a last-minute travel escape this summer. And lucky for me, I have a very talented friend who knows everything about planning such a trip.

My friend Annie Pezza has a huge love for travel and adventure. She has recently created an online digital platform where people can share their authentic travel experiences. The site is called MyPinerary (sounds like itinerary)—where people can login and discover, create, and share itineraries. MyPinerary has plans to launch later this year. Currently, MyPinerary hosts an online hub where visitors can view and share travel itineraries, get great travel insights, and sign up for early access.

Annie Pezza, founder of MyPinerary

In this blog post, Annie shares all of her ideas to pulling off a fun camping trip with your family as soon as even this summer.

Planning a Camping Trip

Words by Annie Pezza

With so many different ways to camp, there are a few questions to ask yourself about what you want out of a camping trip before you dive into the research and planning process. 

What is your preferred camping style? 

Is your best sleep in nature tucked into a sleeping bag, zipped away in a tent, or is the idea of a cabin with electricity and running water more your preference? Do you enjoy heading back to a variety of amenities after a long day of hiking or do you have an RV you want to park? The type of accommodations you prefer will help you search for campgrounds that can provide what you’re looking for during your stay. 

How far are you looking to travel? 

Are you looking to stay in the nearby area or are you open to driving outside state lines? The further you’re open to travel, even if it’s just widening your search radius by an extra half hour, the more options you’ll have available to you. 

Do you want to buy or rent supplies? 

There are online companies like Arrive Outdoors that rent camping gear and sell previously owned merchandise for a nice discount. However, deciding to invest in the basics may make your future outdoorsy self all the more of a reality. You don’t have to start with top-of-the line equipment–you’ll find tents, sleeping bags and a variety of camping supplies to accommodate every budget from retailers like Costco, Target, and REI. 

Photo by Laurine Bailly

What To Pack for a Weekend Camping Trip

The type of camping trip you plan will impact what goes on your packing list. What you need to fill an empty campsite in the woods will be different from the items you need to bring to a fully-furnished cabin in the woods. It might seem like a lot to tackle, but once you have basic camping supplies, getting out there the next time will be so much easier. 

Camping Necessities

Spending a night out under the stars means you’ll want to add a tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and pillows to your packing list. Be sure to find a tent large enough to accommodate your group. For a family of 5, you can purchase an extra large tent, or consider purchasing two smaller tents to give your group a bit of space, like a three person tent and a 2 person tent. Be sure to invite your dog–they will fit just fine down at your feet, and be forever grateful to join you out in nature. You’ll find that most state parks happily welcome your family pets. 


It can be easy to overpack when loading up the car with camping supplies. Try and stick with the basics. Take a look online to see what the campsites look like and determine what else may be needed. For example, is there a picnic table at each space or do you need to bring a foldable table? Here’s a list of essentials for a typical 2-night camping trip:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pad
  • Flashlight and/or headlamps
  • Extra batteries
  • Cooler 
  • Lightweight, reusable camping plates/flatware/glasses. Check out these from Sea to Sun on Amazon. 
  • Camping knife (for whittling s’more sticks, cooking & fishing)
  • Frying pan
  • Folding table and chairs
  • Trash bag (dispose of food in trash receptacles, avoid unwanted guests)
  • Towels, paper towels & toilet paper
  • Bug spray 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Lighter 
  • Water 
  • Biodegradable dish/hand soap

Be sure to check the fire regulations at your campground to see if they are permitted before you head out. Many campgrounds have a designated area at each individual campsite with a grate, making cooking over the fire safe and simple. It’s important to source local firewood from your area, so as not to spread insects to new places or burn chemicals from heavily treated wood you may have purchased. 


When it comes to personal toiletries, less is more. Shampoo, soap and shower shoes are optional–if you are camping outdoors at a campsite, it’s personal preference whether you want to seek out a shower at a public campground. You might consider opting for a “nature bath,” like a dip in a nearby lake. Camping is your chance to embrace your au natural self, so take advantage of it. A baseball cap and moisturizer are your best friends. Ladies, ditch the mascara and enjoy taking vanity off of your list! Most bathroom facilities will have essentials such as toilet paper and hand soap, but it never hurts to be prepared and bring your own. With any camping trip, make sure to have a stocked first aid kit and a pair of tweezers in the event a tick needs to be removed. 


Food tastes so much better cooked over an open flame. Opt for food that can be stored in your cooler for the first day or two of your trip and, of course, don’t forget the ingredients for s’mores. Morning eggs, simple sandwiches for lunch, and anything you can grill for dinner makes for great camping meals. Prepare backpack snacks in containers at home before you depart. Apples and oranges pack well and are the perfect, healthy daytime snack. Need your morning coffee? Bring instant coffee or enjoy your brew from a stainless steel french press, like this favorite by Stanley. Simply rinse or wash your cooking and eating utensils from your water jug, and worry about a deep clean when you return home. 

Make sure to research water accessibility in your area before leaving so you can pack more than enough for your stay. A Britta or Pur water dispenser is an excellent option. Fill it up at home, refill it at a water station, and bring along with your reusable water bottles. Chances are you won’t need to purchase any plastic water jugs. Insulated water bottles will keep water cool on hikes. 


When packing for a camping trip, it’s important to prepare for all weather occasions. Pack long sleeve shirts to shield sun or keep you warm when it gets cool at night. Have stable, comfortable footwear for hiking, and ankle socks to protect against ticks. Wear a hat to protect your face and protect against scalp burn. Be sure to pack a thin rain jacket for summertime storms. 


Look into what activities are available to you at your campground and what you will need to bring with you to enjoy them. This might include fishing poles and bait (google fishing license and your location before leaving), a swimsuit, a backpack for hiking, mountain bikes or paddle boards and kayaks (many recreational areas will rent these). 

Where to Go for Local Camping 

With so many amazing places to camp in the world, where do you even begin? The area just outside Chicago’s North Shore is filled with amazing parks and beautiful places to spend time in the great outdoors. Be sure to research reservation requirements as some parks book up far in advance. Here are a few popular favorites in the surrounding area. 

Photo by MyPinerary

Devil’s Lake State Park – Baraboo, Wisconsin 

If you haven’t been to Devil’s Lake State Park, it’s time to go! Less than three hours from Chicago, Devil’s Lake is your classic, pristine Wisconsin lake (full of fish!), and the hiking surrounding the lake is stunning. From pine forests to prairie trails and impressive rock formations, the path around the lake itself is a great moderate hike the entire family will enjoy.

Photo by MyPinerary

Pitch a tent for the night and enjoy early morning fishing, ending the day with a lake swim. To spend the night, you need to reserve your spot online. Campsites open at 3 p.m. Head out early and grab lunch at Tumbled Rock Brewery just outside of the north entrance to the park. The brewery has great food and atmosphere with the perfect dog-friendly patio and a modern, green lawn complete with fun lawn games. 

Photo by Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Starved Rock State Park – Oglesby, Illinois

Immerse yourself in nature through 13 miles of trails or enjoy time out on the water boating or fishing. Reserve a campsite and/or book a stay at Starved Rock Lodge, listed on the National Historic Registry–this authentic log-built lodge offers both rustic luxury and old-school charm. Not a bad way to follow up a night or two under the stars! 

Rock Cut State Park – Rockford, Illinois

Nature lovers, you don’t want to miss out on Rock Cut State Park. The spacious campground is filled with more than 100 types of wildflowers and hardwood trees, along with countless wildlife including deer, fox, beaver, opossum, muskrats and more. You’ll also be sure to see waterfowl at the two lakes within the park. Filled with trails, Rock Cut State Park offers plenty of opportunities for hiking and horseback riding. Reserve a spot to pitch your tent or plan in advance to rent the park’s cabin. 

Photo by Hipcamp

Find Camping Anywhere with Hipcamp

Campsites all booked up? Camp all around the world with the help of Hipcamp. This online camping database can help you search campsites and unique experiences on both public and private land. Just type in the location you’re looking to visit, near or far, and the dates you’re looking to travel and Hipcamp will help you find great locations for your next camping adventure. 

Book local campgrounds, RV parks, glamping venues, treehouses, and even the loft of a rustic haybarn on a llama farm. 

Check out this unique river camping experience found on Hipcamp, Wild Wisco Waters, a family owned company near Wisconsin Dells on the Wisconsin river, which will supply you with canoes and all the paddling gear and guidance needed to navigate this shallow, lazy river and find your very own sandbar-island for the night! 

Nature is the most beautiful vacation destination we have and luckily, it’s all around us. You don’t have to go far to enjoy a vacation, so plan a nearby camping trip this summer and enjoy making beautiful memories with your family and friends.💚 Don’t forget, make it better for the one who comes after you & remove all evidence of your visit – please, Leave No Trace.

To share your camping itinerary and get travel planning tips, visit

My name is Ann Marie Scheidler and I'm thrilled you've decided to check out my blog. I'm a pearl-loving yogi with a thing for travel, a weakness for beautiful bags, and a passion for storytelling. In this space, I'll be sharing stories about my family, go-to recipes, my wellness journey, fashion and beauty favorites, and my love for Chicago’s North Shore. I find new inspiration wherever I go. Thanks so much for coming along for the ride!


Find out all that’s new on the blog right from your inbox! Sign up for the newsletter today!

Leave a Comment


  1. […] experiences in the hopes of helping others plan vacations of their own. Annie was sweet enough to write a story about planning a camping trip for my blog. I’m so glad she did because I know nothing about camping and now may actually consider it […]

    Posted 7.26.22 Reply