With school and work schedules, not to mention all the other activities going on during the week regardless of the season, it’s no wonder many folks decide that the sacred days of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are the best (and sometimes only) days to pack up the RV and go camping for the weekend. With the proper planning, packing method, and attitude, these brief camping trips can revitalize and refresh the spirit, build some memories, and reconnect you to what’s important in life.

This list of strategies will help you optimize your time. With experience, you’ll get into a rhythm and it’ll feel straightforward to take a weekend camping trip.

  1. Find gems close to home. Don’t use up the precious time you have by spending it driving there and back again. Give yourself a max radius from your stationary home, preferably within a four-hour range or less. Save those must-see places that are farther away for when you can take more time away. Choose to revisit places that you love and enjoy, or spots that you went to when the kids were little and now can explore in a whole new way now that the family is grown — for nostalgic purposes and a degree of comfort. It’s fun to be a tourist in your own backyard.
  2. Keep your RV loaded. One of the biggest headaches of packing everything up is that items may be pulling double duty, meaning you need them in the house as well as the RV. It saves time to have items that are only for the RV – dishes, silverware, pots, pans, coffee pot, towels, linens, etc. You won’t have everything you need at the get-go. You gather more supplies over time. Another good strategy to keeping your RV loaded and at the ready is to take care of everything when you return from a camping trip. This way, you’re not getting ready for a new trip, you’re cleaning up post-trip. This includes all the domestic chores. As for food, there shouldn’t be a whole lot left over your last camping trip in the cupboards or fridge. If you won’t be camping for a few more weeks, then take everything out. After all the laundry, washing, folding, etc., put everything back into the RV so that it’s ready to use the next time. Some items such as first aid kits, tool kits, bathroom kits, soaps, etc., can be left in the RV for a longer period of time and are things you don’t have to think about packing when it comes time to go camping again.
  3. Create and use packing checklists. Starting from scratch every time can lead to forgetting things or making mistakes. If you get into the routine of keeping your RV loaded with the basic necessities, you simplify your packing checklist. However, double check that everything is stocked and where it’s intended to be. Make checklists for every step of hitching up the RV (if you have a towable) or prepping the RV (if you have a motorized RV), packing the RV, departing from home, setting up camp, and departing from the campground. It can be easy, especially during setup and teardown, to miss a step because of weather or other distractions. Checklists help you keep your focus and create a sound method, saving you time in the long run.
  4. Prep meals. This is a big one. If you prep meals ahead of time, whether they are precooked or prechopped or preassembled, you’ll save significant time at the campsite. Choose meals that are relatively easy to whip up and quick to clean up. This way, you can spend more time relaxing and less time working. You don’t need to cook anything gourmet.
  5. Plan on layers. If you’re too cold or too hot, you won’t have as good a time. Pack clothing that can be worn in layers as the temperature changes across the day. Check the weather forecast leading up to and during the day of departure. Don’t overpack. For a weekend, a small bag for each camper is plenty.
  6. Pick and choose what you want to see – don’t try to see it all. When you’re away from home, the temptation is to try to see as much as possible because, well, you’re away from home. Packing it all in can leave you exhausted at the end of the day – and you’re camping precisely to gain back some energy lost during the week by spending time with people you enjoy, getting outdoors, and doing things you don’t usually have time for. So it might be a good idea to take our next strategy to heart.
  7. Take advantage of the campground. Weekends are short and you don’t want to be spending them away from the campsite and in a vehicle. Many memories can be made by simply relaxing and hanging out at the campsite – reading, playing games, walking around, bike riding. Many campgrounds have amenities, too, such as pools or club houses or fishing ponds – take advantage of them! Choose campgrounds accordingly.
  8. Stay off devices and disconnect as much as possible. Be present in the here and now. Get your eyes off your screen and on to the people and places in front of you. Take photos, of course, but save photo sharing for when after the weekend is over. The same with social media. It’ll feel unusual, like you’re forgetting something, but really, you’re relearning how to live without your phone.
  9. Ask about late checkout. Some campgrounds offer a late checkout, which should be easier for them to accommodate on a Sunday or Monday as the next weekend isn’t staring them in the face. An extra hour or two changes the dynamic and feel of the entire morning of departure. You don’t have to rush to leave, and you can squeeze in one more walk on a nearby trail, one more cast in the water, or one more trip to the playground. Try to take care of some of the packing and departure checklists a bit the night before to make the day of departure a little easier.
  10. Last, but not least, try to take a long weekend, such as leaving on Thursday or departing on Monday. If you can, this will make your weekend excursion feel more “worth it” and will better enable you to settle in and relax. If you do this a few times a year at different locations around the state, you could have visited multiple locations that you otherwise would not have been able to see.

The downside of only camping on the weekends? For one, finding a place to camp. Weekends are more popular than weekdays, because let’s face it, most people only have the weekend to spare – so there is heavier competition for the same sites. Since more people are camping on weekends, there are more people out and about at the campground and surrounding attractions and activities. For another, site rates, depending on where you decide to camp for the weekend, will likely be higher than if you were to camp on a weekday. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be a Weekend Warrior, it’s simply a tradeoff that needs to be made for shorter stays. It goes without saying that camping for the weekend is a more cost-friendly way to enjoy time as a family, get away from home and work, and experience new things.