You need special camping tips for the first big holiday weekend of the summer camping season. The key to any stress-free camp weekend is planning. It’s a bummer to discover you forgot to pack the toothpaste!
If you are camping Memorial Day Weekend, there is a little extra stress because anxious campers think it’s a race to beat the crowds. But, rushing and hurrying actually adds stress … and … the likelihood a really important item will be left at home.
So, here are a few tips to make sure your trip is a stress-free success.
Memorial Day This Year
Memorial Day 2022 falls on Monday, May 30.
The Memorial Day weekend begins on the last weekday at the end of May before the official holiday on Monday. This year the holiday weekend starts on Friday, May 27 and runs through Monday, May 30, 2022.
Use Our Planner For Your Memorial Day Trip
Before we get into tips for planning your holiday weekend trip, grab a FREE printable copy of our camping trip planner template.
Memorial Day Camping Tips
We’ve organized these tips in order of when you should do each step to prepare for your Memorial Day camp weekend:
- As far in advance of your Memorial Day camping trip as possible
- The weekend before the Memorial Day weekend begins
- The night before you depart on your holiday trip
- The morning of your departure travel day
As Far In Advance Of Your Long Weekend Trip
Step 1. Make your reservations.
National Parks and State Parks are usually the first to max out on reservations so you’ll need to reserve far in advance to secure a spot for your rig or one of the cabins.
You can often find a great spot in a smaller park or RV campground that is near your favorite national monument or park that you can visit on day trips.
Activities related to the holiday
If you want to really celebrate the holiday during your trip, think about finding the best site that has easy access to historically significant locations, attractions and events. Some ideas:
- Attend a local Memorial Day parade
- Visit a National Park or National Memorial that honors Veterans and American history. To find the places near you just visit the National Park Service website, do an advanced search by choosing your state then choosing a topic that interests you. There are options like:
- American Revolution
- Burial, Cemetery and Gravesite
- Monuments and Memorials
- Wars and Conflicts
- And more…
If you are camping in a campground or in an RV park, put the printed reservation information in a trip kit and store it in your vehicle’s glove compartment. I like using organizers, like this travel case, to store campground reservation information as well as other important papers like vehicle insurance and registration certificates.
It’s also handy for small electronics, power adapters and memory cards. This will ensure you don’t forget your campground reservation information and it will be easily accessible when you need it.
Backup For Step 1. Oooops, I can’t get a reservation.
During the summer season, the best places in public and private campgrounds fill up quickly with advanced reservations.
Popular camping spots are becoming increasingly congested as more families choose tent and RV camping for their recreational activities.
During the busy time of year, arriving at your choice spot on a Saturday night will probably leave you disappointed. On hectic holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, Friday mornings may not be early enough to arrive at a site without a reservation either.
We recommend calling the visitor centers, information centers, recreation divisions and campground owners, to inquire about getting a spot if another family cancels.
If the number of sites just won’t accommodate the high demand, we have tips on last minute camping you should check out.
And, if you have to ask what are “walk-up only campsites?”, you’re in luck because we can help you understand what they are and how to get the best spots.
Don’t get discouraged, this is how we have found our hidden gems that my husband doesn’t want me to write about on my blog LOL.
When popular parks are full, you can often save a bunch of money by getting off the beaten path to stay at free campsites on public lands. These last minute campsite options can be totally free or may require low-cost permits.
This is one of the best bets to find available campsites during the busiest summer schedule and are great options when preparing for fast approaching holidays. We have an entire blog post dedicated to show you how to find free camping in the USA.
If you are used to camping with:
- camp stores,
- waste & water hook-ups,
- picnic tables,
- fire rings,
- garbage dumpsters,
- flush toilets,
- showers or other amenities a full-service campground offers … you will need to adjust your plans to be prepared for a more primitive camping experience. Federal and state forest service campgrounds and dispersed camping areas are great options for finding camp spots during chaotic holidays.
You may only find a parking spot but that is all you need! You can build your own fire ring with rocks around the area or just dig a fire pit. Set up a few of you camp chairs and improvise on the rest.
The really nice thing about these parking areas is the fact that there is usually a good distance between you and other tent and RV campers which is really nice for privacy. These locations are typically a short distance from hiking trails for exploring nature at a slower and quieter pace compared to frenzied campgrounds with capacity crowds.
VIDEO TIPS: Don’t worry if everything is booked and there are no campsites available Memorial Day Weekend, I’ve got tips and a VIDEO to help you turn your campground trip in to a dispersed camping trip. We have lots of resources to help campers who are new to dispersed camping. Every topic you can imagine is discussed here, Boondocking: How And Where To Go Dispersed Camping.
The Weekend Before Your Long Memorial Day Weekend
Step 2. Get your vehicle ready.
Check your vehicle fluid levels, lights, tire pressures and battery condition to improve the odds for a no-breakdown, side-of-the-road weekend. And, for extra precaution make sure you have an Excursion Road Kit for unexpected situations. You should also verify your roadside assistance plan is up-to-date and includes trailer towing if you are going to be pulling your home-away-from-home on wheels for your trip.
We have a FREE printable RV Tool Kit Checklist too! One thing that is certain, traffic is more congested that normal on summer holidays. Being prepared with basic tools is important so you don’t have to fight the crowds to head to the nearest hardware store when camping on Memorial Day Weekend. Come to think of it, who would EVER want to leave the campsite to go shopping for a tool they forgot to pack???
Step 3. Check for fire restrictions before planning your menu.
If your Memorial Day camp trip involves campfire cooking or charcoal grilling … and … you’re not allowed to have open flames because of fire restrictions … your propane stove will save the day! The Authorities usually establish fire restrictions well in advance of big holiday weekends so plan your menu accordingly. I have used my Coleman Fold N Go 2-Burner Propane Stove when campfires and charcoal were prohibited and became the campground hero instantly with these yummy camp stove recipes!
I’ve got some great camping recipes that will have your camping clan begging for seconds! YUM After you decide where to camp Memorial Day Weekend, you need to check for available cooking tools and equipment too. If you plan on grilling your meals, make sure the campsite has grills available and you’ll just need to bring charcoal. There may be flip down grill grates at campfire rings but don’t make that assumption. In other words, know what cooking equipment is available on-site and be prepared to bring additional equipment if needed. If you don’t have your menu planned and need some ideas, check out our 50+ Memorial Day Camping Recipes for your holiday menu (they work in the backyard too!)
Step 4. Plan your menu, shop and pack food.
I like to shop for and pack all of the non-perishable food items on my list the weekend before we travel. Then, I just have a short list of perishable items I need to pick up at the last minute. Using a Comprehensive Grocery List Planner helps me to get everything I need for my Memorial Day weekend menu!
Step 5. Pack your clothes and gear.
I like to pack clothes and gear the week before and then just load it into the car before pulling out of the driveway for our Memorial weekend camp trip. It’s a drag to hike in your flip flops (no matter how cute they are) because you forgot your hiking boots at home! And, sleeping under the stars is great if by choice … it’s not so great if you are doing it because you forgot your tent in the garage!
Get tips and your FREE printable copy of our Ultimate RV and Tent Camping Checklist! This thing is great for Memorial Day weekend camping and beyond! Actually, any weekend is a great weekend for camping and using this awesome checklist!
The Night Before Your Memorial Weekend Camping Trip
Step 6. Check for traffic and construction.
“Parking” on the highway is a huge bummer! If your planned route is under construction or closed because of an accident, you want to easily navigate alternate routes. I like having an old-fashioned paper Motor Carrier’s Road Atlas because it has really important information for driving on RV trips, like restricted routes, low clearance, and weigh station locations, 22-page mileage directory including more than 40,000 truck-route-specific, city-to-city mileage as well as road construction and conditions hotlines. It is also nice to have an electronic RV GPS too.
We have an entire post dedicated to RV Travel Tips For RV Safe Routes so be sure to check that out.
Some of my favorite sources for information include U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, you will find regional links as well as weather condition information too. The Arizona Department of Transportation has great information if your unofficial start of summer camping trip is happening in the The Grand Canyon State.
Step 7. Fuel up.
I like to hit the road with momentum, especially during busy times like the Memorial holiday weekend! In addition to washing our windshield the night before our departure, we fill our vehicle gas tank and an extra gasoline can or two depending on our travel route. It is always good to be prepared with a little extra fuel especially when you are camping in remote areas without lots of services.
If your Memorial Day event will include Camping In National Forests, be sure to check out our post for tips that will keep you legal!
If the weather forecast is dry and you are faced with fire restrictions, you will need to be prepared to change your cooking and activity plans. Because we live in Arizona where it is hot, dry and prone to wildfires, government officials are extra cautious on busy holiday weekends and tend to trigger fire restrictions which may impact where to camp Memorial Day Weekend. We have tons of tips in our How To Camp When Camping Fire Restrictions Are Activated post so be sure to check it out!
Step 9. Pick up the perishables.
The night before your departure, make a quick trip through the store to get the perishable items on your grocery list. And whatever you do, don’t forget the ice! No excuse is good enough to suffer through a lukewarm beer! Here’s how to keep drinks cold when camping.
I like to put our beverages in one cube cooler topped with ice. This thing is easy to load, has a locking telescoping handle and wheels for easy transportation. Plus, it doubles as a sort of side table with four drink holders molded into the lid which is awesome when you are at a campsite that is not perfectly level!
Additionally, I use a second cooler to hold food. Here’s how to keep food cold while camping.
The Morning Of Your Memorial Day Trip Weekend
Step 10. Load, lock and go.
The morning of your departure, load the stuff you packed last weekend and lock up your house. It’s annoying to wonder if you forgot to lock the front door … so don’t be annoyed. Have a designated person that is responsible to ensure the house doors and windows are locked, the alarm is set and the coffee pot is off (and any other item you can think of that would just bug the heck out of you to wonder about while you are trying to enjoy your Memorial Day weekend camping trip!)
Honor The Holiday
With all of that said, make sure to have fun and remember the reason for the season. Sure, it’s really nice to have an extra day off from work … but, be sure to plan a little (or a lot) of time to pay tribute to the United States service members who have died while in service to our nation because that is what Memorial Day is really all about. Hope to see you on the trail soon enjoying my camping tips and recipes! You’ll find my entire list of camping recipes that are great for the campsite or the backyard here!
More Camp Menu Ideas
There are so many fun ways to prepare food at the campsite. Check out all of our recipes for every meal of your trip!