Getting the Most Out of Your Camping Time as a Weekend RVer
So, you've been dreaming about selling your house and hitting the road permanently. Haven't we all? Unfortunately, this epic dream isn't always an option for everyone. Maybe you're like Alison and I where you have other priorities in life keeping you from setting off on a multi-year adventure. We have plenty of them, so this is why we try to squeeze as much adventure out of the existing time we have off. Over a typical year, we try to camp at least every other weekend with multiple longer trips thrown in throughout the year to help us get out into nature. I hope to show you how to maximize your time camping so that you can also spend more time outdoors with your family doing what you love!
Take Lots of Short Trips
The main thing we do regularly is take lots of short trips. Whenever we have a free weekend with no major obligations, we take advantage of it. We try to keep our drive to campsites under four hours away. As soon as we get home from work on a Friday afternoon, we grab the gear we packed the night before and load our Jayco so we can hopefully get to the campsite before dark. That usually doesn't seem to work though, but I feel like I've gotten pretty good at parking the RV at night.
Pro tip: Be nice to your loved ones when backing in at night.
I personally prefer to camp at sites that are less than two hours away so I don't have a long drive after working all week, but honestly, the best night skies for astrophotography are between three to four hours away from us since we live close to the big and bright city of Dallas. So, we tough it out so we can enjoy some weekend stargazing. These are some great options you might want to consider when deciding where to park your Jayco.
If you don't want to drive far, and just want to get outside, try a local park. We have dozens within an hour drive of our home that we have taken advantage of over the years. Local parks are a fantastic close by option that are usually pretty cheap.
US Army Corps of Engineers Parks
Another possibility you might want to check out is US Army Corps of Engineers parks. There are thousands of these sites located on hundreds of lakes and waterways all across the country, so there is a good possibility you have one near you. We have two "go to" Army Corps parks within twenty minutes of us. They are great for those super quick trips when we just need to spend some outside time together.
Speaking of the army, military bases sometimes have campgrounds you can take advantage of if you live close to one. We have thoroughly enjoyed our military RVing experiences and love the facilities and cleanliness of them. There are sometimes a few extra steps you need to go through such as a basic background check before camping on a base, but we have found that it is typically worth it.
Well known national chain RV parks and mom and pop RV parks are a good option if you like the social aspect of camping with lots of amenities. Sometimes you just want to camp with some Wifi and a pool. We completely understand. We have kids that love online gaming with their friends. There are thousands of these camping options available across the U.S., so we're pretty sure you can find one nearby.
Another great way to find camping close to you would be to see if local farmers or vineyards have a spot on their land to use. Hipcamp and Harvest Host websites provide landowners the ability to connect with RVers that like to enjoy some peace and quiet and also help support small local businesses. Like us, you might just realize you have dozens of these farm options within a short drive from your home. If you've never tried this type of camping before, give it a shot. Farm fresh eggs are awesome!
Depending on where you live the U.S. boondocking might also be a great option for a quick getaway. All over America, there are tons of camping spots you can stay at for free. If you have any BLM land nearby, RVing in a secluded campsite can really recharge you mentally and is almost always worth the drive to some solitude. Check out the BLM page to search for campsites.
Use Those Weekends
The best thing about the weekend if you have a standard Monday through Friday 9 to 5 job is that weekends don't use up any vacation time. Use this time strategically! Does the weekend back up to a national holiday? Make sure to make it a three-day weekend. Get on the road right after work on a Thursday night if you have Friday off so you can maximize your weekend. If you have Monday off, the same method obviously applies too. What about a "teacher workday" or "school holiday"? Consider taking those days off and getting the kids out on the road for a little camping fun.
Using the weekend to bridge your vacation time across a shortened week is an easy way to create a nine-day holiday. This works great over Thanksgiving week when most Americans have Thursday off. You can get a longer camping trip out of this week for sure. See if you can do this with other holiday periods throughout the year to make great use of your vacation time.
If you really are itching to get out and don't mind doing something a little different one year, consider spending some of your holidays on the road. We actually had a blast camping one New Year's Eve in Big Bend National Park. These are experiences you'll surely never forget.
Get Your Chores Done (During the Workweek)
One of the main ways we maximize our time camping is to get ahead on household chores during the work week. Most basic cleaning tasks are accomplished after we get off work. Right now you are probably thinking "I'm not scrubbing toilets and folding laundry after working all day!" Think of it this way: Would you trade an extra half an hour to an hour of extra work each day for a couple of potentially epic sunsets, some relaxing time at a beautiful lake, playing catch and enjoying boardgame time with your kids, and photographing an amazing night sky by a crackling campfire? We sure would!
With a little planning, you can clean certain parts of the house on different days of the week so this becomes a standard weekly routine. Your schedule could possibly look something like this:
Monday: Clean the bathrooms.
Tuesday: Vacuum the house and dust.
Wednesday: Sweep and mop the floors.
Thursday: Mow the yard and prepare next week's first dinner meal to freeze.
Friday and Saturday: Relax at an awesome campsite.
Sunday: Get next week's grocery shopping out of the way after returning from camping.
If a schedule like this won't work for you, consider camping every other weekend. This way you can alternate cleaning weeks.
Don't forget to have your kids pitch in on some of the chores if they are old enough! Some will gladly help, and some might want to charge you a little service fee.
There is one thing you might not think of when trying to maximize time camping: staying healthy. Depending on where you work, you could run out of sick days and that might cost you time out on the road. Some jobs want you to make up for lost work time on the weekend while others will want you to use your vacation time to cover illnesses. Whatever your work situation is, there are a few obvious ways to make sure you stay healthy and avoid getting sick so you can camp more.
Eat well, get rest, wash your hands and get some exercise. By doing those four simple things, you should be able to stay relatively healthy. We always make sure to eat balanced meals so we get the proper amount of nutrients. We also try to get some exercise during the week, usually in the morning before work. Our typical goal for Alison and myself is to get eight hours of sleep while Preston and Grayson aim for ten hours during the work/school week. While at work, school, and in stores we do our best to keep our hands clean by washing them regularly to slow the transmission of germs. We feel that these little tips have helped to keep us in relatively good health and out on the road.
The Big Trip
You probably know the average American has between two or three weeks of vacation time each year. With such a limited amount of time off, it's important to utilize every moment available if you want to camp frequently.
We like to take a "big" summer trip that is a few weeks long and use most of our vacation time on this trip exploring one or two regions of the country. Making a point to enjoy a couple of parks each summer more thoroughly instead of racing around checking out a whole bunch of parks has allowed us to really get to know the areas. For instance, last July we made it a point to dive deep into the Utah landscape in and around Kodachrome Basin State Park and a couple of other areas on our trip. This focused attention helped us to spend more time camping and hiking while actually enjoying all parts of the area and less time driving to different places. We have grown to love many aspects of these amazing places even more since switching to this mentality.
On the flip side, how much time do you really need in an area? Will you get bored in one location? We approach the exploration of a region and time we want to camp there based on the number of great hikes nearby that we can complete with our kids. We count the hikes we want to do and then add a rest day/bad weather day or two for insurance. Your method might be a little different based on what you like to do when camping, but hopefully this gives you an idea of how you can manage your time better while on a longer stay.
One of our best recommendations to get the most out of your "big" annual trip would be to do your best not retracing steps. This means when you head to the main area you want to camp, go there in one direction, and then head home by traveling a different route or by driving a different series of roads. We recently discovered one of the coolest campgrounds hidden in the cornfields of Kansas with a beautiful lake and tons of wildlife. If we had just returned home the same way, we would never have found this place.
With a little planning, we know you'll squeeze the most adventure out of your time off too!
If you have any questions about maximizing time camping or anything RV/hiking/photography/videography related, please feel free to reach out to us on social media. Enjoy your road trips!