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How to Plan for a Summer Road Trip and Camping Adventure - Blog

By Staebler Insurance On Jun 16, 2022

As the school year winds down once again and the summer season officially begins next week, thoughts turn to vacation planning and what to do with the kids for two months ahead.

Our Staebler team jumped at the opportunity to present some tips and tricks for the road tripping families to make sure you know what to bring and what to do before you pack up and hit the road!

The following tips and tricks comes from years of practice from Kim & Steve Philpott, two former Presidents at Staebler Insurance, and their camping experiences and road trips with three kids to provincial parks in Ontario and longer trips into the United States.

Feel free to add your own additions or substitutions depending on your situation and leave us a comment below if we’ve missed anything.

PREPARATIONS
-         Camping bins for each person
o  Plastic Rubbermaid storage bins (with lids)
o  Write the person’s name on their bin
o  They store well and are semi-waterproof

-         Provide packing lists
o  Type up a list of the items each person will need to pack as well as the quantity (e.g. 7 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of long pants, 3 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of running shoes, 1 dress-up outfit, etc.)
o  Offers kids some freedom and independence to pack for themselves; they can practice their decision making skills and self-expression
o  Prepare yourself for some wacky outfits and get right with it; they will feel proud and accomplished
o  Also, have an emergency budget set aside in case one of your little ones forgot to pack something they need

-         Bring bikes if you have the room
o  They are great to have for your kids to ride around the campground or zip to and from their friend’s site
o  You can often find riding trails in and around your campground too

-         Pre-pack toiletries
o  Lunch bags make a great, water resistant toiletries bag
o  You can have one for the boys and one for the girls, and go for showers in groups

-         Have first-aid on-hand
o  Include things like:
o  Band-Aids and bandages
o  Polysporin
o  Bug spray
o  Poison ivy treatment
o  Sunscreen (high SPF, spray-on, and waterproof)

-         Do as much meal planning as possible
o  Note: if you’re crossing an international border, some food items may be prohibited, so be prepared to declare your items and be aware of what you can and cannot take over the border (e.g. meat products) Learn more from US Customs and Border Protection.
o  One-pot meals make for easy prep and easy clean-up
o  Plan for hors d’oeuvres hour (more on this idea later)
o  Plan quick and nutritious meals and pre-prepare as much as possible

-         Plan your route
o  On your first travel day: Leave very early (before the sunrise). Let the kids can sleep in the car and the first pit stop can be breakfast.
o  Plan for 1 travel day every 3 days
o  Keep travel days to 8 hours of driving or less
o  Have a paper map and know how to read it
o  Use a map to plan your route as well as the stops

» Pro Tip: If you are travelling with kids, find stops that have play areas (e.g. McDonalds, rest areas, etc.) so they can burn some energy before getting back in the car

» Another Pro Tip: Our family had a rule where kids that can’t sit still for a meal need to run their sillies off; have them run three laps around the outside of the restaurant before they sit down again

o  Use a network of campgrounds (e.g. KOA Campgrounds) as they will often provide a book of their campgrounds and amenities that you can bring with you and their amenities will be pretty consistent from you to another (e.g. facilities, hook ups, pricing, etc.)
o  Each day, look at where you plan to stop that night and make a reservation there
o  Look ahead about 8 hours or 640km from your starting point
o  Call from the road to make a reservation

TRAVELLING

o  Have a bag with you in the front seat of toys, activities, etc. and give them out one at a time
o  Allows you to drip feed the entertainment so they have something fun and engaging the whole way
o  Let kids exhaust each activity before moving on so they last longer
o  Have your kids trade their current toy/activity before they get another one, so you always have something fun stashed in your bag

» Pro Tip: if you provide a concise timeframe such as "we’ll be there in 5 hours” then kids will often be restless and anxious for that entire time; whereas if you say "we’ll be in the car all day” the kids may be more calm during the trip

o  Each day, look at where you plan to stop that night and make a reservation there

o  Look ahead about 8 hours or 640km from your starting point
o  Call from the road to make a reservation
o  Note: It can be challenging to get a last minute reservation with some campgrounds and particularly with provincial parks; in that case, you may need to call a few places to find an opening

» Pro Tip: Campgrounds and areas with museums, historic re-enactments, and science centres make for great stops with kids! These are often low-cost activities and they are opportunities for your little ones to learn something new.

» Pro Tip: When you cross into a new province or state, there will often be a tourism office located near the border and they will have lots of information about the state or province you are visiting and their local attractions.

CAMPSITE SETUP

-         When you arrive at the campsite, divvy up the chores; assign chores that are age appropriate so everyone gets a chore, no matter how little
o  More hands make light work!  Setup will be faster if everyone is helping

-         Once the site is setup, have an hors d’oeuvres hour!
o  Make it something fast and easy, but still a little fancier than what you’d have for a snack usually
o  It gives you an opportunity to take a breather, finish some more setup, and work on dinner without your hangry family breathing down your neck
o  Here are some of our favourites:
- Crackers and cheese
- Smoked mussels or oysters
- Pâté
- Crudité
o  Non-perishables and canned items are easy to store and have handy when you need them

-         After dinner, kids can head to the playground or the pool
o  This gives them an opportunity to flex their social skills and make some new friends
o  You can give your little ones some language and tips for how they can meet new people like "you can tell them your name and that you are from Kitchener, Ontario, and then you can ask them where they are from”
o  Pick activities that will burn some energy and let them run their sillies off
o  Pool time = bath time
o  Get into pajamas, have a campfire, and then tipple into bed

-         Check the campground office for guide books and information about nearby attractions or activities
o  Remember, you will be stuck in a car for another 8 hours in just a day or two so get out and get active while you have the chance
o  Explore the area and really "take in” each stop on the road trip

CAMPSITE PACKUP

-         Start inside and work your way out
-         Tidy up clothes and put them back in your bin
-         Make up beds and put things away
-         Get some last minute sillies out before getting on the road (e.g. walk to the campground office for checkout or walk to the bath house to use the washroom, etc.)
-         When you’re in the car, remember to look ahead about 8 hours or 640km from your starting point and make a reservation for your next stop

FAVOURITE CAMPING RECIPES

-         Homemade "pop tarts": White bread with pie filling cooked over the fire using a pie iron
-         Canned stew or chili
-         Chili hot dogs
-         Taco salad
-         Any one-pot meals or foil packages are great for camping!  Less mess = a better meal!

Pro Tip: Not all food items can cross borders.  If you are travelling across a border, make sure you know which foods are acceptable and which are not, or be prepared for some of your food to be confiscated

Want to up your campfire dessert game? Check out a few of these Staebler favourites to include in your next round of s’mores!

We also recommend the book Pie Iron Recipes by Rhonda Belle. It's loaded with ideas and easy step-by-step instructions for every meal of the day. There are 60 pie iron recipes that will keep everyone around the campsite happy and well fed.

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Be Wise. Staebler Insurance is a general insurance broker specializing in auto insurance, home insurance, small business, and commercial insurance. Staebler brokers proudly serve Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Stratford, Listowel, Fergus, Elora, Wellington County, Perth County, Waterloo Region and southern Ontario. Get started with a free quote today.