How to have the best camping trip ever.

So, I didn’t catch a fish.

Today, after a good night’s sleep in my own bed, the campfire scent washed out of my hair, that’s the only bad thing I can say about our family camping trip to Haviland Lake, Colorado.

Well, the fact that my brother DID catch a fish- the first fish, the biggest fish- is also lame. But otherwise, we had an absolute blast!

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Camping isn’t for everyone.  But as I review the many (MANY) photos of our 5-day camping success story, I thought I’d share a few tips that worked for us to make it special. Maybe they’ll work for you, too.

PLAN AHEAD.

Car camping with a tent or a trailer means having the luxury to be cozy and ready for anything. Put a little thought into what you might encounter during your trip and pack accordingly: sunscreen, rain gear, warm clothes, extra socks, doggie entertainment, hand sanitizer, batteries, rolls of toilet paper, more than one headlamp. Think about what might make you more comfortable while you’re out in “the wild.” Have a menu in mind, and pre-make food items if you can. Anything you can do beforehand makes it more enjoyable- and relaxing– when you get to camp. And isn’t that the point?

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BRING A DOG.

Borrow one if you have to! Dogs love camping. Get over the fear that they might get wet or dirty. They will. It might be a little more work to have a canine companion with you, but it’s awesome! The sight of your dog having the time of her life will make your own camping experience that much better. Hey, if nothing else, they’ll help keep you warm.

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EAT AND DRINK WELL.

With 6 adults who love to snack and start happy hour at, oh, about 2pm, we decided to divide and conquer when it came to food and drink. We had plenty of cocktail fixings, from spicy Bloody Maries to honey-ginger lemonade with vodka to delicious wine. There was also no shortage of good eating. Meats and cheeses, smoky links on skewers, pork chile verde, Dad’s dutch oven pot roast, bacon-filled waffles (you read that right), breakfast burritos, the best burgers, fab desserts…Let’s just say that a Bianchi family camping trip is not the time to diet. You don’t have to get crazy with gourmet cuisine to make camping food spectacular, but it’s a fun excuse to try new recipes or methods of cooking. Truth: Everything tastes good when cooked over a campfire.

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DO STUFF.

What “stuff” means will vary with each person, but make the most of the time you have when you’re in a unique location. Being surrounded by nature brings the opportunity to explore! Get out in it. Love reading? Pull out a chair and indulge in your novel by the fire, or on the shores of a lake. Need a nap? Put up a hammock and let the breeze blowing through the pine trees lull you to sleep. For us, the point of being on the lake was to go fishing. And fish we did. We also played on the paddleboards, went out on the boat, went on bike rides, and did some target-shooting with the air gun. After all of that, there wasn’t any time left to be bored.

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BE FLEXIBLE.

Maybe you’ll forget to pack something. Maybe it will pour rain the whole time. Maybe your brother will catch fish and you won’t. No matter what it actually is, SOMETHING won’t go according to plan. It’s important to remember that you’re on vacation how bad can it be? Four years ago, a bear sniffed his way around Matt and Jodi’s tent in the night. This year, they brought two dogs and a massive can of bear mace- just in case! One day, John and I made the decision to leave the lake and head into town with Matt and Jodi to see the start of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race. We hadn’t planned on leaving the lake to spend time in town, but we’re so glad we did. What a unique thing to have the chance to witness!

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Another example? My mom forgot to pack corn syrup, which was a main ingredient for her pecan pie one night. After a group discussion, we decided to use maple syrup instead and hoped for the best. We also decided to add bourbon. It didn’t set up like a pie, but it sure tasted good. Changes to the plan can sometimes turn out to be even more awesome.

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MAKE IT FUN.

Who says camping has to mean the same thing for everyone? Do it the way you want so that you enjoy yourself! For us, that meant injecting a little bit of crazy into the trip. I had the idea of hosting a “crazy costume cocktail party” at our campsite on the night when we were in charge of dinner. Costumes while camping….Why not? Luckily, my fun family was totally on board. My brother and his wife provided fun coozies to dress up our drinks, and my mom brought party beads. We strung lights along Betty’s awning and played fun music while we sipped our tasty drinks and tried on different get-ups. Sure, it was random…but we laughed a lot and have some pretty spectacular photos! Most important to me? No one is going to forget the night we all looked ridiculous at Haviland Lake.

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Don’t you love when you look forward to something for a long time, and then it’s even better than you had hoped? We reserved the two campsites back in January, and have been planning this trip for the better part of the year. When a family vacation is over, all you have is the memories. We made some great ones that include awesome food, a glorious setting, tons of fun, a lot of laughing, and LOVE.

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I just wish I was the one that caught the first fish. 

16 replies »

  1. was you paddle boarding with a drink on your board? that’s gansta hahaha. I’m not into camping that much but if it is like the pictures I might go on a little trip soon 🙂

  2. I love these camping tips, Amber! They are soooo spot on. Especially the part about being flexible and planning ahead. Seriously, planning is what makes a trip successful or unsuccessful. It’s hard to roll with the pinches if you’re forced to sit in total darkness bc you forgot flashlights!

    Also, is Cholulua available to accompany me on my Yellowstone trip?! 😉

    • Which of course, we learned the hard way by forgetting to bring WATER or running out of battery power two hours into a weekend!
      Cholula is available upon request for any and all outdoor adventures! You’re going to have the BEST time!

  3. LOVE the paddleboard/fishing/cocktail!! Can’t believe that didn’t earn you a fish! And next time, you HAVE to try my new s’mores twist I invented this year at our family camping trip: use mini peanut butter cups instead of the plain chocolate (we used the ones from Trader Joe’s) – so delicious!!

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