Camping trips are the stuff of childhood memories. Of sitting around a campfire toasting marshmallows and slapping at sand flies, of sleeping between canvas walls and rising with the sun. Nights spent stargazing because the stars twinkle that much brighter so far from the city. Eating easy-to-cook meals off plastic plates and long glorious days spent lazing around the campsite.
The best part of taking an organized camping trip is you get the breathtaking views, camaraderie, and thrill of being part of nature without the planning headache. Gear is one most expensive parts of this activity, but camping tours provide a bit of nostalgia without the high investment.
A range of camping trip options fit any style and preference, from bare bones to full-out luxury. Dream of lions in an air conditioned tent in South Africa or feel the rocky earth beneath your thin sleeping bag as you gaze up at a full moon in Utah. Whatever your camping style, consider taking a camping trip this summer.
Where to Go
The beauty of a camping trip is that it can be done almost anywhere – at music festivals, in your backyard, in national parks, and even as a cost-effective way of holidaying while visiting new cities or areas. Throw a tent in the back of the car and you are ready to see:
Viewing the Big 5 of African wildlife isn’t part of the usual camping trip. Then again neither is a chef who cooks meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Choosing a camping style safari in, for example, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, or Namibia, allows for maximum time outdoors in a national park or reserve.
A range of safari camps are available, including luxury tents with en-suites, budget-friendly tented rooms, and camps that move during the year to follow the wildebeest migration. Most packages include accommodation, sightseeing, and meals. Choose a camp that works to limit its environmental impact, and that contributes to the local economy.
The main activity when staying in a safari camp is animal watching. As well as the Big 5 – rhinoceroses, lions, buffalo, leopards, and elephants - meerkats, turtles, gorillas, wildebeest, and birds are all safari highlights, depending on the area and the time of year. The best wildlife viewing is during the dry season, from June to October.
Touring Europe via its campgrounds is a budget-friendly way to visit cultural highlights and sample historic cities. Europe’s campgrounds are located close to or within city limits and offer restaurants, laundry, and internet points, which most camping tours arrange.
Camping tours have been popular ways to sightsee Europe since the 1960s, when bussed group travel was introduced. The tours, which bus groups between destinations, are available for travelers aged between 18 and 35. The best time to go, if you want to balance great weather with affordability, is during the ‘shoulder’ seasons: late spring or early fall.
Elsewhere in Europe, tipis, yurts, caravans, eco-camps, and uninhabited islands all provide unconventional holiday accommodation. Wild camping, outside of campgrounds and in nature, is allowed in Norway and Estonia, and tolerated in France and Scotland with the permission of landowners.
Most cities are within a couple hours’ drive of a scenic camping spot, but some of the most untouched landscapes are a few days' walk away. You'll get to experience the magic of both with a camping tour.
Highlights of camping in North America? Exploring the national parks of the USA! Pitch a tent in Grand Canyon National Park, explore the desert in Joshua Tree National Park, gaze at the Rocky Mountains from Grand Teton National Park, or stay in water-access only campsites in Voyageurs National Park.
Summer is always the ideal time to go camping, though many areas offer year-round camping.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look For in a Camping Trip
When deciding on a camping trip, consider what you want from your experience.
First, read about the sites you’ll stay at during your camping trip. Some campgrounds are entire holiday parks, offering swimming pools, entertainment, cooking facilities and hot showers. Campgrounds in national parks are often more rudimentary, and for a complete trip into the wild, even drinking water will need to be brought in.
Second, read the company’s policy on providing gear and amenities. Do they provide all drinking water, or do you need to carry it? Will they provide and carry the gear, or are you responsible for bringing your own and lugging it? Does the company provide education on environment, history, and culture of the region? Is it a rough and tumble, authentic raw camping trip, or will there be air-conditioned tents and high thread count sheets? What activities are included in the camping trip? Cycling, hiking, kayaking or wildlife viewing? You decide how you want your camping trip to go.
You’ll also need to check the company’s policy on how many people go on camping trips and any age ranges or cut-offs. Taking a camping trip with children will be a different experience than retirees.
It’s always important to read reviews from past participants. Their hindsight experience may illuminate an aspect of a camping trip you hadn’t considered.
Average Camping Trip Cost & Length
Most camping trips range from short 2-3 day weekend trips to longer, 1-2 week excursion. Average prices fall between $300 for a weekend to $2,000 for a week.
Packing Trips & Rental Gear
Most camping tours provide any equipment and gear necessary to take part in a trip, but if they don’t, there are plenty of way to come prepared, even if you’re on a budget.
Camping equipment can be expensive, so hiring gear is a great option when camping for the first time, or when visiting another country. Companies around the world rent out basic camping supplies, and some also offer camping bundles that include everything needed for a week’s camping. Rentals are available by the day, though discounts kick in for week long rentals.
However, though your camping tour will likely provide most gear, some don’t provide sleeping bags for sanitary reasons.
If you’ve never camped before, you may be pleasantly surprised by how you feel when disconnected with technology, or perhaps you’ll miss it. To prepare for either scenario, bring some entertainment, like podcasts, downloaded movies or your Kindle. If you prefer paper books, remember to bring a small clip-on reading light. Speaking of reading, a great friend to bring on the trip is a book. Consider taking a book that discusses the history or geography of the region, or perhaps a memoir of someone who has treaded the same ground. For example, if you’ll camp along the Camino de Santiago, take Shirley MacLaine’s El Camino: A Journey of the Spirit, or if you’ll camp near the Pacific Crest Trail, bring along a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
Because camping trips usually remove travelers from the stresses of daily life, you will have opportunity to reflect. Bringing a journal is a great way to digest any new feeling or emotions, and writing can help rejuvenate you before returning to reality.
Qualifications & Training
There are no qualifications or training necessary to participate in a camping tour. Your camping tour company will likely alert you of any particularities of the terrain or environment, but just in case be sure to learn more about your destination ahead of time, as you would for any trip.
Camping is a low-risk activity. However, activities undertaken while camping and increased exposure to the natural environment can raise that risk. The location of your camp also is a factor, as there are more risks associated with wilderness camping than with, say, tours that take you to an urban campground on the outskirts of a European city.
Follow any advice and recommendations from your camping trip leaders and park authorities when camping in the wild, including knowing what to do if you encounter a bear or any other wild animal. Avoid storing food within your tent to prevent attracting animals, and visit a hospital immediately if you suffer from an animal bite.
Make sure to store food properly to avoid food-borne illness, and never cook inside your tent (doing so will trap carbon monoxide). With perishable foods, use a cooler with ice packs or ice cubes if refrigeration is unavailable. Ensure good hygiene is followed and make sure food is cooked thoroughly before eating. You won’t likely have to worry about that, however, as your camping tour will typically cook for you.
Adjust to the climate appropriately: bring enough layers to keep warm on cold nights if you'll be camping during winter or in a cold location. When in the sun, despite the temperature, always be mindful of sun exposure. Use sun protection such as sunscreen and a hat.