Everyone can use a few camping tips for busy camp holidays! If you are planning a Labor Day camping adventure, here are a few things you need to consider. The holiday weekend is the last big camping weekend for the summer, which means, campgrounds and recreational facilities are busy!
Do a little extra planning with our tips on travel, lodging and food to ensure your holiday weekend camping trip is fun-filled and stress-free!
In This Post:
Planning Tips For Labor Day Camping
Make it simple by planning early!
- Make your camping reservations
- Prepare your vehicle
- Check for fire restrictions
- Plan your menu
- Create your grocery list
- Pack your clothes
- Shop and pack your non-perishable grocery items
- Night before departure final items
- Lock, load and go
- Backup planning tips
Use A Trip Planner
Using our FREE printable camping trip planner template will help you stay organized!
As Far In Advance As Possible
1. Make your camping reservations.
Make your camping reservations as far in advance of your Labor Day camping weekend trip as possible.
If you need help deciding where to go, take advantage of the best camping apps that are totally FREE with information on every aspect of your trips.
Print a hard copy of your reservations and directions and keep the documents organized in a document case in your vehicle.
I like using cases that can also accommodate my personal electronic devices and their cords.
Check Your Travel Route
If you are camping in an RV and will be traveling along unfamiliar roads, make sure they are RV safe routes during your trip planning process.
If your trip is taking you to a busy National Park and you don’t enjoy being in a sea of humanity, you’ll love our 12 Tips To Avoid Crowds In National Parks So You Don’t Go Crazy! you are welcome! LOL
2. Prepare your vehicle.
Get your vehicle ready for travel.
- Make sure you have a basic roadside emergency and first aid kit easily accessible in your vehicle.
- You don’t want to have to unpack your entire trunk in order to get to your first aid kit in the event of an emergency.
- There is always lots of extra traffic on the road as people take advantage of the long holiday weekend.
3. Check for fire restrictions.
If the weather conditions are dry at all, on big holiday camping weekends officials would rather be safe than sorry when it comes to preventing wildfires.
You may encounter locations where open fires are prohibited and restrictions have been activated. We have tips to help you plan the perfect trip when camping without fire.
Make sure you check for fire restrictions BEFORE planning your Labor Day camping weekend menu.
I recommend easy grill recipes for camping because you can use campfires, charcoal or propane grills as a heat source. Then you won’t be forced into last-minute changes if fire-restrictions are activated.
4. Plan your menu.
Cooking, eating and hanging out with friends and family is a big part of celebrating the holiday weekend.
Grilling is the most popular cooking method but for many campers, cooking over a fire making Dutch oven camping recipes is preferred.
No matter what type of cooking you want to include, we have over 50 Labor Day holiday recipes to help you with your menu planning!
5. Create your grocery list.
I’m always in the “dog house” when I forget condiments. My husband’s favorite is hot sauce, he goes through bottles of it during a long camp weekend!
Using a pre-printed grocery shopping list will help you stay organized and remind you to pick up some easily overlooked grocery items.
Whatever you do … don’t forget to add the s’mores to your camping weekend menu plan!
The end of summer big camping bash would not be complete if you didn’t try at least one of our yummy 10 mouth-watering smores variations!
6. Pack your clothes and gear.
Pack your clothes and gear based on the activities you have planned for your weekend.
If a hike is in your plans, be sure to pack your boots (or shoes) according to the type of trail you will be hiking.
Proper foot and ankle support is the key to avoiding injuries on the trail.
Wearing the appropriate gear is just one of our tips on camping safety!
7. Shop and pack non-perishable grocery items.
If you shop and pack your non-perishable food as early as possible, you are less likely to forget an item for your trip.
Then, you only need to pick up a small list of perishable items at the last minute.
The Evening Prior To Your Trip
On the night before your trip, these are the departure final items you’ll want to complete.
8. Check your travel route for traffic & construction delays and road closures.
The night before you leave for your trip, check your route for traffic, construction and closures.
My favorite resource for this is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Traffic and Road Closure Information website and phone information line you can access by just dialing the number 511.
9. Update your electronic maps and navigation devices.
If you are camping in an RV, a GPS navigator has free lifetime map and traffic updates; provides RV-specific services, specialized routing based on your RV’s height, weight, width and length!
It also provides cautions regarding risk of grounding, lateral wind, narrow road, sharp curve, steep hill and state borders.
10. Place a paper map in your vehicle.
Be sure to carry a map in your vehicle in case you have to divert from your planned route.
In addition to having high-tech navigation capabilities, I like having an old-fashioned road atlas that provides easy-to-read maps, city insets and National Park Maps.
I also jot notes on the maps for reference on future trips.
Mountain temperatures really begin to drop in the autumn, so, many families consider the camping Labor Day weekend to be the end of the “bear country camping” season. If you are heading to one of those locations, we have helpful tips for camping in bear country.
11. Load extra fuel.
We like to fuel up the night before our departure so we can hit the ground running on the busy holiday weekend.
In addition to filling our vehicle, we carry an extra gasoline can or two especially if our campsite is located in a more remote area, like our favorite National Forest which is quite a distance from the nearest gas station.
12. Check the weather forecast along your route and at your destination.
It’s a good idea to check the forecast for your entire travel route the night before your departure.
If you need to adjust timing or routing, you have time to plan for that rather than trying to do it behind the wheel as you drive!
A sports watch with an altimeter, barometer, chronograph, compass and weather forecasting capabilities is a fun gadget too!
Be Prepared For Rain
Depending on where you will be camping, you may need to deal with rain. We live in Arizona which means monsoon season is inevitably part of our Labor Day camping trips.
We have made a ton of mistakes (the bad news), but we learned A LOT (the good news) about camping in the rain and we created a blog post to share tips for camping in the rain!
13. Pick up your perishable groceries.
Pick up the perishables from the grocery store the night before your departure, and don’t forget the ice!
We like to keep one cooler designated for “beverages only” and top it with ice which is just one of our tips on how to keep drinks cold when camping.
There is nothing better than arriving at your camping destination and opening a cooler filled with ice-cold beverages as you are setting up camp!
Understanding how to handle food safely will keep your friends and family happily camping, versus the alternative of being stuck in the nearest emergency room with food poisoning.
Check out these important camping food safety tips and enjoy your food without worries!
The Morning Of Your Departure
14. Lock, Load And Go!
- Load final items into your vehicle
- Lock your home
- Leave contact information for your house-sitter
- Go … Enjoy your long camping weekend!
We load our last-minute items; we also have a “designated locker” so one person is responsible to verify our home’s doors and windows are locked, the coffee pot is off and our home alarm is set.
We also leave instructions for our house-sitter regarding our campsite location along with contact numbers. It’s a routine that puts us at ease when we are escaping city life for a few days!
What happens when you are halfway to your camping destination and you realize you forgot to pack the games? You panic! Not really!
You just click over to our 10 fun activities and campfire games for totally fun options that don’t require anything but happy campers and a competitive spirit!
Don’t miss Campfire Activity #6 – Camping For Foodies Super Hero Camper Game.
Backup Planning Tips
Because Labor Day weekend is the big end-of-summer holiday weekend, many campgrounds are booked solid.
Many public land campgrounds have campsites that can’t be reserved in advance. A three-day weekend is the perfect opportunity to experience these types of camping options. You can find these campgrounds all across north America. It can be a little nerve wracking when you try to get a spot the first time if you are used to having confirmed reservations.
Each location operates a little differently but generally you can find individual tent sites and RV sites as well as larger sites that can accommodate a whole group of campers. Sites usually have picnic areas and fire rings. But, water, waste and electric sites are not as common.
These places may or may not have campground hosts and you should be prepare to use a self-pay station that only accepts cash.
The amenities vary based on the geographic location. Those with freshwater lake or ocean access may have rental opportunities in the boat launch area so campers can experience water activities in small boats or other motorized watercraft.
Outdoor experiences will usually include nature trails whether they are located in open meadows, sand dunes, coastal forests or mountain forests.
We’ve got 7 Tips For Getting The Best Walk-Up Only Campsites!
My husband’s work schedule requires us to do most of our camping on a spur-of-the-moment basis which is really hard for me personally because I am a planner and like things to be organized.
I have learned to be spontaneous and embrace last minute camping out of necessity! LOL
No campsites? No problem … Go Dispersed!
We do most of our camping in National Forests where no reservations are required … the cool thing is that we just show up when we can … drive till we find an open spot … and … set up camp for the weekend.
There are plenty of ways to experience mother nature when you are off the beaten path in the great outdoors.
You won’t find camp hosts when you are in the dispersed camping areas but you might occasionally run into a ranger.
A forest is a great place to celebrate the unofficial end of summer.
There is no such thing as a “best time to arrive” because campers are coming and going at their leisure. Seriously, where else can you arrive on a Saturday night with your sleeping bag and plop down to relax under a canopy of twinkling stars?
If you have never done it before, don’t just head out there … we have a better way!
There are rules you need to know in order to have the best stay possible. Because it is so popular to go camping on Labor Day weekend, many of the parks and campgrounds are filled to capacity which is no problem if you know how to LEGALLY go camping in National Forests!
What Is Boondocking & How Do You Do It?
If the campgrounds are booked, don’t give up, just go dispersed camping (aka boondocking or dry camping). It’s easier than you might think.
When you just can’t find a campground with a vacancy, you can always try to find a free camping spot instead of settling to “just go camping at a later time”.
You need to be FULLY SELF-CONTAINED so you’ll be hauling your own water, trash, power etc. We limit our water use when we’re hauling our own … hand sanitizers will become your best friend out in the wild! LOL
Free camping is a great way to avoid the additional cost of campsite fees but you’ll be doing a bit more work as a result.
We have a TON of information … including how-to videos and tips on boondocking off-the-grid!
Campsite Security For The Busy Holiday
Thieves like busy campsites because they can get lost in the crowds.
Unfortunately, holiday weekends may invite unwanted activity so we have a few tips on camping security.
We’ve found an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure with these quick and simple security ideas that will keep your camping trip FUN-FILLED and STRESS-FREE!!!
Private Campground Cancellations
Searching out cancelled reservations is always an option.
If you are looking for a more festive atmosphere to celebrate your last trip at the end of the summer camping season, an ideal place may just be a KOA patio!
You can find these privately-owned popular campgrounds all across the United States.
They are popular places to spend long weekends because of the variety of options available for different types of campers. You don’t even need to have your own equipment!
In addition to traditional RV and tent camping, you can find other lodging choices at KOA’s including cabin camping, glamping and KOA Patio Sites that have a private patio space with outdoor seating areas and fire pits … some even have outdoor grills!
They make it really easy for the whole family to enjoy KOA holidays. You can find stay information on the KOA website.
In addition to move-in-ready rental cabins and well-appointed campsites, this type of camping appeals to people who want a full schedule of activities like scavenger hunts and live bands, roundtrip shuttle service to local areas, on-site outdoor activities like tennis courts and beach volleyball courts as well as nearby or on-property convenience stores.
There are additional campgrounds and RV parks that offer this type of experience. Even state parks are getting into the game offering deluxe cabins with full baths.
So, if this is the type of excursion you really want, you’ll need to get on waiting lists and hope for a cancellation for a busy holiday weekend.
Popular Labor Day Camping Destinations
Here are some of the most popular places to camp during the holiday.
11570 N Oracle Road, Tucson, Arizona
Catalina State Park is only about 15 miles away from downtown Tucson but it feels like it is worlds away. This desert destination is known for it’s lush desert vegetation, expansive Santa Catalina Mountains views and spectacular horseback riding opportunities.
The multi-use hiking trails are shared by people hiking on foot, on horseback and on bicycles. Leashed dogs are welcome too!
Popular day trips outside the park include visits to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (a combination of zoo, history, nature museum and botanical garden), Saguaro National Park, Tucson Botanical Gardens, Arizona State Museum, Pima Air & Space Museum and the Biosphere 2.
- RV and tent camping is available with 120 electric and water sites. Campgrounds have modern flush-toilet restrooms and hot showers. Several RV dump stations are available in the park. There is no RV length limit in this park.
175 East Schroon River Road, Diamond Point, New York
Lake George Escape is a family-friendly camping resort located in the Adirondack region of upstate New York. The property consists of 178 acres of plush woods, meadows, protected wetlands and is surrounded by the 6-million acre Adirondack Park.
You can stay on property to enjoy the arcade, basketball court, shuffleboard, tennis courts, volleyball court, horseshoes, mini-golf, playground, swimming pools (one is just for kids) and visit the beach. There are canoe, kayak and rowboat rentals available for just cruising the Schroon River or fishing. Walk the nature trails and have fun on the wagon rides. You don’t need to leave Fido at home because they even have a dog park!
Nearby attractions include: Six Flags Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom, Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course, Lake George Steamboat Company and Revolution Rail Co.
- Visitors can bring their own rig to stay in the RV resort.
- Tent sites offer the use of a bathhouse for hot showers at no additional charge.
- Cabin rentals are equipped with full kitchens, bathroom with shower, 1 & 2 Bedrooms, cable TV, picnic table and fire ring.
300 Anastasia Park Road, St. Augustine Florida
Anastasia State Park has 139 campsites that are within walking distance from the beach. If you spend time at Salt Run you’ll probably see the local wading birds hunt for food in their wildlife habitats. Many shorebirds, such as laughing gulls, least terns and black skimmers can be seen resting on the beach or shore. Keep an eye out for the osprey, bald eagles and owls in the area too. You have the option to observe wildlife on the water from a canoe, kayak or sailboats as well as on land along the Ancient Dunes Nature Trail.
Many visitors rent bicycles to pedal along the 4+ miles of beach as well as the roads within the park. Hiking along the Ancient Dunes Nature Trail is another popular activity. It loops through a shaded maritime hammock and through ancient dunes.
The peninsula of Anastasia island is a great place for finding shells along the beach including clam, scallop, oyster and olive shells. Four miles of beach break means surfing is an option with ample space for visitors to spread out. You can enjoy the elevated boardwalks to the beach, campsites with nearby restrooms, interpretive exhibits, events in the nearby amphitheater, food concession and gift shop.
- Visitors can bring their own rig to stay in one of the RV spots but there is a 38 foot maximum limit for RV length.
- Tent sites are available too.
- All sites have electricity and water, picnic table, in-ground grill and fire ring.
- Some sites are paved.
- A communal dump station is free for park campers.
871 Riverland Dr, Charleston, South Carolina
County parks are some of the best-kept secrets when it comes to camping. James Island County Park consists of 643 acres and includes a campground and cottages. You would hardly know it is located just a short drive from the downtown historic district of Charleston.
Within the park you’ll find miles of paved trails for walking, biking and skating. There are 16 acres of freshwater lakes that offer fishing. Kids and adults can enjoy the open meadows, playground area and off-leash dog park.
Pedal boats, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and bicycles are available for rent.
The campground is staffed 24 hours and includes an activity center, bathhouses, free wi-fi, laundry facility and full-service campground store.
You can let someone else do the driving by purchasing a ticket for the shuttle service that provides transportation to the downtown Convention and Visitor Bureau, Folly Beach Pier and Folly Beach County Park.
- RV and tent campground sites include an electric hookup with either 20/30/50 amp service. Some RV sites are full hookups but there is a dump station for the sites that don’t have a private waste connection. There are pull-thru sites that can accommodate RVs up to 80 feet long.
- The overflow campsites are dry camping with no hookups and are only available to rent if the campground sites are full.
- Cottage rentals require a 6-night minimum stay between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Other times of year there is a 2-night minimum stay.
Park Office located at 9872 N.C. 105 S. Suite 6, Banner Elk, North Carolina
- GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude): 36.12, -81.78131. 36°7’12″N, 81°46’53″W
If you have a car or an RV, you can’t take it camping in the Grandfather Mountain State Park, this place is for hike-in backpack camping only.
All 13 individual backcountry, primitive sites are located along the trail system without any facilities, reservations are required. The terrain is rugged and trailheads are near 3,800 feet in elevation.
The reason outdoor enthusiasts like camping here is 360-degree views available from the Grandfather Mountain which rises almost 6,000 feet above sea level. There are 16 distinct ecological communities on the mountain that also have lots of hidden caves and substantial cliffs.
- Primitive hike-in backpack camping sites have no facilities. Camping is permitted in designated sites only.
- Car and RV camping is prohibited.
36149 Highway 12, Dayton, Washington
This Washington state park features over 1,000 feet of freshwater shoreline on the Touchet River where the rainbow trout fishing is excellent. The water is also popular for swimming, tubing and wading.
Other activities within this 36-acre camping park include bird watching, metal detecting and wildlife viewing.
The unique thing about this park is the interpretive display with information on Lewis and Clark and original homesteaders.
Wine lovers will want to take a day trip requiring about a 30 minute drive to visit Walla Walla’s lush valley featuring 2,900 acres of grapes. This area is considered one of the nation’s finest wine regions and is home to 120 world-class wineries. There are tons of dining options to make it a foodie excursion too.
- There are 24 standard dry camping campsites for tents or RVs. Showers, trash, water and dump station are available.
- Two teepees are available for rent, each can sleep up to eight people. They are 16 feet in diameter with a rubber mat ground cover.
13081 State Park Lane, Bagley, Wisconsin
This is one of Wisconsin’s oldest state parks where you can camp 500 feet above the convergence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers.
Visitors can explore the the park on land by the hiking trails or on water by the canoe trail. Bird watching, fishing, boating, standup paddle boarding and bicycling are other popular activities here.
One unique thing about this park is the Native American burial mounds. Within the park’s boundaries, 69 mounds have been carefully preserved, including the Sentinel Hill Mound Group and the Procession mound groups.
You’ll enjoy city lights at night as this area overlooks the town of Prairie Du Chien.
- There are 2 family campgrounds that offer 109 sites: Wisconsin Ridge Campground and Homestead Campground. There is a combination of reservable and first-come sites. Some sites have electric hookups. There are restrooms and showers available too. A sanitary dump station is located near the entrance to the Homestead Campground.
- Wyalusing’s overnight group lodge and dormitories can be reserved in advance.
Don’t Forget The Reason For The Holiday
A U.S. holiday, Labor Day is celebrated every year on the first Monday in September.
It honors the American workers’ social and economic achievements providing the country with strength, prosperity and well-being.
Congress passed an act making it a national legal holiday in 1894 on June 28.
A lot has changed since 1894
We have expanded how the holiday is celebrated today. Some of the most popular activities include:
- Retail sales: Labor Day has become one of the largest retail sales dates of the year. Some retailers report this as the second largest sales date of the year (Black Friday of the Christmas season being the first.)
- Wearing white: For years many fashion-conscious types considered Labor Day to be the end of summer and the last day to wear white.
- Sports: Loads of sporting events are associated with Labor Day…it is the beginning of the season for the NFL and NCAA college football. NASCAR events and the U.S. Open Tennis Championships are in full swing.
- Hit the books: After the summer break, many school districts start classes around the Labor Day holiday weekend.
- Fire up the grill: As the grilling season comes to a close for most of the United States, backyard BBQs are a traditional way to celebrate the Labor Day holiday.
- Escape with a camp trip: As the final 3-day holiday weekend of the summer, many outdoor enthusiasts take advantage of the extended weekend with a camping trip filled with campfires, hikes, camping food and a little rest and relaxation.