Memorial Day is the opening weekend for many Michigan campgrounds, and also the busiest. Maybe you’ve bought a Recreation Passport and some hot dogs, but before attempting a Memorial Day weekend camping trip, consider these five tips to help you prepare.

  1.  Pre-Check Gear

The campground is no place to discover you’re missing a tent pole. Before you go, take out all your gear and inspect it. Set up your tent completely, and test flashlights and other equipment. Make sure your sunscreen and bug spray are full. Remember, prices will rise as Memorial Day approaches.

  1.  RSVP

Many campgrounds (such as Luddington and Van Buren state parks) fill up for Memorial Day weekend six months in advance. If you can’t reserve a site, plan to arrive very early Thursday morning to claim your spot, or have a backup destination.

  1.  Expect Crowds

If you are the kind of camper who likes the woods all to yourself, this is not your weekend. The only way to avoid crowds this weekend is to camp in your backyard. Camping in a crowd requires extra patience with and consideration of others. In particular, try to keep the noise down (especially at night). Also, avoid littering and walking through occupied campsites.

  1.  Expect All Weather

Make sure to have extra garbage bags in the tents to bring gear back to the car in a downpour. Pack at least a few meals worth of food that doesn’t need cooking or elaborate preparation. Make sure each person has warm clothes in case the temperature drops suddenly, and shorts and short-sleeves in case it gets hot. Find out where to go in case of a tornado or other weather emergency (usually a bathroom or clubhouse).

  1.  Know Your Campground Rules

Rude behavior such as littering, playing loud music, or getting drunk and rowdy can get you kicked out by stressed campground hosts. Get a copy of the campground rules and follow them. Many campgrounds have a website with a list of rules. Make sure that the park allows alcohol or pets before bringing either.

Transporting firewood from one area to another can spread diseases, and is illegal in parts of Michigan. Check with the campground host, or use the Firewood Scout to find a local source for firewood.

Above all, plan for fun! Pack enough toys, games and other supplies to keep everyone entertained during down time.

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