A couple of years ago, we decided to try out staying at a rustic cabin in a state park just as a fun family weekend. Before the weekend was even over, the kids were already asking if we could go again the following year. And now, we’ve already made reservations for our third year! This spur of the moment decision three years ago has really turned into a wonderful family tradition for us.
In the years we’ve been going, we’ve learned a lot about what to do and not to do while preparing for a trip to a cabin, especially one in a state or national park.
Here are some important things to do to prepare for a trip to a cabin:
1. Know your reservation rules. How far ahead can reservations be made? This is especially important to know if you want to visit during a busy season! What is the cancellation policy? How much must be paid up front?
2. Keep an eye on the weather report. Unless you plan to exclusively stay inside, it’s important to know what type of weather you will be expecting. Are you going to want to pack sweaters, t-shirts, rain ponchos, or all of them?
3. Find out what is included with the cabin. Either contact the park/facility or read on their website. It’s typically safe to assume if it isn’t mentioned, it’s not going to be there.
Our cabin, for instance, doesn’t come with much and the only thing that wasn’t mentioned that it came with was toilet paper. Otherwise, there was only the things on their very short list.
4. Figure out your cooking arrangements. Does the cabin have a full kitchen, partial kitchen, or no kitchen? Will you have the convenience of a microwave, full oven, and refrigerator or will the nearby grill and fire pit be your new kitchen? You won’t be able to do the next number until you know this information.
5. Make a menu plan. Our goal for our weekends at the park are to not have to leave the park. This means that we have to plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each day. In addition to this, I make sure to pack at least a couple of extra easy meal options and some extra snacks. This can be a perfect thing to work on with your children as you prepare for the trip.
6. What will your heating and cooling options be? This is another thing to find out while preparing and may dictate some of what you pack. You may even need to verify for your particular cabin.
The first time we went to the state park we go to, I thought all of the cabins had both a wood burning stove for heat as well as electric heating. We weren’t prepared when we got to a freezing cold cabin and found out that only a handful of the cabins have electric heat. We did, eventually, find the trick to heating the whole cabin with the wood burning stove. But, it was a pretty cold and miserable first night.
7. Does the park or facility have any family activities during your stay? This is one thing that really enhances our stay. We’ve been on educational hikes, done scavenger hunts, rented paddle boats, and gone to nature centers. You can sometimes find these out ahead of time if there is a website, or when checking in.
8. Make plans for what you will do during your stay. If you plan to implement a no electronics policy, then everyone going should know so they can pack accordingly. If you want to take a five mile hike, it would be good for people to know to bring along their most comfortable hiking/walking shoes.
9. Seek out an area place of worship. If it is part of your faith life to not miss worship services on a weekend, you should gather all of the particulars about an area place of worship and their service times ahead of time, particularly because getting an Internet signal can be difficult at some parks.
10. Because I’m not a camping expert, I’m leaving this last one for you guys. What are your best tips for preparing for staying at a cabin or camping?