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Thanksgiving Weekend Camping (with a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner)

Updated on May 21, 2015

Thanksgiving Planning

Camping might not be the first thing you think of when making plans for your Thanksgiving, but if you are looking to try something different, it certainly is worth your consideration.

Choose your Site

Many campsites require reservations. If you are planning on camping over a holiday weekend, you may need to make a reservation well in advance. Fortunately, not all campsites allow for reservations and instead, operate on a first come, first served basis. Since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, there is not a lot of competition for campsites if you show up on the day of or the day before.

If you can, look up the reviews of any campsites that you are considering. Some campsites have certain creatures, such as raccoons, who will abscond with any food that is not properly stored away.

Plan Your Feast

Will you dare to prepare your Thanksgiving dinner over an open fire, will you use your sterno stove, or will you use both? Since heat sources are relatively limited while camping, it may be best to limit the menu to the family favorites.

Once you have decided which dishes will grace the table, consider any other limitations that you might have. Some dishes will take longer if cooked over an open fire, such as a turkey. Some dishes may require certain tools that you simply cannot leave back at home, like a can opener.

Don't Forget: Shop Smart

In order to save yourself time and stress, buy all of the ingredients that you need ahead of time. When you shop at your local supermarket, you have the benefit of knowing the store layout, store hours, and you can avoid the last minute rush.

If you wait to shop until you get to the camp site, there is a risk that the local stores might be out of certain holiday items that you need and you won't have the benefit of knowing where anything is. Especially with smaller towns, there is a possibility that the stores will close earlier than expected or not be open at all.

Cook Ahead As Much As Possible

As much as you can, pre-cook foods ahead of time to save time and energy on the day of the big dinner. The less you are cooking, the more time you can spend enjoying your friends, family, and surroundings.

For example, potatoes can be boiled and bagged before you ever leave home. So long as you keep the potatoes refrigerated, you can warm them up and finish making your dish in a fraction of the time.

Pasta salads and other cold dishes can likewise be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until mealtime.

The more you can do before you get to the campsite, the better!

Quick Tip!

Empty tic tac containers can be used for space saving, camp-sized spice containers.

The Turkey

The turkey was primarily cooked in a stock pot over the fire for the majority of the morning. It was the first thing put on the fire (aside from the coffee). Having it completely thawed before cooking is essential for having a fully cooked turkey ready in time to eat.

The turkey was seasoned and stuffed it would normally be seasoned and stuffed.

To crisp up the skin, the turkey finished cooking directly on the fire grate.

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Work Together

When camping with a large group of people, take turns cooking and doing the dishes. Have each couple cook at least once, but let them know ahead of time so that they can plan what they are going to bring. This helps create less dishes and keeps it fair and fun for everyone involved! This way, no one single person is stuck doing all of the cooking for the entire trip.

After Dinner: Recreations

At Camp
Scavenger Hunts
Board games/Card games
I Spy

Think Ahead

Before you leave for camp, check the local area for shops that rent recreational gear for cheap. While camp sites usually offer rentals, they are typically offered at inflated prices. Shops just outside the camp site will generally rent gear for a fraction of the price.

Chassahowitzka, Florida
Chassahowitzka, Florida

Quick Tip!

If you do bring your pet, know the limitations. As a general rule, you cannot leave your dog alone in camp. If you are planning on doing activities such as canoeing, kayaking, or boating, make sure your dog is patient enough to safely ride in the canoe, kayak, or boat.

Don't Forget Your Furry Friends!

Once you have a campsite in mind, check the campsite's website for the rules. There are many pet-friendly campsites that let you bring your furriest family members as well. This can help save money on kennel costs and you don't have to worry about your pet while you're gone.

If you have found a campsite that does allow pets, double check the rules. Some campsites are very particular about leash laws, vaccines, and noise level of pets. If your pets meet all the criteria, it can be incredibly fun having them along.

Most Important Thing of All


Don't forget to revel in the nature around you.

Remember to appreciate the beauty that is around you and to be thankful for the people you are with.

Savor the open fire meal that you are going to never forget!

Happy Thanksgiving.


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    • MarieLB profile image

      MarieLB 3 years ago from YAMBA NSW

      Hi Amanda, Your article brings the joy of travelling to life. I do miss not having my little motorhome any more. Enjoyed reading.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      I love camping; haven't attempted to cook Thanksgiving dinner, though, over a campfire-- you're pretty brave! Nice ideas, thanks for sharing!

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 3 years ago

      Given the conditions, that turkey looks too good to be true!