Tips to Beat the Memorial Day Camping Crowds

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Close up of an American Flag during Memorial Day weekend

Camping over Memorial Day weekend can be full of excitement and adventure.

From parades to fireworks to live music, it’s a fun-filled time of year. It often signals the end of the school year and the beginning of the summer vacation season.

It’s also a time when military families gather to remember those soldiers who never came home. We’re all encouraged not to lose sight of the true reason for the holiday amid our hot dog lunches and red, white, and blue decorations.

We have some tips for you if you want a spot to beat the Memorial Day camping crowds. So before you plan, let’s learn more about camping over this busy weekend!

Camping during Memorial Day is popular because this weekend is the beginning of summer break for many families across the country. The kids have worked hard over the last few weeks with end-of-the-year testing, projects, and papers. The weekend is a celebration of the arrival of summer.

Other people enjoy camping over Memorial Day because of the holiday’s significance. They have their own traditions and ways of honoring their fallen military heroes. 

Campgrounds near National Cemeteries or cities with a large military presence are usually packed. Military families gather together to comfort one another and pay tribute to soldiers who died in action.

What Other Holidays Cause Large Camping Crowds?

Because many major holidays fall within summer vacation time. Thus, many Americans take trips over Independence Day and Labor Day holidays, causing large camping crowds. 

For the 4th of July, many people get an extra day off work. Some people use their vacation time to take off the whole week. And Labor Day signals the end of the summer, so many campers try to get in one last trip. 

Since many employers give their employees Labor Day off, it’s a long weekend, which is perfect for a camping getaway.

The other time of year when you’ll experience large camping crowds is during Spring Break. Since this varies from location to location, there isn’t a particular date. 

But when planning spring camping trips in March or early April, it’s always a good idea to check the local school calendar.

8 Tips to Beat Memorial Day Camping Crowds

If you’re determined to join the millions of Americans who’ll hit the trails and campgrounds this Memorial Day weekend, come prepared for large crowds and heavy traffic. 

Camping over Memorial Day brings unique challenges, so let’s look at eight tips to help make your weekend trip enjoyable and safe.

1. Avoid National Parks

Although you may love the national parks, Memorial Day weekend isn’t the time to visit. Choose a less-trafficked weekend or visit on a weekday. 

Navigating through the traffic leading up to national park entrances and then dealing with long lines of travelers waiting to get in will start your holiday weekend on the wrong foot. 

This is true for state parks, too. Plus, you’ll likely experience packed hiking trails, full overlooks, and nightmarish parking. Camping over Memorial Day in these locations is not a good idea.

Keep in Mind: Some national parks are worth skipping completely during the summer months. Take a look at the Worst National Parks for Summer Road Trips!

This may sound strange since popular campgrounds are usually the best. But you want to avoid these options because of the number of people there.

Check out reviews and find a nearby campground with the same number of stars but fewer reviews. 

You might find a small mom-and-pop campground 5 miles away with only 10 campsites that still gives you the Memorial Day experience you want. Often these locations compete with other popular campgrounds and will offer special deals or activities for the weekend.

Additionally, many popular campgrounds will have filled up months in advance.

3. Avoid Campgrounds Near Airports

You might have never thought about airline travel when you camp, but over Memorial Day weekend, it’s important to consider. People travel by air just like by car and RV over the holiday weekend. 

Campgrounds near airports will also fill with campers who might be meeting family or friends for the long weekend. Plus, you don’t want to deal with the traffic in these locations. Camping over Memorial Day near an airport will be crowded and noisy.

4. Try Boondocking

Now that we’ve told you where to avoid, let’s look at places you should go. If you’ve never boondocked on public lands before, this Memorial Day weekend is a great time to try it. 

Team up with a friend who has dry camped before who can help you, or read a few blogs and watch a few YouTube videos to help you prepare. Although dispersed camping areas may be more crowded than usual, you won’t face as many people as in developed campgrounds. 

Generally, these sites are more spread out, so you can truly enjoy the camping experience even if 10 other campers surround you.

A van boondocking during memorial day weekend

5. Visit a Friend and Moochdock

Like boondocking, moochdocking is another great option for camping on Memorial Day. Call up a friend you haven’t seen in a while and plan a fun trip to visit. 

Stay in the driveway of a family member you only see at Christmas. You’ll be dry camping with no hookups, but you’ll have access to potable water and probably a 12V extension cord if needed. 

Plus, you get to enjoy spending time with friends and family you might not regularly see.

6. Head North to Cooler Temperatures

Camping over Memorial Day is better the farther north you go. In some Southern states, the end of May can reach temperatures of 90 to 100 degrees. 

If you want to stay in North Carolina, travel up the mountains to a higher elevation. If you want a Southwest experience, check out Flagstaff instead of Phoenix. 

Especially if you want to dry camp, you might not be able to run the air conditioner all weekend. So choose a place in the Northern states or higher in elevation to celebrate Memorial Day.

7. Explore the Outdoors Rather Than Participating in Campground Activities

If you choose a popular campground or find yourself surrounded by too many people, get away from the campground during the day. 

Check out AllTrails for a hiking trail nearby. Book a kayak tour down the river. Go exploring and adventuring during the day to avoid the crowded campground experience. 

The campground may offer some great activities, but if 50 people show up, the event may not be as fun as expected.

Keep in Mind: Looking for more ways to avoid the crowds during your road trip? Here are 17 secrets guaranteed to help!

8.  Skip Camping Over Memorial Day Completely

Finally, although you might have an extra day off from work, it’s a good idea to skip camping over Memorial Day completely. Take a few days off that Tuesday and Wednesday and head into campgrounds as everyone leaves. 

Plus, you can still likely attend plenty of local activities without having to be parked at a campground.

Stay home, attend a downtown parade, watch the fireworks display at a local park, and then venture out once the camping crowds have dissipated.

Multiple American Flags being held up at a Memorial Day parade

Don’t Wait Until the Last-Minute, Make Your Memorial Day Plans Now

If you plan camping over Memorial Day, don’t wait any longer to make those reservations. Campgrounds fill up quickly, and you don’t want to end up without any options. 

Some people book the same campground year after year for this particular weekend, so spots will be reserved months in advance. Get on Campendium, Google, or AllStays and check out campgrounds today!

Will you be camping this Memorial Day weekend? If so, where?

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