How to plan for a perfect family camping road trip?

Where to go camping?

Depending on your appetite, you could choose to camp at a local park or drive hours for an exotic camping spot. For beginners, I would recommend to start somewhere closer and then fan out. Blackwell Forest Preserve and Bullfrog Lake were the first ones I tried.

Campfires – a recipe for endless tales and memories

Camping Recommendations

Here are Illinois’s most prominent campsites which run at capacity. You can book them here.

•  Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park
•  Chain O’Lakes State Park
•  Kankakee River State Park
•  Rock Cut State Park
•  Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area
•  Starved Rock State Park

Morning at Chain O’Lakes campground

Devil’s Lake State Park

One of my all-time favorites, Devil’s Lake has a perfect mix – a lake with all water amenities for kids and adults: kayaking, river tubing, swimming; many hiking trails, well-maintained campsites and at a striking distance from Chicago burbs: ~ 170 miles.

Devil’s Lake, as seen from an overlook at East Bluff trail

Devil’s Doorway

Tumbled Rocks Trail

You can find all Devil’s Lake details here.

When to reserve?

Here’s an open secret about camping sites – most of the sought-after ones get booked way in advance. As a habit, I try to book a site during first week of the year even with an obscure plan. The cancelations are mostly dirt cheap so better to book early and abort than regret later. 

How to reserve?

For campsites owned by the state, you can use their own website:


Tip: Most of the state and local camping reservation portals are managed by Reserve America, so you can use Reserve America directly as well.

Recreation.GovFor campsites owned by Federal lands.

For private campsites:

Alcohol Policy

•  Note that Illinois and Michigan have zero alcohol policy for public campsites whereas Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa would allow non-liquor based alcohol like beer.

•  Glass bottles are disallowed almost everywhere, so please plan to carry beer cans and always check local regulations.

Last and the most important, run through this checklist and prepare yourself for the unknown.

Happy Camping!

Did this help you to plan your own perfect camping road trip? If yes, please share about your feedback in the comments section or shoot an email at

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