How a City Girl Planned a Camping Trip: Van Buren State Park

How a City Girl Planned a Camping Trip: Van Buren State Park

I sat down – looking around as I dug into my freshly cut, garlic salted avocado.

“More coffee?” my friend asked.

He handed his girlfriend a Starbucks mug full of French pressed Lavazza (it’s the best coffee and you can order it here) coffee.

glamping_french press

I’m part of a book club (follow me on Goodreads here). We meet monthly in various neighborhoods in Chicago and for two book club’s we decide to do destination trips to the great outdoors of Wisconsin or Michigan.

For our spring camping trip, I was in charge of organizing it in South Haven, Michigan at Van Buren State Park. It’s about 100 miles or 2.5 hours from Chicago.

When my other friend pulled out his whisk to make scrambled eggs, he said we were glamping.

Glamping is one of the newest camping trends. In it’s simplest definition, glamping is elevated camping and is more associated with a resort than  actual camping.

At Van Buren State Park, our lot of land was equivalent to a backyard in American suburbia. It had an electrical outlet, a picnic table, a firepit, and of course was big enough  to park the ultimate sign of glamping—an RV.

Van Buren State Park is the perfect place for glamping. It doesn’t have an outhouse like the last campsite we went to. We actually had a bathroom facility and about four showers with hot water (though not the greatest water pressure).

It’s about a 10-minute walk to Lake Michigan. And for a quick adventure, there’s a volleyball net at a nearby park or a sand dune to the right of the main beach entrance.

glamping_sand dune

After months of planning this trip for 12, I looked at the picnic bench and the five accompanying coolers, and wanted to reflect on the things I learned about camping from this experience.

Things I learned from planning a camping trip:

Starting a fire is difficult. We cheated with fireplace starter.

When you tell everyone to bring snacks, they are going to bring Veggie Frys, Doritos, and bananas (lots of bananas).

You can survive off of hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled cheese.

Half an avocado with garlic salt and a spoon is the best bachelor’s breakfast. EVER.


Bring Febreeze, allergy meds, a wool blanket and Excedrin in your emergency kit.

Rocks that you collect from the beach will explode if you put them in the fire.

Pro tip: buy a cot – the ground is hard. P.S. If you sleep in the cot, you might end up sleeping in the car because the sun is blinding and there are no blinds in the wilderness.

Climbing a sand dune is like climbing a mountain or in city terms, it’s like level 15 of the Stair Master.

Watching the sunset with friends is worth it. Bring vodka lemonades because you will show up an hour earlier than you need to (thanks time change).

glamping_friends sunset

Bring a cap and sunglasses.

Pack an extra blanket. It gets really cold at night. I think we saw frost.

Sherades and Cards Against Humanity are the best games to play in the woods.

Ice will keep for two days – you just have to move the coolers into the shade. Pro tip: the sun changes direction throughout the day so you will have to move the coolers accordingly.

You can open your Blue Moon with a knife.

Check astonomy happenings. When we went camping on May 21, 2016, there was a Blue Moon, which means that is the second full moon in a calendar month. P.S. Blue Moons are not blue.

When a campsite says it provides electrical, it’s not just for RVs. You can  charge your phone, plug in a blender or even a toaster – again, this feels more like glamping.

As a former Girl Scout camping with an Eagle Scout, we want to remind you to leave the campsite cleaner than when you found it.

You know you are glamping when you don’t need to bring your own toilet paper.

Bring water – to do dishes, to drink, etc.

Discuss music choices with the person you are carpooling with before committing to 4 hours in a car with them.

Bugs, snails, racoons, etc. exist and aren’t afraid of you. Take necessary precaution.

Whole Foods Market makes really good Blu-cheese seasoned chicken.

A little bit goes a long way – salt, pepper, garlic salt, and Goya are seasoing essentials.




Amanda Whitfield
Amanda Whitfield

Amanda Whitfield is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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