Thanksgiving Picnic Table next to RV

Expert Advice

A Guide to Hosting Thanksgiving at the Campground

From roasting turkeys in an RV oven to gathering with your loved ones around the picnic table, here’s everything you need to know to celebrate Thanksgiving at your campsite.

Thanksgiving is a favorite time to gather with family and friends and share a meal fueled by turkey and gratitude. While often this feast is served up in dining rooms across America, the long holiday weekend also offers a chance to travel with loved ones to celebrate at a new destination where your brood can enjoy a festive vacation.

When choosing where to celebrate turkey day, consider a campground, where RV ovens can bake traditional turkey and pies, crock pots can slow cook side items, and the great outdoors can serve as the ideal backdrop in which to give thanks.

Things to Think About When Planning Thanksgiving at the Campground

Hosting Thanksgiving at the campground can add a fun twist to your family traditions. But before you load up your rig and hit the road, there are a few things you’ll need to do first:

  1. Create a Guest List: Before getting too far into the planning process you’ll want to determine who will be joining your celebration. Having a headcount and an idea of where everyone will be traveling from will help set the stage for the rest of your plans.
  2. Location, Location, Location: Choose a campground as far in advance as possible. Look for locations that are convenient for everyone in attendance, and where you’ll have the best weather and amenities. Double check that campground hookups will be available during this time of the year.
  3. Make Room Around the Table: Depending on your party size, a single picnic table may not be adequate to comfortably hold everyone around the dinner table. Think about bringing additional tables and seating to allow ample space for your guests and all the fixins.
  4. Craft a Weather Plan: Even if you’re looking to spend the long weekend in a spot known for sunny skies and pleasant temps, you’ll want to plan for inclement weather. Be prepared to retreat indoors and pack a tent or canopy in case it’s needed.
  5. Come Prepared: Depending on where you’re camping, stores and other services may be limited, especially during the holiday season. Be sure to bring along all the food, water, propane, and supplies you’ll need for your feast. Supply and food checklists are especially critical when planning a campground celebration.

Cooking at the Campground: Menu Planning Tips

The kitchen is a hectic place on Thanksgiving, with your oven and stove working overtime to heat up the meal. In an RV, space is at even more of a premium, making menu planning an extra challenging feat. But, with a little creative thinking, you can still serve up all your favorite items.

Here are a few things to consider when creating your campground Thanksgiving menu:

  • Simplify Your Approach Whenever Possible. A 25-pound turkey might be your standard feast, but a smaller RV oven may make cooking this large of a bird a challenge. Consider opting for a smaller alternative like turkey breast, order pre-packaged turkey meals, or even think outside the box by grilling up turkey burgers to give the feel of a traditional feast in an easier-to-prepare format.

    Alternatively, you can
    turn your back on turkey and feast instead on brats, steak, s’mores, and other comfort foods that are easily made in a campground setting.
  • Pack your Favorite Tabletop Appliances. In addition to using your oven, stove, and grill for cooking, you can also utilize your favorite countertop appliances for making everything from mashed potatoes to Brussels sprouts. Use shore power or a power bank to plug in your Instapot, air fryer, toaster oven, and more to speed up your cooking process.

    If you have an outdoor kitchen,
    use the counter space to hold slow cooker items that don’t need to be checked on regularly to help save precious space inside your rig.
  • Consider Making Your Meal a PotluckIf camping with friends and family, you’ll have multiple kitchens at your disposal for preparing your supper. Delegate items for each of your loved ones to prepare, making the most of everyone’s RV ovens and stovetops to create the ultimate smorgasbord. And don’t forget to fire up outdoor grills to roast corn, veggies, and other side dishes.

If possible, try to get campsites adjacent to one another to make cooking a more communal event and encourage everyone to join in on the potluck-style meal prep.

Setting the Scene: Decorations and Tablescape

Creating a beautiful Thanksgiving tablescape is a wonderful way to set the mood and make your guests feel welcome and festive. Many of the rules for crafting an inviting environment for your feast also apply to the campground, though you may want to keep your favorite flatware and champagne flutes at home. Stainless steel wine glasses and melamine or bamboo dishes are favorite ways to dress up the picnic table at the campground.

When choosing your Thanksgiving décor, keep these tips in mind:

  • Let the Scenery Do the Heavy Lifting. Traditional Thanksgiving colors include warm earth tones like orange, red, and brown, and these hues pair perfectly with a campground’s al-fresco environment. When choosing décor for your feast, less can be more in this setting, which allows you to utilize natural beauty as the backdrop for your meal.

  • When creating centerpieces and table décor, consider using natural elements, such as pinecones, acorns, gourds, and leaves. Many of these items can be collected from around your campsite, giving your tablescape a more authentic vibe.
  • Balance a Mix of Comfort and Function
    While dining at home, you likely use cloth linens and cherished China. However, these items are easy to damage in transit, making them a less-than-ideal option for your RV Thanksgiving. Instead, look for plates and serving ware that’s durable and unlikely to break. Don’t skimp on the flatware but do switch to reusable plastics and lightweight metal dishes wherever possible to ensure you have the right balance of practicality and useability.

    Keep guest comfort top of mind, ensuring that you have enough table space for dining, an easy-to-access serving area, and comfortable seating for everyone in your party. If needed, add lighting, citronella candles, or sun coverage in the form of a tent or RV awning to help combat any challenges Mother Nature brings to the table.

Keeping Treasured Traditions Alive While Creating New Lasting Memories

Traveling during Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean leaving your most treasured traditions behind. Think about which customs you want to incorporate into your RV Thanksgiving, and encourage your loved ones to come prepared to join in.

Spending Thanksgiving at the campground also gives you a chance to try new things unique to your locale. For example, one Thanksgiving my family camped in the Florida Keys, so we decided to honor our location by swapping our traditional pumpkin pie for a more regionally appropriate key lime pie. We’ve also made smaller changes, such as drinking local craft beer and wine with our meal, to enjoy a taste of the region. Think about how you can add to your traditions in a similar way.

Spending Thanksgiving somewhere new gives your friends and family a chance to make new memories together. From sharing gratitude around the campfire to taking a leisurely post-feast hike, there are so many memories to be made while camping during this special season. Happy Thanksgiving!

Amanda Adler

Writer, RVer

Amanda Adler is a writer and RV enthusiast based in Orlando, Florida. She’s road tripped through 47 states thus far on her quest to explore national parks, theme parks, kid- and dog-friendly hiking trails, and quirky local haunts.