Last Updated on January 9, 2022 by Jody Halsted
Is cabin fever hitting you a little bit harder this year? I know it is for me! While I don't travel extensively during the winter, I usually have one trip in January to help break up the ‘winter blahs'.
Unfortunately that trip was cancelled this year and the need to get away- even just for a weekend- was high!
An invitation from Polk County Conservation to stay at their cabin at Thomas Mitchell Park in Mitchellville came at just the right time!
Why a Cabin Getaway Can Cure Cabin Fever
Cabin fever is defined as extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a long time (Miriam Webster).
That pretty much defines the past year.
And though cabin fever is not a recognized psychological illness, the emotional, physical and behavioral effects are real and can significantly affect a person's well being.
Time outdoors, as well as social interaction, creative hobbies, and exercise, are all helpful in combatting cabin fever.
Which makes a rural cabin getaway just what the (internet) doctor ordered!
Steps to Plan a Winter Cabin Getaway
Step 1: Gather Your Personal ‘Travel Bubble'
In broad terms a travel bubble is a group of countries opening their borders to each other, but keeping their borders closed to other countries. A personal travel bubble is your own small group of travelers who have committed to traveling together safely.
Instead of taking my family for a winter getaway (I have been spending a lot of time with them!) I gathered my girlfriend travel bubble for this weekend escape.
Step 2: Plan a Few Activities
Midwest winters are cold, often snowy, and, honestly, not my favorite time of the year. But being surrounded by nature… That just makes me want to get outside!
Polk County Conservation parks offer naturalist guided snowshoeing and hikes, so we made reservations for a two hour tromp through the woods. Unfortunately there wasn't enough snow for snowshoeing, but Patty, our guide, led us on a really interesting tour along park trails. We tried to identify animals by tracks and poop, and learned quite a bit about the park.
We also had a crafty afternoon. I completed a wooden sign that had sat in my house, unfinished, for over a year, while everyone else picked up a DIY craft from AR Workshop.
Step 3: Leave Plenty of Time to Relax
Our cabin had no TV and no wifi, but it did have a fireplace. As well as a comfy couch and cushy chair. Everyone in our group loves a good book, so I made sure to leave time for us to settle in and lose ourselves in a story.
Or maybe take a nap. Because naps are a mom's best friend (even when your kids are teenagers)!
Step 4: Plan a Menu- and Get Everyone to Pitch In
Our weekend getaway included easy-to-create meals and plenty of things to nibble!
When planning your own cabin camping menu keep meals simple – it is a vacation, after all!
To make sure we didn't have too much food or duplicates, I used Lucky Potluck, a free potluck planning tool. This made it easy for me to let everyone know what was needed and let everyone add their own favorites.
Our Weekend Getaway Menu
Friday Evening Chicken and/ or Steak Tacos
Bring taco shells, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cheese, avocado, and all the other fixin's you need to create an easy TexMex inspired feast.
Saturday Morning Easy Breakfast Scramble
Brown 1 lb sausage then add 8-12 eggs to your pan. Season with salt, pepper, and your favorite seasonings. Scramble until done. Serve as a breakfast burrito with cheese or add hashbrowns and toast.
Saturday Lunch Simple Sandwiches (or leftovers!)
Saturday Dinner Casual Nibbles or Hearty Chili
We combined afternoon tea treats (mini sandwiches and pastries with a charcuterie spread of meats, cheeses, and nuts.
But a simple chili is easy to toss together – brown some hamburger and toss in a couple cans of tomatoes, a couple cans of beans, and spices (or chili starter/ chili ready beans & tomatoes) and let that simmer for a couple hours.
Sunday Breakfast Egg in a Nest
Butter one side of a slice of bread, then cut a hole out of the center. Place butter-side-down in a hot skillet and add an egg. Cook until bottom is solid enough to flip. Flip. Cook egg to preferred done-ness; add cheese if desired. Serve with bacon or sausage.
Tip: even though our modern cabin had a full kitchen I packed my Power XL Grill/ Air Fryer Combo. This versatile tool grilled the meat for our tacos, cooked sausage & eggs the next morning, can slow cook chili or stew all afternoon, fries amazing bacon, and can cook multiple breakfast sandwiches at one time!
Our Cabin At Thomas Mitchell Park
Our stay the the Thomas Mitchell Cabin was provided in partnership for promotion on my website and social channels. All images and opinions are my own.
The cabin at Thomas Mitchell Park in Mitchellville, Iowa is less rustic cabin and more small modern house set in a wooded area.
It has 3 nicely sized bedrooms (2 with a queen bed and 1 with two twin beds), an open plan living/ dining room, fully stocked kitchen, and an accessible bathroom with shower.
The front porch overlooks a pond stocked with bluegill, bass, and catfish.
The large back deck has both a ramp and steps and overlooks an open yard with grill and firepit before reaching the tree line.
Linens and towels are provided to renters (bonus!) and a small built in bookshelf holds a few games and books.
The cabin is set away from the main areas of the park – the shelters, campground, and playground – though there is a parking area nearby for the pond.
The cabin is ADA accessible and does not allow pets.
It is only a few steps from the cabin to one of the park trails. With the east facing deck and the west facing front porch it is easy to enjoy both the sunrise and sunset from the cabin.
My first thought when I arrived at the cabin was that I kind of wished I could have it to myself for the weekend. It was so quiet, so peaceful… I was immediately relaxed, knowing there was nothing that required my attention all weekend.
For our group of 5 the cabin was nicely sized, though we would have liked to have another comfortable chair or two. An additional floor lamp would have been nice to add a bit more light on dark winter evenings.
The galley kitchen is well laid out and easy for 3 people to be in at once – though more than that is a crowd.
The electric fireplace was a really nice benefit after our winter hike.
Even though the cabin was less than 30 minutes from our homes the short getaway was enough to give us all a boost and a mental recharge. Being out in the woods combined with the peaceful setting was just what we needed.
Winter Cabin Vacation Packing List
Many modern cabins will include necessities like bedding, cookware, plates, and utensils, so be sure to read all you booking details before you go!
Bedding and towels (if not provided or extra)
Toiletries, soap, shampoo, and personal care items
Dish soap, sponge or cloth, and dish towels
Food, spices, cooking oils, etc.
Additional cooking utensils – I always bring a silicone spatula and at least one good knife for cutting vegetables and meat
My Power XL Grill/ Air Fryer Combo is such a terrific multi-tool in the kitchen – it travels with me when we road trip or head out in the RV
Charcoal for the grill
Warm winter clothing for getting outdoors!