On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, Jeremy and Stephanie are diving into the controversial world of campground etiquette. Campers are supposed to be happy people, right? Mostly we think they are. But sometimes folks forget to mind their manners at the campground–and when they do, the fun can quickly turn into frustration. So what “rules” of etiquette should you know to avoid causing these situations? And how should you handle the situations when someone else is causing the problem? And what constitutes good campground etiquette anyway?
Segment One: Campground Etiquette Overview
Campground etiquette is not simply a set of rules that is posted by a campground, or a set of rules that we can post here. So many of our encounters with other campers situational, and many of those situations are as unique as the individuals involved. So while reading and actually following the rules of each individual campground is a good start towards having proper campground etiquette–it is only start. We find that having and applying a universal set of guidelines is much more useful in our never ending quest for a perfect camping trip.
- Expect good things. We head into every camping trip expecting that good things will happen–and because of that open-hearted attitude, good things almost always do happen. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy and a reminder that we are, more often than not, completely in charge of our own camping destinies.
- Let the little things go. We also let the little things go. At least the first time. If a young camper cuts across our site once we let it go. If it happens twice, we will politely ask them not to do it.
- Talk to campground management about any issues. If another camper is cranking out Led Zeppelin music at ungodly volume levels or cutting down trees for kindling, we might kindly ask them to stop, but if they seem like confrontational people we might head right to the campground manager and ask them to control the situation. This is part of their job description and at a good campground they will be thankful for bringing the issue to their attention.
Segment Two: Campground Etiquette on Common Ground
Generally speaking, campgrounds have two types of spaces–shared spaces such as playgrounds and pools, and private spaces such as your RV site or cabin. Campground Etiquette is important in both. Let’s start with common ground.
- Follow the rules of the campground you choose to visit. We are always surprised when campers leave negative reviews on Trip Advisor or Facebook because of a campgrounds quiet rules or because they have a “no alcohol” policy. We are surprised because the vast majority of campgrounds post and explain these rules very clearly. If you really want to enjoy a few adult beverages at a campground we recommend checking that they allow it–and if you want to stay up past midnight and sing Van Halen around the campfire we would certainly recommend you make sure that quiet time doesn’t start at 10pm.
- Drive slowly and obey traffic directions. When we first started camping I was driving through a campground in Vermont a wee bit too fast. A mother yelled at me to slow down–and she was RIGHT. Their were kids all over the place–and kids can be unpredictable and jump out from behind a car at any time. We drive less than five miles per hour in a campground. Slow and safe. It’s the only way.
- Respect shared spaces and monitor children at all times. Some of the most common campground etiquette problems are caused by unmonitored children at the playground, the pool, the arcade, or just about anywhere. Some older kids are perfectly capable of being polite and responsible at all times–but others are not. We all need to know our own kids and make good decisions about when they can be on their own at the campground.
- Discard of all garbage and recycling in proper containers. If a campground recycles we really believe that we should recycle while we are there. If not, someone down the line will have to separate out your cans from your other trash. When it comes to garbage, follow the golden rule!
- Thank camp workers and managers for exceptional service, and leave positive reviews for great campgrounds. Many campers are quick to leave negative reviews when things don’t go well, but are those same campers willing to leave great reviews after a great experience? Leaving a great review when it is well deserved actually feels great! Give it a try!
Segment Three: Campground Etiquette on Your Own Site
We all work hard to enjoy a slice of campground heaven–and we should all respect each others sites. If you can’t relax under your own RV awning, where can you relax?
- Observe campsite boundaries. It might be quicker to cut across someone else’s site, but that doesn’t mean it’s right! Take the long way back to your site, get some extra steps in, and know that you are a role model for great campground etiquette.
- Be conscious of noise. So many new RV’s come with outdoor speakers and even outdoor flatscreen TV’s. We would never judge someone for wanting to watch a baseball game while kicking back on the favorite camp chair, but we do recommend keeping the volume down down to respectful level. What is a respectful level? Take a stroll over to the next campsite (but don’t walk directly onto their site!) and see if you can still hear the game. If you can, turn it down.
- Be a responsible dog owner. We are dog owners, and LOVE camping with our Maggie. But we also understand that dogs can create major problems at the campground. If your dog gets nervous and barks when you leave them in the RV, then you shouldn’t leave them there. If there is any possibility that they might bite then keep them away from strangers. Also keep them on a tight leash. As with so many things, use common sense and consider other campers.
- Safely enjoy your campfire. We completely extinguish our campfire when we are done enjoying it. Leaving burning embers in your firepit puts other campers, and the campground itself, at risk. Needless risk.
- Turn off all exterior lights at night. Many new RV’s have more exterior lights than a spaceship. Be respectful of your neighbors and shut down your awning lights right around quiet hour. Your neighbors will thank you, especially if they are in a pop up or tent!
- Leave the campsite better than you found it. My grandfather taught me to leave a workspace, or any space, better than you found it–and we think his generation was better at this kind of civic responsibility than our generation might be. The campsite is a sacred place. Treat it like one and leave it nice and tidy for the next camper!
Segment Four: Campground Etiquette Basics: Making Friends Instead of Enemies
Campgrounds are very social places and we really love meeting new ones there. Here are a few tips for making friends instead of enemies at the campground.
- Let people focus when parking, hitching, and unhitching their RVs. Sometimes it feels like the entire campground snaps to attention when you are backing into a difficult site. I swear we have even heard a few beer cans crack open when our site was really difficult to back into! We recommend that you leave other folks alone when they are backing in. Sometimes offering help just stresses people out even more. If they are really TRULY stuck you will know and then you might ask if they need help.
- Help a rookie if they ask. While we do recommend that you avoid offering help when someone is trying to maneuver there RV into a tight spot, we do recommend offering help if someone is struggling with a mechanical issue during set up or break down. When we were RV newbies we could not get our furnace to light up. Thankfully, a veteran RVer come over and offered help. It was a cold night in early April and we will never forget his kindness.
- Pay it forward. We are all blessed to be able to travel around our beautiful country in an RV. Do everything you can to pay it forward and welcome new RV owners into the tribe. Always remember, you were once them, and one day they will be you.