RV Park Etiquette: 10 Ways to Keep the Peace

With designated parking spots and posted courtesy signs, it should be easy to remember to mind your manners in an RV park. Unfortunately, living or staying in an RV is different than being in a house or an apartment, which means many don’t know what they should and should not do. For example, what’s wrong with knocking on another camper’s door or going into full-blown party-mode?

My dad — as well as both Oliver Wendell Holmes and Abraham Lincoln — always said, “your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins” and that pretty much applies to camping, as well. In other words, your freedom of movement, speech, and right to bear arms, etc. ends with someone else’s freedom to exist comfortably. It’s pretty simple. Basically, don’t do anything that would irritate you. Sadly, although it seems that RV etiquette should be self-explanatory, that is not only the case. So, here are a few of the most commonly ignored, unspoken, or unwritten rules.

1. Get Permission

It’s best if you know where you are going, when you are arriving, and that the place you are parking knows you are coming, as well. There is little more irritating than when you’ve followed all of the rules and are quietly relaxing in your motorhome, or worse - trying to sleep — and someone is driving around trying to find a place to park, especially if they aren’t terribly adept.

When you are staying at a campground, reserve your spot so they know you are coming or try to arrive before the office closes. This ensures you know the park rules and aren’t disrupting your neighbors. Furthermore, many campgrounds require any additional guests of campers to register at the office so the park staff can better monitor the security and regulate how many vehicles are at any particular site. Any potential visitors to your site should know this.

If you are boondocking in a parking lot like Wal-Mart or Cabela’s, ask the store manager unless it’s VERY obvious that they accommodate overnight motorhomes. Phone apps like AllStays and websites like RVparking.com help with ascertaining whether a location is “no park,” “ask to park,” or whether it allows “free parking.”

2. Turn Off the Engine

If you arrive at an RV park late, be as subtle as you can while you get to your particular site. Turn off your engine as soon as possible to avoid polluting the neighboring campsites with noise and/or fumes. If you are plugging in to shore power, do so quickly. If you aren’t, plan a quiet evening using your batteries, which should have adequately charged during the drive, rather than running the generator.

Personally, I’ve gotten used to the sound of diesel engines, as we’ve parked at truck stops many times. Where the first night, I found them loud and obnoxious, I now appreciate the “white noise” they provide while I sleep. Not everyone feels that way.

3. Respect the Space of Others

This is a big one. There is little more disconcerting than gazing out your window and seeing someone walking just a few feet away. In short, don’t walk between RVs or tents. Additionally, make sure that your RV, trailer, tow vehicle, and any visitor vehicles are in your designated space or in a specified storage space rather than just jutting into the road or encroaching in the space of another site.

When boondocking, park on the outskirts of the parking lot, arrive late, leave early, and leave no trace. For example, don’t put out patio furniture or do anything that looks like you are moving in permanently. Try to avoid putting down your jacks, especially when the asphalt is hot to keep from damaging the lot. Whenever possible, you should avoid running your generator and keep your slides in.

Unfortunately, we have trouble with this and it always makes me feel guilty. In order for us to sleep in our bed at all, we have to put out our two slides. We avoid spreading out any more than necessary by keeping our big slide in to take up as little of the parking lot’s space as possible.

4. Be Punctual When Checking In or Out

When staying at an RV park, it is best if you can avoid arriving after the park office’s regular hours. This makes check-in more difficult (unless you made a reservation), and if you have any questions, you’re on your own. Plus, if it is late, you run the risk of disrupting other campers with your headlights, engine fumes, and flashlights, as you fumble to set up in the dark.

It’s also helpful to leave on time. If you slept in or are otherwise running behind, ask for a late departure so you don’t run into the time of the next camper. This benefits the campground manager, the campers arriving, the neighbors, and yourself. Make sure to become thoroughly acquainted with the park’s schedule and rules.

If you are parking overnight in a store’s parking lot, it is good manners to keep your stay brief. You don’t want to take up a large chunk of the store’s parking spaces during business hours. This may create an inconvenience for their customers, which could result in the company restricting boondocking privileges for everyone. It’s called “overnight parking” for a reason.

5. See No Evil

This may sound obvious, but if you don’t want something you are doing to be seen, shut your blinds! If you are napping or showering, shut the blinds. This indicates to other campers that you are indisposed.

Additionally, if someone else’s blinds are drawn, assume they are away or that they do not want to be disturbed. This is not the time to ask your neighbor for a tour of their motorhome or if you can borrow a cup of sugar. If it is important, leave a note. If it is an emergency, be prepared to offer a pretty good excuse.

6. Hear No Evil

Most RV Parks don’t want to be the setting of a raucous reality show. In fact, many have regulations about the noise level to make sure all of the campers are able to enjoy a peaceful visit.

So, keep pets quiet; keep arguments quiet and within the confines of your motorhome. Make sure any parties you have are respectable and that the volumes of your TV and radio are kept at reasonable levels. Try to avoid taking your phone calls outside. Basically, don’t leave the RV to have any communication that you don’t want the entire park to hear about.

7. Be Mindful of “Quiet Time”

Many (but not all) RVers go to bed early in order to maintain a strict travel schedule to make it to their destination on time. Others arrive late, after hours on the road and plan to rise just in time for checkout. Regardless of whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, it’s likely that you appreciate your neighbors abiding by the specified or unwritten “quiet time” rule.

When you are staying at an RV park, the “quiet time” hours are usually posted at the front desk when you check in and may even be provided with your welcome packet.

If you arrive at the campground after the park office is closed for the night or you are boondocking in a parking lot, it’s generally considered good manners to respect the “unwritten” quiet time and considered common sense regarding what hours that time includes. In most parks, it is between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.

Offenses may include, but are not restricted to the following:
Barking dogs
Fighting or roughhousing
Loud talking or yelling
Loud verbal arguments
Outdoor parties
Outdoor radios
Running the engine or generator

Although many of these are difficult for even a responsible RVer to enforce, it is assumed that reasonable care will be taken to keep your pets, children, and travel companions quiet. In many cases, if it isn’t, you will be asked to leave.

8. Control Your Pets

RVers love their pets, but many are less fond of the pets of others. This is especially true when an animal is aggressive to other pets or people. Many campgrounds ban what they consider typically aggressive breeds of dogs, but may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

Regardless of what the personality or size of your animal, it is important to follow all posted park or municipal rules regarding pets. Basically, keep control of them at all times. Keep them on a leash when walking them and direct them away from other campers and campsites. Even if your pooch is the friendliest pet in the world, he might not be when in an unfamiliar setting or if faced with another pet or a person he sees as threatening or intimidating.

Lastly, keep them quiet, as much as you can, so they aren’t irritating other campers by barking incessantly and pick up after them. There is little that will put people in a bad mood faster than stepping in the poo of someone else’s pet.

9. Keep Your Space Tidy

When you pull into a campground or boondocking site, nine times out of ten you are a guest/visitor. Even if you are renting the spot for the night, week, or longer, you are still a temporary citizen on someone else’s property and that’s pretty much how it should be treated. That makes the experience more pleasant for everyone around and keeps the park’s clientele high.

For example, I witnessed an RV site in North Dakota that was always cluttered outside. I have nothing against people making their place cozy when they plan to stay for a while and have seen some very attractive patio sets. Their outdoor seating, which was displayed for almost six months, included bucket-style car seats that had been removed from someone’s vehicle and end tables that were constantly covered with dishes from a recent meal, as well as beer bottles. It was a bit of an eyesore and potential health hazard.

Your campsite shouldn’t look like a junkyard. Avoid using clotheslines outside unless the park allows it. Don’t litter, but rather always pick up after yourself, your pets, and even your children or visitors. Place trash in designated areas. Again, as the registered guest, you are responsible for your site.

10. Follow the Golden Rule

Treat others how you would like to be treated. Part of that includes cutting people some slack. Don’t begin complaining about every tiny infraction. Families with babies, for example, may not be able to strictly adhere to “quiet time,” which is the reason some parks have age limits. Don’t cause unnecessary waves.

In the previous example, complaining about the clutter would have likely caused quite a bit of disharmony in the park. I didn’t know what their upbringing was or what their circumstances were. Basically, I could control the tidiness of my site, but I really had no right to try to control theirs. When you share space with others, it makes it easier for everyone if you follow these simple guidelines while at the same time realizing that not everyone is aware of them.

Note: Don’t cause “unnecessary” waves. Most long-term campgrounds have specific grievance systems to help keep the peace. Additionally, if someone’s safety is at risk, the “waves” you cause are not “unnecessary.”

In Conclusion

Camping is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. As temporary neighbors, it is even more important that we practice good manners and follow these basic principles. Keep the noise down, be polite, follow posted regulations, use common sense, and keep an open mind regarding the intentions of others. Most of all, realize that many of the people you encounter on your travels may be taking their first journey and we were all newbies once.

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