What NOT to Do at an RV Campground
With summer in full swing, you’ll likely pass by several motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and truck campers on the road. This radical influx of RVers includes solo RVers, couples, and family travelers, from millennials to baby boomers. Among those clusters are novice RVers, those who sought the RV lifestyle as a way to safely vacation during the pandemic, those transitioning from tent camping to glamping, and everyone in between.
And although we like to think that learning something new comes with a bit of research, there are certain things about the RV lifestyle that aren’t clear-cut, written in an “All About RVing” book, or listed among the rules of a campground brochure. These unwritten rules of RVing are learned behaviors after many RVing ventures or shared around the campfire with fellow nomads.
If you are new to RVing, then you should know that there are some lesser-known rules about the RV lifestyle. The following are just a handful of these rather sensical rules.
1. Refrain from knocking on another RVer’s door.
An older but still very relevant thread on iRV2, the top online RV forum community, lists RVers’ thoughts regarding knocking on someone’s door. The RVing community is synonymous with friendly folks. Is it a faux pas to knock on another RVer’s door just to chit-chat, maybe borrow some flour, or let them know their car lights were left on? How about when to knock? Is there a good time and a wrong time to talk to your RV neighbors?
The responses varied slightly, but most participants said it’s not a good idea to knock on someone’s door, save for an emergency.
“The #1 rule I think is important is not to bother anyone unless it’s fairly important. If they are inside with the door shut, they probably don’t want to be bothered.”
“Once I open up my front curtains, I am usually dressed and ready to greet any visitors. If you come by and my curtains are closed, then I am probably still in my robe and on the computer (like now) and not ready to see anyone.”
It seems that RVers agree. If the shades are down and the door is closed, folks are busy or want some downtime. Knocking on the door for emergency situations or in a case where the RVer may have a water leak or left their vehicle lights on are some exceptions. Another exception would be if the knock was expected or invited. RVers do love to have get-togethers.
So where’s the best place to reach your RV neighbor?
“As others have said, I would not knock on anybody’s door but rather would wait until I catch them outside. Then I would go over, introduce myself…”
“From my perspective, I’d rather you’d approach me when you see me outside, maybe coming/going or just chilling out in the lawn chair, than knocking on my door.”
Also, catching your RV neighbors during daylight hours is more sensible.
RV lifestyle gripe: What’s the big deal with knocking on an RVer’s door?
Full-time RVer Liz from Liz Amazing said it best, “…when (RVers) open the door in the campground, you see their whole life…” She explains that, unlike a home or apartment where you may only see the front room, you can see pretty much every room, even the bathroom with some units, once you open the door to an RV. It feels like an intrusion of privacy.” she said.
Liz goes on to say that if you need to knock on someone’s door, “Knock on the door and then step back. Step so far away that there’s no way you can see inside their rig.”
2. Avoid distracting other RVers as they are setting up/departing.
RVers by nature are friendly and helpful. They enjoy meeting new people, sharing bits of advice, and lending a hand. And although this is a big part of the RV lifestyle, when it comes to setting up at a campsite or following through with departure procedures, Cortni Armstrong of The Flipping Nomad said that this is no time to socialize.
“There are several safety tasks, and you should not be distracted while performing them. If someone wants to chat, politely ask to continue the conversation once you are done. This includes digital distractions. Don’t talk on the phone, text, or browse social media while working through checklists.”
Setting up an RV at a campground requires a lot of focus and due diligence. Backing up and making sure you avoid any obstructions that could cause damage to your RV or campground equipment are initial tasks when parking in a campsite. Unless you have a trusty travel companion or another reliable individual to serve as the spotter, it may be the case where you will need to get in and out of the rig to double-check and readjust as needed.
Similarly, departure procedures require multiple tasks to be checked off to ensure a safe trip on the road. Simple tasks like securing the antenna, unplugging from the electrical post, or properly hooking up your tow vehicle can all be overlooked if you start a conversation.
3. Don’t spoil the RV lifestyle for others. Stay within your campsite.
Like hotel rooms, when RVers pay the fees for their campsites, they consider it their personal space for that particular length of time. Many RVers feel strongly about it being treated that way. So situations like other campers cutting through a site to get somewhere quicker and vehicles or lawn furniture crossing over into another site become intrusions or at least annoyances.
RVers deliberately or unintentionally “expanding” their campsite is a recipe for disaster. On the subject of inappropriate parking, a vehicle sticking out into the roadway is liable to get hit. Boxing another car in could slow down or even halt someone trying to leave in a possible emergency situation.
Keep camping experiences safe and fun by utilizing the site you purchased. Set up your RV, tow vehicle, and outdoor furniture within the area. Use designated paths or just walk the extra steps around an occupied campsite to get where you need to go. If you have guests visiting, make sure they park in designated parking spaces.
4. Arrive and depart at reasonable times.
RV parks have arrival and departure times for a reason. Departure times are typically a couple of hours before noon, and arrival times usually begin a few hours after noon. This allows the campground staff ample time to clean up campsites, including clearing out the firepit. Cabins need to be turned over and bathhouses sanitized. RVers that linger around their campsite after departure times not only minimize the amount of time the staff has to clean up but can also delay another RVer’s arrival.
It’s also a common courtesy to arrive with enough time to set up before sundown. You can see what you are doing and you’ll arrive before “quiet hours” (typically 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM). Setting up with little light is no fun and can be rather noisy to RVers wanting to get a good night’s sleep. If you happen to arrive after dark or after quiet hours, consider parking quickly and set up the following morning.
5. RV dealers and repair shops will not fix your RV issues quickly.
More RVs on the road means an increase in RV maintenance and repair appointments. Sadly, waiting for service at an RV dealership or repair shop is not a new phenomenon. Customers may wait days, weeks, even months at a time to have their RV serviced. Warranty classifications, insurance procedures, and access to the necessary parts are all possible causes for delays.
If you need faster service, Mike Wendland of RV Lifestyle suggests, “Mobile RV repair techs are more responsive and usually can fix anything wrong with most RVs. We’ve learned that the hard way, too, a couple of times…Most are ready to drop everything and tend to your problems. I have called them for help numerous times over the years and never been disappointed.”
More unwritten rules of the RV lifestyle
Mike and Jennifer Wendland of RV Lifestyle blog detail their “10 Unwritten Rules of Camping” in the video below.
RVers looking for valuable how-to information have learned to go to the experts. Forums such as iRV2.com and blog sites like RV LIFE, Do It Yourself RV, and Camper Report provide all the information you need to enjoy your RV. You’ll also find brand-specific information on additional forums like Air Forums, Forest River Forums, and Jayco Owners Forum.
Natalie Flores-Henley and her husband, Levi Henley, workamp around the
country in their 26-foot motorhome. Along with writing for RV magazines,
they recently published their first book together, Seasonal Workamping for
a Living: How We Did It. They share their experiences and RV-related tips
on their own blog henleyshappytrails.com as well as videos on their
YouTube Channel, also called Henley’s Happy Trails.
Mike Opalinski says
When you are at a park and walking your pet, try to give clearance to other parked RV’s and stick to the road as you never know when the other RVers may be coming out of their RV with their pet.
These are great tips. Now that they’re written, we don’t have to say they’re unwritten anymore!
David Johnston says
Being courteous with pets is important for all RVers. Avoid letting your dog bark and pickup after them. Also clothes lines full of underwear is not a good view for an RV park!
These tips r ok for some NA sites but if u come to Newfoundland &Labrador they just aren’t true. We “Newfie’s” don’t worry about such foolishness. Knock on our doors whenever!!! We will help&aid in whatever ways that we can. We aren’t “stuck up”. Camping&rving is supposed to be fun and not full of pitfalls. Relax mainlanders 😁😁😁
Tony DeRosa says
Amen, my friend! I have no issue with someone knocking on my door. All are welcome!
Bonnie Hardwick says
Don’t leave unwanted personal items on your site when checking out !
Tony DeRosa says
Bonnie, just because I have no issue with someone knocking on my door doesn’t mean I leave unwanted items on my site. Not sure why you said that.
As a first responders I welom a knock on my door to help somebody.
You missed one. For those of us without a hard sided RV, like a popup or tent. If there are multiple sites available, and you plan on running your generator to power your RV, don’t park right next to tenters. We’re all there to enjoy being “away from it all” and listening to your Honda Generator is not conducive to relaxing.
Ken Parr says
Common sense and basic respect of peoples privacy. Distraction while parking, setting up, and hooking up for towing are serious safety issues. Be educated and capable of R/V living. If you get in a bind there is usually a good Samaritan around.
Joseph Oravec says
Respect others RV site. Nothing is more disrespectful than walking through someone elses site. Some people I have dealt with went as far as peeking in the RV’s windows. I opened the door and asked what that persons Mental Issue was? Are you a peeping Tom, or just trying to case our RV?
Edward gibbons says
Mind your own buissnes and you won’t have time to mind mine
Kimberly Fallon says
We have an Intech Luna, type of teardrop camper. In RV parks we become the thing to see. We have had so many people come over and want to look inside. This always makes me uncomfortable because it is basically a bedroom on wheels with an outdoor kitchen!
Tony DeRosa says
I can empathize with what you’re saying. Sometimes people make a request and we are of two minds: 1) we don’t want to be unfriendly, but 2) we don’t want to honor the request. At times like this, I respond with humor. For instance, in your situation, I might say something like: “I would be happy to show you around, but we have a number of tarantulas as pets and they jump around a lot. They are usually fairly harmless, but in the past, visitors have been freaked out when a tarantula jumps on them.” 🙂
Betty A Duffy says
Kimberly, we have a Runaway Camper and everyone asks us about it!! Gas stations, RV parks, there’s always someone that wants to know more about it. I don’t think anyone has ever asked to see inside, but we usually offer & no one has ever said, “no”.
Peggielee Roberts says
As a “traveler “ going on 73 yrs- the rule was “ Red Flag/Green Flag after dust bowl & Depression travelers would put out a red bandanna or cloth or ribbon tied to outside mirror meaning STOP & go away ! Green meant Welcome! Newbies don’t do it anymore but should !
Brian Karnofsky says
Other candidates for “rules.’
– When you dump, clean up the clumps that don’t go down the drain
– Use indoor voices when outside. Keep the music volume low or stick to enjoying music only inside your RV
– Keep your pets leashed when outdoors. Pick up their poops. If they tend to bark frequently, don’t bring them.
– Leave your campsite cleaner than it was when you arrived (a boy scout rule)
I like that idea. Bring it back lol
To add to #1, if you have to knock on another RVer’s door, as soon as you knock step back a good 5-10 feet. It lets them know that you’re still respectful of their space.
Just Me says
Yes. I personally do this even at someone’s house. It is unsettling when I check who’s at my door and the person is standing right at the door facing the direction to see inside. To me it’s weird and creepy. So in neighborhoods, I knock and step back by my own nature.
At an RV, if I knocked I’d step back and say in a mild (not broadcasting) voice loud enough for them to hear if they’re peeking why I’m there. “Hi… Sorry to bother you. Just wanna let you know your water is leaking…” Let them know it’s OK to just crack the door, don’t need a grand welcome. Tell ’em what they need to hear in a polite, helpful way and then take my leave… unless they come out and want me to show them.
I agree with all of these (and the suggestions in the video). After more than a dozen years of full-time RVing, we’ve seen a lot (every time I think we’ve seen it all, we see something new). Something I’d add to the list is “Not everyone wants to be friendly with your pet.” Some of us are very allergic. So please, keep pets off other camp sites and give others walking nearby a wide berth. We love cute dogs as much as anybody, but we dare not be near them! And we’re not the only ones. I’d also add that picking up the dog’s poo is a huge issue: ask any RV park manager what their biggest headache is and they’ll tell you it’s this. One manager shook her head over those who let their animals poop in the tenting area (“Don’t people realize others lay their heads there to sleep?”) and kids’ play areas (bare feet… rolling on the grass… you wouldn’t want that brought into your rig, would you?). Thank again!
John D. Kriesel says
Here’s another unwritten RV rule. Campfires in warm weather are unnecessary. Making your neighbors smell a smoky campfire is not cool. JDK
Fire serves multiple purposes. Warmth is only one of them. Fire can be used for cooking. It repels insects. It gives light to group gathering spaces efficiently. It can create a ritual space for meditation, reflection, or prayer. Etc.
Moreover, the R in RV stands for recreational. The spaces we share are not intended to be used for “necessary” purposes only. We share them for entertainment and enjoyment. We do, however, share them. So if you came over and told me “I’m very sensitive to smoke, would you mind putting your fire out or limiting how long it lasts?” I’d say “Yes, absolutely” and we’d work out a solution. But if you started the same conversation trying to tell me my fire is “unnecessary”, I’d be a lot less hospitable.
One of my unwritten rules of not just RVing, but travel in general, is: Don’t assume others should share your worldview. Just ask for what you need, not for what you want the other person to be like.
Yes, yes, yes!!! We spent some time at John Pennekamp State Park on the Key’s and the temperatures were in the high 90’s, they neighbors had a roaring campfire going all day while sitting in their air conditioned 5th wheel…
I could hardly breath while being outside 🙁
Betty A Duffy says
Dog owner here and I SO agree with picking up the poo!! I’m disgusted by how many owners don’t do it. It’s a pretty easy ask if we want to be able to take our dogs camping.
A number of years back, my wife and I were in our truck camper on a way to another state for a wedding. I found my water line had a problem so we didn’t have any water from the inside tank (34 gallon). I stopped at a dealer for the brand and explained my issue but was told to come back in two months when they would have time for me.
Needless to say, I left stopped at a hardware store and bought a water jug, filled it and went on our way. I’ve never gone back to that dealer. Poor service is what I would expect from them.
Brian Karnofsky says
Thank you!, Well spoken, and applies not only to fires.
Sara Jo says
What about lights? Sometimes the campsites are oriented so that the endçap of an RV is directed right at your campsite or a window. Those endcap lights are BRIGHT. People love to leave them on 24/7.
Charlie B says
Hey, if I leave the window of my truck down and it’s raining, it’s okay to come knock on the door of my fiver.
Great article! We are relatively new to full-time RVing but are shocked by the number of folks that want to chat when we are setting up! Love to meet our new neighbors but not in the first 15 minutes! Thank you for pointing out the safety concerns of distractions when setting up or preparing for departure. Happy Trails!
Mel and Willa Kraft says
Some very sage advice.
Tony DeRosa says
I agree it is best to always err on the side of caution, but personally, I have no issue with someone knocking on my door.
Kathy W says
These are all great unwritten rules but I have another.
Campsites are close to one another and loud, obnoxious laughing and swearing, can be intrusive upon your neighbors, even during the day.
Frank Toledo says
Don’t camp at walmart it’s for quick rest stop then move on. Most open slides and put up bbq and sun shades. It ruins it for others trying to use what’s left at participating walmarts
I agree about coming and going. Had a neighbor this morning leaving at 6:30. That is ok but trying to see how my any times you can slam the doors on RV and truck must be a game for those people. If you leave early just leave doors open until you leave and get things ready the night before.
I agree with most of those rules but the knocking on the door rule is silly. 90% of the time anyone knocking on your RV door is either needing help or an emergency. I’ve been RVing for 13 years and never had a problem with someone knocking on my door. Anyone that has a problem with that probably needs therapy.
When using a dump site as you leave your campsite be aware that others may be waiting. I can dump and clean my tank in 10-15 minutes. I’ve watched some people take 30, 45 minutes and more. Not sure what takes so long but very frustrating for those in line.
Tony DeRosa says
Addressing the time required to dump tanks, us first timers are going to take more time than you seasoned shit dumpers. Sorry we got ahead of you in line. Try leaving earlier, but until after 8am : )
Dan Lewin says
If you experience trouble on the road, beware of mobile repair technicians, their service call prices are outrageous!!! Always ask about their price, I know you are anxious to get on the road, but ask first.
Jim T. says
Yeah, I don’t know what ‘outrageous’ suggests to you, but my dealer’s base labor rate is $165/hr. I’d expect a mobile tech to be at least that since they’re basically making a house call… 😉
Sheila Raskin says
I would also add, keep your vehicles and articles of any type on your site. Do not block passage for anyone driving, walking or biking. Be a good human and aware that others are trying to have a good time just as you are.
I always went by the rule that if this coach is rocking don’t bother knocking.
You can’t fault some folks for their arrival and departure times because some campgrounds have lobbied against overnight parking in store lots, forcing RVers to use campgrounds even for quick overnight rest stops. If I am making a travel stop, I don’t want to be sitting around a campground for hours on end. My intent is to travel until I get tired, pull over, rest, and then continue on. This is usually a late stop and early start. I have had camping trips ruined by those who do this but I also understand that they may not have had a choice. Diesel pusher came in at 10pm and then fired up his rig at 5:30am to warm up for 1/2 and hour before pulling out.
Personally, I think the reason these and many other rules are unwritten is that they are common sense and common courtesy. The simplest rule, maybe a life style, is the golden rule. If you wouldn’t like it, don’t do it to others.
Probably the best rule yet.
David Allen Neil says
Please be considerate when using lanterns and flashlights, it’s rude and not necessary to light up your site as bright as daylight because it lights up your neighbors campsites too. Also please don’t let the little ones run around with 10 million candle power flashlights shining them all over and in other campers faces in the next campsites. We have had this ruin our stargazing and quit times around the fire, they don’t need a flashlight that shines a quarter mile while in the camp ground. And, please don’t let them run around chasing and yelling at each other after quite hours, as a host I had to remind some parents that their kids were bothering other campers, and making it hard for mothers to get their small ones to sleep. “They’re just kids having”. I know but they are disturbing other campers after quite hours. Basically these are just common sense.
Paul M says
Wow lots of uptight campers in both the article (no knocking is kind of silly really, especially for the amount of words and #1 billing they gave that) and in the comments. It’s a campground, there are going to be dogs, there are going to be kids, there are going to be fire pits and flashlights and people coming and going at off hours. If you can’t deal with that maybe RVing isn’t really for you. My wife and I traveled in an RV for a year with our pup for pleasure and then due to unforeseen delays on a home renovation had to get back in the RV and I workamped at our campground for 6 months so I see it from both sides. Really the “unwritten rule” should just be be a respectful, reasonable person ON BOTH ENDS. Pick up dog poop, don’t let your kids go play hide and seek under other people’s rigs, don’t blast your music and get obnoxiously drunk until 3 am etc. but come on some of these are kind of silly. To say “treat it like a hotel” kind of defeats the point – or else we would be staying in a hotel. I agree with the sentiments avoid encroaching on other sites and let people be when they are trying to park/depart and set up/break down but those things are going to happen.
Tony DeRosa says
I agree completely, but I have a question. Why do you have to wait until 3am to get obnoxiously drunk? 😉
Just Me says
That was largely contradicting of itself saying it’s silly and then agreeing to be respectful then saying it’s silly.
Yep, far too many uptight city slickers that think PARKING their RV in a small designated spot crowded in with others, on the grid, with unlimited electrical, water, and sewer is “camping”.
I avoid “camp” grounds and RV PARKS like the plague though circumstances sometimes require their use. But I seriously would rather park in a WalMart parking lot than a commercial or government RV PARKing lot.
Mike Bisson says
We mostly boondock. A few weeks ago we found a spot in the forest and did a round the wagons setup. Next morning a man and what appeared to be his son, set up camp about a football field away from us. Strange when the whole forest is available, especially for the footprint a tent takes.
We all have dogs and they did too. He never came by to introduce himself and we were fine with it after initially wondering why they camped so close. Maybe they liked the safety in groups concept. They seemed to enjoy their trip and we did the same.
No harm, no foul. Too bad we didn’t get to meet.
Picky, picky! Unfortunately Common Courtesy has be deleted from many folks vocabulary!
Brian Karnofsky says
Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, we used to say, “if this van’s a rockin, don’t come a knocking”. Unfortunately, the van doesn’t rock as often these days.
Ken Parr says
“Those things are going to happen”? Only if you let them.
Be aware that the government punishes you for living full-time in your RV. You can not use the banking system without a “residential address”. That comes directly from the PATRIOT Act legislation, section 326, the mandated CIP rolled out by FinCEN in 2004. The SEC is a little more flexible on the issue.
Don’t be fooled into believing you can substitute for this fact by using something like next of kin. That could cost you your insurance along with your finances. Court rulings can have a negative impact when what you declare as a domicile and what you live as a domicile conflict.
Also be advised your ability to vote hangs in the balance. Legal opinion has already been rendered in Clay County, FL ( Google: Voter Registration – Registration based on mail forwarding service address and declaration of domicile ). Seems, given the current political environment, more challenges to this will be on the horizon.
Please don’t light up your RV like the Las Vegas strip. We are going ‘camping’ (glamping) to get away from it all, to enjoy nature, that includes dark skies at night. Nothing worse than the RV ‘next door’ floating on green, purple or whatever color neon/led lights, awnings, hitches etc being decorated with outdoor light strings and the obnoxious, blinding white LED light by the door shining directly into the neighbors bedroom ALL night. if you are afraid that there are animals hiding under your RV (the reason one RVer gave me for the light under his RV), maybe you should not be out there but staying in a Hotel instead!
That’s funny…. you’re in an RV PARKing lot to get away from it all and enjoy dark skies.
So you have an opinion but what if that other person can’t enjoy their “camp” site without those lights? Would you deny them their enjoyment?
Sandra C Allison says
I understand the problem with people coming in and setting up late at night but how about the people who feel like they have to pull out at the crack of dawn. Just because we’re old and retired, we’re NOT morning people and never will be. We have to set an alarm to get up at 8 am to let the dogs out. We don’t appreciate hearing others tear down and start their rigs up sometimes even before daylight.