Last Updated on October 14, 2021 by Jessica Lauren Vine
If you’re in the “Stay-up-all-night-and-watch-videos-about other-people-RVing” stage of your adventure, this RV etiquette guide is for you.
Maybe you’ve bought your rig, maybe you’re still obsessing over floor plans and spending all of your weekends hosting garage sales. Wherever you are at the beginning of your journey, there’s a lot to learn, and we promise, you’ll learn it. But there are some things about RV life that you can’t learn on Youtube, and one of those is RV etiquette.
The RV community is welcoming, helpful, and friendly. They’re people who value travel, adventure, and freedom. But there is a certain code of conduct and respect that RVers live by.
Knowing these before you start your adventure will reduce the number of newbie mistakes that will let the entire campground know that you’re new (if your attempt at backing up into a campsite doesn’t do it for you!)
RV Park Etiquette
There are many similarities between RV park etiquette and campground etiquette. Both are places where people come to park their RVs either for a quick weekend getaway or a long-term stay.
Campgrounds are a great way to connect with nature and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, while RV parks can feel a little more residential and have a deeper sense of community. Some etiquette rules to remember when you are parked in a campground or an RV park include:
Don’t Walk Through Other Campsites
This is a big one. Sometimes newbies don’t realize that the lot that another RV is parked on is considered their yard. They’ll track through the yard to get to the pool or their camper without realizing that they are walking through somebody’s personal space. When at all possible, stay on roads and sidewalks and avoid walking in between RVs.
Clean Up After Your Pets
RVers love their pets. They love being able to take their dogs out with them on an adventure, but they know the importance of cleaning up after their pet. When sharing a space at an RV park or campground, you must clean up after your pet. Nobody wants to be walking to their favorite fishing spot and step in a pile of yuck. It’s also important to know that RVers are very observant, and if you try to get away with not cleaning up after your pet, somebody is bound to see you.
Observe Quiet Times
Many RVers come to campgrounds to get away from the noise and the lights and the traffic of the city. They find rest and relaxation at campgrounds and are looking for a peaceful place to reconnect with nature.
If you’re in party mode, your loud music could be a distraction to your neighbors. This is not to say that you have to be whisper quiet the whole time you’re camping but abide by the campground’s quiet times. Keep music, loud conversation, and noisy kids down to a minimum during these times.
Don’t Talk To People During Set-Up/Break Down
The RV community is a friendly community, and it’s easy to meet new friends at campgrounds and RV parks. However, when someone is trying to back their RV into a tiny spot, or when they are running through their mental checklist of how to safely hitch or unhitch their tow vehicle, it is not the time to start up a conversation.
Even seasoned RVers need focus to ensure that they are setting up or tearing down their campsite correctly. There will be many times to strike up a conversation with your RV neighbors, so don’t do it while they’re emptying their tanks, trying to back in, or when it’s 10 minutes before check-out time and they’re rushing to get it all done.
Be Aware Of Personal Space
It’s no secret that living the RV lifestyle means sacrificing personal space. You’ll quickly learn that you have to get creative when it comes to organization and storage. At a campground or an RV park, everyone is given a very limited amount of space.
Make sure that all of your belongings (toys, chairs, golf carts, laundry lines, bikes, etc) stay in your space and don’t spill out into the campsites around you.
Walmart RV Etiquette
Boondocking is a term that refers to parking your RV somewhere and staying without any hookups. Sometimes, boondocking is glamorous and Instagram-worthy and set against a backdrop of gorgeous mountains or sparkling lakes.
Other times it means parking in a Walmart parking lot. Most Walmarts are very RV friendly and allow travelers to park in their parking lots overnight instead of having to pay for a campground. It may not be one of the most glamorous parts of RV life, but it definitely can be one of the most convenient.
Before you pull up into a Walmart, consider some of these well-known Walmart RV etiquette rules:
Call First or Use an App to Find Out If They Are Rv Friendly
While many Walmarts are happy to allow RVs to park in their parking lot, it’s always polite to call and ask first. Call customer service when you’re on your way and just ask if it’s okay to stay and where the best place would be to park.
This will prevent a cranky Walmart manager from knocking on your door in the middle of the night and telling you to move. Apps like AllStays can help you find RV-friendly Walmarts and read reviews from other travelers who have stayed there.
Park Away from Store Traffic
If you get the okay to stay in a Walmart parking lot, make sure you park away from the front of the store so you’re not blocking regular parking spots. When you call to make sure it’s okay to stay, the manager will probably direct you to a safe spot in the back where you won’t be in the way.
Use Cones to Designate Parking Spots
It is not uncommon to park your RV in a Walmart parking lot, go in to buy some groceries, and then come out to find a car that has parked directly behind you, making it impossible to reverse or get out.
People who do not RV don’t understand how much space is needed to maneuver a travel trailer, 5th wheel, or motorhome out of a parking lot. If you have orange parking cones, use them to block off spaces in front of and behind your RV so that people won’t block you in.
No Long Term Parking
The thing about boondocking, or just parking in a Walmart parking lot, is that it’s not meant to be a long-term solution. Walmart’s typically allow Rvers to stay for a night, but then expect you to be on your way the next day. Walmarts are not for long-term camping.
Clean Up When You Leave
Just like with RV parks and campgrounds, it’s important to leave your space cleaner than you found it. Make sure to pack up all your trash and leave no trace that you were there.
Don’t Set Up Your Whole Yard
A stopover in a Walmart parking lot is supposed to be more about convenience and not so much about comfort. This means it’s not the place to set up your chairs, start a barbecue, or hang your hammock. Walmart wants you to be comfortable and safe, but don’t get too comfortable.
RV Dump Station Etiquette
If you hang out with a group of RVers long enough, you’ll learn that they are not shy when it comes to talking about their black tanks, their dump station techniques, and everything in between.
The dump station is a facility in a campground or RV park where you can dump the waste from your black and gray tanks if you don’t have a sewer hookup on site. One of the most important etiquette rules for a dump station is to keep cleanliness in mind.
There is a high potential for cross-contamination and germs at these places, and knowing what to touch and how to touch it can keep everybody healthy and safe.
Use the Right Equipment Every Time
You should have a designated hose for your fresh water and a separate hose that you use when you’re cleaning out your tanks. You never want to mix up the two. Usually, the hose for your freshwater is white, which makes it easy to remember which hose goes where.
Wipe Down Surfaces
Before you get started, wipe down the surfaces that you’ll be touching. This includes drain handles, hoses, faucets, trash cans, and anything else in the dump station. Wipe it off when you get there and wipe it off when you leave.
Don’t Do a Full Tank Cleanout at a Dump Station
If there is a line of RVers behind you waiting to dump their tanks and get on the road, don’t be the newbie that decides to flush their tanks. Flushing your tanks is a process that involves filling your toilet and tanks with water and flushing out the tanks multiple times until the water runs clear.
This is something you can do on your own time, at your site if you have a sewer, or at a dump station when there is no line. If people are waiting, be courteous and get in and get out as quickly as you can. But don’t rush, because when you rush, things can get messy.
Prepare yourself for a line at the dump station, especially if you’re leaving on the weekends. Depending on the size of the RV, emptying the tanks can take anywhere between 15-25 minutes, and if you’ve got a row of people in front of you, you could be waiting a while.
It’s important to be patient and remember that you’ll want the people behind you to be patient so that you can empty your tanks the right way. If you have to leave in a hurry, consider getting to the dump stations very early in the morning before check-out time.
RV Toilet Etiquette
While we’re discussing one of the stinkier parts of RV life, we have to mention a few things about RV toilet etiquette. Some RVers choose not to use their RV toilet for solid waste and have a strict rule about using campground bathrooms as much as possible.
Other people use their RV toilets just like they use their toilets back at home. How you choose to do your business and where are you choose to do it is a personal decision, but some things to consider when it comes to your RV toilet include:
- Only waste and toilet paper go down the toilet. Nothing else.
- RVers will battle all day long about whether or not toilet paper goes down into the tanks or a separate trash can. This is a personal decision. There’s also a debate about whether RV-specific toilet paper is best or if any old toilet paper will do. You will learn what your tanks can handle and can make decisions about toilet paper based on that.
- The more water you flush when you go to the bathroom, the easier it is for toilet paper and waste to break down in the tanks. However, the more water you use, the more you’ll have to empty your tanks. Over time you’ll figure out how to do the perfect flush.
- Pro Tip: Placing two sheets of toilet paper in an X shape in the toilet before during your business may help waste flow down into the tanks more easily.
RV Truck Stop Etiquette
On long travel days, with over 2,500 truck stops in the U.S., they are convenient and you may want to stop at a truck stop to take a quick nap, eat, or adjust your route. When you do, it’s important to remember the few basic rules of RV truck stop etiquette so that you’re not inconveniencing any truckers or putting your RV in a dangerous situation:
Be Mindful of Space
Just because the parking lot at a truck stop is empty, doesn’t mean you should park smack in the middle of it. Pull your RV around to a back corner so that you’re out of the way. Do not park in areas that are designated for big rigs, even if you don’t see any there. This truck stop is meant for big trucks, and you don’t want to be in the way of a semi-truck on a mission.
Clean Up After Yourself
This is RV etiquette rule number one, no matter where you’re staying. It is so important to clean up after yourself and not leave any trash behind.
Don’t Put Your Slide Out
Just like at Walmart, a truck stop isn’t exactly the place to sit back and get comfortable. It’s more about a convenient place to rest your head before heading out on the road again.
This means don’t put your chairs and patio tables out in the parking lot, don’t put your slide all the way out, and even avoid having your awning out if possible. You’re in a space designated for big trucks, so it’s important not to take up a lot of their space.
Go Buy Something
If you’re going to be using the bathrooms and the parking lot of a truck stop, it’s common courtesy to stop in the store and buy something. Whether it’s a drink, a snack, or one of those air fresheners that hang from your rear-view mirror, spending money at the store is an easy way to show your appreciation for the space.
RV Etiquette Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What camping etiquette is the most important?
Answer: Be respectful of people’s space. If you notice a fellow camper doesn’t seem to want to talk—leave them be.
Question: How do you stay safe while camping?
Answer: Most other campers just want to camp too. You’ll find people are friendly and you rarely have to worry about any danger.
Question: Is it okay to ask to use other people’s fire pits?
Answer: Never ask to use other people’s space or things in their campsite. If they offer, that’s one thing but don’t be that person.
RV Etiquette – Wrapping It Up
As you get started on this new adventure, you’re bound to make mistakes. Some mistakes will be easy to fix and funny, and others will be a little more stressful. Either way, you learn from these mistakes and it all becomes part of your story. Knowing some of these etiquette rules before you get started will help you adjust to RV life a little easier.
Want to learn more about RVing? Check out my post about full time RVing with kids.