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Basic RV etiquette that isn’t always talked about, but makes all the difference

We all learned the “magic words” as a kid. Do you want a piece of pie? What are the magic words? “Please” and “thank you.” “Magic words” and other proper manners were taught to most of us as we grew up. In the spirit of “never stop learning new things,” I recently learned a few rules of etiquette about RVing that I hadn’t known before. Here they are. (Please. Add to my list. Thank you!)

Headlights

When trailering an RV, the trailer puts additional weight on the rear of the tow vehicle. This causes the front of the tow vehicle to angle upward, which means the vehicle’s headlights are also aimed upward – often right into the eyes of any oncoming driver. Today’s ultra-bright headlights can easily blind other drivers and become a real hazard. (It’s also against the law in most places.)

A common-sense rule of etiquette (and safety) is to fix this problem. Here’s how: With your trailer attached to your tow vehicle, check and adjust your headlight alignment. This fixed our problem. However, it may be necessary to have your mechanic install air shocks or extra leaf springs instead.

We try to dim our lights for oncoming traffic, even on the interstate. Why? Our rig’s headlight placement sits higher than those of lower-slung vehicles. We use our dimmer to avoid hampering any oncoming drivers’ vision.

Parking

Before you settle in for the night, get permission. Yes, many Walmart stores offer free overnight parking, as do other outlets like Cracker Barrel, Lowe’s, Bass Pro Shops, and more. But get permission first. Remember to keep slides in and say “thank you” by making a purchase from the retailer.

Check with the homeowner association before you make plans to bed down for the night in a residential area. Many neighborhoods have restrictions. Follow them.

Reservations

Recently I called to cancel a reservation. The gal who answered my call was so, so very appreciative. She thanked me several times and before I disconnected, I asked her if she’s had problems with cancellations. She told me that over the past week alone, their campground lost revenue from several sites because people did not call to cancel their reservations. They were simply “no shows.” Losing money on these sites may not seem that important to bigger campgrounds, but this was a small, mom-and-pop enterprise. That lost revenue hurt!

I was surprised. I supposed campers knew better – had better manners or etiquette – than just not show up. Not only do campgrounds lose revenue, other campers could not make use of the sites either. What’s more, RVers like those “no shows” promote the impression that we all are a group of ill-mannered folks. And everybody loses.

Reviews

Finally, take time to post a positive review of the good campgrounds you visit. Sadly, as with other businesses, people are quick to post only their negative reviews. Be polite, even when posting a negative comment, and compliment good service whenever you experience it.

Simple common courtesy, basic manners, and a friendly disposition will boost the overall reputation of RVers in general, and make each of us feel good inside, too.

Related:

RV dog park etiquette: The woofin’ do’s and the woofin’ don’ts

##RVDT1723

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T Edwards
25 days ago

First, I don’t travel after dark with my 5th wheel but if I did it would be impractical to adjust my headlights for towing, unhook, then adjust the headlights for nighttime driving without the 2300# load in the rear, and adjust them back the next day . I’ve aimed headlights before – it’s not a quick, easy task. So in principle the “right thing” to do but not very practical. Which brings up: If Toyota applied auto-adjusting lights to their Tundra, is there an aftermarket kit to modify other American trucks?

Patrick Deaton
1 month ago

What does a photo of Cracker Barrel have to do with the subject at hand?

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Patrick Deaton

Hi, Patrick. Here’s where Cracker Barrel is mentioned, in case you missed it: “Before you settle in for the night, get permission. Yes, many Walmart stores offer free overnight parking, as do other outlets like Cracker Barrel, Lowe’s, Bass Pro Shops, and more. But get permission first. Remember to keep slides in and say “thank you” by making a purchase from the retailer.” Have a good night. 🙂 –Diane

Jesse Crouse
1 month ago

We trial our dogs and rent a spot around the ring. I can’t tell you how many people just walk thru our tent site as if it just doesn’t matter. We have bred generations of self centered jerks who see only themselves first.

Barbara J Maynard
1 month ago

Whenever I make a campground reservation the campground requires a 1 night deposit. How is a campground losing revenue if they already have this deposit? If the site is canceled they keep that deposit and may even book someone else on the site doubling their revenue.

Dawn L Martin
1 month ago

I was wondering this too.

Jesse Crouse
1 month ago
Reply to  Dawn L Martin

Is it a full nights deposit? If not they loose a % and the % profit in a nights stay is not as high as you might think after all expenses are accounted for. If they make a gross profit of say 25% that would be $25.00 on a $100,00a day rate.

Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
1 month ago

My peeve is in the campground, and I don’t know the solution. People who cross your site while you’re out in it without asking. I didn’t know until I started volunteering with BSA that one should ask “Permission to enter campsite?” Of course if we’re inside the camper that’s one thing, but if we’re actually outside, it’s not like it is a city sidewalk.

TexasScout
1 month ago

Re: Headlights
I wish more trucks had the in cabin adjustable headlights like are in the Toyota Tundra. It’s so easy, just thumb a knob on the dash and move them back where they belong.

Lindalee
1 month ago

My two cents! I think that with all the new (mostly younger I think) RVers they either haven’t been taught good manners OR they left them behind when they left the folk’s house!

David A Nestor
1 month ago

I have been encouraging and thanking RV Parks that are requesting larger non refundable registration fees for the very reason you spoke about in your article. It is indeed sad to see so many sites going unfilled during the busy times of the year.

John Koenig
1 month ago

I MUST take issue with your recommendation to adjust a tow vehicle’s headlamp aiming. What happens when said vehicle is NOT hitched up? (Hint: you’ll be getting light MUCH closer to said “adjusted” vehicle which is a SAFETY issue) In a PROPER “hitch up”, BOTH the tow vehicle AND the trailer should be LEVEL (or VERY, VERY close to level). When NOT level, there are other problems and control issues the driver will have to deal with too. This is why it is CRITICAL to get a PROFESSIONAL involved in PROPERLY setting up your rig initially. If you are not ABSOLUTELY SURE that you can get it 100% right, get help from somebody who knows how to do the job right.

TexasScout
1 month ago
Reply to  John Koenig

This is very true, also see my comment above.

BoiseDave
1 month ago

Not everyone wants to hear a generator running 24/7. Please be considerate to other campers; especially tent campers, especially in wilderness settings.

Ken
1 month ago

We have a bed with a folding mattress when the slide is in. We have to put out the slide to sleep. Is the problem with the slide the slide itself or that it may take up another space or another reason.

Diane Mc
1 month ago
Reply to  Ken

Thinking some view it like you may be in for the long haul as opposed to just an overnight. I disagree. We have a north/south bed so we can leave slide in. However, someone has to crawl out of the bed to get up. We’ve done it before. We always try to park with slide on the curbside of a space. Then is doesn’t matter. Also, our bedroom slide is very narrow. If you won’t block anything & don’t set up anything else, personally I don’t see a problem.

Glenn
1 month ago

My number one …..”be tolerant.”

Not everyone is on a permanent vacation like I am.

Irv
1 month ago

The advice about headlights misses the real problem. Your truck should not be low in the back when towing–thus the headlights aimed high.

That means your weight adjusting hitch is not setup correctly. That’s the problem you need to fix.

If you adjusted your headlights lower, then they’d be aimed too low when not towing.

KBowden
1 month ago
Reply to  Irv

yeah, I had the same thoughts. Adjusting headlights for towing makes them out of adjustment when NOT towing. Not a good solution at all.

Cecilia
1 month ago
Reply to  Irv

I didn’t even know you could adjust your headlights. How on earth is this done? And like you said, Irv, it seems like other things needed to be adjusted first.

TexasScout
1 month ago
Reply to  Cecilia

In the days of “sealed beam” headlights, you did it with a screw driver right at the head light. One screw for up and down and one for side to side. Now, everyone is different.

George Glovier
1 month ago

When you arrive at a campground at night turn your headlamps off while backing in your campsite and unhooking. If you need light to pull forward turn your lights back on or use the fog lights. I was in a campground last week with a trucks headlights lighting up our site for over a 1/2 hour!

Barnjai
1 month ago
Reply to  George Glovier

Amen!

Andrea
1 month ago

No-shows have apparently been a problem that is much worse this year Talking to the host at a USFS campground, they were just puzzled. For those sites, people pay for the entire stay upfront; there is a cancellation fee, but in most cases cancelling results in some refund. Depends on when the site is canceled and length of stay reserved, in part.
This is in an area where the campgrounds are full, tents on up to big rigs. The site is available at check-out time on the day after the first night, but the host said they’d had a few show up much later, expecting their site to still be theirs, without having notified the campground of the delay, That meant bad scenes, and hosts unwilling to let the site to someone else, often having to send them away altogether.
When we’ve had delays or had to cancel, we have always contacted the campground as soon as we knew we’d be delayed, or canceled on-line when that worked best.

wanderer
1 month ago

It’s nice to be reminded there are still places that don’t bill up front before making a reservation. This is the great thing about some mom-n-pop campgrounds that simply take a name and number. What a shame people betray that trust by no-showing.

My etiquette rule suggestion: there is only one correct response to someone saying ‘can you get control of your dog’, it is ‘yes, sure’. Not ‘he won’t bite, he’s just friendly, he’s blah-blah-blah, ha-ha-ha, what are you afraid of’.

Carole
1 month ago

I’m surprised that campers with barking dogs aren’t on this list. Please don’t leave your dogs outside or inside and just let them bark. Some people leave for the day and their dog will bark the entire time they are gone. We have asked to move more than one time to get away from them. Our campground in Florida will ask you to leave. Good rule. The same people that let them bark and bark at home will be the ones that let them bark at the campground. Good rule – just be considerate.

bloom
1 month ago

We have a gripe about the new cars and trucks in campgrounds. It seems that when people lock and unlock their vehicles 15 times a night they use their remote keyfob. That turns their headlights on and off, inevitably pointed directly at our campfire. Many people will turn the vehicle around or stop locking the vehicle till they go to bed when brought to their attention. The less courteous just say they can’t do anything about it…

tom
1 month ago

Off with lights, outside stereos, and TV’s after you call it a night.

McTroy
1 month ago

Don’t forget to turn off the lights. It is fine, even pretty, to have all.those outdoor lights on while parked. Sitting around a campfire outdoor lighting is important. But there is no need to leave bright flood lights or other bright lights on all night. Please turn them off. Your pretty lights aren’t a welcomed night light in your neighbors camper.

J anne hamm
1 month ago
Reply to  McTroy

Also the lights ruin the night vision for stargazers. RUDE to leave on all night.

BJ Lewis
24 days ago
Reply to  McTroy

Yes! Some newer RVs have LED porch lights all across the awning that get left on 24/7. Like high beams into our RV. I asked one neighbor to turn off and they turned down to ‘amber.’ The next night, back to high beams.