Taking your new (or new to you) RV out for the first time can be a little intimidating. It may seem like there is simply too much to remember, but don’t worry. The list of things that scare you will shrink with time, knowledge, and experience. But for your first time, these tips will help you make the most of your first campground stay.
The best thing you can do to ensure a smooth first camping trip is plan in advance. More and more people are enjoying RV travel, making campground reservations important. The more popular the location, the farther out you need to make your reservations. If you are planning to visit a first-come, first-served campground, you’ll want to do a little research to determine the best time to show up in order to snag a site.
It’s always a good idea to touch base with the campground office the day before you head out on your trip. Verify your reservation and verify what time you can check in. Even if you plan to arrive early, something unexpected could happen. Therefore, inquire about late check in procedures. You don’t want to roll up to a locked gate after a long day’s drive.
Learn Your Rig
Practice using the RV systems before you leave home. This includes the landing gear, leveling process, slide outs, as well as hitching and unhitching if applicable. Don’t forget driving and parking practice, especially backing up. We’ve arrived at a campground with a pull-thru site reservation only to find there was a mix up and needed to move to a back-in site.
Make A Checklist
As you are practicing with your rig, make a checklist for packing, arrival, and departure. You don’t need a lot of gear to enjoy a great camping trip, but you will need some essentials. Take a look at our essential packing guide for first time campers.
Create a checklist of items for setting up the RV at the campground. You’ll want to include things like:
- Deploy the jacks/levelers
- Chock the wheels
- Plug in the power
- Connect to water and sewer (if provided)
- Turn on the air conditioner (if needed)
- Open slides
- Turn on the water heater
- Turn on the LP gas
This itemized checklist will help things go smoothly at the campground and ensure you don’t forget anything. You’ll also be able to use the list in reverse upon departure.
Many campgrounds have an office that you will stop at first to register. Some public campgrounds (state, city, national forest), especially smaller ones, don’t have an office, but do have a kiosk for self-registration. If you don’t have a reservations, look for guidelines on finding an open site. In some cases, there will be a list posted on a board with the campground map, and it others there may be a marker on the actual campsite.
Pay attention to your site’s location on the campground map looking closely for the approach. The campgrounds are always marked well once you move beyond the entry and you want to be sure you’ve noted a few landmarks or site numbers to help you navigate to yours.
It is also a good idea to arrive early in the afternoon so you can set up your campground in the daylight. Not only does this make things easier on you, but it also keeps the neighbors happy. No one likes headlights shining in their RV windows or the loud sounds of someone setting up at night.
Scout out your site before actually pulling into it. Take notice of the power, water, and sewer hook ups. Be sure there is enough space to fully deploy your slides. More than once we’ve had to move the RV forward or backward to be safely clear the power pedestal with our bedroom slide. If there is a paved pad, keep an eye on your RV leveling jacks to ensure they stay on the pad.
Once you’ve gotten settled in and are ready to enjoy your stay, consider these few unwritten rules of campground etiquette. By following these few guidelines, you can help ensure that your good time doesn’t ruin someone else’s.
First of all, remember that even if you can’t see your neighbors, they usually aren’t that far away. Be mindful of that when you are playing music or telling stories around the campfire. Most importantly, observe quiet hours. They are usually posted and typically start around 9 or 10pm.
Also, be aware that the little privacy you have is limited to your campsite. Respect the space that other campers have chosen, and don’t walk through another campsite to get to another location in the campground.
RVing is a great way for pet owners to travel with their fur babies, but there are a few courtesies you can extend to your fellow campers. Clean up after your pets, keep your dogs on a leash, and don’t leave them cooped up (and barking) all day while you’re away.
Camping as a family is a joy, but be mindful that not every camper has children. Please make sure your children are properly supervised and respectful of others.
This is the most important tip of all! Don’t let any small mistakes or items left behind ruin your trip. Enjoy yourself and your first camping trip. We all learn as we go and any mishaps will make entertaining stories down the road.