There’s nothing quite like the sense of freedom when you’re travelling our great land, exploring places you’ve never been and towing your home around with you.
Regardless of whether you’re travelling on your own, with a partner, or with a group, caravanning is a great way to meet new people and learn from their experiences and adventures.
After 16 years of caravanning, our son is now an adult and is no longer keen to tag along with mum and dad. With an upgraded couple’s van in which we can spend more time off grid, we are looking forward to embracing the nomadic lifestyle. And yes, we are both grey.
On a trip earlier this year we were sharing some of our knowledge and experience with some new-ish caravanners, which got me thinking about the etiquette – most of it unwritten – that comes with enjoying this wonderful lifestyle.
Here Are My Top 10:
1. Share the view
We know free camping is popular and that everyone wants the prime position. Shade, access to the river/ocean, proximity to amenities, quiet corners away from roads and other campers are always non-negotiables. As is a view. If someone has set up their camp with nice views of the surrounding vista, don’t set up in front of them so all they can see is the back of your rig, your sullage pipe and power cord. It’s very annoying and very poor form. If you’ve missed out on the prime position, tough.
And don’t block someone else’s access. Be aware of how their van is parked and whether they can get out quickly in the event of an emergency or while you’re asleep.
2. Respect personal space
Don’t pull your rig up right next to someone else’s camp. This is unavoidable in caravan parks, where you are designated a space that you can often not swing cat in. And some major events such as the Big Red Bash will have campers wedged into a pretty tight area. But when free camping and there’s a ton of space, keep a respectable distance from your nearest neighbours. I don’t want to hear your TV, or your snoring or any other bodily functions thanks.
Popular free camping areas fill up pretty quickly, so get to your destination early if you want a prime position. Similarly, don’t rock up to a crowded free camping spot at 5pm and try to wedge yourself between two existing camps whose residents are enjoying happy hour because you want to be next to the river. Plan ahead. It’s not hard.
3. My camp is not a shortcut
Don’t let your kids (or dogs for that matter) run through other people’s sites as a short cut to the jumping pillow or the pool or wherever. Instill this in your children early. To some this might be a non-issue, but others will see it as an infringement on personal space and privacy, not to mention the safety issues involved with children tripping over guy ropes or smacking their head into the corner of a barbecue. And let’s face, there are some not very nice people out there, even in the caravanning community. It’s for the kids’ own safety. While you’re at it, keep your dogs on a leash and pick up their poo.
4. Hands off connections
On the subject of kids, don’t let them fiddle with other people’s power leads, water hoses or the communal connections to which you are hooked up. There’s nothing worse than going out for the day to return and find the power to your van has been off for hours in the hot summer sun because curious little Johnny next door thought it would be fun to play with your switches. Warm chardy = grumpy me.
5. Enjoy the great outdoors
If you insist on running a generator and/or air-conditioner so you can sit in your caravan and watch TV all day instead of enjoying the great outdoors, please turn them off at a respectable hour so you don’t keep others awake. In fact, you may as well stay at home.
We once camped at the resort at Uluru next to a couple who did not leave their caravan once the whole time we were there. All we could hear was their air-conditioning pumping 24 hours a day, and the television blaring for almost as long. They did not witness one amazing sunrise or sunset over the rock. Yes, it was hot. But it’s the Red Centre for goodness sake, they must have known it would be slightly warm.
6. Obey noise curfews
I suspect that not everyone will agree with me on this one. There are noise curfews in caravan parks for a reason. Obey them and have some respect for your fellow campers. If you want to play loud music and party on until the wee hours, go out bush where you’re not disturbing anyone else except the wildlife. Music aside, just a loud conversation can be amplified 10-fold in a caravan park where there’s only canvas between you and your neighbours.
And a note to caravan park managers/owners, if you publicise a curfew and threaten eviction for breaches, be prepared to act on it if you receive complaints. Some of the best caravan parks I’ve stayed in had park managers who would walk around after curfew and shine a torch in the faces of noisemakers requesting compliance. On very rare occasions I have witnessed people made to leave. Similarly, try to keep the noise levels down at the crack of dawn. I know it’s hard to keep excited kids in bed on Easter Sunday morning, but 5.30am in a heaving caravan park where rigs are packed in cheek-to-jowl is a bit much.
7. Drying your smalls
When we first starting caravanning, it was rare for a van to have its own washing machine. Everyone used the common laundry at the caravan parks, took their washing into the laundromat in town, or just waited til they got home (not really practical if you are on the road for months at a time). Today they are de rigueur.
And for those lucky enough to have their own machine on board, here’s small tip. Don’t hang your smalls out the front of your van for the world to see. Some things just can’t be unseen. The anonymity of communal clothelines is a good thing. If you don’t have access to a communal clothesline and really want to keep an eye on your undies, put your portable clothesline in a discreet spot behind your van or behind a tree. Please.
8. Clean up after yourself
This applies to bathrooms, laundries, camp kitchens, barbecues – any communal space. You wouldn’t leave a mess in your own home so don’t do it in shared spaces. And don’t leave your rubbish behind for someone else to clean up. It’s disgusting. You give caravanners a bad name.
9. Have an open mind
Caravanning is an adventure and with all adventures you have to take the good with the bad. That’s part of the fun. You might not always get the perfect caravan spot in a perfect location with the best amenities. Everywhere is different.
At some point we have all been disappointed by our camping spot, particularly if we have paid a lot of money for it. There’s no grass, no shade, no view, it’s too far from the toilets, it’s too close to the toilets, the water pressure is no good, you need coins for the barbecues — the list can go on and on.
Pour yourself a drink, take a breath and make the most of the situation you find yourself in. Laugh at the quirky, enjoy the luxury (if you get it). It’s all part of your travel adventures and you will have these memories for a lifetime. Over the years I’ve learned not to stress about the things that are outside my control. If they are within my control, then I will do something about it.
Besides, if you really hate your camp that much, pack up, move on and don’t go back. Simple.
10. Be nice
Wave to fellow caravanners on the road, say g’day to your camping neighbours, have a chat if warranted, share a drink if you’re invited, offer to lend a hand if someone needs one … it doesn’t cost anything to be kind. However, some folks prefer their privacy, so know your boundaries. Not everyone wants to be your new best friend.
Plus, you’re never too old to learn something new. Listen to the advice and experience of others. You don’t have to agree or take it on board, but it doesn’t hurt to listen. Similarly, be prepared to share some of your pearls of wisdom with those less experienced. But be respectful — we were all newbies once.