Escaping nosy neighbours and feuding family members over the holidays, by leaving it all behind to go camping, should be something to look forward to.
But, beware, without a few campground etiquette rules in place, your time to leave life’s stresses behind could just be about to take a turn for the worse.
See more: Camping 101: What you need to know
“It’s the loud music late at night that really gets to me,” says Andrew Needham, who has had his camper trailer for six years and regularly takes his wife Famie and their two daughters Piper (9) and Sami (7) travelling around Australia over the Christmas break.
“On Bruny Island in Tasmania, our camp neighbours locked their dog in the caravan on a 40C day, then when they did return the dog would stop barking and they’d start up with the loud music, swearing and drinking.”
After his girls crying got the better of him, he built up the courage to ask them to pipe down, until the next day when it all started over again.
“One of my pet hates is people who turn their music up in the day and think the whole caravan park likes their taste in music,” says Famie. “Or, the grey nomads whose hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, who sit in their annex and have their televisions turned up so loud — any music would be better than that!”
Then there are the camp neighbours who run their drain onto someone else’s campsite, the ones who encroach on your site with their cars or tent ropes, or the ones who mess up the showers with soap wrappers everywhere.
“One of the great things about camping with kids is the chance for them to socialise, but it also annoys me when parents let their kids run wild, so you’re woken up by children bursting into your caravan and eating all your food first thing in the morning,” says Famie. “Or they just ride their bikes through your campsite and nearly knock you over.”
Then there’s the laundry rage — look out if you leave your washing in the machine too long after the cycle has finished. And never place your toilet close to your neighbours’ sleeping area, especially if they have children who might be light sleepers.
Fires are also an issue, so don’t throw green leaves on them and smoke out your neighbours. Or, leave your car running so the fumes stink out the tent next door.
“It also often happens that everyone wants to leave at the same time, so try not to block people from getting out, you just have to be patient,” says Andrew. “You’re supposed to be on holiday, so just relax and also try to help others out if you can — we’ve had people help us set up, or take down our annex when the winds were really high and we were out, that’s nice campground etiquette.”
And it’s not just about being considerate of your human neighbours, think of the wildlife, too.
“There are often koalas around, but no one to educate the public on how to treat them,” says Andrew. “I saw a German tourist cuddling a koala and putting her face next to it for a selfie. I said — ‘Have you seen the claws on that koala? If I were you I wouldn’t do that!’ But she just really needed that photo.”
For Dean and Cath Cook, who have owned their campervan for the last five years, the free campsites offer a more alluring option than the crowded holiday parks.
“Free campsites are often in beautiful spots in the bush or on the beach where you just find a piece of sand or grass and set up,” says Cath, who finds spots from the book Free Camps Australia. “They’re often just out of town, but in a nature reserve, and the people who go to them aren’t as rowdy as in the better-known tourist campsites.”
The couple also found ‘RV-Friendly Towns’ across Australia, which are generally small towns that offer amenities and services that are helpful to campervanners, such as 24-hour medical facilities and access to potable water and a dump point.
“At traditional holiday camps you’re cramped in and people don’t care what they do, you’ll often be woken by your neighbour packing up at 5am, or moving their things onto your site,” says Dean, whose favourite free camping spot is in Byron Bay.
“Lots of campsites have community barbecues and it’s great to hear different families tell different stories from their travels,” says Dean. “We’ve seen the bad side of people, though — like when a camp neighbour had her Esky stolen with her holiday supplies of milk and beer. Mostly it’s a good experience — just a relaxing time where you can get out of the house more and walk, ride, surf and do all the things you don’t have time to do at home.”
Despite whether you love or loathe your camp neighbours, it’s unlikely you will have to see them again, so don’t let bad feelings ruin what should be a time to remember fondly all year when you’re stuck back at the office working.
“Some people have no idea the effect they have on the other campers,” says Famie. “They’re probably like that in every other part of their lives away from the campground, too. So, be considerate, but don’t dwell on their downsides, just try to enjoy your own holiday.”
TOP TIPS FOR CAMPING ETIQUETTE
- Tone down the noise at night
- Don’t walk through other people’s campsites
- Leave without a trace and don’t litter
- Keep an eye on your kids
- Be considerate of local wildlife
- Keep your things on your side – be mindful of barriers
- Be patient, be friendly, be considerate
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