Labor Day Weekend Travel: Going on a Road Trip? The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Labor Day is near but if you’re planning a road trip for the long holiday weekend you may be stuck in heavier traffic than usual

Many people will be hitting the roads for the final summer holiday—a Cars.com survey found that of the 64 percent of the respondents who plan to travel for the Labor Day weekend, 80 percent will drive to their destinations. Nearly a quarter of those not planning to travel for the holiday cited high gas prices as the reason—significantly lower than the 42 percent of respondents who cited high gas prices as their reason for staying home over the Fourth of July weekend. 

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“For many, driving is not only the most economical way to travel but the most comfortable and convenient,” said Jenni Newman, Cars.com editor-in-chief. “While gas prices are still too high for some we are seeing pain at the pump ease just in time for the holiday weekend.

Cars.com’s survey also found that 52 percent of travelers who typically prefer to fly are now going to drive due to high ticket prices and ongoing airline disruptions. Additionally, 30 percent of respondents planning to drive say they’ve changed their destinations and are now traveling farther.

Related article: The 8 Best National Parks for a Weekend Getaway

Driving the Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 The Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Monthly Research Report, August Edition, indicates that just over 25 million households plan to camp over the Labor Day weekend. Continuing the camping demand, KOA’s annual North American Camping Report, released in April, forecasted a strong shoulder season.

Observing camping respondents as a whole:

  • 58 percent said they plan to camp over the Labor Day weekend
  • 30 percent said they plan to camp for the long weekend only
  • 42 percent said they plan to extend their holiday; of this group, 22 percent expect to camp for the week (before or after Labor Day) while 21 percent of respondents would likely add extra days to their camping trip
Driving Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Labor Day is looking to outpace Memorial Day which is often seen as the most popular camping holiday,” said Whitney Scott, chief marketing officer, KOA. “Between brightening economic conditions and the continued growth of late summer and fall camping, it’s apparent that camping isn’t just confined to a season.”

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking to the fall season, respondents said that they plan to camp the same amount (30 percent) or more (25 percent) than in previous fall seasons. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they would take all or most of their camping trips this fall with 8 percent of respondents saying they would not camp this fall.

“We’ve always found fall is one of the best times to camp and campers certainly agree,” Scott shared. “Across our business, advanced deposits are up 2.1 percent with many of those reservations falling in September. Fall camping isn’t a secret anymore.”

Camping at Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional insights in KOA’s August Monthly Research Report show the effect of shifting external conditions on camping, including:

  • 34 percent, said they replaced other vacation plans with camping due to inflation
  • Difficulties with air travel reflected positively on camping, with 31 percent of respondents taking more or longer camping trips due to flight challenges
  • 28 percent said they plan to book more camping trips in response to negative non-camping travel experiences

Related article: Why are RVs So Popular?

Tucson/Lazydays KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

AAA is expecting the Labor Day holiday weekend travel volume to return to near pre-pandemic levels as it did for the Memorial Day and Independence Day holiday weekends earlier this summer, according to a news release.

AAA anticipates the peak travel time will be Friday afternoon, September 2 when commuters mix with travelers, especially those heading to coastal areas. Traffic is also expected to be heavy late Monday afternoon as travelers return home from the long weekend, the release said. To avoid Labor Day weekend traffic, AAA is encouraging drivers who have the flexibility to travel at off-peak hours.

Related article: The Best Lakeside Camping Destinations 

Camping at Goose Bay State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Transportation analytics company INRIX says travelers can expect delays as early as today but traffic shouldn’t be as bad as on other holiday weekends. 

“There’s not going to be as much travel as Fourth of July or Memorial Day and not as much traffic congestion on the roads during that time too,” Bob Pishue, transportation analyst for INRIX said.

If you’re planning for a road trip this holiday weekend, here is what to know:

Driving Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When is the best time to leave for Labor Day weekend?

All times are local:

  • Thursday: Before 12:00 p.m. or after 7:00 p.m.
  • Friday: Before 1:00 p.m. or after 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: Before 1:00 p.m. or after 5:00 p.m.
  • Sunday and Monday are expected to have normal to minimal congestion. 
Driving U.S. Highway 89 between Flagstaff and Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When is the worst time to leave for Labor Day weekend?

“Thursday, like three-to-four o’clock (p.m.) is probably the worst time to leave,” Pishue said. “That’s when you get commuters and people running errands, mixing with vacationers and schools getting out if they’re in session.”

All times are local:

  • Thursday: 1:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Friday: 11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: 12:00-5:00 p.m.

Pishue added what could help ease the pain on the road is taking state highways as opposed to an interstate highway. 

“It might take you a little bit longer but it’ll be much less stressful and maybe more scenic depending on where you are,” he said. 

Related article: On Camping and Spending Time in Nature

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worst travel times in major US cities

If you plan on traveling to a major city or leaving one, you could be stuck in heavier traffic than normal. Here’s where and when it could be a nightmare in those cities, according to INRIX.

All times are local:

Atlanta

  • Worst corridor: I-85 South, Clairmont Road to MLK Jr. Drive
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 2:00-4:00 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 120 percent
Massachusetts State House, Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston

  • Worst corridor: I-93 South, Albany Street to MA-24
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 1:45-3:45 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 89 percent

Chicago

  • Worst corridor: I-290 West, Morgan Street to Wolf Road
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 4:30-6:30 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 133 percent

Detroit

  • Worst corridor: I-96 West, 6 Mile Road to Walled Lake
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 66 percent
Kemah Boardwalk south of Houston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Houston

  • Worst corridor: I-69 North, I-610 to I-10
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 76 percent

Los Angeles

  • Worst corridor: I-5 South, Colorado Street to Florence Avenue
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 4:45-6:45 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 138 percent

New York

  • Worst corridor: I-278 East, I-495 to 38th Street
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 143 percent

San Francisco

  • Worst corridor: I-80 West, Gilman Street to Civic Center
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 4:15-6:15 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 98 percent
La Connor north of Seattle © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seattle

  • Worst corridor: I-5 South, WA-18 to WA-7
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 4:15-6:15 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 77 percent

Washington, D.C.

  • Worst corridor: I-95 South, I-495 to VA-123
  • Worst day: Wednesday
  • Worst time: 3:45-5:45 p.m. 
  • Peak travel time increase: 56 percent

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

18 Campground Etiquette Rules to Live By

Are you practicing good campground etiquette?

We’re sure you’ve been there or perhaps you were one of the guilty ones: It’s late, you’re trying to relax or sleep after a long drive to your favorite RV park and someone pulls into the site next to you and cranks up their TV, shattering your tranquility.

Campground etiquette can at times be subjective and flexible, but there are hard and fast rules by which every RVer should abide. And while the general cost of living gets higher, more people than ever are turning to RVing and camping as leisure activities, crowding already crowded RV parks and campgrounds.

These 18 rules are ones to live by when on the road. They’ll ensure you don’t disturb your neighbors, making everyone a happy camper.

Camping at Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know the rules

RV parks and campgrounds have rules for everyone’s comfort. Some RV resorts have more rules than others. Upon check-in, your host will go over those rules or hand them to you to read.

Camping at Alamo State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be a good neighbor

Whether camping in an RV or tent, being a good neighbor will set the tone for your stay. Following the rules of campground, etiquette is an easy way to ensure that everyone can camp together in harmony.

Camping at Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hook it up correctly

Full hook-up sites have sewer, water, and electric connections. If you are using the sewer and water hookups, make sure that you are using the ports designated for your site and that your hoses are in good repair. A leaking sewer hose is unpleasant and unsanitary and illegal.

Related: Camping Etiquette: Getting Away From Each Other & Doing It Together

Camping at Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t cut through someone’s campsite

If you’re walking around the campground, do not walk through other campsites. Even if it would make it easier to get to washrooms, dumpsters, or other park locations. It can be tempting to quickly cut through the “common grass” between sites to get to another site or to nearby amenities. While it may add a few extra minutes to your walk time, you should always walk on the road or public paths at the RV park to respect others’ space. Walking through another person’s campsite is a major no-no. Respect your neighbors’ privacy and stay on the roads and pathways.

Camping at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep track of your kids

Most RV campgrounds are family-friendly and, yes, kids deserve to have fun too. However, the fun shouldn’t be at the expense of the neighbors in your campground. Make sure that youngsters are supervised when roaming about and that your kids know the campground rules.

Camping at Lady Bird Regional Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t overflow

Be respectful of each other’s space by not overflowing your own RV camping site and into your neighbors. If you bring a bunch of gear, like bikes, chairs and outdoor games, make sure it fits inside your site.

Camping at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t Put Your Grill on the Picnic Table

It’s tempting to take your portable grill and set it up on the campsite’s picnic table, but think twice. Grills can leave stains, cause the table material to warp, and leave a residue. Instead, bring along an inexpensive portable table so you can leave the campsite clean for future campers. 

Related: 12 Unspoken Etiquette Rules of RV Camping

Camping at Fort McDowell Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Around the campfire

Dying to tell that awesome campfire story? Go ahead and scare your buddies but keep your voices down. Voices easily carry without all the traffic and horns in the background from the city. If you’re going to sing and dance around the campfire; do so early before your neighbors are going to sleep.

Camping at Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Resist blasting your music

Keep it quiet OK, so we’re all getting out to nature to have a good time. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re having a fun time camping, but if your music is too loud, it can be disturbing for your neighbors. Keep your music at a comfortable level so it can’t be heard from your neighbor’s campsite. If you’re unsure, walk by neighboring sites and see if you can hear your music. Adjust your volume accordingly. Be courteous and ask the neighbors if you’re being too loud.

Camping at the Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adhere to Quiet Hours

Most RV parks, resorts, and campgrounds have quiet hours. You’ll typically receive a pamphlet at check-in with rules of the park that includes this information. Quiet hours are a range of hours (for example 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.) when all guests can expect the noise level not to be at a daytime high. Many campers are inside their RVs or enjoying a quiet and relaxing time by the campfire, and you definitely want to avoid being reported to the office for noise during designated quiet hours. 

Camping at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Generator power

Be mindful of where your AC-generator’s exhaust is going and try not to choke out your neighbors with stinky fumes. Most established campgrounds have posted generator hours; if none are posted, use good judgment don’t use generator between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. Also, think about your generator’s exhaust and be sure you’re not smoking out your neighbor with smelly fuses. If you’re concerned about the fumes or the noise, ask your neighbors if it bothers them. Believe me, they’ll tell you.

Related: An RVers Guide to Campground Etiquette

Camping at Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Late arrivals, early departures

If you’re arriving late to the park, perform a bare bones setup with the least amount of noise as possible. Everyone has arrived late to a campsite before but no one likes to wake up to a noisy engine, voices, and slamming RV doors. Your neighbors will be more understanding if they don’t have to listen to loud voices, slamming doors or an idling engine. Use the same consideration if you have to leave early the next morning.

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t Speed Through the Park

A speed limit is just that— a limit. Don’t go over the posted number. You follow the speed limits on the freeways and you can follow them in a campground, too. Campgrounds are busy with campers walking their dogs, children chasing balls, bike riders, and RVs pulling in or out of their site. For the safety of you and those around you, please slow down.

Camping at White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leash your pets

Many RV campgrounds are pet-friendly, but you’ll want to double-check the pet policy before you arrive. Most campgrounds require that your pets be leashed and under your control, both for the safety of your pet and other campers. Many RV campgrounds require that the leash is no more than six feet long and that your pet is secured when not leashed (like in a crate or pen).

Camping at Hilltop RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pet etiquette

Most RVers love nature and animals and that includes dogs. However, when your dog starts exploring your neighbor’s base and foodstuff it can be disrespectful. So keep your pet on a leash at all times. Many RVers love animals but they don’t want your dog running through their campsite. Also, stop excessive barking and don’t leave a howling dog unattended.

Camping at Harvest Moon RV Park, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scoop the poop

A sure way to get your camping neighbors really mad at you is by leaving your dog’s poop around for them to step in. Many RV campgrounds have designated areas for your pup to do his or her business. Pick up after your pet and dispose of the waste properly. Make sure you carry some bags on the leash and you can also hang them off the entry handle to the RV as an easy-to-reach place to grab one when needed.

Camping at Palm Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t leave a barking dog

Dogs bark—that’s just a fact. However, not everyone is a dog lover. Being in a new area can be an adjustment for your pets due to new people and changing surroundings. Try to teach your pet how to behave around the campsite. If you have a dog that barks non-stop when left alone, consider taking him or her with you on hikes, or don’t bring them on your RV trip.

Related: No Regrets Camping: How NOT To Enjoy a Camping Trip

Camping at Sonoran Desert RV Park, Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep it clean

No one likes a dirty site. Don’t leave trash at your campsite. The smell alone may bring raccoons or unwelcome furry visitors while you sleep or when you leave your site for a hike. Take your trash to the park-provided garbage bin and recycling containers. Follow the old camping adage of “leave no trace” and double-check that all your trash is picked up before you pull out.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

An RVers Guide to Campground Etiquette

Do you practice good RV campground etiquette?

Unless you are about to embark on your first RV road trip, you probably already practice the basic, common-sense rules of campground etiquette. They simply reflect the good manners that most of us observe in our everyday lives.

Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unfortunately, many of us have encountered that rare individual with rude or thoughtless behavior that spoils a camping experience for others. It all begins with the Golden Rule. If we expect our campgrounds to be friendly, well-mannered communities, we should make sure we are friendly and courteous campers.

Virtually every RV Park has posted speed limits usually in the range of 5-10 miles per hour. Courteous behavior and good manners begin with observing speed limits throughout the park. Obey one-way signs as well.

Terre Haute KOA, Terre Haute, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every campground has its own set of rules and regulations usually included in a park brochure or handout sheet. Read them carefully as they serve as a guide to what you can and cannot do at that particular campground.

Avoid walking through someone else’s campsite. You wouldn’t walk through a stranger’s yard without asking—so be polite and go the extra distance around.

Most RV campgrounds are family-friendly and, yes, kids deserve to have fun too. However, the fun shouldn’t be at the expense of the neighbors in your campground. Make sure they’re supervised when roaming about and know the campground rules.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many RVers love to take their pets camping—and they love it too—but irresponsible pet owners are one of the most common causes of campground etiquette complaints. Keep your dogs on a short leash when walking and make sure they are properly restrained at the campsite. Not even the most ardent of dog lovers can put up with incessant barking, so if your pooch is one of those non-stop yappers plan to leave it with a sitter when you go camping.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finally, it goes without saying that you should be prepared to clean up after your pet. If you forget to bring your own, most campgrounds provide doggie bags to make the cleanup easy and convenient.

Keeping the noise down is another important campground courtesy. You might jam to heavy metal but chances are your neighbor prefers Tchaikovsky. So, it’s good to remember that your sounds shouldn’t travel beyond your own campsite.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most campgrounds post quiet hours so be sure you know when they are and be doubly sure to keep things quiet during that period. Outside lighting can be an irritant to neighbors as well so turn off your awning and/or porch lights when you retire for the evening.

Emptying holding tanks is not a popular task—but dumping those tanks is a nasty fact of life for every camper and should be done courteously and with consideration of your neighbors. Don’t do it when they are relaxing with a drink or enjoying a meal.

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Late arrivals and early departures can create a campground disturbance, so try to be as quiet as possible. If you’re planning an early getaway, stow your camping gear the evening before.

Some state parks and most federal campgrounds don’t have power outlets, so in those instances, you’ll need to rely on your batteries, solar, or a generator. You shouldn’t need to run the generator for long to maintain your RV batteries. Having a solar system and generator is the best of both worlds minimizing generator usage for a more peaceful campground experience.

Columbia River RV Park, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since your campsite is just on loan to you, it’s important to leave it as you found it. Don’t move fire rings or boundary stones and if you relocate the picnic table, return it to its original place when you leave. Never cut branches or pound nails into trees for clotheslines or hammocks. Before departing, take a look around the site for personal items or litter.

As a final thought, take time to make some new friends. We all spend too much time on our personal devices these days, so crank up your communications skills and go for some old fashion personal contact. Time on the road is precious—so relax, have fun, and enjoy the company of some newfound friends.

Worth Pondering…

Enjoy your days and love your life, because life is a journey to be savored.

Why the World Needs More Campers

Summer is in full swing: hot temperatures, afternoon and evening thunderstorms, beautiful sunrises and sunsets—and camping

While it has been a record year for campgrounds and RV parks, I am convinced the world needs more campers. 

Stay with me, as this comment is not about occupancy rates or empty sites, it’s about campers.  The campers you see in a state, provincial, or national park campground or privately owned RV park with a fifth wheel, pop-up trailer, truck camper, motorhome, or even a tent. The people who pack for the week or weekend, leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind, and enjoy their parks and being with other campers.

Boondocking in Quartzite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe it’s these dog days of summer or the fact the nightly news seems to be filled with controversy, hostility, and real problems but I’m thinking the world needs to go camping. 

And here is why: Camping brings out the best in people.

Camping in Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When walking through a campground or RV park, no one knows who you are—you’re just another camper on a morning or evening stroll. You’ll be greeted with a “good morning”, a “good evening”, or a “howdy” many times on your walk.

This greeting is much different than in the hectic hustle and bustle of city life as people go through their daily activities as if on an ever-moving treadmill. A polite exchange of greetings and nothing further.

Camping at Fort McDowell Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When camping, it’s followed by more. “Where are you from,” and discussions about the weather and the beauty of the area. This is the norm in a campground or RV park—casual introductions turn into conversations and even lasting friendships. If you are a camper you know what I am talking about. 

A camper need not worry if they forgot to pack something, as another camper will always step up with whatever was left back home. Need a hand? You don’t even have to ask, as campers are, by their very nature, always willing to lend a hand. If you’ve camped you’ve experienced this and if you haven’t camped, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Camping at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The type of camper doesn’t matter, whether it’s a fifth-wheel trailer with four slide-outs or a camping van, a diesel pusher with a car in tow, or a two-person tent, campers are not defined by the units they camp in—campers are people. People who care and who enjoy the outdoors, fellowship, and other people. 

Campers have an uncanny ability to see the good in people, to want to help those in need. It may be that campgrounds are seen as places of sanctuary from a world filled with controversy, misunderstanding, and real problems. Or, maybe it’s the parks, those places we can escape from the pressures and reality of a fast-paced world. Parks protect us with their tall trees, mountains, creeks, rivers, and lakes.

Camping at Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe it’s a campfire and the darkness that seem to soothe the soul with time for reflection and conversation. A conversation around a campfire leads to laughter and smiles and often ends with a satisfying “good night, see you in the morning.”

Tip: avoid conversations about politics!

Camping at Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe we all need these special places to escape to every now and then just to get away, recharge our batteries, and reconnect with nature and each other. Parks really do become a sanctuary and allow us to escape from the day-to-day rat race, allow us to put our guard down, relax, and enjoy life. 

It doesn’t hurt when you fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves or the chorus of crickets and tree frogs and wake to the rising sun peeking through the tall pines or silhouetting stately saguaros or Joshua trees.

Camping at Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Could it be distinctive smells of a campground, lingering smoke that can only come from a campfire, the smell of coffee brewing, and bacon sizzling? Could it be these things influence our behavior and enable us to relax and revive those characteristics of kindness, friendliness, and a sense of community? 

Or maybe, just maybe it’s the people who camp.

Yes indeed, the world needs more campers, let’s go camping! 

Camping at The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

See you in the parks!

Worth Pondering…

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

—Miriam Beard

No Regrets Camping: How NOT To Enjoy a Camping Trip

Numerous things can go wrong when you are camping and sometimes it’s completely out of your control, but other times it’s your own mistakes that can ruin your trip. Read along to learn some common camping mistakes and how to avoid them!

You don’t have to be the Born Survivor to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste. Camping choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your preferences, here are 15 bad moves make while camping. 

Camping at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Ignore fire bans. As awesome as smores are, adhere to campground rules regarding fires. If the authorities in charge of the campground or national forest say no fires, they mean no fires. It is your responsibility to be fire safe when camping. Before you go, check to see if there are fire bans in place where you plan to visit, and act accordingly.

Camping at Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Gather wood without checking. Even when fires are allowed, gathering of wood may not be. Ask first, and then gather only down and dead wood in designated areas. Never cut live trees or branches from live trees.

3. Start a fire with gasoline. Assuming that there is no burn ban, you should be prepared to start your fire with appropriate fuel. If not, then we hope you remembered your first aid kit.

Camping at Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Burn wood that does not fit in the fire pit. So you found an awesome log that will burn for hours, only it doesn’t fit in the designated fire ring. And you forgot your hatchet. Your plan is to just lay it across the fire or stick in one end. It will only burn the part in the fire, right?  Wrong! Keep your fire to a manageable size. Make sure children and pets are supervised when near the fire. Never leave your campfire unattended

Camping at Fort McDowell Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Miss the stars. How you could you ignore this amazing view?! It’s easy when you live in the city to forget that stars even exist. Look up at night when you camp. It’s life-changing. 

6. Feed the wildlife. As much as your social media page would be enhanced by photos of chipmunks eating potato chips, nothing about it is good for the animal. And then there are the campers that occupy your site next who will not be able to enjoy a sandwich without being harassed by begging critters.

Camping at Creekfire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Play loud music. Camping is about enjoying the natural world. Try listening to the wind in the trees, the gurgling of the stream, or the chattering of the birds. Besides, your music is annoying to the neighbors.

Camping at Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Don’t give your kids camp chores to do. Camping is filled with life lessons for children. From setup to cleanup, there are confidence-building tasks that your kids should be doing. 

9. Stay glued to your devices. And don’t let your kids do it either. Camping is the perfect time for a digital detox. 

Camping at Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Watch TV. Stars > Netflix anyhow. Every moment of a camping trip that you spend watching TV is a moment when you could have been enjoying your companions, your surroundings, and the simple serenity of doing nothing.

Camping at Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Overestimate your vehicle. Don’t take a two-wheel drive SUV off-roading. Don’t take chances with bald tires or faulty gas gauges. Know what your vehicle can and cannot do and camp somewhere within that range of ability.

Camping at Hilltop RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Overestimate your outdoor skills. Rock climbing on a cruise ship does not qualify you to climb the face of a mountain. Nor does watching two seasons of Naked and Afraid make you a survival expert. Be honest with yourself about your skills and plan accordingly.  

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Underestimate the wildlife. That ain’t no teddy! Bears, raccoons, and other wildlife can make your camping trip miserable if you underestimate their survival skills. They can unzip, unlock, and chew through things with astonishing efficiency. Learn how to critter proof your trip before you ever leave home.

Camping at SeaWind RV Park, Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Leave anything behind. “Leave no trace” is the campers’ creed, and it applies even in organized campgrounds. It means that when you pull out of your campsite, there should not be any sign that you and your group were ever there. 

Camping at Texas Lakeside RV Park, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Disrespect the campground. Respecting the facility goes beyond simply cleaning up after yourself; it means not carving initials into picnic tables, parking only on designated hard surfaces, and finding a way to leave it better for the next guy, not worse.

Worth Pondering…

Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

15 Bad Camping Decisions

You don’t have to be Bear Grylls to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste

Campground and RV park camping is distinguished from wilderness camping by the presence of facilities and designated campsites. Campground choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your camping preferences, here are the 15 worst moves you can make at a campground

Camping at White Tank Mountains, a Maricopa County Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Fail to give someone your camping itinerary. Before you set out on your adventure, be sure to let someone know your plans. What may seem like a silly precaution could actually save your life.

2. Forget to bring insect repellant. It does not matter where you camp, there will be insects and you need to arm yourself appropriately.

Camping at Jekyll Campground, Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Assume there will be toilet paper. Pack your own roll. It’s the first rule of camping. Paper towels and Kleenex are also necessities.

4. Assume that there will be running water. Depending on the season and the camping area or facility you choose, you may need to bring your own water. You do need to stay hydrated and brush you teeth.

Camping at My Old Kentucky Home State Park Campground, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Take more stuff than you need. Whether you will be sleeping in a tent or in a luxury RV, there is no reason to take things that are not essential for your journey and destination.

6. Forget your first aid kit. Consider the first aid kit your failsafe in the event that you make all the wrong decisions while camping. Your first aid kit should include Tylenol or Advil to ease a headache or fever, Cortizone 10 cream to soothe an itchy insect bite, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin to prevent infection from minor cuts or scrapes, Band-Aids of varying sizes to cover those minor cuts and scrapes, and Benadryl to relieve allergies.

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Assume that your GPS is always correct. It isn’t. Learn to read a map…a paper one! And make sure you have clear directions for your destination before you leave home, preferably from more than one source.

8. Set up camp in the dark. Unless you are very familiar with the campground and all of your equipment, plan to arrive before dark. Setting up in the dark is not only a logistical challenge; it’s annoying to other campers trying to enjoy a peaceful evening that does not include all the ruckus of you fighting with your gear.

Camping in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Invade other people’s space. Space invaders are the worst campers in any campground. Do not walk through other people’s camps, even if you think they aren’t there. It’s rude and creepy. Don’t let your children do it either.

10. Expand beyond your assigned camping site. Second worst camper is the space hog. It doesn’t matter if you are in a luxury RV resort or a rustic forest campground; don’t take up more than your designated space. It creates problems for the park management and is rude to other campers.

Camping at Bird Island Basin Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Picnic in an empty campsite. Campsites are for camping, not picnicking. This is a subtler way of hogging space, but still a bad decision. Do you want to be the guy who misses a prime campsite because somebody was using it for an afternoon snack when you arrived?  

12. Leave open food containers outside. Never, ever, leave food outside especially in bear country. Unless you like ants, flies, feral cats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bears, or irate neighbors. Worse yet, don’t leave them in your tent overnight.

Camping at Seawind RV Resort, Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Leave garbage near your camp. See the previous bad decision. Garbage belongs away from your campsite, inside cans or dumpsters, if they are provided.  

14. Leave things in public spaces. There is a distinct yuk factor involved in finding someone else’s toiletries in a campground bathhouse. The same applies to buckets, hoses, dishpans, or dishcloths left at communal water faucets.  

Camping at Fort McDowell Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Underestimate the weather. You did check the forecast before you left home, right? Just know that it will likely be hotter, colder, windier, or wetter than you expect. And you do have a NOAA Weather Radio!

Worth Pondering…

You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.

—Yogi Berra

Camping Etiquette: Getting Away From Each Other & Doing It Together

Be smart. Be kind. Be considerate.

Since I am writing this article during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ll start with the caveat that camping etiquette now includes respecting the health of others by maintaining social distancing and sanitary protocols. Much as we crave our former levels of interaction, this is a time when it’s absolutely okay to politely decline an invitation to a potluck or other gathering—unless you know your neighbors well and/or are comfortable with the level of safety precautions that will be taken.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the arrival of summer, one thing is certain. Americans and Canadians will flee the cities by the thousands in search of open space and a chance to get away from the rest of us. The situation is akin to the hippie movement of the ’60s when everyone was being different but doing it all together.

Jack’s Landing RV Resort, Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That means that virtually every campground and outdoor recreation venue within four hours of every major cities will be full each and every weekend—full of people getting away from it all and doing it together.

Eagles Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan ahead and take care of last-minute errands sooner rather than later since a brief stop on the way out of town Friday afternoon could cost you that last available camping spot.

Campground courtesy (the unwritten rules of etiquette) is an easy way to ensure that a group of people living in close proximity together where sounds travel and light can be a disturbance continue to camp together in harmony.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spending time in a campground requires a certain level of community patience and a willingness to live and let live, there are some basic rules of camping etiquette that will help create a friendly atmosphere and make the camping experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be friendly and greet other campers. Again, this is part of being within the camping community and even though you may not know the other people, you all have a common goal of enjoying the camping experience.

Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep in mind that I may be in the campground to get away from it all and wish to hear the wind blowing through the aspens, the chatter of squirrels, or perhaps the call of a jay. While I recognize your right to enjoy a little music, I don’t necessarily share your musical taste unless, of course, it’s Willie’s “On the road again…“. That is why they make headphones.

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In that same vein, remember not all generators are created equal. Some are designed to run very quietly, and others are not. Quiet hours are there for a reason.

Follow the campground rules and regulations. These rules usually include speed limits, fire regulations, quiet times, and so on. Adhering to these rules is one of the basics of campground etiquette. Be sure to review and enforce the rules with your children, as well.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be considerate when arriving late or leaving early. If you arrive at the campsite after dark or leave before dawn, remember that others may be sleeping. Be as unobtrusive as possible. If setting up, do the least amount you need to get through the night and keep voices quiet and lights dim. If you are leaving early, pack up the bulk of your items the day before so you can make a quick get away with the least amount of disturbance possible.

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Contain yourself and your camping gear and supplies within your campsite area. When you set up your RV, don’t allow slideouts or awnings to extend beyond your site and into the neighboring  area. Keep all belongings, chairs, mats, toys, etc. within your campsite. If you need to place your satellite dish in another campsite in order to receive a signal, ask for permission from the people occupying the site.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another common misstep is that of walking through another person’s camp without being invited. Treat other campsites as private property. A campsite is a person’s home away from home. When someone is set up in a campsite, that site becomes their property for the duration of their stay. It is their personal space, and it should be treated that way. Never cut across another occupied site without permission. If the washrooms or beach access are on the other side of a site, walk around.

Lockhart State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be a responsible pet owner. If you are traveling with pets, make sure they are well taken care of. Keep dogs on leashes whenever they are outside so they are not bothering your neighbors and discourage them from barking. Never leave a dog that barks or howls unattended. Clean up after your pet—always.

Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clean up after yourself. When you prepare to exit the campsite, be sure to remove all trash regardless of its origin. Always leave the campsite as clean, or cleaner, than it was when you arrived. The camp host and the next camper will appreciate it.

The bottom line is that camping requires us to respect the land and one another. When it comes down to it, continued success of this ongoing social experiment requires it.

Monahans Sandhill State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Have an enjoyable and safe camping summer.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

On Being a Good Camping Neighbor

There is an old expression, “be the person your dog thinks you are.” In line with that statement, campers should be the neighbor you would like to have.

Camping courtesy (the unwritten rules of campground etiquette) is an easy way to ensure that a group of people living in close proximity together where sounds travel and light can be a disturbance continue to camp together in harmony.

Spending time in a campground requires a certain level of community patience and a willingness to live and let live, there are some basic rules of campground etiquette that will help create a friendly atmosphere and make the camping experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Lakeside RV Park in Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Obey Campground Rules

Follow the campground rules and regulations. These rules usually include speed limits, fire regulations, quiet times, and so on. Adhering to these rules is one of the basics of campground etiquette. Be sure to review and enforce the rules with your children, as well.

Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Social

A campground or RV park is your temporary home complete with new neighbors. Just like at your permanent home, you should get to know your neighbors. You don’t have to spend your vacation with them, but you should be friendly.

When you travel with kids, it’s especially important to get to know your neighbors. Kids will often play together around the campground or RV park and can form lasting relationships.

Jekyll Island Camoground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Respect Campsite Boundaries

You would never imagine cutting/walking through someone’s backyard to get home. But at a campground, it happens all too often. There are no fences or boundaries letting you know you are entering someone’s living space.

When camping, there is an imaginary boundary surrounding each campsite. It’s assumed the you know that this boundary exists and that you’ll respect it. Children, especially, need to be reminded of the boundary and told to stick to the path instead of walking through someone else’s campsite. Walking through another person’s site may be the easiest, most direct path to the bathroom, but it should be avoided.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clean Up After Yourself

Just like at home, you are expected to pick up after yourself. Bag your trash and throw it away in approved trash bins. Don’t be tempted to throw your trash into the fire. It creates a nasty smell that no one wants to endure. Plastic, especially, is foul smelling and is toxic if inhaled.

For RV owners, ensure that your wastewater is handled properly. Be sure that all your hoses and tanks are in good condition, attached properly, and nothing is leaking.

Galveston State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Mindful of the Noise

Sound pollution is a real thing and it can be cause for a bad camping experience. Be mindful of the noise you create and keep the volume down whenever possible.

Yes, you’re camping, but that doesn’t mean the family next to you wants to hear your generator running at 1 a.m. or a kid’s movie blaring on an outdoor television.

Most parks and campgrounds have “quiet hours” in the evening to keep noise to a minimum. Power down at night; shut off your generator and dim the lights. Respect those quiet hours. They are there for a reason. Your camping neighbors will thank you for it.

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pick Up After Your Pets

Be a responsible pet owner. Keep dogs on leashes whenever they are outside so they are not bothering your neighbors and discourage them from barking. Never leave a dog that barks or howls unattended.

It’s great to have a furry friend as a camping companion, but make sure your pet isn’t leaving any surprises behind. When taking your dog for a walk, always pick up all pet waste. Many campgrounds provide pet waste collection bags to make clean up easy and convenient.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be a good neighbor, make a new friend. Enjoy!

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?