15/03/2013
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Your first night away at the campsite

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For some new converts to camping, the first night they spend in their new tent could be at home in the back garden or on a campsite conveniently located just down the road.

Not so long ago, simply turning up at a site ‘on spec’ would usually be fine, as they’d almost certainly have a few vacant pitches. But recent years have witnessed a dramatic increase in demand for camping pitches - even outside peak season - meaning space on popular sites is often tight.

So to avoid disappointment, our advice is always to book ahead. Both Clubs now operate efficient online booking systems and if you want to speak to a real person, you can also do it over the phone. Independent sites are increasingly accepting bookings via their websites or email and are usually happy to accept a telephone reservation without a deposit.

When you’ve identified the destination point for your maiden voyage, the process of finding a campsite is a lot easier than it was a decade or two ago. Club members can search both organisations’ websites for the nearest site and book online and more and more of the large sites groups owning multiple sites have easy-to-use websites.

Independent sites are sometimes harder to locate, although dedicated site search engines such as our own campsite finder can help here. Even a simple Google search using the locality or nearest large town together with the word ‘camping’ and will usually throw up some useful results. Simply select a site which appeals and give them a ring to secure your space.

CAMPSITE ETIQUETTE
Tent living is supposed to be simple and uncomplicated – and following campsite rules and advice helps make it so for everybody. Despite the appeal of ‘getting away from it all’, at peak times campsites can be pretty busy with campers and caravanners, but most of what we could call site etiquette comes down to a combination of common sense, courtesy and mutual respect.

Written rules on sites are usually prominent and easy to follow; the unwritten rules are usually based on mutual consideration. As far as making sense of the rules and customs goes, the simple advice is: be aware and if in doubt - ask.

When you arrive at a campsite, take some time to read and understand the rules and make sure the others in your party are also in the picture. Some are obvious like speed limits, vehicle access hours and pets on leads, others less so. Keeping your pitch clean and free from rubbish benefits everybody and there really is no excuse for litter around a tent. Apart from looking scruffy, it might attract vermin and, of course, is inconsiderate to your neighbours (who might be a lot closer than those at home). Dump rubbish after every meal and fall into line with the site’s recycling policy.

Most campsites expect noise be kept to a minimum after a certain time, usually around 10pm. It is not only loud music, but also loud voices, laughter and arguments as well as car door slamming. On an otherwise quiet site, the noise ricochets around. If your neighbours complain, you might be asked to leave.

TOP TIPS

BOOKING AND ARRIVAL
  • Follow ALL campsite rules rather than what makes sense to you.
  • Be sure to check out on time; often you can settle up your bill the evening before you leave.
  • Most campsites will have a late arrival policy and some sites do not like early arrivals that may block limited access for outgoing campers, or tie up staff during a busy period when they want to prepare the facilities for new visitors.
  • Emergencies – check out where the fire safety alarms and equipment are located as well as being clear about exactly where the site is if you need to ring for a doctor or ambulance in the middle of the night.
HEALTH AND HYGIENE
  • Be sure to check and double check your pitch before leaving to pick up all rubbish and anything you might have left behind – tent pegs are the most common item.
  • Recycling – put all your rubbish in the right bin and do not let it accumulate on your pitch
  • Tidy up after yourself when using the loos, washrooms, showers and washing up sinks. Look out for huge squeegee mops to mop out the shower after use.
SAFETY AND PRIVACY
  • Don’t cut through other peoples’ pitches to get to your own or the loos.
  • Stick to site speed limits. Slowing down where children are playing should not be seen as an inconvenience
  • Arriving or leaving, do not leave your engine idling for more than a minute or two. The continual slamming of car doors is another no-no.
  • Parents of small children should make sure they know where they are and what they are up to. Don’t expect neighbours to keep an eye on them or allowing them to embark on irritating antics – footballs bouncing off sun loungers, tripping over guylines or bikes crashing into tents. Keep noisy games for the campsite’s play area.
  • Shooting on site – most of us take a camera on holiday but respect the privacy of others when snapping away on site. These days, only foolish people would hang around a play area photographing children other than their own at play.
  • Quiet hours are there for everybody’s benefit. Voices, radios, CD players and other noises can carry a lot further than you might think on a quiet summer night; likewise in the early morning.
  • Large sites may have barrier controlled vehicle access. If people revving the car engine and slamming doors wake you up at 2am, you’ll appreciate why.
FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS
  • Even small sites may run social events and informal barbecues, wine tastings and music events are a great way to get to know people you might otherwise spend a week just nodding at amiably.
  • Most campsite shops are modest in their stock. Items such as fresh bread, breakfast pastries and milk, amongst other items, may need to be ordered.
  • If you have any problems at all, tell site reception as soon as you can and they should be pleased to help. Waiting until you leave to complain is too late for anyone to do anything about it.
PETS
Camping appeals to pet lovers because it means Rover can come along too. But not everyone on site will be happy with pets wandering around free, so do bear in mind the following:
Check in advance dogs are allowed on site
  • Ideally pick a site where pets are positively welcomed and catered for
  • Do not tie your dog to any trees or bushes
  • Check for any extra charges and specific rules that might apply to pets.
  • Only take a well-behaved pet; dogs that love to bark at strangers – canine or human – will irritate people so it might be better not to have them on site with you
  • Clear up any mess your dog leaves and dispose of it properly
  • Do not leave your dog locked in your car. If sleeping in the tent with you is a no-no, have a dog-free holiday
  • Keep your dog away from livestock
  • Keep your dog on a short lead
Find your perfect campsite on our campsite finder, and read more top camping tips here.

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