10 Car Camping Tips: A Must-read for Beginners!

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Vanlife takes both time and place restrictions away. But this freedom comes with the responsibility to be extra mindful of your surroundings when car camping. Here are 10 tips that every new vanlifer should know to make the most of their first car camping night out.


  1. Mind your manners like a tourist
  2. Mindfulness starts with being prepared
  3. Avoid camping in the same spot for a long time
  4. Do not camp in parking lots
  5. Being quiet can save your from trouble
  6. Follow the rules at every parking or camping facility
  7. Park in designated areas
  8. Turn off your idling engines
  9. Take your trash with you
  10. Know that people are always watching car campers


Mind your manners like a tourist


Remember that travelers in private vehicles can be a nuisance to others

Make sure that you’re not causing others trouble and pay attention to the people around you. Always be considerate of your surroundings for a pleasant car camping experience.

Traveling is for meeting people

Be courteous to the people you meet and use polite language. Saying things like “thank you,” or “may I...” can go a long way towards building trust with strangers and avoiding sour interactions.


Mindfulness starts with being prepared


Lack of preparation leads to most travel faux pas

Idling your car because it’s hot or cold, or parking overnight in no parking areas are some of the most common mistakes new car campers make. This can easily be prevented by researching your destinations after deciding on your itinerary.

Better to stay at car camping designated areas

Whenever possible, try to use facilities dedicated for overnight camping, such as “Carstay Stations” or “RV Parks.” These facilities usually offer power supply and rental equipment, so be sure to check them out.


Avoid camping in the same spot for a long time


Expressway service/parking area and roadside stations are not hotels

These facilities are meant for short rests and naps. Try not to stay there for long periods of time. If you wish to stay overnight, book a Carstay station.


Do not camp in parking lots


Parking lots are not camping grounds

Do not camp for several nights at expressway service/parking areas or roadside stations.
That means no tents, tables, chairs, or awnings outside your vehicle.

Be considerate of your surroundings

Making loud noises or shouting early in the morning or at night can disturb the people around you. Unless absolutely unavoidable, remain quiet at all times.


Being quiet can save you from trouble


Be aware of the noise you and your vehicle are making

When you are car camping, it is easy to make all kinds of noise like when closing doors, talking, and playing music on speakers. Depending on the time of day, such as late at night or early in the morning, they can be annoying to the people around you. Think of others as you relax and have a good time.

Control the barking of your dogs

If you think this is unavoidable, plan your itinerary to be in places that are more forgiving to such noise, try to check with the facility as soon as possible. For example, there may be camping spots that are far from other people and that will not cause trouble even if your pets are loud.


Follow the rules at every parking or camping facility


Good manners are all about following the rules

The rules differ depending on the type of facility, such as Carstay stations, RV parks, and public facilities. Make sure to check the rules of each facility when you stay there for a pleasant stay.

Ask if bonfires and barbecues are allowed

Bonfires and barbecues are what many campers look forward to. However, rules about them vary...whether you can have a bonfire in the first place or not, if open fires are allowed, or if you can have a bonfire but not barbecue. Make sure to check with the facility beforehand to avoid any problems.


Check if pets are allowed

Some people like to bring their pets with them when camping. If this is you, make sure to check with the facility beforehand even if your vehicle is pet-friendly. Though you may be able to walk and play with your pets in parks, you may not be able to let your pet walk inside the facility. Also, know the vaccination requirements and waste disposal procedures.


Park in designated areas


Never park (even for a short time) in disabled parking

Just because disabled parking spots are wide and convenient doesn’t make it okay for you to park your van there. Always park in designated areas.

Do not occupy spots reserved for large trucks in expressway service/parking areas and roadside stations

You are not allowed to park in parking spots for large vehicles as that would take space reserved for buses and trucks. The only exception is if you are driving a large camper or motorhome.


Follow the rules in car camping stations

Park and camp in your car in the designated areas of each facility. If the spot is too tight for you or if there are other inconveniences, direct your concern to the site attendant.
Carstay stations have white road cones that indicate parking locations, so park where the road cones are.


Turn off your idling engines


Do not idle your vehicle unless it’s an emergency

Some common reasons that people do this is because they want to use the AC in summer, or the heater in winter, or simply because they want to use electricity.
However, this is bad practice. Turn off your engine when parked.

Ask for permission if you need to connect to a power source

Power sources at some facilities are not free, so always ask first. Some Carstay Stations require a fee per use.


Take your trash with you


Always carry your trash as a rule of thumb

It is illegal to dump your trash at expressway service/parking areas and roadside stations. Don’t be that one inconsiderate traveler that everyone hates!
Some Carstay Stations have garbage disposal services that you can take advantage of for a small fee, so feel free to ask.


Know that people are always watching car campers


There are no limits to having good manners

This list would be endless if we wrote everything in great detail. The main thing to keep in mind, though, is simply to be considerate of others around you as you enjoy your trip.

Mindfulness of the people in your surroundings is part of vanlife!

Many people nowadays practice vanlife by car camping because of the freedom it gives, making it all the more necessary to ensure that we’re not overstepping this freedom. Vanlife will only continue as long as everybody cooperates. Think about your actions and how they affect others before and while you’re on a car camping trip. And, of course, don’t forget to have fun.

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