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Recreate Responsibly: How to Be a Responsible RV Traveler


The way we travel, either for recreation or for business, may look different for the foreseeable future. Different isn’t necessarily bad; different means that we need to adapt to new travel circumstances, and we should understand that those circumstances could change at a moment’s notice. Whether you hit the road for business or pleasure, the travel industry requests that if you do recreate, please recreate responsibly.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, most travels stopped, and people stayed at home. Staying at home for full-time travelers wasn’t as easy as it was for those of us with a sticks-and-bricks home, yet people found creative ways to hunker down until some of the uncertainty passed. Now, as some of the travel restrictions have lifted, people are excited to get out of the house. Although the fear of travel has eased up a bit, we know that travel still won’t return to the way it looked before the pandemic. Right now, several local authorities request that people who want to travel do so with caution. How can you do your part and recreate responsibly?

Travel Close to Home

What better way to explore the country’s beautiful scenery than to venture out into areas in or close to your own backyard? Spend time researching less-visited regions of your state and plan trips to see things you’ve probably heard about but never taken the time to visit. Every state has something to see, whether it’s a national monument, a historic battlefield, or an exciting roadside attraction. Staying close to home allows people to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors, while still keeping close to home in case circumstances shift. Why not make a game of your travel, and research quirky destinations and off-the-beaten-path places worth seeing? Use Roadside America or Roadtrippers to create a road-trip itinerary that everyone in your family will talk about for summers to come. 

Protect Yourself and Others

The rest of your trip planning should come easily, once you’ve determined where you’d like to travel. You can help protect your family even more by heading to your week or weekend getaway in style. If you don’t have a motorhome, campervan, or RV, try renting one! It’s no secret that people feel a little safer hunkering down in an RV. Why? It’s easy to maintain cleanliness and social distancing when you travel and stay in an RV. 

Keep a Safe Distance 

Since you are traveling locally, you will be familiar with your state’s rules for mask-wearing, group gathering, and social distancing. If you go to another state near home, be sure you research the best COVID-19 prevention practices for that state, too. Wearing a mask and maintaining a safe and respectable distance outdoors or in a campground is just one piece of the puzzle. 

Think about the public areas in the campground where you plan to camp. Are there gathering areas near your campsite? How can you help maintain a gathering of fewer than ten people? What about other public places like the shower or restroom houses? If your rig is not self-contained, and you need to use the facilities, how can you keep a safe distance from other campers in a smaller, enclosed area? Before you head out for your trip, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with the people traveling with you and come up with a game plan on how to handle public spaces. For example, decide beforehand that if there are more than one or two people in a restroom, it’s best to wait outside the facility until one person leaves the building. No matter what, always wear your mask in the building, and bring along your hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes in a small bag, so once you are inside the building, you have access to the tools that will help keep you, as well as others, safe. If the door pulls don’t have touchable surfaces, bring along some tissues so you can use the cloth to touch the surface of the door instead of using your hand. 

Part of the Recreate Responsibly initiative is to help people prepare for specific situations before heading to an outdoor activity. Plan to ensure you are ready for picnic area closures, restrooms or camp store closures, and the possibility that your favorite restaurant might not have normal operations. If you bring cleaning supplies and food with you, you won’t have to worry as much if plan A doesn’t work out. It’s easy to maintain a safe distance and move to plan B when you have everything you need with you in your RV or vehicle. 

If you have the opportunity to pick your campsite before heading to your destination, why not survey the park’s map before choosing your site? Look for spaces surrounded by trees or water, and find the spots farther away from public gathering areas. The more secluded your campsite, the better chance you have of keeping a safe distance from the people around you.

Leave No Trace

Helping to keep our lands and public spaces clean and healthy for years to come is everyone’s responsibility. The recreate responsibly movement also includes elements of Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace principles should apply whether you are camping or recreating in the front country or are spending time secluded in areas like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or dispersed camping areas off-the-grid.

What Are the Leave No Trace Principles?

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impact
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of other visitors

Pack your RV or trailer with any cleaning supplies you might need during your trip so that you won’t be caught off guard once you arrive at your spot for the day. We’ve got some quick tips to help you Leave No Trace during your road trip.

1. Be aware of fire restrictions. If you plan to camp in an area under a fire restriction, come prepared with alternate cooking methods or different fire sources such as a propane stove or fire pit. States usually issue fire restrictions gradually, but those restrictions may change quickly and are often dependent on the wind and humidity levels. Campers and recreationists should never have a fire in an area under a restriction. Not knowing about a fire ban isn’t a valid excuse for having a fire, so it’s a good idea to download apps or bookmark websites where you plan to camp to stay on top of any fire restrictions.

2. Use existing fire rings. If you have a fire, always use existing fire rings. If you must build a fire in an area where there is not an existing fire ring, construct your fire away from grassy, tree-lined, or shrubby areas. When you leave your site, dismantle and dispose of any fire evidence. Recreate responsibly by leaving it as you found it. 

3. Be aware of your surroundings. If you camp in a high elevation area with little to no firewood around or a dry and arid place, it’s a good idea to use other methods to cook and keep warm.

4. Bring containers to dispose of trash, fire, human, and pet waste. Leave No Trace means to leave no evidence that a human or pet occupied a campsite or public area. You are responsible for cleaning up any area where you’ve camped or recreated. Come prepared to clean your area before and after you leave. It’s not always pleasant to clean up after other people, we know that, but if there is a mess when you arrive, clean up everything so that you can enjoy a clean and safe space. 

5. Be mindful of the land. Help keep nature beautiful by staying on designated trails and public lands and staying off of private property or restricted vegetation rehabilitation areas. Sometimes, the land is fragile and needs time to recover from natural disasters or human-created problems. Each person that respects the land helps contribute to a better space for people in the future. 

Set Good Examples

Wherever you plan to recreate or camp this summer, it’s best to do so responsibly and Leave No Trace of a human presence behind. Remember that your actions in public spaces help to set an example for the people around you. Your behaviors, like maintaining safe distances from others or wearing your mask, will help to educate people positively, and that’s a great thing!

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