How to be a good camper in the coronavirus era

The long awaited 2020 camping season is about to begin and people have been booking camping and glamping holidays in droves. It’s great news for campers and campsite owners alike – and excitement levels are running understandably high. But, while we've never been a big fan of campsites that are all 'rules, rules, rules', there's also never been a more important time to be responsible and follow the relevant guidance. Our Cool Camping site owners have been working hard to make their campsites covid-secure this summer but they can’t stay that way without your help. So here are a few important tips on how to be a responsible camper in 2020...

Remember the social distancing guidelines

Camping gives us a chance to get away from it all. For a few days, you can forget about work, switch off the computer, maybe even let the mobile phone battery run out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the great outdoors. We might feel like we’re in another world when we’re camping but, in reality, we're still right here on earth and, sadly, the pandemic doesn't take a holiday when we do. So, while you're welcome to relax, remember, the government guidelines still apply. We are still being asked to limit social contact, to keep our distance from each other (two metres, wherever possible) and to wash our hands. The more-specific advice sets out the numbers that we are allowed to socialise in:

  • You can meet in groups of up to two households in England (a support bubble counts as one household).

  • You can meet in groups of up to six people from different households in England.

The English guidelines state: “You should not gather outdoors in a group of more than six people from different households; gatherings larger than six should only take place if everyone is from just two households.”

Forget big group bookings

For lots of us, the rules on how many people can socialise together, mean that the annual camping trip with friends and extended family will not be possible this year. It’s a shame, but as with all the restrictions on our freedoms, the limitations are ultimately in place to help protect us all. By sticking to the rules we'll hopefully be protecting ourselves and the friends and family that we're so keen to see. What's more, campsites are only able to open if they can responsibly follow the government guidelines, so avoiding gathering in groups is also important to protect these independent businesses. In order to do this, many campsites have put a limit on the number of pitches that can be booked together and are asking campers not to gather in groups.

While it may be possible to circumnavigate the rules, we urge campers not to do this. Whether or not you agree with the rules, breaching them might not only be an opportunity for the virus to spread but might also put an end to your camping trip. If other campers, neighbours or campsite staff object to a group gathering, the site may ask you to leave. In the worst case scenario, a campsite could be ordered to close if they are seen to be allowing group gatherings to happen. It is only with co-operation between campers and campsites that the season will be a success. Even the most sociable of campers will surely agree that any camping trip is better than no camping trip at all!

Manage your expectations...

Global pandemic or not, it’s always a good idea to read the rules before you book your campsite. It’d be pretty disappointing to turn up at a campsite in your VW camper only to find out that it’s a tents-only field or to have to explain to the kids that you won’t be toasting marshmallows after all – just because you forget to check if campfires were allowed. Our handy search filter and campsite reviews can help you find the campsite that’s best for you but we’d always advise reading the terms and conditions, too, as well as scrolling down the page and reading our new "Social Distancing Measures" section after each campsite description. We work hard to keep our text as up to date as possible but many were written in 'normal' times, so it's wise to double check if facilities are the same this year. Expect non-essential communal facilities, such as swimming pools and games rooms, to be out of action this summer and, just like on the high street, expect on-site cafés to be operating slightly differently this year too. Read up on the campsite's rules when you book and re-read them before you travel so you know what to expect and can prep kids and fellow campers too.

...and respect the new changes in place

Contrary to popular belief, the rules were not made to be broken. On Cool Camping campsites, at least, they were more-than-likely made by a campsite owner who has your safety and best interests at heart. If you’ve followed the guidance above, you should have landed up at a campsite that’s just right for you so following the basic rules of campsite life will come as naturally as pitching your tent (fingers crossed). But, bear in mind, due to the changing nature of government guidelines, things may be different from when you first booked or there may be altered aspects of the camping experience that you forgot about. Most campsites will have their rules posted in a prominent spot; take a read and make sure you know what’s what this year and, for the love of toasted marshmallows, please follow the guidelines. If you break them this year, the staff who are running the site will not only have to come and ask you to change your behaviour – but will also be increasing their social contact by doing so (and yours).

Be extra kind to campsite owners

We’ve been talking to owners throughout this difficult time. This year has been a real rollercoaster for everyone and while the re-opening of sites might be the time for us campers to relax and enjoy the ride, the hard work for campsite owners and their staff is just getting underway. This season is likely to be a particularly stressful one for campsite owners, they have already put in a lot of effort to be able to open and have had a torrid season so far this year. If we all follow the rules, we can help keep the campsite on track and make their lives a little bit easier. You may think it overly officious to have to put your name down for a timetabled shower but your campsite owner will likely have completed a complex government risk assessment that spells out exactly what they need to do (if they can’t provide separate showers for each family on their site they need to allocate time slots). Owners have also put together an enhanced cleaning plans, have spent hours researching and sourcing approved cleaning products – and are spending a great deal of time cleaning up after all of us. Things may not always run smoothly this year but such hard work deserves being rewarded with our patience. So 2020 is the year to make that extra effort to respect the campsite owners and staff who have made our holidays possible.

Respect your fellow campers

Another suggestion that’s not just for coronavirus, but for camping life in general; respect your neighbours on the campsite. In these days of social distancing, it’s especially important to respect their space and their pitch boundaries. While, in the past, we would fully endorse the sociable side of campsite life, this year it’s not only better to keep yourselves to yourselves but government endorsed! “You should not,” reads the government guidance, “interact socially with anyone outside the group you are attending a place with, even if you see other people you know.” This may sound a little harsh and a friendly ‘good morning’ is highly recommended but, sadly, this is not the year for making new best friends on the campsite. If your children wander towards your neighbours’ pitch, it's best to call them back and keep them entertained within your area. When you’re cleaning your teeth and using the facilities, try to stay aware of other people and take extra care to clean up after yourselves and your children.

Leave no trace

It’s part of the Countryside Code, in every campsite rulebook and just plain common sense to “leave no trace”. This year, it is especially important to follow this guidance – both on and off the campsite. Make sure you either take rubbish and recycling home with you or use the bins provided. It goes without saying that you should not drop litter but bear in mind that if you chuck any food waste into the hedgerows, around your pitch or anywhere on site, it can attract animals. It’s also more than likely that the campsite owner or the next camper to come along will have to pick up something that you have dropped. Don’t expose them to this risk and dispose of things properly and carefully. The same goes for tubes of toothpaste, shampoo bottles and other toiletries. Try not to leave anything behind, anywhere on site.

If you end up with a ripped tent, broken camping chair, deflated airbed or any other large item of camping equipment don’t assume it will be recycled by the campsite. Many owners are keen to be green and will re-use or recycle whatever they can – but ask them before you leave things behind. If you leave something that is too big to fit in the bin, you are creating an extra touchpoint for the campsite owner (and a rather large headache). What's more, while you might be able to visit a household refuse site to dispose of unwanted items, the moment you leave it on a campsite it becomes 'commercial waste' and the campsite will have to pay to get rid of it on your behalf.

Keep your distance and wash your hands

There's never any harm in reiterating the most-important guidance of all. Remember that while you’re on a campsite, the rules we’ve all become used to following off site still apply. You still need to follow the guidelines on physical distancing and, in places, you will probably see signs to help you do this. To avoid unnecessary contact with campsite staff; think about pre-ordering and paying in advance for your pitch and any extras like firewood and the hire of firepits. You also still need to take care to wash your hands and/or use hand sanitiser. It’s likely that campsites will be providing this for you but if you want to be a really Cool Camper, perhaps you’ll take your own and, in protecting yourself, you’ll also be protecting your fellow campers and the little camping businesses that suddenly seem to mean more to us all than ever before.

If you're unwell, re-arrange your holiday

Lastly, if you're displaying coronavirus symptoms, including a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, re-arrange your holiday and stay home. You may have longed to go camping for months and, especially if you recover quickly, it might be tempting to travel but it's important to self isolate for 14 days and follow the government guidelines for the safety of yourself, the ones you love and everyone around you. Campsite owners understand this and, by talking to them, you'll be able to re-arrange your trip to a time that's safer for you and for others. If you've booked a stay with our Coronavirus Booking Guarantee, you'll be able to change your dates by up to 18 months hassle-free, and, while other campsites have different policies, everyone is making sure they help their customers meet with the guidelines.

We can’t wait to get back to our favourite campsites and we know that campsite owners can’t wait to have us back. If we follow the rules on how to be a good camper in 2020, they’ll help keep us under canvas for years to come.

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Published 2nd July. Please note, this advice is based on guidance for England and there may be some variation in the guidance for camping in Wales and Scotland.