I am headed to Big Bend TX next week to see the milky way for my 40th birthday bucket list.
I guess it kinda just makes me sad that we have to make a bucket list item out of something that in an ideal world, everyone should be able to see from their own backyard...light pollution affects us all in so many varied ways. I think your birthday choice is wonderful...you will love the Milky Way. For all the times I've seen it, it still never fails to impress me, especially when I think of what the Milky Way means in the grand scheme of things and where we are in relation to it. Take a zero gravity chair, some binoculars, and lay outside for a while to let your eyes dark-adapt and enjoy the vastness of it all. Maybe you'll even get treated to a few shooting stars!
100% show up when people are getting their scopes setup and ask beforehand if you can come back for a look when it's dark. If you have to drive to/from wherever they are located after dark, be mindful of headlight etiquette as you approach their spot.
This. The absolute worst is when I'm trying to set up for a star party and early birds pressure me with requests to see what I'm looking at *when I haven't even got the scope up and aligned yet*. A quick, polite request to come back after dark when I'm ready and relaxed is much appreciated and at that time I'm more than happy to share what's in my scope.
I just had another thought about being polite. How close is to close to someone with a flashlight or cell phone. The last thing I want to do is mess up someone’s photography. But I also don’t want to step off a ledge. I also lean on my star finder app a lot. It’s pretty dark but obviously getting through my phone to get to it is bright.
Please ask before using any kind of light source around telescopes, especially someone doing photography. For visual, I usually have my own appropriate light sources and prefer that visitors not use theirs at all. I have small red lights to let people know where my tripod legs are so they don't trip over them, and a handheld red so that I can direct people to the eyepiece when they can't find it in the dark. Do not take pictures of anything without asking first. Your flash is likely to go off, which will ruin everyone's night vision. Do not ask to take pictures with your cell phone of what you see in the eyepiece of a visual scope; the likelihood of anything turning out is not good, and you run the risk of turning on your phone's bright light by accident (I've had this happen multiple times at star parties with a non-astronomy public in attendance).
Someone earlier suggested turning on your phone's color filter set to red. This is absolutely great to do, and is a trick I use often, but along with this, turn your brightness down far enough that you can just still read everything.
Be aware of not only your car headlights, but any interior lights in your vehicle.