Harvest Hosts: An Affordable and Adventurous Travel Experience!

If you are looking forward to a trip halfway across the country to visit family or attend a college reunion, why not consider doing so in a recreational vehicle (RV for short)? And why not make the trek more adventurous by staying in surprisingly available venues – without a fee – rather than traditional campgrounds, while learning local culture and supporting a fledgling winery or an organic farm? 

Enter Harvest Hosts (HH), an entrepreneurial venture into creative camping. For an annual membership of $79 per year, HH opens the doors to unique sites for brief (and free!) overnight stays. Think of it as Air B & B for recreational vehicles.

With a network of over 2,800 participating Harvest Host sites throughout the states, RVers can experience visits to wineries, local breweries, specialty farms and even some golf courses! Imagine star gazing in a quiet field, or setting up camp and then sampling local wines. Or if grains are your preference, check out the hundreds of hometown breweries and grab some upscale “pub grub” before retiring to your home on wheels for the night. 

In return for the privilege of parking your RV overnight at these select venues, guests are encouraged to support these small businesses by purchasing their products or making a donation. Not only is it expected as a return courtesy, but you feel good about supporting small businesses you’d never expect to get to know! 

Purchase fresh or organic produce from one of the participating farms. Buy a few bottles of wine from the HH vineyards for holiday or housewarming gifts (or enjoy on your own). Try the goat cheese or soap products compliments of the goats that greeted you when you arrived. Choose a keepsake from a local artisan in a host museum’s gift store! 

In lieu of a monetary purchase or donation, some Harvest Hosts guests even volunteer for mission-driven hosts, such as museums and farm co-ops. HH estimates that its host sites have increased their revenue with an average of $13,000 additional annual income from its RV guests. No wonder RV folks are welcomed!  

During recent years as RV traveling gains popularity, Harvest Hosts has grown exponentially, and recently merged with a similar service named Boondockers Welcome. Very similar to Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome (BW) has a network of almost 3,000 host sites throughout the US and Canada. Slight differences are that BW’s annual membership is $50, stays tend to be a few days longer, and several sites are actually people’s driveways.  

Boondocking?? 

It’s a form of camping that is not as primitive as pitching a tent in the wilderness, but it’s not the popular “glamping” type of camping that features creature comforts of home in an outdoor setting either.  

Boondockers “rough it” with a practice known as dry camping (limited water from their RV’s tank, no electric hookup and typically no bathroom facilities other than what’s in their rig).  

Generators can periodically be used for power and heat, of course, but they can be noisy and a nuisance to camping neighbors (check with the host about permissions). You’re not entirely off the grid, either. Propane can provide heat and AC, and keep your refrigerator going during your stay. 

Typical private campgrounds have full hookups, while Harvest Hosts only occasionally offers these amenities. The trade here, though is the experience of awesome venues, and lack of overcrowding! Plus, the expense of a year’s membership to Harvest Host or Boondockers Welcome ends up being less than a night or two at most private and state park campgrounds. 

The Harvest Host hosts are often experienced RV people themselves, and they all describe how gratifying it is to share their facilities and products with fellow travelers. What a great way to explore off the beaten path when your ultimate destination is days away! Take a break from the Interstate and discover American entrepreneurs who want to share their entrepreneurship and unique craft.  

New to boondocking and want to give it a dress rehearsal first? The Delmarva Peninsula alone has more than a dozen of host sites to check out that include wineries, breweries, golfing and museums with local history. You can boondock overnight and return the next day in a short drive! 

Planning a longer road trip without venturing off the highway very far? Try “Crack Docking” (parking overnight at RV-friendly Cracker Barrel), “Wal Docking,” (parking in a Wal Mart lot – check if allowed first!), or “Mooch Docking,” (the art of parking in a relative’s driveway and hooking up to their electricity source).  

Happy Trails, Retirees! 

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