There are several ways to camp with a motorhome. Traditionally, most travelers choose to set up camp in an established RV park. Finding one of these has never been very difficult, as they generously dot the entire nation. As a matter of fact, where you find a popular attraction, you are sure to find RV camping facilities. Some of the parks charge a very reasonable fee, and some are a bit more expensive, depending on the location and the “amenity factor.”
In 2010, RVers Kim and Don Greene put together a program called the Harvest Hosts, which added a whole new dimension to RV camping. These seasoned travelers experienced similar networks as they traveled throughout Europe, and thought it would go over well in the U.S. In 2010 they set about, finding locations that were willing to participate as hosts, and Harvest Hosts was born. Campers can now choose from over 300 host member farms, wineries, vineyards, ranches and orchards where they are welcome to camp overnight—free of charge.
The concept of Harvest Hosts is very simple: For a minimal fee (around $45 per year) you will have access to all of the “hosts” in the country. The property could be anything from a winery, a creamery, a farm, a museum or a wildlife preserve. If, for any reason, you don’t care for the location you chose, you can simply pack up and move on to the next one. Don’t worry; nobody will be offended. If you find that you really like the location and would like to stay longer than 24 hours, just ask and it may happen.
Here are a few stipulations that must be met to participate in this “free overnight” program:
•Members’ RVs must be self-contained. This is not a problem, as each Cruise America RV that we rent is completely capable of boondock (or “dry”) camping. The reason for this is that not all of the host properties are going to have RV hookups, although there are those that do.
•Each location allows only one night’s stay at a time; however, they can extend your stay if they are able and willing.
•Call the host at least a day ahead of time to make the proper arrangements
•Members must follow the Harvest Hosts Code of Conduct
Several of the wineries and vineyards that host campers are large, established venues, complete with live music or other types of activities during their harvest season. This makes for a better time, as you can enjoy entertainment, sample and purchase wines or produce and even tour the farms. It’s interesting to hear the stories of the farm hosts, and they are all very family oriented, operating as a family unit.
The reason that these farmers and ranchers are willing to be hosts, vary. Some figure that it’s a good way to draw in new customers and educate them about agrotourism or animal life. Others just want to share their passion. As a “thank you,” you can always purchase a bottle of wine or some fresh fruits and veggies, or even museum tickets. However, you are not obligated whatsoever to make a purchase.
•There is a plethora of unique experiences awaiting the Harvest Hosts campers. It may be a free sampling or a morning milking of the cows in which you may be invited to participate. As a guest, you get to watch the operation come to life in the early hours, or in the evening you may wind the day down by sharing a glass of wine with the winemaker. It’s always a great education for all of the members of your travel party.
•You have the knowledge of the local crowd at your fingertips. They can provide dependable instructions on where to find the best food, what attractions are worth seeing, etc.
•No worries about drinking and driving, as your home is right there at the venue.
•The shopping is great! Most of the farms have an impressive variety of fresh fruits, veggies and flowers.
•Last, but certainly not least … it’s free camping!
•Some of the host locations can be off the beaten path. This is great for enjoying quiet, peaceful surroundings, but you may encounter the occasional dirt road, or straying a bit off your route to get to the destination.
•It’s easy to over purchase. With all of the wonderful cheeses, fine wines, fresh produce and other items that strike your fancy, you should probably set a spending budget ahead of time.
•If you’re traveling with pets, you may be asked to keep them in the motorhome if the hosts have working animals on the premises. Just be sure to ask the host if you can let your pets out during the day.
•Sometimes 24 hours isn’t enough to experience the property where you’re staying. During the busy season, an extension for a night or two may not be possible.
There are thousands of wonderful RV parks all throughout this beautiful country of ours, but for a great change of pace at a very reasonable price (FREE), you can enjoy a relaxing stay with a built-in education attached. Learn more at HarvestHosts.com.
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