Camphosting….it works for us!

Camphosting/Workcamping are terms that are used to describe volunteering or working at campgrounds, private parks, forest service, theme parks, etc while living  in an RV.  I’m only going to write about our volunteer experience in State Parks and the advantages of doing so.

Why we love it!

  •  Since we are retired, we do have an income, albeit a fixed one.  We can live comfortably on that alone, if we watch our expenses, but it doesn’t give us much wiggle room.  Volunteering for a FHU site can save us anywhere from $900 to $1200 per month (we sometimes get free propane and laundry).  That’s a chunk of money that can be added to our savings-we have two, a short term one for emergencies and maintenance and a long term one (IRA) that I call our exit plan for when/if we ever stop traveling and want to settle down.  We will have options to purchase a condo or RV lot.  The extra money allows for major purchases that the fixed budget does not.  Last year we were able to buy electric bikes, kayaks, and do a solar install.  This year I upgraded to a new laptop, camera, and sewing machine.  We can splurge on spendy tourist attractions and tours, souvenirs, and meals out.
  • We have met life-long friends.  We first met Faye and Dave through Grand Design, but then had an opportunity to work with them in Arizona.  Hopefully, we will get a chance to work with them again in the future.

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We met Doug and Judy working two seasons in Cave Creek, AZ. and enjoyed many hikes.  This summer we are visiting them in Canada.img_1545

Rick really connected with Marv & Alice and may visit them in their home in Colorado.  All the hosts were great!

 

  • It gives us some structure and balance from the seemingly never-ending vacation.  Traveling 250-350 miles per day to get to the next destination and staying 4-10 days can be exhausting.  After being in travel mode for a few months, it’s actually nice to stay put for awhile.  We set up the screened enclosure so Rick can do his puzzles.  Jeff has time to do any maintenance on the rig and truck and I do whatever!  I have realized that not every day needs to have jaw-dropping landscapes or breath-taking thrill-seeking adventures!  It’s ok to have some down time to read a book or even take a nap.  Although, I am planning on a zip-lining tour over Niagara Falls and a whale/dolphin watching boat tour!  Working a few hours per week still gives us lots of time to explore.    img_1333
  • We enjoy giving back.  Since we prefer National, State, county, and COE parks vs private campgrounds, it’s the logical choice for us to work at.   They tend to have larger, more private sites and are in beautiful areas.  You are limited to a 14 day stay, so volunteering for one gives you an opportunity to have a much longer visit. The Rangers are so appreciative, they have told us that if it weren’t for the volunteers, many parks would be forced to close.  We’re happy to help maintain these beautiful parks for future generations.
  • Volunteering has also given Rick a sense of purpose and validation.  They have allowed him to help us or have even given him special projects to do  He loves meeting and talking with the Rangers, office staff, and campers.   img_1376

Jeff loves the zero turn lawnmower!  img_1324

What we have learned so far:

  • Ask questions and more questions-about the specific job duties, hours, time commitment,  host site.  We accepted a host position at a Wisconsin state park last summer.  Knowing that the sites were W/E only, I made the mistake assuming the host site would have full hook-ups.  I was WRONG!!!  Fortunately we have a portable blue boy and were only there 4 weeks.  Inconvenient, but doable.  Make sure the host site will accommodate your rig.
  • Check out the area before hand.  How close are grocery stores, Walmart, and laundry mats?  Another mistake we made-the park in WI was in the middle of farmland.  Closest town was 30 miles away which took 45 minutes to drive on two-lane winding country roads!  And of course the park did not have laundry facilities.
  • Is the area one you will want to explore on your days off?  While we enjoyed the lake in WI for fishing, swimming, kayaking, and the bike trails, there really wasn’t much else to do in the area.   I know, it sounds like we hated the position in WI.  It really was fine, but we were glad it was only for 1 month due to lack of sewer and location!  The Rangers were super nice and the park was beautiful. 

  • Consider how long you’re willing to stay in one location.  I have seen commitments for 1 month to the season, 5-6 months.  We have worked in AZ for 5 months, WI for 1 month, and now are in Delaware for 3.  We got a little antsy in AZ at the 4 month mark, but it’s probably due to the fact we lived there for 20 years!  We do love the desert and hiking trails, but want  to see new places.  Two or three months seem to be a perfect time frame to explore an area before getting bored.
  • Ask yourself what kind of work you are willing to do or not do, such as bathroom cleaning,  They are all different.  In AZ we stayed at Cave Creek Regional Park, but worked at Spur Cross Recreation Area.  We collected the entrance fees, sold merchandise, and gave out hiking recommendations.  It was a good fit for us, as we love to hike and talk to people.    img_1546
  • How many hours are you willing to work for your site?  The most we will agree to is 20-24 per week in exchange for a FHU site  Ask how many days and hours are required per person or per couple.
  • In WI, we maintained the campsites, cleaning the fire pits after the campers left.  Although, we liked the exercise, the fire pits can be nasty with people using them as garbage dumps.  We enjoy a campfire, but would probably think twice about working at a park that has them.
  • Now, in DE we maintain the sites, mow, weed eat, pick up trash along the bay, and hang up the reservation cards.  We don’t clean the bathhouse, only check them to make sure they are stocked.  The bathhouse is only 2 yrs old and pristine, so I don’think I would mind cleaning them. Our sites are all FHU with no tent sites, most of the campers are self-contained so the bathrooms hardly get used.  It would be different if there were a lot of tent sites.   And there are no fire pits to clean…score!!

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  •  Our friends have jobs in the office, taking reservations and checking campers in.  I’ve seen interpretative positions, tram drivers, and tour guides.  I’m looking at a lighthouse guide in Oregon for next summer.  How fun would that be?

Where do you find great jobs?

Most states have websites for their parks with links for volunteer information.  You usually can apply online.  It’s a good idea to follow-up with a phone call to the volunteer coordinator or ranger.  Here’s a couple of links, Delaware State Parks,  Florida State Parks.  Another resource is volunteer.gov. for National Parks.

Last winter we started making our summer travel plans.  We knew we wanted to visit Washington D.C., all the New England states, and go up to Ontario, Canada. I applied at a few parks and was offered a position at Delaware Seashore State Park, right on the coast.  It sounded ideal, but it was for a minimum of 3 months, May-July.   We ended up accepting the position and its worked out well.  After leaving AZ, we took 3 weeks to get to D.C, spending 1 week there.  Then we’ll have 3 months, Aug-Oct seeing New England.  Winter will be spent in Florida & Georgia-2 months at Grayton Beach State Park, 1 month at Topsail 2 at Skidaway Island, then finally John Pennekamp Coral Reef, in the Keys.  I hesitated at accepting so many positions in a row, but since they are for short times and in awesome places we thought why not!

We absolutely love our Full-Time lifestyle, balancing traveling with volunteering.  Our experiences working have mostly been positive, but I have heard some horror stories.  If that happens, you can always leave!

Until next time…….

10 thoughts on “Camphosting….it works for us!”

      1. That would be great. We are currently working about 90 min sw of Green Bay ( middle of nowhere). Pretty country, nice CG on the Eolf River, but we agree, not a lot to do other than paddleboarding on the river. The ” good news ” is we’re working 50 hrs a week till Oct, do we’re usually too tired to do much else, lol! Oh, and we are getting 2 new e bikes on Wed. Hopefully see you at Topsail.

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  1. This is an awesome post and so helpful. Your postings for next winter are going to be incredible. We were at both Skidaway and Grayton last year and absolutely loved them, and I would kill to be able to spend winter in the Keys, but I’ve hard what a nightmare it is to get a spot in those parks. For you to be working there during high season with a free site, is just awesome.

    I could definitely see us doing something like this at some point down the line – like you, I think we’d want to focus on the state or national parks as opposed to private campgrounds, but if you can find a job description that matches your interests, and is not too long of a commitment, I think it would be a great way to break up the travel and save some cash. I just think you definitely need to do your research – like you said here – because we too have heard some horror stories. It definitely pays to ask lots of questions.

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    1. So glad my post was helpful…It means a lot as I LOVE your writing style & humor! Getting the positions in FL took some time & work as they are very popular destinations, especially in the winter. We were told you need to work in the summer to get a winter spot….we applied online, contacted a couple of parks, no response. Last winter, we were at Grayton & met the Ranger. That got us in…After, we had the position there we emailed the other parks, letting them know when we were committed & when we were available. I really wanted Henderson, but happy with what we got. I’m really excited about the Keys gig, there’s a dive shop in the park where I can get scuba certified! For us, a few hours of easy work is a great trade off to get a free site in an awesome state park for a couple of months! You also can do Camphost reviews to make sure it’s a good fit. So far, so good!

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      1. That totally makes sense. I’m sure it’s much easier to get your foot in the door if they’ve met you – either because you’ve worked there in the slow season or because you made a connection in person. And I’m sure once you’ve worked successfully at any of these parks, it’s a bit easier to get into the other ones. Just like any job, a good reputation goes along way. I can’t imagine working in the Keys NOT being awesome. What a fantastic place to spend the winter!

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  2. Great post, while we prefer public over private parks we are certainly enjoying working at a private campground here in Durango. For the most part we’ve been fortunate in the jobs we’ve accepted, the time here is flying by and they say it’s going to go even faster now that Memorial Day is over. It’s finding the balance between traveling and workamping that’s important. Is till remember before you went fulltime, your uncertainty in finding volunteer positions, seems you’re settling into the lifestyle just fine.

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    1. Thanks….your gig in Colorado sounds great & in an awesome location! You’re right, once you get that first job the others keep following. Im so grateful for the options our lifestyle gives us!

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