Why Harvest Host Options Need to Be Treated Different
With the merging of Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Host, I wanted to point out that there are major differences that need to be considered when booking one of these sites. If you were a previous member of only one, and now find yourself a member of both, you could easily end up being very disappointed when you arrive. At the same time, your host may find themselves a little discouraged as well.
What is Boondockers Welcome?
Prior to May 2021 Boondockers Welcome was an independent company that worked based on the generosity of those willing to host. As a host, you offered your property to RV’s to park for a few nights for free. You didn’t need to provide hook-up’s for the RV’s, all that was needed was a safe place for your guest to park. When you set up your profile, you would establish the limitations of your property. Some hosts don’t allow pets, or can only fit a 30 foot camper, or maybe it’s a big private farm and they can accommodate any and all RV’s on the market.
The benefits to being a host really depend on the host themselves and what they were looking to get out of it. Maybe the host has always dreamed of owning an RV. Well, by allowing campers to utilize your property, the host had the opportunity to ask questions of people who already own one. Or see varying models and designs without being limited to what the dealership has in stock this week. Perhaps your host is already an RV owner and they are just looking to help fellow people in the lifestyle with a safe night to stay for free. Even better, is when the host and the member have signed up to make connections and meet new people.
As a member, you paid your yearly membership and a catalog of free places to stay for the evening just opened up. Depending on the host, you may even be able to stay up to 5 nights. A free place to stay instead of paying campground rates doesn’t usually go over poorly. As long as you had a self contained RV, you were welcome to join the membership. Unfortunately, tent campers, mini vans, cars, and van life travelers are unable to join because they aren’t completely self contained. For starters, they would need a bathroom facility, which the host is not providing. But again, you had this way of making connections around the country (and in Canada) with potential life long friends.
What is Harvest Host?
Per their website, they are an RV membership program that allows self contained travelers to overnight at unique locations around the country with no camping fees. These locations could be wineries, farms, museums, distilleries, breweries, and even golf courses. In my article, Should You Use Harvest Host, I really go over my opinion of the usage and membership.
If you were a host site, this brought new people, that may not have ever stopped at your business, right to your door and all you had to do was offer their camper a place to park.
For the member, you once again pay your annual membership (higher if you chose to include golf course) and you are provided with another catalog of unique places to stay for free.
You know how I just mentioned that members had a free place to stay for the evening? There was your catch. Yes, your stay is free, however, you are expected to patronize the business, the recommended amount being $20.00. Even so, this isn’t terrible. You are paying for an experience now. If you wanted to visit this winery prior to being a member, you would pay your campground rates, drive to the winery, pay for your tasting and perhaps a bottle to take home, and then you would have to drive back to your camper. Now, it’s all in one location and there’s no driving back and forth. Plus you saved on the campsite. Sounds like a win/ win. And generally, it really is.
Why They Need to Be Treated Differently
“Harvest Hosts, a membership program giving RVers access to unique RV camping options, is announcing the complete integration of Boondockers Welcome, a community-driven camping solution, into its platform following acquisition of the company in May 2021.” – A quote directly from the Harvest Host website. For the user, this was wonderful! You could now upgrade your membership to include both options. Plus you only had to go to one website, or app, to search for a place to stay, and it opened up even more possibilities.
However, what Harvest Host failed to express to their members, was that these endless possibilities of free places to stay need to be treated differently. The most obvious reason being that one is a private residence and the other is a place of business.
I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt here and say that Harvest Host didn’t realize that this was something that needed to be specified. Perhaps to the existing member, it isn’t something that needs explanation. But to the new member that may not have even known that there used to be 2 companies, a little more clarification is likely warranted.
When you pull up to a business with a parking lot there are hours of operation posted right on the door. You know that someone should be there to assist you during those hours. Even on the HH website, the hosts post their hours and request that you arrive during these said hours. Let’s be honest here, they want you to arrive during business hours because you are supposed to be a paying customer of their wares once you arrive. There may be some exceptions here if you have reached out to the company and explained that you were arriving late, but planned to stay the following day to come in and make your purchases. But, as a general rule of thumb, they are going to want you there while they’re open.
They also don’t need to worry about whether the owner is on site as long as they’ve trained an employee to help check you in. To the business, everything runs as the business always runs. Your vehicle is just a little larger than the average sedan. During their hours of operation, it doesn’t matter what time you get there. Your arrival can be as late as they’re open, even 10pm or later in some instances.
On the flip side, when you’re staying at a Boondockers Welcome site, you’re pulling into someone’s home. Like, where they live! At 10pm at night, I don’t want someone pulling into my driveway, and neither does your host for the evening. Providing an ETA to a host allows them to navigate their daily activities. They can go grocery shopping at 9am knowing their guest won’t be there until noon.
An open line of communication is key here. As the guest, you should be prepared to be forthcoming with information. If you got a later start than anticipated, or you were stuck in traffic for an hour, or something broke down while you were in route. These are things that will delay your arrival, and you should be conveying these things to your host. At a home, there aren’t hours of operation with an employee on staff. Your host has their own daily activities that they are trying to accomplish.
Let’s give an example here: The host works 3pm to 11pm, on your initial request you stated that your ETA was noon. If things go as planned, you arrive, the host shows you were to park, and you chat for a little bit. They proceed with going to work that evening knowing that their guest is all set up. Things rarely go exactly as planned though. You hit the road late, and fail to let your host know. They head out at 2:30pm to get to work thinking that you’re a no show. You finally get there and no one is home. Now what? Where do you park? Are the neighbors going to call the cops because there is a strange person on the property? Do you call the host? What if they can’t answer the phone while at work? Did you even know that they had work today?
Keep your line of communication open. Once your request has been approved, find out how the host prefers to talk. The day of arrival, make sure to send a message or give a phone call with your arrival time again. This will serve as a reminder that you’re coming, and re-establish what they can do today. As you are getting closer, give them another call. We like to give a 1 hour call and another 10 minute call. Like this, no one is surprised when we pull in the driveway.
Both Harvest Host and Boondockers Welcome are unique ways to traverse the country at a reduced rate than campgrounds. They are also both wonderful ways to meet new people. With the merge, having only one app to go to to find them is great too! But having an understanding of your host prior to arrival will help facilitate an easier stay for all parties. When you’re on the app, or website, take note of the different icons that represent each host type. Not all are created equal. Read through all of the guidelines for guest (you) and make sure that you fit within these parameters. Make sure that you’ve read through all of the rules too to ensure that you are following them. Most important though, is to always be respectful. Be considerate and appreciative of the homes you visit as well as the businesses you patronize.