If you are like we were, you have probably heard of Boondockers Welcome but have so many questions about how the program works that you haven’t taken the leap and gotten an annual membership.
I hope this post clears up your questions and leads you to become a guest at a Boondockers Welcome site and perhaps even welcome other Boondockers Welcome RVers onto your own property.
Recently Jack and I finally got up the nerve to try Boondockers Welcome and now regret not having entered into this part of the RV lifestyle sooner. Read on as I share what we learned about the program and our Boondockers Welcome review of our first stay.
Boondockers Welcome–Your Questions Answered: What Is It? How Does It Work?
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Jack celebrated a big milestone birthday not too long ago, and to celebrate; I told him to pick any location he wanted for our date weekend the month of his birthday. He chose Gettysburg National Battlefield in Pennsylvania.
I hopped online to book a campsite and discovered that the only campsite left in the entire area was $68 a night before fees and taxes. The campsite was a strip of grass with a power pole and not much else.
I was willing to book it, despite the high price, since it was, as I said, a BIG birthday, and my babe wanted a weekend in Gettysburg. Then I remembered that we had been wanting to try out Boondockers Welcome but had yet to actually sign up and book a site.
I jumped over to the Boondockers Welcome website, and within minutes I found a great site near Gettysburg National Battlefield. And the membership for a year to Boondockers Welcome was less than one night at the remaining campsite I mentioned.
Membership prices have been raised to $79 since our first stay, but that price is still reasonable, considering it gives you unlimited stays (please note there are rules as to how long you can stay with each host and how long between stays with a particular host, more on that later).
1. What Is Boondockers Welcome?
I couldn’t find exactly when Boondockers Welcome was created, but I did find out that the website was the brainchild of Canadian Marianne Edwards and her daughter Anna Maste. It is now owned and operated by Harvest Host.
Boondockers Welcome allows private property owners to offer up fully self-contained RVers a place to boondock on their property through an online platform. There are currently over 3,000 property owners doing just that in the USA, Canada, and a handful of other countries.
2. How Does Boondockers Welcome Work?
- Take some time on the Boondockers Welcome website or in the app and see where the various hosts are located and see if there are some in the areas you want to travel to. If there are, move on to step 2.
- Grab a membership.
- Fill out your user profile (this took me around 15 minutes as you need a picture of yourself and your rig).
- Pick a campsite and send the host a request.
- Wait for a reply (for us, this took roughly 12 hours).
- Pack for your trip and enjoy your stay.
- Leave a review.
- Repeat steps four through seven as often as you desire.
3. Do I Have To Host To Be A Member Of Boondockers Welcome?
You do not have to host to become a member of Boondockers Welcome, but now that I have tried the service out –if I could, I would. Unfortunately, we live on a hill, and the only place with a long enough flat spot for an RV is our back alley, where our own travel trailer is parked.
If you and your family live in a place unsuitable to have campers spend the night, don’t worry about it. You can still enjoy the benefits of Boondockers Welcome. Just return the hospitality by being a kind, courteous guest who abides by the guest privileges you are given by the host.
4. How Much Does Boondockers Welcome Cost?
A membership for a year to Boondockers Welcome currently costs $79 annually (could change at any moment).
A combined Harvest Host and Boondockers membership costs $139 annually. If you want to add access to golf courses, country clubs, and golf resort parking lots to your membership, it is another $10, making it $149 annually. These various membership levels will give you access to 3000 to close to 8000 legal places to park your rig for the night.
5. What Type Of RV Do You Need To Use Boondockers Welcome?
Boondockers welcome is not for tent campers or those who sleep in their minivan or DIY truck-topper camper. It is for people with self-contained RVs. That means that you must have a toilet (and there are requirements as to what type) and a sink with a grey water tank attached to it (and the tank has to be sealed). You need to be able to cook safely inside your RV and have a designated sleeping area (it can be a convertible area such as a dinette that becomes a bed). You can read more about Boondockers Welcome self-containment requirements here.
If your camping setup does not meet these requirements, a few alternatives if you are in a pinch to find a campsite are Hipcamp (check out our review here) and Airbnb. If you camp in a tent, you can also use Tentrr. These are all platforms without an annual membership. You will pay a nightly fee for your campsite.
6. How Do I Find Out If There Is A Boondockers Welcome Host In The Area I Am Traveling To?
Finding a place to spend the night is simple. Even if you don’t decide to go for the combination Boondockers Welcome plus Harvest Host membership, you use the Harvest Host website to search for a Boondockers Welcome site. You can also use the Harvest Host app, but I prefer the website version for picking out a site.
There are three main ways to search for hosts.
- You can enter your route and find them along the way. The site allows you to adjust how far you are willing to get off your route to stay at a host.
- You can enter the area you want to camp in. Such as Raleigh, NC, or Yellowstone National Park.
- You can search by State or Province.
Use the “Preferences Tab” to narrow down your search even further, including only sites that include such amenities as electricity and or water hookups. This is also where you will need to enter the length of your RV so that you don’t end up with a list of places that cannot accommodate the size of your camper.
Once you have set your filters, host locations will show up on the map.
7. How Far In Advance Can I Request A Site From A Boondockers Welcome Host?
Boondockers Welcome has a maximum of two months in advance booking window, but not all hosts offer it. Hosts get to set their own booking window within the site maximum of two months. For some, it could be a month or as little as two weeks.
And if you are wondering if you can reserve on the fly–it again depends on the host. I previewed many spots as I was writing this article, and some hosts are okay with the same day, others want at least two days, and some want a week. Same-day availability is available as a filter in the “Preferences” tab.
8. How May Nights Can I Stay With A Boondockers Welcome Host?
Boondockers Welcome has a 5-night maximum stay at any one host. And then they do not want you to return to that host for 90 days.
If you want to stay in one area for more than five nights, you will have to stay either at several hosts or split your time between a Boondockers Welcome site and other RVing campground options.
Not all hosts offer a 5-night stay. Some allow just a single overnight stay, while others offer 2, 3, or 4 nights. You can find the number of nights a host offers at the top of the site information page. You can also enter your arrival date and how many nights you want accommodation in the “search” area in the location, region, and browse tab.
9. Can I Get Hookups Through Boondockers Welcome?
What kept us from trying out Boondockers Welcome for the longest time was that we thought we couldn’t get power if we needed it. Our truck camper has one small battery that recharges while we drive. It doesn’t take long for that battery to drain. We are okay overnight as long as it isn’t too cold (our propane furnace requires electricity to turn off and on) or too hot (we are addicted to A/C on hot and humid nights).
If we knew that you could get amenities from Boondockers Welcome hosts, including water and power (typically 15 amps, but some hosts offer 30 or 50), we would have purchased a membership sooner. If you do ask for hookups, do consider the cost to the host. Be energy and water frugal.
Some hosts do request a small fee to offset the cost. When researching this article, it seems like the average fee for hookups is a reasonable $10 per night, but according to this article, they are allowed to charge up to $15.
If a host does charge a fee for hook-ups, you will find a house symbol with a $ sign inside it right under the “Location and Parking Details” area of the host site information page. Under this symbol, you will find the compensation fee the host is charging.
10. Is Boondockers Welcome Only For Extroverts? Will An Introvert Survive?
This was my biggest question before joining Boondockers Welcome. And it stopped me from joining several times until I was faced with paying steep prices for a minimal campsite. Frugality won over my introverted nature.
When we arrived at our Boondockers Welcome host, they did invite us to their backyard fire pit but told us we didn’t have to join them unless we wanted to. My husband, who is more extroverted than I am, said sure, “We will be there in a minute.”
You guys, I had a great time chatting with our hosts around the fire pit! These people already have something in common for us to start a conversation with–RVing. We were able to talk about the places our RVs have taken us and our different rig setups. That common interest made an icebreaker.
The second night, the host did come out to ask us if we had enjoyed our day exploring the area, but after that, he went back into his house, and we went into our rig and spent the night introverting with our books.
11. Do Boondockers Welcome Hosts Get Paid?
Boondockers Welcome Hosts are not in it for the money. Currently, hosts do receive a free membership, plus they receive guest privilege credits each time someone stays at their camp spot. Boondockers Welcome also provides hosts with a Protection Program.
Hosts are mainly fellow Rvers who want to provide a legal place for others to park.
12. What Is The Difference Between Boondockers Welcome And Harvest Hosts?
The biggest difference between Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts is that when you stay at a Boondockers Welcome site, you are staying at a homeowner’s private property. Sometimes you are parked in their driveway, but other times, you can find yourself parked out in a field. In contrast, when you stay with Harvest Hosts, you are staying at a place of business, mainly breweries, wineries, farms, and museums.
With Boondockers Welcome, you are not required to give the hosts anything in return except for your gratitude. When you stay at a Harvest Host site, you are expected to make a purchase of at least $20 at the business you are staying at.
You can stay up to 5 nights with a Boondockers Welcome host. You can stay only one night with a Harvest Host, with rare exceptions.
13. Does Boondockers Welcome Have An App?
Yes, it does –sort of. When Harvest Host took over Boondockers, Welcome, they merged the two memberships into one app. Regardless of what membership you decided to purchase, members of both communities use the Harvest Host app.
I found the desktop site more user-friendly than the app, but it makes it easier to communicate with your host while you are in transit to their home. You can look at site availability in the app, but to sign up and complete your profile, you do need to visit the website.
14. Can We Bring Our Pets?
Some hosts do allow pets. To find homes suitable for your four-legged friend, click on preferences and then check the “Pet Allowed” box. When you find a host spot, you want to stay at check in the “suitability section” to confirm they are indeed a pet-friendly host. Also, check the house rules section to see if they have any rules that apply to pets.
15. Are There Any Additional Costs?
With the exception of compensating hosts for amenities such as water and electricity, there are no additional costs beyond the yearly subscription fee.
We like to thank our hosts with a small gift and a thank you note. But that is not required.
16. A Few Good Guest Tips
- Practice leave-no-trace rules; pick up after your dogs, and do not leave trash or dump grey water.
- Arrive at a reasonable hour. This is not a Walmart parking lot. This is a person’s home, and they have neighbors. Make sure to get your expected arrival time approved by your host, and then arrive within a reasonable window of when you said you would. If you are delayed or are going to arrive earlier for any reason, text and let the host know.
- If you are staying several nights, do not think of your Boondocker’s Welcome site as the destination. It is a place to sleep. Your rig can stay there during the day, but you need to get out there and explore the area and give your host their space.
- Obey the host’s listed rules and always say thank you.
17. Where Can I Find A Discount Code For Boondockers Welcome?
Unfortunately, there are no discount codes available for Boondockers Welcome. However, the membership is an incredible deal at $79 for an annual membership.
In the state we are currently in, it is $26 for a dry camping spot. So if we use our membership just four times in one year, it has more than paid for itself.
Go here to sign up for Boondockers Welcome, and give yourself the gift of over 3000 additional places to camp that the average RVer doesn’t know about. Meet locals, and create connections across North America.
For more camping alternatives to RV parks and State Parks to keep in your pocket for the busy RV season? Read my review of Hipcamp.
If you sleep in the back of your vehicle instead of a self-contained RV, you don’t qualify for a Boondockers Welcome or Harvest Host membership, but you can use Hipcamp to find unique campsites. Check out our post about our first time using Hipcamp. (spoiler alert, it wasn’t our last time using Hipcamp).
This was really informative. Thank you!
You are welcome.