Sara Baird shares her experience with Boondockers Welcome
I grew up tent camping but when we acquired a 5th wheel camper we quickly discovered an entirely new way of camping that was not accessible to us before. Initially, we thought camping in an RV was just a wimpy way to camp but we were soon struck by how being self-contained expanded the places we could go.
In addition to opening places to stay, we found ourselves enjoying the incredible community that exists among RV travelers. This community introduced us to Boondockers Welcome, which quickly became one of my favorite ways to travel. It also turned out to be an exciting way to offer fellow travelers a place to stay when we are not on the road.
What Is Boondockers Welcome?
Boondockers Welcome provides memberships to a program that offers over 3000 sites to stay on private property in the United States and Canada. Their philosophy is that “RVing brings out the best in people – being in new places while sharing tight quarters next to complete strangers every day has a way of making people learn what is important in life and how making friends on the road is often the best part of the story”.
Travelers can sign up to host other travelers at their own homes and utilize Boondockers Welcome for stays at no cost or pay for a $79 membership to gain access to stays without hosting. This may or may not sound very exciting to you, I didn’t think it sounded great but decided to try it anyway and was pleasantly surprised to find out it was so much more than just an affordable way to travel.
Traveling With Boondockers Welcome
We decided to try out Boondockers Welcome on our very first long trip. We left our home in Minnesota in June 2019 knowing we wanted to travel to the Western United States with no other plans. We signed up and kept checking out possible host sites, we finally decided to try it out as we were heading toward Twin Falls, Idaho. We requested to stay at a farm outside of town that offered full hookups and quickly received a confirmation.
When we arrived, our host directed us to our parking spot. We enjoyed visiting with each other to learn about each other’s travels and our everyday lives. He said our dog was welcome to run free if we trusted her off-leash and gave us some incredible tips for places to see in the area off the beaten path. The two nights we stayed there were beautiful and quiet. We were able to visit museums, and Shoshone Falls, and took an incredible hike to a state park where we explored one the most beautiful canyons I’ve been in. After that stay, we were definitely hooked.
As a traveler, you access host sites through an app or website. You can filter your search to accommodate the length of your rig (what you are driving and/or pulling), whether pets are allowed, and the dates of the stay. Some hosts only allow 1 night while others will allow you to stay multiple nights. Our trailer and truck’s combined length was 47 feet but we had no issues finding places to accommodate us. A smaller total length would have doubled the available stays.
In addition to our stay in Twin Falls, we stayed on a farm outside of La Pine Oregon that had multiple spots for people to stay, in the driveway of a house in Boise, Idaho, and on another beautiful farm in British Columbia. With each stay, we learned that BW is about so much more than a cheap place to stay the night. We thoroughly enjoyed the people we met and experienced generosity that is not all that common in the world today. We also saw places and had experiences we could not have found in a campground. We truly felt that we were part of a bigger community.
Things to Know About Your Stays
While staying with a Boondockers Welcome host it is important that you understand how to be a good guest. I found that many hosts prefer that you use the site as a home base and that you spend your days out exploring the area. If you plan to work from your RV during the day be sure the communicate that ahead of time to ensure the hosts are comfortable with that.
Make sure that you read the rules your host has posted and stick to them, if you are unsure about anything it is better to ask than to assume. Many hosts are very generous in offering you the use of their electricity, water, and even sewer, be respectful with what you use and make sure you compensate your host for what you use. Many hosts will list an expected contribution for using these services right in their host profile.
Most of all, make sure you express gratitude to your host and let them know how much you appreciate the stay. We usually leave a greeting card with some cash for our hosts, many travelers will leave gifts they have made or local items from their homes or places they have traveled.
I originally signed up to host because it was cheaper to subscribe that way. I did not think anyone would be interested in staying in our simple driveway but I have been surprised by frequent requests. We live a short distance from a major interstate and live within walking distance of a grocery store so our home is an easy stop for people on their travels. We normally just host people traveling through town but I’ve also had people stay who were in town to see some historic sites or even to attend a grandchild’s baseball tournament.
As a host, you decide what rules you would like your guests to follow and how long they can stay. You can even decide how far in advance you will let guests request a stay and how many nights they can stay. You decide how long a guest’s rig can be and if there is room for slideouts.
In addition, you can make rules that describe if it is okay to set up lawn chairs, use grills, bring a pet, and more. There is even a place to offer your guests electricity, water, and sewer if you have them available.
A newer feature is being able to list a contribution amount for the use of amenities for guests as well, that way guests know upfront how to compensate you. You don’t even need to use the travel portion or own an RV in order to host guests. You can simply sign up as a host for free. If you are on the fence about RV travel or hope to start in the future, this is a great way to meet people who are out doing it and learn from them.
More Than a Place To Stay
After using Boondockers Welcome as both a host and a guest I realized that it is so much more than a cheap place to stay. It is about being a part of a community of people who love to travel. I am overjoyed each time I have a stay request because it is a chance to give back and whenever I’m planning a trip I start by looking for Boondocker Welcomes hosts in the area we will visit.
You can find out more about Boondockers Welcome by visiting https://www.boondockerswelcome.com/. Perhaps I’ll see you if you need a place to stay the night or Minnesota or I’ll stay with you when I’m out exploring. You never know who you will meet once you join.
Have your say
Have you tried using Boondockers Welcome for your vacation? What have been your experiences? Please share your views below. To read more of Sara’s experiences with outdoor products and services check out our Reviews Page.