We check lots of websites, are part of a few paid programs and have even stayed at some pretty fancy RV parks. But the most consistently enjoyable overnight stays have been through our Harvest Hosts membership.
This program allows us to stay at more than 550 businesses across the U.S. and Canada. It is great for people like us who aren’t planning very far ahead. We can just call up one of the many host locations at least 24 hours in advance and check if they have room for us. And we haven’t had someone say no yet!
Plus, at only $44 per year, this membership is extremely affordable. It is a great alternative to RV parks for people that have self-contained rigs capable of dry camping. Initially, we made this purchase for the savings. However, after only our first stay, we realized the value went far beyond not having to pay a nightly fee.
Beautiful Harvest Host location in South Carolina.
RV parks aren’t our top choice for camping. To us, they often feel cramped, don’t have great amenities, and are over-priced for what they do offer. But with Harvest Hosts, we usually end up in an open area with great views, a few steps from delicious wine. Plus, the camping is free! And on occasion, they will even have electric hookups as well.
Many of the locations are wineries, which you won’t hear me complain about. But for non-winos, there are also hundreds of other unique and beautiful options to choose from across the U.S. and Canada. The list of participating places includes museums, farms, breweries, distilleries, orchards and even wildlife viewing areas. And the list is always growing, so you never know what interesting options will be added.
Having fun with night photography all alone at a vineyard host site.
Supporting Local Businesses
As a Harvest Host member, you are encouraged to make a purchase from the host to thank them for their hospitality. Believe us, this part is almost too easy! Getting to support such passionate local businesses feels great. And it really isn’t a bad deal to buy some fresh produce, a souvenir, a museum ticket, or a bottle of wine that you will get to enjoy in addition to a free stay.
However, we do suggest having a budget in mind if you are choosing this option to save money on camping. After spending way too much on delicious wine we didn’t have room for, we now have a limit to what we buy. But, we always make a purchase to show our appreciation. And, of course, we are eager to get a taste of what they are offering!
Enjoying a bottle of delicious New Mexico wine, named after Billy the Kid.
The Hosts are Amazing
Our favorite thing about Harvest Hosts so far, is that it allows us to meet so many kind, passionate and interesting people. We had no idea we would end up spending hours talking to the owners and employees of wineries, breweries and other unique places.
From the moment we call, each host we have had the pleasure of working with has been extremely welcoming and more-than accommodating. They give us tips for places to visit nearby, make us special off-the-menu concoctions, and give us words of encouragement to keep following our dreams.
More than once, we have even been invited in for coffee the next morning. We always feel so spoiled by the time we hit the road and can’t wait to visit again – especially since we end up leaving with new friends!
Making friends with the resident pup at a Harvest Host location.
Great Refer-a-Friend Program
Once you start using your Harvest Hosts membership, you will likely be raving about it to your friends. Luckily, if they sign up and note that you referred them, you each get a free month. We love this perk and were excited to know our friend would get a free month for referring us. Some people end up having their entire year paid for through referrals. Although the yearly fee is very reasonable, it is hard to beat free!
They also have a refer-a-host perk. If you notify them of a business that would be a great host and they sign up, you will get a free month for that as well. And they also have a note on their website that the first person to help them secure a host in the Napa wine region will get a free year!
Aerial view of a Texas Winery we stayed at through Harvest Hosts.
Tips for Using Harvest Hosts
Once you sign up, you will have a login and password for the website. This will give you access to the host list and contact information. You can download a PDF list of all the current hosts or use the online search function.
Use the Map Search Feature
We love using the map to plan where we will go next. Since our schedule is very flexible, we just look at what options are available near our current location and use that information to decide which direction to drive. If we already have a destination in mind, we’ll use the route option to see what hosts we will pass on our way. And you can even save trips to refer to later. It is so much fun to read about all the unique businesses we will have the chance to visit.
Do a Quick Map Check
If you are like us and prefer the solitude of the country to the noise of the city, you may want to double check where you are going before locking in your decision. Although many of the host locations are in beautiful areas away from the hustle-and-bustle, some may be off main roads or in the center of town.
Sometimes that may be your best option, but if you are trying to decide between a few hosts, it can be helpful to compare their locations. We usually check for big towns, highways, prisons and train tracks – most of which we learned we didn’t like being close to by experience. Google Maps & Google Earth are great ways to see the surrounding area.
Our vineyard views at a beautiful winery in New Mexico.
Take a Screenshot
Once we decide on a host, we call them a day or two before to confirm that it is okay for us to stay the night. Since I am usually using my phone to look up the information, I then take a screenshot of the host page to make sure I have easy access to their phone number, address and any important notes. This has come in handy when we don’t have any internet in certain areas and need to put in the address on our GPS.
Obviously, writing this information down is also an option – just a tad bit more time consuming. Either way, we suggest having it available in case you need it and can’t get back online.
Follow the Rules
Before signing up, make sure to read over the Code of Conduct. For the most part, these rules are just common courtesy. If hosts are treated poorly or feel taken advantage of, they won’t want to have RVers visit any longer and that would be a shame.
But just because there are some rules involved, don’t feel like you can’t still have fun. In our experience, hosts are overjoyed to have guests, are extremely accommodating, and will often chat with you for hours if they have time. The majority seem to genuinely enjoy meeting new people and are a blast to hang out with!