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If you’re a van lifer or RVer and haven’t heard of Harvest Hosts, you’re probably going to sooner or later. It’s a unique service that we’ve been using for several months now to find places to park our van around the United States. But should you join Harvest Hosts if you’re a van lifer or RVer? What are the benefits and downsides?
That’s a bit complicated and depends on why you’re using it. We’ll attempt to answer that question in this post. But first, the most important question:
What is Harvest Hosts?
There are about 1,500 Harvest Hosts in the United States and Canada to date. Put simply, Harvest Hosts is a mutually-beneficial way for RVers and van lifers to get a free place to stay for a night while supporting local businesses where they travel.
As relatively new van lifers though, we’re trying to see the bigger picture and use Harvest Hosts as a way to really connect to the local community. It’s one thing to park on a farm, stay the night, buy a bottle of wine and leave. It’s quite another to talk to the owners, get the lowdown on how they’re contributing to their communities, and even get their personal suggestions on what we should be doing during our visit.
We’ve found that the businesses that participate in Harvest Hosts are generally very well-informed about their communities and a valuable resource on our trip so far.
6 Things to consider when using Harvest Hosts
- You must be completely self-contained. There are rarely, if ever, sewer or electrical hookups at Harvest Hosts. If you need to go to the toilet, you may be out of luck. Although, since most of these places are wineries, farms, and breweries, you’ll probably be OK. It’s just not a guarantee. We’ve only been offered electrical hookups at two of our Harvest Hosts – and one didn’t work anyway.
- It costs nothing to stay at a Harvest Host, but you are expected to buy something if something is offered. For example, if you’re going to a brewery, don’t sit in your RV consuming the Bud Light you brought with you. Spend a few dollars with your host.
- Your van or RV might not always be level. Be sure to bring levelers with you if you think you might need them. You might also be parked in an area where you will track dirt into your vehicle.
- Some hosts might prefer you don’t use your generator unless it’s super quiet. This is particularly true if you’re parking somewhere near an outdoor patio where people are trying to enjoy a bottle of wine or a dinner.
- If you travel with pets, as we do, let the host know in advance. It’s probably going to be OK. We’ve never had an issue. But it’s always good to check.
- You can only spend one night with your host. Harvest Hosts ask that you do not request more than one night. That’s the general rule. However, we’ve stayed with a couple of hosts for more than one night.
Benefits of Harvest Hosts
For us, the benefit hasn’t just been a free place to stay. More on that later. It’s been in meeting new, interesting people and trying new things.
Before Harvest Hosts, I’d never had a good fruit wine, for example. Now I’ve had several and they were really good. And while I’ll stick with my Cab-Sav, it was worth the experience. I’ve also never spent the day watching a skydiving team and then falling asleep at an airfield. It was amazing.
In addition to all this, we’re city folks. We have a city worldview, a city attitude, and a city way of life. In almost all cases, our Harvest Hosts have been rural American farmers, vintners, and brewers. It doesn’t take too many experiences like this to make one realize that there’s an entire other universe of people out there for you to experience.
It’s been good to get out and chat with people who don’t think like you, value the same things you do, or vote like you.
The Downside of Harvest Hosts
While the concept of Harvest Hosts is a great idea, it does have a financial downside. It’s not cheap.
While the basic point of Harvest Hosts is for RVers and Van lifers to find a free place to stay, it’s obviously not free. Because there is another side to that equation. In addition to the sign-up fee, you can expect to pay a decent amount of money while you’re staying with your host.
If you value the experience more than the money, this might be fine. But if you’re goal is to save money, Harvest Hosts is probably not the best idea for you. A night at a winery for “free” could end up costing you far more than a night at a nice RV park, for example. And at the park, you’d get water, sewer, and electrical hookups.
At one Harvest Host (not one of the more expensive places either) we bought:
glass of wine x 2 = $12
glass of cider x 2 = $12
2 bottles of wine to go = $30
$54 would have more than paid for a night in an RV park with electricity, water and sewer, showers, and laundry.
Should You Join Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is not cheap. In fact, it can be downright expensive if you’re going to spend a decent amount of money at the business. And it will definitely be very expensive if you’re going to do it 2 or more times per week. But it’s completely worth it for some.
You might be an Instagram fan who enjoys waking up in the morning to a sunrise over a peaceful farm or vineyard. We love opening our doors in the morning to feel the breeze and fresh air.
If you’re a person who spends good money on wine anyway and that’s an expense that adds to your experience, I’d say go for it!
Perhaps you’re a foodie who wants to get off the beaten path and experience fine wine, beer, and food along the way and you were expecting to pay for it anyway, then Harvest Hosts is an excellent option.
Should you join Harvest Hosts if you’re a budget van lifer or RVer who’s trying to live on the cheap and really minimize your expenses? The promise of a free place to stay with Harvest Hosts should probably not figure into your plans.
For many, I suspect the cost will outweigh the benefits in the end. For others, it might be entirely worth every penny.
(And if you don’t drink wine or beer, it might not be worth it even if the expense wasn’t a factor.)
Sign up for Harvest Hosts
If you’ve weighed the benefits and downsides and still think Harvest Hosts is for you, consider signing up for Harvest Hosts using our link. While we don’t use Harvest Hosts as much as we intended in the beginning due to the costs, we still use it a few times a month and really enjoy the experience.
We think you will too.
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.