Harvest Hosts Lets You Camp For Free. It's Also Keeping Small Businesses From Closing During the Pandemic.
Image: @TheHappyTalent on Instagram
Last October, I overcame my fear of towing and started on a two-ish year full-time RVing adventure!
Some people do this to save money, but while RVing definitely beats paying California rent, it isn't cheap. Buying an RV isn't an "investment," as your vehicle depreciates every year, whereas a home would appreciate. While RVing, things constantly break. And, of course, there's the matter of where to camp.
Harvest Hosts is one of the best ways to save money while you camp, since joining this website lets you camp for free at over 2,010 wineries, breweries, museums, farms, and attractions across the US.
But it's not just good for RVers... it's also become a lifeline for businesses that are struggling through the COVID shutdown.
The way it works is, you pay to join Harvest Hosts. It's about $80 (but you get 15% off i you use my referral link) — which is the same as one night of camping at a private campground in many parts of the country, like Florida or California. After that, you get a year of free camping at any of the businesses listed on the website.
Even though more people are RVing than ever right now due to the pandemic, I've never been turned away from a Harvest Host I requested. (Which is great news, since like 90% of campgrounds seem to be full right now.)
But what's even cooler than the fact that it's free and there is plenty of availability is that the places I've stayed are legitimately super cool. I've stayed on the river in Homosassa. For free. (And I got to swim with dozens of manatees, both on a tour, and from the shore.)
I've stayed right in the middle of Mobile's famous downtown Dauphin Street, at one of the most unique breweries I've ever visited. Not only do they have live music, trivia, and other events (outdoors and at social distance, if that's your preference), but they are completely, 100% dog-friendly (indoors and out). I loved meeting the owner — which I likely wouldn't have had the chance to do if I hadn't reserved a spot through Harvest Hosts — and his staff. And the beers were fantastic — I could drink a Serda beer anywhere in the world and know exactly where it came from.
Crawdad hot dog, Dubbel Impact, and a dog bone! Image: @TheHappyTalent
I stayed at a famous bacon house in Fairhope, Alabama and enjoyed the best pork belly of all time.
Beyond the opportunity to stay at so many cool places for free, and beyond the amazing small business owners I've met all along the way, one thing I love about Harvest Hosts is that it legitimately seems to be helping small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic — because while activities like dining, wine tasting, and shopping are at an all-time low, RVing is at an all-time high.
One business that is particularly crushing it on Harvest Hosts is Cock & Bull Farmhouse in Sarasota, Florida. They've got a pretty huge lot out back that would otherwise just be empty space — but instead, they've got several (anywhere from five to eighteen!) RVs per night — most of those RVs have at least two people in them, and almost all the people end up ordering a pizza, a beer, or both, or more.
What's even better than their gorgeous rainbow bagels, oyster pizza, and 100+ craft beers on tap is the outdoor dining area, complete with a fire pit, axe throwing, and outdoor, social distance music. I was lucky enough to be there on open mic night.
The only bad thing about Cock & Bull is that I can only visit when I'm in Sarasota. I wish it were MY place, were I could go every week and be a regular. (See also: The Number One Best Way To Make Friends in Adulthood is to Be a Regular.)
For all of these reasons — finding incredible breweries, wineries, and attractions; camping for free; supporting small businesses; meeting incredible small business owners — Harvest Hosts has been one of the greatest things about full-time RVing... but, honestly, even if you only venture out in your camper a few times a year, your membership will pay for itself within a weekend. I've got a buddy who's a doctor, so he doesn't have much time for travel — but he gets out on surf trips once or twice a month, and he always uses Harvest Hosts.
Even after the pandemic ends and business starts returning to normal, I'm excited to keep using Harvest Hosts during my journey across and around the US.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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