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I am still flooded with emails (an appropriate photo I just happened to take at the campground the other week ūüėČ ) and I will be catching up as soon as I can. I still have about 30 pages of campground reviews to type and 3 thumb drives of photos to sort through! I am happy to announce that I have started keeping record of all the truck and travel plazas we have visited. A growing number of us are overnight parking and relying¬† more and more on these stops. Unfortunately, some of these stops aren’t as Big-Rig friendly as you’d think! And you can’t rely on rest or parking areas, as many states have closed their facilities or restricted overnight parking.¬†So I will be adding all this in the weeks ahead. My unofficial New Year’s resolution! ūüėČ

 

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I just received an email from some Full-Timing friends who announced that this was their last year of work-camping. And this is not the first notice we have received from friends in 2009.

What has happened to those “living the dream”? A variety of things have changed this last year – one of which is the economy.

Many folks who live the Full-Time (or Seasonal) RV lifestyle saw an increase in the number of work-camp opportunities available (in fact, many places were begging for help by offering fuel/travel incentives or end-of-season bonuses), yet with the economic situation workers either could not afford to work these jobs or get there (fuel costs). And by “not afford” I mean that some employers have reduced benefits for RVers or cut them out completely.

It was an affordable lifestyle – living at your workplace or nearby for free. Now many campgrounds and resorts want you to pay¬†a reduced or “nominal” (which appears to be a favored word for employers) campsite fee, in addition to working for them at minimum wage. And most of these offer low hours, not even guaranteeing the money you make working will pay for your campsite, electricity and other expenses.

And there are those who have the “work-for-site, extra hours paid” offer. These employers require you to work a certain number of hours per week (usually between 20-30) for your campsite. Any hours worked over that time are paid. So if you were to work 24 hours a week for your site and you worked 30 hours, you would only get paid for 6 hours of work. The problem our friends have had with this is that if you figure out the value of the campsite and hours worked, you are getting very well below minimum wage.

I recently did the math on a job advertised in a work-camping site and you worked for $1 an hour. Of course, this amount was not from their ad. They had a completely different “camp site value”¬†in their ad than the one¬†from the price listed for monthly rentals on their updated website. It was actually cheaper not to work there and just pay for a campsite!

And some employers are offering crazy deals. I actually received an email last week from one in Montana that said they needed help and “might pay” if¬†we were “up to haggling” with them.¬† Then there was the one that said if¬†you put down a deposit¬†your¬†site and worked the required hours to pay for it in trade for the entire season, they would give you a seasonal bonus.¬† No mention of what became of your deposit, but ironically, the bonus amount¬†was the same! My personal favorite is the theme park which requires you to pay for your campsite and then gives you a bonus at the completion of the season¬†which they even tell you can be used to¬†reimburse your campsite. Not a true bonus, just a refund of what you have been paying them over the summer.

Another change is those who employee work-campers. They seem to have forgotten that those who work-camp are not only workers, but potential guests.

Employers are sending vague emails or leaving generic phone messages. If they come across your¬†email or¬†phone number¬†they want all your information without telling you anything about the position. In several cases, we have received emails that do not even mention the place or location! Just a name and “I need help. Send me your information. If I like what I see, I’ll contact you.” One didn’t even include a name!

Now work-camping is no different when it comes to applying for any other job. If you walk into the local grocery store and put in an application, you know where you are applying to. Some employers now want to be secretive, either¬†that or they¬†must be collecting people’s personal¬†information. I would not send any personal information to anyone who does not identify themself, their position, the name of the company they work for, the job location and the position. Furthermore, I want to know what I am being considered for before I send personal information. If you are a computer person, why send information to someone who wants you to scrub toilets everyday? Not only are they wasting their time, they are wasting yours. Unfortunately, this type of employer response has increased the last year.

A friend of ours received an email from a potential employer in Florida and the information did not mention if the job included pay¬†and/or full-hookups (FHUs). It was a high-end park so she politely emailed back that they were interested; however, wanted to be sure the job included FHUs at the very least. The employer emailed back that¬†was something to be discussed after being hired and if they hired them, they would then be told if it included compensation and FHUs! Later she found out through another work-camp couple that it was a volunteer job (36 hours a week, each person) and that you received a site at a “nominal fee” and¬†you were required to pay utilities, plus you had limited access to the facilities, even though you worked and paid to live there!

Fortunately, our friends have been good at circulating information about these so-called employers and their “opportunities”. If the business is¬†a campground or RV resort, we cross them off our Woodall’s and Trailer Life books. Why bother doing business with people like that? With the power of the internet, let the world know how unprofessional these employers are!

Many folks are giving up the work-camp dream this year. I honestly can’t blame them. Even some of the sites devoted to work-camp jobs have added sections on work-at-home (or RV in our case!) and other money-making schemes. If they have given up on living the dream, then maybe the rest of us need to wake up from it.

 

I received a rather amusing email from a Full-Timing friend who has been workamping for several years. Her main grip was “everyone wants to be a vagabond now!”

Lately everywhere you turn there is an article popping up either online, in the print newspaper or even on the TV news, regarding living the RV or caretaker life. The reporters interview a few of us “houseless” folks and then manage to piece a story together on how their faithful readers or viewers can just give up everything and “live free” too.

These pieces promise that you too can be a vagabond. Honestly, I’ve been finding it rather amusing! ūüėČ

One article I read said that there was no need to buy a new RV because they depreciate like cars. Okay, that is true… but did she mention that most campgrounds and RV resorts require newer models? Most places want workampers who have models no older than 8 to 10 years. I have heard of places even saying six years or newer. So before you rush out and buy that 1980s Trek motorhome that the guy “down the road” has for sale in his mother-in-law’s barn, you better do your homework on what types of workamping jobs you hope to get and what most employers require.

Another article I read said that this lifestyle was only for retirees. ¬†Hmm… I’m not retired (or even close to it for another 30+ years!) and several of our Full-Timing and/or workamping friends are either too young to retiree or still have families of their own (who live the lifestyle with them). There is a growing number of younger folks and families who live this way and get along quite nicely. So don’t rule it out Full-Timing or workamping if you are younger than 65.

This same piece mentioned that the jobs were rather easy and required no effort. Well… I would love to drag this writer to a campground or RV resort and put them to work for a day. Yes, it takes no skill to handle 100+ check-ins on a Friday night during the summer or on a holiday. (Insert me rolling my eyes here!) Or how about cleaning several bathouses a day and operating a Kiavac machine. No skill? No effort? Okay, well then how about mowing several acres of lawn around¬†a hundred RVs in 90 degree temps? No sweat! Yes, there are some easier jobs out there, but in outdoor hospitality – anything goes! So even a light Camp Host position may find you having to haul firewood, clean restrooms or help evacuate the campground during an emergency.

I could go on and on, as there have been so many “be a vagabond” stories lately. With recent economic changes and many people struggling to keep their home or in need of a new career, these articles and news casts offer hope and freedom. Don’t get me wrong, it can and it does for many, but before you make that leap you should do some research and speak to those who have (or are on) that road!

Everyone may want to be a vagabond, but not just anyone can be a vagabond and be happy with it.

First in, first out at the truck stop!

First in, first out at the truck stop!

It appears that fuel prices are on the rise again and that means for RVers who were planning on putting some mileage this summer, pennies will have to be pinched.

The extra $20 t0 $50 that would normally be spent at a campground can be saved by skipping a few campgrounds while enroute to your destination.

Depending on the length of your journey, spending every other night at a truck stop can save you a hundred to several hundred dollars. We usually average $300 a week on nightly campground visits while enroute to our destination. By spending every other night at a truck stop, we only spend around $100 a week.

Most truck stops and travel centers are catering to RVers, especially those with “big rigs”. Flying Js, Pilots, TAs and Loves can be found throughout the Lower 48 and Canada. A quick visit to their websites can reveal all their locations along your planned route.

A nice thing about truck stops is that many now have dump stations and water, in addition to fuel, propane and other items. Before you park for the night, you can get fueled up and be ready to leave the next day.

However, there are a few things you should remember about overnighting at truck stops. RVers have rules or guidelines when overnighting or “parking” at businesses and these rules should be regarded even at a truck stop.

First of all, stop and ask if it is okay to overnight. Ask someone at the fuel desk and ask them if there is a particular area designated for RVs. If there isn’t and you find yourself among the semi trucks, don’t get in their way. Find a parking spot on the end or toward the back. If you see other RVers, try to park by them. “Skipping” parking spots makes no difference at a busy truck stop. You’ll only find yourself surrounded by semi trucks in the morning! So if you find another RVer, park beside them.

In the photo above (taken at a Flying J in Virginia), we arrived a little after 5 PM and found another RV family already parked for the night in the truck lot (notice the motorhome behind us). We backed our rig in beside them. Later that evening, we found ourselves surrounded by other RVers.

It is very important that while at a truck stop (especially if you are parked with the semi trucks) that you stay within your lines. If you have trouble backing your rig or have trouble staying in your lines,  find a pull-thrus if you can. But if you find a truck stop with a double pull-thru, make sure you pull all the way forward so that someone can park behind you.

Another thing to remember is to be courteous and try to get in your spot as quickly as possible without holding up the traffic flow.

An overnight guideline that most RVers have (especially for retail parking lots) is to not run their generator. However, this is often overlooked in large truck stops where trucks often run all night. Just be mindful of your neighbors if you choose to run your generator for more than a few minutes.

Of course, if you are overnighting in a truck stop (or any retail parking lot), you should not put your slides out. That is a major overnight sin! If your RV layout blocks a closet or another area you need access to, make sure you re-locate those items to easy access areas prior to overnighting. And by no means should you put down your awning or set up camp (lawn chairs, rugs, etc…) while overnight parking. You are not camping, you are parking.

While you are there, please patronize the truck stop. Buy fuel or shop in their store. Grab a bite to eat from their restaurant. We have found some of the best pizzas around can be found at truck stops! You don’t have to spend a great deal (remember you are there to save money), but if you aren’t at least buying fuel, buy something. A bag of chips or some hot dog buns – anything to show your gratitude.

If you have a frequent fueler card with the truck stop, be sure to use it. Not only will it help lower you fuel bill, but usually other purchases will help earn you points and freebies.

There are some safety issues about overnighting. Turn on your door light and your scare lights. Make sure all you RV doors, outside compartments and tow vehicle doors are locked. Never, ever just open the door to someone who knocks on it! Open a window near the door and speak to them through the window until you know what is going on. If you are overnighting at a truck stop, do not go wandering around a night. If you must walk your pet, do it near your RV. Semi trucks come and go at all hours in a truck stop. Tired drivers may not see you in the shadows!

Overnight parking at truck stops is a great way to save money (and time if you are too tired to look for or drive to a campground). Just be mindful of others, patronize the truck stop and stay safe!

Please Note: Overnight parking at retail settings such as Walmart is a little more involved (as they aren’t designed for RV or semi truck parking like truck stops) and overnighting at rest areas is even more restricted in some areas. If you decide to overnight park anywhere, always seek permission, follow signs and obey the RVers “official” overnight rules.

 

Yogi BearFor those¬†Full-Timers who would like to start workamping or those who haven’t workamped in a while – you are needed! Campgrounds and RV parks and resorts all over the country are still in need of help this season.

Despite the financial woes, Campers are still finding the time to visit their favorite campgrounds on weekends. In fact, a number of people have given up standard week-long vacations in place of just taking a series of weekend trips throughout the summer.

Instead of visiting expensive locations and attractions, many Campers are staying closer to home and enjoying local sites. With many larger campgrounds offering amenities such as fishing ponds, miniature golf, water slides, pools, game rooms and other activities, a family doesn’t have to travel far to make the most of their vacation time.

Since most campgrounds are seasonal or have peak-times in the season where they need help, it’s hard to find locals who are willing to just work a few months at a time. Yet for Full-Timers, it is a wonderful arrangement.

Jobs vary at each location, but many campgrounds are always desperate for office, maintenance, housekeeping and landscaping staff. Many require no or little experience and will train those who are willing to learn.

So start drafting that resume (or dust yours off) and start applying. If you are eager to work, there are places that are eager to have you right now!

With the economy the way it is, many folks are looking for jobs or ways to make additional income to make ends meet.

Recently the spotlight has been aimed at workamping. Even CNN ran a piece on workamping jobs ( Lots of Jobs for Workampers ).  Online searches for jobs and information on the RV lifestyle have increased. Many people are looking for options for working and living without a towering mortgage payment and other associated-bills.

Unfortunately, this has provided scammers more innocent folks to target. For those who use free work camp posting sites, they find themselves open to false “job opportunity” emails and phone calls. So how do you know what is legit and what isn’t?

If you have received an offer in your spam folder chances are that’s exactly where it belongs. Yet sometimes workamp employers do send out multiple emails and this could be sorted into your spam folder. So you’ll want to check to see what the email address is. Legitimate employers usually have an email address that makes sense (not some jumbled numbers and letters) and have their name or business name associated with the email. The email should provide (at the very minimum) basic information about the position(s). If you receive a phone call, the employer should identify themselves and provide you information on the position.

Genuine employers should not ask you for any personal information other than a standard resume and references. Do not give out your social security number, bank information or anything else. And do not even send your resume or personal information to employers who do not give you some information first. Anyone can send you an email stating “I have a job offer, send me your resume and personal information”. If they haven’t explained enough about the position and you feel uncomfortable, tell them you need more information about the position¬†before you “formally apply”. A real employer will understand this and respect it.

And remember – no¬†good job offer will ask you to pay money or put down some sort of deposit for the position. Now, there is one campground in Arizona that¬†wants workampers to put down a $500 deposit so they don’t leave prior to their contracted end-date. This is absolutely ridiculous. If you are working a trade-for-site position you are already working weekly work hours for your site (week-by-week). They have no right to charge you $500 if you leave earlier. They are taking money from you from hours you already worked and were “owed” anyway. Yet some people have ended up putting the money on their credit card thinking this is how you get a workamp job. It’s not and you shouldn’t have to pay to work. If this employer has a problem keeping people, then that is a reflection on management and/or work conditions.

Some employers may ask for a deposit on equipment (such as radios or cell phones) used during the contract period. If this is the case, make sure you have something in writing to show what you were given and the condition it was in when given to you. Keep a copy of the check or deposit receipt to show the money to be returned to you when you return the equipment. Also make sure you get something in writing to show it was returned. If possible, take a photo of the equipment after it was received and right before it was return. Make sure your deposit (if taken) is returned promptly.

If you are looking for a workamp position without the hassle of scams, I recommend subscribing to the Workamper News¬†and upgrading to “Workamper Plus”. This way only legitimate employers will have access to your information and if you have any serious problems with any advertised or subscribing employers, you can contact the Workamper News with your concerns. They also have a great forums and a community area to stay in touch with other workampers.

Another thing I would like to mention is upcoming changes to KOA’s (Kampgrounds of America) Workamper Program. As of April 30, 2009, to be a part of this program, you must pay an annual fee of $35. With this you can post your resume on their website and search for jobs at KOA campgrounds. Before this was absolutely free. Being a “member” of their new KOA Workamper Membership (as it is now called) includes a 10% discount at all KOAs. This is something you can get with the standard KOA card (only $24 annually) and if you work with KOA you are given travel vouchers between KOA jobs. So having to pay to receive a discount (which you shouldn’t need anyway!) and to apply¬†for a position with them is rather ridiculous. Having participated in this program before, I have found that many KOAs do not update their job listings or respond to applicants. Save yourself the $35 fee and just subscribe to Workamper News. Many KOAs advertise through Workamper News anyway!

If you are searching for a work camp job, be wary of scams. Do your homework! Don’t send out personal information and never pay for a job. And if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is!

RELATED ARTICLES:

Workamping: Working in a RV

Workamping Pros and Cons

Is Workamping for You?

Know Before You Go

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Support Your RV Lifestyle by Jaimie Hall

 

 

Right now with the scary economic situation, many folks are looking into becoming RVers. The RV lifestyle is a cheaper way to live, yet there things to keep in mind before making that lifestyle leap.

Even if a Full-Timer doesn’t own a stick-house, doesn’t mean they don’t have monthly payments to make on their rig and/or tow vehicles, as well as credit cards, food and medical expenses and any other regular bills. Even used RVs can cost more than the average house. And unlike¬†thirty-year mortgages ¬†for stick-houses, you can usually only extend your payment to ten years on a RV.

Campgrounds or RV resorts vary in monthly or annual rates – some can be as low as $150 a month (in Texas, if you’re curious!) and exceed¬†$2800 a month (Key West). Keep in mind this is just “rent” you pay to park your RV. It should include sewer, water, garbage service and electricity. However, electricity may be metered – so you may find yourself with a monthly electric bill. Extra amenities, such as Cable TV or SAT TV, WiFi and park activities are usually free, but many parks are now charging modest fees for monthly and annual stays. Always check into this before committing to a particular campground or RV resort.

And don’t forget you need fuel and propane. Right now the prices on both are going down, but that is always subject to change and does vary area-to-area. We paid $5.29 for diesel leaving California and are now paying $1.89 for it in Texas. Big difference! Propane in Washington was $3.50 and in Texas we have been paying $2.20. So it makes budgeting difficult.

Yet you can save money while RVing or living the RV lifestyle! The most popular is to be a Camp Host or work at a campground or RV resort to get a free (or reduced) site space and utilities. Often these positions come with additional perks, such as free Cable TV, WiFi, discounted propane, laundry allowances and even pay. This alone can say you hundreds to thousands of dollars each month and basically give you free living.

If you find a camp hosting position that provides discounted propane or provides a propane allowance (meaning you are allowed so many free fill-ups per month), then that helps reduce propane costs. Another way to save on propane is to shop around. Some campgrounds provide propane services and often this may be more expensive than traveling a few miles into town. If you have a motorhome and rely on a propane truck to come into the campground to fill your tanks, you should consider getting a spare that you can take elsewhere to refill until you can drive your motorhome to propane dealer. For example, our motorhome neighbors who have to rely on the propane truck are paying $3.50 for propane and we take our tanks into town (6 miles) and pay only $2.20.

Another thing to mention is if you are not paying for monthly electricity and have everything on propane (hot water heater, refrigerator, furnace) then you should switch it to electricity to save your propane. If your not in an extremely cold climate, consider getting a ceramic heater to help reduce use of the furnace. If you are paying for monthly electricity usage, then you may want to do the opposite and switch them over to propane. It depends on what it is costing you in the long run. Do the math and see which is best for your situation.

You can save money on fuel several ways. First and foremost – pay cash! Most fuel stops are now¬†charging for credit card purchases. It may be faster to put your credit card in to pay, but if you’re barely making your credit card payment… the interest is going to increase your fuel costs even more… so keep this in mind when you pay at the pump. Secondly, consider joining frequent fuel-er programs. Many are worth the saving involved. Most larger truck stops and travel centers have some sort of program. And often there are additional perks to these programs. For instance, Flying J has a frequent fuel-er program, but if you upgrade to the RV card you also get a discount on propane! And the more you fuel up, the more savings you get. Some programs include other services, such as store purchases and restaurant visits. Nothing beats a fuel stop than the clerk telling you that you have a free pizza owed to you or you just saved $15 with your card! And if you are planning to make a long haul through remote regions, consider purchasing a few fuel cans. When you arrive at a place with cheaper fuel, fill them up. This way when you travel and see the insane “only gas station for 300 miles” prices, you can toot your horn and keep driving by.¬† Even if you aren’t making a long trip, filling up your extra tanks before prices rise (especially at the holidays) can save you a few extra dollars. Just make sure your extra tanks are secure and if visible, have some sort of chain-lock through them. If your rig or tow vehicles don’t have locking gas caps, you should look into that as well. While parked in the campground you can save money on fuel by car-pooling with a camping neighbor. This sort of arrangement is always appreciated and can be alternated between neighbors. If you’re close to town consider using local transportation, such as a shuttle or bus service or ride your bike.

Camping supplies can be costly, especially if you buy them from a camping store. Shop around! For instance, those quick-flick lighters RVers love to ignite their gas stoves can cost $5 in a camping supply store, $3 at Wal-mart and only $1 at the Dollar Tree. It’s pretty much the same thing – may not be the designer color you want – but still fits the same purchase. If there is something camping-related you need – such as a folding bike or lounge chairs – check your campground bulletin board. Often RVers upgrade (or downsize) and have items to sell or even giveaway. If you need some sort of part for your rig – contact your RV dealer and see if you are still under warranty. You would be surprised how many people forget that certain items are guaranteed longer. If not, ask the dealer about a customer discount. Sometimes they will take a percentage off your bill for purchasing a RV through their dealership. They recognize your patronage and want to keep you as a customer.

Campground pecans - free food!

Campground pecans - free food!

Food expenses have been a recent concern for folks as fuel prices have fluctuated. Many campgrounds offer coupon exchange areas (usually located in the laundry areas). Don’t be too proud to use coupons! And if¬† you have extra, share them with your fellow Campers. If you belong to a wholesale or discount club, make sure you really are getting a deal. Sometimes you’ll find that they are actually higher on bulk¬†items. If bulk is a better deal, but you have no extra space, consider going in with a neighbor on the deal! Most Full-Time RVers belong to either Costco or SAM’s Club and love sharing deals with other Campers. And sharing a meal or having a weekly potluck with your camping neighbors is a great way to help cut food costs.

Also, take advantage of local farmer’s markets and flea markets. If you are getting ready to move on, stock up on the local fare. While in Washington we bought¬†twenty pounds of potatoes for only $2. Before we moved on, we made sure we had plenty. Our next stop we found that twenty pounds¬†potatoes would cost us $6. When we left California, we made sure we had plenty of citrus and olives on hand. Before our next move we will have about five pounds of Texas pecans (free for the picking here in the campground) ready to go with us.

Living the RV life can be more affordable if you keep your eyes on the road ahead and wisely manage (and limit) your expenses.

 

Campers placed hot coals in a garbage barrel
Campers placed hot coals in a garbage barrel

Anyone who has workamped will admit that there are pros and cons to this type of work-lifestyle. 

Most workamp positions often include free (or reduced fee) campsite and or some sort of housing (i.e. park model, villa, cabin) either on-site or nearby. Usually this includes water, electric (or an electric allowance), sewer, garbage and amenities. 

One of the obvious pros would be the affordable living and the location to work. No need to spend time commuting to work when it’s right there! Yet a downfall is you are living at your workplace, most often, with your boss and coworkers. There is no way to “escape” from them. You need to be a professional at all times.

Some workampers may disagree with this and may feel that after they are off the clock, they can do what every they want. It may be okay to kick back a few brews with your coworkers, but keep in mind that you need to keep work and your social life separate. If this isn’t balanced carefully, you’ll find yourself at odds with your friends and coworkers for the season. This can really make a good workamp experience go bad quickly. A good rule to have is not to say or do anything you don’t want getting back to your employer or shared with your coworkers. So if you think your boss is a jerk and a coworker is fat, keep it to yourself!

If you are workamping at a campground or resort, you will be surrounded by guests. With every new arrival you find new “stories” and experiences to share. Yet once some guests know you work and live there, they may bother you on your time off. I have spoken to other workampers who have had serious problems with this. One said¬†he received a knock on the motorhome¬†door at 11 PM from a guest declaring¬†that he¬†had to open the camp store so they could buy some marshmallows to roast that evening!

As with your boss and coworkers, you should remain professional around the guests. Again, this can be a pro and con. If the guests staying near you break the rules and you are the one to call them out on it, it may cause additional problems. Most people are apologectic in situations like this, but a handful can make life difficult.

 Like any job you will have good days and bad days, especially if you are dealing with the public.

Most workamp positions are seasonal or temporary. For those who like short-term work and moving on to other locations, this is ideal. It also means that you have to constantly search for another position and set aside funds for traveling to it.

Usually workampers who apply for jobs have never been to that location or area. They rely on information from others, the employer and the internet. You may ask¬†questions during the employer’s phone interview, but the answers may not be as detailed as needed. And, quite frankly, some business websites tend to be misleading.

For example, you may tell the employer you do have a big¬†fifth-wheel or travel trailer¬†and need a larger site. They may say that there is no problem, they can accommodate any size rig. Months later you arrive at the job to find not only does your rig barely fit, you have to park your tow vehicle a mile away in an a visitor parking area. A series of “little” things can add up quickly, making you dread your decision to work at that location. Although you may arrive to find that not only the site is big enough, but that your boss neglected to mention you had the best site in the park!

My advice on this is to create a list (and copy it off for each job) of what to ask employers during or before the phone interview. And review their website, especially if it is a campground. The amenities page and site map may generate more questions. Ask questions! This can help prevent a lot of problems.

Another possible problem with workamp positions is the lack of work. You may drive several days for a position only to get there and find they didn’t need your help or a change in management happened after you were hired and they immediately say “Who are you?” It is best to get a written (and signed) contract or agreement that outlines the important information. Having a contract is also a plus because even if business is slow, they must keep you on until the end date stated in the contract.

There are many more pros and cons of workamping; however, these are probably the most important ones. As with any job, you will have good and bad work experiences.

With rising costs and the economy in a slump, many folks have been  inquiring about becoming Full-Time RVers. It makes a great deal of sense not having to worry about a large mortgage and all the extras burdens that come with maintaining a house.

And this slump also has Full-Timers and Seasonal RVers who normally do not work (because of pension, social security or savings) looking for positions that pay and/or provide a free site space to help stretch their income.

Workamping can be any type of job and any type of position – paid or volunteer. You do not have to travel around to workamp and it does not¬†have to be an outdoor hospitality job. Yet most prefer an outdoor hospitality (i.e. campgrounds, RV parks, RV resorts, etc…) positions because they usually provide a minimum of a free site (with hookups).

Although most of these types of jobs require no or limited experience, there are are many that do (especially computer skills if working in an office). Applications and resumes¬†for campgrounds and RV parks are generally submitted online or by standard mail. Employers usually arrange for phone interviews for those who they feel are qualified. When a decision has been made and both parties agree, often an agreement or contract is made. This covers what the workamper receives (full hookups, Cable TV, etc…), commitment dates, job or position details and any other pertinent information. A signed agreement protects both parties as it assures the workampers that a job will be there when they arrive and the employers will feel confident knowing they have help during the commitment period.

Having worked with other campground workampers and being around them as a campground/RV resort guest, I know that workamping in an outdoor hospitality setting is not for everyone. 

If you are looking for a position in a campground or related venue, then you must realize that you may be called to work at different areas or positions during your commitment period. If someone is sick or does not show up, the public restrooms still need cleaned and the garbage still needs picked it up. When you work at a campground you must be a team player.

Unfortunately, we have arrived at many jobs, only to find our coworkers either padded their resume or puffed themselves up at the interview and would not or could not handle the positions they were given. If you do not want to clean restrooms,¬†if you cannot lift propane tanks, if you cannot operate a computer, etc…¬†then do not apply for a position that may require it! You may think “Oh, I got the job. They won’t care what I can’t or won’t do when I get there.” Well, you are wrong! It is not only frustrating for the employer to find you have limitations or¬†falsified your abilities, but it is a generally a nightmare for your fellow workampers. Be honest!

One of the main problems I have encountered with workampers is the refusal to work the office and / or a computer. A RV park we worked at had a very basic computer program. If you could send an email, you could take reservations. Very basic, very simple. We had one workamper that was deathly afraid of it and had nightmares about it. Her husband said she was having anxiety attacks over it and that after a few days they decided to leave. It turned out that her husband was fine on the computer and she took over his duties (housekeeping and maintenance), while he did hers (office and store). Ironically, she had put on her resume that she was computer savy and had office experience!  So if you do not like computers or are uncomfortable handling money, tell the potential employer you prefer not to work these areas. And if you can work a computer but are very slow, explain that to the employer. I spoke to one employer who said she had one woman who took 45 minutes to check in a Camper! She said she did it correctly, but the speed of the transaction was just not acceptable. The office is a crucial position in a campground and employers need workampers who are comfortable in this area.

We worked with one set who thought they were above working period. They said they knew how to do everything (yet really did not know anything) and quite openly did not want to do anything. They just wanted to sit in their motorhome all day. This meant work not getting done during an already busy camping season. This added more work to the rest of us and finally seeing how this was dragging us all down, they were fired (and given very short notice to leave the property).

Although the campground office may close at 8 PM, that does not mean that things will stop happening! An emergency may occur or other problems after hours. You have to remember that not only are you temporarily employed there, you and your coworkers also live there. If there is an emergency going on, do not hide in your RV and say “I’m off the clock”. It is unfair to the others who work there. You need to be flexible and help keep things run smoothly.

We were working as Camp Hosts and were managing a RV park for 72 hour shifts. We would work the standard office hours and be on-call after hours. If there was an emergency or a serious situation going on, we would come to the aid of our fellow Hosts and they would come to ours. Again, you are not only coworkers, you are neighbors!

Another thing to keep in mind is that you must deal with the public. You may think working as maintenance or housekeeping are jobs were you can “hide” from the public and not have direct contact such as¬†the ¬†campground store or office, but that is not the case. Chances are you will have just as much, if not more contact with the camp guests and visitors.

If you are not a people person then you should give careful consideration to an outdoor hospitality job. It is probably not for you!  And believe me, some people should not be dealing with the public. I worked with one man who insulted a first-time guest at check-in. The workamper told him he thought his Class A was recalled and that he should have bought a better one! How he got through that without a broken nose is still beyond me!

For those that do enjoy working with the public, there are many options. Age restricted or 55+ parks or resorts are great for those who enjoy interacting with older folks. These parks often offer classes and schedule activities. If you enjoy being around families, especially those with young children, consider a family campground or RV park. These campgrounds usually have regularly childrens’ activities and family events. Some¬†RV parks and resorts¬†are more inclined to nightly visitors, while others are more for extended stays. If you like to get to know folks, consider applying at one with seasonal¬†or annual residents.¬†

 If you are interested in workamping at an outdoor hospitality venue, you should consider whether or not you can be a team player, flexible, honest about your abilities and limitations and deal with the public. If you cannot deal with any one of these things, then working a campground may not be for you.

NOTE: This prompted me to outline the pros and cons of workamping. So look for that being posted soon.

A popular place to boondock is Quartzsite, Arizona.

Last month before the winter “snowbirds” began to arrive, we made a trip to Quartzsite to see exactly what the area looked like and what it had to offer.

It pretty much looks like this for about one hundred miles. Quartzsite does have some small businesses and several campgrounds (that do offer full-hookups and some amenities).  The closest Walmart is in Yuma, which is about 90 miles (one-way) south of Quartzsite. Lake Havasu which is just north of Quartzsite does have many chains and franchises, as well as Blythe (California) directly to the west.Off the road in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Boondocking is an option that many regular RVers try (even for a short while). It is affordable and it is a great way to test your independence. There are many books and articles written on the topic and if you are interested, you should do your research. If you know someone who has had experience boondocking, you should also pick their brain on tips and advice on this type of living.

One of the biggest concerns when contemplating the Full-Time RVers lifestyle is – how do I make a living? For those with an already stretched pension or Social Security check, campgrounds and resorts can eat up a great deal of money. $300 to $1200 a month for full hookups and extras. And for those who are relying on a part-time or even full-time job – what do you do to make ends meet?

If you live in a RV and work or volunteer from it – you are a work-camper. It does not just apply to those working in campgrounds, RV parks or resorts. If you work as a florist and live in a RV – you are a work-camper. If you are a volunteer at the local library and live in a RV – you are a work-camper. If you work 12 hours a week at a campground to pay for your campsite and you live in your RV – you are a work-camper. If you sell on eBay and live in a RV – you are a work-camper.

Work-campers should not be stereotyped (although I know some readers will still be thinking of old trailers and shady characters in a trailer park). Work-campers are a varied bunch – from singles to couples to families with children; from twenty-somethings to ninety year olds; from those with GEDs to those with PhDs. Each work-camper offers diversity to the workplace or their community.

If you have some income and just want to live free, consider volunteering at a local state or national park. Camp Hosts live free, most often with full-hookups and perks, for a minimum number of hours each week or day. Hosting positions can vary from one month to six months and possibly more. This would mean hundreds to thousands of dollars being saved for you with free site and utilities! Most states have Campground Host programs РGoogle the state you are interested in to sign up for their program. Rangers and park officials will call you if they have an opening, as well as you being able to call them to see if they need hosts for whatever period of time you are interested in.  Many smaller campgrounds that cannot afford an on-site manager or large staff also look for volunteer hosts and work-campers.

If you do not have an income, you can easily find outdoor hospitality jobs that would include full hookups (Although some Southern states where the temperatures require constant air-conditioning, often make you pay metered electric. Some¬†campgrounds do offer electric “allowances” for their work-campers to reduce their monthly bill.) In addition, you would want one that paid to make your monthly expenses. Remember, some areas are only seasonal – so if you require a steady paycheck, you need to find something reliable.

If you are Full-Timing with a spouse or travel companion, one of you could work/volunteer just for your campsite, while the other found a regular job nearby. This would¬†guarantee free living, while generating another income. Most volunteer or “work for site” situations do not require many hours (usually under 20 if you are getting full hookups and perhaps a Cable or SAT TV service) and the extra person could work a paying job if needed.

If you find a volunteer or “work for site” job that requires more than 20 hours, you should get some additional perks, such as free laundry, propane allowance, store discount (if they have a camp or general store) and any other services they offer such as free WiFi and Cable TV. If not, you should get a breakdown of the hours and site costs. Some campgrounds have been known to take advantage of “work for site” folks. I know of one campground owner in Arizona that actually has the nerve to take a $500 deposit from it’s “workers” in case they leave suddenly. This is not right as you are working weekly for your site and should be working in accordance to your stay.

The best thing you can do when you find a position, even if it is as a Camp Host, is to ask for a Work-camper Agreement or some sort of contract that states what your arrival and departure dates are, what you receive (full hookups, etc…) and what the hours and job duties involve. If you are told you only need to work 10 hours a week for your site handing out camp brochures, then that is what the contract should read. Some places will try to take advantage of work-campers as they “have them” and most people will not be able to just pack up and leave. So protect yourself with some sort of contract.

There are many places to look online for a job, especially Full-Timers. The most popular is Workamper News. The have a daily job hotline emailed to you and a bimonthly magazine. However, there are many other publications, such as The Caretaker’s Gazette,¬† where employers seek out work-campers. You can also place an ad offering your own skills and have employers seek you out. Several websites offer free ads (maximum word count) or free ads with a subscription to their site or publication.

Word-of-mouth or recommendations from other work-campers works just as well. If you are interested in working outdoor hospitality, you should try to work a Camp Host position first, to give you an idea if this is for you. Working with the public can be…well, it can be a pain in the behind! So if you are able to volunteer for a month or so as a Host, that would be ideal. That way you won’t find yourself locked in a position at a campground or RV resort for¬†6 months and hating it.

There are many options out there and the more you do your homework and speak to other Full-Timers, the better off you will be. You will be surprised to find how varied work-camper positions are! From working NASCAR races and Amazon.com to casinos and ranches to amusement parks and apple harvest pickers!

Another growing area for work-campers is security or caretaking properties. Not much (or any) experience required, yet you are provide with a free place to stay and life for a minimum number of hours.

Some of these jobs pay incredible wages, in addition to full or partial benefits. And, surprisingly, there are even government jobs available to work-campers. There are a number of businesses who specifically want work-campers because these folks offer a diverse workforce and are often very flexible. Being a modern nomad is a good thing!

If you don’t need an additional income and don’t want to volunteer, then you may consider boondocking. Although this is something you should really discuss with other Full-Timers, especially those who have boondocking experience. Boondocking is just that – living in the¬† middle of nowhere (usually!) with no or partial hook-ups. You must live independently with your own batteries, generators, propane, solar and whatever else you can. You’ll require regular visits from a honey wagon (pumps your holding tanks) or must have your own tote tank¬†and nearby sewer dump station to do it yourself.

We recently visited Quartzsite, Arizona which is the boondockers¬†hangout in Western Arizona, about 90 miles north of Yuma. You can get a space in the desert¬† with a cheap permit from the BLM. The drawback to this type of lifestyle is most areas that are open to regular boondockers¬†are very far from modern amenities. So if you only shopped at Walmart and it was a 90 mile drive (one-way, as in the case of Quartzsite), you may find yourself limiting your trips or suffering from the isolation. Yet again, it’s free (practically) living.

There are websites online that tell you places you can camp or stay free as well. Most are short-term, but it’s money saved! So you can live free, or close to it by either work-camping or boondocking.

They next step of living the life of a Full-Timer¬†requires some thought as to¬†how you will earn an income. Actually, this isn’t as difficult as it may seem! Many places are in need of temporary help and some of these jobs pay a great deal of money or a modest amount with a bonus (if you stay until your commitment date). If you don’t mind¬†moving on every¬†couple weeks or months then this might be an option for you. If you need a job where you have benefits, no problem! There are many¬†places (even KOA)¬†that will have¬†additional benefits¬†like health coverage and insurance if you stay for an extended period. Some places, especially theme parks, have their¬†own health clinic that¬†work-campers¬†qualify for the first day they start. And these are just seasonal positions. There are steady positions (even¬†government jobs)¬†out there that require at least a year stay and offer full-benefits.

How much do you need? What skills do you bring to the table? What do you be willing to do? What would you not be willing to do?¬† These are things you need to ask yourself. The very minimum you should seek at a work-camp-type position is full-hookups. That is your “free living”. Additional perks to ask for include Cable TV or SAT TV, WiFi, propane discount (or allowance) and laundry allowance (if not free). Many businesses that hire work-campers already understand this and most often will have these extras listed with the compensation package.¬† Seasonal bonuses or even mileage allowance is another great way to add money to the kitty.

If you work for a campground or RV park, most often they will have you work so many hours to “pay” for your site. In a way, this is a barter of sorts. If the business wants to consider your site “pay” (for tax purposes), then you need to find another place to work for. You want campgrounds or businesses that give you a note stating you were required to furnish your own housing (RV) and were required to live on site. That way you don’t have any crazy tax issues. If you don’t mind complicated taxes, then by all means, keep those other options open.

Even if you have a nice pension and/or social security coming in, you can’t rely on that to stretch far in today’s economy. So many folks with outside incomes RVers work as Camp Hosts or work at campgrounds and RV resorts for their campsite and utility fees. Many places, especially state and county parks are in need of Hosts. Some even offer a daily or monthly stipend. Time commitments vary by location, but most involve a month to three months with extensions available. Hosting is pretty simple and requires little, if any, training. Usually the biggest requirement is to be able to deal with the public. People skills are definitely a must.

Can’t believe there are jobs for people in RVs? Face it, our economy isn’t at its best right now. The job market is changing and people stuck with stick homes are in a position where they can’t get to¬†these jobs. This is creating a shortage of workers in areas that need them – folks can’t sell their house to move to areas that need help¬†and they certainly can’t afford to drive long distances regularly with current fuel prices. But we can! And once the position is over… hookup and head out!

Now there is more than just campground work – and actually we have a better term for this if you are thinking “Oh no, I’m not putting campground work on my resume!” – it’s called “Outdoor Hospitality”. Sound better? This covers campgrounds, RV parks and all types of resorts. And please don’t think of campgrounds as some trashy place (although there are those!) to live. Some travel resorts we have been to have more amenities than fancy housing communities – Cable TV, phone hookups, golf course, pools, jacuzzi s, spas, clubs (from bowling to computer), classes (crafts, French, yoga, etc…), fishing lakes and ponds, cabin rentals, villa rentals, restaurants, cafes, expresso bars, ice cream parlors, churches (non-dom), tennis courts, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, basketball courts, shuffleboard, Petanque (Boules) courts, video rentals, ATMs, postal stations, grocery stores, camping stores, Bingo or¬†Rec¬†halls, game rooms, libraries and the list goes on. Many bigger ones have seasonal activity directors that even¬†organize¬†day trips to nearby attractions and casinos. So they aren’t all like what you’ve seen on¬†the movie¬†RV or NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION.

Many other places require work-campers such as theme parks, auto sport events, festivals (Ren Faires, the New Mexico Balloon Festival, etc…), hotels, ranches, casinos, wildlife sanctuaries and more. You can find work anywhere – it’s there! From picking apples in Washington to directing sugar beet trucks in South Dakota to working in shipping at Amazon.com (in Nebraska) to selling pumpkins or Christmas trees in California. There are jobs for all skills or no-skills. There are jobs that are easy and jobs that will leave you sore for a week.¬† Many pay good wages, some pay incredible wages and some offer bonuses or commission packages.

You can live free or next to it! All you have to do is think things through. There are several places online that you can start searching for work-camp jobs – people who specifically target Full-Timers. The biggest one around (that most everyone uses) is The Workamper News . If you are seriously considering this, order a trial issue. Read every ad – you’ll be amazed! And very surprised at the different jobs available and the benefits they offer. A¬†few don’t even require a RV – they will put you up in their own cabin, cottage or villa. A great way to get your foot in the door and try it before you commit to buying a RV.

If you do want pursue this lifestyle and have no experience with RVs – I recommend you rent one for awhile and see how you like it. You don’t need to go far – find a campground a few hours from you – far enough that you can’t force yourself to drive home for something every hour. See how you like it!

If you have experience with RVing, but not for extended periods – then you need to re-learn RVing… Why? Well, there’s a difference in short trips versus living in one! I’ll tell you some things to look for when searching for a Full-Timer’s RV (or “Rig” as we all call our home-on-wheels).

I may need that someday!

I may need that someday!

Too much stuff! That is the problem that most people face in today’s world. People work 40+ hours a week to pay for stuff they have, yet rarely use. Extra costly “toys” like boats or jet skis, only get used a few days or weeks out of the year. Yet you work your fingers to the bone weekly to pay for these items.

The road to freedom begins with prioritizing. Is that $20,000 boat that you use one weekend a year worth it? What about its insurance, storage and upkeep? Start off by listing your extra toys and see just how much they are costing you and your overworked fingers. You may find yourself surprised – it’s just not worth it!

Then get your finances in order. Try to pay off those credit cards and any outstanding bills you have. How? Start selling stuff off. Host a garage sale, go to your local flea market, advertise on a radio/internet swap listing, advertise in a free or cheap newspaper classified or sell it online through eBay or another seller website.

This is the biggest and hardest of them all. Yet if you overcome this hurdle, it’s all downhill after that! What’s so hard? Downsizing! For some reason, modern humans need to acquire massive amounts of credit card debt and collect or gather mounds of “stuff”. You have to stop it and you have to do it cold turkey.

If you make purchases on a credit card regularly and only pay the minimum monthly payment – do you know now much that pack of gum is going to end up costing you at the end of the year? So stop buying anything you don’t need. And do what our ancestors did – if you don’t have the money (cash) to buy it, then you don’t really need it. Do with what you’ve got, as my Mom says.

Start going through that stuff and get rid of it! Yes, you may need that special size screwdriver in two or three years, but it’s certainly not doing you any good now. No sane person needs more than one toaster. Unfortunately, when my family started downsizing, we came across five of them in our storage!

Yet that’s the easy stuff. The hardest is dealing with those items that have a history or some sort of mental hold over you. Deceased Uncle Bob willed you that mounted Marlin – you just can’t part with it! Actually, you can. Get over it – it’s a stuffed fish for Pete’s (well, Uncle Bob’s) sake. The only reason he left it to you cause Goodwill wouldn’t take it and the lawyer was charging him for a Will anyways, so he might as well leave it to you. Ask other relatives if they want some family-handed items. Take photos for your records (if you just can’t let go) and attach a little story of who gave it to you and why it was so gosh darn important you have it hold down your attic for the past ten years.

Then go through some of your things that you considered passing on. In all honesty, will your relatives want those broken picture frames or old suitcases in your attic? Or those incomplete China patterns shoved on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard? Probably not. They are more likely to have an auction company come in and sell off what they can (since you didn’t leave them any money because you spent your lifesaving’s calling QVC each week) or they will find a cheap dumpster company to come and haul it all to the local landfill.

Tell your relatives you are downsizing. Ask them if they want certain items and take a photo of the item. Tell them the history behind it or better yet, write it down for them. Anything they don’t want, find other good homes. Have a family crib but no new babies to put it in? Find a family in need who can use it. History is wonderful, but if it isn’t passed on its worthless. So pass it on!

See that three-story dollhouse in the photo above? My dad made that for me when I was nine years old. I had it for over twenty years. There was a lot of memories, but I have no need for a dollhouse. It went to a little girl who could provide it a good home and pass it on to another when she was ready to let it go. I have photos of it, I have the memories of it and I have the knowledge that it is being loved by another.

If you find that some of your items are just not worth the effort (or money) to try to sell, then consider donating them to charity. Many charities and non-profit organizations have wish lists and your old desk might just be the thing they need! Most will offer a tax receipt for your donation and many charities will even pickup your larger items.

Unfortunately, because of storage space and other issues smaller charities might not be able to take certain items, such as clothes, holiday decorations or electronics. If this is the case, contact your local FreeCycle group and post a free ad for your free item(s). And sometimes it’s as simple as placing a FREE sign on it and toting it to your front yard.

This is where you need to start before you can even think of opening that road map. It’s hard, again, once you get over that initial “letting go” stage, it’s easier! You’ll find that extra stuff wasn’t as important as you thought it was – if you even remember it!

I¬†reached that “letting go plateau” and now when I open my closet or a drawer I say, “Why do I have this?” Everything I currently own could be placed in a normal-sized shopping cart, yet every time we find a new place to call “home”, I manage to find a bag or two of items to donate to the local charities. Material things aren’t a priority to me anymore.

I can’t even envision hoarding (yes, that’s what it is, there, I’ve said it!) stuff again. Just look at the picture above. This was just some of the stuff we had. Shoved away in a storage facility, where we paid monthly bills (and insurance) to keep these precious items. Ha! Precious! I forgot I had half of it and when I opened the boxes I was wondering why I had kept all that junk!

But this isn’t the secret, no this is just the beginning. Get your pens out and start formulating your downsizing plan, then you’ll move closer to how can find freedom on the open road!

UPDATED: February 13, 2013

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