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After ten years of Full-Time RVing, we have encountered our share of bad parks. Every unpleasant experience puts a giant X on their park listing in our campground directory and earns the offending park an unfavorable online review.
Sometimes the problem is simply the park’s location. Like the one in Texas that bragged on being the place to get plenty of rest, only it didn’t indicate in the ad that you had to sleep during the day because the campground was located beside railroad tracks that were active at night. We were also lured in to one park in Mississippi that promised Southern charm, only the appeal wore off as soon as we realized we were at the end of an airport runway. Although one of the worst locations we’ve stumbled upon was in Florida. A small, seemingly quiet park appeared to be a good place for a few nights’ rest. The first night was so peaceful we actually considered extending our stay a few more days. Luckily we didn’t because that evening we were awakened to some bone-shaking music until the wee hours of the morning. We were unaware that the backside of the park bordered a nightclub that had been closed the previous evening!
Even if the location is ideal, sometimes it is the condition of the park that affects your stay. Usually the offender is meager Wi-Fi or poor cable TV. We’ve certainly had our share of that and while it is no problem for a night or two, issues with this during an extended stay reflect poorly in our online reviews. These are generally simple fixes and if nothing is done to correct the problem it indicates poor management. A few years ago we overnighted at a park in Florida that offered a Wi-Fi “hotspot”. When asked at check-in, we were told that it was under a tree in the middle of the RV park! Another problem we occasionally encounter is water pressure, albeit that it is normally too high. Imagine our surprise when we stayed at a park in Pennsylvania that had the water pressure at twenty. However, the management insisted that such a low number was safe!
Though sometimes it is the staff members who make you feel unwelcomed. Like the time we pulled into a park in Maryland and found the office closed and no after-hours check-in board. As we started to leave a staff member appeared on a golf-cart and started screaming at us that we were going to jackknife as we swung the rig around to exit. She literally kept screaming “jackknife” over and over. In reflection, I wish I would have taken a video of the maniac screaming at us – that would have gone viral! And the time we stopped at a campground in Virginia and politely asked the clerk for a Big Rig pull-thru for the night. She said people like us needed to “just go to a truck stop” – so we did! And lest we forget the park we overnighted at in Arkansas. The cable TV didn’t work and we immediately reported it to the office since we were being charged additional for it. A work-camper came over to our site, never even looked at the frayed cable at the pedestal. He just said, “I don’t think you need it tonight” and left!
Occasionally it is the park guests who bring about an unfavorable stay. Clearly it is hard to be quiet when your slides are on-top of each other in some of the older parks. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be a good neighbor. Like the time we were staying in Washington and the woman camped beside us wanted to know what antenna TV channels we got. Instead of coming over to our site and knocking on our door, she opened her slide-window, took a cane and pounded on our door. Imagine our surprise when we answered the door to see a cane poking out a window at us! Or the folks in Virginia who parked their golf cart under our master bedroom slide because they were, well, frankly, morons. And don’t get me started on the park in Texas where the neighbors built a Tiki bar on their site. By the third day the “bar” included a large flat screen TV, karaoke machine and additional seating. They expanded beyond their tow vehicle space and then started parking on our campsite. It was senseless to complain as we saw the park manager had become a patron of the bar! We found another park for the remainder of our stay in the area.
From dry camps to high-end RV resorts – we certainly have had some memorable reviews! After all these years, we have learned to take the bad with the good. Thankfully with so many online review sites, we have a way of warning other travelers. So don’t be shy about taking recourse by writing reviews. And, remember, if you visit a RV park in Maryland and a maniac starts screaming at you – get it on video!
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.
There is a long definition of what makes someone a workamper, but it basically states that if you live in a RV and work, you are a workamper.
You do not need to travel vast distances to work – your RV can be sitting on a pad in a campground somewhere indefinately – and if you get up in the morning to do some sort of work (for pay or trade) or a have a volunteer job, you are a workamper. So if your grandma in South Florida lives in a travel trailer at a 55+ park and works at the local fabric store part-time, she’s a workamper!
Although most Full-Time RVers are retirees with pensions and/or Social Security, there are many who are not. In fact, this number is on the rise. Singles (or “solos”), young couples and families are discovering that you can not only make a living from this lifestyle, but you can also have more free time.
Work-campers are a varied bunch – 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. Work-campers are usually very flexible. And they offer something that folks stuck with a house does not – mobility.
There are countless seasonal jobs in this country – from working NASCAR races and amusement parks to campgrounds and resorts to casinos and ranches to Christmas tree lots and fruit and vegetable harvests. Seasons vary as well as the duration of each position. NASCAR races maybe just two-three days a week for a number of weeks, but a resort position may be year-round. Salary benefits vary depending on the position. Some of these jobs pay incredible wages, in addition to full or partial benefits. And, surprisingly, there are even government, corporate and sales positions available to work-campers.
The first thing you need to do is research what types of jobs are available. If you are a “Wannabe” (what Full-Timers call those folks who want to try this lifestyle, yet are not ready) then you have time to discover what is available when and where and for how much.
Most books on Full-Time RVing contain a section on finding work or at the very least, Camp Hosting. There is one book devoted to the subject that I recommend and that is Support Your RV Lifestyle by Jaimie Hall. This book cites many places to seek additional information and it is a great reference book to keep (even after you have secured a position and think you know what you are doing).
The next step is to subscribe to a work-camper-related publication, such as The Workamper News or The Caretaker Gazette. Read all the listings, learn the terminology and see where the work is, when it is and the benefits that come with it. Some jobs only provide a free campsite with utilities, other may include a long list of benefits (as well as salary) such as laundry, propane, store or cafe discounts, Cable or SAT TV, WiFi, phone service, golf cart usage, etc… It may not seem like much, but if you start adding up your site costs and the extras, you may find that you are saving several hundred to over a thousand dollars a month from your own pocket! And longer term positions even offer medical and health benefits to their work-camp employees.
When it is time to pull-up stakes and make that transition to a Full-Timer you will have a better understanding of what is available. Begin applying for the upcoming season at least three months prior and do not limit yourself to one position! If you want to stay in a region for a period of time, then apply to all those that interest you and you believe you are qualified for in that region. If you wait on just one place to call, you may find yourself waiting a long time!
If you know when you will be available, advertise yourself. Many work-camper employers do not place ads. They either rely on repeat work-campers or “position wanted” ads. Many places online offer free ads, as well as subscribers for various publications, including The Workamper News.
And once you secure a position – especially if it is only a couple months – start seeking another one. The more you work-camp, you find this actually becomes much easier. And many work-campers prefer to work the same regions or even positions, season-after-season. They like the familiarity of the work and area and return each season.
If you are one of those already on the road or in a RV and find that your monthly income is not stretching as far as it was before the economy went South for the winter, then there are some things you can do immediately to start searching for a job.
The first one is to put yourself online. Advertise, advertise, advertise! There are several websites where you can post information.
If you just cannot get that money to stretch as far and the campground fees are eating your pension, then consider contacting your state’s website for information on being a Camp Host (usually termed “Campground Host program”). Other places to seek this type of work are from the National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Corp of Engineers. You can conveniently find their opportunities at http://www.usafreedomcorps.gov/ under the “Volunteer Opportunities” section (by state and job). Some of these Camp Host positions may offer a small daily or monthly stipend.
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. These are wonderful programs to get involved in, especially if you have no or very limited hosting experience. Several states even have yearly rallies for their Camp Hosts.
Another option is that many smaller campgrounds cannot afford an on-site manager or large staff and rely on work-campers to volunteer – a “work for site” deal. The campground you are staying in right now may need your help.
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 can help you save money immediately.
And as previously stated, you do not have to even move your RV. If you want to find a position in the local community and work a regular 9-to-5 job, you can! That is another perk of the work-camp lifestyle.
Every day thousands of people go to work and return “home” to their RV. The only difference for a work-camper is where home is parked!