A vineyard out our window

A vineyard out our window

The Harvest Host club membership is about the best $40 in RV camping we have purchased.

When you start thinking about living on the road you start thinking about how to lower your campaign costs.  You camper has water tanks, onboard power, and sewer.  Harvest Host is a great way to take advantage of your self-contained unit and save some bucks!

If you consider that most campgrounds want $30-$60 a night, just 1 or 2 evenings makes paying the Harvest Host fee easy to pay. When you start planning trips that take more than one day, the last thing you want to do is pay $50 for a spot to sleep overnight.  Most people end up sleeping at a Walmart or a Truck Stop.

Staying at Walmarts and truck stops seems like the easiest solution.  You don’t have to spend the $40 for starters.  You don’t have to call ahead.  The locations are right next to the highway so you can quickly resume your trip.  Whats not to like?  1,000’s of people basically live at Walmarts and truck stops, so how bad can it be?

Here are the kinds of things that can happen when you stay at a Walmart or truck stop:

  • People walk up to your RV, sometimes touch it, and look inside
  • People talk in the vicinity of your RV at all hours
  • Other big rigs pull up next to you and idle diesel fuel into your house all night
  • The parking lot lights shine into your house
  • The surface is an unprotected parking lot.  The surface has high heat in the summer from the concrete, and the surface is icy in the winter because no landscaping is around to protect you.
  • Someone may knock on the door at night and ask you to move your RV.
  • Many places have time limits or strict exit times.
  • You hear the constant noise of vehicles moving around.  People are constantly coming and going.
  • Many places you need to ask to overnight, and the process can sometimes be intimidating.
  • You are not guaranteed a spot.  Truckers can get very agitated with RVers.

Harvest Host is essentially the solution to these free parking worries.  You call ahead a day or two before you want to show up.  You ask if you can stay.  You arrive, you are shown where to park, and you enjoy your evening.  As a thank you for hosting, you spend a little at the farmers on premise store.  You don’t have to spend, but we have found that you will want to spend a little!

Here are the highlights of staying at a Harvest Host:

  • At night it is pitch black outside!  We have only had exterior lighting at 1 Harvest Host location so far.  Most of the locations are DARK!
  • The locations are usually quiet!  The hosts are usually at a farm that is next to a little used highway.  Sometimes you can hear a car, but nothing like a Walmart, truck stop, or interstate.
  • You are wanted at the location.  All too often I feel like truckers get ticked when you stop at a rest area, and I feel like Walmarts see you as a necessary evil.  So far our Harvest Host providers have all be excited for us to stop with them.  Many of our locations have been a first for the hosts.
  • You feel safe.  You normally are out in the country.  You feel pretty alone.  You don’t worry that someone is going to knock on your door.
  • You sleep great.  With all these pleasant benefits, you really do have a deep sleep.
  • You are not in a rush to leave.  We have never even been given an exit time.  We have even been invited to stay an extra day to experience upcoming activities.

So with such glowing reviews does anything end up being a negative?  Of course.  No Organization is perfect.

  • You have to print your own membership card.  We don’t even have a printer.  We still haven’t printed out our card.  So far no one has ever asked for a membership card and that is good, because we still don’t have one!
  • Phone calls can be returned slowly.  Sometimes the locations don’t open until 11am or even 1pm.  That makes it very hard to schedule a day of stop.  The rules ask you to phone ahead 24-48 hours ahead of time.  You can’t reserve too far ahead.  These locations are not campgrounds!  Nothing is worse then getting a phone call from the hosts and you are in the wrong location to make the stop for the day.
  • You can stay late in the morning, but most places want you onsite before they close for the day.  We have found most places to close between 5pm and 7pm.  That means you need to travel when you have the chance.  No stopping for extended lunches or naps if you want to get anywhere and still make your early curfew.
  • If you show up at closing you may feel the need to hang around until opening the next day.  You don’t have to do this, but you do feel the pressure.  In Minneapolis we once stayed until noon for the store to open.  I would have liked to have left much earlier in the day.
  • You can be tempted to overspend.  You in fact will overspend.  We try to cook our own food to save money, but once the Harvest Host had a restaurant.  It was game over!  We ate out for supper!
  • The location of many Harvest Hosts may be great, but having to travel very narrow, hilly, fast paced roads is not always awesome.  55mph on a country road with no shoulder is tough in a big rig.

While I love Harvest Hosts I do wonder how long it will be before people start breaking the rules.  If I was a farmer I could see Harvests Hosts being a terrible issue if:

  • Campers would want to be entertained.
  • Campers used levelers on my blacktop
  • Constant generator noise being heard at the house or place of business
  • Trash.  I see Walmart parking lots are full of litter.  Farmers are not going to put up with that.  Also don’t leave your trash bags at the hosts locations.  No one wants to deal with your stuff.
  • Leaky engines on my property
  • Guests never purchased anything.

I hope that Harvest Host members really work hard to not let these faux pas ruin the service.

Even if you only take 1 big vacation a year, the Harvest Host program is worth checking out.  It is a lot of fun to meet the workers at the host locations, sample the products, and have a deep restful sleep.

For snowbirds and full-time RVers Harvest Host is a no brainer.  It is worth the $40 a year just for the piece of mind when overnighting.   I love Harvest Host enough that I joined their affiliate program. If you are going to join I would be honored if you used one of my links.

Christmas and birthday gifts are always hard to buy.  In America everyone has enough crap.  We have been very intentional about buying people experiences.  Harvest Hosts provides a great gift of location based wines, beers, and crafts that will truly be a wow under some of our friends Christmas trees this year.  Your travels will provide a local taste experience for friends that they otherwise would have missed!

Even if you are not a fan of alcohol, Harvest Host is worth a join for the locations and friendliness of the staff.  Most locations have enough trinkets and food that you won’t be pressured into buying any alcohol if you struggle with that sort of thing.

So far one my biggest favorites is the surprise.  You never know what you are going to get into.  One Harvest Host had a large tasting for us, another had a restaurant, and yet another was closed and just provided a great secluded camping spot.

For us, Harvest Host is an RV must have membership.  Feel free to ask any questions or to share your experiences!

Navigating a gravel road.

Navigating a gravel road.

Parked with slides in

Parked with slides in

Windows are open because we have no neighbors!

Windows are open because we have no neighbors!

A stage is being prepped for a musical guest at a Harvest Host in Minnesota.

A stage is being prepped for a musical guest at a Harvest Host in Minnesota.

mmm...grapes.

mmm…grapes.

A terrible country road.  I lost my rock guard here somehow.

A terrible country road. I lost my rock guard here somehow.

 

 

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