The act of staying in your RV in a friend’s driveway or on their property. May or may not include electrical and/or water hookups.
Moochdocking can be a wonderful way to not only save money on campgrounds but also to connect or reconnect with friends and family for memorable and meaningful interactions.
When on the road, I always try to intersperse moochdocking with other camping options along the way.
Moochdocking can provide unique experiences
For me, this year’s RV season started with moochdocking in my family’s driveway in Orange County, CA, for a week, followed by two fabulous weeks in nature moochdocking at the top of a mountain at a friend’s Kern County estate. As I write this I am at a Harvest Hosts winery in Merced, CA. Tomorrow I will be moochdocking at a friend’s farm in Lodi for a couple of nights before heading to a national forest campground for a week. Then, more moochdocking with more friends in Northern CA.
I did a fair amount of moochdocking on last year’s long, long RV trip too. Depending on your friends’ list, moochdocking can offer a lot of diverse experiences.
I have been blessed with an interesting life with lots of different friends from different parts of it who have remained in touch. My moochdocking experiences on that trip included:
- Suburban settings in Kansas City and Chicago with easy access to the cities
- On a Civil War battlefield in Virginia between Jefferson’s Monticello and Madison’s Montpelier estates
- In sight of Pikes Peak in Colorado
- On a FAR off-the-grid mountain top in Oregon and in charming downtown Cottage Grove, OR
- In the driveway of a Victorian home in Northern California’s Eureka
There were friendships and bonds renewed and bread broken at each of these stops.
I discovered how lucky I am and that I have a lot of “bookmark friends.” Some of these people I had not physically seen in decades, yet the friendships picked up right where they left off. Like a bookmark!
What if you don’t have friends with moochdocking space?
You might have more than you think.
Put out the word to your social media friends and acquaintances and you might be surprised at the offers you get. Let them know where you are traveling and when and mention how you would love to get together. And, of course, mention if anyone has RV parking that would make it much easier.
If you are involved in any clubs or communities, they may also produce worthwhile moochdocking leads via social media.
Lastly, you can join Boondockers Welcome. For a low annual fee, this company, owned by the same folks that bring you Harvest Hosts, gives you access to 1000s of private residences around the country that allow RVers to stay. Most of these hosts are RVers themselves. Some offer electrical or water hookups for a nominal fee. Others offer dry camping (free with BW membership). The length of stay varies from host to host but, unlike Harvest Hosts, it’s usually more than a single day.
How to be a good moochdocker
Guests, like fish, start to smell after three days. —Benjamin Franklin
The secret of being a good moochdocker is to not really mooch.
Never leave your hosts feeling taken advantage of.
Likewise, goal number one is to interfere as little as possible in your host’s day-to-day life and obligations. And with an RV it’s a lot easier to do this than when staying in someone’s house. You need never really invade their space.
Your second goal is to enhance your hosts’ experience where and when you can.
If you can combine these two factors, you will have standing moochdocking invitations with friends and they won’t care how long you want to stay.
For instance, when I stayed at my friend’s Colorado home in the shadow of Pikes Peak, I knew she had a busy work schedule. She went into the office daily while I hiked and had fun, but she came home to dinner on the table for her and the kids nearly every night.
I got an amazing free place to stay. She had some of her workload removed. And we all had tons of fun together in the off time, like on this visit to Bishop Castle and this trip on the Royal Gorge Route railroad.
- Pitch in and buy some groceries.
- Cook dinner (or breakfast or lunch. etc.).
- Buy lunch, dinner, drinks, activity tickets, etc.
- Do the dishes or otherwise tidy up.
- If your host has been doing all the local driving, fill up, or at a minimum contribute to filling up, their gas tank.
- Keep your rig clean and respectable looking (see comment below about Cousin Eddie).
- Keep your outdoor space neat and tidy.
- Clean up after your pet(s) and don’t allow them to bark unnecessarily.
- Be respectful of your host’s spouse, friends, kids, pets, etc.
There may be places where your friend is perfectly willing to let you park in his or her driveway but a local ordinance or homeowners association has rules against it. Sometimes, not always but sometimes, they will just look the other way. Being a good neighborhood guest can help.
As I mentioned, I did a lot of moochdocking during last year’s long, long RV trip, including two weeks at a friend’s near Kansas City, and six collective weeks with a friend in the Chicago suburbs. Both had HOAs that did not allow RV parking. Both allowed it, nonetheless, because nobody complained. At one point my friend in Chicago was asked “How long is she staying?” At that point, I planned to leave in about a week. They said, “OK, no problem.”
I am not saying it will always turn out like this, but it can. Increase your chances by paying attention to these moochdocking don’ts:
- Don’t do anything to attract undue attention from the neighbors and always be polite to neighbors. Remember Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? Yeah. Don’t be that guy.
- If you are in an urban or suburban setting in close proximity to neighbors, even on private land, keep signs of living in the RV to a minimum. In this situation, I would not set up full camp.
- If you are plugged in, have respect and be conservative in your use. For instance, don’t leave unnecessary lights or appliances on.
- Don’t overpower your hosts’ electrical grid. If you are plugged in and are blowing the power, turn things off and use less.
- Never run power cords or hoses across sidewalks or other public thoroughfares.
How you act, or don’t act, can have a big effect on your moochdocking experience.
I spent four weeks moochdocking with friends near Chicago. They all INSISTED I stop again on my way back through, and I ended up staying two more weeks. And I have a standing invitation to come back anytime I want. I also have that with everyone I have ever moochdocked with.
This is what you should be aiming for with every moochdocking experience. Be a good guest and it’s a win/win for everyone.