Wednesday, February 1, 2023


Reduce annual campground fees by camp hosting and volunteering

Here’s a question from a reader of about boondocking. 

Hi Bob,
We’ve been boondocking in the Midwest for a couple years and are going fulltime in the spring of 2019. Other than visiting parts of the country that we have never been to, we would also like to balance boondocking (where possible) with other inexpensive choices in order to keep our operating expenses within our budget. What is a good approach to achieve this balance? —Alice and Doug

Hi Alice and Doug,
You’ve already made a good start by having a budget. As you know, having a budget enables you to balance your camping expense by making choices such as whether to search for a boondocking spot and stay to enjoy and explore the area with no campground expense, or to stay in an RV resort. But in some areas, such as near large cities or popular destinations, a pricey RV resort or campground may be the only choice. You can reduce these expenses, for instance, by staying in a national forest or on BLM land (where campsite rates are much lower or even free when boondocking) outside the large and more expensive national parks and making day trips into the park.

Another choice would be to take camp hosting and volunteering positions in the areas that you want to visit. By performing a certain number of hours working in a campground (collecting camping fees, cleaning up after campers, being the “official” presence, etc.) you will save the campsite fee and have your off-days and hours to do what you want. A lot of fulltime RVers take these positions for a month or a season and enjoy meeting other campers from across the country.

More tips

  • When you check into a campground ask whether they have a seniors rate or discounted rates for longer stays.
  • Check with rangers in public campgrounds whether you can trade your skills or labor for a free night or two.
  • Check for state park and other reduced off-season rates before you move on. Maybe where you are headed has lower rates that kick in a week or more away, in which case you could stay a few extra days where you are before moving on.
  • If you haven’t already done it, add amenities such as solar panels and extra house batteries to your rig to enable longer boondocking stays. Also carry extra 5-gallon jugs of drinking water.
  • Talk to other boondockers and visit RV forums for their ideas on how to accomplish your goal. You will find most RVers happy and willing to trade their secrets.

Read more about boondocking at my BoondockBob’s Blog.
Check out my Kindle e-books about boondocking at Amazon.

Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) .



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4 years ago

The rising costs of RVing (site costs, reservation fees, etc.) have made volunteering a mainstay of our travel. Our latest trip from east coast to west coast would not have been possible had we not spent a few months volunteering (i.e. free camp site) which allowed a few months of retirement checks to build back up before getting back on the road.
Financial reasons aside, we have volunteered from our first post-retirement trip because we love doing it. But for those thinking they cannot afford the rising costs, it is a realistic option.

What we found is that many of our national/state parks would likely have to close without the use of volunteers. Diminishing budgets and more demands by RVers for amenities that those parks were never meant to have are putting a real strain on these treasures. The small area in which we worked last year said their seasonal volunteers amounted to 15 full-time equivalent employees! Multiply that by the number of public campgrounds and you can see that those who want to continue to use these parks may need to “give back” in order to “come back” in the coming years.

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