There are numerous campground membership programs available for the full-time RVer as well as the part-time RVer. While some of these programs have extensive rules as to where, when and how long you can stay at any given campground, one program that I particularly enjoy using is Harvest Hosts, where private businesses such as farms, wineries, breweries and even museums allow you to stay on their facilities for 1-2 nights with no cost to you.
How does the program work?
There are two plans available when purchasing your Harvest Hosts membership. Both are well worth their annual costs, but the more expensive membership includes the use of some golf courses and country clubs. So, if you’re a golfer and you want to stay at one of their affiliates that offer that amenity, that program is for you.
Essentially, the program works like this; for a small annual fee, your membership includes a free one-night stay at any of their host locations in your self-contained RV. Since the hosts aren’t campgrounds, you shouldn’t expect water, sewer or electric.
Can anyone camp at a one of their participating hosts?
Yes, but you will need a proper RV such as van conversions, most tow campers and classes A, B, and C motorhomes. They do not allow people camping in tents, pop-ups, cars, truck beds or min-vans.
What types of places can I visit and how may hosts are there?
Harvest Hosts features 557 wineries, 187 breweries & distilleries, 438 farms, 311 museums & other attractions and 365 golf courses & country clubs, many with spas and restaurants to visit during your stays.
Are there any hidden costs?
Absolutely not. Once you’ve paid for your membership, you’ll be allowed to stay one night free at any participating affiliate. The only exception to this rule is that a small percentage of hosts may have limited hook-ups available and some may charge a nominal fee for these services, but you are under no obligation to use the hook-ups.
However, the philosophy of the program is about returning the favor. By this I mean, give your host some business if you can. I once stayed at a wonderful farm (pictured above) that had incredible hilltop views as well as a beautiful farm market where they sold their products to the public. Not only did they let me stay in a quiet orchard a few hundred feet from the market, but they had also prepared a small gift basket for when I arrived.
The owners were extremely gracious, and when they closed the market for the day and I had gotten settled into the campsite they pointed out for me, they came down to my RV and asked if I’d like to join them for a family dinner. Since I had already eaten, I politely declined the invitation, but they insisted I join them around a campfire later in the evening. I was delighted to take them up on that offer and I brought a couple of bottles of wine to enjoy with my new friends.
The next morning, the owner gave me a wonderful tour of their farm and I was utterly amazed my its size. They had fields of squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, and melons just to name a few. They also had orchards with peaches, cherries, apples and other various fruits that grow well in Michigan.
While this was tour, the owner wasn’t above asking me to lend a hand when we discovered one of his farmhands had gotten a flat tire on his trailer hauling fresh peaches. Unlike apples, once picked, peaches need to be out of the sun and into a cool dry area to be stocked for sale. Without being asked, I gladly hopped out of the truck and helped empty the bushel baskets of peaches from the trailer to the back of the truck.
After we got the peaches safely back to the market, I was asked if I wanted to stay another night and this time have dinner with them. This time, I gladly accepted their invitation and enjoyed some of the best home cooking I have ever had.
Because I like to give back, the next morning I picked out a hearty number of fruits and vegetables (some shown above). Because I had helped them out the day before the owners insisted that I take what I had chosen for free. We went back and forth with me insisting that I pay for the goods and them refusing payment. We finally came to an agreement. I would take the produce, but I insisted on purchasing some real maple syrup and some of their homemade jams and jellies. I ended up spending $30 for a two-night stay and I got something out of it besides just a campsite. I would have paid twice that much at a campground.
That was my most memorable Harvest Hosts stay, but I have had the opportunity stay at many other memorable locations as well. I’ve stayed at museums, dairy farms where they produce wonderful cheeses, wineries and breweries, and one time, a yak farm in the middle of the Great Plains.
Are pets allowed?
Most hosts allow pets, although some may not if they have livestock and think that your pets may not mix well with their animals. Since most hosts have limited spaces, it’s best to call ahead to any place you plan to stay to ensure they can accommodate your stay. This would be the time inquire about pets, and as with any place you camp, be sure to keep you pets leashed and clean up after them and yourselves.
How will I know where I can stay?
Once you sign up for a membership, Harvest Hosts will send you all the information about their host locations, what they offer as well as the do’s and don’ts of the program.
What does this membership cost?
As I said earlier, there are two programs that while they share the exact same amenities, one allows more places to stay in the form of golf courses. The Classic membership is $79 annually and the Classic plus Golf membership is $119.
But here’s the best news, if you use any of the Harvest Hosts links in this article, you’ll receive an additional 15% off your membership fees making your charges $67.15 and $101.15 respectfully.
I have in the past, and still do to this day, belong to numerous campground membership programs. The pricier ones allow me to stay in many of their systems campgrounds for free for up to 14 days and then I must leave the system for seven days. Some offer me discounts on fuel and campsites, but by far Harvest Hosts is one of my favorites. It’s a great way to stay in the heart of America and meet some wonderful people and you should join too.
As always, my friends, stay safe and healthy and I hope to see you at a host location soon.