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The Short Version: Boondockers Welcome is the passion project of experienced RV travelers who want to support people embarking on a cross-country adventure. The website connects RVers with thousands of free places to stay throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. Members pay a subscription fee to search the host network and request overnight RV stays at private homes, restaurants, and businesses. The vast majority of hosts on Boondockers Welcome are RV enthusiasts who delight in mingling within this unique community. By connecting people who share a passion for RV road trips, Boondockers Welcome gives singles, couples, and families the opportunity to save money on their vacations and meet a lot of friendly folks along the way.
In the early 2000s, Marianne Edwards and her husband bought an RV so they could tour North America on road trips. The Ontario couple made it an annual tradition to go sightseeing and camping from coast to coast.
Marianne enjoyed finding out-of-the-way places and scenic spaces to park their RV, and she did a lot of research to discover the best spots. As she gained experience, she began creating travel guides and writing online articles to help others follow in their tire tracks.
Over time, Marianne became a leading expert in RV travel, and she got to know many RVers in this fun-loving community. She wanted to do something to tie these folks together and help them go on adventures without spending a fortune, so she teamed up with her daughter to create Boondockers Welcome.
Marianne’s daughter Anna Maste was on maternity leave about 10 years ago when she started developing the Boondockers Welcome website.
“My mom had the idea of driveway surfing — sort of the RV equivalent of couch surfing,” Anna said. “We used her inspiration and contacts in the RV world combined with my computer know-how to build this platform for the RV community.”
Boondockers Welcome has given passionate RVers a place to gather, share stories, trade tips, and open their doors to new experiences. Singles and couples can sign up as guests or hosts (or both) to get in touch with RVers from all over the world and make many worthwhile connections.
Boondockers Welcome appeals to senior citizens, solo travelers, adventurous couples, and RV families looking for a way to go off the beaten path and save money during their trips. Instead of staying in a parking lot or campground, these outgoing RVers look for hosts in an international network.
Boondockers Welcome has over 2,400 hosts in its directory, and members can book a stay on these private properties for free. Hosts earn credits for free guest privileges on Boondockers Welcome with each successful stay. Hosts do not receive monetary compensation unless guests want to help them pay for any out-of-pocket expenses or extra services.
Most Boondockers Welcome hosts are passionate RVers who have a driveway, curb, or empty land where guests can park overnight. These individuals open their doors to strangers because they enjoy the camaraderie and meeting people from all over the world.
Some hosts have room for multiple RVs at a time — for instance, some business owners offer to host RV travelers in their parking lot — but hosts with smaller properties can list restrictions on the size and number of RVs that will fit on their land.
Anna told us that certain restaurants tend to get a lot of bookings because they offer an easy hookup and a good meal. Local hosts will sometimes go out of their way to provide travel information, recommendations, and assistance to their guests. And, of course, RVers are always sure to leave reviews on Boondockers Welcome to let others know what their experience was like.
The hosts are not required to have an electric or water hookup, but some do and list that among their amenities. Other optional services include WiFi, pull-through parking, and an RV dump. It’s free to stay with a host, but guests typically compensate their hosts for any out-of-pocket expenses, which could include anything from mechanical help to a campfire party.
“If you’re curious about the RV lifestyle, then becoming a host can be a good way to meet RVers and pick their brains,” Anna said. “You can see different rigs and see what comes with that lifestyle, and it’s just a good introduction to RVing.”
Registering as a guest on Boondockers Welcome costs $50 a year, but it can be well worth it for frequent travelers who want to skip costly campground and RV park fees. Plus, guests who agree to be a host will automatically get a 50% discount on their membership.
Every time a guest stays with a host, the host earns a credit that equates to three months of guest privileges on Boondockers Welcome. Some hosts have a lot of space in a popular area and can easily earn their way to years of free membership — but others are content to have one or two guests a year and have a more laid-back schedule.
Guests can request a booking with any available host, but the hosts have the final say in who can stay with them. Once a host accepts a new request, their location will be visible to the guest and a private communication window will be unlocked.
Hosts typically offer short-term stays ranging from one to five nights, and they’re usually good resources for RVers exploring the area. Members of Boondockers Welcome can ask questions, share ideas, and swap travel tips through private messages with their hosts or guests, and these interactions can make the open road seem a much less lonely or daunting place.
Couples can get some good local insights by staying with a host, and it can be a wonderfully engaging and fun-filled experience to meet RV enthusiasts from different parts of the country or the world.
Boondockers Welcome has a strong following in North America, and it’s working on expanding in Australia and New Zealand. The team is also developing a mobile app so its guests and hosts can search, chat, and connect while on the go.
Boondockers Welcome facilitates good people having a good time together, and its directory has led to many wonderful stories over the years. Both guests and hosts have reached out to the team to share their experience and show appreciation for the RV community.
One gentleman used to go on whirlwind RV adventures with his wife, but once his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, they’ve had to stay put. The couple are empty nesters living in a rural area, so it’s easy to see how they could become lonely. Fortunately, Boondockers Welcome has allowed this senior man to enjoy an active social life while being a full-time caregiver to his wife.
“Now with Boondockers Welcome, I get to interact with the nicest people, sharing my hill and my passions,” he said. “And it’s really helped my mental health.”
Another couple said they’ve been hosting RVers since the early days of Boondockers Welcome and have met 50 guests who have come from all over the world, including the U.S., Austria, Germany, Australia, and Costa Rica. The couple said, “We’ve had wonderful cultural exchanges, shared life stories, and made friends that we hope to see again.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought some unique challenges to people living the RV lifestyle, and Boondockers Welcome has been a saving grace for individuals and families living on the road and navigating nationwide campground closures.
Anna told us the story of one couple who was in the middle of an RV trip with their grandchild when travel restrictions upended their plans. Suddenly their daughter couldn’t fly out of Manitoba to Ontario to meet them, so the couple took a 24-hour road trip (with a toddler, no less) to bring the family together. They stayed with Boondockers Welcome hosts the entire way because almost all other RV parks were closed.
One Florida couple joined the Boondockers Welcome website as a host in 2019, and had welcomed over 100 guests, but nothing quite prepared them for the challenges COVID-19 brought. While all their future guests canceled their travel plans, their current guests were stuck with nowhere to go.
They ended up hosting three RV couples for about two months while the statewide lockdown endured. A couple from Canada stayed the longest (58 days), and got to know their hosts very well during that time.
The Boondockers Welcome platform was created by RVers for RVers, and Anna told us that team members often use the website on their own vacations. Their passion, flexibility, and diligence has made the website what it is today and has allowed the RV community to flourish.
Thanks to this intrepid team, it’s never been easier for RV lovers to get into gear and plan cross-country vacations without busting their budget. Couples can join the Boondockers Welcome website as hosts or guests to encounter folks from all walks of life and have some fun adventures traveling around the world or staying in their own backyard.
“I can’t even begin to think of another thing that I could do with my life that would be as fulfilling as this is,” Anna said. “Every day, we get to hear stories about someone who has made a lifelong friend or been saved by a host. I can’t RV as much as my mom does because I still have young kids, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can go out and really see the world — and enjoy the generosity of our hosts.”