Workkamping? Is It Really Worth It?

- Mary Keyser

I have been looking through a lot of postings lately for workkampers here and on other sites as well. It seems that many of them expect 40 hours or more in exchange for FHU site. Most are asking for a minimum of 20 hours per person (40 hours total) for the site, plus additional hours at minimum wage or thereabouts.


Doing a bit of quick math, 40 hours a week at even $5 an hour is $200 a week for the site. Are these sites really worth that much ($800 a month)? Seems like a lot of money to pay for a site. Sure it is not out of pocket cash, but it is potential earnings.

It is easy to see why many would rather work and be paid a wage and then pay for their site themselves. They come out way ahead compared to these types of positions.

We have just about concluded that the best way for us this next winter is to find an inexpensive place we like and either do odd jobs for other RVers, sell crafts and Watkins products to pay for the site, or find a part time position in a nearby town for the months we are there.

Working a full time job at a park just isn't what we had in mind as a working retirement. We want some time to do things and visit other areas, too, not just work for our campsite.

Comments for Workkamping? Is It Really Worth It?

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You Make Sense

Your points about hours for site are well taken, but remember, those hours for site are negotiable.

When we showed one of our employers what the monthly and seasonal rents were in the area, we were able to cut our hours of required work to half. However, the job was so much fun and satisfying, we never worked less than 35 hours per week of our required 20. It was just a matter of principle and value, but it worked well for all.

Remember that rents vary throughout the country. We have seen monthly site rates as low as $250.00 up to $3,500.00 FHU.

You are correct when you say temporary work can be found off site. Last year I put in our volunteer hours while Stacy worked for the U.S. Census. Economically, that was the best deal so far. Guess we will have to wait ten more years for that deal! LOL>

Workamping Hours for Site

We've been workamping for 4 years, and we've definitely noticed the trend towards more hours per site. We don't even consider any park that asks for more than 20 hrs for the site, which we think is still a bit too much.

Winter jobs that pay are even harder to find. We haven't had too much trouble, though, in finding paying jobs that require 20 hours or less for the site.

So far, we haven't been inclined to look for local jobs in town, but we will if it comes to that point. Good luck in your job hunt if you decide to go for it. The jobs are out there; you just may have to look a little harder.

Cheap People

To Mary:

If I was to list my hourly value, and so should you, it should be worth 10 dollars per hour, per person, per RV site. Your hourly wage is worth more than 5 bucks.

You May Be Right or You May Be Wrong!

Anonymous, it's understandable how you feel, but remember that workamping is a lifestyle that is voluntary, flexible, and negotiable.

Twenty hours per week for a $250.00 camp site may be too much, but may be a better deal for a $3,000.00 site. The alternative is to choose where you want to be and simply pay for the site and find a forty hour job in town, or not work at all.

Depending on how much exploring you want to do, the choice is yours and the options are many.

Larry, when you say that your time is worth $10.00 per hour, are you calculating net, or gross before with holdings?

Workamping Worth It?

In my opinion, working for FHU site only with no pay is like working for $2.50 hr with no tips, yet hundreds of people fall for it all the time and think they are getting something for free, in all actuality the campground is making profit off of them.

Every spring I see hundreds of workamper type (volunteer) or camp host jobs listed, most want nights/weekends and holidays out of you,for what? A $300-500 month site, big deal. Come on people, wake up and start refusing these no pay jobs and they will have no choice but to start offering some spending money on top of the FHU sites.

Do the Math


Please show us how 20 hrs per week @2.50 per hour equals $500.00.

I haven't run these numbers thru my calculator, yet, but they seem to need recalculating.

Oh yes, don't forget to factor in the with holdings.

Thanks for Your Comments

I really appreciate all your comments, everyone.

I am not debating that some places offer a much better situation, but many seem to want a lot of hours for their FHU site. Just does not make a lot of sense. Even at 30 hours a week (15 per person) that is a lot of money for a FHU site. Or at least it seems like it to me. I doubt they actually rent those sites for $600-$800 per month. I even noticed some did not include full electricity, only a allowance toward it.

Just seems like it might be a better option to work for wages and pay the site fee.

Some post FHU sites for $300 a month or less plus electricity. Surely electricity does not run that much.

Plus, you are pretty much tied to the campground in a lot of instances - working three or four hours a day pretty much limits what you can and cannot do while there. Guess maybe I am too picky, but I want to be able to come and go more and see some of the area sights, etc. Of course, some have regularly scheduled days off and that is great for those of us who want to explore and do things.

Of course, there is a big difference between what I consider workkamping and volunteer camphosting, as well. I consider workkamping when you clean bathrooms, mow, do repairs, etc., at a campground - usually privately owned - in exchange for a FHU site. Volunteer camphosting would seem like a much better option for many as the duties are lighter, hours are generally more regular and it is a volunteer position which can sometimes be only for a month or two instead of for a longer period.

I guess it depends upon how you look at things. Many see workkamping simply as a way of saving money rather than a job. I contend that your time is valuable and that you should receive value for your time. Makes me wonder if workkamping is really a good alternative for many of us.

It's All a Matter of Perspective

I just looked through the Help Wanted ads here on Workers On Wheels for this month. Some of them pay an hourly rate for all hours worked -- you get an RV site besides, for no additional hours. Others are asking for a total of 10 to 20 hours work in exchange for the site. I see one non-profit organization asking for a volunteer to put in 32 hours a week.

You are absolutely correct that sometimes it does make more sense -- and more dollars -- to work for wages and then to pay for an RV site separately.

And, sometimes, there are benefits and circumstances that make working lots of hours for a site and no wages worthwhile.

I appreciate the discussion here, and the sharing of differing opinions.

Its not all that bad....


Its not that all bad, remember, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, your deal.

We have never had a job that required a few hours every day. However, it is usually required that all weekends are workdays.

Our "weekends", (which fell during the middle of the week), were usually 3-4 days long leaving us plenty of time to explore.

When you say "workamping simply as a way of saving money", are you referring to the employer saving money? I would agree that employers save money using Workampers but most Workampers do it to offset some of the costs associated with traveling and sightseeing etc. For us, its like traveling and seeing the country for free.

Workamping is not for everyone, but its becoming more and more popular thru the Nation and as I have recently learned, its becoming popular in other countries too.

As Coleen says, "that sometimes it does make more sense -- and more dollars -- to work for wages and then to pay for an RV site separately". We have done that on two occasions and it was beneficial for us.

On one volunteer job, I did all the work hours and Stacy worked for the U.S. Census Bureau, last year the park we were at was finding business to be slow. We mutually agreed that the site and wages were to be for Stacy's hours, and I got a job as a part time BBQ chief.

BTW: in both the above examples we made more $$$ than if we worked for site and/or wages.

Workkamping? It is Really Worth It?

We have workamped for five summers.

First two in AK where we were paid for all hours and given a free full hookup site including laundry, wifi, and cable.

We then spent three years in NH at a small amusement park. We paid $250 a month for the full hookup site which included, wifi, cable, and laundry as well as other perks.

This summer we are going back to traveling again.

The right workamper job is great. We enjoyed all of it.


The Fun is Gone

I have to agree that working 40 hours a week isn't what most of us retired to do again.

Also you are right, the number of hours needed to work for a site is climbing upward. What has happened, as I see it, is there are now more people needing work than jobs so the employer has the upper hand and in most cases is finding people to take these positions because they have to.

I might as well look for a real job where I can make a decent buck if I have to put in that many hours. We started workamping about six years ago and a lot of the fun of it has gone away.

Experience Is the Best Teacher

I have learned a lot from your comments and comments by others on yahoo groups regarding workkampiing.

Some seem to feel that by staying with a routine and working for the same campground each winter/summer they know what they will be doing, pay, etc. Makes sense, I guess, but definitely limits your traveling.

Others feel it doesn't matter how many hours or whatever as they are getting a "free" campsite and saving money. Not sure how they figure that but ....

Many believe though that they should be paid a reasonable wage for the hours worked and that that wage should not exceed the value of the FHU site unless they are paid in addition to the site and the pay equals the hours worked.

Owners and managers do have a larger workforce to pull from at this time and that workforce is going to continue to grow as more and more realize the benefits and lower cost of full time RVing.

Now is a good time to start building another source of income so you do not have to rely on workkamping. We sell at flea markets as well as do odd jobs to supplement my husband's soc sec and small pension. I am also a Watkins Associate and sell those products as well as handcrafts and other items. Multiple sources of income will, I believe, help us throughout the coming years as we will not have to rely on workkamping alone to earn the necessary funds.

Workkamping is a good option, but not the only one available and we may not workkamp much in the future.

RV Space for Your Labor - Is It Legal?

Some really good comments, however, I haven't seen any that address the legality of working for space rent. I did exactly this in California and the resort manager wanted 20 hours per week. To shorten the story up, this whole situation has turned into a legal nightmare for both of us.

In California, one cannot agree to work for less than minimum wage. In this state that is $8.00 per hour. This 20 hours per week far exceeded what the space rent would have been if I would have just paid the rent each month.

The employer, by law, is also required to do all the mandatory tax withholding, plus carry workman's comp. on camp workers, which he failed to do.

This RV court manager is now facing thousands of dollars in fines and penalties from the state of California.

We, the campworkers, are unable to leave for back home as we were drug into this legal battle and have to stay for court hearing.

Is trading space rent for your time worth it? Not to us, nor the employer, in this case.

Regardless of which state you may be a campworker in, the space rent is still considered income and someone has to report this income, weather it is the manager of the RV resort or the campworker.

There is also a bigger issue(s), IRS, state and local taxes, unemployment, workman's comp.

Trading your time for space rent on the service may seem like a good deal, but, although common in this industry, does not always make it legal.

Gordon's Situation

Sorry to hear about your problems in California, Gordon. This could have effects on many workkampers in the future. Please keep us up to date.

We are not receiving pay for our camp hosting this winter. It is a volunteer position with the State of Oklahoma. We chose this position because of liberal time off and the campground is close enough to family for us to visit at the holidays. That was important this year as our granddaughter from California is planning to visit and our son who lives in the Philippines may be able to visit later, too. We wanted to have the advantage of not paying for winter camping and still be available for those visits. The work required is very limited so not a major issue.

Hopefully, this will not cause problems for volunteers, too.

Oppurtunities Often Come in Disguise.


I'm not so sure that you can't leave the state you're in, "to go back home", unless the Court has ordered you to stay. It may be required for you to stay if you are a NAMED PARTY in the suit. If you are just a witness or victim, it may be that you can respond if you choose via affidavits. Some judges will also allow telephone conferencing at a hearing or trial.

Who told you that you must stay, and how are you being compensated for not being permitted to go home?

As for the free site issue, the IRS allows free employer provided lodging if the job requires that you live on property.

State laws may vary, however. CA. is a bit different than other states. My understanding is that the dollar value of your site must be included in you gross wages. Then each pay period, the employer is allowed to deduct from your wages the periodic cost of the site rent.

The odd, but favorable, result is in the event you work overtime, you are paid time and one half of the total wages, including overtime on the cost of site.

Often time opportunities are overlooked.

No Matter Where You Go, THERE You Are!

First off, this is a great, very informative web site and blog. Having workamped and volunteered for over 12 yrs., perhaps the greatest insight I can contribute is this: What you are told up front is not, necessarily, what the employer's expectation really is.

Having just finished a 3 year stint with one of the large recreation management companies (they who shall not be named), I found that the employer's expectations and my own changed over time.

From the start, the compensation for hosting was a FHU site and "X" # of hrs. @ min. wage ($7.55, up to $8.25 this year). In an 11 site CG with flush bathrooms & showers, I got 20 hrs. and I felt everything was equitable, work vs. compensation.

This past season, summer 2010, my wife and I hosted a 40 site CG for the same company, with ten vault/pit toilets for FHU and 40 hrs. When I attempted to renegotiate the compensation, I was told that I was not being a "team player" and if I did not like the deal, I should look for a different place to work. Shame on me for not attempting to caveat the 40 site deal before I new the extent of the work.

Oh, and the hours you are paid for do not come close to compensating for the drunks pounding on your trailer at 1AM to ask where they can buy more booze or the CITIOT who smacked his car into a tree because he was going 70 in a 25 zone on a mountain road and wants you to call tow truck at 3AM, etc., etc.

We stayed until end of season and fulfilled our commitment. We are now volunteers at a sports park with a 30 hr/week commitment for a FHU site, lots of time off and doing maintenance and groundskeeping, and no contact with the CITIOTS!!

For you newbies, just accept that it is a learning process and get as much information as you can before committing yourselves.

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