Have you ever considered becoming a camp host or doing some work camping? Are you concerned that having kids might make you a less desirable candidate? In this article I will discuss some of the camp hosting pros and cons and how having kids affects these opportunities.
Camp hosting and work camping are not the same thing exactly. Camp hosting means that you are responsible for duties within the campground exclusively, while work camping may involve other duties, such as maintenance of facilities or working in the office. As a camp host, you will most likely be responsible for cleaning campsites, enforcing campground rules, and other camp related duties.
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As a full-time RV family, we had the opportunity to camp host in Death Valley National Park. This has been our only job as camp hosts, therefore, I will mainly be focusing on the camp host side of things, not work camping. However, as full-time travelers, we have had the opportunity to talk with many people that have done various camp hosting, as well as work camping. So, I will use some of their examples, along with our own personal experience, in order to inform you on camp hosting pros and cons.
Camp Hosting Pros and Cons When You Have Kids
As with all things, camp hosting has its pros and cons. Parents are always concerned about what’s best for their children and whether or not to take a camp hosting position is something to consider for this reason. Firstly, I will discuss the cons because, well, I prefer to get the bad stuff out of the way. Then we can get into the good stuff, the pros of camp hosting.
Keep in mind that all families are different. We all have needs and wants that aren’t the same as anyone else’s. This being said, I am only able to share personal experiences and those shared with me by people I have met during our travels. The following camp hosting pros and cons list is only for information purposes. Always do your research to ensure you are making the best decision for you and your family.
Camp Hosting Cons
Everything has a down side and camp hosting is no exception. There are many appealing things about becoming a camp host, but unfortunately, it’s not all great. Our experience in Death Valley National Park was really good overall, but I will share with you some of the challenges, a.k.a. the camp hosting cons.
Death Valley, like many National Parks, is in a very remote location. This means long drives to the grocery store or any other type of shopping. And we all know that with kids, this can be difficult. When you have to drive an hour or more to go somewhere as exciting as the grocery store (yes that is sarcasm) no one is thrilled. Driving there isn’t even the hard part, it’s the coming back that’s really not fun. After a long drive into town, shopping for food, and then the long drive back, everyone can be a little cranky by the time you get home.
This, combined with having to Tetris groceries into your tiny RV fridge, not to mention still having to make dinner, is a definite con to camp hosting. In addition to grocery shopping, we occasionally needed other things, like new shoes for example. This of course, meant an even longer drive into Las Vegas, which is a two hour drive from the campground. Not fun for anyone, especially the kids. Even though we drive a lot because we travel full-time, somehow, a drive to shop and back seems so much worse!
While spotty internet is a reality of full-time RV life no matter where you are, in Death Valley it was even worse (yes even worse than those parks that advertise “free Wi-Fi,” but really don’t have it at all). Many National and State Parks have very limited internet access. This is definitely a con because most of us work online or use the internet for educational purposes. So having little to no internet service is a big downside to being a camp host in a remote location.
The available satellite internet, which you can pay for if you’re staying at the park long term, is still slow. Even the rangers living in the park have extremely slow and limited internet access. This is very likely true for most of the remotely locate National Parks. Something to be aware of if you plan to camp host.
Long Term Stay
For some full-time travelers, staying a couple of months in one place is the norm, but for me, not so much. I like to move around pretty frequently. In our first two years of travel we moved about every four days, with a week being a long stay for us. We did spend a couple of months with family in the winter, but otherwise we moved all the time.
So, staying somewhere more than a week was kind of hard for me. The fact that we were in the lower 48s largest National Park did help a little though. Most camp hosting positions, at least those in National Parks, are about a three month commitment. This means no backyard changes for at least three months. I think even our kids were quite ready for a change of scenery once we finally left.
Another thing about long term stays is that I have found we aren’t cleaning as often because we always do a really thorough job on moving day. Therefore, we aren’t in the habit of doing it as well when we aren’t moving. Which means it takes a little longer than usual because it has time to get messier. There is also the outside to consider. Our “yard” gets messy because the kids are collecting stuff and just kind of spread out. Plus, we aren’t sweeping off our slides or other RV care that we normally do before moving to a new location.
The Rule Breakers
For the most part, people are pretty good when it comes to following the rules of the campground. Also, they’re usually only there for a short time, so they don’t have time to do anything too crazy. However, there are those special few who seem to think the rules don’t apply to them.
These are the campers that will make you question your decision to become a camp host. While there are plenty of camp hosting pros and cons, the rule breakers definitely fit into the cons category. This is especially true because as the camp host, your job is to enforce the rules.
It seems like the same couple of rules are disregarded over and over again. So you get to feel like you are constantly repeating yourself, but you have to keep in mind that just because you told the last group, you will still have to tell the new group and preferably in a nice way. They don’t have any idea that you have already mentioned some rule or another 27 times (maybe slightly exaggerating) that day. I do however, think this really helped the kids to see why it’s important to follow the rules and how it can affect the environment not to.
Camp Hosting Pros
Despite all the cons of being a camp host, there are lots of camp hosting pros too. We made some really great memories during our stay in Death Valley and plan to return. So you know it can’t be all bad. When it comes to camp hosting pros and cons, I believe the pros do outweigh the cons. It was a huge learning experience for all of us. Here are some of the reasons we really loved camp hosting in Death Valley.
We are huge fans of the U.S. National Park Service. There are so many incredible parks to discover and explore. Therefore, our time volunteering was very rewarding. Being able to give back to one of these incredible locations was awesome. It felt really good helping out, even though sometimes it felt like we weren’t doing much. They loved having kids in the park and participating in the volunteer work.
Teaching our kids to do volunteer work by actually having them work was great. They were told by random strangers what a wonderful job they were doing. We were thanked, sometimes multiple times in one day, for our service. I think the kids got a good sense of how important it is to do something just because you can. You don’t always have to give money to help, you can give your time and your service. It is equally as valuable.
The park rangers can’t be everywhere and they really need the volunteers. Honestly, if weren’t for volunteers in our National Parks, there wouldn’t be as many services available. The camp hosts serve as eyes and ears for the rangers. So if there is a problem, it can be dealt with and handled appropriately. They work very closely with the volunteers to make sure things run as smoothly as possible within the campground and the park.
Almost as rewarding as the volunteer work was the money savings. Not only is a full-hook up site provided, but being so far from everything we hardly spent any money. The site of course, isn’t free because you are required to put in your hours. This is usually somewhere around 30 hours of volunteer work a week depending on the needs of the park.
There are two of us plus the kids so we could easily complete these hours and have time left over to do other things. Our main expense was the gas used to get around the park and driving into town. We rarely ate out or spent money on entertainment due to the remote location. The restaurants they do have in the park are very expensive. However, there were a couple of potlucks for the volunteers and employees that we attended. It was fun and a great way to meet some of the other volunteers.
Not far from the campground is another area for other volunteers that aren’t camp hosting. In this location they provide some washers and dryers that can be used free of charge. This was definitely one of the camp hosting pros. Also, in the storage shed at the campground, a refrigerator is provided so that you can stock up in order to not have to go to the grocery store as often. It is for all the camp hosts to use, as well as space in the shed if you need it.
Meeting New People (Might Fit Under Both Camp Hosting Pros and Cons)
When you travel full-time, you’re always meeting new people. This is one of the best parts about traveling. The reason I say it could be under both camp hosting pros and cons might be obvious. If it’s not, let me explain. Meeting new people is great, until you have to say good-bye to them. Many times, as full-time travelers, the other people we meet are also either full- or part-time travelers.
When you’re camp hosting this is less often the case. Most of the people in the campground are there on vacation. They are not full-time travelers. The reason this is a con is that you will likely not see them again, whereas other full-time travelers you can meet-up with again down the road. As far as for the pros side, you’re getting to make interesting new acquaintances that you otherwise wouldn’t get to meet.
Our kids have gotten really great at making new friends quickly and easily. The campsite we stayed in as camp hosts had some nice trees where the kids built forts and played. Other kids in camp were also drawn to these trees. Which meant there were always new friends to be made just because they all liked playing in the same trees.
Another thing to consider when it comes to meeting new people is that you also get to know the other volunteers and the park rangers too. These people all have something in common with you, a love of the National Parks. Even though none of the other hosts had kids, they all loved that we did. Our kids made friends with all of them too, not just the kids in camp. So you won’t need to worry about your kids socializing, they will have plenty of opportunity for this.
Endless Exploring Opportunities
If you’re someone who loves National Parks, then you probably also love hiking and exploring. Our National Parks are some of the most beautiful, natural places in the world. Getting the opportunity to spend several months in one of them is not a chance everyone gets to experience. We were thrilled to have just such an opportunity while camp hosting in Death Valley.
Although we did have to put in our hours as volunteers, we had plenty of time to go hiking in the continental United States’ largest National Park. Usually, we only spend a few days hiking in any of the parks we have been lucky enough to explore. While volunteering we got months to explore this amazing landscape that is Death Valley and we barely scratched the surface.
Being able to spend so much time in this place gave us an even deeper appreciation for it and all it has to offer. As far as the camp hosting pros and cons go, hiking in a National Park a couple of times a week definitely falls into the pros category. It was great being able to stay so active both with our volunteer work and hiking regularly.
Consider These Camp Hosting Pros and Cons
Whether or not you have kids, camp hosting pros and cons are inevitable. There are many things to enjoy about volunteering in a National Park. Just keep in mind, there are downsides as well. If you do have kids, don’t let it stop you from becoming a volunteer. Our National Parks need our help and it’s a great opportunity to teach kids that even they can make a difference. If you’ve had the opportunity to camp host or work camp, we’d love to hear about your experience with it in the comments.