Volunteering can be a learning experience, rewarding and a great way to save money for the fulltime RV’er. Throughout the country and Canada there are public lands and campgrounds regularly looking for volunteers with RVs to help in exchange for a free campsite. There are a variety of opportunities available, many of which provide the volunteer with a unique and usually fun experience. The work is easy and the hours not too demanding. Some parks require little as 20 hours per couple a week, while National Parks often require 32 hours per person. In general expect 40+ hours per couple and a 3 month commitment.
Campground Hosting is the most common and available volunteer position. Host duties vary between parks. Most include campsite clean up, selling firewood, prompting campers to observe rules, and some mix of other maintenance or administrative duties. Some campground hosts positions can feel like a 24/7 job, since you are often the first person campers come to with an issue. It is very important to discuss and be clear about the duties with the volunteer coordinator prior to accepting the position. If something is not clear or sounds strange ask for clarification.
Interpretive Volunteering opportunities are available at historical sites, lighthouses, Fish and Wildlife and others. After a brief training, volunteers will conduct tours and provide information about the site. These usually include time at a visitor center and/or gift shop. RV accommodations are at either a nearby campground or somewhere on site. Unlike campground hosts, when you are back at your site you are 100% off duty. Interpretive Volunteering is a great way to do something tailored to your interests.
There are a few ways to find RV friendly volunteer jobs. The first and easiest is to browse Volunteer.gov. This website lists positions from around the country, and once you have signed up is very easy to use. However, this site only lists a fraction of the opportunities available. In some cases these are the less than cherry jobs, and you will be competing with other applicants. Another way is to contact a park directly and ask if they have a volunteer program and if there are openings. This is best if you want to work at a specific park. Another way is to pick a region or area, and find out what is there i.e. state or municipal parks, Fish and Wildlife etc., and contact them via e-mail from contacts given on their website. We have had a lot of success with this method though it is research intensive and one needs to know their way around the internet. Most public parks and lands are looking for volunteers so it never hurts to contact them. In our experience follow up and persistence is almost always necessary, or you will end up at the bottom of the pile or a forgotten e-mail.
There is really no best time to apply for a volunteer position. When we first started I secured positions up to a year in advance. We have found this unnecessary and can be limiting as travel plans and timing changes. Yet for the most coveted jobs it may take a year or more to get in, i.e. Florida Keys during winter. On the flip side we recently were able to find a great position at a lighthouse only a few weeks out. We also receive phone calls somewhat regularly from people who need someone ASAP.
It is best to be thorough upfront with your questions. Always find out about the hook ups and amenities. Most positions do provide full hookups, but some in more remote places may not but try to be accommodating in other ways. It is important to find out about things like the laundry and shower situation, where is the RV spot located, how far is the grocery store, what sort of documentation is needed, physical requirements, how many other volunteers will be sharing duties (more the better), is there WiFi or connectivity, how do I get to the volunteer site, is it noisy or a party place, etc. Remember this is a volunteer position, if does not work out, your home has wheels for a reason and the option is always there to leave.
In the end we have found that many people tend to return year after year to volunteer positions they enjoy. Returning volunteers always receive preferential treatment, and for them it is comfortable and easy to come back to a place where they already know what to expect. Again, each place is different and there will be a learning curve, and systems and personalities that will take some getting used to. Volunteering most of the time is fun and stress free, and great way to really experience a place for a few months cost effectively.
If you have any questions about Volunteering for RV’ers, feel free to contact us through our blog, Facebook or e-mail.