Couple workamping

Workamping: Cost-Saving Secrets of the RV Lifestyle

Did you ever wish you could live and travel in your camper, but don’t know how to afford it? Although camping is a wonderfully affordable way to explore an area of the country for a week or two, anything longer can become expensive.

There is a secret to being able to stay as long as you wish at your favorite camping locations, and that is by workamping!

Have you never heard the term workamping before? You are not alone.

I wrote this in-depth guide to workamping so you can learn what it entails. Read along as I discuss from my own experiences the pros of this RV lifestyle, some of the harsh realities of the workamping experiences, and how to find workamping jobs.

#1 – What Is Workamping?

Workamping

As a general rule, workamping blends the camping lifestyle and a regular hourly job into one. A campground hires workers to keep the facility running smoothly, and in exchange for that work, the employee receives either a free or reduced campsite as well as a potential for an additional hourly wage.

Workamping comes in three options:

  1. Work “X” amount of hours per week in exchange for your campsite
  2. Get paid an hourly wage
  3. Hybrid of 1 and 2 in which you work the first “X” amount of hours per week toward your campsite, then get paid for the remaining hours.

To keep things simplified, I will be strictly discussing campground jobs in this article since workamping jobs can be various, like those in oil fields, for sugar beet harvests, and even as a seasonal worker at Amazon.

One thing to note is that campgrounds expect workampers to have an RV in good condition. Although I have heard of workampers that live in tents, I haven’t personally seen a campground allow it.

Who Can Workamp?

Any adult can workamp, with couples getting preferential hiring over singles.

Why? Because a campground manager can get two employees for the cost of one campsite and this is a standard hiring practice.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re a single camper, as many campgrounds will still hire you, especially if you have excellent skills.

Workamping is also popular for families who want to RV long-term. Flexible scheduling can allow couples to trade off shifts so one can be home to take care of young children.

Some campgrounds are so laid-back that you can bring the kids along all day, or may even hire older teens for some campground tasks.

I have workamped with several families over the years. These families rave about the positive experience they enjoy with this lifestyle because they get to explore the country, immerse themselves and the children in real-life experiences, and stay out-of-debt along the way.

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Campground Jobs

Hotel in the mountains

Just because you are at a campground doesn’t mean you aren’t actually “working.” Expect to work hard most days, with some days being very hectic.

Jobs will fall into five basic categories, depending on the size and location of the campground:

  • Office/Store
  • Maintenance/Guest Services
  • Housekeeping
  • Activities
  • Camp host

Knowing what is expected in each job makes it easy for you to find the job that best suits you. This is the key to having a fun and positive workamping experience.

Better yet, once you have a successful season of work experience at any of these positions, you’ll be in demand when and if you apply at another workamping job.

Insider tip: Don’t be afraid to learn aspects of any position. Understand what the housekeepers do or how to escort guests to sites, so you can assist when it’s busy. Cross-training is crucial if you wish to make your self invaluable to campground management.

Office/Store

For those who like customer interaction, and have great organizational skills, the office may be the right job for you. Each campground will train you in their particular methods and reservation systems.

A small campground may have office staff make reservations, along with selling store merchandise, stocking shelves, and keeping the office tidy. They’ll also help guests with advice on local attractions and deal with mail deliveries for the campground and guests.

A large campground may have the phone and reservation-taking jobs separate from store sales. In any campground, management will handle scheduling, bookkeeping, and payroll.

Insider tip: If you are not a fan of rain or extreme cold or heat, choose to work at an indoor office job.

Maintenance/Guest Services

Maintenance staff, also known as guest service staff, are the people you see most around a campground. They are the ones who escort people to a campsite, bring firewood, pick up trash, and fill propane tanks.

They’re also the ones who will be mowing the grass, unclogging the sewer line, changing out a bad breaker, and fixing the fuzzy cable (try turning off the camper’s 12-volt antenna!) The maintenance staff is typically given a golf cart for transport around the park.

If you love making sure guests are happy, and you enjoy being outdoors, this is an excellent position for you. Maintenance is ideal for an active couple who wish to work days together, as my husband and I did.

Insider tip: If you have construction, electrical, and plumbing skills, you’ll be in extremely high demand at a campground. Highlight these skills in your resume and application to catch the attention of hiring managers.

Housekeeping

Housekeeping staff is dependent on campground size and whether or not they also have cabins in addition to RV and tent campsites.

If there are no cabins, you can expect to clean bathrooms and shower houses daily, and any other common areas like a laundry room, recreational hall, or fitness center.

If a campground has cabins, you’ll be expected to clean and restock them after guest departure. My husband and I did two seasons as housekeepers and found it very enjoyable, even if it was the hardest workamper job we did.

Insider tip: A good perk with choosing to become housekeepers is the potential of cash tips, as well as an abundance of toilet paper, paper plates, paper towels, sodas, and other household goods guests don’t feel like taking home with them.

Activities

Authentic canyoning expedition

An activities director is another in-demand workamping job. Most of these jobs are for the winter season and involves activities for older campers, like bingo, dances, dinners, and casino trips.

Family-oriented campgrounds may need a director in the summer season for children’s activities like swimming pool games, ceramics, or tye-die.

Insider tip: If you love socializing, cooking, and organizing things to do, choosing a job as an activities director is a great way to get paid for having fun!

Camp Host

A camp host is a designation given to those who workamp at a state or national park. A camp host makes sure guests park in the correct campsite, follow park rules, answer guest questions, and to make sure bathroom facilities have toilet paper and hand towels.

Camp host jobs usually run four months, with workers expected to put in on average 24 hours per week in exchange for their free site. The parks may list these as volunteer positions.

These jobs typically do not include extra hourly pay. They also do not expect you to handle disruptive guests (you call in the sheriff or park security) or clean bathroom facilities (which the park contracts out).

Insider tip: For those who don’t need extra income, the freedom a camp host job allows is terrific for enjoying all the local attractions, while eliminating an expensive bill for your campsite. Plus, you can stay for months at one park, instead of the normal two-week allotment state and national parks usually allow.

#2 – Workamping Benefits

People doing yoga outside

There are many benefits to workamping, which is why it is becoming more and more popular, especially among younger campers.

Reduced Camping Rates

A free campsite is the number one reason people choose to workamp. Getting a price reduction or free campsite is such a saving in cost, with the average rate for a campsite being $45 a night.

Flexible Hours

You can find workamping jobs that entail 40+ hours a week, but most range from 12-30 hours per week. You will typically be able to choose your days off, and preference for work hours (morning or evening, etc.)

It’s also easy to schedule extra time off by either swapping days with another workamper, putting in extra hours, or just asking management for it.

Campground Perks

Along with possible hourly pay, you can expect these perks to come along with your workamper contract:

  • Free laundry
  • Free or reduced propane
  • Free electric/water/cable
  • Free WiFi if available
  • Camp store discounts

You can also expect the occassional free meal or drinks from your friendly guests, as well as camp gear or beach toys they don’t feel like taking back home.

These perks add up to a lot! It’s incredible how much money you save by not having these monthly expenses. Workamping is more about what you don’t have to spend money on, as opposed to the focus being on how much money you are making.

In-Depth Area Exploration

Workamping is a great way to explore new locations with no rush. I purposefully chose workamping positions at places I thought would be a spot we may like to live in the future permanently.

By exploring the coast of Florida from Pensacola to Miami, I have found my favorite beach (Opal Beach!). I also found local parks, museums, shops, and restaurants we would have never known about if we didn’t have the time to explore each area.

Free Stays at Sister Campgrounds

Another bonus and way to explore more areas are by visiting sister campgrounds of the one for which you work. Most campgrounds are run by corporations or companies that manage five, ten, or even a hundred or more other campgrounds.

It’s common to get free stays at these sister campgrounds, which is perfect for a “mini-vacation” from your workamping job.

New Job Skills

Adventure backpacker climb

I never knew how to dispense propane, take care of a swimming pool, or make a campground reservation until I started workamping.

You’ll learn new things every day from other workers and campers, and all of it becomes a valuable asset when you apply for a new workamper job.

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Corporate Advancement

If you show a desire to learn the ropes and are a real team player, management will notice and ask if you are willing to train for a management position.

If you think you want to continue an RV lifestyle, choosing this path is fantastic due to better job security and pay. Management positions at campgrounds are typically salaried, with benefits.

If you workamp at corporate-run parks like Encore RV Resorts or KOA, you can advance quite high within the company in a matter of years. It will become more like a traditional 9-5 job, but will still allow you to live the RV lifestyle and give you opportunities to move to other parks within their system.

#3 – Pitfalls to Workamping

No one likes to highlight the bad aspects of workamping, but getting both sides can help you decide whether this lifestyle is for you. Many people find these pitfalls acceptable, while others find them complete dealbreakers.

Little Pay

First of all, let me tell you that no one is going to get rich from workamping. Pay is bad, and benefits like health insurance and retirement plans are rare.

Hourly pay is usually a state’s minimum wage. Don’t find this offensive; this is just the norm at nearly every workamping job. If you add in the free perks, along with your campsite rent reduction, the overall “wage” is much higher.

Privately-run family campgrounds tend to offer better starting wages than corporate run parks.

Don’t take the advice of some workamping articles that talk about negotiating wages, because it’s a waste of time. Even if a campground manager can alter pay, they won’t.

Why? Because they can move on to the next applicant, who will accept their terms. There are more workampers than jobs available. I know this from personal experience while hiring workers as an assistant manager during one of my workamping stints.

Insider tip: Don’t start workamping if you carry a lot of debt. This isn’t a job where you can afford to pay for daily expenses as well as knock down old debt.

Know exactly how much you need to live on to avoid financial stress. This lifestyle is about relaxation, exploration, and fun. You can only do that if you can afford to live simply and avoid debt.

Alert! Rumors are rampant in workamping circles that new IRS tax rules will strictly enforce the reporting of the actual “value” of your campsite and perks on your W-2 or 1099. Some campgrounds already implement this, and it crushes your “wage” so make sure you ask about it before you sign on at a campground.

Overworked

Unfortunately, most campgrounds are perpetually understaffed, which means you can overwork yourself if you’re not careful.

If management is willing to cover extra hours with extra pay and you want to take advantage of it, please do so. But, it’s more common for them to expect you to put in that extra hour or two with no compensation and hope you stay quiet about it.

Don’t be afraid to stand your ground and work only the hours on your contract. Help out or trade hours for co-workers when you see fit, but expect compensation in one form or another because you do deserve it.

Another problem is campground guests stopping you on your time off to ask you to fix a problem, or they knock on your door in the middle of the night because management won’t answer the phone.

Expect this to happen, because it will. It’s part of the workamping experience.

No Job Security

Instructor for rock climbing

Workamping jobs typically have a contract for a “season.” Winter and summer are the seasons with summer April 1-September 30 and winter October 1-March 31.

A signed contract means absolutely NOTHING.

Don’t get me wrong; most campgrounds honor the contract. But, termination of the job by either the employer or the worker is common and can happen at any moment.

No one has the energy to pursue legal action over a workamper contract. I have never seen it, nor heard of it, in all my years of camping.

You can be working with no worries and one day have the manager tell you they want you out in 24 hours. You can hate the area you chose and decide to pack up and go.

I have seen both of these scenarios over and over again. It’s very easy to get complacent where you are currently working, then get thrown for a loop when you have to leave short notice.

Insider tip: Always have a back-up plan. A location to camp at nearby, even if only a Wal-Mart for overnight. Have a sufficient cash reserve on hand, and the ability to pack up your campsite in a short period.

Management/Co-Workers

As much as you love a particular location, you may find you can’t stand a co-worker or the way the owners choose to manage the campground.

Frustration can mount when you see all the things that are wrong with your workplace. Either learn to stay quiet and go about your routine daily tasks or bring solid, workable suggestions to management about ways to improve conditions and be prepared to follow through on them if they ask.

When maintenance has to keep replacing a water line that gets run over and broken every week because management won’t put a barrier in place to prevent it, anger will build. If you are working extra hard picking up trash, while your co-worker chats with guests all day, anger will grow. These are just two examples from hundreds I’ve seen.

I think this is the number one reason people decide to move on from a particular workamping gig: frustration.

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#4 – The Workamping Experience

The good and the bad of workamping make it an experience you’ll never forget.

Some people love the lifestyle and continue choosing workamping jobs year after year. Some find it an affordable way to stay for a season at an otherwise cost-prohibitive campground in a popular tourist area. Some try it and decide, never again!

I have spent good months and bad months workamping but overall have found it to be an eye-opening experience that allows me to travel, explore, learn, and grow, while having a heck of a lot of fun.

I have made friends from all over and find it stunning that just five years ago I never knew such a job as a “workamper” even existed.

#5 – Where to Find Workamper Jobs

Locating campground workamper jobs is easy when you know where to look. The biggest online source is Workamper News, where you can find listings state by state of available positions.

If you become a member, you can also submit your resume so campgrounds can search for workers as they need them. This is the first place most campgrounds go to when looking for staff.

Another place is to send resumes or fill out applications for large corporate parks like Encore RV Resorts, Sun Communities, KOA, and others.

You can also google workamping or work camping jobs for the state you are looking for and see what comes up. It can’t hurt to call campgrounds you love and ask directly if they use workampers and if they are hiring for the next season.

A typical campground will search for staff six months to a year before a season begins. If you plan on working only one season at each campsite, start to look immediately for your next contract once you have the first one in place. The longer you wait, the less appealing the job options become.

Insider tip: If you are a couple looking for a position write your resume jointly, with a short skill set list for each person. Everyone should include a picture of themselves, along with a clear shot of your RV. State the length, model and year of your camper and mention if you have pets. These details will make your resume stand out and give the hiring manager all the information they need without having to ask.

Conclusion

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If you’re looking for a way to expand your camping trips into a more permanent RV lifestyle, workamping may be the bridge you need to get there.

For those of retirement-age, couples, singles, or families who want to travel yet still make it affordable, workamping may be the perfect fit. Watch this video for more advice on workamping positions.

Have you had an amazing workamping experience? Please share your story and help others who are considering the workamper life!

Product data was last updated on 2019-10-23 at 17:36.

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