Right now, travel is all about the sharing economy. Airbnb popularized the idea of crashing in a stranger’s house. Spin-off sites like FreeHouse and Hipcamp took the concept further, targeting road trippers in search of off-grid and rustic accommodations respectively. Harvest Hosts is reinventing it yet again by inviting travelers to stay at vineyards, breweries, and farms around the country for next to nothing.
Harvest Hosts boasts a growing network of more than 600 “campsites” around the United States. All are situated amid one-of-a-kind surroundings like lavender farms, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, craft breweries, and local vineyards. The thrust of the site is not merely about finding cheap accommodations. Instead, the focus is on fostering connections with local people and businesses — about sharing in the fruits of their and, if you care to participate, your labor.
Serial entrepreneur Joel Holland recently bought the company. After a short but successful career in the online media licensing world, the young CEO decided to try his hand at something new and entirely different. Holland is an avid road trip fan but found traditional campgrounds to be noisy, cookie-cutter, and overcrowded. In Harvest Hosts, he saw something markedly different:
“My mission with Harvest Hosts is simple: RVing provides a sense of ultimate freedom, which most people seek and not enough find. We can help a lot of people live happier lives if we can get them off of the couch and onto the open road. From sleeping under the stars at a vineyard in California to enjoying a picnic at an alpaca farm, members of Harvest Hosts get to stay at a 5 billion-star ‘hotel’ at more than 600 locations for free.”
Most bookings are handled through the company’s free mobile app and the entire system works like most other sharing economy websites. Every user is provided with a dedicated profile page where they can upload photos, share a bit about themselves, and outline any relevant personal details. Travelers can leave feedback about their respective hosts and vice versa.
There are a few minor catches. The most important is travelers are expected to arrive in their own, self-contained rigs, whether that means in an ultra-light travel trailer, a van/SUV, or a mega-RV. Hosts provide only the space to park, meaning there are no traditional campground utilities (electricity, water, cable) of any kind. Also, stays can only be booked one night at a time. Although, it’s easy to imagine travelers can discuss additional nights with property owners once they arrive.
What a gorgeous photo from Mark H. taken at a Host winery in NC! It has been chosen as July's Photo of the Month and will appear here as the cover photo. Members can find the location in the July newsletter.
Membership requires a flat annual fee of just $49 and there are no per-stay fees. However, the site recommends travelers support their host establishments in a meaningful way ($20 is a solid guideline). That means grabbing a six-pack at a brewery, a bottle of Cabernet at a vineyard, or a basket of cheese and fresh produce at a Harvest Hosts farm.
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