We formalized the process for hookup compensation, allowing hosts to indicate on their profiles the donation they expect to be compensated for any hookups used by a guest. This system is still not perfect, but it does give guests a better idea of what to expect should they require hookups, and helps to relieve hosts of what is often an awkward conversation about compensation for their out-of-pocket costs.
It seems like a lifetime ago, in the "before times", but it was only 10 months ago that we got to meet so many of you in person at the RVillage "Spirit of the Road" Rally at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. Marianne, Anna, and Carrie were all there (it was actually the first time Marianne & Anna got to meet Carrie in person!), and we had an amazing four days of socializing, partying at the Fire Birds, and educating people about Boondockers Welcome. Marianne's Masterclass on finding free camping was standing room only, and our happy hour for Boondockers Welcome members and those considering joining was one of the best-attended during the week, with so many interesting people and so many great stories! We can't wait until we can all do this again.
March, April, and May
Well, I think we all know what happened in March. The world stopped, as COVID became a real threat. Travel restrictions were suddenly everywhere, and campgrounds started closing, leaving many full-time RVers or RVers far from home stranded. Luckily, Boondockers Welcome hosts lived up to their reputation of going above and beyond. We had over 100 new hosts sign up in a single month, a record at the time, all to help RVers who found themselves stuck. Some of the stories we heard include:
- Snowbirds who traveled 2,000 miles in 4 days to get home across the country and found a safe haven each night with a Boondockers Welcome host.
- Grandparents who had to travel 1,200+ miles with their one-year-old granddaughter to get her safely home to her mom. They opted to travel by RV instead of flying because it felt safer and stayed with Boondockers Welcome hosts the entire way.
- Members who turned to us when another membership organization they belonged to closed all their parks.
- Hosts who signed up to help stranded RVers and now plan to use the service when they travel in the future.
- Hosts who welcomed guests from overseas to stay for weeks to shelter in place, where they eventually became more like family.
While many people stayed with our hosts when there were few other options, we know that many others were hunkering down at home and unable to travel at all. So in April, we extended all guest memberships by 3 months.
Meanwhile, RVs began to serve another purpose - providing a safe place for frontline healthcare workers to live where they could isolate and keep their families safe from COVID. We were happy to work with RVs4MDs to try and find hosts who could provide space for donated RVs for frontline workers.
Unrelated to the pandemic, in April we also introduced the ability for hosts to share their reward credits. Some of our hosts have more banked credits than they could ever use in a lifetime, so this was another way that we could thank them for being the backbone of our organization.
June, July, August, September, and October
While the COVID-19 pandemic continued (and still continues) to rage on, it became apparent that people's mental health needed some attention. So when the weather allowed, they started flocking to RVing for the opportunity to travel safely without the need for crowded airplanes, questionably clean hotel rooms, or restaurants full of unmasked people eating. We released guidelines for our hosts and guests to ensure that everyone was as safe as possible, and we had an amazing summer with hosts and guests just happy to be able to enjoy the outdoors and a safe visit with new friends around a campfire.
It was indeed the summer (and fall!) of the RV, and the mainstream media thought Boondockers Welcome was pretty awesome - we got a lot of big-name press, including mentions in The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine and a full feature in Travel + Leisure.
November and December
While November and December are usually our slowest months, we've still seen a significant influx of new members, with people planning to continue to RV as the safest way to explore. And we're excited that in November we launched the Beta release for our new mobile app! We've got a select group of members who are helping us squash all the bugs before we release it to everyone, but we're very excited to let you know that it's almost ready!
What to look forward to in 2021
- Vaccines! Okay, this clearly has nothing to do directly with us, but that doesn't stop us from being the number one thing we're excited about. While we're happy to see RVing become so popular, we're still looking forward to the day when we can all travel again without worry and controversy.
- The full launch of our mobile app. Look for it on Android and iOS in early 2021, and if you want to be the first to know when it's available, sign up for our mobile app notification mailing list.
- Some really exciting news will be coming out soon about new ways we will be helping to protect hosts and guests. Keep your eyes open for an announcement in January!
- We're working to expand our host base in Australia, so once we're finally done with this pandemic, you can start planning your Boondockers Welcome trip of a lifetime Down Under!
- The 3rd season of The RVers starts airing on Discovery on May 15th. We've really enjoyed being sponsors for this great show, and you'll definitely want to tune in for a feature in the 3rd season all about alternative camping options, including an interview with some experts from Boondockers Welcome!
We look forward to sharing whatever 2021 has in store with all our members, thanks for being with us for the crazy ride so far!