Member Stories: Tips for Hosts and Guests from an UltraHost
Since joining Boondockers Welcome in 2017, we have hosted over 25 guests and we have been a guest at 10 Boondockers Welcome sites. Last summer we worked as Camp Hosts for three months. Plus, for the last five years, we have been on the road about six to seven months per year. I tell you all of this to give you a bit of background on our experience as Boondockers Welcome members.
I’m not an expert at what constitutes a good guest or a good host. But, I think I have enough experience to render a considered opinion on what makes a good host or a good guest. Therefore, I wanted to build a primer on steps to becoming a great host and guest for newcomers to Boondockers Welcome. This listing will not be all-encompassing, nor will I attempt to be too comprehensive. Most of this material is just good common sense and courtesy.
Boondockers Welcome hints for being a great Guest
Make your Boondockers Welcome page robustWhen you make a request to stay with a host, the host has to evaluate your webpage and make a decision if they want to host you. In many cases, you will be camping very close to their house. This request is like a stranger knocking on your door. As a host you don’t know them, so you look through the ‘peephole’ and make an assessment as to whether or not to open the door. ‘Peeping’ is done by checking the guest’s Boondockers Welcome page and reading their reviews. You look at their pictures, read about their background and check their reviews before making a decision. If there is nothing to read, then this is akin to someone knocking at your door and you can’t look out to see who is there.
I recently got a request from a new member requesting a stay here. They had no references and there was almost nothing on their user profile page. For the section where you mention a little about yourself, this person said, “What do I say?”. They had no “Skills or Expertise to Share” and there was no profile picture. In short, I knew nothing about this person who wanted to camp in our backyard. Without an explanation, I turned down the request. Twice in the last two months, I’ve turned down requests due to no information being on their BW profile page. The point is, it’s very important that you make your website robust enough that the person reading it can get a good idea of who you are and what your background is. This is even more critical if you don’t have any references.
Make your stay request during normal waking hours
When making a stay request please do this during normal waking hours. For example, I have my phone set up to text me when I get a stay request. Once I got a stay request a few minutes after midnight. I panicked when the phone beeped in the middle of the night with a text message. Just be aware that many hosts have their phone set to text them when a stay request comes in.
Know the rules. Follow them.
This rule sounds rather straightforward, but given that each host makes their own rules they can change quite a bit from place to place. Make sure that you refresh your memory on the rules before you arrive. Also, don’t ask the host if you can ‘break’ one of the rules. For example, “My dog is very well behaved. May I let him run without a leash?” Or, “I know your site states two days maximum, but may I stay over an extra day?”
Don’t ask for favors or services that are not listed on the host site
For example don’t ask, “May I put some trash in your garbage can?” It would be ok to ask, “Do you know where I might be able to take my trash?” For hosts that live in the country who have to haul their own trash to the landfill, taking on the trash of several guests each month can result in more trips to the landfill.
Leave your site exactly like you found it, or better if you can. For example, if the owner offers up a water hose, curl it up nicely and put it back where you found it. Pick up trash. Pick up your dog droppings. It doesn’t matter if you put it there or not. Just police the area. You don’t want the host thinking it is trash you left.
Arrive when you say you are going to arrive, or provide updates as soon as you realize you might be late. Try to arrive before dark. Remember your host may be getting up early in the morning to go to work. Once I got a request at 3:00 p.m. I accepted the request, went out and moved my camper to free up space for them. Three hours later they called and said they decided to keep traveling. Don’t do this to your host.
Most hosts love to entertain their guests. We certainly do, as we love meeting fellow Boondockers. But, there are times that we are exhausted from working in the yards, or we simply don’t have time. If the host helps to get you set up and then leaves, understand there may be a reason they are not inviting you over to the house.
Promptly acknowledge your stay and leave your feedback. But, be careful about listing something in your review that the host may have done for you as a special favor. For example, if the host invited you over for dinner, that might not be something they do on a regular basis, so you would not want to mention that in your review. It might set up the wrong expectations for future guests that won’t get the special treatment that you did.
Show your gratitude
We always leave a handwritten thank you note and a small hostess gift when we leave. The gift is a small token of our appreciation. It is not required, and it is not expected, but that is what makes it so nice. The host often goes to great lengths to make sure your site is nice and that your stay is pleasant. A small gift and a thank you note go a long way. Think about it this way. The host has just saved you about $20 to $30 a night. We typically try to take items with us that reflect the State of Georgia where we live in the winter. Items that are made locally that you find at a craft fair make great hostess gifts. We have BW friends from Canada that always bring us Canadian products. Once we stayed with a host that had bird feeders all over their yard, so as a hostess gift we got a bag of bird feed to leave with our thank you note. We stayed with a host one time that had three or four cats, so we got a gift card from PetSmart for their kitties. The point being, the gift doesn’t have to be expensive. Even a small candle is letting the host know that you really appreciate their efforts and generosity.
Boondockers Welcome hints to being a great Host
Being a Boondockers Welcome Host is the next best thing to being on the road. We all share a love for being on the road. Everyone has tons of great stories to tell and great suggestions on places to visit. We love hosting. There’s nothing better. We live in a rural community of 170 people. Being a host is like having the world coming to your door. I’m rather certain that we will be hosting long after we have retired from traveling the highways and byways.
Like most hosts, we go out of our way to make the guest’s stay as memorable and pleasant as possible.
Here are some things that we do in trying to be the best hosts possible:
State exactly what you have to offer
Do everything you can to paint an accurate picture of what the guest can expect. Take pictures, explain the lay of the land and the surrounding area. Listen to what your guests are telling you. If they say something like, “If I had known……” then make sure you update your BW host site to reflect what that guest wishes he had known in advance. Pictures are worth a thousand words.
Build a welcome kitWe stopped at the Georgia Welcome Center and picked up brochures of things to do in the middle Georgia area and built our own ‘welcome kit’. In the waterproof box, we organized the material into the different regions around our place. Plus, I wrote a small booklet on where to find propane, where the nearest dump stations are, closest hospital, laundromats and where you can take your trash. We have a small store in town along with a post office and a bank. I’ve listed all of this in the book. Plus, we listed the TV channels and their affiliates that can be picked up locally. Lastly, I named the county that we live in for weather alerts and the exact address to use in the event guests need to make a 911 call. From time to time I update the book when I get additional questions that aren’t addressed in the book. We have gotten a ton of compliments on this information box.
Inform your guests on how to reach you
Most guests are going to have a question or two after they have set up, so let them know how to reach out to you. For example, after we show them their site I always leave them alone to set up, but I tell them to please text or call if they have any questions. I personally prefer that to a knock on the door at 8:00 p.m.
Feel out your guests
Try to feel your guests out a bit when they arrive. Some guests are simply dead tired, and they want to set up and crash. Others might want to get together around a campfire. I had a guest once tell me, “I’ve got to study tonight, and my wife is going to be homeschooling our son.” It was clear that he wanted just a place to crash. Others have asked if it might be possible to get together later after they have set up. I don’t think we have ever turned down a get-together request. But, just try to feel guests out before inviting them up to the house.
Leave feedbackWe have never had a bad BW guest experience. But, if I did I would be reluctant to leave a negative review. If you have a new BW guest and they are a bit off-base on something, I would most likely send them a private note rather than leave a negative review. Consider it a teaching moment. I have suggested to new BW members to beef up their web site to give a host more information to make an informed decision on accepting their stay request. (Editor’s note: If you ever have a stay that really went off the rails but are uncomfortable leaving a negative review, please use the private feedback button and at least let the administrators know about the issue. If we get multiple complaints about the same guest or host, we will revoke privileges and remove their listing without hesitation.)
Be sure to leave prompt feedback, as this is the best way a future host can evaluate a guest request.
I hope some will find this information useful. The last and more important rule is, of course, Have Fun with your fellow Boondockers.
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Thank you for the article. I am new to Boondockers and gave little info about myself, so I will go back and beef it up. Cheers! Jenny
Glad to hear that you found the article useful. I guess my marketing background is showing through a bit.
Hi folks, my wife and I are relatively new to BW (as both guest and host) and we found your article extremely helpful! You pointed out things that would have never crossed our minds! Thank you very much!
Thanks for sharing your comments. Very nice to get your feedback.
Great article. We just joined and excited to get going on our trip. We are long time campers but Boondockers will be a new experience.
Great to have you on board. BW is a great group of people. Be sure to drop by our place for a visit. Glad you enjoyed the article.
Recently waited until the request window for a host opened. My 5th wheel is 25′. The host states 25′ max. The host’s date I requested was available. Congenially, the request was declined. Reasons: your rig will not fit and we will be out of town on your requested date! Go figure. The host did not find it necessary to explain why his “reasons” were in juxtaposition to his profile. A week later the date I requested remains available and max rig size is still 25′. I have hosted 16 times since Dec 2018. Not probable it was bad reviews that influenced the declination. I did not point out, to the host, that his reasons are not supported by his profile and let it go. Lesson to hosts is fairly obvious. Frustrating to say the least.
It could be the host means 25′ total. With a fifth wheel, you have the added length of the truck. I’ve found there is a learning curve to being a host. I originally had mine listed as any length. My first guest had a 40′ fifth wheel. I realized after watching him enter my driveway, this was about the max that would safely navigate between the ditches. The host you mentioned may be taking similar considerations.
@Mabuhay I can understand how that must be frustrating for you as a traveler. Do you want to let us know who the host is? I’ll connect and ask them to edit the RV length. If they created their profile some time ago, they’ve probably forgotten the figure they entered.
As for the calendar, I’m afraid that hosts don’t always think to update it. And, in some cases, they purposely don’t want to, for fear that it announces to the world that they are away and their property is unoccupied. Not blocking dates means they’re inconvenienced by requests they can’t accept, but we can’t expect hosts to update it to reflect every time they’re away for a day. We do insist they respond promptly(within 48 hours) and congenially to decline if they must. And it sounds like this host did.
Thank you so much! I am having my first stays in the coming week and I don’t want to accidently be rude or mess up, as I am totally new to RVing. I was a little apprehensive to join as I have no experience, but I am so glad I did. This seems like a great community! This article really helped me know what I might expect. Thanks again!
The fact that you are concerned means you are going to do just great. Have fun out there. Boondockers Welcome is the best way to see the country! Most hosts go out of their way to make sure the guests have a good experience.
Drop by and see us if you are ever in Georgia in the winter months.
Thanks, I will!
This is an excellent posting that should be required reading for every BW guest and host. The only thing I would add is my personal opinion that it is good form to maintain communication with an upcoming host before you arrive, starting with a simple acknowledgement when your stay request is accepted. “Thanks, we’ll see you next Saturday afternoon” in a text or email. Then send an update promptly if your plans change. In many places here in the Rockies cell phone coverage is sketchy and wifi nonexistent, but please stay in touch as best you can.
Now I’m trying to come up with an excuse for a trip to Georgia just to visit the GA Gypsies!
We are new to hosting and we are the only site near our town which is a huge tourist town in summer. I’ve had to turn down two requests now and feel really bad when I do. Both times have been because I’ve failed to update our host calendar. I like to leave town on weekends if I can and it’s usually only with a couple days planning. Thinking I may just block off every other or all weekends during the summer. What’s your suggestion?
Adding this caveat to your profile should suffice. With that done, don’t feel bad if you have to decline a request. To quote Anna, CTO of Boondockers Welcome, “The fact of the matter is that our hosts are generously offering their own property for free and can decline anyone at any time for any reason.”
Au cont rare, please, do fell bad if you have declined a request as a result of not updating your availability. At the very least, explain your declination of an open date. I have now run into this thrice this summer. Today it was actually the “amenities” which were not current. After arriving, we thanked our host and moved on to a campground. Last winter – spring we hosted 17 times. We, without fail did our guests the courtesy of keeping our description and availability current. “decline anyone for any reason” is not quite the way I view Boondockers Welcome. Take it or leave it, tough luck, too bad are not, what I consider tenets of this outstanding club. I pray I am not in error. It has been a fantastic experience.
I would hope no one has to feel bad. I participate in BW because the people there go beyond the norms of politeness and civility to where graciousness and gratitude reign. Hosts should of course keep their pages as up to date as possible so prospective guests have accurate information. Available amenities should always be accurate, but I have also had the mirror image of your experience where a guest declined my acceptance at the last minute because they expected something that was clearly stated as not allowed / available on my host page. In the same vein, just as I appreciate that an ironclad schedule can be the bane of a joyous road trip and therefore welcome last minute requests, guests need to appreciate that I have an entire life going on quite apart from the joys of hosting and may not be as readily available as we would both wish.
Ann & Co. are very sensitive to anything less than the usual excellent BW experience and have always been happy to offer advice in any less-than-optimum situation I have encountered.
BoondockRavenna is right, any guest worth hosting would understand a decline, especially if you include a message. It is nice for a prospective guest to get immediate feedback though, and the availability calendar gives that.
Which brings me to another question: Once you have blocked out a date, can you return and unblock it?
I just tested this. You can if you go to hosting dashboard and edit listing. Scroll to availability at bottom of page and edit. Then click the trash can icon next to your blocked date. Confirm it, then save and exit.
We are new to Boondockers Welcome and look forward to meeting so many of the great folks here who also appreciate RVing.
Regarding the information we input into our profiles…In today’s hacker environment, it seems that there has to be a balance with privacy and information that can be used against all of us. So, please keep that in mind as we may ask for permission to stay. We are not deliberately being rude or hiding anything. We just know that there are others out there trolling sites like this that would love to get enough information to do irreparable harm. Even this website has a Privacy Disclaimer admitting to such and that they do not guarantee the safety of such information.
So my question is, what can we input that makes you comfortable and keeps all of the personal data (yours and ours) safe? Can we communicate by phone or email? Is that a workable solution? We really think this is a great site to bring everyone together. It’s too bad that the world is the way it is.
Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
Welcome! Great questions. We have been active members for three years with no problems whatsoever. I think your questions might be best answered from this article that I wrote awhile back.
The communication you have between the host and a guest does happen securely just between the two of you. However, you are correct, your profiles are public which is why we discourage use of full names in your profiles and in references. Once a host accepts a stay, you do get their phone number. So you could communicate that way once it is accepted if you prefer. Welcome to the club! 🙂
Another tip: If you don’t want to put more than the bare minimum on your profile page, you should be sure to include a good deal of information about yourself, your travel plan, real name, and phone number, etc. in the initial message, you send with your request. (These messages are private and secure.) You can explain to the host you’re hesitant to post more on your profile but ask them to please phone you so you can answer any questions they may have so they can decide whether to accept your request or not. Both parties are able to exchange as many private messages as they want before formally accepting or declining the request