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 robust
When 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 kit
We 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.
We 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.