Photo: Nina Lishschuk/Shutterstock

Travel for Free as a Work Camper

Travel Jobs
by Gabriela Garcia Apr 12, 2010
Combine work and camping to save on travel costs in North America.

WORK CAMPING IS an outdoor lifestyle that can be a good fit for people who enjoy long-term camping, are interested in seasonal work in between travels, or are looking for a way to afford sustained travel.

Both volunteer opportunities and paid positions exist, but all work camping jobs have two things in common: either an RV hookup or on-site housing and the flexibility to move around by working on different camp sites. Jobs vary from place to place, but common positions include camp hosts, desk clerks, park managers, activity directors, wranglers, and tour guides.

How to Find Work Camping Jobs

1. Contact a national park

Several national parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite , offer seasonal employees RV hookups or housing in lodges and tent camps. Most national parks have their own website where you can find employment information.

2. Go through a park management company

Many parks and campsites have the same central management company that does all of their hiring. The two most popular ones in the United States are Aramark and Recreation Resource Management . They have positions in campgrounds all over the country.

3. Find work at private campgrounds

If you are familiar with a particular campground, you can inquire about work camping positions directly. There are also national brands of campgrounds, such as KOA, that offer structured work camper programs for travel around different company-owned campsites.

Things to Consider Before Accepting a Work Camping Job

1. Type of housing

The work camping lifestyle is easiest for people who own an RV. If you plan to travel around campsites without an RV, it’s important to map out the sites that offer housing ahead of time and find arrangements that you are comfortable with.

National or state parks and private campgrounds are the most likely to offer housing, usually in the form of cabins, lodges, or tent camps. You may want to ask about showers, availability of kitchens or meals, and whether there are pictures of typical accommodations that you can check out online before making a decision.

2. Length of commitment

Depending on what you’re looking for, work camping opportunities can offer full-time schedules or part-time schedules. If you plan to use work camping to save up for your next trip, a full-time schedule would likely suit your needs. Otherwise, working a part-time schedule allows plenty of time to enjoy the park setting.

Work camping can involve working in different places every few months or staying in one place for an entire season. Determining what your expectations and goals are ahead of time will help you figure out what campsites are best for you.

3. Work environment

If you haven’t been to the campsite prior to your employment, it’s a good idea to ask about the work environment. Some places are particularly interested in retirees or couples. Several sites are popular with a younger crowd or offer specific summer programs for high school and college students. Consider whether you prefer a quiet location or a busy campsite where you can meet and interact with other travelers and workers.

4. Payment structure

Some national parks or charities offer only volunteer positions along with free housing or RV hookup. Other sites may deduct a certain amount from your paycheck to cover housing or offer optional meal plans if there is an on-site kitchen. It’s important to fully understand the financial costs and benefits of each campsite before making a determination, and to define exactly what your arrangement includes.

Find the work camping setup that is right for you, and it may prove to be the ideal balance between structured life and the freedom of the road.

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