Harvest Hosts Review: Loved It, But Didn’t Renew It

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As a newbie preparing for full-time van life, I experienced an irrational fear of where my husband and I would park each night. I had nightmares about heading to dispersed spots only to find that they were full, desperately searching for campgrounds only to find they had no vacancies, and ultimately, driving like zombies through the night because we exhausted our options for a place to sleep.

Little did I know, my fear was unfounded. In the five months we have owned our van, we have yet to experience a night as zombies. However, being naive in the ways of travel, I craved some sense of assurance in a backup plan if all else failed. After hearing another van-life couple mention an app called Harvest Hosts during Project Van Life’s virtual summit, I knew I had found the answer to my prayer. If we purchased an annual All Access membership for the price of $179, we would have reservable spots at Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome sites, and golf courses around the U.S.! I whipped out my credit card without a second thought and purchased a Harvest Hosts membership.

Since purchasing our membership in March of 2023, we have stayed in three Harvest Hosts (1 winery, 1 distillery, and 1 bar) as well as two Boondockers Welcome spots. I have determined through first-hand experience the perks of the app along with the downfalls, all of which I will share in this review.

What Is the Harvest Hosts Program?

Before discussing the pros and cons of the Harvest Hosts app, here is some basic information about the platform from the Harvest Hosts website:

  • About 90% of locations are pet-friendly (usually need to keep pets leashed).
  • It is rare for hosts to offer hook-ups like electricity and water (and often requires extra payment when available).
  • The majority of hosts only allow a 1-night maximum stay.
  • Only certain hosts allow generators.
  • All classes of RV’s are allowed (no traditional pop-up campers, car sleeping, or tent camping).
  • Rig must be fully self-contained with a toilet, gray water tank, and inside cooking capacity; cooking outside and dumping gray water are not allowed.
  • Harvest Hosts suggests that guests spend a minimum of $30 to show appreciation to their hosts.

>>> READ MORE: Boondocking Etiquette: Don’t Want Your Neighbors to Hate You While Camping Off-Grid?

Now that I have covered the basics, here are some of the main benefits of purchasing a Harvest Hosts membership.

We enjoyed unique stays around the country

One of our favorite parts of our Harvest Hosts membership is how we have the option to stay in spots that we would have never otherwise found or visited. During our time in Jackson Hole, WY, we wanted to break up our routine and stay a night at a distillery with frozen slushies.

We thoroughly enjoyed the slushies, as well as a free tour of the distillery with samples of some of the best vodka and gin we have ever tasted. We doubt we would have ever found this place if it was not for the Harvest Hosts app.

We had a unique spot to camp

A Harvest Hosts membership eliminates the hassle of finding a spot to sleep at night. Once a stay is booked and the host confirms it on the app, the guest has a guaranteed spot (it is extremely rare for a host to cancel). This is also helpful for nights when we want to stay out on the town a bit later or go to a show. We can enjoy ourselves without needing to worry about locating a spot or driving down a 4×4 road in the dark.

We connected with our travelers

One of the most rewarding parts of travel is crossing paths with new people and hearing their stories. When we stayed at a winery in New Mexico, we enjoyed chatting with other couples who were also staying the night and listening to their adventurous tales. The owner of the winery was also a long-time traveler who finally decided to plant his roots and open the winery with his wife. We enjoyed getting to know the guests and the host over a glass of wine (or two) and swapping travel recommendations.

We could book same-day spots

There are hosts who will accept same-day bookings if they have the availability (which is easy to filter on the app). This has saved us a couple of times when our travel plans suddenly changed, and we needed a place to stay at the last minute. We once booked a same-day stay at a Harvest Host bar near the border of New Mexico and Colorado. It looked a little rough on the outside, but as soon as we stepped inside, the kind owners treated us to delicious pizza and craft beer. We also discovered that there was a live artist performing at the bar that night and stayed for the show. This ended up being one of our favorite Harvest Hosts stays so far. 

Does it sound too good to be true? Well, it might be for some, as shown next.

Harvest Hosts ain’t exactly free camping

When we initially considered whether or not to purchase a Harvest Hosts membership, we concluded that if we used the app at least ten times, the membership would be cheaper than paying for ten nights at campgrounds. However, we forgot to factor in that there is also an expectation to spend money at the businesses. The suggested spending amount in March of 2023 was $20; however, within the past couple of months, Harvest Hosts increased this amount to $30. This means that if we met our goal of staying at ten Harvest Hosts locations per year, we would spend an additional $300, and the total for the year would be $479. Staying at campgrounds on occasion is arguably more affordable.

Cancellations are frowned upon and can result in your suspension

One of the most difficult yet also exciting parts of planning a trip is accepting that even with a solid plan, there are times when the plan will need to change. Whether it is due to weather or simply the desire to stay in a special spot one more night, the experienced traveler knows how to easily adapt their plans, remain open to opportunities that present themselves, and be flexible.

Harvest Hosts, on the other hand, does not operate this way. According to the FAQ on their website, cancellations must be made at least 24 hours ahead of the stay. If a guest does not show up or cancels with less than a 24-hour notice on three separate occasions, their membership will be suspended for a year with no refund. That may sound a bit harsh, but there are logical reasons behind this. Hosts are out of business when the guests do not show, and it takes away a spot that someone else on the app may have been able to use.

Only self-contained RVs are allowed

This may not be an issue for some, but it is a bit of an inconvenience for us. While we have the capacity to be self-contained in our van, we typically cook outside instead of inside on our induction stove in order to preserve battery power. However, Harvest Hosts does not allow cooking outside, which means we have to use the induction stove during our stays. 

In addition, we opted not to have a toilet in our rig, which means we often rely on vault toilets or lugging our shovel and toilet paper into the woods at dispersed camping sites. When we stay at Harvest Hosts, however, we have to hold it throughout the night until we can get to a gas station or park the next morning, or in desperate times, go in our pee jug. While this usually works for us, it is certainly not ideal when nature calls.

Is Harvest Hosts Worth the Cost of Membership?

This is a tough question to answer because it ultimately comes down to what each user hopes to get out of the app. If someone is looking for a once-in-a-lifetime stay on an alpaca farm in the foothills of Colorado, then yes, the app is probably worth it. However, if someone is just looking for a guaranteed spot to rest their head at night and trying to live frugally while on the road, campgrounds are often cheaper and may even have more practical amenities (like a vault toilet and shower).

Although we have enjoyed our stays through the Harvest Hosts app, we will likely not renew our membership when it expires next spring. We try to save money to afford our nomadic lifestyle, so for us, the benefits simply do not outweigh the cost at this point in our journey. We spend most days working remotely from our van and do not have time to fully take advantage of our Harvest Host stays.

>>> READ MORE: I Live Full-Time in My Van and Never Pay for Camping

Finally, we quickly learned that there are an abundance of dispersed camping options available, so we no longer need the peace of mind that we had initially longed for when we purchased the app. We will reconsider a Harvest Hosts membership down the road once we can more easily afford to support small businesses and have enough time to enjoy our experiences at these locations.

Kaylin Zittergruen

Guest author for Changing Gears. Kaylin is a skilled writer, avid traveler, seasoned camper and road warrior, and a skilled brand coordinator.

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