When we started out, we bought memberships to several camping discount groups.
- Passport America gives us 50% off at certain campgrounds, but, it turns out, with stipulations at many (like no discount all of Thanksgiving week at the place we need it at a certain place that week).
- Harvest Hosts gives us free access to camping at their member businesses that happen to have room for RVs on their lots (like farm breweries!). We’ve used this service four times, but we keep buying so much beer and mead and wool each time we stay that we haven’t recouped our membership fee yet. Still trying. 🙂
- Thousand Trails is one we haven’t tried yet: we hear if you can arrange to stay at the few campgrounds on their list, you recoup your costs almost immediately, but it’s not easy to find them when you need them.
Hipcamp is what we’re using here in Brooksville, Florida, and so far so good (kinda). .
It works like this: you don’t buy a membership; you just use the app or website to find participating locations, and you book through the app.
And note I say locations and not campgrounds. Anyone with room on their land/business/driveway/whatever can list themselves on the app. It’s through user reviews that you see how legit the host is. Very much like AirBnB for campers.
We booked this spot for the week before we need to be in Tampa because this area of Florida begins the dense tourist zone. Most campgrounds are basically parking lots with palm trees and pools. You’re shoved in with “snow birds” happy to be parked anywhere as long as it’s warm, even right behind a strip mall with no nature in site.
The old guy who owns this land (he told me he’s had it for 100 years) held on to the wooded, swampy 10 acres as the town of Brooksville developed around it. The road at the end of the driveway is fast and furious, with a Walmart within walking distance.
But here we’re tucked into our own weird landscape. Abandoned trailers in odd spots throughout the woods (ancient trailers sprout out of the ground in Florida). A swamp here, a small pond there. A trailer with mystery people living in it. A couple who walk their big aggressive-looking dog down the driveway from a mystery house at the far end.
And four sheep plus an alpaca. I don’t know why.
First impressions sucked. Written directions on which tiny field we should park in are vague, and when I called the host, he told us to pull through a tight gate into a spot that had us in backwards, with the electric post on the wrong side (for any RV, not just ours).
When we backed out, turned around, and tried another entry point, we got our tires stuck in a low ditch across the drive. I was guiding Tracy from outside and yelled, “Whoa!” (my dad always yelled that). Turns out we had unearthed a bag of concrete that had been thrown in a low spot and covered with some kind of rug. And we were pushing it along in front of one of the Airstream tires (thank goodness not the undercarriage).
After we did their roadwork for them and then entered the field from another way (no gate, so unclear if this was even okay), we got in and parked.
Turns out it’s the land owner’s daughter and son-in-law (named Hillary and Bill) who manage the HipCamp reservations. And the old landowner guy ain’t too thrilled with his long-haired son-in-law. He tells me he doesn’t know how to patch a driveway or how trailers can’t maneuver through tight gates. I bet if I’d given the old guy a chance, he’d have something to say about his son-in-law’s long hair, too. He certainly had a lot to say (erroneously) about the “riots” in Washington DC and that the internet is the worst thing to happen to America.
Turns out to be a nice place to camp, though. Secluded, private (we’re the only temporary campers here, so far), and Tracy even caught his first Florida fish in the tiny pond.
We’re near several hiking and biking trails and have good cell reception for paperwork we need to get done, plus we have plenty of space to disgorge the truck and trailer and repack more efficiently in preparation for upcoming solar installation.
Oh, and Banjo thinks the sheep and alpaca are hers. She’ll lie on the far side off the trailer so she can keep her eyes on them at all times (one eye when sleeping).
So far, so good. Although I dunno about future HipCamps. I might be willing to trade seclusion for the knowledge we won’t accidentally drag a bag of concrete under the trailer when parking.