Workamper FAQ

What is Workamping?

There are a few misconceptions about who Workampers are and what Workamping is. The most common misconceptions are that Workampers are retirees who work in campgrounds, and that Workamping means just trading work for a place to park an RV.

First, not all Workampers are retired. In fact, less than half of all Workampers consider themselves retired. With the median age being 53, it is obvious that the majority of Workampers are not drawing a pension and cannot subsist on rent-free camping alone. Secondly, Workamping includes any activity that involves the exchange of man/woman hours for anything of value.

While you won’t find the word Workamper in Webster’s dictionary, you will find it in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The official definition goes as follows: Workampers are adventuresome individuals and couples who have chosen a wonderful lifestyle that combines any kind of part-time or full-time work with RV camping. “WorkCamper” with a “C”, also our registered trademark and is just another way of spelling this unique term.

The definition says nothing about “retirement” or “campgrounds”. If you eat and sleep in an RV and you conduct any activity in exchange for anything of value, you are a Workamper! While this definition could technically include such wide-ranging occupations as construction workers and race-car drivers, you probably won’t hear Dale Earnhart, Jr. referred to as a Workamper! When we use the word Workamper, we are realistically referring to people whose activities relate primarily to the outdoor hospitality industry.

Regular readers of Workamper News know that the majority of Workampers share their talent and experience in campgrounds, resorts, guest ranches, theme parks, marinas, wildlife preserves, plus state, national and regional parks and forests. However, many other Workampers choose less traveled paths to Workamping bliss, via less stationary jobs such as utility inspectors, field reps, carnival/circus crew members, ad sales, NASCAR ushers, souvenir vendors, etc., etc., etc. And yet, other Workampers operate businesses on wheels, such as flea market/craft vendors, cell phone/satellite sales, mobile food service, mobile RV repair/service, you-name-it. Some Workampers are in the enviable position of managing their business back home, via cell phones and the internet, while they are traveling. Literally any kind of business can and is being conducted from the road.

Bottomline: Workamping can be anything you want it to be. The following list of job titles is a sampling of job titles pulled from past issues of Workamper News magazine and Workamper.com. Maybe you’ll see something that intrigues you. If not, use your imagination, and consider taking advantage of tools available to members like Situations Wanted ads and Awesome Applicants™ to find the job that fits your particular needs.

Campgrounds & RV Parks (commercial & government): Activity Director/Entertainer, Camp Host, Assistant Manager, Manager, Off-season Caretaker, Maintenance Supervisor, Relief Manager, Membership Sales, Naturalist/Interpreter, Contract Gate Attendant, Volunteer Park Attendant.

Theme Parks/Amusement Parks/Tourist Attractions/Circuses/Carnivals: Retail Sales, Ride Operator, Tram Driver, Security, Food Service, Ticket Office, Actor/Performer, Musician, Groundskeeper, Petting Zoo Attendant.

Dude Ranches/Outdoor Outfitters/Lodges/Cabins/Motels/Retreats: River Guide, Canoe Livery Driver, Wrangler, Cooks, Food Service, Housekeeper, Reservations/Front Desk, Housekeeping Supervisor, Off-season Caretaker, Grounds Supervisor, Livestock Tender.

Motorsports: Usher, Ticket Stubber, Parking Attendant, Security, Concessions, Souvenir Sales, Campground Attendant.

Business & Income Opportunities: RV park snack bar for lease, Campgrounds For Sale/Lease, Map Sales, Souvenir/Award Sales, Power Tool Distributor, Aerial Photo Sales, Forwarding/Message Service Sales.

Career Opportunities: Association Director of Education, General Manager, Operations Manager, Park Management Team, Assistant Manager.

Other: RV Delivery Driver, Utility Inspector, Campground Inspector, Park Map Sales, Field Rep, Kiosk Sales, Gift Shop clerk, Golf Course Attendant, Tour Guide, Association Director of Education, RV Technician, RV Sales, Estate/Property Sitter, Airport Attendant, Fullfilment Center Associate.

Who are Workampers?

Workampers are folks of all ages and from all walks of life who do all kinds of work while traveling in their RVs. (Some employers provide housing for those who do not have an RV.) Some Workampers are part-time RVers and some are full-time RVers. Some volunteer their services for government agencies and non-profit organizations, while the majority work for businesses of all sizes, from small "mom & pop's" to huge corporations. Many exchange a set number of hours for a site plus hookups and other perks, while others work for hourly wages or salaries. Some work for a combination of site plus wages. 

Some Workampers operate their own businesses. Some work part-time and some work full-time. Some work seasonally and some work year-round. Some Workamp primarily for the enjoyment of being active and productive, while others are motivated primarily by the income and benefits. Some look at Workamping as a one-time adventure, while others embrace it as an exciting new lifestyle—either way, they choose from thousands of great jobs in great places!

What is the number-one advantage of the Workamper lifestyle?

Freedom of Place—that is being able to go wherever you want and stay as long as you want because of your Workamper income and perks.

For instance, it takes months to fully explore places like Yellowstone Park, yet due to the high cost of living and campground stay limits, the average visit lasts only a few days. Workampers who spend the entire summer in Yellowstone leave knowing the park as well as the locals! Freedom of Place also means warm winters, cool summers, time with the grandkids, time away from the grandkids and a million other enticing benefits!

What kinds of positions are available?

You name it! The answer to this question changes daily, as new and exciting opportunities come in from all kinds of employers. Some of the more common positions are camp hosts, park managers, activities directors, grounds keepers, maintenance workers, caretakers and site-sitters. We also have calls for artists, musicians, tram and shuttle bus drivers, RV delivery drivers, field reps, cooks, tour guides, park rangers, sales people, RV technicians and utility inspectors. In addition we always have various openings at theme parks, canoe/kayak outfitters, golf courses, motorsports venues, circuses/carnivals, hunting & fishing camps, guest ranches, marinas, museums, gift shops, lodges, ski resorts, wildlife refuges and youth camps. Occasionally, we have calls for actors for wild west shows, tail-gunners for RV caravans, chuckwagon cooks, pumpkin lot and Christmas tree lot managers and a host of other unique positions.

How much do these jobs pay?

Compensation is as varied as the jobs. It can range from exchanges of an RV site or housing—plus utilities for many of the part-time jobs—to competitive salaries plus health insurance, retirement, etc. for full-time career positions. In order to be competitive, employers of temporary or seasonal workers in the outdoor hospitality industry are currently offering compensation packages (wages + benefits) ranging from $7 to $12 per hour. Jobs that include managerial or supervisory responsibilities, or require formal education and/or certification, should pay towards the higher end of this range, or even higher.

Keep in mind that Workamping involves any kind of work performed while residing in an RV. Many Workampers work in jobs unrelated to the outdoor hospitality industry. Some simply choose to continue their current vocation or business while enjoying the Workamper lifestyle. In these situations, you can expect to make at least as much as you are currently earning. In cases where on-site camping is not available, some employers will often assist in finding a parking space, or you may simply be on your own to find a parking spot.

Are there plenty of jobs available?

Yes! Opportunities come into the Workamper News system daily!

How many hours should a Workamper be expected to work for a site plus hookup?

It is difficult to use the word “typical” when describing any Workamper jobs, including those in campgrounds, because the duties and working conditions can vary so much. Workamper jobs in commercial campgrounds can include hosts, activity directors, managers, assistant managers, caretakers, etc. In smaller parks, the host or manager typically wears all of these “hats."

The average exchange is 15 to 20 hours per week for a FHU site plus minimum wage (current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour) for any additional hours. Other employers will provide full hookup site plus at least minimum wage for all hours worked. This results in an actual hourly wage of $7 to $12 per hour, depending on the value of the site, hookups, perks, etc. In situations where the Workamper may be responsible for operating the facility for an absentee owner/manager, the compensation should be increased accordingly.

When considering jobs that involve exchanges of hours worked for an RV site, hookups, etc., we recommend that Workampers use the following formula to determine if the exchange meets individual needs.

The value of the site (monthly or seasonal rate) + hookups + perks + any wages/salary divided by the number of hours worked per month = equivalent hourly wage. (This formula should not be applied to volunteer positions at non-profit agencies and organizations.)

The difficult part of this formula is calculating the value of the perks. The employer's idea of what the perks are worth is not the issue. What matters is what they are worth to the individual applicant.

Bottom line: It is up to each Workamper to be selective and to only accept jobs that offer a compensation package that suits his/her needs.

When an ad says “15 hours per week,” does that mean per person or per couple?

If the ad specifically states that they are seeking a couple, they probably want a combined total of 15 hours per week, usually 7.5 hours each. However you should always clarify this point before accepting a job. We also recommend that you also ask for a written work agreement to further clarify hours, compensation, duties, etc. If the ad is not specific about singles or couples, they are probably open to either, so long as they work the total number of hours specified.

We are thinking about retiring early and becoming Workampers. Will our Workamper earnings over the next few years affect our social security benefits?

The following is an excerpt from the Social Security Administration’s website:

“Retirement benefits are calculated on earnings during a lifetime of work under the Social Security system. For most current and future retirees, we will average your 35 highest years of earnings. If you have less than 35 years of earnings, we do average in years of zero earnings to bring the number of years to 35. Your actual earnings are first adjusted or ‘indexed’ to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received.

Then we calculate your average monthly indexed earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. We apply a formula to these earnings and arrive at your basic benefit, or ‘primary insurance amount’ (PIA). This is the amount you would receive at your full retirement age, for most people, age 65. However, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, that age will gradually increase until it reaches 67 for people born after 1959.”

Can we go Workamping in a tent or pop-up camper? Is there a requirement on what type of rig you have for these positions?

Having an unconventional rig will limit your opportunities, especially in commercial RV parks. However, there are plenty of other opportunities for Workampers in which the type of RV does not matter. Even if you are interested only in RV parks, not all owners and managers are closed-minded on this subject. Also, in some cases, housing, usually an apartment, cabin or mobile home, is provided.

When a Workamper is given an RV site as part of his or her compensation, is the value of the site taxable?

Current IRS regulations allow for the exclusion of the value of employer furnished lodging from the employee's gross income, provided the following three tests are met: 1) The lodging is furnished on the business premises of the employer, 2) The lodging is furnished for the convenience of the employer, and 3) The employee is required to accept such lodging as a condition of employment. (see irc 1.119 (b)).

Employer provided meals might also be excluded from gross income. (Also see IRS Publication 525 - "Meals & Lodging").

This means that you do not have to report the value of your site on your tax return. It is unlikely, but should the IRS ever question such an arrangement, you would want to have something in writing from the employer that indicates that you were required to live on site. You should also document the value of the site and/or meals. Since employers can also deduct these costs, both parties benefit from these arrangements.

Be sure to ask your employer when interviewing if they will be reporting the value of the site as income and providing you a W-2 or 1099, so you can prepare for any tax ramifications.  Some states are more strict about the barter setup than others.

My domicile is Texas but wonder I work in any other state for a month or so, would it cause a tax problem for me?

Since Texas has no income tax, some states might possibly try to tax income other than what you earned in their state. The only way to know for sure is to check each state's tax regulations, or ask your tax preparer. Most tax preparers should be able to give a relatively quick answer since this is a fairly common question.  State tax regulations are readily available on the Internet, usually under "Department of Revenue or Taxation.” Also, Jaimie Hall's book, Support Your RV Lifestyle, devotes a chapter to this subject and includes a list of resources by state.

To further understand Workamping and taxes, visit the Media Library to watch recorded webinars with the RV Tax Master, George Montgomery.  You may also want to check out his book, Can I Write Off My RV?  His book included chapters on domicile, volunteering, business entities, and examples of different RVer tax situations.

What kind of volunteer opportunities are available?

Hundreds of national, state/provincial and county agencies and non-profit organizations recruit volunteers through Workamper News. These include the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and nearly every state park agency.

The most common volunteer positions are campground hosts, followed by interpreters, guides, visitor center attendants, wildlife observers and caretakers.

Benefits for volunteer positions can include an RV site or housing, stipends, transportation, utilities, propane, uniforms and training. In addition, volunteers for federal agencies are covered by Federal Worker's Compensation Insurance and by the Federal Tort Claims Act. Hours range from 10 to 30 per week.

Commitments can range from 1 to 6 months, with the most common being 3 months.  Visit the Volunteer section under Job Resources to read about some volunteer experiences and review available positions.

It seems most Workamper jobs are for couples—what about us singles?

This is a common misconception. For instance, in a recent issue of Workamper News, there were a total of 450 "Help Wanted" ads, representing several thousand job openings. Only 25% of those ads mentioned couples. However, some employers, especially campgrounds and RV parks, prefer couples because they get two Workampers for one site. Parks that frequently fill to capacity are sacrificing revenue for every site occupied by Workampers.

Another point to keep in mind is that singles often land jobs that were advertised for couples by being a little more creative and persistent. If you can do the work of two part-time workers, do not hesitate to contact the employer and sell yourself!

Can Canadians and other non-U.S. citizens Workamp in the U.S.?

You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to volunteer for most non-profit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, etc. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accepts volunteer applications from legal aliens.  The National Park Service accepts applications from non-citizens through their International VIP program. The application process is explained on their website.

To be legally "employed" by a for-profit business (regardless of whether you are paid in wages or services/materials) you will need a temporary work visa, which is very difficult to obtain for these types of positions. For more information, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at www.uscis.gov.

Can Americans and other non-Canadian citizens Workamp in Canada?

In Canada, as in many countries, the government has protective rules regarding employment. The guiding principle in Canada, basically stated is: "Employment of foreign workers will not have an adverse effect on employment opportunities for Canadian citizens and permanent residents."

To this end an employment authorization/validation (EA) program has been established. This entails a fairly involved process, but in essence requires the employer to show why he/she cannot find a Canadian to fill the position. Validation must be obtained before coming into Canada. You can look on the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration website at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/work/index.asp for all the details.

There is good news, however, in that some forms of employment are exempt from this need for validation. There are two exemptions in particular that interest us: 1) "to engage in approved educational, research and scientific projects” and 2) “to permit workers to engage in volunteer projects." These types of employment are negotiated directly with the potential employer.

What kind of resume should I use?

We recommend our own online resume service called Awesome Applicants®. If you choose a conventional resume, keep it simple: it is not necessary, nor desirable, to use a detailed resume. A one-page resume written with Workamping in mind is much more effective. Information on preparing a resume (with examples) can be found in numerous articles in the Article Library.

What do Workampers do about health insurance?

There are some Workamper jobs that include insurance, but not many.  The health insurance arena in the U.S. today is ever-changing, and here are a few resources to assist you.

Some Workampers who are not self-insured, on Medicare or still covered by a former employer, will seek out some sort of group coverage through membership in an organization.  Group coverage is usually, but not always, cheaper than an individual policy. Also, even if you find an affordable plan, there is the problem that your rates can go up at any time. This makes it extremely difficult for a prospective Workamper to plan a budget.

Check out the Escapees RV Club - Review their Information Kit (PDF). It says they have Specialty programs by Escapees-endorsed vendors: Medical insurance (from health to catastrophic) Friesen-Strain Blue-Cross/Blue-Shield.

A website - www.rverhealthinsurance.com - has information and counselors you can get started with by requesting a quote.

Articles from the Medical Madame - Vicki Hanson.  Vicki's first article appeared in the July/Aug 2012 issue of Workamper News magazine. Additional articles ran in multiple issues from 2012 to 2015. You can view issues of the magazine when logged in at Workamper.com

Being in multiple RVer/Workamper groups on Facebook, here are some posts we've compiled from when other RVers posed a question about health insurance. These are postings from folks on Facebook…so we can’t speak to the validity, but they may prove helpful for you.

"Check eHealthInsurance, they found us affordable policies." (We googled this – www.ehealthinsurance.com is their website and phone is 844-229-4337.)

"We use Liberty Health Share." (Again, we googled. www.libertyhealthshare.org is their website and phone is 855-585-4237. This website claims being enrolled in health care sharing removes your requirement to purchase health insurance under the healthcare mandate.  https://mychristiancare.org/ is another one that was mentioned.)

"Find a health insurance broker in your state. They are not affiliated with any insurance companies and should give you the straight answer on how much insurance will be for your age, state, and income."

And then someone else replied with – "HealthMarkets" and a link to http://www.healthmarkets.com/ - 800-827-9990.

Health insurance-related articles from Fulltime Families blog (mentioning Altrua) - http://fulltimefamilies.com/?s=healthcare

Do employers have to cover me under Workers Compensation? Should I ask if I'll be covered?

Well, the answers are "maybe" and "yes" -- in that order. Except as noted below, Workers Compensation is the law, and there's no way around it: Employers must provide workers compensation for their employees. Workers compensation pays for medical expenses from on-the-job accidents and work-related illnesses. However, you should check with the applicable state's labor department for its definition of an "employee." It can include a full-time, 40-hour-per-week person, as well as someone who works three hours a week every week, and it may not include all categories of employees in some states (such as those who do not work for wages but receive a site in exchange for their labor). 

 

An employer's Workers Compensation policy may pay medical benefits, disability income benefits, rehabilitation benefits, and death benefits. It may also use a managed care program in which employees who are hurt on the job or become ill must see a doctor in the insurance company's network. 

 

Because Workers Comp insurance can be costly for small businesses, laws enacted in the late 1980s allow the use of "preferred providers" to curb medical care costs, a faster back-to-work process, increased emphasis on fraud detection, and better price competition among Workers Comp insurers. Each state has its own Workers Comp requirements that employers must comply with, including a menu of illnesses and injuries that qualify as a Workers Comp claim. It also mandates the level of benefits that must be provided to employees. These rules will typically address the amount of medical coverage that must be provided for each employee and the percentage of the employees' salary that must be paid. 

 

Workers Comp policies will typically provide basic coverage for accident and illness, as well as coverage for legal fees for lawsuits filed by employees for job-related injuries. Some states also mandate a death benefit and financial support to dependents. As you can see, the considerations involved are complex and vary by state. I would recommend everybody ask every employer as they change jobs. The adage "Better safe than sorry" was never more apropos.

 

[NOTE: Texas is the only state that still allows private employers to choose whether or not to maintain workers' compensation insurance. Employers who choose not to maintain coverage must notify the Commission and their employees that they do not intend to maintain workers' compensation insurance.]

Where do we get training for jobs in campgrounds and RV parks?

Most employers are willing to train their Workampers. However, if you are interested in a career, you might want to consider formal training. Check out the Different Kinds of Training for Workampers article in the Article Index.

Is there a "Workamper Glossary" of frequently used terms and abbreviations?

Please see the Workamper Glossary.

I would like information about "XYZ" employer.

To do a search for a specific employer or state, there's four things you can do.

  1. View the online issue of Workamper News magazine. Login to workamper.com and go to the Online Magazine page. Click on the cover to open the PDF version of the magazine. If you're viewing the PDF on a laptop/desktop, hit Ctrl key then "F" key to bring up the search box. Type in there a specific state or keyword you'd like to find. Any PDF viewer will have a search function, it just might be located in a different spot within the program.
  2. Hotline. The ads are organized by state so you can easily scroll through and scan for what you're looking for. Save the Hotline ads that you receive by email into a folder and you can then search back through them later using the search function in your email program.  On the Hotline Jobs website page, you can see the entire week's listings and use the options at the top to sort and search them.
  3. *Praise Your Employer. Find out if other Workampers have had a positive experience with XYZ Employer. Click on the Praise Your Employer button on your Dashboard. You can search for a specific employer by typing the name in the search box and then clicking the Search button next to it. If you find the employer has stars, you can click on the stars to get the email address of the star poster and email them if you have any specific questions.
  4. *Workamper Experience Reviews. This tool allows for Workampers to provide feedback about their experiences working for particular employers.  Then, when you are looking for information on an employer, you can search the Workamper Experience reviews to see if there is any info that's been posted.  The posts can be positive, negative, warning, or just looking for or providing additional information.
  5. *Member Map. Search for the city that the job you are considering is in. See if any Workampers are there now. Click on a Workamper's pin to see their info and contact them to see if they happen to be working for the Employer you are currently researching.

*Requires Workamper Gold membership.

Why don't some employers acknowledge us when we respond to their help wanted ads?

We understand your frustration. Responding in a timely manner is something we constantly work on with both Workampers and employers.

We mention the importance of responding to all Workamper inquiries in our correspondence to employers, but there are still some employers who do not do a very good job in this area.

However, in some cases the employer may simply receive more responses than expected, and be slow in responding to everyone. If you do not receive a response in a timely manner, we suggest that you try a follow-up email or phone call.

I'm new to Workamping. Will it be hard to find a job with no experience?

Not likely. When the majority of Workampers entered the lifestyle, they didn't have experience working the type of job they took first.

Think about any previous work you've done or jobs you've had, things you participated in, groups you joined, hobbies you had, houses/property/RVs you've taken care of - it's likely you have skills you gained from your life experience that would apply to a Workamping position you are applying for.  Did you maintain a house, take care of the yard, fix stuff that broke, etc?  You have some maintenance skills.  Did you keep track of yours and your kids' schedules successfully, organize your mail, track your finances, etc?  You have some organizational skills.  Did you communicate with customers in your previous job(s) or participate in parent groups/church groups/volunteer groups? Then you probably have some people skills or customer service experience.  Etc. Etc.  Just because you didn't get "paid" for it, doesn't mean you didn't acquire some skills/experience that you have and can use for future endeavors.

Most employers are willing to train, and understand you may be recently coming out of an industry that's totally different from theirs.  Often they are just looking for folks with a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and do the job to the best of his/her ability, and have some flexibility.  Make sure the employer takes the time with you to layout their expectations so you fully understand the job, duties, etc. and can then make the best determination on if it will be right for you.

Can I Workamp with my family (kids)?

Yes!  There are more and more families each day embarking on the RV lifestyle.  If you're not taking your "career" on the road, taking what can be considered as 'typical' Workamping jobs (like what's seen in WKN) can help support your adventure!

You may have a bit more of a challenge finding a Workamping position, but there are many Employer operations that are open to families.  The biggest question most Employers will have is, "Who will take care of/monitor the kids while the parent(s) are at work?"  Some operations will allow your kid(s) to help with your work duties, or do their own special duties, but some will not.  It may be based on what type of liability insurance and regulations the Employer operation has to follow.

When creating your resume, we recommend mentioning your family - everyone (and pets too!) who travels in your RV with you and would be coming with you to the Employer operation.  Include a photo of your family and your RV setup as well.

If you encounter hurdles with finding Workamping positions - consider looking outside of the usual campground/RV resort.  Opportunities where the provided RV site is not "on site" or in the same area as customer RVs may warrant more flexibility.

Here are some resources that we've learned about that may assist your family with transition to and living the RV lifestyle -

www.fulltimefamilies.com

www.meetthecolliers.com

Recorded webinar with two Workamping families

www.familiesontheroad.com

www.newschoolnomads.com