By Audrey Lynch
Becoming a Great UpClose Host
Introduction: Hosting for UpClose can be rewarding not only for you financially but also experientially - whether it is the chance to help others explore your community from the local level or getting to know new neighbors from across the nation (and the world). However, if you don’t know much about RVs then here are a few things to help you prepare for your guests. In the next few paragraphs, we will give you some tips to help you properly prepare for your guest.
The Basics: You have a lovely camping spot so let’s make sure that travelers can use it! First things first, we need to make sure that there isn’t anything between your property and the interstate that would prevent travelers from safely getting to you. This means giving good directions from the main accesses to your property. These include:
• Low and narrow overpasses or bridges. The clearance for these can be as low as 10 feet making them impassable for many of the larger RVs as they are up to 14 feet tall. Also, consider any constriction points along the route that a larger vehicle may have to worry about like one lane roads or bridges. Is there an alternate route they could take to go around the bridge?
• Rough or Winding Routes: Is the route to your place very bumpy or rough; or does it have any significant dips or bumps? This may be hard on the longer motorhomes or on trailers that could bounce around causing them to swing back and forth and hit something or someone. Dips or bumps can cause RVs to clip their front bumpers, tow hitches, or scrape their undercarriage. Will the driver need to make a sharp, tight turn, or have to navigate a narrow space (especially one surrounded by trees, fences, or some other object)? Consider measuring the span of this distance to help the driver know just how much space they will have to work with.
• Steep Grades: What about hills, mountains, or steep grades? It is hard work for an engine to pull as much as 40,000 pounds up a hill. Is there a gentler path that could be used even if the route is a little longer?
At the Site: Now let’s talk about your property a little. You are confident they can find your place but now think about where you want to park them. Some of the same considerations that you just thought about with regards to getting to your property will be valuable to you here also and you will want to mention them in your listing. These are:
• Space - Length and width: RVs and Travel trailers come all shapes and sizes - anywhere from a 6-foot trailer to a 55-foot land cruiser. So, you need to determine how much room you have and what size vehicle you can accommodate. It might be best to utilize a tape measure to determine the length and width your property can accommodate. By law vehicles that travel the roads are 8 – 8.5 feet wide (or 96 – 102 inches). This is the driving width with the slides and awning(s) retracted and does not include the side mirrors, retracted awning housings, turn signals or exterior lights, handholds, safety equipment, solar panels, or other exterior attachments. When parked you will find that RVs unfold and expand in many ways, (a bit like origami), stairs will come down, handrails will fold out, slides will extend, and awnings unroll. For comfort, there needs to be enough walking space around the RV so that people do not have to turn sideways to inch past the slides or stairs without hitting their shins and to allow storage compartments to be opened and accessed comfortably. Make sure you take these factors into consideration when you are designating a space for your guest. Finally, consider where your guest will park their towing vehicle or dingy (this is an additional trailer that many RVers use to haul their personal cars around). Do you have additional parking? Do they need to remain hooked up?
• Overhead Clearance: Look for trees or branches, power lines, signs, street lights, or any other object (natural or otherwise) that may impede your guest’s ability to get into the site. Motorhomes and travel trailers can easily be up to 14 feet tall and the top of the RV or the rooftop A/C units can easily be damaged by building overhangs, low power lines, or tree branches. Make sure your driveway and the camping area are free and clear of any overhead obstructions.
• Space to Navigate – if an RV is able to pull straight into the camping spot and then drive away that is called a pull through site. If an RV has to back in or out of the spot, there will need to be plenty of room for the motorhome or travel trailer to navigate and make as wide of a turn as necessary. Because of their length most RVs have to swing over to one side before attempting to turn in the direction they desire to go or they will run over curbs or flowerbeds, or into fire hydrants, signs, or any other roadside objects. When a motorhome or travel trailer makes a turn, the back end will swing out in the opposite direction; this is called “Tail Swing” and can easily be a distance of 30 inches or more. As a host you may want to consider staying in communication with your guest and be available when they arrive to assist with parking.
• The Ground itself: Generally, you are looking for a level piece of ground or pavement that will accommodate the vehicle. Motorhomes have less of an ability to tolerate a sloped area than travel trailers do. However, for general planning purposes, you really don’t want a slope that is any more than a 1-foot rise or drops over the course of half the length of a trailer. So, for a 30ft trailer, your slope should not be more than a 15:1 ratio (this is because the wheelbase is generally in the middle). Also, as we are discussing the ground make sure that the site is firm; soggy spots will only lead to potential ruts and stuck guests.
• The Parking Area/Surface: When choosing a location, it is important to make sure that the area is firm and drains well even during frequent or heavy rains. Depending on what size RVs you are hosting they could weigh more than 40,000 pounds and that weight will be distributed over a few tires, jacks, and the tongue. If the area is soft it would be easy for any vehicle - but especially a larger one - to settle into the ground. This can be prevented by making sure the area stays well drained and/or providing something to distribute the weight of the vehicle over larger areas – such as plywood boards to put under the jacks and tongue and maybe even the tires. Be mindful of where downspouts send their runoff and where any puddling naturally occurs in your yard.
• Here are a couple things to consider for some of the most common types of parking surfaces:
• Grass: the easiest surface to start with as you probably already have this! Things to note: if you rent your spot frequently or for long periods of time you will most likely end up with a path worn through your grass and ruts in your yard from the weight of the trailers compacting the earth where they park. If the grass is not given time to recover between renters you could end up with a bare spot as the grass dies off. Its best to keep the grass in this area well mowed so that it retains as little moisture as possible and would be wise to consider keeping some extra plywood boards on hand in case it rains and your renters start sinking.
• Mulch: Not a good option even though it is affordable. Mulch and woodchips retain moisture and do not compact to make firm footing, they are slick when wet and as they decompose they create a soft layer of soil.
• Gravel/Crushed Stone: It will assist with water drainage and keeping the area firmer. If you have a softer soil consider digging down and starting with a few inches of larger rock and then topping that with the gravel. It’s cheaper than pouring concrete and it won’t crack. If you’d like to make sure it doesn’t spread around your yard consider sinking some railroad ties around the parking area to contain the gravel.
• Blocks/Pavers: Easier to install than concrete and some consider this option more esthetically pleasing than other options. Pavers are thinner than concrete blocks and are more likely to crack, unless you use an interlocking option. The great thing is both blocks and pavers are fairly easy to replace and provide a pretty firm surface to park on.
• Asphalt/Concrete: this is the priciest and most permanent option, but also the easiest to maintain as long as it is installed correctly so that it doesn’t crack under the weight of an RV. When it is poured, make sure that the slab is level but topped with a slight crown so that the water runs off and doesn’t pool under the tires.
• ***A note about Asphalt: while its darker color hides oil leaks and stains better, it does tend to absorb the heat making it harder to cool a vehicle that is parked on it. It also softens at higher temperatures allowing jacks and tires to sink into it and leave impressions. If you have asphalt and live in a warmer climate it would be good to keep some plywood on hand to go under the jacks and tires.
• Whichever option you choose, remember to keep the area well drained and as firm as possible – if not you might get to experience the adventure of watching a stuck RV being towed.
• Visibility – when driving a motorhome or travel trailer there are plenty of blind spots and reduced visibility; when backing up this greatly increases – sometimes a large section of one side of the RV is no longer visible to the driver from the mirrors. Try to keep the campsite free and clear of as many obstructions as possible. Decorative signs and pretty flowers give a nice welcoming feel but can easily slip out of the line of vision and end up crushed. Things like trash bins and picnic tables need to be a couple feet away from the parking zone (remember that tail swing) - these items can always be pulled up closer to the RV after it is parked. When backing into a spot the driver is very focused and attuned to the movement of the RV and might get in and out of the vehicle several times to check how the parking is progressing; children and pets are normally excited to greet new visitors but please keep them back a safe distance until you are sure the driver has finished parking.
• Electricity: Most RVs will have a battery or generator if you do not have an electrical hookup option. Homes typically have an outside 120v outlet. If you are able to offer some kind of electrical hookup this could come in the form of access to a standard exterior wall outlet with 120V, a 30-amp outlet (larger in size than a regular outlet and accepts 3 prongs) or a 50-amp outlet (utilizes 4 prongs). The more common size motorhomes and trailers run on 30 amps but the larger motorhomes and trailers with 2 A/C units, full size appliances, and luxury items like entertainment centers and washers and dryers will need 50 amps to be able to run everything. Even if you only have 120V to offer, this will help extend the life of your renter’s battery and allow them to run a few small appliances. Possibly keep an extra outdoor extension cord on hand to loan to them in case they forget to pack one.
• ***A special note: even if you don’t intend to provide electrical hookups year-round seriously consider offering them during colder weather for RV owners to plug electric heat cables or heat tape into to keep their pipes from freezing. Just like your house pipes can freeze and burst, so can the motorhome or travel trailer pipes – and no one wants a burst black water (sewer) pipe! The heat cables or tape usually use 120v or 240v and can plug up into your standard exterior wall outlet.***
The below chart is a general reference for your planning purposes. It is a general guide. Recreational Vehicles and Travel Trailers come in many shapes and sizes. The more information you provide in your UpClose host listing the easier you will make it on the traveler.
Finally, thanks for your consideration of becoming a host with us. We are here to help guide you through the process. Feel free to email or call us if you have questions.
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