Jan 212013

One of the most popular and well attended seminars I presented at Life on Wheels and RV rallies across the country is Work Your Way Across the USA, which was based upon my book by the same name.

Workamping in an RV park can be interesting and can help you save some money in camping fees. However, as I always say in my seminars on working on the road, if your goal is to make the most possible money in a given time period, often you would be better off to rent a site in an RV park on a monthly basis and get a job at the local Home Depot or a restaurant in town. RV park wages are just not that good in most cases.

We know many RVers who work in RV parks around the country to offset their traveling costs. Typically, they work a set number of hours per week in exchange for a free RV site, and any hours over those agreed upon for the site are paid at an hourly wage. Some workamping RVers return to the same campground to work every season, while others prefer to move about and see new places.

But if you want to do something a little bit different and still earn money, there are many, many opportunities out there to make money and have fun that don’t involve cleaning bathrooms in an RV park, serving French fries in a fast food restaurant, or working in retail stores. About three years ago I published a blog on alternatives to working in RV parks, so today I thought I’d update it and add some new information with some jobs that RVers we know have done that you may never have thought of.

Gate Guarding – Many RVers we know are making $125 or more a day as gate guards at oil and gas wells from Texas and Louisiana to North Dakota. Their job is to check in and out all vehicles coming to the drilling site and they live in their RVs at the gate. The company provides a diesel generator, fresh water, and dump services. Some gates are manned 12-14 hours a day and can average 60 – 80 vehicles a day. Others require guards to be on duty 24 hours a day and the RVing couple split the hours. We have heard of a very few gate guards who work really busy gates making nearly $700 a day, but they can expect to deal with as many as 700 vehicles a day.

Beet Harvest – We have known several RVers who have worked the sugar beet harvests in places like North Dakota and Minnesota. Jobs include everything from driving trucks to sorting the beets when they arrive at warehouses. One website on the sugar beet harvest claims that some workers make as much as $7,000 in a month or less.

Mall Kiosks – During the holiday season companies like Sees Candies and Hickory Farms hire lots of people to work their kiosks in shopping malls and it’s a popular temporary job for RVers.

Canoe & Kayak Tour Guide – From the Florida Keys to Michigan’s wild Upper Peninsula, canoe and kayak liveries are busy all season long introducing tourists to the joys to be found on the water. It’s a great job for RVers who want to make some extra money and spend the summer (or winter) paddling.

Working For Amazon – During the Christmas rush, online retailer Amazon.com hires many RVers to work at their three fulfillment centers around the country. The last I heard, the wage was over $12 an hour plus bonuses, with overtime available.

Dealing Blackjack – The gaming industry, in places like Las Vegas, Reno, and Laughlin, Nevada, provides many working opportunities for RVers. Jobs range from dealing blackjack to working as a customer greeter in casinos.

RV Show Vending – There is an entire subculture in the RV world of vendors who work RV shows and rallies nationwide. Some are entrepreneurs who sell products they carry or that they create, while others are paid a salary or commission to work the RV circuit for companies selling all sorts of products. Some vendors also work dog shows, horse shows, gun shows, and other events.

Driving Tour Bus – From Alaska to the Grand Canyon to Florida, tourist areas provide many employment opportunities for RVers. Driving tour buses, ranging in size from extended length vans to full sized coaches, is a good way to make money while spending time in places where tourists pay big bucks to visit.

Fish Cannery – This is hard, dirty, smelly, physically demanding work, but one fulltime RVer we know spends a full summer in Alaska working long hours at a fish cannery, and he tells us he makes enough in a season to pay for two years of fulltime RV travel.

Working The NASCAR Circuit – Every race car driver, from the superstars to the new guy in the pits, have somebody selling souvenirs with their names and car numbers on them. We’ve met a couple of RVers who tow a vending trailer behind their motorhomes and follow the circuit selling souvenirs to racing fans.

Selling Christmas Trees – This is obviously a seasonal job and is hard physical work, but we have known many RVers who sell Christmas trees on lots across the country and several have told us that they have made $8,000 or more in less than a month. Many times the same companies who hire RVers to sell Christmas trees hire them to sell fireworks for the Fourth of July and Halloween pumpkins on the same lots. One couple we know made about $7,000 in two weeks selling fireworks this past summer.

Horse Wrangler – I make it a point never to ride anything you can’t put gasoline in, but if you are an equestrian fan and are comfortable in a saddle, you may find work as a horse wrangler, leading trail rides at one of the many dude ranches in the Southwest. The pay usually isn’t top dollar, but tips can be good and if you love horses, it’s your chance to get paid for playing cowboy (or cowgirl).

Gas Line Survey – For several years now here has been an ongoing thread on the Escapees working on the road forum about working as a gas line surveyor and the RVers we have talked to who have done this work all say that it’s a great way to make good money and get a lot of exercise in the process.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on ways you can make money with your computer as you travel.

For more ideas on making money as you travel, check out my Working On The Road web page. What are some of the ways you have earned money on the road?

Thought For The Day – The trouble with some women is that they get all excited about nothing, and then marry him.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  24 Responses to “Working Without Workamping”

  1. Don’t forget Sitemaps for Campgrounds. Can earn at least $1000.+ week

  2. Hi Nick. Here’s another one for you 🙂 We summer near the kids and while there I sell RV’s for a local RV store. They have a staff of close to 100 and at least 20 of us work summers and disappear in the fall.
    RV dealers need extra knowledgeable staff in their busy season and love the fact that we can’t wait to move on when they don’t need us.

  3. We looked at work camping at campgrounds but the amount of work for the monthly site is way below minimum wage. As you said you would be better off working as a greeter at WalMart or equivalent and get a low cost monthly site. I do understand those people who do the job as a volunteer to help local/state/national parks. But if you just do it for the money there are many better ways to make money than to work camp at a campground. My opinion, Connie B.

  4. I’ll be the first to admit that workamping doesn’t pay the bills, only supplements them! I’d rather be writing eBooks on my favorite “How To” subjects rather than laying in the mud at midnight for 2.5 hours repairing a 2″ main water break after a guest drove a metal stake through it. Workamping assumes one has a nice pension to assist with living expenses. Those of us who are 14 years away from getting a pension need to find a better solution than what my co-workers affectionately call “General Slavery.” Many guests see us as driving around in golf carts all day, but in reality the work is hard, dirty, & what you have to pay for your site seems unfair in that few of us find time to really enjoy it like the guests do.

    I’ve tried doing real time stock trading as a day trader. It kind of works, but I have not been able to make that bridge from workamping to trading yet, especially with our campground WIFI or MIFI 3G/4G service not being quite up to par often times when I am about to push that Buy or Sell key. I can’t always get the 2nd shift workamping hours I need to continue developing my day trade skills & portfolio.

    I’d love to sell trinkets & gadgets on the RV Rally circuit, but one really has to find their niche that will spark real inspiration and passion. If one tries to pursue dollars only, it will be tough trying to get the money to flow. If one can work their business on passion rather than trying to earn a living, that may be a way to closing the gap of making it work for some folks. Cleaning toilets, scrubbing the fish house, hauling the trash, performing midnight repairs to electrical & plumbing, & listening to guests belly-aching without it ruining your own day isn’t always the ideal workamping scenario one sees in the Workamping literature. 😉 Dave

  5. One thing I would like to add to this is that there are theme parks that hire retirees. Dolly Wood is one, the work is not that strenuous, yes they only pay min wage, but they are one of the few of the places that offer full benefits including their own medical clinic on site after working 100 hrs. There are also many RV parks that offer special rates for the workers. Jobs vary from running the rides to grounds keepers. If we ever decide to work this is number one on our list of places to apply to. Disney in Florida also hires seasonal workers but the problem with them is they pay min wage and there are no parks anywhere near them that offer discounts and they are quite pricey so if you need the money this may not be for you.

  6. We worked the numbers a few dozen times with places like Adventure Land and even had a couple interviews with them. It would be a great opportunity for folks with a pension. For folks needing full-time work there wasn’t enough hours on the shoulder season to make it work for us. Same with jobs that are 100% sales commissions like Air Photo. It all sounds good until one realizes that they still have to pay their phone, Internet, insurance, & food allowance on a regular basis. We get called all of the time for Work For Site only jobs, they say you can go get a job in town. But when you realize you can support yourself on just twenty hours working in town for each of you either, even if your campsite is free. As Nick says, one is better off paying a seasonal rate, then working in town full-time. One KOA was charging us 10 hours each per week, which was 86 hours per month or equivalent to $645 per month for our site. They 15-20 hours of pay/week beyond this wasn’t enough to pay the bills for sure. But for someone only needing part time pay it may work for some. Again, none of this is explained in the literature one reads ahead of time, they just show a glamorous couple living the good life in the photos.

  7. Sugar beets in Montana………………you can only work certain times and the work is HARD. We spent 3 weeks in North Dakota near the Canadian border AND if it was too cold, too wet, too whatever you didn’t work. We spent 5 days getting paid to sit around and do nothing. The job requires you work 12 hours on, 12 hours off consecutively until the work is done whether it be two weeks or more. THERE IS NO TIME OFF unless you can’t work due to weather or beets.

    Amazon pays $11.50 an hour and we worked 40 hours a week until the 15th of November when we went to MANDATORY 50 hours a week with the option to work more. Yes, the pay is okay BUT you spend 11 hours a day standing and packing boxes. You’re given a certain quota to meet and if you don’t meet it they are constantly after you. Your hands and arms get torn up horribly even with the gloves that are provided. Lunch is a 30 minute break in a break room that needs to be enlarged so that eveyone has a place to sit down. A lot of people quit in the first few days and others love it to the point they return year after year.

    All in all, we will NEVER work for either of these places again. The work is just too demanding and you’ve got to be very physically fit to do this. I’m 72 and I’ve never worked so hard in my life even though I grew up on a farm!

  8. Hi Nick, For three years, John and I have worked in California parks in exchange for an RV space with full hookups. We’ve enjoyed the experiences we’ve had and the people that we have met along the way. This year as we pay for camping and as John works fulltime outside of the park, I am committed to making money doing things that I love. This includes writing, making art collages and doing personal histories for people and small businesses. So far, I’m doing well. This month I sold my first art pieces on Ebay and have just launched a shop on Etsy http://www.etsy.com/shop/LevonnesArtandSuch . Also I write articles/posts for RVT.com https://www.rvt.com/blog/rv-lifestyle/essential-items-for-housekeeping-in-the-rv/ . This work can be done from any location. This week, I give a free talk at a local library about writing down our memories. Maybe I’ll meet someone there that wants me to help them capture their stories to make into a book or film. Thank you for your post. Very informative. Just in the past month, we met a couple that worked for UPS making deliveries during the very busy holiday season.

  9. Workamping doesn’t mean just “working in a campground or RV resort”. All of the above mentioned opportunities are Workamping opportunities if you are living in an RV while doing them.

    “Workampers are adventurous individuals, couples and families who have chosen a wonderful lifestyle that combines ANY kind of part-time or full-time work with RV camping. If you work as an employee, operate a business, or donate your time as a volunteer, AND you sleep in an RV, you are a Workamper!”

    When evaluating a Workamping opportunity – many factors should be included. How much value does being in that part of country bring to you? What additional perks (hookups, cable, WiFi, meals, laundry, area discounts, etc) are provided by the Employer in addition to wages or site? Often times this information is not immediately presented, so if an opportunity is in a location you want to be in, be sure to inquire with that Employer what the entire offer includes.

    With so many options out there, hopefully folks can find the opportunities that meet their Needs and their Wants.

  10. Nick, I like where you are going with the idea that you don’t have to work in a campground or RV park to supplement your RV lifestyle, but I think you are missing the definition of the word Workamper with this one. It is defined as anyone who does ANY KIND of work, while living part-time or full-time in an RV. Doesn’t matter if I work at Home Depot, Amazon, or an oil field. If I live in an RV while doing it, I am a Workamper. The point you are making is valid, just a matter of semantics.

  11. We did the workamping thing for three years, always finding jobs easily through Workamper News. One place was excellent and made us feel like family, another was okay but nothing to get excited about, and the last was terrible. The owners were both heavy drinkers and working with them was both embarrassing and frustrating. We had agreed on a six month commitment, but after the first month we decided it wasn’t going to get any better and left. But even in our best workamping experience we didn’t really make enough money to make it worthwhile.

  12. You’re right, Luke, and I should have clarified better as to working in RV parks vs other types of jobs. Terry and I are self-employed, but we have earned our living on the road from our RV for over 14 years now.

  13. I would love to try gate guarding. I’ve talked for four or five RVers who do it and the money is great. But my wife refuses to do it because she doesn’t want to deal with all the dust the trucks kick up and she wants to be in a regular Rv park in a town, not out in the middle of nowhere.

  14. We have an appointment on Wednesday to get our gate-guarding licenses. There are definite downsides but we can do this for a few months. It is kind of a forced-savings. Since one of us must be on-site at all times there is no eating out, no need to buy lots of diesel, no campground fee and no sight -seeing costs. We are doing this because we plan to go to Alaska next summer and don’t want to take money from savings or investments. We just need to keep reminding outselves of our goal.

  15. Thanks for the information. I’ve read some blogs of people talking about their workamping adventures, but I was never quite sure of what all the options were.

  16. Listened to Greg and Jan at the Celina rally and we are currently in South Texas gate guarding. Not real hard work, gate must be attended 24/7.Yes there is dust and MUD when it rains. Drivers are nice. Twenty miles ot town and about once or twice a week. We are enjoying ourselves.

  17. interesting read, i’m so glad i found your blog!
    my dh and i are about to launch ourselves into full timing as soon as this farm sells.
    i’m pondering how to parlay my work into an on the road gig, and i think there’s incredible opportunity out there.
    i’m a horse person and a special needs home provider, and while i’m fairly certain i won’t provide an rv home for anyone, i suspect i can find a way to share my lifestyle with families who will pay me to spend time with their special needs horse crazy daughter. win win, we both get to play with the ponies and i get paid for it!!
    i’m thinking of ways to accomplish this, as the challenges are many; but not insurmountable. and findng creative ways to accomplish my dreams are old hat around here,lol.
    i’ll be a regular reader for sure!

    ‘someone once told me i was delusional–i was so shocked i almost fell off of my unicorn’.

  18. I just wanted to address the single work camper factor. I am a 62 year old female and have had no problems finding work. It is important to plan ahead, keep in contact with your potential employer. I usually find my jobs by calling various parks in the area I want to stay. Not all jobs are posted and there is usually last minute openings. There is usually a required commitment but if things are not to your liking it is important to know that you have wheels.
    I have worked at Amazon and thought the company treated us very well. The work was very unpleasant but met a lot of people I am still in contact with two years later.
    I am currently in Me. at a state park that is beautiful and very satisfying. I also work a job at Home Depot in the garden department, it is very difficult to do both but I find it necessary. Make sure you know the demands of the park and be upfront about working outside of the park. It is not always acceptable doing both.
    I have a new assignment for the winter in Fl., although very difficult to find a job there in the winter it is best to call around.
    Hope this has been helpful!

  19. Actually Amazon pays their camperforce $11 plus their campsite and a $1 bonus if you complete the season. Not a bad paycheck in the end! It is work but enjoyable as well.

  20. my husband and I would love to be gate guards. someone hire us……

  21. THanks! Great read. We are about to attempt the Gate Guarding in Texas. Tell me if you know… we have been told there are also the same type gate guarding jobs as the oil fields in Arkansas, Tennessee, etc. Closer to home. Where? How? I don’t find any, and I’ve googled until I’m cross-eyed. Thanks! 🙂

  22. Great blog and site, followed your link to follow you on Facebook, took me to profile so I added you. I am a crafter, was a vendor for a while but wasn’t able to get to areas where I could make money at the time so I pulled out when economy crashed. Looking to get back into it except not around here, part time weekend travel then full time when we get used to it and such.

  23. I wish I could find a seasonal job for the winter, specifically January through March, that pays as well as the sugar beet harvest or Amazon does in the fall. Any ideas?

  24. I am curious if anyone who travels in an older or vintage rig has any problems finding work. We are thinking of going full-time next year, but I don’t want to be in debt, so I won’t be able to buy a new rig to travel in, but I’ve notice a lot of the workamper ads say 10 years or newer units only. If I bought a nice diesel pusher that was maybe 12-15 years old, or even an older nice bus conversion, would I have trouble getting work? We are both clean cut professionals with great work history, and would hate to think we would be unemployable just because we didn’t want to be tied down to $1000/mo RV payment. Kinda defeats the whole freedom thing…

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