When we first hit the road, we started getting invitations to come park in people’s driveways.
I found it odd at first. Did these well intentioned folks think we couldn’t afford to stay where I thought RV’s belonged – in campgrounds? I was on a mission to prove we weren’t moochers, and could pay our own way.
But it didn’t take much time to really learn, that Driveway Surfing (or as some have come to call it – Moochdocking) is a priceless experience.
What is Driveway Surfing? The concept is similar to Couchsurfing – a popular way for travelers to stay with locals on their couch or in a spare room. Except with Driveway Surfing, you bring your own couch. And well, guest room. Instead of being a guest in someone’s home, you become their temporary neighbor. It’s usually always considered a fair exchange with no money passing hands – a free place to stay while allowing the host to live a bit vicariously through the visitor.
On June 16, 2016 we hosted a live video chat on this topic – you can view the archive of that here (careful, it’s an hour long!):
Or, if you prefer text – we’ve written out the main points for you below.
The Joys of Driveway Surfing
While saving campground fees is definitely one of the perks, it’s usually not the incentive for us. Here are the things we absolutely love about the experiences we’ve had:
Being Close By – If we’re just passing through town, which we usually are, spending time commuting to hang out with friends or family cuts into that quality time. Being able to stay right next door allows for more spontaneous hanging out.
- Alternatives to RV Parks – Let’s face it, RV Parks aren’t always the most awesome place to stay. And they’re not everywhere. Available driveways and private property opens up opportunities to explore areas we might not otherwise due to lack of RV stay options.
- Being A Temporary Neighbor and Not a Guest – When we travel by other modes and stay with a host, you’re a guest in their home. And no matter how much someone says ‘make yourself at home’, rarely do you feel at home. When you bring your own home, you are sleeping in your own bed, have your own space to retreat to, and have everything you need to feel at home.
It’s just home is now parked next to cool people you get to spend time with too.
- More of a Local Experience – Getting to stay on the property of a local gives you a different perspective on the area you are visiting. They know their area, they know you and where to suggest you spend your limited time in the area.
- It’s a Great Way to Deepen Friendships – Some of our strongest friendships over the years are a result of being temporary neighbors. We’ve gotten to live in community with people in ways that a quick dinner meet-up just can’t substitute for.
Being a Good Neighbor
We get the question often from other RVers – ‘How can I be a good guest, and make sure I get invited back? What are the protocols?’
So here’s some tips on making sure you have a great stay:
- Ask Questions Up Front – Your host may not regularly have RVs in their driveway, and may not be aware of what it takes to park one. Here are some questions we like to have answered before accepting an invitation:
The address, so we can get a satellite view, street view, and virtually navigate our way there in advance. (Don’t trust that your host knows how to drive an RV to their location, or actually has the room they think they have!)
- Have other RVs or large vehicles been to the property before? (This helps substantially to put our minds at ease that we’re not heading to a potential catastrophe.)
- How long and wide is the parking space? Can a large vehicle easily turn in? Is there an easy way to turn around? Is it flat enough? Are there obstacles?
- How are the roads to get to the location – tight turns, narrow roads, steep inclines, low clearance points?
- What kind of power is available within reach of the parking area, or are there sunny spots for solar?
- How’s the cell signal, or does the WiFi reach the driveway?
- What are the zoning or HOA rules for parking an RV? Are the rules enforced? Are there curmudgeon neighbors who will make our stay uncomfortable?
- Come Prepared – Come prepared to be pretty self sufficient, not many homes have full RV hook-ups. Here’s some things you can do before arrival:
- Have your tanks to their optimal levels (fresh full, waste empty). If water is available, a fresh drinking water hose extension might be handy.
Be power flexible – The closet power outlet might be a standard household 15A outlet fifty feet away. To utilize this you’ll need extra equipment on hand and be on a power budget to not trip breakers. Know what else your host has on the circuit, and if you don’t have an inverter that shows shore power usage, know what things in your RV use!
Or, like us – design a battery boosting inverter and/or solar setup.
Here is some simpler equipment we recommend RVers who venture away from full hook-up RV Parks has on board to create some additional power flexibility:
- Variety of adapters to convert a typical RV 50A or 30A plug*:
30A -> 15A – allows a 30A cord, such as our extension cord below, to plug into a household 15/20A receptacle – handy for driveway surfing.
- 50A -> 15/20A – allows a 50A cord to go directly into a 15/20A household receptacle.
- 50A -> 30A – allows a 50A cord to plug into a 30A receptacle, such as what you might find at state parks.
- 30A -> 50A – allows a 30A cord, such as our extension cord, to go into a 50A only outlet, Can be handy at mobile home parks or RV shop repair centers, which might have 50A only connections way in the back of a site.
*Reality Check: Using an adaptor only allows you to convert the plug type. It does not also magically provide 50A power out of a 15A outlet. You can only get 15A of power, max, out of the outlet – that power can just now flow through your 50A cord. Manage your energy usage – thou shall not trip your host’s breaker!
- Heavy Duty Extension cord (get a 10 gauge as a minimum to handle the load of an RV). Options include:
- 30A 50′ RV Extension Cord – 30A cords are a nice happy medium, they’re smaller to lug around but can still carry a lot of power without voltage drop. They can be purchased more affordably in longer lengths.
- 50A 30′ Extension Cord – 50A cords are HUGE to store and heavy to lug around, and are much more expensive – but if you absolutely need 50A service and have 50A plugs available, it can be worthwhile.
- 15A 50′ 10 Gauge Extension Cord – 10 gauge in a 15A cord is a bit rare to come by, thus tend to be more expensive. We ordered one of these in a rush for a driveway surfing stay after melting a 12 gauge equivalent. We ended up modifying it later with 30A female / male ends, using the adaptors with it. (If we had actually planned our overall electrical kit – we’d have just bought the 30A cord above.)
- Food to share. Your host will likely excitedly invite you over to dinner upon arrival. We love it, but we personally feel uncomfortable having our host feed us every meal. We make it clear early on that we’d love to converge on creating shared meals, hosting them ourselves and that meals on our own are a-ok.
- Gifts on board. We always carry some small but meaningful gifts to leave behind for our hosts.
- Variety of adapters to convert a typical RV 50A or 30A plug*:
- Express Your Needs – Many hosts are happy to share their amenities – such as laundry, WiFi, a long shower, power or water. Just ask, for they may not know that an offer would be appreciated.
Be Respectful – We’ve found a wide range of what ‘make yourself at home‘ means. Everything from feeling welcome in the living room when invited over at an appointed time… to truly invited to walk into our host’s home at any time, day or night – with an open invite to raid the fridge, take a shower/bath, do laundry and even browse the porn collection. It sometimes takes getting to know each other a bit before presuming anything.
- Set Social Expectations – If our stay is just a day or two, we like to make sure we are spending time with our host as they desire. Any longer than that, we need to make sure we are also honoring our own routines. After all, we’re likely not on vacation during our visit and we need our alone time too. We make sure we leave time to spend with our host, but we also make any other obligations we have clear (and give them the opportunity to do the same.)
Remember the Permanent Neighbors – You’re not just moving in as a temporary neighbor to your host, but also to their permanent neighbors. And some of them may think it’s odd to have someone living essentially in their street. And some may think it’s incredibly awesome. Talk to your host about the temperament of their neighbors, and if they’ve given them a heads up about your stay. We’ve found it goes a long way to preventing potential calls to the HOA or zoning committee.
- Don’t Overstay your Welcome – Make sure you are commutating the expectations for how long of a stay is being offered. Is the invitation for overnight, a couple days or longer? Be conscious of at what point your stay shifts from being a gift to when you should be contributing in some way.
- Be Appreciative – This goes without saying. Thank your host for the opportunity to stay on their private property. Whether that be with words, a small gift, cooking them a meal, taking them out for dinner, helping out with chores or something you can uniquely offer.
Tips for Hosts
Hosting an RVer may be new to you, and non-RVers in particular may not be aware of what an RV guest might need to make their stay comfortable. So before you extend an invitation, here’s some things that might be helpful to know:
RVs are Big – RVs come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. When you look at your available space to park an RV, it’s easy to underestimate a lot of things. Ask your potential guest how large their RV is, not just the length & height – but also how wide it is when fully setup (don’t forget slides & awnings and being able to open the door). And carefully consider if they can actually get to your location.
- RVs are Heavy – If your parking space is on a yard or field, please make sure the ground is very firmly packed. Just because you’ve parked a car there doesn’t necessarily mean that a 15,000 – 30,000 pound RV won’t get stuck or sink right in. If you’re parking them on a concrete or asphalt slab, make sure it is rated to support the weight – or else your visitor may literally leave their mark.
- RVs Need to Be Fairly Level – Most RVs have a way to level (we personally just have boards) – so a bit of a slope isn’t a big deal. But there’s only so much we can compensate for with boards, jacks and suspension adjustments.
It can be really hard sometimes to see how unlevel your driveway or yard is until you park a 40′ RV on it.
- Invite a Pre-Scouting Expedition – Definitely give the RVer your address in advance, so they can virtually view your property via satellite or street view mapping. And if you’re unsure yourself, suggest a convenient place they can park nearby so they can scout out your property in advance. It can avoid them getting into a prickly situation of getting stuck in a tight turn, quick elevation change, low clearance spot or soft ground.
- Amenities Available – Please let the RVer know in advance what you might have available for power, water and sewer within reach of the parking space. None of us ever expect full hook-ups, but it does let us know what preparations we should make before arrival. And extra amenities like hot tubs, gorgeous views and unique experiences always catch our attention to lure us in (*grin*).
Know Your Community’s Rules – Not all cities or neighborhoods allow RV parking. Some may have special rules, limitations or complete restrictions. Make sure you know before you invite an RVer to route your way, so they don’t get an unexpected knock on their door, notice posted or woken up by a tow truck. And please do talk with your neighbors before hand.
- We Really Are Bringing Our Home – Unless there are really unusual circumstances, we definitely prefer staying in our own home on wheels. So please don’t setup the guest room, or take offense that we prefer our own bed (it’s very real). But we do so appreciate knowing what household amenities are open to us – such as a long shower, hot tub, laundry, WiFi, dishwasher, etc.
- You Don’t Need To Host Us Non-Stop – Us RVers tend to be pretty self sufficient folks – and it may seem odd at first as compared to hosting a guest in your home.
- We bring our own kitchen and can feed ourselves (but we do love sharing in some meals.. can we cook for you too?).
- Navigating new towns is part of our everyday life, so you don’t have to feel obligated to be a full time tour guide (but if you’d like to join us for an adventure, let’s do it!).
- And we really are ok just staying at home, getting work/chores done and being at home. We don’t need to be entertained.
What we’re trying to say here is… we take this temporary neighbor thing seriously. You have your life, we have ours. Please don’t take time off your normal every day life or other obligations you might have. And let’s definitely enjoy our mutual down time together when it works out.
How to Find Driveway Surfing Opportunities?
We get most of our driveway surfing invites from friends & family in our travels, or from kind folks like you reading along (we love driveway surfing invites… if you have space, never hesitate to invite us over!).
But if your contact book doesn’t include suitable driveways, here are some ways to hook up with willing hosts (or the opposite, if you’d like to host RVers):
- Boondockers Welcome (affiliate link) is the Couchsurfing equivalent in the RVing world. Hosts can post their general information & location, and RVers can request to stay with them (hosts have to approve the request before an invite is extended). It’s a great way for potential hosts and surfers to meet. Also, you can sometimes find Driveway Surfing experiences on Couchsurfing too.
- RVWithMe and HipCamp are the AirBnB equivalents in the RVing world. Hosts list their properties up for rent, and you can book (and pay for) spots with them.You can also post/read on Craigslist for an area for potential opportunities.
So there you go.. some of what we’ve learned over our years on the road about being a temporary neighbor.
Have fun stories to share from your own driveway surfing? Other tips? Questions? Leave them in the comments…