I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to make the most of their RV vacations.
There are major differences between RV camping clubs.
Each has its own rules, regulations, benefits, fees, and limitations.
Thus, if you want to get your money's worth, you need to learn all you can about each group so that you can choose the one that best suits your needs. Joining the wrong one can make you feel like you've spent your money for nothing, but if you do your homework, you won't have to worry about this issue.
There are camping clubs to suit all tastes and needs, so if the ones mentioned in this article don't sound good to you, a basic internet search will introduce you to the many small groups that are located throughout the US.
Pricing, Restriction, and Location Differences
Some camping clubs offer relatively little for a lot of money, while others give people a great deal for low membership fees. For example,
- Good Sam club offers 10% off if you camp at their parks and $25 to join their club. Then you have to purchase their camping guide, which can cost as much as $20 (each year). Their parks are expensive to visit, but are well-located and available to visit as long as you like, year-round. Good Sam Parks are everywhere.
- Thousand Trails can cost upwards of $6,000 to join plus $500 per year for maintenance, but the camping costs little or nothing. They only have 58 member parks, but most are extremely clean, well-kept, and offer good amenities. On the other hand, they limit the number of days any member can stay in a given park and have many rules. If you want to access their entire system, you must purchase two memberships! Thousand Trails parks are scattered mostly in the central US.
- Passport America costs $44 per year to join plus $5 for their guide or disk, but you can stay in many of their parks for half price. There are limitations, however, in terms of when and how long you can camp in one place. Furthermore, not all of their parks adhere to the half price policy. You will find most Passport America affiliated campgrounds in the Central and Western US, but there are a fair number scattered on the lower East Coast as well. You can forget using them in the Northeastern US, however.
It is important to know where facilities are and plan your travels so that you can take advantage of the deals they offer. You should also know which type of camping you want to do. For example,
- If you are looking for destination campgrounds, Thousand Trails or Coast to Coast might be your best bet.
- If you are looking for inexpensive or overnight camping, Passport America is for you.
Member campgrounds in the majority of these clubs are of all types. You have to pick and choose.
- Some are extremely nice, while others not so much.
- Some are off the beaten path, while others are conveniently located.
- Some have many amenities, others are nothing more than an area in a field with hookups.
No matter the club, sooner or later every member is going to get burned by having to stay in a facility that is substandard..
Rip-Offs and Scams
Just about all of these clubs place restrictions on their members. However, some affiliate parks like to game the system by luring people in with the promise of low costs and then using gimmicks to charge them more. However, some go beyond what is fair and can totally destroy the advertised benefit by offering a base price and then adding costs for items such as
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- pets, and
- additional campers.
Recently my husband and I pulled into a park we've been visiting for years, only to learn that they were now limiting entry to the park until after two o'clock. If we wanted to come in sooner, they wanted an extra two dollars! It was one o'clock, so we just pulled into a shady spot and waited. Had we called ahead, we could have relaxed in a cool spot over coffee and drove in later!
Each group offers its own set of benefits. For example:
- If you refer people to Passport America, they will send you $10 for each referral or give you a $10 voucher towards your next membership renewal.
- Some clubs hold national rallies you can attend for a fee. They are a great deal of fun, have many giveaways and when you go, manufacturers reps usually are present who will make repairs for free or sell parts at big discounts.
- Others, such as Good Sam Club and Passport America, offer free trip routing services and low cost mail forwarding services.
- Some will offer extended memberships from three to six months for signing up again.
All of these benefits add value and can save you money, but to use the ones you want, you need to become a member of the appropriate group.
Research Clubs Before Joining One
Reviews of the Most Popular RV Camping Clubs discusses the pros and cons of a few groups that are available. This will help you to better understand the financial differences between them.
All clubs advertise that they will save you money, but whether this is true or not depends on how you choose to travel.
Furthermore, cost is only one piece of the club membership puzzle. It will do you no good to get what you think is a great deal only to learn that
- the number of member campgrounds is limited,
- the parks are located in places that are off the beaten path,
- you cannot get your money back or
- you won't be able to terminate your membership easily if you become unhappy.
Comparing the costs, benefits, rules, locations, and the number of member parks of an RV membership club before joining is the best way to protect yourself from unhappy surprises.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Sondra Rochelle