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How to Make the Most of a Camping Club Membership

Updated on July 7, 2016
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who has traveled, lived, workcamped and volunteered nationwide for more than 50 years and am still going strong!

If you want to make the most of a camping club membership, it's important for you to understand the differences between them.

Each has its own

  • set of rules, regulations and benefits,
  • fees and
  • 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.

RV clubs vary greatly.  Make sure you know the details before you join one.
RV clubs vary greatly. Make sure you know the details before you join one. | Source

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 are available to visit as long as you like year round.
  • 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!
  • 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.

Good Sam Parks are everywhere, and those of Thousand Trails are scattered mostly in the central US.

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.

Campground Quality

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 less than acceptable.

Member parks are generally located throughout the US, but there are fewer of them in the Northeast and far Western states.
Member parks are generally located throughout the US, but there are fewer of them in the Northeast and far Western states. | Source

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 by offering a base price and then adding costs for items such as

  • electricity,
  • cable,
  • WIFI,
  • water,
  • sewer,
  • pets and
  • additional campers

that can totally destroy the advertised benefit.

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!

Benefits Vary

Each group offers its own set of benefits. For example:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Others, such as Good Sam Club and Passport America, offer free trip routing services and low cost mail forwarding services.
  4. 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.

Learn the Details Before Joining Any Camping Club

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

  1. that the number of member campgrounds is limited ,
  2. parks are located in places that are off the beaten path or
  3. discover that you cannot get your money back or even terminate your membership easily if you become unhappy.

Comparing the costs, benefits, rules and location and number of member parks of an RV membership club before joining is the best way to protect yourself from unhappy surprises.

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© 2015 TIMETRAVELER2

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  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
    Author

    TIMETRAVELER2 23 months ago

    Au fait: HP would frown on that as being "overly promotional", and frankly, the small amount we pay each year is more than affordable! For people who travel for long periods of time, the savings can be substantial, and man do have and use this membership. I've been a member for years and between using my PA, my national park pass, my knowledge of free campsites and my know how of creating a small traveling business I have been known to travel for months at a time and net out at "0" for travel costs. It can be done, but people have to want to do it!

  • Au fait profile image

    C E Clark 23 months ago from North Texas

    Sounds like people who like to camp around the country could save quite a bit with this membership. You should let them know how to contact you so you can get credit for everyone who joins. You might never have to pay dues again!

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
    Author

    TIMETRAVELER2 23 months ago

    LB. Leekley: State campgrounds have become expensive in many areas, sometimes charging as high as $40 per night. In some states if you are over 65, you can stay for half price, but many also charge entrance fees. Most state parks do not have full hookups, either. You can stay at most Passport America parks for $20 or less and they are all full hookup sites. Hope this helps.

  • B. Leekley profile image

    Brian Leekley 23 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

    I will keep Passport America in mind in case in coming years my wife and I go on any road trips in a camper. How well do state park campgrounds compare with private campground such as Passport America?

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