There are different memberships that help save you money for your camping addiction (err… yeah, addiction; I’m sticking with that). Each one has its perks and each one has it’s negatives. I wrote previously about how to tell if a campground membership was for you. I framed in in the context of Thousand Trails, but really- any membership applies to these same rules. Nothing is a good deal if you don’t use it.
Thousand Trails is good for 1-3 week stays most places. The parks are fair to middling. Fairly limited locations (80 parks around the US). Bigger buy-in depending on what membership level you’re after. I’ve written an “Overview of Thousand Trails” post and have regularly reviewed the parks.
There are spin off clubs of Thousand Trails: things like Encore parks, RPI, Ready Camp Go, and EnjoyAmerica. I don’t know much about these except that they offer some kind of discounts to parks. Honestly, I have parts of this and it confuses me more than helps me.
Passport America is good for overnight stops mid-week (typically). Their parks wildly range in quality. LOTS of locations, though.
Harvest Hosts is an interesting overnight stop. It’s “free” but you’re expected to make a purchase at each location. Usually scenic. Kind of all over. Usually boondocking/no hookups. Unlike other parking lot stops, you are expected to get there during the day/during their business hours so that you can frequent their business.
The locations can be beautiful. We’ve stayed at two and loved both.
Coast to Coast
Coast to Coast is good for 1-2 week stays (I think!). The parks are generally nice from what I hear. Weird restrictions around holidays, they take retail reservations over membership reservations or something (just repeating what I sort of heard).
BoondockersWelcome is good for short stops (few days). This is typically individuals who have space on their properties. Generally boondocking/no hookups, though some offer them. Free, I believe.
FreeCampsites.net is good for finding free/lowcost places to boondock. No yearly membership/is free to use.
Good Sam is probably the most prolific club. I don’t think there’s any standards to their parks and, therefore, the park quality is all over the board. BUT- it’s good for a discount.
The benefits to a Good Sam membership do far exceed just campground discounts. I have linked them to my Pilot/Flying J card and get discounts at those truck stops. I also am a card-carrying member of the Good Sam Roadside assistance.
I believe that Escapees is one of the very first fulltime RVer groups/clubs out there. As part of their membership, you get a discount on Escapees parks. I’ve only been to one and it was an extremely barebones park in the middle of Texas BUT it was just an overnight stop for me and took the rate from $25 down to $13.50 making it the cheapest non-Thousand Trails park stay that we’ve stayed at.
Escapees offers a lot of programs outside of savings. One of my favorites is their SmartWeigh (read about my experience here) which is an individual wheel weights weighing of your rig. This is especially important as many rigs are unbalanced and you can be overloading a tire without knowing it (I was).
Fulltime Families is one of my favorite organizations right now as it speaks to exactly what we’re doing- fulltime RVing with my wife and 2 kids. Their membership benefits include (among other things) a year’s worth of membership in various other organizations (Escapees included) and they have worked with campgrounds and RV parks around the country to waive their “kid tax” (a per kid fee that many campgrounds charge). For larger families, this can be a great benefit.
Family Motorcoach Association (FMCA)
Family Motor Coach Association is a membership organization that provides benefits and services specifically to owners of motorhomes. Included in the annual membership fee of $40 is the FMCAssist Medical Emergency and Travel Assistance Program (valued at $105 per year). Members also can save on the purchase of tires for their motorhome or passenger vehicles via FMCA’s Michelin Advantage program. Many FMCA commercial members — including numerous campgrounds and RV resorts — offer discounts to FMCA members.
I can’t help but think that I’m missing many others. Please share some that you know of in the comments below.