RV camping memberships are advertised as a way to save money when RVing. You purchase a membership to the club, and that gives you certain benefits. Most of them give some sort of discount on camping when you camp within their networks. I’ll share our experience with the ones we belong to, as well as the reasons why we haven’t joined some of the other popular RV club options.
This is not an all encompassing article: I only share the benefits that we have used, not all of the benefits included with membership. These also aren’t all of the membership clubs out there, only the ones we are aware of. Reason? I don’t feel like researching and regurgitating all of the membership info on all of these clubs! I’ll link to their websites and if a certain club interests you, check it out in more detail.
Memberships We Have
Escapees / Xscapers
Benefits we’ve used: Escapees (also known as SKP…say it out loud and you’ll get it) has their own network of RV parks. If you are an Escapees member, you can stay at any SKP co-op park or Rainbow park. These parks are very inexpensive. We’ve stayed at The Ranch in Lakewood, NM, at Kofa Ko-Op in Yuma, AZ. Full hook up sites are, on average, about $20/night. If you stay for a week, the rate is usually even cheaper. We plan on staying at even more Escapees RV parks as we make our way back out West – they have several in California, Oregon, and Washington.
We don’t go out of our way to stay at these parks, because they usually aren’t near much. But they can be a great place to stop and enjoy full hookups, a clean laundromat, and the company of fellow Escapees (the friendliest bunch of RVers you will ever find).
We get the Escapees magazine, which we enjoy reading. It comes with your membership.
What are Xscapers? They are a segment of Escapees who are younger and who are usually still working jobs while on the road. So technically we are Xscapers, but we are also Escapees. Slightly confusing, I know. Next year, we plan to go to an Xscapers convergence in Mexico. We may also go to the Annual Bash in January. You can only attend these events if you are an Escapees member.
Our thoughts: This membership is well worth the $40 a year fee. The RV parks are clean, cheap, and friendly. Especially if we end up using the one in California, we will easily save $50/night over local rates. We are really looking forward to connecting with other Xscapers at the upcoming convergences!
Benefits we’ve used: Good Sam has the same discount across the board: 10% off the nightly rate at any of the RV parks in their network. 10% off isn’t enough to sway us to stay somewhere just because of the discount. So we usually pick where we want to stay, and if they take Good Sam, it’s a bonus.
Our thoughts: Good Sam sends us incessant amounts of paper mail. It’s ridiculous. I need to call them and request that they stop sending us mail. The mail is always trying to get us to upgrade our membership to include their roadside assistance. We already have that through our car/RV insurance so we aren’t interested in that aspect. Camping World owns Good Sam, so ever since we got a Good Sam membership, we’ve also started receiving unsolicited advertising from Camping World.
The 10% discount isn’t that compelling, but it’s something. Usually RV parks have a limit, like you can only use Good Sam for X number of nights (sometimes it’s only 1). Have we gotten our $27 back out of the membership? I think so, but barely. Would I buy Good Sam again? I’m honestly not sure.
Benefits we’ve used: Passport America provides 50% off of the nightly rate at campgrounds in its network. So this has provided us with some inexpensive camping ($18-$25 a night) BUT (isn’t there always a but?) there are a lot of ‘gotchas’ and stipulations with this membership. Some examples:
- Participating campgrounds only offer the Passport America discount only certain non-busy months, or certain non-busy day of the week (usually Monday – Thursday)
- Most campgrounds only offer the discount for one night
- Participating campgrounds tend to nickel and dime their Passport America customers. You may get 50% off of the nightly rate, but you will be charged extra for a sewer hookup, or charged extra to use a credit card, to have more than 2 people in your party, to run your air conditioner…you name it, you might get charged an extra fee for it
Our thoughts: We’ve used this membership a lot in the past couple of months. Where it really shines is when you need a quick overnight stop right off of the interstate. You probably don’t care about the RV park’s amenities, you just need a clean spot to pull off of the interstate and dump your tanks and sleep. We’ve used it a lot for this on our way from Colorado -> Pittsburgh and now from Pittsburgh -> South Dakota.
We also got a great deal with this membership: 50% off for a weeklong stay at the Grand Canyon Railway RV park in Williams, AZ. As I stated above, most parks have strict stipulations on when they will accept the Passport America discount. This RV park didn’t, and it saved us over $100 just in one use.
Definitely do your research before you book at a Passport America park, not all of them have the best reviews. But the ones we’ve stayed at (because we google them ahead of time) have been fine.
We’ve definitely saved more than the $44 this memberships costs, and I’d buy it again. You just have to work within the restrictions. If you assume every park in the network will be 50% off on any given day, you’ll be disappointed.
Memberships We Don’t Have
Cost: Depends on the subscription
Why we don’t have it: Thousand Trails doesn’t fit our travel style, although it is very popular with many full-time families. It makes camping really affordable – you pay a large sum up front, then camping within the Thousand Trails network is either free or very cheap depending on the site you choose.
Most of our travels are centered around National Parks and National Monuments. We like to be close to the action and visit major cities, too. Thousand Trails parks are in the middle of nowhere. Unless you stay at them, you’re not getting your money’s worth, since the initial investment is the large cost and the actual camping is really cheap.
We’ve rather spend a little more money and see things that we want to see, rather than feel like we are forced to stay within the Thousand Trails network to “get our money out of it”. It’s just not a fit for us, but we are a little envious of the networks of fulltime families that meet at Thousand Trails parks. They have their own little community and that is something special!
FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association)
Why we don’t have it: Some people have mentioned FMCA to us (and we’ve certainly seen the stickers on people’s RVs) but we just haven’t had a reason to become members. We’ve been told that they have good discounts on RV tires, but our tires unexpectedly blew out on I-70 in Kansas, so we didn’t have any time to research discounts – we just bought whatever tires were available. If you have a motorhome and need new tires, then this membership may be worth the price. We just haven’t had a need for it.
Why we don’t have it: Harvest Hosts links RVers with businesses who have property that RVs can park on. Think farms, wineries, and breweries. You contact the host to see if you can park on their property…for free (usually there are no hookups). In exchange it is suggested that you patronize their business in some way.
We’ve heard nothing but good things about Harvest Hosts. For now, we’ve been able to satisfy our love of boondocking using public lands. If we spend a lot of time in the East again (where there is no boondocking) we will definitely be buying a Harvest Hosts membership.
What are your “must have” RV memberships? I’d say we like Escapees and Passport America the most. Let us know in the comments!