Should I buy a RV camping club membership?
Initially, it never really crossed our minds to join a RV camping club. We are kinda free spirits when it comes to vacations, and we’ve never stayed at the same place twice. So, the thought of being locked into a campground or set of campgrounds did not appeal to us. But, recently it made sense for us to join a club, so we did.
We wanted to visit Yosemite with the kids before we move from this great state of California. There is a Thousand Trails (a RV membership club) campground right outside the National Park’s borders. As a non-member there were essentially no campsite available for months and months. But, as a member, the campground was open to whenever we wanted to stay. We researched the other Thousand Trails campgrounds in and around us and found that many of them were located in places we wanted to check off our bucket list with the kids before we moved. After doing the math, we decided that we would spend enough nights at the various club campgrounds to make a membership worth it. So, we joined.
Here are some Pros and Cons we discovered about joining a RV camping club:
· Ease of planning: When you are a member of a camping club your future adventures can be dictated by where the club has campgrounds. You don’t have to be creative in where you camp next, just pick a park from their list and go. Note this may be a Con though for the more free-spirit types (see below).
· You don’t have to pay when you camp: It is a kind of freeing feeling when you can simply drive away from the campground and you don’t have to pay a dime. You have paid for your membership of course, but at the end of an enjoyable and relaxing trip, it’s nice to continue that moment of Zen by simply driving away. Note that this only applies to camping clubs that are full membership clubs, like Thousand Trails, not simply discount memberships, like Good Sam’s.
· Priority in booking a campsite: As a member, you get first dibs on a campsite. Some clubs don’t even require that you tell them you’re coming, as a member there is always a spot available for you. Amazing, but true. Other clubs can fill and it’s best to make a reservation, but there are always many, many, many more member campsites available at the campground than non-member campsites (if the club even allows non-members).
· Member benefits: Often, becoming a member also allows you some additional benefits like a monthly magazine, discounts on insurance or road-side assistance, access to RV meet-up groups, etc. Research and consider these additional benefits and decide if they would be things that you would actually use and benefit from.
· Cost: Becoming a member requires at least some initial monetary investment. For some of the memberships, the investment is nominal, for others it can be thousands of dollars. Do the math to see if purchasing the membership is really worth it to you. Calculate the average daily rate you will be spending to stay in the member campground and decide if that is amenable to you. What do you typically pay per night to camp? Will this membership equate to the same nightly rate, or hopefully save you money?
· You are limited to their select campgrounds: If you like to travel around and never stay in the same place twice, then a camping club membership may not be ideal for you, especially one that is limited to a certain area or region of the country. Some camping clubs are national and provide campgrounds around the country, but you may still feel limited in where you can stay if you tend to be a more free-spirit. However, if you crave consistency and familiarity, then a club may be ideal for you.
· You must use it: Before you buy into a club membership, be sure that you will actually use it and take part in all of its benefits. There is no sense in belonging if it will not be used or ends up costing rather than saving you money. Maybe it doesn’t fit your lifestyle or needs right now, then wait and consider joining later when it does. And only continue the membership when it still makes sense to belong. If life circumstances change, consider cancelling or not-renewing the membership.
There are tons of blogs that weigh in on the good and bad of each specific camping club that exists. A quick Google search will inform you on the pros and cons of each club, which I encourage you to do. Do your research to see if a specific RV camping club is good for you and your family’s needs.
As for us, will we re-new our campground membership? Nope. Were on to new and different adventures. But, for this season of our life it fit well. Maybe we’ll consider it again in the future.