If you made it past the entrance into Sam’s Club or a Costco, you have an idea of the camping membership concept! Purchasing goods and services in these stores require a card that you can renew annually; therefore, a membership is a group or club offered for a discount on certain services.
In the RV world, this is called a camping membership, and they range from offering service discounts to providing free overnight camping. Some come with unique community benefits, while others focus on life necessities like medical evacuation and education.
Any type of travel comes with a price. Flying, road-tripping, ferry riding, and even bicycling come with associated costs. The same goes for any kind of camping. There are apparent costs that naturally accumulate with any camping lifestyle.
Fuel, nightly rate fees, RV accessories, insurance, food, entertainment, tourist activities, maintenance, and propane, just to name a few, are all factors. Camping memberships balance this type of accumulated cost. Some started as a way of advertising for campgrounds, while others assisted in supporting small businesses.
Are Camping Memberships Worth It?
To discover if a camping membership is worth the money invested, you must first become familiar with the different types of services offered. In this case, to fully assess the worth of camping memberships, the locations, benefits, cost, and restrictions of each type are worth taking time to understand and consider.
Each option has several different and unique opportunities for the consumer that set them apart from one another. Above everything else, you can find some really great places to camp. I found the top nine campground memberships out there to share with you.
Top Campground Memberships
Established in 1966, Good Sam is the largest international organization of RV owners. Many RV resorts and campgrounds display the angel logo proudly, so you can confidently know you are using a network within this membership.
Good Sam and Camping World are both owned by the same corporation. In 2018, Good Sam reached an astounding membership of two million! They provide various RV services like roadside and travel assistance, warranties, and insurance packages.
Benefits: 10% discount on 2,000+ locations, deals on fuel at select Pilot and Flying J service stations, and discounts on everything from propane to RVs.
Usage Restrictions: With Good Sam, each service is an extra charge. For example, roadside assistance for an RV starts at $64.95/year, while auto coverage begins at $49.95/year. Extended warranties, insurance, and travel assistance all come with extra charges.
Community-minded, Escapees RV Club is an RV membership that promotes RVers helping other RVers. With online community groups, this RV club prioritizes lifelong relationships and support while organizing various events throughout the year for members. Complete with an RVers Online University to help others prepare for the RV lifestyle, Escapees is genuinely committed to RV education.
Benefits: 19 Escapees Park in the US, discounts at 800 other RV Parks, savings on memberships with other camping clubs like Harvest Host and Boondockers Welcome, discounted public events, members-only events, magazines, newsletters, mobile app, support-based webinars, networking, and advocacy programs, discount pricing on their educational resources.
Usage Restrictions: Limited exclusive parks.
Driving down an interstate, you may recognize a KOA from the giant yellow billboard or an advertisement along the way. KOA, or Kampgrounds of America, is the largest organization of open-to-the-public campgrounds.
Many KOAs are along busy highways and travel attractions. It’s important to note that the KOA is not a camping membership program. Instead, it’s a rewards-based program. KOA services include 500+ campgrounds across America, family-friendly, pet-friendly, outdoor hospitality, and lodging options from cabins to tents and RVs.
Reward Benefits: 480 locations in the US and Canada, 10% discount at KOA, point reward system, waived cancellation fees, additional plans, services, and deals with partnering businesses and companies.
Usage Restrictions: No membership services. Locations are usually close to busy highways, which can be noisy.
Featured by Good Morning America, Harvest Hosts is slightly different from traditional campground membership. Listed as the number one fastest growing company in travel and hospitality on the annual Inc 5000 list, this membership offers unique camping experiences over the traditional campground and RV park locations.
Since this is an RV hosting service, Harvest Hosts supports small businesses while RV guests stay anywhere from golf courses to wineries.
Cost: Packages start at $99/year and top off at $179/year
Benefits: 3000+ hosting locations, no camping fees, and unlimited stays in various places.
Usage Restrictions: Can only cook inside, no tents or pop-up campers, no dumping stations or hookups, overnight stays are restricted to one night unless the host gives permission.
Comfort and affordability are at the top of the list of this campground membership. While fostering friendships with private property hosts, Boondockers’s Welcome patterns after the same type of unique experience-based membership as Harvest Host listed above.
If you are looking for a camping membership that brings out the best in people, and you love boondocking, then Boondocker’s Welcome may be the right fit. The most significant difference between Boondocker’s Welcome and Harvest Hosts is that 70% of the hosts provide hookups. The hosts are also private owners rather than businesses, so your experiences will be slightly different.
Cost: Packages vary from $79/year to $179/year.
Benefits: 3000+ hosting locations in North America, no camping fees, unlimited stays at various locations.
Usage Restrictions: Maximum five-day stay in a 90-day window, no standard of rules and restrictions at every location, no tents or pop-up campers allowed.
Zone camping 365 days a year! Thousand Trails Camping Pass offers freedom in camping with their zone camping pass. This campground membership offers five different zones for flexibility.
The first is the Northeast Zone, which covers Maine to Pennsylvania. The Southeast Zone spans from Alabama to Virginia, while the Northwest Zone incorporates parts of Canada and the northwestern states of Washington and Oregon. The Southwest Zone covers California and branches into Arizona and Colorado. The last zone is the Midwest Zone, which incorporates Michigan to Kentucky.
There is an extra option called the Trails collection for additional zones you can add to your package. Thousand Trails is different than traditional camping membership because you pay one flat fee a year for unlimited nights of camping as long as you are at a Thousand Trails park. Who needs a discount when you can stay endless nights with this pass?
Cost: $630/year with additional zones for $70.
Benefits: 80+ campgrounds, camp all year long, no nightly fees, one price with optional additions. Thousand Trails campgrounds tend to be well kept and family friendly.
Usage Restrictions: Zone restrictions. You must purchase additional zones if you want to stay in different locations.
Who wouldn’t want 50% off nightly stays? Ray E. Fernandez founded Passport America to bring campers to campgrounds. It’s a camping membership club that offers 50% off participating campgrounds within the US, Canada, and Mexico. It is truly a simple and easy campground membership.
Costs: $44/year with a lifetime offer of $349.
Benefits: 1200+ campgrounds, 50% off travel card, magazine, member discounts, mobile app.
Usage Restrictions: You must call ahead to see if the campground offers a discount. Each campground has different rules and regulations with this membership.
Family Motor Coach Association RV Club, or FMCA, focuses on peace of mind. FMCA members have access to emergency evacuation medical coverage 24/7 as long as they are more than 75 miles from home.
Full-time RVers get this coverage and are always 75 miles away from home. However, FMCA is not a substitute for medical health insurance. FMCA provides additional services like protecting RV owner rights and virtual RV classes.
Costs: $60 for the first year, and then the price is $50 a year after.
Benefits: Emergency medical evacuation coverage, mobile connection plans, magazine, educational services, campground advocacy, anti-theft decal, plates, mobile app, discounts on insurance, discounted membership on other RV club services.
Usage Restrictions: One member-only campground. No precise parking service locations.
Starting small, Fulltime Families now has thousands of members in their newer organization. They specialize in full-time RV families while providing education through social media groups, events, clubs, and different types of “branches.”
Benefits: Discounts to Good Sam Club and Escapees, Fulltime RV family community, family-related events, support, dedicated Minecraft server.
Usage Restrictions: Partners with many other camping membership clubs. Must purchase other memberships (at a discount) to understand the full benefits.
Are Other Options Available?
There are a few other options available that are not campground memberships. Military campgrounds and national parks are options not always mentioned when the topic of camping memberships comes up.
Many United States military retirees, veterans, and service members take up the RV lifestyle. Located on US Military Installations throughout the US, these campgrounds are part of the military recreation program.
Cost: Varies depending on the location of installation.
Benefits: Short- and long-term sites, locations in the United States, tax-free fuel and services on the installation, and the military community.
Usage Restrictions: You must be an authorized user to use these facilities. An authorized user includes active duty, national guard, reservist, retired military, 100% disabled veteran, purple heart recipients, Former Prisoner of War, veteran caregivers, department of defense civilians, and sponsored guests.
US National Parks Pass
Many RVers enjoy staying at or around National Parks. However, it is essential to note that memberships do not provide discounts on services offered for national park stays. National parks have an access pass required to enter the parks. There are several passes within the national park system.
Cost: The most common is the Annual pass. This one is available for everyone and costs: $80. There are several discounted annual passes as well:
The Military Pass is specific for veterans, Gold Star families, current US military members active and reserve, and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Space Force. Cost: Free.
The 4th-grade pass is available for every ten-year-old 4th grader with the Every Kid Outdoors paper pass. This is a full annual pass for the child and their immediate family. Cost: Free.
The Senior Pass is available as a lifetime or annual pass. It is issued to permanent US residents and US citizens 62 and over. Cost: $80 Lifetime or $20 annually. The Access Pass is for US citizens or permanent residents with disabilities. Cost: Free
The last type of pass is the Volunteer pass given to those who volunteer 250 hours with the Interagency Pass Program. Cost: Free.
Benefits: Access thousands of national parks and federal recreation areas across the US.
Usage Restrictions: RV Parks within National Park Campgrounds are an extra cost. The pass provides access to the RV park with additional fees for stays. Most National parks have a limit to how many days you can stay.
What to Consider Before Joining a Camping Membership?
As I mentioned, you must consider several elements before purchasing a suitable membership.
The cost of fuel is at the top of the factors to consider. Discounts can be helpful on a budget while traveling. Fuel usage and price varies from type of campers and spans throughout destinations. For example, a camper van substantially differs in fuel costs from a Class C RV.
Driving a large diesel truck while towing a camper also has significantly different costs. With a large Class A, the fuel costs will be astronomical while traveling across the United States. With this type of RV, a fuel discount paired with a discounted nightly rate would be well worth the membership cost.
Currently, in California, it would cost about $136 to fill up a 25-gallon gasoline tank of a Class C RV, while a diesel truck with an empty 48-gallon tank would cost $302! On the other hand, a class C would cost double that at $630 to fill up a 100-gallon diesel tank!
Fuel costs are rising. Comparing these prices to the state of Ohio, you would see a significant difference. It would cost $509 to fill up that same 100-gallon diesel Class A and $85 for the 25-gallon Class C RV. This is just fuel. Another cost to consider is parking.
Parking an RV can vary depending on the size of your camper. Some charge by the RV size, while others charge based on the types of hookups available. For example, a big rig-friendly pull-through space with full hookups will cost $95 per night in Jacksonville, Florida. Yet, the same kind of site in Durant, Oklahoma, will cost about $50 per night.
Let’s take, for example, the price of a week-long trip with fuel and RV parking alone in Durant, Oklahoma. If we take $50 as our average, a week-long trip will cost $350 for parking. Add in the fuel cost, and we could spend anywhere from \$1000 to \$2500 on a one-week, seven-day camping trip just for fuel and parking alone.
Since fuel prices and cost of living vary from one part of the US to another, you must consider location. For example, if a family were to take to the road 12 months out of the year and stay only in one part of the US, then a service like Thousand Trails would absolutely be worth the cost. If we average $50/night for a parking spot and multiply that times 365 days a year, it would roughly cost $18,250 in one year alone just for the RV to park! Paying $630 a year for a membership at Thousand Trails seems relatively cheap! Even adding on the additional cost of extra zones still makes for a decent bargain.
Duration of Travel
Duration of travel leads to another interesting factor to consider. Full-timing RVers have vastly different priorities and considerations than someone who is only taking a week to two week-long vacations in an RV. It is worth noting most long-term RV parks do offer discounted monthly rates, so examining the benefits of membership may not be as beneficial as a long-term rate at an RV park. However, the Fulltime Families membership and community groups may be just the thing for a family hitting the road full-time looking for connection.
Hookups are another area of consideration. A large family with multiple children will need the consistency of dumping stations and hookups, whereas a single person may not have this need. In this case, the single would likely see Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts as a longer-term adventure, whereas the more prominent family may use this kind of service sparingly.
Using a camping membership discount when purchasing from Camping World or Gander RCV may be worth the cost of the fee of a Good Sam membership. Considering Good Sam and Camping World are affiliates, you could save 60% off the regular retail rate at Camping World Stores and Gander RV by purchasing a Good Sam membership.
Tourist Activities and Entertainment
The RV lifestyle incorporates a wide variety of people. Some thrive on the community events that a membership like Escapees provides, while others would choose to spend more time exploring the local area and soaking in the culture. Harvest Host fits this type of activity and lifestyle perfectly. Some may prefer the bigger city life and the events surrounding the area. In this situation, they may need a KOA membership.
Insurance and Assistance
Most memberships offer a discount on everything from medical to RV insurance. Investing in the fine print and analyzing the details included in these memberships’ coverage is essential. FMCA offers emergency evacuation coverage, but this does not replace health insurance and does not pay medical bills. Defining the term assistance will help in understanding the benefits.
Consider Mix and Matching Memberships
Several of the memberships offer or partner with the others. For example, Harvest Host and Boondockers Welcome are both affiliated with the same company. Escapees offer discounts for both memberships.
Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) provides discounts for KOA campgrounds, Passport America, Harvest Hosts, and Boondockers Welcome. Fulltime Families also partners with other memberships to offer a more extensive range of deals and services. Mixing and matching the right memberships will give you significant discounts and savings.
Will You Use a Camping Membership? Are the Fees Worth it?
Value is measured by what I find helpful and useful. For example, a slow cooker may have a higher value for a busy family than one of many steak knives in a drawer. However, to another, those steak knives are used for more than one purpose.
Strong feelings about slow cooker food texture can also decrease the value and worth of that appliance! Something may have value and worth to one, and to another, it may not.
To some, the goal of camping is to visit all the national parks in the US. RV campground memberships would not be helpful for this person because it would be worthless. A membership would be pointless, like an old unused crockpot sitting on the counter.
However, For US military personnel who choose to stay on a military installation, a camping pass may be helpful on the days they decide to stay elsewhere. For full-time families, paying for RV parking every night, a membership would pay for itself within a month.
While looking through and understanding all the pros and cons of the services, benefits, and campground fees, it’s easy to see many situations where the cost would be worth the money. I mentioned several factors to consider, such as fuel, parking, locations, travel duration, tourist activities, entertainment, insurance, propane services, hookups, and many other factors we didn’t even hit.
Now that you’ve been able to get a good overview of each service, the costs, the benefits, and the restrictions, we can see that each campground membership or access pass offers unique services and save money. We also see that there are other options available.
A camping membership isn’t something you have to purchase, but it could be a fantastic option, depending on your camping lifestyle. Evaluating your priorities and expectations before you purchase a camping membership is a great way to start the process.
What are your thoughts on RV memberships? Have you found that they are worth the money? I would love to hear an example of your experience in the comment section.