Campground Memberships are a great way to save on campground fees. It’s one of the best ideas in the industry. Many of these memberships are affiliated with national campground associations which give you reciprocal memberships across the country at a low cost per night. Choose where you want a Home Park. Be sure to read the article below so you will understand the program better.
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Today, let’s talk about membership campground systems. My best advice – just remember – “If you don’t use it you loose! But, if you use the membership you win”. It that simple.
The first thing we should do is understand the basic differences between a discount camping club and a membership club. A discount camping club consists of a large number of campgrounds owned by different people and companies, who agree to give RVing members a discount, usually 50% off of their regular rates. Membership in a discount camping club is much less expensive than it is for a membership club, no home park is required, and there is usually no long term membership obligation. You just pay your annual dues and use the participating campgrounds.
A membership campground system on the other hand, is usually a more expensive proposition, and (according to the folks who sell the memberships) comes with benefits and privileges not available to the general public.
If you have ever attended a membership campground sales pitch, you probably know that the people hustling these memberships have hard sell down to a science. I’ve known more than one RVer who has walked out of the room after being pushed too far one time too many. So, be on the alert and do not buy under pressure. There are many deals available on this website.
When you join a membership campground system, you are assigned a home park, and then you can stay at any other campgrounds in the system for a given period of time. Depending on your particular membership, that may be one to three weeks, and again, depending on your membership, you may be able to go directly to any other campgrounds in the system, or you may have to be out of the system, that is, not camping there, for one or two weeks.
Campground memberships can be a great deal if you RV frequently and enjoy seeing and visiting different campgrounds.
Used campground memberships are a frequently deeply discounted due to family reason or the person simply gave up RV’ing. With just a little research and effort, you can pick up a used membership for pennies on the dollar, or sometimes even free, because the current owner is tired of paying the dues. For example, a few years back we bought a used nationwide Thousand Trails/NACO membership with all the bells and whistles for $100, plus the transfer fee of $750. This is one of the advantages of using this website to buy a used membership.
The two biggest membership campground systems are Thousand Trails (TTN) and Western Horizons. Both have campgrounds in several states nationwide. The Thousand Trails website says that between all of their affiliated campgrounds, they offer over 80 camping locations in 22 states and British Columbia. This includes NACO and Leisure Time Resorts (LTR) campgrounds, two smaller memberships that fall under the general Thousand Trails umbrella. (Not all TTN members can use the NACO or LTR campgrounds.) The Western Horizons website says that they have 22 camping resorts nationwide, and one in Mexico.
We belonged to Western Horizons for a short time years ago, and while we found most of their campgrounds to be more than adequate for our needs, their business practices left a lot to be desired, in our opinion.
As I stated above, we picked up a used Thousand Trails/NACO membership a while back. We have stayed at TTN/NACO campgrounds in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee. Some of the campgrounds are very nice, and others are outdated and in need of major upgrading.
I always tell new RVers not to obligate themselves to any membership campground system until they have been on the road at least a full year. It will take you that long to get out of vacation mode and begin to define your own traveling style.
When and if you do decide that a campground membership is right for you, research the different systems, and then look for a used membership. We found ours by putting a simple post on the Escapes forum saying that we were looking for a used TTN/NACO membership. I had over 15 different memberships offered to me by the next day.
But again, don’t spend a lot of money on a used membership. The seller may believe he really has an “asset” to sell. Wait until you find someone to whom the membership and its annual dues have become a liability and you can get a heck of a deal.
There are three types of RVers;
The “RV-traveler”, the “RV long-termer” and the “RV camper”.
The “RV traveler” can be the person who gets two to four weeks vacation and must be on the go to see lots of places or just those RVers who prefer to keep moving. This type of RVer does not stay in an RV Park very long. Having a campground membership close to home would benefit this type of RVer if they stopped at associated campgrounds for about 20 nights per year. This is based on the annual fee or dues plus the $10 per night. Add this cost against the cost of the average campground fee per night (about $28) for 20 nights. The price of buying into the campground (your home park) would be considered an investment with the potential of getting your money back when you sell it. A potential buyer can possibly get a bargain by buying from an individual. Look for ads on this site.
Remember you can always enjoy your Home Park for free during the year. This leads to a decision as to whether you want your home park to be nearby or far away. There are benefits to both. If it’s nearby you can go there for weekends every now and then. If it’s far away, it might be a beautiful resort where you like to spend a vacation. But, your traveling style would not apply in this case. You would become a long-termer. There are different rules for the various Home Parks and you should be aware of these rules before purchasing a membership.
The “RV long-termer” is a classification that I identify as the snowbird type of RVer or the Full-timer. They escape the cold in winter or the heat in summer and stay for long periods at the same campground or they may just like to go to the same place for relaxation and not move. They like resort type camping. We would suggest looking into buying a deeded lot in a small owner associated park or a RV Resort. The difference here is that you own your lot and can rent it out when you are not using it. See RV Lots For Sale or Rent.
The only way to enjoy the benefits of saving money with a campground membership club is to move every two weeks. You can buy into your home park at a particular location within a days travel of another associated campground and spend two weeks at one, then move to the other and pay the low campground fee, then go back to your home park. It’s doable and some do. The rule is that the other campground must be at least 125 miles away, as the crow flies. Before buying a membership you should study the bylaws and covenants and understand the rules.
The “RV camper” is usually young-at-heart and still likes to “rough it”. The campground membership tag might not fit, as they usually like to camp in places like State Parks and National Parks for short weekend type campouts. They enjoy primitive style camping. Some Camping Clubs might have a format for you. You will have to investigate the club and find out what its motives are. Some of these clubs are for singles or women or families or bikers, etc. They all have an agenda.
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