With so many RV Clubs out there, how do you know which ones are worth it and which ones aren’t? Depending on your travel style, the clubs that work for us, may not be best for you and vice versa. Here’s a rundown of the clubs we’re members of and the value we see in each of them. If you’d rather watch in video format, I filmed a video for Campers Inn about RV Clubs last year that I’m embedding below.
Good Sam is what I consider the “catch all” of RV clubs. While not every park offers a Good Sam discount, a good majority of them do. The club is cheap to join and it gets you a discount on merchandise at Camping World which, truthfully, probably provides us more value than the discounts we receive at campgrounds for being Good Sam members. The campground discounts are almost like an extra perk of receiving the club member discounts at Camping World stores. The campgrounds that offer Good Sam discounts are normally only about 10% off and while that’s better than nothing, a $50/night only goes down to $45 with your discount which isn’t really that great of a deal. We don’t actively seek out Good Sam parks like we do some of our other memberships, but we will stay at a Good Sam park over another park if the rate is decent.
Thousand Trails is the most expensive camping club to join, but if you use the club right, you can really save a ton of money. You can’t join this club for less than $500, but if you take advantage of some of their specials, you can get extra months added on, extra regions, and a variety of other things based on their deals that typically fall around holidays or new seasons (fall special, President’s Day special, etc.). If you’re attending an RV show, that’s always the best time to buy into Thousand Trails because you’ll get the best deals there. If you’re looking at buying into the club and there’s an RV show happening soon that you can attend to buy in, it is well worth the drive to the show and the cost of admission for the extra benefits and discounts you can get.
We don’t use our Thousand Trails membership as much as we probably could, but when we do, we take full advantage of it. In 2018, we stayed at the Hershey Thousand Trails park during the Hershey RV Show. The cost to stay at any parks in the area were inflated because of the popular show; however, we stayed our maximum amount of 14 nights there and that more than paid for our cost of membership which we bought for 3 years. Now, for the next 3 years, anytime we stay at a Thousand Trails campground with our membership, we’re staying for free and in the positive based on how much we paid for our membership.
Thousand Trails does come with a few cons though that you should be aware of before joining. If you’ve never stayed at a Thousand Trails campground before, you don’t know what it’s like to get to your site. It’s something like being a Gladiator. Fight to the death. Fight for your site. Do everything you can to get the site you want or need. Drive in circles trying to find the right site. Lay down on the ground in a site so someone else doesn’t take it. Ok, kidding. That’s a little dramatic. We do love our Thousand Trails membership, but I would go as far as saying – IT IS STRESSFUL to pull in and not know if there’s going to be a site long enough to fit your RV, to not know if there will be a full hook up site available, and everything that comes with finding your site at their campgrounds. Read everyone’s reviews online before buying in. Take everything into consideration. Test out checking in at one of their campgrounds before buying into the membership. Make sure the stress is worth the savings for you.
The other negative aspect of a Thousand Trails membership is their 14 (or 21) night policy based on your membership level. When we stay at a Thousand Trails campground over a certain amount of nights and up to 14 nights, we have to be out of the Thousand Trails system for a certain number of days. Ultimately, this just keeps people from living off the Thousand Trails system and never paying fees, but it does make it challenging to travel solely using their memebership. It’s still valuable, but sometimes you have to wait a few extra days before you can check in using their system.
Honestly, I think Thousand Trails is most valuable if you travel on vacations like spring break, winter break, and even weekends away, but only if there are a bunch of different Thousand Trails campgrounds in your close travelling area. Since you don’t have to deal with the “14 Days In” and a certain number of days out issue if you’re only traveling a short period of time.
Passport America is another great one we bought into because honestly, one night a year normally covers the cost of membership so everything over that first night each year puts you in the positive financially. Passport America campgrounds typically (from our experience) aren’t necessarily the nicest or newest campgrounds, but they’re great for one night stops during travel stretches. We typically use them for booking pull through sites when we don’t want to unhook the fifth wheel. They’re normally not in the most common of areas either so sometimes we have to drive a little out of the ways to get to our campground, but we’ve had times where we’ve paid only $10 to stay at a full hook up site with our Passport America discount. The discount is normally about 50% off, but it varies from campground to campground.
Kampgrounds of America mostly referred to as KOA is one of our most used camping clubs – truthfully, because of the convenience and the almost guarantee of a nice campground. We typically will book most of our stays from location to location at KOA Journey campgrounds because they are normally within about 2 miles of the interstate (if not closer). We will pretty much book a KOA without even seeing pictures if we know it is in a good area – simply because we trust the KOA name and brand. While this isn’t always my recommendation to book sight unseen, we’re willing to do that with KOA campgrounds. The discount itself is only 10% off the regular nightly rate, but you can earn rewards with them that can be redeemed for free nights or additional discounts. If you stay enough with KOA, you can become a VIP with them which brings additional benefits like a reduced or eliminated cancellation fee which is normally about $10, but is eliminated most of the time when you become a VIP.
The truth about KOA for us is we simply trust their campgrounds and know each campground goes through rigorous reviews each year to continue meeting quality standards of the brand. We love KOA so much that we’re not only members, but we’ve been workampers with them in several locations and have been for a few seasons. We were KOA loyalists prior to becoming workampers and that’s just fueled our love for their campgrounds even more – say hello to some great amenities – especially in the KOA Holidays and KOA Resorts.