RV Clubs: Are They Worth It?

Full Time RV Budget Tips

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
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
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
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.

Full-Time RVers – Day 2 (and 3) in the Books

Day 2 was officially as exhausting as Day 1, but we’ll get through the long drives by the end of this week. We drove from Noccalula Falls, Alabama to St. Louis, Missouri/Illinois, but it didn’t start off without fanfare. We woke up early, got ready to drive out, and discovered a bubble in our tire. After a 4 hour delay and service coming out to change our faulty tire, we were finally on the road (you can read more about that here including a review of our awesome service).

We went through a few new states (yay RV stickers!) and finally made it to our campsite in St. Louis by about 9:00pm. We pulled into a gorgeous view of the Gateway Arch at sunset from our campsite. Along the way, we saw true America in the Farmlands. Just look at the gorgeous expansiveness of our beautiful country.

After unhooking and getting the RV set up, we ventured out to find some food and came across a great little place called Bailey’s Range. I wish I took more pictures, but we were so hungry, I didn’t even think to take pictures of the food before we ate. I did manage to snag a photo of the amazing old window wall they have separating the dining room from the kitchen. The food was SO fresh. They’re known for their boozy milkshakes, but we had to pass this time because we were so tired – we could barely stay awake.

We took the day off from driving today and stayed in St. Louis. We worked from the camper all day, but now that the work day is over, we’re heading out to explore the city a bit. We’ll be back on the road tomorrow, but we’ll enjoy being parked for the night!

We were still so exhausted on our day off from driving that mid-day, I found Dad down for the count, but when you’ve high-tailed it through 8 states in 2 days – this kind of activity is to be expected. 😉

After a full day of working, we ventured out for some dinner at a great little place called The Fountain on Locust. Let me tell you, the Gluten Free options are endless and they can make almost anything on the menu in a GF option. I’ve been seriously craving a good Cuban Sandwich, but haven’t been able to find a GF version anywhere (let me tell you, I’ve been searching for months…). Well, I found it – and it was so glorious. Absolute juicy perfection and the bread didn’t even resemble normal GF bread. It was soft and toasted to a nice crispy, golden color. Mom had the non-Gluten Free Cuban and I thought mine looked so much better since it was more pressed like a traditional Cuban (but she said hers was delicious too!). Dad had the Grown Up Grilled Cheese with several kinds of cheese, apples, and ham. He loved it and the homemade potato chips.

Regular Cuban on the left with Brussels Kale as the side
Gluten Free Cuban on the right with Spicy Carrots as the side.

The real stars of the show though: The Dill Pickle Soup and the Ice Cream Martinis. The soup sounds gross, right? WRONG. So very wrong. It was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted in my life. It is a potato based soup and seems to have chunks of pickles in it, but let me tell you, it is divine and it makes me sad that Pickle Soup isn’t a more common thing.

But let’s talk about something called an Ice Cream Martini. We started with these before the meal since it was still Happy Hour (PSA: If you get there during Happy Hour, these drinks are only $6 each!!!). We tried the Grand Chocolate, the Espresso, and of course, I had to get the Grasshopper (Little Lalita, Little Lalita, Little Lalita – any Big Bang Theory fans out there?).

Followed by a quick drive around the city for a few pictures of the Arch.

You know if there’s a casino, Mom and I will find it. There’s always time for a little Roulette!

And for the fellow campers out there: a quick review of the Casino Queen RV Park.

While this park wasn’t spectacular, it provided great views of the Arch, easy access to the city, and a shuttle to the casino next door. It was a little pricy for the lack of amenities (coming in at $53/night with our Good Sam discount), but for a quick layover with easy access to downtown, it was worth it. The office is only open from 8am-4pm and doesn’t have much for sale inside, but the highlight was definitely the fountain Coke machine. There was no cable at the park even though they have cable boxes. I personally think, they should clarify this on their website. It doesn’t mention they have cable, but it does mention full hook ups including Internet. Maybe we shouldn’t have assumed cable was included in that, but we did (lesson learned). They did have a small laundry facility that worked well and we did utilize that while we were there. The view of the arch was gorgeous, especially at night during sunset, but if the park was crowded, most people wouldn’t have that view. There is a playground area as well as a nice grassy area with gazebos, picnic tables, and grills. It was interesting because one side of the park had large trees between lots and one side was strictly gravel rocks between lots. While we like the shade the trees provided, the spots on that side of the park were smaller and didn’t have a view of the arch. We opted for the other side of the park with rocks between sites so we would have a view of the Arch. WORD OF WARNING: The trains are so loud all night. There are a lot of trains going through the area and they blow their horns all night – and I mean, ALL NIGHT. Every 30-60 minutes a train would come through and they all blow their horns right there. They make your RV shake because they are so close. I sleep with a white noise machine very loud so they didn’t bother me. My parents sleep with a white noise machine too, but they don’t have theirs as loud as mine. Dad slept right through the trains, but they kept waking mom up. Come prepared with white noise or earplugs!