Which are worth joining, and which aren’t. There are a lot of options out there for RVers, and they’re all doing their best to persuade you that they are worth the money spent. After some online research there were two originally that I was planning on enrolling in when I hit the road, but in the end I’m only a member one one right now, and it’s not one of the two I had decided on originally.
Let me start off by saying that joining a RV club is not a prerequisite to RVing. Some people will make a big deal out of club memberships, others are happier without them. I trend toward the second camp, For me having the extra money is more important.
The three major attractions for joining clubs are discounts, community, and information. Most clubs focus one one of these aspects with the others present to a lesser extent. The trick to joining a club that is going to be useful to you is deciding which of these three factors is most important to you, and finding a club that aligns well with that.
Here are the two I considered joining, and the one I actually did.
Membership cost: $70 for one year for new members – but with Good Sam, Passport America, or Woodalls membership, it’s less.
Benefits: Seminars, a new RVer boot camp (costs extra), large community rendezvous, bimonthly magazine, forums, and access to special interest groups within the club, reduced stays at club owned Rainbow parks (which offer long/short term stays, lease and deeded lots), and eligibility for mail forwarding/domicile services in Texas (costs extra). The focus with this club is community and information.
The forums were what originally drew to me Escapees. They’re not as large or heavily trafficked as the ones at RV.net, but there’s less infighting and it’s usually easier to get straight answers for questions.
The new RVer boot camp program is held a couple times a year in different locations, one of those locations is Texas of course. At the time I was looking into it, it was a two day program costing around $200 that had multiple classes to attend, from driving lessons, RV care and maintenance, to packing a RV evenly (the one in Texas had a scale on site). I really wanted to get to one of these before or just after I bought my RV to teach me the ins and outs of ownership, but as I was still working and money was a factor, I never made it out to one.
Everyone I’ve talked to who uses Rainbow’s End in Texas as their domicile location has liked the service. Escapees is a large organization, and it has enough clout with local authorities to go to bat for issues concerning RVers. To my understanding, it’s very easy to get out of jury duty and get the Rainbow’s End address seen as a real address instead of a P.O. Box, not that I’ve had any problems with my South Dakota one.
Membership cost: $44 yearly
Benefits: 50% off camping costs at over 1,800 parks. Upon joining, you receive a discount directory catalog of over 480 pages with all parks listed. There is also a smart phone app to make finding them easier, and members can go to their website to get updates to the system between receiving catalogs. This club’s focus is discounts.
Notes: It’s hard to place a price on what information and community should cost per year, but discount clubs are easier. If you’re going to save more money than you spent on membership, then it’s worth it. And to my understanding, Passport America is worth it. Time and time again I hear from people who have saved more than the membership cost within their first month of having it, let alone a year.
This kind of club would be a bit less useful to RVers like me, who tend to stay in one park for months at a time then overnight at free places on the way to the next long stay, but for the more typical RVer who spends a few days to a week or so at one park then moves to the next, this is a handy membership to hold. Just remember to do your research to pick campgrounds that participate.
Membership cost: $25 yearly
Benefits: Up to 30% off at Camping World, discount fuel at Pilot and Travel J, 10% discount at over 2,200 Good Sam affiliated parks. There’s also a catalog, I think it normally comes twice a year but I opted out of it – it was mostly spammy “buy this stuff”. This is a discount club.
Notes: This club I’d had no intention of joining, and ended up a member of because Camping World happened to be the closest RV service station to where I use to live before hitting the road. They installed my trailer hitch and have fixed a few other odds and ends since then and Good Sam made it cheaper. Camping World’s prices with the Good Sam discount aren’t low enough to make membership worth it if you don’t happen to live close to one, the prices are brought down to about what you get from other parts and service shops.
Alright, I know it’s the day after Thanksgiving and you’re all probably still sleeping off food comas or rushing about making good on Black Friday sales, but if you could spare a minute or two of your day, I’d be curious to hear about RV clubs that you’re a part of or thinking about joining once you hit the road.
Hope everyone had a good holiday, I did get a proper Thanksgiving dinner and I didn’t even have to cook it. A neighbor smoked a turkey overnight and invited a few of us over. There was stuffing and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole… tasty stuff. I work overtime this week, but it’s tomorrow instead of yesterday. It’ll be interesting. Have a good weekend all.
Image courtesy of Bill Ward