RVing Clubs

rving-clubsWhich 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.

Escapees
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.
Notes:
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.

Passport America
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.

Good Sam
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

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38 Responses to RVing Clubs

  1. Ken Howitt November 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Becky,
    I have never been much of a joiner but I do belong to Good Sam and T.A.C.O. (Texas asociation of campround owners) this way I can get a discount on parts I buy at Camping World and most of the campgrounds in Texas.
    Ken

    • Becky December 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Ken. 🙂

  2. Rob November 29, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    Escapees has one more benefit you didn’t mention, they maintain a huge file of cheap or free places to stay, it’s call “Days End” & it too costs an extra $10.

    Good Sam has saved me the cost of the membership during a shopping trip to Camper World and I’ve used the 10% discount.

    Passport America has worked out, it doesn’t take too many nights at half off to cover the cost of membership.
    Becky is right , If all you do is drive from 6 months at point ‘A’ to 6 months at point ‘B’ and stop are Walmart and rest areas in between it’s not going to help you.
    Keep in mind that the purpose of PA is to fill empty camper spots so you’re not going to find it available during busy times. If all your traveling is done on 3 day federial holiday weekends, PA is not for you.

    The other thing we joined was Coach-net, it’s RV roadside assistance.
    Rob recently posted..Let the Holidays Begin!My Profile

    • Becky December 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

      Thanks for the response Rob, I hadn’t thought of roadside assistance companies as RV clubs but I suppose in a way they are.

  3. Kim November 29, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    Sounds like a good T-giving! Rest assured, I’ll be doing my best to keep you guys busy at Amazon.

    Thanks for the informative post. Like you, the only club I’ve joined since getting my van in August 2012 is Good Sam’s. And I only did that because I needed some things for the new-to-me rig that I got at Camping World (e.g. a $300 surge protector). So I saved $ on that visit. But I do not intend to renew. I’ve only had occasion to use the campground discount once.

    I looked into the other organizations that you listed. Like you, I’ve encountered enthusiasm about Passport America but the reality is that only once in the last year would the membership have gotten me a discount.

    However, I’m now considering joining the WINs. But only if I decide to meet up with them out West next summer.

    I guess the moral of the story is, as you said, you need to find what’s worth it by doing the math.
    Kim recently posted..Day After, Day BeforeMy Profile

    • Becky December 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

      Yeah, if you’re close to a Camping World and need work done, Good Sam is worth the cost of joining.

      I’m trying to figure out what the acronym WIN stands for and am drawing a blank.

      • laurie December 1, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

        Wandering Individuals’ Network = WIN

        • Becky December 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

          Never heard of that one, thanks.

  4. Pleinguy November 29, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    Escapees (SKP) is the only one I’ve joined so far. They have many more benefits than you listed; but, as you said they are little good if you don’t use them. I recently posted about them when I attended the RV Boot Camp.

    I too considered the others. Passport America is probably the most useful discount club. But, since I rarely stay in commercial RV parks, I didn’t thin I’d use it much. You should think about how you plan to travel and camp, as that will influence which clubs will benefit you.

    My camping style includes national, state, local parks, recreation areas, BLM, COE, and boon docking or dry camping. The one ‘club’ that has been most cost effective is the America the Beautiful-Senior Pass which gets you free entry and 1/2 price camping at federal sites. For those at least 62 yo it is a one-time $10 fee for lifetime.

    I agree that one needs to do the research, and consider how much you will really use the service before joining. There are lots of clubs, and the annual dues could add up to a considerable amount pretty quickly if you join several.

    Thanks for introducing the topic, because it is an important one for new RVers to understand.
    Pleinguy recently posted..RV Boot CampMy Profile

    • Becky December 1, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Ah, I’d forgotten about America the Beautiful, my parents have that one and love it, of course it wouldn’t do me any good, haha. It’s worth noting that the free entry to federal sites is just to visit, the camping will still cost the same. Still a good deal if you like visiting federal parks and landmarks!

      • Pleinguy December 1, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

        Actually, the camping is half price with the Senior Pass at most parks. Campgrounds that are subcontracted to venders may not honor the discount though. I’ve saved a ton staying at federal campgrounds.
        Pleinguy recently posted..Big BendMy Profile

        • Becky December 2, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

          Good to know. I don’t think our campground inside the Badlands honored it (it was run but Forever Resorts) but I never worked the reservation desk so I can’t say for sure.

    • Jim Morgan December 1, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

      America the Beautiful card also gets you into many, many museums too. At government park buildings where they have started charging extra for them. I usually donate anyway as they all seem to have a donation box..
      Jim Morgan recently posted..Grand Canyon…Part IIMy Profile

      • Becky December 2, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

        Noted, thanks Jim.

  5. Gary T November 30, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    We joined the Good Sams as life members many years ago (probably aging ourselves). It happened to be very cheap at the time and, at the time, we used the Good Sam campground discount a lot. About 12 years ago we bought a life membership with Escapees. The Escapees seem to be more geared toward full-time RVers and we got very involved with the organization for some time. They are a good place to for info on RVing. We are still very high on the Escapees…Good Sam gives us the Camping World discount which comes in handy quite often.

    • Becky December 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

      Thanks for the comparison Gary. Yeah Escapees prides itself on community and information more than discounts, there are a lot of extra things you can get with the Escapees club but they cost more money on top of initial fee.

  6. Diane November 30, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    Thanks for posting this info. Something I learned and want to share about Camping World – they have honored their online price (which seems to often be the same as the discounted price) as long as you show them the price on your phone/Ipad etc. I imagine it would be a hassle if you went there often, but it works for me. Any advice on trailer types? I currently have a Nissan NV high roof 3/4 ton. I have built a bed and counter/storage. I am debating the need for extra room (travel trailer). I have also considered getting an easy set up tent to gain some space, any thoughts?

    • Becky December 1, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      Thanks for that tip about Camping World Diane.

      If you’re truck is a 3/4 ton you should be able to pull a pretty wide variety of travel trailers, if that’s the way you want to go. I’d start by looking in your vehicle owner’s manual and see what exactly your tow rating is. Now take 80% of that number, that’s the maximum GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) you’ll want to look for in a trailer. You want to stay at 80% or less of the tow rating because you need to remember you’ll have stuff loaded up in the truck too while traveling and that’ll decrease the tow rating.

      Since you already have a bed and storage built into the back though, the tent would cost a lot less money while still giving you more space.

      There are pluses and minuses to both. Setting up a tent in bad weather is a hassle. Maintenance for a travel trailer takes time and money. A trailer would let you stay in colder and warmer temps more comfortably, a tent would give you a smaller footprint, letting you stay in smaller/more remote sites.

      I’d recommend making a chart for advantages and disadvantages to both solutions, and then seeing which one has the better ratio of advantages to disadvantages. I can’t tell you which it’ll be, because what is an advantage to me might not be the same thing for you.

      Best of luck!

  7. Mike November 30, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Here in Texas I like to use my TACO membership (seriously). Its Texas Campground Owners Association, http://www.texascampgrounds.com. Membership is free and it offers 10-15% off at many, many parks. The site has a ton of info with some cool features like Map your trip, park searches and an online guide book. With it being a free membership its too good to pass up!

    • Becky December 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      It’s hard to argue with free Mike! Thanks for sharing, I have a lot of readers who spend time in Texas.

  8. Jim Morgan November 30, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    PA is by far my favorite club. Although many parks have restrictions, there are some where you can stay a month at half price, leave a few days, and then get another half price month.

    America the Beautiful card has saved me quite a bit and it’s my 2nd favorite card.

    While not actually a club, CoachNet is the best road side assistance program out there. I wouldn’t drive anywhere without having it. They’ve helped me with problems many times.

    Escapees was OK, but much of it was centered in Texas, or their parks are in areas I don’t frequent, so I didn’t use many of their services and dropped out after the first year. The magazine was interesting and helpful but I found the same info on-line for free.

    Good Sam’s Club was very annoying with tons of junk mail about their other services, even services they knew I couldn’t use due to the type or age of my rig (you send them info about your rig when signing up). Being a full timer, it was an extra added expense having all their junk mail shipped to me on the road as well. Found that if I stuffed their pre-paid envelopes with all their stuff and sent them back they finally stopped.

    I found that the best resources for RV’ers were/are the on-line RV’ing forums. RV.net and iRV2.com are the best IMO. Even for things like asking about routes between parks. Upcoming helpful forums are the Face Book RV’ing groups.
    Jim Morgan recently posted..Grand Canyon trip.My Profile

    • Becky December 1, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

      Another vote for Coach Net for roadside assistance.

      Now you can opt out of the Good Sam magazine stuff, that’s what I did and now I don’t have a problem with the junk mail so much.

      And I agree about RVing forums being the best place to get information. Besides a couple general ones, I’m a member of two Casita specific online forums/communities and they’ve been able to answer every question I’ve thrown at them.

      I’ll have to continue catching up on comments tomorrow folks, running out of time again!

  9. Julie & Cornelius November 30, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    We started full timing around the same time as you did, and have been following your adventures and thoughtful writing. I have to agree with the previous comments posted about the RV clubs. We have both Passport America and Good Sam, and find them to be helpful in our travels.

    Passport America can often be purchased at a discount at RV shows. The membership paid for itself about 3 times over when we parked our motorhome at a nearby campground for a week during the sale of our house.

    One benefit of Good Sam that is not widely promoted is their $1.99 per gallon propane deal at Camping World locations on Tuesday and Wednesday. With many independent RV dealers becoming Camping World franchises, there are more and more places to take advantage of this benefit. You also have free use of the RV dump facility at Camping World locations as a Good Sam member. We were going to drop our Good Sam membership until we discovered the propane deal, which can easily cover the cost of membership.

    • Becky December 2, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      That’s sure something I’ve never heard about before, quite a deal. I’ll have to keep that in mind next time I find myself near a Camping World and in need of propane.

      I hope you two are enjoying full-timing as much as I am! Sounds like you’re down in Florida now, or were not too long ago. I won’t be too far from Ocala for my next gig after Amazon. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

  10. Jeanne November 30, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    We have a Good Sam Club membership that we like. We use the discounts they offer for RV parks and Camping World. We’ve recently discovered that they have upgraded their online travel planning service and it is a much better format than when we first joined. We opted out of all their mailings.

    The other membership we like is for Prevost Owners Group. We have a 1989 Prevost and the forum on their site has been extremely valuable to us when we’ve had issues with our rig. My husband has been able to diagnose and then fix more than just a few things with online assistance from other Prevost owners.
    Jeanne recently posted..Coastal Gems and RedwoodsMy Profile

    • Becky December 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

      Yes Jeanne, I love the membership for the two Casita clubs I’m in, it’s so handy when something needs fixing and I don’t know where to start. I recommend to all new RVers that they join a group or forum associated with their specific kind of RV, it pays off.

      I’ve never used the Good Sam website at all, in fact I’m not even sure I knew a travel planning service existed. Learn something new every day.

      All the pictures I’ve been seeing of the west coast make me want to get out there as soon as possible, looks like you’re having fun over there.

  11. Sheryl November 30, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    Hi Becky
    I started reading your blog after I read your guest post on Bob Wells-VanMan blog 9/19/13. I had been a Christmas elf at amazon in Fernley in 2011 and wanted to see what you would have to say second time around. Well, I’ve kept up as I find you thought provoking plus I’ve learned more rv things.

    I started full timing with a 5th wheel (large) and now have a motor home (small) and found Camping World’s financial advantage was a year in President’s club to outfit and repair each rv. I didn’t renew though a fellow workamper told me they use CW instead of private rv repair as they can get their warranties serviced and easily enough find a CW in their full timing travels.

    Passport America has been more useful financially to me than Sam’s Club as I used it to go from job to job but won’t renew as I’m putting solar in to drycamp and boondock.

    Some things in life are more fun with people and sometimes safer particularly hiking and kayaking so I’m thinking about joining a club like the WINS as I understand they spend time in the Ozarks kayaking. I’ve found community in workamping and volunteering but not always someone interested in these activities or on my schedule and I think scheduling between jobs could work with WINS.

    Probably the best bang for buck is Workamper. Sort of a club.

    Keep up the good work Becky.
    Sheryl

    • Becky December 2, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      Thanks for weighing in Sheryl. You’re the second person to bring up WINS on this post and I’d never heard of them before this, something to keep in mind. I enjoy hiking and kayaking too, and having people to do these activities with would be nice.

  12. Phyllis December 1, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Great information for a newbie. I was actually talking to a friend the day you posted this saying I needed to do some research. Thanks!

    Phyllis in Oklahoma

    • Becky December 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

      Glad it helped Phyllis!

  13. Jim Morgan December 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    I understand why many might recommend Camping World for RV repairs as it may be the most convenient location but…please check RVServiceReviews.com for your area FIRST before taking your RV to them. There are just to many horror stories about their boneheaded and incompetent service for me to feel comfortable about going to any of their service locations. (But some of them are good, which I found by checking with RVServiceReviews for whatever area I happened to be when needing service. Generally, I found a facility with an even better reputation so I’ve never been to CW service).
    Jim Morgan recently posted..Grand Canyon…Part IIMy Profile

    • Becky December 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      Yeah, that’s a problem that can exist with any kind of a chain. I trusted the one near me in SC for the smaller things I needed done on it, but I don’t think I would have wanted to do major work there – hence taking it to a specialty place after this since I have the choice. Thanks for the site.

  14. travelfables December 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    The only on this list that gets my $ sometimes is Passport America. Escapeees: meh a web forum and a few campgrounds doesn’t get my dough. I don’t need their mail service as SBI in Florida rocks. I’ve had real savings with Passport America or Happy Camper Club though. Good Sam was my first club. It didn’t help much, but their campground guide-book is useful. After awhile I started calling it the Bad Spam club, because all the junk I got after joining.


    Dale

    • Becky December 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Yeah Dale, the spam can be pretty bad with Good Sam. If you’re persistent in telling them “no”, eventually they stop sending it.

      From what people are commenting on here, if my traveling style changes to where I’m moving around more often and staying at more parks, I’ll probably pick up Passport America. Thanks for weighing in.

  15. LenSatic December 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    Just a correction, it’s RV.net not .com. 😉

    Pat

    • Becky December 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Ooops, thanks.

  16. Dutchey Lane December 30, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    Hey Becky, congrads on your decision to become a modern day pioneer. I applaud you and your wiliness to get out there and life your way. What a great subject you bring up. I have over the course of years looked at different travel clubs. I find that they are offer some great benefits, not without cost. I have been a life member of Good Sam for more years that I can remember. I have always found them to be beneficial to my needs. They offer a lot more than just discounts for RV parks. I enjoy their travel assist program. If I’m hurt or have a major illness while on the road. They will pay someone to get my rig back home, pay motel and travel arrangements, plus ship any animals I may have. Then there is the Road Service Plan. That I have also used and found very beneficial. Trip Routing is another free service of the membership. The Good Sam community is also worth knowing about. If you should break down or need with, call up a member who lives in that area. They can assist with repairs, give you a place to stay and etc. Regardless of what club you decide on those services promised are only as good as the parks and dealers respect and honor them. I noticed with Passport America there was a lot of time restrictions and limits to the discounts offered.

    It’s true that you don’t need a club membership to enjoy RVing, but if you can save a dollar here and there then it pays for the yearly fee’s. The Rving community as a whole is you best club to belong too. Don’t be shy when needing help or advise. All you need do is ask. Ask lots of questions and be a good listener. You will find you have more friends than money can buy. Feel free to contact me anytime you have a concern that you’re unable to resolve. It’s just that easy with all your fellow RV’er. Good luck Becky and I wish you a long life to enjoy your passion.
    Dutchey Lane recently posted..Acient City, part two.My Profile

    • Becky December 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

      Hello Dutchey and welcome to IO, I hope you enjoy your time here!

      Thanks for sharing that info, even I didn’t know some of those things about Good Sam and I’ve been with the club over a year now, haha.

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