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Campground memberships often confuse RVers looking to find inexpensive camping. The reason it is so confusing is because there are three distinct types of memberships. It’s nearly impossible to make a good decision if you don’t have a clear understanding of what you’re buying.
The first type is the campground system membership.
Companies offering campground system memberships operate several campgrounds to which a member has access. Campground system operators such as Thousand Trails, Western Horizons and Colorado River Adventures fall into this category.
The second type is the single campground membership.
As you would assume your membership is good at a single campground. To makes these memberships more attractive to to potential members, operators make reciprocal agreements with other single campground owners to accept each others members. This allows campers low cost camping when traveling out of their home area. The reciprocal use is an extra cost and is handled by companies like Coast Resorts (Coast to Coast) Resorts of Distinction (ROD) and Resort Parks International (RPI).
To confuse things more, campground system operators make some of their parks available to others though reciprocal use systems like ROD and RPI.
The reciprocal campgrounds often have restrictions and the sites are sometimes the less desirable… like getting seated in a restaurant near the kitchen door.
The third type of membership is the camping discount club.
Companies like Passport America, Happy Camper and CampClub USA fall into this type. These companies do not operate campgrounds. Instead they make arrangements with campground operators to offer members discounts of as much as 50%.
These campgrounds are generally NOT resorts and are often in out of the way places. Again, the campgrounds often have restrictions and the sites are sometimes the less desirable ones. You’ll hear the most complaints about this type of membership.
There is a lot more to consider about each specific type of membership but at least knowing the differences will help you ask the right questions. I hope so anyway.