Clearing up Membership Campground Confusion

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.

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4 Responses to "Clearing up Membership Campground Confusion"

  1. Beg to differ but in our several years of camping fulltime and using the PA discount, we have only found 2 campgrounds that I would consider undesirable. We’ve never been given “less desirable sites” and we are quite pleased with our PA membership. For $44 a year, even if you do hit an undesirable campground, or one that isn’t up to your standards, you will find enough good ones that your membership will pay for itself in 2 or 3 nights.

  2. We have used Passport America too and generally have been happy with it. You certainly can recover the ‘membership’ fee with just a few nights stay with the 50% discount. However, I stand by what I said though… we have experienced less desirable campsites on a few occasions. And we’re not that finicky.

  3. One of the sites that discriminates on PA is the Yellowstone Inn RV Park, we were given a spot that no cable or sewer hook-up (Cody Wy.).

  4. Generally Passport America campgrounds are OK, they may or may not be as nice as some systems and some may even be better. However, we also have hit some really bad ones. We made reservations in Natural High in ME, had to wait over two hours to get a site. The attendant could not find our reservation, had to wait for the Manager to arrive. (Yet there were lots of sites available.) Then, they took us to five sites, none of which had a sewer connection or an electric connection that could be used. Finally we got a site. Then, during the next three days, found TWENTY SEVEN MAJOR defects, from 9 showers with no hot water or not working and no doors on Shower Rooms, so men could look right into the Ladies or vice versa and children changing. Jacuzzi full of algae, no working washers or driers, and the list goes on. We decided we could not stay, they would not return our money.

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