Discount camping clubs are everywhere and they often seem like a good deal. After all, who doesn’t want to save money on RV vacations?
Do you like knowing what to expect when you go RVing?
All RVers want to hit the road with as little hassle as possible. Discount camping clubs and RV resort memberships can be a no-brainer way to do that, but be careful.
Signing a contract for a discount camping club can give you more headaches than happiness if you don’t know what to expect.
Here’s a rundown on how the most popular discount camping clubs work.
Discount Camping Club Resorts and Preserves
Join a camping club like Thousand Trails, Cal-AM Resorts and Western Horizon Resorts and you’ll practically guarantee your next RV vacation has few surprises and the basics you’d expect in a park — but with discounted nightly rates.
RV resorts that participate in a club’s network must meet certain criteria. If you like the reassurance of a Holiday Inn-style experience by knowing that every place you visit will be up to similar standards, then this type of camping club might work for you.
- Cheap nightly rates
- Standard RV park amenities like full-hookups and level parking spots
- Occasional bonuses like swimming pools, fitness centers and social activities
- Reciprocal relationships with other parks in the club’s network
- Requires a “buy-in” cost of anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars
- You must pay yearly dues
- Most clubs have some type of geographic restrictions (but allow members to expand their “network” for additional costs)
- Members are often held to a “Two weeks in / One Week Out” rule during prime tourist seasons
Many RV resorts in popular camping destinations like Myrtle Beach and the Texas Gulf Coast follow the same type of timeshare model as hotels and condominium resorts. For a lump sum and annual membership dues, you buy a slot of time each year in a site at a RV park.
- RV resort timeshares are great if you don’t do a ton of traveling and just want a guaranteed place to camp each year.
- Parks tend to have a neighborhood feel with the same seasonal residents year after year.
- RV park timeshare contracts are difficult to extricate yourself from.
- If you decide to dump your timeshare investment, you might take a loss when selling it.
Camping clubs and membership-based RV timeshare resorts are always searching for new members. You’ll often find them advertising free stays, breakfasts and other bonuses for visitors. But to cash in on the free park visit, first-time campers must sit through a high pressure sales presentation that’s all about getting you to sign up. Before you do, ask yourself:
- How often do you stay in RV parks? Be realistic when considering how often you’ll actually use the membership.
- Calculate how many nights you’ll need to stay at a membership park or timeshare resort before you recoup your buy-in and annual dues costs. How long will it take to pay for the membership?
Be warned: you might end up paying more to belong to the resort than the number of “discount” nights you get out of it. If so, you can try to dump your membership or timeshare at a place like MyResortNetwork.com.
Like any legally-binding agreement, you must understand what’s in the contract before signing so don’t rush into anything.