The Value of Membership Camping
With a growing number of families discovering the fun of RV travel, campsites are in growing demand, particularly near popular leisure destinations or attractions and during peak travel seasons. Membership camping assures you of a place to camp near the places you want to visit and offers real money-saving value to families who camp often.
How Does It Work?
When you join a membership camping association, you typically pay a one-time fee to “buy in” at a “home park”. You pay annual dues to maintain your membership, which usually entitles you to stay at your home park plus a network of affiliated parks at minimal or no cost. The network may include hundreds of parks across the country or just a handful in a specific region. Your home park may be at a favorite location near your home or at another location near a destination you frequently visit. Park amenities can range from lavish RV resorts to rustic campgrounds offering a real “backwoods” camping experience.
Buy-in fees and annual dues vary by organization but the initial fee is usually a few thousand dollars and annual dues a few hundred dollars. While these costs may seem high, consider what you pay in nightly fees at campgrounds open to the public and the quality of your camping experience in those public campgrounds. Like any other membership program, your savings increase the more you use it. The membership is also usually transferrable, so it can be sold or even willed to your heirs, much like any other investment.
Save on Nightly Fees
As competition for good campsites in popular locations increases, so do campground fees. Private membership owners typically pay only $10 to $20 per night to stay in a member park near a popular destination. Campers staying in a public park near the same destination may pay two or three times that amount per night, depending on season.
Peace of Mind
Private membership also gives you peace of mind in knowing you have a campsite at your destination or along your route. Some membership camping associations require no reservations for members because they hold several sites open each night for members’ use, as part of their affiliation agreement. Others let you make reservations online or by phone. Campers in public parks may have to make reservations a year or more in advance to insure they have a site suitable for their RV near a popular destination during peak season, competing with thousands of other campers.
Members-only parks also have more control over who camps there and tend to have higher levels of security. You are less likely to end up next to a group of all-night partiers in a membership campground than if you stay in a public park. Members-only parks may be gated or offer 24-hour security patrols, so their crime rates are practically non-existent. Because of widespread budget cuts at local, state and national parks and campgrounds, there may be fewer rangers or other security personnel available to keep the peace and protect against crime.
Budget considerations also factor into available amenities and upkeep in public camping facilities. Most membership campgrounds are required to maintain certain standards to keep their affiliation. Because they typically have higher annual revenues than a public campground that rents out sites by the night, membership campgrounds have more financial resources with which to develop and maintain the campground and its amenities.
Is It Right for Me?
Many membership camping associations offer a free trial stay at an affiliated park to those interested in learning more about the association. President’s Club members can enjoy a free three day/two night stay at one of a number of select membership campgrounds across the U.S. For details, visit CampingWorld.com/resortoffers.