Is Membership Camping Cost Effective?

In today’s post we’ll look at relative costs and walk through a cost analysis to determine if purchasing a membership camping system makes sound financial sense based on your current camping pattern.

Cost?

Camping at Lynchburg (Virginia) Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Membership in a camping system involves an initial purchase price that ranges from under $3,000 to more than $10,000, plus annual dues or maintenance fee that range from less than $100 to $600 or more.

Cost Analysis

The derived benefits depend upon your travel pattern and projected usage. The more you use the membership, the more your savings increase.

Assuming that your objective in joining a membership campground is to reduce your camping expenses, then do the math.

Figure out how many nights you will need to stay in membership campgrounds, as opposed to non-membership campgrounds, to really save money.

Prices of membership campground systems vary; but let’s say, for example, your membership fee is $8,000 and the current annual dues are $400 per year. Let’s also assume you will use the membership for a minimum of 10 years.

The membership cost ($8,000 divided by 10 years) would amount to $800 per year. The annual dues would add another $400 per year.

Using these figures, it would cost $1200 per year to maintain a campground membership.

Camping at Hershey Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campsite in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground fees at private RV parks vary with amenities and location (as they say in real estate, location, location, location).

Some rates are hitting the stratosphere! How about the current rates at these resorts:

Campland on the Bay, San Diego, California: $65-$400 per night + tax

Sunland Escondido RV Resort, Escondido, California: $39-$86 per night + tax

Boyd’s Key West Campground, Florida: $70-$90 per night (water/electric sites); $90-$120 per night (full hookups sites) + tax

In spite of these astronomical rates, a non-membership campground charges on average at least $35 (+ taxes) per night for a camping site.

Dividing this $35 into the $1200 annual cost of a campground membership means you could potentially stay in a non-membership campground for 35 nights each year for what it would cost to belong to a membership campground.

In this case, if you think that during the next 10 years you will spend more than 35 nights per year in a membership campgrounds, it might make good financial sense to join.

Assuming an average nightly campground cost of $35, let’s project the costs beyond the initial 35 nights to determine potential savings:

30 nights (1 month)    @ $35     $1050

60 nights (2 months)   @ $35     $2100

90 nights (3 months)   @ $35     $3150

120 nights (4 months) @ $35     $4200

150 nights (5 months) @ $35     $5250

180 nights (6 months) @ $35     $6300

A Review

Check out several competing membership camping systems before signing on the dotted line.

Visit or, better yet, spend several days in several campgrounds in the membership system.

Listen to the sales presentation. Ask questions. Take notes. Take literature and copies of the contracts home to scrutinize and compare. Sleep on it before making your final decision.

Camping at Chesapeake (Virginia) Preserve, a Thousand Trails Preserve. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask current members if they would recommend joining. Do they have any difficulty making reservations? What is the financial condition of the camping system? Are they satisfied with the benefits derived from their membership?

Know what you will be getting into before you buy.

Joining a membership camping system should complement your RVing needs, make good financial sense, and enhance your enjoyment of RVing.

And remember that not all memberships are created equal.

Membership campgrounds have worked well for us, but they are not right for everyone.

The bottom line: Read the contract—every single word—before signing on the dotted line!

Disclaimer: I am a member of Thousand Trails, Western Horizon Resorts, and Passport America camping club but do not represent them or sell memberships.

Please Note: This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on Membership Campgrounds

Part 1: Membership Campground Contract Tough to Cancel

Part 2: Is Membership Camping For You?

Worth Pondering…

The older I get, the more I learn to tolerate human shortcomings—and the less I tolerate bad attitudes.

—Anon

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