Membership Campgrounds & Discount Camping Clubs, Part 1

Membership Camping

Verde Valley Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership park in Arizona between Camp Verde and Cottonwood. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Membership camping is a concept that has become popular with RVers of all ages.

Google “membership camping” and you’ll receive over five million hits.

This series of nine articles should assist the reader in sorting through the information, misinformation, and confusion about membership camping in order to make an informed decision.

What are membership campgrounds?

Membership campgrounds are particularly appealing to snowbirds and full-timers who don’t want to spend all their time in one or two locations.

In exchange for purchasing a one-time membership and paying annual dues, you may camp free—or nearly free—for a specified period of time.

How do membership campgrounds work?

When you buy into a membership camping association, you typically pay a one-time fee, usually in the thousands of dollars.

You commit yourself to paying annual dues/maintenance fees that range from less than $100 to $600 or more.

Desert Shadows RV Resort, a Western Horizon membership resort in Casa Grande, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your membership usually entitles you to use the membership park for a designated time period—usually two to three consecutive weeks—and for a specified cost—often free but many now charge $1 to $5 per day as a “utility surcharge” or “service fee”. In some camping systems you may pay a $2 to $5 per day surcharge to upgrade from 30-amp electric service to 50 amps.

Usually the member must be out of the system for a week before again staying at a system campground.

Membership upgrades may also be available. In most cases they entitle members to stay for three weeks with no time out between other parks in the system plus other benefits which may or may not meet your needs.

Memberships can have terms limited to a designated number of years, or be “lifetime” and in some instances, transferable, so they can be sold or willed, much like any other investment.

Why buy a campground membership?

  1. Save money on camping fees
  2. Since member-only parks have more control over who camps there, they tend to have a higher level of security; some parks have 24-hour gated security while others offer 24-hour security patrols
  3. Amenities such as pool, hot tub, exercise room, and club house
  4. Some parks have free WiFi
  5. Activity directors plan activities
  6. Feeling of family
  7. Security of planning a trip several months in advance
  8. Fellow campground members we have met in our travels have been friendly; we have maintained friendships

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

Worth Pondering…

The important thing is not to stop questioning.

—Albert Einstein

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