Even though RVing can be much more affordable than other getaways, costs can add up quickly. Luckily, there are a number of RV discount clubs you can join that will help you save money on RV park accommodations. To help you save money, we’ve compiled our go-to strategies for utilizing RV discounts, joining the right camper clubs, and choosing the best RV membership for you.
How do RV membership clubs work?
Most RV camping memberships are founded on a simple idea. You pay a little upfront to cover administration costs, then the club promotes a select network of RV parks for you to stay in, which will offer you a discount on your stay. Essentially, the park takes a hit on their profits to try and get more business for their park. Typically, the system works out pretty well for everyone involved.
Strategies for RV discount clubs and camping clubs
Before diving into your RV camping club options, let’s talk about what you should know about choosing the right one for you. Here are a few general tips about using RV groups and finding the best deals on campsites.
Tip #1: Buy when you try
Most of the clubs will let you sign up for the service right before using it. If you arrive at a campsite and it has a discount advertised, ask what the discount will be. Before you pay, look up the cost of joining the club on your phone. If the cost to join is less than or equal to what you save, then it’s a no-brainer. You can usually sign up by phone and get your discount right then and there. This is the ideal strategy for RV renters.
Tip #2: Play the field
Just because your club gives you a discount, it doesn’t mean that it’s always the best price available. Be sure to look at all the parks where you are traveling to get the best value you can. A discount on an over-priced park might still be a pretty bad deal. If you travel a lot, then it can often make sense to join multiple clubs so you have many saving options.
Tip #3: Don’t make guesses
The best RV club is the one that you use! It’s not a good idea to get a membership that you might use. Get one that you will use. Make sure you either really like the parks they patron or that they have good parks in the places you fully intend to visit.
Tip #4: Read the fine print
Most of the clubs in the U.S. are pretty straightforward, but there are some that have complicated rules, and others that have smaller benefits they don’t talk about. Find out exactly what you are paying for before you pay for it. Tip #1 is the exception to this, as you already know you are saving more money than you are spending by joining. Also, keep in mind parks often have latitude about when they apply discounts, so check with the park when you book your stay.
Popular RV discount clubs
Join one of these RV park discount clubs and you could end up spending less on your next trip.
The American Automotive Association is not really an RV Park Discount Club, but membership can get you discounts at a pretty wide range of RV parks. Joining AAA is not cheap, and probably won’t pay for itself in discounted stays (discounts usually hover around 10 percent), but if you are already a member or want to join for their roadside service or insurance offerings, then you should definitely try to take advantage of their park discounts. (Note: No link is provided as each regional AAA office has its own website.)
Pros: A wide range of other benefits, plus discounts at a fairly large network of RV parks
Cons: Small discounts, large upfront cost
Ideal for: RV campers who already have a AAA policy
2. Boondockers Welcome
Boondockers Welcome is definitely not for everyone, but the club can certainly save you a lot of money. With a yearly membership of $25, you can stay at the homes and properties of other members for free. Time limits are up to each member and amenities are usually very limited. A club membership may be especially useful if you want to stay in a more urban location where parks are rare. In some cases your hosts may be chummy, in others they may leave you to your privacy or simply not be at home.
Pros: Low cost, largely free lodging
Cons: Limited stays, limited to no utilities
Ideal for: Travelers looking to both save money and make new friends
Escapees is an all-around RV travelers club. They do offer discounts on park stays, but their main focus is more on building a community among RV travelers for their mutual benefit. They only have around 800 parks in their network and they vary considerably on what discounts they offer. Membership is $40 a year and you get a magazine, online resources, and discounts on a number of services and other clubs. It would likely take around two weeks of camping to pay for itself.
Pros: Fantastic supportive RV community, low cost
Cons: Relatively small discounts, relatively small network of parks
Ideal for: Frequent RV travelers looking for a supportive community along with their discounts
4. Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is very specialized. They offer you a free, one-night stay at a rural farm, vineyard, or other agro-tourism location. Membership is $49 annually, though there are various discounts available. It is considered good etiquette to spend some money at the host’s location, and in some cases, you may be granted a longer stay for partaking in their services. For this reason, you don’t necessarily save money unless the place you are staying is also a place you particularly want to visit and spend money.
Pros: Cool locations, low cost
Cons: One night stays, and the expectation you will patronize your hosts
Ideal for: Weekend adventure travelers
5. KOA Value Kard
The KOA Value Kard is more like a loyalty card than a discount club. For $30 you get a 10 percent discount on KOA parks and accumulate points that you can redeem for additional discounts or a free, one-night stay. They also have special coupons from various retailers they make available to members. KOA Kampgrounds are known for following the franchise quality standards and they don’t offer discounts from any other club. If you like KOA, this is your only discount option. You would need to stay about a week at a campground to start saving money.
Pros: Nice parks in the network, parks nationwide, low membership cost
Cons: Small discount, limited to KOA parks only, parks are often premium-priced
Ideal for: Fans of KOA parks and frequent RV travelers
6. Passport America
Passport America is a pretty traditional discount club. You pay $44 upfront for a year and you get a discount when staying at the parks in their network. The promised discount is big—50 percent—but it comes with many limitations. For instance, most of the parks only offer the discount outside of peak season and on short stays. That said, when you are getting 50 percent off, it can pay for itself in as little as 2 nights. Some parks do honor the discount year-round and for up to a week’s stay. This club is great for the “try when you buy” tactic.
Pros: Huge discount, cheap upfront cost, easy to pay for itself
Cons: Limitations of the discount (ask before you book)
Ideal for: Infrequent travelers and those who love a great bargain
7. Thousand Trails
Thousand Trails is a lot like buying a timeshare. You pay a large membership fee (starting at around $500) and can stay in most of their parks for free during your membership. There are lots of rules about how long each stay can be, and how long you have to not be in a park between stays. Membership covers different regions and there are many different levels of membership. You will need to do quite a lot of camping to save money here, but the more you use them, the better the discount gets. You need to camp for about three weeks to get back the cost of a basic membership.
Pros: Potential to save a lot of money if you use them frequently
Cons: Really steep upfront cost, confusing and sketchy rules, confusing membership options, pushy salespeople (think: timeshare), average- to low-quality parks
Ideal for: Snowbirds and full-timers who stick to one region of the country and are good at gaming the system
Which are the best RV discount clubs for renters?
If you already have a AAA membership, definitely take advantage of that. If not, Passport America is almost always bound to pay for itself very quickly, so that’s probably your safest bet to save money when renting an RV. Escapees is a great organization, especially if you are thinking about buying an RV someday—it’s the club RV enthusiasts almost universally respect and admire. If you like KOA campgrounds, which are some of the nicer ones out there, then their Value Kard is your only means for a discount—just make sure your stay at the campground is long enough to justify the upfront cost.
Ready to save some money on your next vacation? Start searching for a cool RV to rent in your area!