Our Top 5 Favorite RV Memberships

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Good Sam, Passport America, Escapees, Thousand Trails, and more! Which RV memberships do you really need?

Before we started RVing, I didn’t know RV memberships were a thing. Really, I didn’t know full-time RVing before retirement was a thing.

We jumped into full-timing with little knowledge or experience in the RV world. Our goal was not to be RVers. Our goal was to visit all fifty states. Turns out, buying an RV was the most affordable way to make this happen. And so we bought a fixer-upper off of Craigslist, planned our route, and took off four days after our wedding.

Because it took us so long to pack up the RV and hit the road on that first day, we knew we wouldn’t end up arriving at a campground until after camp offices closed at five pm. Instantly we were faced with an unforeseen problem: How do you check into a campground if there is no one there?

Before we left Texas to head west, we joined only one RV membership at the suggestion of a friend: . We had no idea how to use it or how it all worked.

I found a campground near our destination using Passport America’s app and gave them a call. The woman in the office told me to find any open site and set up camp for the night. She said to drop by in the morning after the office opened and pay for our stay. We were shocked by this for a few reasons:

  1. She wasn’t worried at all about us not paying.
  2. She accepted our Passport America discount (50% off) without asking for a member number.
  3. This campground with wifi, a heated pool, and a hot tub cost $19.

Instantly, I fell in love with Passport America. (Really I’ll fall in love with any campground that offers a hot tub).

I’m all about saving money on the road, so RV memberships are high on my list of things worth paying for each year. Today I’ll break down the most popular five RV memberships, their benefits, how much they cost, and if I think they are worth it.

I’m all about saving money on the road, so RV memberships are high on my list of things worth paying for each year. These five are by far the best: Click To Tweet

The Top Five RV Memberships (in order of how frequently we use ours)

Passport America

Website:

is the 50% Discount Camping Club. Hands down, this membership has saved us the most money.

Benefits

  • 50% off camping fees at participating campgrounds
  • Nearly 2,000 participating campgrounds
  • Easy-to-use mobile app
  • Affiliate referral program

Cost:

  • $44 annually
  • $79 for two years
  • $109 for three years

The Problem with Passport America

Some Passport America parks have a reputation for not being very nice parks. We’ve definitely stayed at some trashy $12 parking lots that call themselves RV parks. However, we’ve also stayed at a bunch of RV resorts with pools, hot tubs, good wifi, game rooms, and all the perks that come with resort RV parks. The good thing about Passport America is that you can really easily view amenities. You cannot, however, see real reviews like you can with Good Sam.

Here’s Passport America’s webpage for Valencia Travel Village, the RV park where we always stay when we visit LA:

passport america los angeles

I can easily see on their website (or on their app) that this park has a pool, hot tub, golf, tennis, a playground, and more. They even offer security, so I know this will be nicer than most RV parks out there. If you pay attention to these icons, you can get a good idea of what an RV park will be like before you arrive.

But again, PA does not have any reviews or any way to directly read real customer reviews to give you a better sense of what the RV park is like.

Is Passport America worth it?

Passport America pays for itself in two nights, or even with one use if you use it in California where it pays for itself pretty much instantly. Hands down, every single RVer should join Passport America. We’ve saved hundreds of dollars because of PA and the membership is so cheap! We are lifetime members and have used the program for six years now.

But you shouldn’t just join Passport America to save money. PA is also a great way to make money on the road.

Passport America offers $10 affiliate commissions for all referrals. So, if you , I earn $10 for referring you. For Heath and I, this is a great way for us to promote a product we use constantly and also make a little extra cash. Plus, if you sign up a campground for Passport America, you can earn up to $100 for the referral (but Heath and I have never done this).

If you want to join Passport America and start saving money on camping fees, I’d be over the moon if you .

Harvest Hosts

Website:

Harvest Hosts is a unique RV membership that allows campers to park their RV for free (for one night) at select wineries, vineyards, breweries, farms, and museums.

Our first Harvest Host stay just outside of Gettysburg

Perks:

  • One free night of camping
  • A good way to meet locals
  • 1000+ locations

Cost:

  • $79 annually

The Problem with Harvest Hosts

When you’re parking at HH sites, you likely won’t have hookups of any kind.

Plus, in accordance with the Harvest Hosts setup, participating business owners allow you to stay for one night. However, I know from experience that the nicer you are (and the more wine, beer, etc. you buy), the more likely it is that you’ll be allowed to stay longer, especially during the week or during the off-season. The old owners of Harvest Hosts were extremely strict about the one night rule, but the new owners of the company are much more relaxed. So you can stay at your awesome Harvest Hosts site for as long as your host will allow. We’ve stayed a max of three nights in one location.

Is Harvest Hosts worth it?

YES. In one night, Harvest Hosts theoretically pays for itself.

However, the idea behind HH is that you camp for free (saving yourself at least $35) in exchange for patronizing the business. Since most participating HH businesses are wineries or breweries or farms, this is a great way to immerse yourself in the local area and try local flavors. But buying a couple of bottles of wine will easily run you more than the cost of a campsite.

For just saving money, this isn’t the best membership. Your lodging costs will go down, but your spending will likely go up.

For meeting people, exploring a local area, and having a good night of food and drink, HH is amazing!!! (They deserve all the exclamations points, they are so wonderful!) We recently spent three nights at multiple HH stops on the east coast. We spent over $100 buying a wine tasting, a few bottles of local wine, and dinner. This is more than we would’ve wanted to spend on lodging, but we met great people and had a lot of fun, so it’s worth the cost in my book!

If you do want to sign up for Harvest Hosts, you can 🙂

Good Sam Club

Website:

Good Sam Club is Good Sam’s reward program (a separate fee from their insurance, roadside assistance, and any other services).

Perks:

  • 10% off camping fees at participating campgrounds
  • Over 2,400 participating campgrounds
  • Up to 10% savings at Camping World
  • Up to 8¢ off the gallon at select Pilot Flying J locations

Cost:

  • $29 annually
  • $50 for two years
  • $79 for three years

The Problem with Good Sam

The campground discount Good Sam offers is pretty low. It ends up being only a few dollars per night so you will have to use this membership frequently to get your money back.

But my biggest issue with Good Sam is the mail they send. Like, a TON of mail. All of which are trying to upsell you on their other services—even services you already use. They send me mail twice a week trying to sell me products of theirs that I already own and trying to convince me to buy more. SO ANNOYING. Stop killing trees, you already have my money.

Is Good Sam Club worth it?

In the past few years, Good Sam has changed its benefits. It used to offer a 3¢ per gallon discount which has been upped to 5¢ for gas and 8¢ for diesel. They also used to offer up 30% off Camping World purchases and that number has been lowered to 10%.

If you utilize the camping discounts plus the gas discounts, this membership can pay for itself by staying at a few campgrounds and filling up your gas tank at their “select” Pilot Flying J locations.

We’ve used Good Sam for years and I highly doubt it’s saved us more than $50, though it does always pay for itself. I would say it’s worth it, but you can get better savings with Passport America (or potentially Harvest Hosts).

Escapees

Website: (Affiliate link)

Escapees RV Club is a support network for RVers.

Perks:

Cost:

  • $39.95/annually
  • $850 for lifetime

The Problem with Escapees

I joined Escapees thinking that it was another RV park discount program. They do have some RV parks that offer Escapees members discounts, but Escapees is more about community and life on the road than about saving money.

Escapees is a social club. If you’re looking for another discount program, this is not the place to look.

Is Escapees worth it?

Finding community and connecting to other RVers on the road is not easy. We are often asked how to meet other RVers and how to combat loneliness on the road.

Escapees offers meet-ups and rallies all across the country as a way to help connect RVers. There are 11 rallies being hosted this month alone. Some of these rallies are free to attend as members while others may cost a fee.

Plus, they have hundreds of articles and videos on their website to answer all of your RV-related questions–which is great for new RVers. This is especially helpful when it comes to needing quick maintenance advice you can trust.

If you are new to RVing, Escapees is a great membership for helping you learn more about the ins and outs of RVing and connect with other full-timers.

Plus, they also have “Xscapers” for younguns like Heath and me. If you’re a “young” RVer (basically if you’re under 50, you’re young) then this is another great way to meet RVers who are not retirees. No offense retirees, but it’s nice to meet working-age RVers too.

You can .


 

This post is adapted from my latest book, A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV: Everything I Wish I Knew Before Full-time RVing Across America.

This book answers all your full-time RVing questions, from how to get mail and internet on the road to how to pick the right RV for you.

Available exclusively on Amazon


 

Thousand Trails

Website:

Thousand Trails offers a slightly different kind of membership club. For a larger upfront fee, you can camp without charge for up to 14 or 30 days at a time (depending on the level of membership you purchase) at one of the participating Thousand Trails campgrounds.

thousand trails zones

Perks:

  • 86 campgrounds in five “zones” across the country
  • “Free” camping in your selected zone

Cost:

  • “$545 annually” (Quotation marks here because Thousand Trails pricing plans are more confusing than American healthcare)

The Problem with Thousand Trails

You either love or hate Thousand Trails. There is no in-between.

I’ve heard they can be confusing and difficult, with horrible customer service. Not to mention that they are pricey, come with hefty restrictions, and figuring out which parks allow you to stay for free on which days can be a headache.

For a few years, Thousand Trails parks also had a reputation as being a little rundown. In 2017 we met a few members of the PR team at Equity Lifestyle Properties, the company that owns Thousand Trails and Encore Resorts. They let us know they are in the process of renovating and updating many of their parks to make them better destinations.

We visited three of their parks during a visit to the Florida Keys and they were all amazing. Hopefully this means that the brand is improving as a whole and will be a better deal for RVers in the future.

Is Thousand Trails worth it?

For some, yes. I know families who say they have saved thousands on lodging fees with TT.

For others, no. I have friends who asked for a refund after a month of using the membership because they had such terrible experiences at every park they visited.

The idea behind Thousand Trails is awesome. You pay an annual fee, you can stay at their locations for free all year, you save thousands of dollars on lodging and save time researching campgrounds. But it’s kind of hit or miss. For us, the negative reviews have scared us away from joining the membership because the upfront investment is so high. If you do want to try Thousand Trails, the rumor is you should buy a used membership on eBay instead of paying full-price through Thousand Trails.


As far as RV memberships go, Heath and I actively use Harvest Hosts, Passport America, and Good Sam (in that order). Combined, these memberships have saved us thousands of dollars and with such low price tags, I recommend them all!

Which RV memberships do you use? Share with us in the comments below!

46 Responses

  • We belong to three [that I can think of]: 1. Passport America-completely agree with your assessment. We got an excellent lifetime membership deal by getting in on the ground floor. We use it whenever we can, and the phone app makes it VERY easy to search for their campgrounds. 2. Good Sam-sure, it’s only a 10% discount, but it’s better than paying full price. People your age, if you’re committed to the lifestyle, should go ahead and get the Lifetime Membership, then get their Pilot/Flying J CHARGE card [not a credit card] because you then save 6¢/gallon for gas and 8¢/gallon for diesel. And yes, you do get a ton of mail. 3. Escapees-we are Lifetime Members and have not really received much value from it yet, but that’s our own fault. We thought we were going to be able to full time and planned on using their mail service and using them to establish residency. 4. Freedom Resorts-we’ve only belonged for a few years but have yet to be able to receive any benefit from it. We also agree about Thousand Trails. Not only do you have to subscribe to more than one region if you travel the country, I’ve never heard anything good about them, either. And I’ve also heard that once you’re in, you can never get out. They will come after your estate after you die to get their fees.

    • I have found that the Flying J/ Pilot thing is tricky. Some are called Super Centers or Travel Centers and they are the only ones that accept the card. There are a lot of smaller stations the have the name but do not accept the card. At least that is the way here on the east coast and in the mid west.

      • Hey Lensming, great to hear that you’ve had a similar experience. The app for Passport is definitely one of the few apps in the industry that we’ve found really helpful.

      • Jerry, I’m sorry you’ve had trouble. That has not been our experience at all, and we’ve used it all over the U.S. with the exception of the northeast. We haven’t been up there yet. I think we’ve only had one station refuse the discount…and I wish I could remember where it was. When we’re traveling in our Class A diesel pusher, it just makes it so much easier to go into the truck stops for fuel, with the added benefit that it’s always fresh, since they sell such a large quantity of it.

        • I agree the travel Centers are a great place to stop, they have dump stations and RV parking. But when you head east you may find your card says “see cashier” or just ignores the card. Just try to look for Travel Center instead of what looks like a gas station. Maybe it is just the Southeast. Hopefully that is true because I plan to head west in the spring. Happy Trails

    • Haha Thousand Trails is like the mafia of the RV world! That’s terrible. I didn’t know about getting 6 cents off per gallon with the charge card for GS. That sounds like it would be worth it!

  • I have a life membership to Good Sam being a veteran. You are right about the up sells. I don’t even look at the crap that comes in the mail, I just drop it in recycle. It seems like the road service was $69 last year this year $129. I have a 2 year old class c MH. Not going for road service this year. I guess in the spring when we head out on our next adventure I will do Passport America (through your site). Glad to see you guys are heading for the east coast. Visit Myrtle Beach area in South Carolina and I have a hookup at the house. We are retirees and travel frequently but still like the homestead to come back to. Thanks for all your valuable info,

    • Hey Jerry! Thanks for reaching out man. We’ve heard so many awesome things about Myrtle Beach and definitely plan on making a trip to that area. That’s a bummer to hear about the road side increase in spending… we haven’t looked closely at that lately (but it’s come in handy for us).

      Thanks for reading and also for getting your Passport through our link! You rock and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  • We’ve been using Thousand Trails as our primary campgrounds since we started RVing. I’ve always heard great things in person from other campers but I’ve also read a lot of negative online. We’ve stayed in over 25 of them usually for 3 weeks at a time and have LOVED it. It took awhile to figure out how to get the most out of it but once we dialed in our process of vetting sites, campgrounds, things to do, etc it’s been seriously incredible.

      • We’ve never thought about it as saving, Danielle originally wanted thousand trails cause it was easy and you know you’re getting a good site with amenities at a fair price. If you add up the days we’ve spent at TT over the past two and a half years and assume a rate of $35 per night (I’m not actually sure what most people spend per night), it comes to around $22,000. We’ve spent around $1,800 for 3 years and an initial investment of $1,600 by purchasing a used nationwide membership online. By that calculation it would have saved us just over $18k. We’ve been able to stay at some insanely awesome campsites!

        • @shorelooksnice. I would love your list of great TT campgrounds and ones to avoid! We haven’t left yet out on the road yet but have found our truck and fifth wheel. Just researching health insurance and best ways to find campgrounds without paying $20,000+ in campground fees.

        • Sounds like a good deal to me! It’s good to finally hear someone that has had a good experience with it. It’s one of those memberships that I would love to have because it sounds like such a great deal, but everyone said it wasn’t worth it!

        • Eric!

          Thanks for the in depth explanation of Thousand Trails. That’s the best part of having comments on a blog is to have other people chime and offer up suggestions/advice.

          Excited to interview you on the podcast tomorrow!

          Heath

  • Thanks for the link! That page on TT gets more search traffic than just about any other on our site. Keep expecting TT to contact us saying “can we talk”?

    • Whoa now, that seems like waaaay too 2016 of a response for the RV industry. They will probably reach out in 5-10 years once they’ve caught up to current times.

  • What are your thoughts on RPI (Resort Parks International)? They seem to have nicer campgrounds and facilities than TT – but have a similar membership plan…We will be starting our Full Time adventure this spring …

      • We were given a sales pitch from “Neskowin Creek” Reps at Camping World in Wood Village (Portland) Oregon after purchasing our new mini McMansion (Winnebago Vista 36y). A Membership – or purchase – into this program provides free (7-14 night interval) stays all year long to your “home park” and optional membership benefits (7-14 night interval stays for $10 per night) at RPI and “Coast” Parks. Online Reviews at the parks seemed much better than TT and some TT and Encore parks are also part of the RPI group. Up front fees/memberships vary from $1500 – $8000 and annual maintenance fees are $100-$700 depending on which membership you go with – (as with dealing with a car salesman – the membership and annual fees seemed to vary depending on your eagerness to purchase.) We have not joined – but have not discounted a membership yet…We expect to be hitting the road for our FT adventure in the early spring, once our house sells. We are fortunate in that we also have a property on a lake in central CA that we can call “home” if we run into any unforseen health issues or unexpected expenses on the road.

    • We have RPI and AOR and love them both.we are members of Southern Trails in Georgia. It cost us $1000 to join and we pay Southern Trails $55.00 a year, RPI Preferred $119.00 a Year and AOR $99 a year. RPI sites are $10 per night full hook up and AOR are $9.00 per night full hook up. Pays for itself in no time.

  • Interesting comparison, but Thousand Trails isn’t the same kind of membership as the others. It’s apples and oranges.

    I think it all depends on the type of traveler you are. For example I have a Thousand Trails Elite Membership and a Passport America membership. With TT I paid $5,000 for the Elite membership and have to pay a yearly maintenance fee of around $500. This allows me to stay at any TT park nationwide for up to 21 days at a time, and then I just move on to the next TT park for another 21 days and so on. It also allows me to stay at any RPI campground for $10 per night. I RV full-time and I like that most TT “preserves” are off the beaten track. It’s true that a lot of them can use some renovations, but a lot of them are very nice. And while there are plenty of TT campgrounds on the coasts and Texas, there are few in the middle states and that’s where the $10 per night RPI part comes in. Since most of the year I travel from one TT campground to the next, the membership fee is more than fair. Before going full time I paid $1300 in rent per month. That’s over $15k for the year in rent. $5500 beats that hands down.

    I love PA, but I can’t always get the 50% off, and if I do the discount is often only for two nights. I like to stay at one spot for at least a week or two. But if you are one that likes to boondock a lot and stay at the occasional RV park then PA makes sense. Plus, it’s accepted at so many RV parks which is nice. Really, for $44 there is no reason not to have a PA membership card.

    Financially, if you want to stay hooked up with water and electricity all the time but still travel, it would look something like this…

    Thousand Trails Elite – First year is $5500 and after that it’s only $500 per yr

    Passport America – 50% off of a typical rate of $40 per night = $20 x 365 = $7300 per yr every year

    And that’s why I say that it depends on what kind of RV traveler you are. Again, if you boondock or want to stay at national parks, etc. then PA is the way. All that being said, TT is not for everyone. It’s best to stay at a couple of TT parks and pay the public fee to try it out first. And you’ll want to have a tow vehicle because they are rarely within walking or biking distance of anything.

    • Really none of these memberships are the same. Harvest Hosts has nothing to do with RV parks or discounts and Escapees isn’t primarily for camping discounts at all. Thousand Trails is definitely way different than PA or Good Sam. The most similar thing is Resort Parks International, and I’m pretty sure they own or at least partner with TT. But yes, definitely agree that deciding which memberships to buy depends wholly on what type of travel you enjoy.

  • This is an old thread but…

    I called Good Sam customer service and requested that I be removed from all marketing mails. Since then I have not received anything. I admit it ticked me off to pay to have their mail shipped to me, but it’s solved now. If only Capital One and AAA would listen…

  • Helpful information. My wife and I are contemplating a 5th wheel trailer purchase in the near future with intent to vacation in our great land as we navigate through our twilight years. Have you run across any issues with parks and 5th wheels that might be of concern for us? We’re in Indiana and plan to head to the New England states first, then head down the East Coast. (We both grew up on the Left Coast and have seen more that enough).

    Also, in our travels, we’ve seen many KOA campgrounds. How do they play into the RV life?

    • Hey Gary! There’s no issues with parks and fifth wheels. As for KOAs, they are generally really expensive. They sometimes have better amenities than other RV parks, but you’re mostly just paying for a name brand. We avoid KOAs because of the cost, and the discount if you’re a member isn’t really enough to make a big difference.

  • Good article with the pros and cons of each membership! I’m surprised you didn’t mention FMCA as well. They have a great magazine, a few campground discounts and a really good discount on motorhome tires (we saved over $500.00 on 6 tires).
    They also have conventions where you can show off and exchange info.

  • Good article, glad you gave pros and cons for each club. Surprised you didn’t mention FMCA too. Great club, with good magazine, lots of friendly chapters, and lots of benefits and discounts. We just saved over $500.00 on tires through the Michline Advantage program.

    • Hey Chris! Thanks 🙂 We’ve been hearing a little more about FMCA lately, but it’s definitely not one of the more popular clubs. If they keep doing their unlimited internet offer though, I’m sure they will be.

  • When we purchased our rv, the dealer gave us a membership to Thousand Trails. After the purchase my wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She had undergo with 2 surgeries to remove the thyroid. Her doctor gave us a letter to give to the dealer we purchased the rv to see if they could cancel/renew or membership. We were given a new membership, when we were ready to use our Thousand Trails membership to go on a trip, there wasn’t a park we could go because of our 5 yorkies. They said the limits 3. Spoke to Thousand Trails, told that we thought camping is family thing and our dogs are part it. They said they don’t make the rules of the parks, they only do there reservation.

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