We just finished our first RV rallies and wow…what a lot to absorb. To try to help new RVers decide if they should spend their money on a rally, let me share with you from our perspective. Please be aware, I am a single mom with 6 children ranging in ages from 10 years to 23 years (23 year old no longer traveling with us). SO my perspective may be different than yours.
First I’ll start with Passport America as that was our first rally back in 2016. Sadly I can’t tell you a lot about that one as I caught the flu at Disney World and was sick and in bed the entire week of the rally. However, Disney World told us we had to leave even though I was running a fever and the rally site wasn’t that far of a drive and it was paid for so I drove us there, parked and collapsed.
What I do know about that rally is that my kids were probably the only kids there. (Now everything I know about that rally came to me second hand from my kids.) There were several meals included in the rally and the kids even brought me food a couple times. They did all the events on their own. I have no idea what seminars or vendors were there. Their reports weren’t good on that. They did say it was like having a bunch of grandparents and that the people seemed to welcome them and be caring for them. I think when they heard I had the flu they even asked if we needed anything. My overall impression (from my bed) was that they were friendly to the kids and didn’t mind them being there. My 18 year old was in charge of the kids all week so they weren’t completely unsupervised. The entertainment at that rally included a comedian who impersonated Barney Fife. My kids LOVED that. They had just finished watching all the old Andy Griffith shows before we got there. They had my kids pass out prizes at one point. The kids even came back with free tshirts one day. Sadly I don’t have much more to say about this one since I missed it but the kids want to go to another one so it must have been alright.
Our second rally was the Good Sam RV Super Show. They said it was their first rally. It was a decent rally. Lots of trailers and coaches for sale. Probably more than any of the other rallies. We didn’t see but one other family with kids all week and we knew them. They did have a kids area with a climbing wall and a trampoline bungee thing which the kids LOVED especially because there were no other kids there so they pretty much played all week with no lines! That was a huge hit. The kids also loved that they played bingo twice a day for prizes. That was a HUGE hit not just with my kids but with the other people there. Good Sam had representatives there to help with membership issues, etc. They were quite knowledgeable and friendly. Of course they had a huge Camping World tent full of stuff but very few other vendors. All the majors were there Cummins, Freightliner, etc. It was nice to get to talk with them about some issues. They had some decent seminars as well. On the weekend we noticed the numbers increased greatly as many people were there for the RV show on the weekend. We did see a few more kids on the weekend but they didn’t seem to be using the kids area. Our neighbor was a nice enough fellow but we didn’t really meet anyone else there. If you’re looking to buy and RV of any kind, this is probably a good rally to attend. Entertainment was ok but it was outside and it was a little chilly at night so we didn’t really stay for any of that. Unless you come with friends to this one you pretty much will just enjoy a big RV show that you get to park at and some seminars with some entertainment thrown in. The kids were very upset one night. THey had one night with some kind of BBQ and the kids waited in line for over 45 minutes watching mature adult after mature adult leave with plates piled high with tons of food and when they finally got to the front of the line there was nothing left. It seems the mature adults at this rally were glutons with no care or concern about sharing with anyone else. It was grab all you can.
Our third rally was the FMCA rally. Now this one was probably the biggest rally we attended. That had it’s pros and cons. Sadly they picked a terrible place to host the rally and they had more people show up than they planned for which caused some serious issues with parking. People were waiting 6 hours to park! That’s NOT good. They don’t seem to have their parking quite down either. They park one person at a time and it takes FOREVER to get this done but “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and they don’t seem to want to change. This rally is also for COACH people only. Towables are not included (although there is a proposal to include them that will be voted upon this summer so that is likely to change). What we noticed at this rally was the age difference. The average age of FMCA members they say is 70 something. It shows! The people were nice enough to us but not really friendly. However, they did have the best selection of vendors of any of the rallies and some great seminars. So if you need to learn or want to know about good products to purchase then this is the rally to attend. Their entertainment seemed ok but we didn’t make it to any of the evening entertianment so it isn’t fair for me to critique that. It sounded ok from our RV at night. There were a total of 18 children registered 5 of which were mine! So if you have kids and need them entertianed this might not be your rally. There are some people in FMCA trying to change this and get more families involved with FMCA. There is new leadership coming in and we did meet some of the big wigs and some of them have said they want to hear our input so they can grow as needed. I think they genuinely want to improve in some areas but only time will tell if they are successful. But as I said this is a great place to learn about your RV, to see lots of Class As and some class Cs together in one place and they have some great vendors. They have got that part right!
Lastly we hit the Escapees rally. Now this is definitely the social rally. Lots of fun social things going on. They had a room with crafts going on all day where you could knit, crochet, learn to hook rugs as well as some people sewing blankets and hats for a charity. They were most helpful and willing to teach my girls about their crafts. They also had many, many different smaller groups both chapters (by geographic location) and birds of a feather (by interest) and they all had things going on. Escapees gets huge points from me for having an APP and using it for scheduling, maps and keeping people updated. They even sent out daily email updating everyone on changes and important things. If I have any complaint it would be that they sent out TOO much information as it could get overwhelming…but I applaud them for using technology and not giving us more paper to keep up with. Everyone there was quite friendly and there were I think 68 children. So definitely more family friendly. Fulltime Families also works with them to put on a kids program two days during the rally so that you can drop your kids off for half a day or so and you can have fun without having to take care of your kids. We found that many people tried to include us and make us feel welcome and we even had a member with a double digit member number come up and talk with my girls wanting to know how they enjoyed full timing. She even suggested they do a story on us for the magazine. They had a vendor that supplied some form of snacks and beverages every afternoon and the evening entertainment was pretty good. At this rally people actually danced to the music! You could tell a definite difference in the feeling here that we were all welcome. They did have seminars and some vendors. The vendor area was very small. It didn’t come close to the FMCA vendor area. Their seminars were ok. They did have a decent number of them and several of them were from the same folks that did seminars at the FMCA rally. So you could easily pick up some good information from this rally as well.
I can’t really declare any one rally the real winner. It’s like the clubs. They all do certain things really well and some things not as well. (I hope to do a comparison of those next.) Just like Thousand Trails and Coast to Coast, if you know what you are getting and go with the right expectation any of these rallies can be a good experience. But if you go to an FMCA rally expecting it to be a social event like an Escapees rally you will be sorely disappointed. Or vice versa if you go to the Escapees rally expecting to see the number of vendors that are at an FMCA rally you too will be disappointed. One gentleman I met at lunch one day said he didn’t like the FMCA rally and he probably wouldn’t go back. I asked why and he said, “at Passport America rallies for the same price…they feed us!” However, at any rally if you meet up with some of your friends there you can still have a great time. We met our friends with kids at the FMCA rally which gave my rambunctious son someone to play with and then we met some of their friends and we had a great time.
As for us, this is going to be our rally year. We’re going to keep trying them out. Our next one will be a summer FMCA rally where we hear there will be more children. Hopefully there will be another Passport America rally and I won’t have the flu! After this year we will probably hit rallies based on where they are being held. We have all agreed we HATE Arizona! All that dirt! UGH. But if a rally is going to be in a decent area, they we may hit them again just for something to do. I do not, however, think I want to do 3 rallies almost back to back again. One thing I can say is that we are all TIRED! We’re ready to get back to a slower pace of exploring without a timeline to keep.