Ok. Today I’m going to talk about some of the big RV membership clubs. At first I joined every possible club and discount group figuring that I would at least get my money’s worth out of each of them. Over time I’ve weeded it out and found out a lot more about the different groups/clubs and hopefully I can share some of what I’ve learned to help you make your decisions.
1. Good Sam — this is a huge one and most people have heard of it. Price isn’t that much about $27 a year. Depending on when and how you renew you can often get a $25 gift certificate from Camping World. It’s a pretty cheap price. But what do you get?
First you get discounts at Camping World. If you RV much then you pretty much will have to go to Camping World. Try as you might you can visit all the little mom and pop RV shops but you can also drive yourself nuts trying to find items you need and honestly Camping World is like the Walmart for all things RV. If you are a Good Sam club member then you get a little discount off most items and often there are specials and other things offered.
Secondly you get I think 10% off at all Good Sam campgrounds. 10% isn’t the best discount out there but they do have one of the largest number of campgrounds in their discount program. So you know 10% less is still 10% less!
Good Sam offers all kinds of extras. I do use their Roadside Assistance and have for years and I’ve never had a complaint about them. We’ve had our RV towed at least 3 times, had tire service, and even had them out to put some kind of fluid into the engine. We have, thankfully, never run out of fuel. Now this service is an EXTRA with extra fees. But they have never let me down. One thing I like about this extra is that I have children who can drive and anytime me or one of my driving children is anywhere in anyone’s vehicle they are covered! That means if they are out with friends and their friend’s car gets a flat, the tire service will come out. Dead battery, no problem. But even more than that. If one of my driving kids was riding with my mom in her RV and it broke down, they are supposed to treat that RV just as they would mine! I haven’t tested this yet but I like knowing me and the kids will never be stranded no matter who we’re riding with.
They also offer medical assist, insurance rates, and extended warranties. I think they’ve thought out all their programs and their additional fees are about the same as competitors. We’ve tried most of there services at one time and some we used and some we didn’t. So far we’ve had no complaints with them.
2. FMCA another huge one and one that I almost ditched. It came free for one year with the purchase of my first Fleetwood class A. I didn’t have to pay the $50 fee for the year. I kept it, didn’t use it and almost didn’t renew it. One day I was poking around on their web site to see what it was about before deciding NOT to renew it and then I found all the benefits. WOW> Ok. These guys have definitely got the power of numbers behind them.
The FIRST reason I can tell you this is a membership you want to have is for their Travel Assist. It’s INCLUDED in your $50 annual membership. No extra cost! That’s a big deal. Basically if you are traveling and get sick or injured these are the guys that help you out. I’ve not used this service (thankfully) but as I understand it covers things like…you are sick and taken to the hospital and that hospital cannot handle your issue then they pay to transport you to a better hospital. In addition if you need someone to travel with you they pay for a friend or familiy member to go with you. If something happens and you cannot drive your RV then they pay to move your RV for you. In my case they will get all my children “home”. (Which would be interesting as we really have no home right now). They also (gruesome as it sounds) will return your body home for burial if something fatal happens. BUT..hey that I hear is a very expensive task! It just gives me that peace of mind being a single mom traveling that if something were to happen to me they would pay to have someone drive my RV and take my children or fly them to where they need to be so they can be cared for. I can tell you this service costs more than $50 a year with other vendors.
If that isn’t enough then the next biggest benefit they have is their tire program with Michelin. I hear they are adding another tire vendor as well but I don’t know the details of that one. Basically if you need new RV tires you call a special number and Michelin works to get you exactly what you need at a HUGE discount. Again I haven’t used this one but friends who have said they saved like $1,000 or so replacing their tires. If you have to purchase RV tires…you don’t want to do it without these discounts. Even if you join for one year it’s worth it just for that.
Now they have lots and I mean LOTS of other discounts but my favorites are the shopping ones. We LOVE and I mean L O V E love office supplies. I don’t know why. It’s something in our DNA. We like to organize and find neat ways to keep things tidy and the kids love having new pens and notebooks to do school work with. I kid you not, we will see a Staples and pull in just for fun! We can spend hours roaming the aisles looking at stuff. Ok…so they have a deal with Office Depot AND Staples. Now you have to go to their web site and look under Benefits and FIND it. But you print out your discount card from the web site. Each program works different but both are good. One has pre-approved prices and a price list of lots of things. Their prices are FANTASTIC on these items. Basically you are getting the corporate rates on stuff like huge companies get. The other one is just discounts. I don’t recall the specific amounts but both are good and very easy to use once you print your card. There are many and I mean MANY other discounts but these to me seem to be the biggest and definitely worth the $50 a year membership fee. So I highly recommend getting this one and keeping it.
3. Passport America — this one is one that I have and it’s sort of my backup plan. They claim that you get 50% off of all campsites. For the average person that is probably true. If you have a lot of kids that might not be true. Many campgrounds will charge you extra person fees. They definitely have a good assortment of RV parks in their system. You don’t have to make reservations, you can just show up and get the discount. There are always some parks who will impose other limits like no PA rates during certain dates, etc. But for only $44 you can easily save that much if you use it only a couple of times.
We actually started out with this one and used it more before we bought a Thousand Trails AND a Coast to Coast Membership. Now it’s my backup plan. When we are in some place that we can’t camp with TT or CtC we will check for a PA. Even with extra fees it’s usually still cheaper. I also use it for when we are traveling without any plan as we can just stop at any PA park if they have room and get the discount. It’s definitely a nice extra thing to have and if you aren’t a TT or CtC member then it is probably a HUGE benefit.
They don’t offer much more than discount camping. They do have rallies and are now doing caravans. Of course those are extras. My mom has done one caravan with them and is about to leave for her second. She loved it. I think as far as caravans go their prices are cheaper than some of the other caravan companies. Definitely give them a look if you are interested in caravanning.
They also have a kick back program. You get money if you refer others to join. I’ve never really tried but apparently I did it right at some point because they did send me a check once! I know people who promote them and get their membership fee every year.
My recommendation is if you don’t already belong to one of the membership camping organizations like Thousand Trails, Coast to Coast or any of the others that are out there then Passport America is something you probably want to have in your pocket.
4. Escapees — this one is a toughie. They do a lot of stuff but for me most of what they do I didn’t really need. I’m still a member and probably will continue to be one but I’m not sure I’m getting my money’s worth. The annual fee is $39.95 which isn’t bad.
What exactly do you get for that price? That’s where I’m a little fuzzy. They do have their mail service. Costs extra. They do have a lot of knowledge about full timing and domiciling and registering vehicles, etc. That’s all good stuff. If you don’t know how to do any of that then these are the people to learn from. For me, I figured all that stuff out and chose other vendors for most of what they do. Not because they don’t do what they do well. They were probably the first to handle mail for RVres. They definitely get involved in RV legal issues and fight to keep things good for us (but so does FMCA). They do have a lot of knowledge that they share.
They have programs like Smart Weigh (to help you load your RV properly), RV boot camps, CARE (think of it as the RVers nursing home), and they even have parks. Most of these things cost extra. For the fee all I can see is that you get to belong. Maybe I’m missing something here and if I am, please feel free to share in the comments the other benefits of being an Escapee.
Their motto is Sharing and Caring (or is it Caring and Sharing)? I forget. But they are nice people and they are now working to get younger people involved calling them Xscapers. So far we haven’t really connected with those folks yet.
My one problem with the Escapees is that they like FMCA seem to be more geared to the older folks. When I was planning a trip recently I figured we’d try out some Escapee parks. Everyone that I looked up said 55+ and some said no children. Well that sort of STINKS for me. I belong to a group and pay them my annual fee and yet I cannot camp at the parks? Also stinks because my mom likes to stay at SKP parks and my aunt does too and they wanted us all to stay together and I was’t allowed. I’m not sure how many of their parks are age restricted and I’ve heard that you can challenge them legally and force them to let you stay. BUT…my opinion on that is…do I really want to fight to pay money to stay at a place that doesn’t want me? It’s like the gay wedding cake fiasco. I always wondered why a gay couple would want a wedding cake made by someone who didn’t want to make their cake. I mean really. Is it worth it? In my opinion..no…sometimes it’s best to walk away. So we will probably never stay at any SKP park. In 4 years I will be 55 but I will still have children under 18. I’m curious to see what happens then as I will meet the 55+ to check in requirement but my children will be there! Will be interesting to see.
But…Escapees is a good organization. So far I’m not sure for me that I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of the annual membership fee. They also price their Lifetime membership way too high. $850 for a lifetime membership! Seriously that’s like 20+ years of dues! I’d have to be 71+? Not sure I’ll still be RVing then. So I had to pass on their lifetime membership.
But I will keep their membership at least another year and see how this Xscapers thing grows. If I don’t see more growth in that area then this may be one membership we don’t renew.
BUT…that doesn’t mean it might not be right for you. If you are over 55 then it’s a good option for discount parks. If you need mail service, want to domicile in Texas and have help getting your vehicles registered, voter registration, etc. then it could be just what you need. Since we were from Texas originally I didn’t need any of that and we found a mail service that fits my requirements better and we chose to register our vehicles in Montana to save money. But Texas is a GREAT domicile option. One of the top 3 and Escapees knows how to get all that done. They do that very well.
SO I can’t really tell you that you MUST have this one or that one. I would recommend everyone with a motorcoach have an FMCA membership and probably everyone will get their money’s worth out of a Good Sam membership. Unless you buy all your tank deodorizer and stuff at Walmart I’d bet you’d earn back your membership fee from a cuople trips to Camping World. The others all have their pros and cons and you have to weigh all the benefits.
I can say that I am now a Lifetime Good Sam member. Their cost was a no brainer. It was low enough and now I don’t have to deal with price increases. I also did a lifetime Passport America membership. Again the fee was low enough to make it worthwhile and again no price increases. FMCA does offer a lifetime but it’s pricey as is the Escapees membership. Both of these are just a little bit too high to make them doable and I’m only 51! For someone older than me their lifetime options make even less sense unless you just want the prestige that comes with saying you are a “lifetime” member of something.
I hope this helps weed through some of the stuff. There’s probably more memberships out there but these seem to be the top ones that most people have or consider. Hopefully you can make a wise and informed choice.