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Questions for the veteran fulltimers


DallasK

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Was wondering which are the best camping clubs and discounts for full-timing?Which are best and most beneficial?Have looked into thousand trails, Passport America, Good Sam, and many more. Seems they are endless. Looking for some insider info so don't waste money on memberships wont use.We are planning stays of 2-3 weeks and will use RV parks national and state parks and some boondocking between destinations.

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I'm a fulltimer and have been for several years, but I don't travel much. I usually stay in a park for at least one month, sometimes for four or five. None of those memberships have value to me.

 

However, if you do much traveling, both Passport where you get 1/2 off for a limited stay and Good Sam where you get 10% in most RV Parks across the country will quickly pay for themselves. I'd get both.

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For 16 years the only memberships we had were Escapees and Passport America. We wintered in an Escapee park and used Passport America for mostly one-night stops along our way. I'd say 95% of our actual stays were Escapee parks, national parks, state parks, national forest campgrounds, county and city parks. We also boondocked a lot on BLM or national forest lands.

 

In addition, we volunteered in public parks so those stays were free.

 

We didn't buy into the Thousand Trails, Coast to Coast, etc. because that's not the kind of places we would like to stay. We liked more natural surroundings and big sites.

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Was wondering which are the best camping clubs and discounts for full-timing?Which are best and most beneficial?Have looked into thousand trails, Passport America, Good Sam, and many more. Seems they are endless. Looking for some insider info so don't waste money on memberships wont use.We are planning stays of 2-3 weeks and will use RV parks national and state parks and some boondocking between destinations.

 

Which is best for YOU depends on your traveling style.

 

First, Passport America and Good Sam are an entirely different type of thing than Thousand Trails, Coast to Coast, etc. The latter require you to buy into a home park first...the price to purchase can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. The former do not require any type of buy-in other than the normal annual membership fee. If you find that the program doesn't suit you, you don't have to renew your membership the next year. It's a bit more difficult (although not impossible) to get out of programs such as TT, C2C, etc.

 

Certainly, for someone just starting out, Passport America and Escapees is a good start. I wouldn't suggest the buy-in type of membership systems until you have some traveling under your belt and you know what kind of traveling--and where--you like to do. Go to each of the websites and look to see where the parks in their system are -- are they in places you'll travel? If not, then any money spent is a waste of money.

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Our fulltime traveling adventures were of a continuous nature. In other words, we were constantly on the move and only stopped for a few months at a time during the summer or winter months. We never boondocked or parked in someone’s parking lot.

 

Because we were normally following the seasons the places we stayed were in their peak earning months. That eliminates some of the obvious membership organizations from the list of possibilities. So, we joined the nationwide organizations that might get us in the gate with a little discount. Camping World/Good Sam’s was and still are our primary memberships. We also have a Golden Ages access card. AARP is also in our membership files. I’m retired military and that allows us to use military campgrounds. It will also provide discounts at various civilian campgrounds/RV parks up to 15%.

 

Military veterans organizations such as the VFW or American Legion sometimes have places to park RVs. We are members of both of them. The American Legion post 137 in Jacksonville, FL has a private RV park behind the main post building with FHU connections. It’s gated with a paved boat launch. A membership card from any post around the country will get you a parking site there (first come first serve). Here is a link to a picture of our last parking site at post 137.

 

http://www.irv2.com/photopost/showfull.php?photo=17377

 

The VFW at Yuma, AZ has a huge dry camping area behind it’s main building. It’s free and nearly full all winter. We go to the club but have never parked there. Great dinners on Friday nights.

 

Here is a link to some of our parking places around the country.

 

http://fasteaglervparking.blogspot.com/

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We use our Escapes membership and Passport America. We wasted our money on Colorado River Adventures and its affiliate memberships. We occasionally use our Good Sam, either for a discount at a campground or at Camping World. We find that despite the higher cost now of KOA that we still stay at their parks periodically. We don't boondock and usually like full hook-ups. We were members of FMCA for a year but didn't find that we used it. We have been full timers for 2 1/2 years so I don't know if that makes us veterans or not.

 

Vicki Rains

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Nothing new in my reply:

Thousand Trails works well for us because we use it. It has saved us a great deal of money.

 

Passport America is a no-brainer for us because it pays for itself in just one or two stops.

 

If you are over 62 be sure and get an America the Beautiful Pass - it is the best deal in the camping world.

 

We're members of Escapees, not for camping benefits but to support the organization that does the most for fulltime RVers. However, we've actually used our membership for camping enough that it has pretty much paid for itself.

 

We had Good Sam and RPI but didn't renew either one - most discounts we might get from them is already mirrored in one of these others.

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When traveling I carry a card case in my pocket that has just my discount cards in it. My cards include Escapees, Passport America, Federal Lands Access Pass, AARP, CA state parks disabled pass, and Colorado River Adventures. I've used them all. CRA worked for me because I spent my most of my winters in Arizona with Emerald Cove and BLM's La Posa South as my home parks--bouncing back and forth between them to keep my nights free within my annual fees. The others provided me with discounts as I moved to and from Arizona. I would usually stop a couple nights at Walmart or Cracker Barrel or Cabela's then spend a couple days resting at a PA or Corps of Engineer park. When in Livingston I usually stayed a week at Rainbow's End then moved on. At a park I sometimes just spread out the cards and let them pick my best deals--one park chose PA for Sun through Thursday then AARP for the weekend. I never stayed longer than two weeks at any one place because I needed to pack up to drive our Class B or Class C to the grocery store, laundromat, etc, anyway so why not have a change of scenery along with that?

 

What will work for you depends entirely on how and where you chose to travel.

 

Linda Sand

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We have been traveling full time for over 14 years and part time the last four and use many of those "clubs" mentioned above. However, there are a few very useful resources that I use on a regular basis that have not been mentioned:

 

1) overnightrvparking.com is a site that lists low and no cost RV parking spots all over the country. Many are city/county or other government parks and many are places like Walmart and casinos. There is a small annual fee to use the site but if you add a new site or update an existing listing, your membership is extended.

 

2) www.rvparkreviews.com provides a state by state list of RV parks with rating by our fellow RVers,

 

3) www.forestcamping.com a site compiled by a wonderful couple who made a goal of visiting EVERY US Forest Service campground and maintaining a website with some great details on each one.

 

For a complete list of the "tools" I use, there is a listing of them on my personal website at: http://rvroamin.com/Links.htm

 

Lenp

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We started out with passport american and good sam. We dropped the good sam because we discovered that many of the parks take both discounts, and we could use the passport america for 50% off instead of the good sam for 10% off. We now boondock, or use passport america ,corp of engineer parks and national forest campgrounds and use our senior discount card.

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We once were members of several other RV groups but presently are life members of Escapees and we are annual members of Passport America.We were members of Good Sam for a long time but left because we got little value and lots of junk mail from them. We were once members of FMCA, which is an excellent organization, but is exclusive to motorhomes and is just a bit too upscale for we hard core gasser people so left only because it was not a good fit for us.

 

The groups like Coast to Coast, Thousand Trails, and several others are not really clubs at all but are campground associations that are about selling memberships and which can save money for those who use them, but are only a bargain if they have locations where you plan to go and if you enjoy that style of RV living. I would not be in any hurry to join one until you have been on the road for a little time and then base the choice on how you choose to travel. If you like them and sit for extended periods in them, they can save you a bunch of money but for us they were not a good fit. We chose to spend a great deal of our time as RV volunteers on wildlife refuges and in parks and historic sites and so were not paying for our site much of the time and thus would not have benefited from a membership. But as you establish a pattern they would be something to consider.

 

Both Passport America and Happy Campers are discount groups which easily pay for themselves with only a few nights of use. The member parks are discounting stays there by 50% for some (usually limited) period of time to help in filling spots that would go unrented if they didn't offer them. As such they tend to be either older parks or located in less easily accessible locations as the most busy parks do not need to discount in order to fill sites. But we find them a bargain and use them a great deal for one night stops and short visits.

 

Escapees is in our opinion the very best of the RV clubs out there, but it is a matter of personal opinion. They provide a full support system for the fulltimer as well as many other benefits provided to all members and an ever expanding system of member benefits, such as discounted stays in owned parks, stays in associated member owned co-op parks(which only members can purchase lots in), an outstanding magazine, mail forwarding service, rallies, social events, local chapters, member only internet features, and a host of other things. The club as also become one of the main connections we have to some of the finest RV folks that we have ever met.

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X2 on what LindaH said. Don't even consider a campground membership until you have traveled for a year. You really don't know if their campgrounds are in the areas you want to be. Like others have already posted, we have Passport America and Good Sam. We stayed in Tucson last year for 3 months and the campground was affiliated with Thousand Trails, they gave us a free zone membership. It saved us $675 on this year's stay but next year when we have to pay the $540 for the membership, it will only save us $135. We are planning on working 6 months next year at a COE park so won't be traveling much. We also use city/county campgrounds, Cabela's, Freecampgrounds.com, COE campgrounds. Travel for awhile, then figure it out.

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