NAVIGATING CAMPGROUND MEMBERSHIPS

Summer is now here and you can already smell the scent of pine forests and campfires. Excited for another season of RVing, you are already thinking about finding your AWAY.

In a recent conversation anticipating the upcoming season, a fellow RVer mentioned she just bought a campground membership. She excitedly told you that her new membership is going to save her hundreds of dollars in campground fees. Curious, that evening you googled “campground memberships” and came up with lots of websites using terms like “home park,” “reciprocal”, and “zones.” It didn’t take long for you to find out that there are many different types of campground memberships and you asked yourself, “Should I buy one? If so which one?”

 

 

Considerations When Purchasing a Campground Membership

 

Location – Most camping clubs have campground directories and online maps. Take a look at the directory or map to see where the parks are located. Are they near you? Are they near places you want to visit? If not, you may end up you spending more money on gas to get to the places you want to visit than you will save on camping fees.

 

Usage Rules and Restrictions – Each membership or club has different usage rules. For instance, some allow so many weeks in a particular park a year or so many consecutive days in a campground before you must leave the system for a set amount of time. Rules also often vary by season and affiliations with other networks. Many of the campgrounds in the discount clubs also have restrictions when using the discounted rate as to how many people the discounted rates includes or when it can be used. To be sure you understand don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, take notes, and read the fine print. Making sure you understand the usage rules and restrictions now will save you a headache later on and for most RVers joining a club or two or even more is worth the effort!

 

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TO TOW – OR NO?

Before we purchased our motorhome we had a small expandable travel trailer. Like all camping vehicles, it had its own drawbacks and benefits. For us, the drawback was towing it with our truck, which wasn’t the most comfortable vehicle for long distance drives. The benefit was that, by default, we always had a vehicle available for off-site explorations.

Within days of purchasing our motorhome my husband had made a significant add-on purchase: a Car Tow Dolly. Our tow vehicle is nothing fancy; it’s my husband’s commuter car, a vehicle chosen more for its low cost and fuel efficiency than anything else. Because it is small and light (much more so than my family transporter) it makes a perfect vehicle to tow.

But even with the tow dolly and the small, light car we don’t always tow a vehicle when we head out on trips.

 


TO TOW OR NOT TO TOW – HOW WE ANSWER THE QUESTION

When you’re driving a vehicle that gets 10 miles to the gallon, you begin to pay attention to the decreased gas mileage when you tow another vehicle behind you. So before we hook up the tow dolly we consider a few factors including: distance, location, activities, and our companions.

The example below is the ‘formula’ we use:

 

 

Determine Distance: We see about a 2 MPG decrease in fuel efficiency when we tow our car, so for long trips we really look at rental costs. Our first big RV trip was to Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, 818 miles, or a 12 hour drive from our Iowa home. Towing our car would ‘cost’ appx 23 miles of gas, or nearly $70.

 

 

Rental Resources: Sometimes it is just more cost effective to rent. For the trip to Amarillo we found a small car for $14/ day. The 4 day rental, with tax and minus the prepay discount, came in under the $70 cost of towing. That was an easy decision.

Be sure to check your location! We always tow to Eureka Springs, Arkansas as the nearest car rental locations are Branson, MO or Bentonville, AR. Neither of which are terribly handy.

 

 

Analyze Activities: Do we plan to leave our campsite? Is everything we plan to do within walking distance? Can we bike to nearby sites? Is there transportation available? For our Texas trip we knew we wanted to explore a bit in Amarillo, so a car was necessary. But for most of our state park visits (like Iowa’s 9 Eagles) we leave the car at home as those weekends are just about relaxing and enjoying family time.

 

 

Companion Carpooling: We do a lot of RVing with family and friends and we take that into account before heading out. How many vehicles will we need at the campground? Will there be enough transportation for everyone if we don’t bring our car?

Each trip we take is different – distance, location, activities, and accompaniment- so we do our car necessity overview every time we plan an RV getaway.

Do you have a formula to decide to tow or no?