<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> RV Campground Membership Tips
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Topic: Campground Memberships

Instructors: Bob Livingston (Moderator); Scott Ellison (Coast to Coast)
Gaylord Maxwell

[Ed Note: While this conversation occurred *many* years ago, it's essentially the same one we're hearing today...]

This session was essentially a class dialogue about RVer's experiences with campground memberships; and an opportunity for those who may be contemplating purchasing one to learn about the advantages and problems with various types of membership programs.

The assumption is that most RVers enjoy being "on the go". Yet one of the significant costs of RVing is the "retail" cost of daily site rental. Membership programs are intended to address some options to purchasing daily site rentals at retail costs. Most membership programs involve some initial payment, plus an annual maintenance fee. In return, members are allowed to use the member parks at a daily fee.

Some considerations that may be relevant when considering whether a membership would be worthwhile:

How many "days on the road" does an RVer expect?

Can an RVer be sure she can find spaces when and where she wants one?

What about high pressure sales tactics used by some marketers?

Are you really going to use this membership? Are the campgrounds in the areas where you wish to travel? Are you going to want to stay for an extended time?

The representative of Coast to Coast (CTC) discussed the dilemma of peak demands during prime time periods in favorite RV destinations such as Florida. During the past year there were 17,000 CTC members in Florida competing for 4,000 available sites. The demand is great for them because the cost is only $4 per night for members in good standing. To help compensate for this shortage, CTC has started a new chain of parks, where they expect to see future expansion, called "Good Neighbor" parks. These are essentially public RV parks which have agreed to allocate a percentage of their sites for CTC members, and charge a fixed rate of $11 per day. All others would pay the standard rate, which would be considerably higher. Some in the audience noted the disincentive Good Neighbor parks would have to accommodate CTC members during peak periods.

From the group discussion, we inferred that about half of those present already owned some type of campground membership. Of that number, slightly over half responded that they were happy with their membership. Others expressed various degrees of disenchantment with the arrangement they had. Their concerns seemed centered on constantly escalating annual dues; a perception of decreasing site availability; and the increasing number of usage restrictions which were being imposed on members.

If your campgound "system", i.e. NACO, Thousand Trails, etc., has financial problems, what will happen to your membership? Be cautious if the fees are too low, the park must support itself and this often means higher membership and yearly dues. It was suggested that you investigate the company. Have there been any lawsuits? Check with the Better Business Bureau. The best idea of all -- stay a couple of nights and talk to the people there.

We concluded that RVers who were most likely to be attracted to membership campgrounds were those who placed a significant priority on achieving the lowest daily rates [Though we wonder whether that objective is always achieved]. Those who seemed less inclined toward park membership appeared to be more motivated by the flexibility to "travel wherever, whenever", and by other factors. As Gaylord Maxwell put it, " if you are the type of RVer who hasn't the least idea where he will be on any given evening, a membership campground is probably not for you".