As full-time RVers, we look for the best deals on campgrounds, and that usually comes through RV memberships. Let’s look at 6 of the most common RV memberships and their pros and cons.

The RV lifestyle sounds so fun and exhilarating at first when you start thinking about the idea of traveling all the time and working from anywhere you feel like.

But it quickly sets in as you book your first voyage that campsites can add up quickly. With no discounts, you can easily spend upwards of $450/week on campsites. That’s why we bought RV memberships to help keep us on budget.Β 

Before we dive into what we did and didn’t like about the RV memberships we bought, I just want to quickly address what you may hear from a segment of the full-time RV life crew. You’ll often hear, “if you want to save money, just boondock!” Boondocking is a term referring to living in your RV with no hookups – no water, electric or sewer.

For a lot of people, that works great. For us, our rig isn’t set up with what we need to boondock for weeks at a time while still working and needing reliable utilities. We’d need thousands of dollars worth of solar panels and hookups to support our wifi and electricity needs for work, plus a $1,000 composting toilet and other modifications that allow people to live off grid comfortably.

For us, we like full hookups – so back to the top…that’s why we buy RV memberships.

Let’s discuss the RV memberships we’ve tried and what we like about each.

Thousand Trails RV Memberships Map

Thousand Trails

No nightly fees

πŸ’΅ Price: It’s complicated

  • 5 Zones (200+ campgrounds) = $630 [annual]
  • The Trails Collection (100+ more campgrounds) = $330 [annual]
  • Basic Upgrade = $7,200 or Adventure Upgrade = $15,000 [one time – lifetime access]

For us, we paid $7,200 for the Basic Upgrade in one lump sum from the proceeds of our house sale, and continue to pay $77/mo for the annual charges.

πŸ‘Β  Pros

  • No nightly fees when you stay at campgrounds in the Thousand Trails or Encore network
  • This saves you a TON of money
  • (Sometimes) the booking is easy to do online.

πŸ‘ŽΒ  Cons

  • It’s super confusing – there are so many rules and stipulations.
  • It’s a mad dash to get reservations – many people set alarms for the day they’re able to reserve their sites in popular locations.
  • They continue to upsell you to pay more and more for earlier access to reservations. If you don’t pay to play, you get second-tier pickings.
  • The quality of the campsites is…unpredictable. There are some campgrounds that feel like you entered the 7th circle of hell while other campgrounds are beautiful! Most are tired and dated and seem to have “amenities” just to say they qualify – lots of things are overgrown and unusable but technically “available”.
  • The reservation system can be frustratingly difficult and unpredictable. Sometimes it won’t let you book online for no apparent reason, tells you to call to reserve, then you call and it simply says “We’re experiencing a high call volume right now and can’t help you.”

βœ… is this rv membership Worth it? Yes

Thousand Trails is often described in the RV world as “golden handcuffs”.

On one hand, it’s the most cost-effective RV membership out there, but on the other hand – well, see the Cons list above.

Every time we want to swear off Thousand Trails on principle alone, we just can’t.

Think of it this way – you pay $960 for as much camping as you want for the entire year. If you use your membership for 3 weeks(ish), you’ve already paid for the membership and everything after that is just gravy.

For us, we use Thousand Trails for about 4 months of the year. That means we pay for about 3 weeks and get the rest “free”.

Worth it? For us, yeah.

Good Sam RV memberships

Good Sam

America’s Biggest Campground Network

πŸ’΅ Price: $29/year

πŸ‘ Pros

  • Pays for itself in just two-ish weekends of camping
  • There are literally dozens of perks and/or discounts that come with the membership – everything from discounts on other memberships to $0.05/gal discount at certain gas stations, to movie e-tickets

πŸ‘ŽΒ  Cons

  • For full-timers like us, and the way we travel, we tend to stay for 1-2 weeks in each location; the weekly rate at most campgrounds is usually better than the Good Sam discount so you don’t end up using it.
  • The campgrounds in the network can sometimes be…rough and/or crowded.

βœ… Is this RV Membership Worth it? Yes

Good Sam is well worth its value. We’ve used the discount at Camping World (they give you a $10 store voucher), at the pump (every savings helps), and, obviously at campgrounds.

We haven’t even touched all the other ways it can save you money!

Overall, this is what we’d call a no-brainer “yes”.

List of Good Sam Perks

Passport America

50% off campgrounds

πŸ’΅ Price: $44/year

πŸ‘ Pros

  • Pays for itself in just two NIGHTS of camping
  • Over 1,200 campgrounds in the network with new ones adding in all the time

πŸ‘ŽΒ  Cons

  • Lots of rules around when the discount applies – oftentimes, you have to use it in off season or only Sun-Wed or not on holiday weekends, etc.
  • Their website feels like it’s from the 90’s but the discounts are good

βœ… Is this RV Membership Worth it? Yes

Passport America, though it has a lot of “blackout dates”, is definitely still worth it. If you can use it on even one 2-day trip/stay, you’ll make your money back. And why not have more campgrounds in your network of cheaper RV living?

List of Good Sam Perks

KOA Rewards

10% off daily registration rates + More

πŸ’΅ Price: $33/year

πŸ‘ Pros

  • 500+ campgrounds to choose from
  • Each KOA stay earns points, and those points turns into cash off your next stay
  • You get one free night of camping each year on KOA’s Reward Weekend
  • You can access other benefits for RV’ers like KOA’s credit union, health insurance, discount on Goodyear tires, and more

πŸ‘ŽΒ  Cons

  • KOA’s are pretty pricey to start with (compared to other network campgrounds)
  • Not all KOA’s are created equal – because they’re all owned and operated independently, you don’t necessarily know what you’ll get when you roll up to a KOA

🚧  Is this RV Membership Worth it? PROBably

The price for this membership is inexpensive, but because of the high cost of KOA campgrounds in general, even the discount doesn’t typically make it worth it for us to choose a KOA. However, if you DO stay at a KOA, you might as well have the rewards program. We’ve saved more than we spent on the membership.

Is it on our list of top-to-buy memberships? No. But we wouldn’t say don’t buy it either. See if it makes sense for you.

List of Good Sam Perks

Harvest hosts

Free overnight stays

Β  πŸ’΅ Price: $99/year

  • Pro Tip: if you’re going to buy Thousand Trails, buy that first and get a 20% discount on Harvest HostsΒ 

πŸ‘ Pros

  • You get to camp in the COOLEST places (we stayed at a blueberry farm!)
  • 3,400+ participating locations and growing
  • You meet the friendliest people

πŸ‘ŽΒ  Cons

  • There are no hookups so you’ll be boondocking (with very few exceptions)
  • You can only stay for one night at each location

❌  Is this RV Membership Worth it? Not for us

No doubt, someone’s going to lose their mind that we said this wasn’t worth it – but as full-timers who work full time, it’s just not practical for us to use this membership unless we’re needing just a single overnight stay, which is VERY rare.

We tend to travel on the weekends and then stay put for a full week. We also need steady electricity (for our internet and computers), and messing with a generator during the work week is stressful for us.

We had Harvest Hosts for over a year but only used it once. That said, we know plenty of people who love this network. If you’re just looking for great escapes on the weekends or don’t need reliable internet – this would definitely be a great membership!

List of Good Sam Perks

boondockers welcome

Free Overnight RV Parking on Private Property

Β  πŸ’΅ Price: $169/year

    πŸ‘ Pros

    • You get everything in Harvest Hosts, plus 3,100 other hosts
    • You can stay 3-5 nights
    • 70% of hosts offer limited hookups

    πŸ‘ŽΒ  Cons

    • Oftentimes, there are restrictions on using generators
    • You can only book as far out as the host releases their schedule. With how far out we have to book our campsites as full-timers, this starts getting really cumbersome when you’re trying to book sites more than a month in advance.
    • You have to buy Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome together, you can’t buy Boondockers Welcome on its own.

    ❌  Is This RV Membership Worth it? Not for us

    This membership is amazing…but it just doesn’t fit for what we need as full-time RV’ers. Weekend trips, totally. But if you’re looking for cheap RV living while working full time, this might not do it for you.

    If you plan to stay in one place for months or a year at a time, memberships might not be worth it for you. But for the rest of us, memberships can save you lots of money when living and traveling in an RV full time. Hopefully our assessment above was helpful for you as you make a decision about what memberships are worth it for you.

    One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to buy all the memberships at once – hold off until you need each membership, then jump on board. That’s what we wished we would’ve done.

    Lastly, we’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t mention how we bring all our memberships together –Β RV Life Trip Wizard. With RV Trip Wizard, we can book our trip while prioritizing and filtering by just campgrounds that are in our networks (and have a certain price and rating, if we want). Before RV Life Trip Wizard, we would have 6 browser tabs open trying to cross-reference Google Maps and each of our networks maps. It was an absolute nightmare.

    Once we found RV Life Trip Wizard, we cut our trip planning time in half and eliminated our frustration. It’s a dream.

    If you don’t already have RV Life Trip Wizard – go grab it. It’s the easiest money you’ll ever spend, especially if you’re a full-timer. Use code “BETHANDCOURT” (from a web browser) for 20% off your first year.