Whether you're a Weekend Warrior, Part-Timer, Some-Timer, Any-Timer or Full-timer having some campground memberships can be beneficial. Below I've listed a few of the memberships out there as well as a few no-cost places to overnight when on the road.
With a Good Sam membership, you receive a 10% discount on the nightly rate at over 2,100 parks nationwide, 30% discount at Camping World and fuel savings at Flying J. Plus, there are plenty of other benefits to enjoy, like free trip planning, insurance or a special price on roadside assistance. Cost is $27 for 1 year, $50 for 2 years or $69 for 3 years.
We don't use this one real often. We use the Camping World discount more often than any of the other discounts.
The Passport America membership gives you a whopping 50% off discount of the nightly fee on nearly 1,900 campgrounds and parks in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Restrictions may apply at some of the parks – i.e.: not usable during peak season, only valid for 2 nights, etc. But still very much worth the cost of $44 for 1 year, $79 for 2 years or $109 for 3 years…which will pay for itself very quickly!
We use this membership as often as possible, especially while traveling.It's tough to pay $44 for a place to spend the night…but with this card it's just $22…much easier on the pocketbook.
Thousand Trails has five different plans or 'Zones' (Northwest, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast and Southeast) to choose from with 13 – 23 campgrounds in each zone to camp. You can buy one zone for $565, and, as of this writing, Thousand Trails had a "Buy 1, Get 1" special going on…sounds like a deal! For that price your camping fees are greatly reduced. There is a limitation as to how long you can stay in a park and must be gone a certain number of days before you are able to go back.
Escapees is a very popular club with several benefits (mail service, job board, discussion forum, Escapades and their CARE program – to name a few) in addition to access to Escapee parks at reduced rates, plus several hundred affiliate parks throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. Cost is $39.95 for 1 year. If you're interested in a lifetime membership it is offered to new members only for $850.
We are not members of Escapees, so I had to reach out to my Facebook friends to find out a little about their services and got an overwhelming response from everyone that commented as to what a fantastic organization Escapees is.
While not actually a membership, a benefit that some may not be aware exists. Many military installations have RV parks or campgrounds that can be used by active duty, 100% disabled veterans, and retirees. A few even allow civilians to use the facilities. Parks are normally well maintained, on a military installation (but not always), and very reasonably priced.
We stay at military campgrounds as often as possible. Often, they are in close proximity to a large city where there is a lot of sight-seeing to do. Since the installation is 'gated' we feel more secure than we might if staying in a private park in the middle of suburbia.
The next suggestions are not memberships but great places to overnight while traveling. You're driving along and it's 6:00 pm and you're ready to park for the night but just can't stand the thought of spending $30, $40 or even $50 just for a parking space for your travel trailer, what do you do? You find one of these little gems, that's what you do!
Some Camping Worlds have actual full hook up sites that you can stay in overnight. Normally for customers who are having work done but they will allow travelers to stay free of charge if there are sites available. You can check the Camping World website for individual locations that offer 'Overnight Parking'.
We've used this option several times and it has always worked out nicely. As a way of saying 'Thank you' we normally do a little shopping in the store before leaving. Who can resist a quick visit to Camping World?
All Cracker Barrel restaurants have RV parking in their parking lots…at least all those that we've ever been to do. They also encourage RVers to stay overnight. We've taken advantage of that on several occasions and when we do we also either have dinner or breakfast as a way of saying 'thanks' for the accommodations.
Most locations are conveniently located to an interstate with easy on, easy off access. They offer no hook ups, of course, but if you're self-contained you'll have no problem. We always check with management to be sure that it's OK for us to park our fifth wheel for the night.
A lot of people are aware that you can boondock in many Walmart parking lots. There are some that are in an area where there is a city ordinance prohibiting spending the night though – most times those will have signs posted around the parking lot.
If you stay in a Walmart parking lot, choose your parking spot wisely. Try and stay away from the busy roads, main aisles, and the loading docks. Sometimes off to the side where there is a lawn & garden area works well. This is only intended for a one night stay…don't set up camp.
We've done this on a number of occasions but have always called or gone into the store to verify that we can stay the night. We've also made sure to do some shopping in the store as our way of 'paying' for our overnight site.
Flying J and Pilot encourage RVers to utilize their facilities for overnight stays assuming that they will also get fuel, use the dump station, shop or eat at one of their on-site eating establishments. They have RV parking, but we choose to park our 41-foot Heartland Landmark Key Largo in the trucker's lot and snuggle in with the big boys.
Some might feel it's too loud, but with our dual pane windows we don't have any problem with noise. We try and pick a corner spot so that we can put our bedroom slide out with no issues.