Best camping memberships for Canadians

By Joanne Lemna  | 
Mar 09, 2016 you're an avid camper or own an RV, you're not alone. Many Canadians enjoy getting outdoors and enjoying nature in their tents, trailers, or motorhomes. There are many member-only campgrounds as well as a variety of camping and RV clubs. These can offer many different things to their members - so here's a low down of how they work and how to pick the best ones.

What are membership clubs?

There's a few different types of memberships available. One type is membership parks and campgrounds, often known as RV resorts. These are exclusive campground chains that cater only to RV owners (though some are open to all camper types). They tend to have a lot of amenities such as clubhouses, pools, activities, hiking trails, basketball and tennis courts, and even gated access. There is a cost to join these RV resorts and most will require you to book advance reservations.

There are also membership clubs that offer discounts and resources to their members. These membership clubs are more general and are simply to bring together people who love to camp. They also often act as the camping community advocates when it comes to dealing with local, provincial/state, and national governments.

Different Types of Membership Clubs

(1) Reciprocal RV Resorts

Want a discount on nightly camping fees? For a small fee, around $100 USD, reciprocal resorts let you stay at their member parks for as little as $6 to $10 USD per night.  The most popular reciprocal RV resorts are:

  • The Explorer-RV Club is a Canadian discount club that’s open to all RVers. It provides discounts on camping fees in Canada and the U.S.A., plus you get a subscription to the RV Gazette, the official RVer magazine, as well as on the road discounts to hotels, emergency services and free access to financial advice.  
  • Adventure Outdoor Resorts (AOR) & Adventure Camping Network (ACN) with 162 resorts and 378 RV parks and affiliated with Sunbelt USA and owned by Western Horizon Resorts.
  • Coast to Coast  has over 1000 resorts across North America.
  • Resort Parks International (RPI) has over 350 RV & hotel resorts.
  • Thousand Trials combination package (which is combined with NACO, and Leisure Time Resorts) has access to over 50 resorts parks, but the initial buy-in can be steep, starting at $3,000 USD (and goes up, depending on the number of parks you have access to plus annual dues). Still, this membership gives you a number of "free nights" per year, with each subsequent night costing only a small fee.

Just be sure to read the fine print, as memberships can be limited to the available number of spaces, a maximum number of nights, and a maximum distance from your home park.

(2) Resort Camping Clubs

You’ll get a 50% discount on nightly RV fees at a large number of private parks throughout North America, also for small annual membership fee. Keep in mind, some parks have limits on hether or not you can stay on weekends, holidays, or during high seasons.

The most popular discount clubs are:

  • Passport America with more than 1065 participating campgrounds in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
  • Happy Camper Club provides a 50% discount at 970 campgrounds
  • Recreation USA offers a $10-per-night rate at over 300 campgrounds in the United States.

(3) Used Memberships

A number of companies resell memberships at reduced prices. Individuals also advertise their own re-sales. Just be sure to check with each particular campground to see if they will honour the resale and whether there is an additional processing fee. Two of the most popular resale companies are:

(2) Discount RV Clubs

Pay a small yearly fee and you’ll get discounts on camping as well as added perks, such as free subscriptions or discounts at wholesale clubs. Here’s a list of the largest discount clubs in North America that cater to the RV owners.

  • Good Sam Club. Current cost to join is $25 USD for one year. Benefits include a free subscription to Highways magazine and a 10% discount at the 1,600 Good Sam parks and campgrounds in North America. Members also get a 10% discount at hundreds of RV Service Centers, discounts at Camping World and fuel discounts at Flying J and Pilot Travel Centers, among other benefits.
  • Family Motor Coach Association. Perhaps the largest motorhome owners group, with over 100,000 active members. However, membership is restricted to RV owners with a Class A, B, or C motorhome, or a bus conversion that contains cooking, sleeping and permanent sanitary facilities. A family membership is $50 USD for the first year, $40 USD per year thereafter. There are extensive benefits and discounts, similar to those offered by Good Sam.

What club is right for you?

Remember, not all memberships will suit your needs. While, an annual membership that offers discounts may be great for seasonal or full-timer RV owners, they might not make sense for the occasional RVer. Be sure to price out the membership and per night costs to make sure the discount or added perks are worth it.

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