Passport America (or is it Passport-America?), Escapees, Xscapers, Good Sam, FMCA, Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, Thousand Trails, Coach Net… which are worth joining now or later? What are their benefits? Which are right for you?
In the video chat below – recorded live during our March 2015 Livestream Event – we go over the major clubs, describe their features and give you some information to make your own decisions.
(Caution, make sure you have lots of bandwidth available – this is a nearly hour long video)
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][td_ad_box spot_id=”custom_ad_1″][td_text_with_title custom_title=”Video Chat Notes”]
Catch a future live video chat – subscribe to our announcement list.
View archives of past video chats on our Video Chat Center.
Here are links to the clubs we talk about in the video above:
Support Network Clubs (updated for 2018):
Escapees / Xscapers – www.escapees.com / www.xscapers.com ($39.95/yr)
(If you join, if you select ‘Technomadia’ from the referral pull down, or use the links above, and we’ll get a referral credit. Thanks!)
Established in the late 70s, this is an organization focused on the lifestyle of RVing – appealing to full timers and extended travelers alike. Their benefits include RV education (their boot camp is highly regarded), BOF (special interest) groups, advocacy (they keep on top of laws that impact us), mail forwarding/domicile support, a great magazine and hosting annual rallies. They also have a network of their own RV Parks, some Co-Op parks and offer 15-50% discounts at 1000 other parks nationwide. Membership in one group gets you optional membership in the other at no extra charge.
Are we Members? Yes! It took us until 2014 however to join – as we always assumed it was a club aimed at retired full timers. When we finally attended our first Escapade in 2014, we were blown away at what we had been missing all these years. We were so inspired, we worked with the Escapees to help reach other younger folks too by launching Xscapers in 2015 – aiming to help with things like mobile jobs, health insurance, homeschooling, legal hurdles, and setting up businesses. We LOVE this organization because their mission is to help us all live more vibrant RVing lives.
Good Sam – www.goodsamclub.com ($29/yr)
Another long time organization that offers a variety of benefits to RVers of all types. From their super large rallies, owning Camping World, discount clubs, mail forwarding and more.
Are we Members? No. We were members a long time ago, and started calling them the ‘Good SPAM Club’ for all the junk mail they sent us. We don’t see much benefit to being members ourselves.
FMCA – www.fmca.com ($60/yr)
Family Motor Coach Association – originally started as a club for motorhome owners, but is now open to all RV owners. They host large rallies each year, have subchapter groups for special interests, publish a magazine and offer extra benefits like access to emergency road side assistance, medical evacuation and mail forwarding service. A major reasons folks join is to get their special tire discount with Michelin. The discount alone more than covers the price replacing tires.
They also offer “unlimited’ data plans on Verizon and Sprint, which we detail here: FMCA Data Plans.
Are we Members? No, we don’t keep an active membership. We joined when we first got our bus, and haven’t found any worthwhile benefits for our needs. We did attend one rally, and didn’t find them overly appealing to a younger crowd.
Campground Discount/RV Parking Clubs:
Passport America – www.passport-america.com ($44/yr)
(If you join and use the link above, or mention R-0242893 – we get an affiliate credit, and depending on what promos they’re running you may get bonus months too! – Thanks!)
There are actually TWO Passport America clubs, both claiming to be the original.
We’ve seen it explained online that the original founder passed away and the company was left to his two kids. The siblings don’t get along too well, so they split off the company into two. Passport-America.com is operated out of Mississippi, and PassportAmerica.com is run out of Crestview, FL.
They both sign up new campgrounds on their own, but do share their campground lists. The membership fee is the same for each. So as a consumer, it seems it doesn’t really matter too much which one you go with.
Both clubs partners with campgrounds who want to sell their sites at 50% off their listed price (including many Encore parks). This is to help them fill spots during non-prime times – so often you’ll find the discount is only good on weekdays, off-peak or for a limited amount of time. But it doesn’t take long for this membership to pay off.
Are we Members? YES – of Passport-America.com (it’s the one we found first years ago)! We keep this membership active as we use it just enough. When looking for a park to overnight in, or dump/fill our tanks in-between boondocking spots – it gives us a super cheap option to get access to full hook-ups.
KOA – www.koa.com ($27/yr)
KOA is the oldest campground network around, and has a reputation of being more family focused. They usually have parks available in most major cities and tourist attractions. A yearly membership gets you discounts off their pretty steep rates, and earns rewards point that can be used for free stays.
Are we Members? No – unless KOA is the only option in an area, we haven’t been a fan of their parks. Higher priced than our preference, although some of them can be pretty nice (and some of them not).
RVillage GOLD – www.rvillage.com ($20/Lifetime)
RVillage is a social network for RVers – you check into your location, and can see who is checked in around you to arrange meet-ups. It launched in 2014 and is free to use, and in 2016 now offers an community support GOLD membership. It supports the community, and gets you access to a variety of discounts to other clubs (including Escapees, Boondockers Welcome and our own Mobile Internet Aficionados)
Are we Members: YES! We helped launch this website back in 2014, and it’s dear to our hearts. While it’s completely free to use, we’re strong believers in supporting the services we utilize if they offer a way to.
Founded by Kim & Don (and as of mid-2018 under new ownership), a couple of RVers who RVed across Europe – where parking at farms & wineries was a ‘thing’. They decided to try to re-create that in the US. They reach out to places that might have RV parking (like wineries, farms & museums) and then offer a directory to their members. You do have to call in advance to get permission to park, and the expectation is only for one night. But this a great way to stay in some unique places.
Are we Members? YES! We do keep an active membership, and try to stay in locations a few times a year when they line up with our routing. Their new app makes it much easier for us consider options. When we’re just seeking an overnight, we’re usually concentrating on making miles and seeking something right on our route (however, most locations we’ve stayed have pro-actively invited us to stay multiple nights). We have LOVED our stays when the stars have aligned.
Boondockers Welcome – www.boondockerswelcome.com ($30/yr)
The Couchsurfing of RVing – we call it Driveway Surfing (or moochdocking). When you join, you get access to individuals who offer their land/driveway to fellow members for free. If you see a location you’d like to stay at, you contact the owner and see if it’s a fit. It can be a great way to make new friends too.
Are we Members? Yes. The concept strikes our ‘pay it forward’ and community ideals – so we do keep a membership to support the founders and vision. But we honestly don’t use the service ourselves as we prefer to accept invitations (which we usually have a list of) than seek out and ask. But if you’re looking to host cool RVers or meet awesome folks in your travels, this is a fabulous way to do so.
Thousand Trails – www.thousandtrails.com ($550/year +up front costs)
The most common membership network of parks that works more like a time share than the other clubs. They have a wide variety of membership options, starting with their Zone Pass. A lot of folks approach this option to save money, as some of the higher end memberships include free camping. You have to research and compare the membership you’re looking at (and they don’t make it easy) to figure out the gotchas – such as stay limitations and the amount of time you have to be out of the park system.
The parks are hit or miss in location and quality. Some are really nice and convenient, others not so much.
Are we Members? No. We pick where we’re going next by where we want to be, and we’ve not yet found a TT park to be the only viable option for us in a particular area we’re heading. But mostly, we don’t want to feel pressured to stay within any park system to justify the upfront and ongoing membership costs. Some are able to keep their campground fees well under $10/day with their membership. We already average about $13/day by staying precisely where we want to be in amazing places. The small potential savings versus quality of life just don’t add up for us. We just love our scenic views, privacy, lovely state parks and wild boondocking too much.
But others find great value in the option – more info on Thousand Trails & Resales:
ERS (Emergency Roadside Services):
Coach-Net – www.coach-net.com (179 – 249/yr)
Specializing in emergency road side assistance and towing for RVs. Their various levels including service calls, phone help and even towing. They also cover your vehicle (toad or tow).
Are we Members: YES! We purchased our membership before even picking up our bus, and it has paid off on multiple occasions for us. From our 100+ mile flat bed tow when our engine overheated (we never saw the bill, but it had to be $1500-2000), to multiple smaller road side assistance calls to handle constantly failing air valves. We wouldn’t be on the road without this service, the peace of mind is invaluable and we’ve been super happy with our service each time. We pay for the highest end membership to give us the greatest amount of resources and towing range.
2016 Price Increase Note: Coach-Net has recently increased their new member pricing from $149 to $249 per year for motorhomes. This is pretty significant, and does give us pause. Upon our 2017 renewal June, our renewal rate was still $149 – which we happily renewed. We’re definitely keeping an eye out for continued service reports to make sure they’re able to continue to deliver the same quality service at the higher rates.
Escapees Roadside Assistance ($99/year)
Available to Escapees & Xscapers members, they launched their own roadside assistance program in 2018.
Are we members? No. Our Coach-Net service has served us quite well so far.
GoodSam – www.goodsam.com (79 – 179/yr)
Good Sam also offers an ERS, and many say good things about them. We’ve also heard some less than positive experiences and them not covering nearly as much as Coach-Net has.
Are we Members? No. Our Coach-Net service has served us quite well.
AAA – www.aaa.com
A great resource for travel discounts, insurance and of course their road side assistance. And they do offer a RV add-on package. The problem is, they are regionally based, and what is offered varies. So, if you have a Florida based policy with them, and break down in another state – they may or may not service RVs. And, because they’re primarily focused on autos, they don’t often know specifics about RV types and what service might be needed.
Are we Members? No. After we got Coach-Net, we dropped our AAA service. With something as unique as a vintage bus conversion, we didn’t want to take any chances.
For another excellent written overview of some of these clubs, we recommend this post by Nina of Wheeling It: