Camping Clubs ie Passport America - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-26-2009, 08:08 PM   #1
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Since I am going to be a full timer, I was wondering about the camping clubs like Passport America. Are any members here a member of one? Are they worth the $$ (seems very cheap to save 50%)? Any advice would be welcome, any money saved means more miles down the road!
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Old 03-26-2009, 08:53 PM   #2
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A lot depends on your camping style -- I found Passport America to be useful in the North East US, but there were so many rustic CGs in the West that I rarely used it. Also, with PA, the CG owner is allowed to set his own conditions for the discount and each one does it differently to fit their case, so it is incumbent upon YOU to read the details in order to avoid disappointment.

In the case of membership CGs, it all boils down to how much you will actually use it -- If seldom, then you will very likely be wasting money -- If often, then they can be money savers. You want to do some careful looking at where their CGs are located and how likely you will be to spend some time in them.

Your first year or so Full Timing will very likely be different from the next few -- There is a tendency to travel more to see more and membership CGs are not conducive to that -- Later on, FT's have the tendency to travel less and linger longer in some areas, often returning seasonally.

If you have found a couple of membership CGs that seem right, search the popular RV groups, Escapees, RV.NET, etc., plus Google the internet with the name to see what turns up. Check EBay and Craig's list for someone selling their membership at reduced prices -- Note: If a LOT of people are selling one kind, that might be a red flag worthy of further investigation.
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Old 03-26-2009, 09:03 PM   #3
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Hi Monica,
We have been members of Passport America for 7 or 8 years now and won't leave home without it! It is not perfect nor the answer for everyone but if you do a fair amount of traveling during the year it does give you a quick payback and then really saves you money.

Some good things - this club requires NO contract or high fees. There are no restrictions on the number of days/nights per month/year you may use the discount. There is no process you have to follow in advance to get 'tokens' or 'coupons' or even make reservations through the club to use the discount - just read the campground write up and observe their restrictions. You can contact the campground directly or drive up. The campground rates and amenities are clearly noted for each property along with address, driving instructions, and phone numbers.



Some bad things – while most are nice campgrounds, these are not 4 star destination resorts, of course you don't pay those kind of rates either. The campgrounds are not everywhere with some states having very few so plan ahead. Go to their website

http://tinyurl.com/cfkkhq

and check on the areas you plan to visit to see if their locations fit your likely travels. Campgrounds place their own restrictions such as having the discount available only on certain days of the week or for only a certain number of days stay. Special event times are usually restricted such as Speed Week in the Daytona Beach area.



Beware of the clubs that require a long (or forever) time high dollar contract. While they may have great destination campgrounds in their organization, it is often difficult to get your money's worth unless you are a full timer and spend weeks at their campgrounds. Also, in spite of the upfront information, it can be difficult to impossible to transfer your obligation to another person – there are many horror stories on the net about that aspect of the clubs.



My bottom line on Passport America is that if you travel several days of the year and there are PA campgrounds along your route I would recommend you take a good look at their offering. We just renewed for another year.



Disclaimer: Other than as a common member I have no interest in the Passport America club.


Don

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Old 03-27-2009, 12:20 AM   #4
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Hi again - we have been Passport America members for 4 years and feel it has been a good value for our camping style. As Don stated, most participating campgrounds are clean, nicely run operations, but not "high end" type resorts. We've only been 'skunked' a couple of times in run-down or yukky campgrounds. Using the PA directory we discovered one of our favorite spots - Augie's Quail Trail RV Park in Gila Bend (no longer PA members) as well as a couple of delightful CGs in the San Diego area.

Pete gave good advice about 1) the way your first-year travel compares with later years ... one learns the joy of either slowing down, or sitting still all together; and 2) using caution (and LOTS of research) on the subject of membership CG's. The idea of being 'tied' to a particular organization or location has never appealed to us, but if we were to consider a membership, we would only look at re-sales, and that after checking out the history of the organization and home-base CG.

Hope you can use this info - L 'n D

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Old 03-27-2009, 03:55 AM   #5
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I don't know how they work at private Campgrounds but as host job at a National Park last year we were told that the only cards that the National park System honors is the Golden age / Golden Access Cards.
These cards can be got from the goverment, for free, at any National park office, if you are over a certain age and/or you are disabled.
All other cards such as America the Beautiful and Passport America althought they look the same were not honored and no discount given.
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Old 03-27-2009, 09:10 AM   #6
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Gerry,

It is our understanding that the Golden Age access cards have been discontinued and replaced with America the Beautiful passes. These are sold by the National Park Service and are not the same as Passport America - see NPS. (We used our America the Beautiful Pass at Crater Lake, Yosemite and Mt Lassen NP's.)

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Old 03-27-2009, 02:21 PM   #7
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I have been keeping up here and spent about five hours last night looking into the campgrounds that are part of these things. Most are huge where they line up the trailers so close together you can barely open your awning, not my idea of a peaceful, good time. But there were a sufficient enough amount that I could use my membership to PA and at least break even. I am thinking that mostly state parks or national parks would be better suited for me rather than private parks. I think I am going to go with it, if I use it only three times, I will have broken even.

BUT, in my perusal of the PA website and campgrounds, I came across what looks like a really cool (and cheap) place to stay for a month while I am getting my affairs in order with ESCAPEES and in the state of TX (license, registration). So, what do you all think about this place?

http://www.hollandranch.com/index_eng.html
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Old 03-27-2009, 11:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
I don't know how they work at private Campgrounds but as host job at a National Park last year we were told that the only cards that the National park System honors is the Golden age / Golden Access Cards.
These cards can be got from the goverment, for free, at any National park office, if you are over a certain age and/or you are disabled.
All other cards such as America the Beautiful and Passport America althought they look the same were not honored and no discount given.
Gerry
The entire pass system has been renamed American the Beautiful and the Senior Pass and Access Pass are now part of it -- ONLY the Senior and Access Passes are honored for camping discount -- The Golden Age/Access Passes are no longer issued but are still valid for camping discount if you have one. Some parks require photo ID to go with the card for park admission (Zion NP is one), most don't.

The lifetime Senior Pass is not free, but costs $10 once, as did the Golden Age card.

Passport America is a PRIVATE, commercial, membership system.

AFAIK, only two state park systems honor the Federal Passes (Senior/Access and the Golden Age/Access) and they are Tennessee and Louisiana -- Some city and county parks honor all sorts of passes, so it's wise to ask.

Here's a site with the official US Gummint info:

http://store.usgs.gov/pass/general.html

BTW, you have to apply in person, but Corps of Engineers doesn't issue them because of a glitch in the recent laws. Also, they are for US citizens (Or permanent residents) only, but when I was at Denali NP in 2001, I saw a LOT of German tourists from the cruise ships standing in line for the bus tours (50% discount on the tour with card) and clutching brand-new cards, so someone screwed up somewhere...
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Old 03-29-2009, 09:32 AM   #9
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Monica, I have had Passport America for about 7 years. I don't use it very often but have used it enough each year to get my money back. Think about it. At about $50 for dues all you need is 4 nights at half price at a campground that charges $25 per night, and most do. You've got your money back. The rest of the year, 361, is gravy.

I was very happy on my trip last summer because I found that most, if not all, Ohio State Parks take PA. I met a friend for a 4 day stay at Grand Lake St. Mary's, what a beautiful park. Got my money back on that stay alone. Actually PA came in handy at several other stays as well. I used my PA more on this trip than any other in the last 7 years.

The Camp Club which Camping World advertises is similar to PA. In fact, PA was advertised by them when I signed up. I got a $10 discount at the time. I don't know if they offer that discount through Camping World for Camp Club. I've looked at the book and it appears so similar to PA. I did run into 1 campground somewhere in the Pacific Northwest that no longer honored PA and had switched to Camp Club. Either one would most likely be OK to use. I've just stayed with PA because I think I still get a little discount and I generally signup for a multi-year membership for a lesser price.

If I were full timing I'd probably have a membership in in both as well as Escapee's because there are a "few" different campgrounds in all of their books. Just seems to me that in full timing you'd definitely get your money back during a year.

Oh, I was thinking about Pete's comment about out in the West using rustic campgrounds and that he used his PA more while in the East. If you are like me you're not going to use very many rustic campgrounds off the beaten path. Not as safe for us ladies to be out in the boonies by ourselves. Having said that, there are some rustic campgrounds in the Forest service that aren't off the beaten path and would be OK for us solo ladies.
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Old 03-29-2009, 03:55 PM   #10
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Just to be clear, 'off the beaten path' is not my objective, in large part because when FT'ing one is living there, not just escaping from humans for a weekend or a week. I don't mind having people around as long as they are not living in my lap!

My objective is to not be squashed into an RV park where the owners have laid it out for maximum number of pay sites, rather more rustic sites in Natl Forest or Natl Park CGs -- I'm also influenced, of course, by having a Golden Access Card (Now called Access Pass in the America the Beautiful program) which is valid in all the Federal CGs, so that's what I usually hunt for. In short, having learned to live with out the basic hook-ups, much less the extended hook-ups like cable and WiFi, I prefer to pay half of a lower rate in desirable circumstances to a full, higher rate in less-desirable circumstances. If I need a shower, I can stay in the more expensive places or stop and get one at a truck-stop like Fly-J and spend the (noisy) night for free.
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Old 03-30-2009, 08:46 AM   #11
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I know Pete, but it's just easier for you "guys" to do it than us ladies, not with standing some ladies wouldn't hestitate to be off the beaten path. I think when I read your post I was thinking about some of those campgrounds in the Free Campground book. To get to some of them you have to travel miles down a dirt road. I too do not really like the RV style campgrounds but I'm not going miles down a dirt road to an unknown campground.

I'm planning on getting back to doing more boon dock type camping, no hookup campgrounds. It's probably a matter of definition of "off the beaten path". Mine is rural roads but not terribly remote.
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Old 03-31-2009, 09:24 PM   #12
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In Natl Forest terms, they have two kinds of campgrounds or sites, "dispersed" and "non-dispersed", where the former is just an open space in the woods, just far enough from the road to meet the requirements of that NF, and the latter are CGs with more organized sites, picnic tables, fire pits and pit or vault latrines and sometimes a water supply.

Natl Parks/Monuments generally don't allow dispersed camping, but it is done in most NFs, BLM and BR.

I generally prefered the non-dispersed CGs when I was FTing, but that may change now that I have an anchored home -- I don't know yet! I once met a salesman on vacation with friends in the Grand Tetons NP -- He had approached me outside the Visitor's Center about getting together to do a shuttle so we could all do a kayak day trip on the river (My kayak was on top of my truck) -- When we were riding back in my truck he said he had told his friends that I seemed to be a socialized guy who wasn't afraid to spend time alone, which I thought was a pretty accurate description.

Point is, the non-dispersed CGs usually have some sort of toilet arrangement, so it isn't a "Behind the nearest bush" sort of thing. OTOH, dispersed sites are definitely that way.

For ladies who aren't afraid to try new things, here are URLs to a gadget and a technique (Reportedly taught by the military) to keep up with the men -- These links have been posted to numerous camping groups -- I once met a Swiss couple at Big Bend NP who had come to North America for a year, bought a Class B (Van Camper), and were about to go into Mexico and I mentioned these sites -- A couple of weeks later, I received an email from them asking for the URLs because some of the 'off-the-beaten-track' toilets they encountered were better used standing than sitting!

Handy for Picnics, Roadside and Dispersed Camping

Standing Technique

UK version of Standing Technique
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