The Ultimate Guide to RV Membership Parks & Discount Clubs

How to choose RV membership parks and discount clubs

With RVs being sold in record numbers, more people are hitting the road than ever before. This means camping is getting more crowded and expensive. Many RV parks charge over $50 per night for a camping site with full hookups. However, there are a number of RV membership parks and discount clubs that can help lower the cost of RV camping.

Below is a breakdown of RV membership clubs currently available. Read on to decide which RV parks and discount clubs offer the best deal for your RV camping needs.

Flag City RV Resort in Lodi, California is a Passport America Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV membership parks and discount clubs

RV park memberships are groups of RV parks that offer free or discounted camping for members. Most RV park memberships charge an annual fee for all members and a larger, one-time fee for upgraded memberships.

What is the best RV club to join?

Each membership park and discount club has different rules and various benefits. So which one is right for you?

Is it reasonable to become a member of several RV clubs? It depends on your RVing style, wants, and needs. You’ll figure it out what works best for you.

The primary benefit of these camping membership clubs is to camp at a discounted rate. Each has its perks and drawbacks. It’s up to you to figure out which RV parks and discount clubs offer the best deal for your RV camping needs.

Hershey Preserve is a Thousand Trails RV Park near Hershey, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Escapees RV Club

Escapees (SKP) RV club has celebrated over 40 years in business (founded in 1978) and offers much more than campground discounts and is well known as an RV lifestyle club. They offer mail-forwarding services, campground membership and discounts, RVer advocacy, Xscapers club, rallies, meetups, CARE, and educational offerings including a boot camp program.

Escapees members can benefit from their three different types of RV parking:

  • Rainbow Parks
  • Co-op parks
  • Discounts on 800+ commercial parks

They have seven of their own Rainbow parks and 11 co-op parks. Your membership provides a 15-50 percent discount at 800+ other commercial parks.

Lynchburg Preserve is a Thousand Trails RV Park near Lynchburg, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rainbow parks

The Rainbow Parks offer four types of parking: short-term, long-term, leases, and deeded lots. These parks are also open to non-Escapee members but Escapee members receive a substantial discount.

SKP Co-op parks

The co-op parks are owned and operated by the co-op members (separate and independent non-profit corporations). Memberships are only available for purchase by Escapees members. These are lots that can be leased and used only by the lessee. Lessees must maintain their Escapee’s membership for their lease term. Lessees may choose to rent out their lot while they are away on trips but they may ONLY rent to other Escapee’s members. The lease continues as long as the member wants. Then it is sold back to the co-op (or another Escapee) when no longer wanted or needed. If you want to own without some of the hassles of ownership and you want a home base but also want to travel and not lose your spot, a SKP co-op lot may be good for you.

>> Read Next: Plan an RV Trip to a Museum: How to Save with Reciprocal Memberships

Commercial RV park discounts

Escapees have partnered with over 800 commercial RV parks to offer discounts ranging from 15 to 50 percent. Each park has its own rules and limitations as to how many nights you can stay and the discount you will receive.

Who should join Escapees?

This is a MUST-HAVE membership if you are looking for a travel club with an active community, fellowship, and camaraderie. Especially if you are a full-timer, the people you meet may become like family. However, for getting the best deal for as many camping sites as possible, there are better choices.

Whispering Hills RV Park in Georgetown, Kentucky is a Good Sam park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros of Escapees

  • Multiple membership benefits plus discounts
  • Affordable SKP parks and co-op parks
  • 15-50 percent off at over 800 participating RV parks
  • Great sense of community

Cons of Escapees

  • Not the primo membership for discounted camping
Sunshine Valley RV Park north of Hope, British Columbia is a Passport America Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Passport America

Passport America is one of the best deals available for discounted camping (50 percent off). For most RV campers, it’s a no-brainer. Remember that discount camping sites aren’t always the most desirable ones to stay in (this goes for most memberships). 

Campsite Discount Percentage, Stay Duration, Rules

The typical discount for using your Passport America membership is 50 percent. But some deals are not that good. The duration of your discounted stay is almost always limited. Some RV parks only offer deals seasonally or during certain days of the week. Each RV park varies with its rules regarding discounts. You must read the rules of the particular place you would like to stay.

The Passport America app and website make it easy to know what each partner offers. Passport America uses icons to identify the available amenities. However, there are no campground reviews or ratings on their app or website.

Passport America has over 1,450 participating campgrounds in its network.

Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort in El Centro, California is a Passport America Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros of Passport America

  • Great discounts
  • Large number of available campgrounds
  • Pays for itself easily with one or two stays
  • Website and app easy to use

Cons of Passport America

  • Some parks are less than desirable
  • Stays can be limited by number of days/season/day of week
Colorado River is a Thousand Trails RV park near Columbus, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thousand Trails

Thousand Trails offers multiple plans each with different options and discounts. Knowing if this membership club would benefit you depends on how you camp and where you want to stay (there are five zones to choose from). Understanding the variety of options can be challenging. The basic membership, also known as a zone pass, includes free camping within a specific region of the country.

There are five Thousand Trails zones: Northwest, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast. Each zone includes between eight and 23 campgrounds. New members can opt to include additional zones in their membership.

A Thousand Trails membership gives you 14 days max to stay in-network at a spot in whatever zone you bought into. If you stay four nights or more in a campground, you must wait seven days before camping at another Thousand Trails park.

Members can also add the Trails Collection which adds more than 100 affiliated campgrounds across the country to your plan. These are Encore Campgrounds which are also open to the general public (non-members). Additional upgrades include Thousand Trails Elite and Elite Connections.

Once again, knowing if this RV membership club would benefit you depends on how you camp and where you want to stay.

Chesapeake Bay is a Thousand Trails RV Park near Gloucester, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros of a Thousand Trails membership

  • Multiple parks to choose from
  • Add on zones
  • Can use a broker to potentially make membership selection easier and cheaper

Cons of a Thousand Trails membership

  • Lots of confusing information out there about memberships
  • No availability in the middle of the country
  • You have to move at least every 14 days to an out-of-network campground
Quail Ridge RV Resort in an RPI park in Huachuca City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Resort Parks International (RPI)

Resort Parks International (RPI) is an RV camping membership purchased through one of several affiliated resorts. The resort where the membership is purchased is known as your home resort. The RPI membership is an add-on to the home resort membership. The RPI membership is similar to the Coast to Coast (see below).

The major expense associated with an RPI membership is the home resort membership and annual maintenance fees. These fees vary for each home resort but the one-time enrollment fee ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

The RPI network includes more than 200 membership RV resorts, 400 privately-owned RV parks, and hundreds of condominiums and cabins across North America. RPI members can camp at all membership RV parks for a nominal fee. Affiliated public campgrounds offer RPI members discounted rates (typically 50 percent). Cabins and condominiums are available for discounted rates that vary by location.

RPI has an online portal that allows you to make camping reservations online.

RPI offers three different membership levels: RPI Plus, RPI Preferred, and RPI Gold.

There are three ways to purchase an RPI RV membership:

  • Thousand Trails: RPI Preferred Gold membership is included with the elite Thousand Trails membership
  • Affiliated resort: The most common way to purchase an RPI membership is through an affiliated member resorts. When a camper purchases a resort membership at the home park, a RPI membership can be added on.
  • Used memberships: Since some RPI memberships allow for transfer, it is possible to purchase one from the original owner. Online brokers also help RVers locate available used memberships.
The Barnyard RV Park is a Good Sam park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros of RPI

  • Multiple parks to choose from
  • Substantial discount on camping costs

Cons of RPI

  • You must first purchase a home resort
  • You have to move every 7 days
  • A substantial up-front cost
Wind Casino RV Park is a Good Sam park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Good Sam

Good Sam is easily the most popular and well-known of the clubs. Good Sam offers much more than just campground discounts. However, the discount on Good Sam-approved parks is nothing to write home about—you only get 10 percent off the 2,100+ campgrounds in their network.

However, this membership is still a good value. Good Sam also offers discounts on RV-related items. They discount propane at Camping World, free dump at select Camping World stores, discount on gasoline and diesel at Flying J stores, and discounts on Camping World purchases.

>> Read Next: Good Sam Releases 2023 Top Rated Parks

Also, they boast over 1.8 million members and the membership fee is very reasonable $25 at the time of writing.

Depending on your style of RVing and how often you take to the road, this camping membership can easily pay for itself quickly.

Frog City RV Park in Duson, Louisiana is a Good Sam park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros of Good Sam

  • Multiple benefits other than just campground discounts
  • Very affordable
  • 10 percent off 2,100+ campgrounds

Cons of Good Sam

  • 10 percent off is a small saving
Rain Spirit RV Resort in Clarkdale, Arizona is a Coast to Coast park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Coast to Coast

Coast to Coast is a network of RV parks located in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Coast to Coast is part of a larger company that also owns Good Sam, Camping World, Gander Outdoors, and Overton’s.

The Coast to Coast membership is similar to the RPI membership (see above).

Coast to Coast has hundreds of RV parks where members camp for a discounted rate. New memberships cannot be purchased online. Instead, campers must purchase a membership through one of the RV parks in the club’s network. The prices will be different depending on where you purchase the membership.

Jamaica Beach RV Resort on Galveston Island is a Coast to Coast park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The major expense associated with a Coast to Coast membership is the home resort membership and annual maintenance fees. These fees vary for each home resort but the one-time enrollment fee ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

They also offer a free 3 day/2 night stay for RVers who are interested in purchasing a membership. You will be required to attend a tour of the park and a membership orientation. Take advantage of this offer if you are genuinely interested in purchasing a membership. 

When selecting a home resort for your Coast to Coast membership, it is important to understand their 125-mile rule. Members are not allowed to book reservations at any Coast to Coast resorts that are within a 125 drive from their home resort.

Coast to Coast Deluxe memberships are available as an upgrade and provide additional benefits to members including staying up to 14 consecutive nights in a member park (standard memberships allow seven consecutive nights).

Coast to Coast memberships can also be purchased on the re-sale market. Used memberships can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars depending on the home resort and the included benefits.

The member parks are inspected and rated annually in terms of facilities, amenities, and cleanliness.

Arizona Oases RV Resort in Ehrenburg, Arizona is a Coast to Coast park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros of Coast to Coast

  • Multiple parks to choose from
  • Substantial discount on camping costs

Cons of Coast to Coast

  • You have to move every 7 days
  • A substantial up-front cost
Tucson/Lazydays KOA in Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kampgrounds of America (KOA)

Kampgrounds of America (KOA) is the largest system of privately held campgrounds with more than 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Their huge number of parks means that most RVers will stay at a KOA at some point in their travels.

KOA has its own rewards program and does not participate in other RV discount clubs. The KOA Value Kard membership offers a 10 percent discount off your rate at all KOA campgrounds. Members also earn rewards points which can be redeemed for free nights at KOA RV membership parks.

Since KOA parks do not accept other RV membership discounts such as Good Sam or Passport America, KOA Rewards is the only way to obtain a reduced rate at their campgrounds.

Contrary to other campground memberships such as Thousand Trails, there are no membership levels. All KOA Rewards members pay the same price and receive the same benefits.

Terre Haute KOA in Terre Haute, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros of KOA

  • Multiple parks to choose from

Cons of KOA

  • 10 percent off is a small savings
  • The campgrounds tend on the expensive side
FMCA Rally in Perry, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association)

FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) benefits include a monthly magazine, RV rallies, tire discounts, discounts on camping, a temperature measuring device for pets, mobile Internet, roadside assistance, mail forwarding services, and many more. Several years ago, FMCA opened its membership to towable RV owners (travel trailers, fifth wheels, and campers) as opposed to only people with a motorized RV (motorhomes and camper vans).

FMCA Rally in Indio, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros of a FMCA membership

  • Multiple camping discounts
  • Benefits other than JUST camping discounts
  • Well-known and respected organization
  • Excellent RV magazine published monthly
  • Low membership fee

Cons of a FMCA membership

  • Low savings on camping
  • Limited number of campgrounds that offer a FMCA discount
Orange Groove RV Park in Bakersfield, California is a Good Sam park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Harvest Hosts

Harvest Hosts is the best RV membership for experiencing, well, experiences! They offer up unique places to park for the night—primarily dry camping stays at wineries, farms, breweries, museums, and golf courses. In exchange, it is implied that you patronize the place you visit, if applicable. However, the bonus is that you get a fun and unique experience and a camping spot for the night. Harvest Hosts has over 3,300 locations you can experience. The program also provides an opportunity to support local businesses and meet the people who run them.

>> Read Next: Good Sam Releases 2022 Top Rated Parks

Harvest Moon RV Park in Adairsville, Georgia is a Good Sam park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros of Harvest Hosts

  • Unique camping experience
  • Save money on RV parks
  • Camp in places you couldn’t otherwise
  • If you have a winery, farm, or attraction, you can become a host
  • Over 3,300 hosts

Cons of Harvest Hosts

  • Your rig must be self-contained
Creek Fire RV Resort in Savannah, Georgia is a Good Sam park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boondockers Welcome

Boondockers Welcome is another unique RV membership club that connects members with free RV parking on private property. Boondockers Welcome is pretty much like it sounds. It’s an RV club offering places to temporarily dry camp on people’s private property.

Host Benefits

  • Homeowners (hosts) who are RV friendly and are sometimes RVers themselves can, for free, offer up their spot for a very limited time
  • Half off a boondockers subscription
  • They also get a few months free added to their membership when they host someone
  • Homeowners get to meet new people

Member Benefits

  • You have many places to stay for free
  • Meet new people
  • Stay in places where there are no RV parks

Pros of Boondockers Welcome

  • Super cheap for the entire year
  • If you’re people-oriented, you can make lots of new friends
  • Great way to see cities on the cheap

Cons of Boondockers Welcome

  • The number of days you can stay is limited
Spartanburg Northeast/Gaffney KOA in Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hipcamp

Discover and book tent camping, RV parks, cabins, treehouses, and glamping. Hipcamp is the Airbnb of RVing. Founded in 2013, it has grown to include over 432,000 properties including public parks, private campgrounds, and private land. It works just like Airbnb. You search for properties to park your RV (or tent) instead of searching for houses and rooms to rent.

There is no cost to join Hipcamp but you must register to book. Hipcamp gets its money from service fees which are a variable percentage of the amount that you book. The site is good at describing amenities on the property; photos of each property are the owner’s responsibility to fill out.

Pros of Hipcamp

  • Very easy to navigate website
  • Huge variety of places to camp
  • Over 430,000 properties to choose from, the most of any club
  • Easily filter your results
  • No membership fees, just a percentage fee of purchase price

Cons of Hipcamp

  • Doesn’t seem to be any
Clinton/Knoxville North KOA in Clinton, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

Have you figured out the best camping club to join? There may be more than one. There are many RV discount clubs and membership organizations to consider.

I hope this article helps to clear up some things about the crazy world of RV discount clubs and membership camping. It’s about figuring out which RV camping organizations are best for you. Just get out there and start doing it. You will figure out which RV associations are correct for you as you go.

RV memberships and camping clubs are a great way to save money but all membership options should be thoroughly investigated before signing up. To determine whether a membership is worthwhile for your family, calculate how many nights per year you would need to stay at discounted RV parks to break even on your investment. Also, consider the annual dues and whether or not the membership can be resold if you are not using it.

We personally chose to purchase Good Sam, Passport America, Thousand Trails, RPI, and Coast to Coast memberships. Over the years our camping needs have changed and we’ve let our Coast to Coast membership and RPI membership lapse. Currently we make extensive use of Good Sam and Passport America.

Camp on!

Worth Pondering…

Whether you stay six weeks, six months, or six years, always leave it better than you found it.

—Jim Rohn Enhance

Labor Day Weekend Travel: Going on a Road Trip? The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Labor Day is near but if you’re planning a road trip for the long holiday weekend you may be stuck in heavier traffic than usual

Many people will be hitting the roads for the final summer holiday—a Cars.com survey found that of the 64 percent of the respondents who plan to travel for the Labor Day weekend, 80 percent will drive to their destinations. Nearly a quarter of those not planning to travel for the holiday cited high gas prices as the reason—significantly lower than the 42 percent of respondents who cited high gas prices as their reason for staying home over the Fourth of July weekend. 

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“For many, driving is not only the most economical way to travel but the most comfortable and convenient,” said Jenni Newman, Cars.com editor-in-chief. “While gas prices are still too high for some we are seeing pain at the pump ease just in time for the holiday weekend.

Cars.com’s survey also found that 52 percent of travelers who typically prefer to fly are now going to drive due to high ticket prices and ongoing airline disruptions. Additionally, 30 percent of respondents planning to drive say they’ve changed their destinations and are now traveling farther.

Related article: The 8 Best National Parks for a Weekend Getaway

Driving the Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 The Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Monthly Research Report, August Edition, indicates that just over 25 million households plan to camp over the Labor Day weekend. Continuing the camping demand, KOA’s annual North American Camping Report, released in April, forecasted a strong shoulder season.

Observing camping respondents as a whole:

  • 58 percent said they plan to camp over the Labor Day weekend
  • 30 percent said they plan to camp for the long weekend only
  • 42 percent said they plan to extend their holiday; of this group, 22 percent expect to camp for the week (before or after Labor Day) while 21 percent of respondents would likely add extra days to their camping trip
Driving Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Labor Day is looking to outpace Memorial Day which is often seen as the most popular camping holiday,” said Whitney Scott, chief marketing officer, KOA. “Between brightening economic conditions and the continued growth of late summer and fall camping, it’s apparent that camping isn’t just confined to a season.”

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking to the fall season, respondents said that they plan to camp the same amount (30 percent) or more (25 percent) than in previous fall seasons. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they would take all or most of their camping trips this fall with 8 percent of respondents saying they would not camp this fall.

“We’ve always found fall is one of the best times to camp and campers certainly agree,” Scott shared. “Across our business, advanced deposits are up 2.1 percent with many of those reservations falling in September. Fall camping isn’t a secret anymore.”

Camping at Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional insights in KOA’s August Monthly Research Report show the effect of shifting external conditions on camping, including:

  • 34 percent, said they replaced other vacation plans with camping due to inflation
  • Difficulties with air travel reflected positively on camping, with 31 percent of respondents taking more or longer camping trips due to flight challenges
  • 28 percent said they plan to book more camping trips in response to negative non-camping travel experiences

Related article: Why are RVs So Popular?

Tucson/Lazydays KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

AAA is expecting the Labor Day holiday weekend travel volume to return to near pre-pandemic levels as it did for the Memorial Day and Independence Day holiday weekends earlier this summer, according to a news release.

AAA anticipates the peak travel time will be Friday afternoon, September 2 when commuters mix with travelers, especially those heading to coastal areas. Traffic is also expected to be heavy late Monday afternoon as travelers return home from the long weekend, the release said. To avoid Labor Day weekend traffic, AAA is encouraging drivers who have the flexibility to travel at off-peak hours.

Related article: The Best Lakeside Camping Destinations 

Camping at Goose Bay State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Transportation analytics company INRIX says travelers can expect delays as early as today but traffic shouldn’t be as bad as on other holiday weekends. 

“There’s not going to be as much travel as Fourth of July or Memorial Day and not as much traffic congestion on the roads during that time too,” Bob Pishue, transportation analyst for INRIX said.

If you’re planning for a road trip this holiday weekend, here is what to know:

Driving Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When is the best time to leave for Labor Day weekend?

All times are local:

  • Thursday: Before 12:00 p.m. or after 7:00 p.m.
  • Friday: Before 1:00 p.m. or after 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: Before 1:00 p.m. or after 5:00 p.m.
  • Sunday and Monday are expected to have normal to minimal congestion. 
Driving U.S. Highway 89 between Flagstaff and Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When is the worst time to leave for Labor Day weekend?

“Thursday, like three-to-four o’clock (p.m.) is probably the worst time to leave,” Pishue said. “That’s when you get commuters and people running errands, mixing with vacationers and schools getting out if they’re in session.”

All times are local:

  • Thursday: 1:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Friday: 11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: 12:00-5:00 p.m.

Pishue added what could help ease the pain on the road is taking state highways as opposed to an interstate highway. 

“It might take you a little bit longer but it’ll be much less stressful and maybe more scenic depending on where you are,” he said. 

Related article: On Camping and Spending Time in Nature

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worst travel times in major US cities

If you plan on traveling to a major city or leaving one, you could be stuck in heavier traffic than normal. Here’s where and when it could be a nightmare in those cities, according to INRIX.

All times are local:

Atlanta

  • Worst corridor: I-85 South, Clairmont Road to MLK Jr. Drive
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 2:00-4:00 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 120 percent
Massachusetts State House, Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston

  • Worst corridor: I-93 South, Albany Street to MA-24
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 1:45-3:45 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 89 percent

Chicago

  • Worst corridor: I-290 West, Morgan Street to Wolf Road
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 4:30-6:30 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 133 percent

Detroit

  • Worst corridor: I-96 West, 6 Mile Road to Walled Lake
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 66 percent
Kemah Boardwalk south of Houston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Houston

  • Worst corridor: I-69 North, I-610 to I-10
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 76 percent

Los Angeles

  • Worst corridor: I-5 South, Colorado Street to Florence Avenue
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 4:45-6:45 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 138 percent

New York

  • Worst corridor: I-278 East, I-495 to 38th Street
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 143 percent

San Francisco

  • Worst corridor: I-80 West, Gilman Street to Civic Center
  • Worst day: Thursday
  • Worst time: 4:15-6:15 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 98 percent
La Connor north of Seattle © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seattle

  • Worst corridor: I-5 South, WA-18 to WA-7
  • Worst day: Friday
  • Worst time: 4:15-6:15 p.m.
  • Peak travel time increase: 77 percent

Washington, D.C.

  • Worst corridor: I-95 South, I-495 to VA-123
  • Worst day: Wednesday
  • Worst time: 3:45-5:45 p.m. 
  • Peak travel time increase: 56 percent

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

What 2022 looks like for RVers

2022 is shaping up to be another strong year for camping

The RV market exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel restrictions remained in place, many craved any opportunity to get out of the house.

Camping at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As a result, recreational vehicles provided a glimmer of relief for those seeking safer travel. The demand for self-sustaining travel kicked the RV market into high gear in 2020 with record numbers of travelers buying or renting an RV.

But what about 2022? Will the trend continue?

Camping at Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite relaxations in COVID regulations for airlines and international travel, one phenomenon of the pandemic appears here to stay—campers are staying dedicated to the great outdoors. A new study from Kampgrounds of America (KOA) shows that camping and its many variations, particularly glamping and RVing, is quickly being embraced by the new leisure-seeking traveler and is becoming a part of travel culture faster than ever.

Camping at Potwisha Campground, Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the past two years, the camping industry witnessed a growth of 36 percent with over 9.1 million first-time campers joining the scene just last year, the KOA survey showed.

While one-third of the newcomers said that COVID was their main catalyst to try camping, these numbers also come in tandem with the increased interest in leisure and wellness travel since the start of the pandemic. People are increasingly searching for quieter getaways, outdoor wellness retreats, and escapes into the wilderness.

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Among all survey respondents, two-thirds reported regularly participating in some type of leisure travel whether it’s camping or other types of travel. In 2021, camping accounted for 40 percent of all leisure travel.

Related Article: Why are RVs So Popular?

Camping at My Kentucky Home State Park, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The urban camper

Among regular and new campers, the urban resident is proving to be a rising star in the camping scene. In 2021, this type of camper emerged as “one of the most avid camping segments in terms of both trips and number of nights spent camping”, according to the KOA report. 

Camping at Poches RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping provides city residents a chance to find local or domestic activities that still offer a change of pace. The urban residents who intend to continue camping reported interests in a variety of camping categories starting from RVing and road trips to backpack camping and glamping.

Camping at Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While music festivals continue to be one of the urban resident’s most popular reasons to go outside they are still developing a new curiosity to the offerings of camping. In 2022, 44 percent of this group reported plans to replace a traditional leisure trip with a camping trip due to economic reasons and avoidance of crowds.

Camping at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glamping as leisure

Similar to the year prior, close to half of new campers said they tried glamping in their 2021 camping experiences. This interest is expected to grow in 2022 with 50 percent of respondents saying that they are also seeking a glamping experience.

Related Article: RV Sales Continue to Soar and Here Are the Reasons Why

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While 40 percent of leisure trips result in camping, 80 percent of all leisure travelers chose camping or glamping for at least some of their trips. Due to the high level of interest in camping and glamping amongst the leisure traveler, many industry leaders are recognizing the importance of camping in the hospitality industry. 

Camping at Seven Feathers Casino RV Resort, Canyonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Our research shows that camping is one of the primary ways households prefer to travel and spend their leisure time because 75 percent of campers say it reduces stress and contributes to their emotional well-being,” said Whitney Scott, chief marketing officer of KOA. “Camping is driving leisure travel’s recovery and its benefits will fuel future market share.”

Camping at Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Work life balance in the Great Outdoors

But, it’s not just leisure that new campers are seeking. 

Related Article: How to Choose the Perfect RV Park and Campsite?

Remote work is flipping the traditional ideals of workplace culture on its head inducing both support and concerns about the new normal. Many people aren’t exactly longing for a complete cut-off from work when they travel nor do they view it as completely realistic or possible. The distinction between leisure travel and remote work is being obscured and when it comes to camping behavior, 46 percent of campers said they worked remotely during at least some of their trips which an increase of 5 percent from 2020. 

Camping at Cedar Pass Campground, Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As a result, close to half (48 percent) of campers list having Wi-Fi as a critical element to their camping experience impacting their ability to stay outdoors so they can stay connected to their work life. Providing connections to the digital world even when out of doors is becoming an important part of customer satisfaction with campgrounds.

Camping at Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV boom continues, but will it last?

In addition to glamorous camping, RVing is also recording an all-time peak with almost two million new RV renters in 2021 and 15 million households RVing at least once to explore the outdoors. In a profile of 2021’s New Camper in the KOA survey, RVing was the most popular form of camping that people wanted to try with a 57 percent response rate. It was quickly followed by tenting at 56 percent and glamping at 51 percent.

Camping at Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the past, most RVers rented or borrowed RVs for their vacations but the results of the recent survey showed that they are displaying more permanent commitments to these mobile homes with 77 percent of RVers now owning their recreational vehicle. Interest in owning an RV is still present among the remaining non-RV owners with 32 percent saying they have intention to purchase an RV in 2022.  

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, this spike in RV interest may soon hit a cap as soaring gas prices are prompting RVers to make a change of travel plans in 2022. Some are seeking to either change their RV or even consider selling or listing the RV. About half of new RVers say they are considering selling their RV this year while a fifth are downgrading their RV to lower payments and operating costs.

Camping at Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Increasing Fuel Efficiency

Currently the harsh reality is that fuel prices are higher than usual. So, whether you camp close to home or plan to travel farther away, you can avoid paying high gas prices by simply doing a few things that will make your RV more fuel efficient.

Camping at Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep your RV and tow vehicle tires inflated to their recommended tire pressure. Every five pounds per square inch (psi) of tire pressure you lose can translate into a 2 percent loss of fuel economy.

Related Article: Is This The Summer Of The RV?

Keep up with vehicle maintenance. Oil changes and tune-ups on your motorhome or tow vehicle can result in between 4 percent and 40 percent increase in fuel economy.

Camping at Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t be a lead foot. Rapid accelerations and fast driving can quickly drain your tank. Keep your speed constant. Going slow and easy coming out of stops will really help decrease fuel use too. Speeding and rapid acceleration can decrease fuel economy by a whopping 15-30 percent. To avoid having to fill up as often be sure to maintain your speed a constant 55-60 miles per hour.

Use the air conditioner sparingly or not at all. Using the air conditioner in your RV or tow vehicle will reduce fuel economy as drastically as 5-25 percent. That’s a big drop. Traveling in the cooler early morning hours will help you avoid the heat of the day.

Worth Pondering…

It’s a beautiful day for it.

—Wilbur Cross

How to Travel Safely As Restrictions Are Lifted?

Interest in RV travel has grown exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic

The travel industry has been profoundly impacted by the uncertainty and anxiety currently enveloping the country. Airlines, resorts, and hotels are now offering discounted prices in order to rejuvenate their bottom lines but thus far the public’s appetite for travel seems to be stuck in neutral. However, there is an alternative to traditional vacations that could ease your concerns about mingling with the masses.

Welcome to the world of RV travel.

RVs at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since early April, RVShare.com, a company that arranges RV rentals between RV owners and the general public, has seen a 650 percent rise in bookings as “long periods of isolation and social distancing have halted most forms of travel” and left people anxious to be on the move again but with personal safety always in mind.

Fishing at Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When planning a trip in the next three months, the overwhelming majority of respondents (93 percent) want to avoid crowds, according to RVShare. This wasn’t always the case. The importance of avoiding crowded places when traveling has increased by 70 percent since the pandemic started. Additionally, 84 percent plan to travel with their partner or immediate family instead of friends or extended family.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“RV travel has been a trend steadily on the rise for years due to RV rentals being more accessible than ever thanks to sites like RVshare,” said CEO Jon Gray. “We expect RVs to continue to gain traction as a preferred method of travel while consumers are seeking flexible options and a unique way to experience the outdoors.”

According to the company’s data, national parks are the preferred destination of 65 percent of their customers.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

TurnKey Vacation Rentals reports that although summer bookings are down from 2019, they’ve seen spikes in bookings over the past two weeks as well as travelers booking beach and mountain retreats for trips. As destinations start to open, there’s increased interest in the Alabama and Texas Gulf Coast and in mountain areas like Asheville, North Carolina and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is worth noting that these locations are drive-to destinations as travelers now prefer to avoid air travel and stay closer to home.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outdoorsy is a peer-to-peer marketplace that connects families, solo travelers, and travelers of all kinds with trusted RV owners so they can rent an RV to power their road adventures. Their selection spans easy-to-navigate campervans to vintage Airstreams to luxury Class A motorhomes.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelers can personalize their trip, customize their itinerary, and choose the price point that fits their budget. In addition to RV rentals being a controlled environment where renters can choose how much or how little they are exposed to others, where they travel, and more. Outdoorsy owners are held to high cleanliness standards and provide clean, sanitized, and germ-free RVs to those new to the RV lifestyle and veteran road travelers alike.

North Beach at Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A survey commissioned during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shows that camping rates very high when Americans and Canadians are asked what they’re looking forward to once life regains some normalcy. Very strong majorities said it would be “reasonable” to have social distancing measures employed at campgrounds and on trails.

Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Performed on behalf of KOA, the “North American Camping and the Effects of Covid-19” survey reached out to 4,000 American and 500 Canadian households for their opinions on how the pandemic affects their plans for camping in the months ahead. The survey is bullish in saying “camping is well positioned to rebound earlier compared to other types of travel once travelers themselves deem it safe to travel again.”

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearly half (46 percent) of the campers surveyed said they view camping as the safest form of leisure travel in the post COVID-19 world. That percentage jumps to 72 percent when the question is posed to Baby Boomers. They also ranked camping as the safest type of trip, the survey found.

Camping in an Airstream at Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the same time, 90 percent of leisure travelers and 95 percent of experienced campers said there should be some measures in place to enforce social distancing. Forty-seven percent of campers and half of leisure travelers “agree that limiting the number of people on a trail is reasonable.” Nearly half (48 percent) of prospective campers thought limiting group sizes would be reasonable.

Stephen Foster State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Twenty-one percent of the campers surveyed said they thought it was safe to camp right now while 54 percent said they thought another month or two should pass before it would be safe.

Bernheim Forest, Krntucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. Sometimes it is better to abandon one’s self to destiny.

—Napoleon Bonaparte