We’ve had to stick to Vancouver this year, but as we’re half way through my thoughts have started to turn towards life on the road. Much of our time is intended to be extended visits with family. That lands us primarily in a few locations, but we certainly want to take advantage of visiting new locations. Last year we spent a good month in San Francisco, and this year we’ve spent in Vancouver. These are two of the most expensive locations you could ask for, and that has made me think a lot about cost reduction.
Memberships, what are they?
There are a plethora of travel memberships aimed at the RV lifestyle, some are community oriented, some not so. It can range from the occasional camping, to extended stays, to ownership of your own lot. I suspect it’s rarely secretive societies, though some places start to look that way, something tells me you cant buy into that. You can get simple memberships like AAA/CAA which often gets you a 10% discount at RV parks, or Passport America which can get you a 50% discount for a night or two. On the other end of the spectrum are membership programs like 1000 Trails, where given the appropriate membership (by resale) you can essentially camp for free 365 days a year (paying the yearly fee usually around $650), albeit in limited locations. There are so many organizations and levels and types of memberships, it’s quite cumbersome to figure out, and it’s quite specific to one’s needs. Despite that, we did indeed settle on a membership system that I believe will save us money over the next couple years.
As I mentioned, we’re glued to Vancouver right now, or at least to the vicinity, and Vancouver is incredibly expensive from spring to fall. Given that expense, we can move an hour south for a month staying at membership locations, and essentially break even on the cost of a membership. That means over the next couple years we will essentially save money with every stay, often $20-30 a night, but possibly as much as $60 a night at some locations. Seriously, I have a spreadsheet. That’s right. A spreadsheet. But the savings aren’t as big as it may sound. I figure that over 2 years we will spend at least half our time in rv parks. The other half will hopefully be nice state/federal parks, harvest hosts, boondoggling in nature, or parking in family and friends drive ways. Ultimately, over the course of two years, I expect the membership will save us 50% on the nightly cost, possibly in the arena of $8K over two years. Nothing to sneeze at. It’s yet to be proven, but it seems mathematically possible.
And so the drum roll…
We choose to get a combination Coast to Coast and RPI membership. This gives us a $10-20/night cost and a large swath of RV parks throughout the US and Canada, while allowing us up to 14 day stays in one location. Since I’m still young and spry and not independently wealthy I still need to bring in the bacon. Remaining in one location for a period of time will allow me to focus on work and yet still have some time to experience a location. We could have gone a higher cost on membership and got a 1000 Trails membership with 21 days in a location, but that had fewer parks and not terribly convenient locations for us.
We’ll also maintain a Harvest Hosts membership, and possibly a Passport America membership.
The Big Rundown
I’d give you the big rundown on all the possible memberships, but really, that’s been done before. Ultimately we’ll have to see in a year or two if this was a great move to save money or a waste of time and effort.