Why "Membership Campgrounds"?by Bob (Ram) Muessig
So...you want to find out WHY membership camping is such a good deal? Alright, lets compare types of camping and crunch a few numbers. First, we have boondocking. Dry camping out in the middle of wherever with NO facilities, NO amenities, NO security, NO nuttin...in other words, youre on your own...completely! Many times, space to park is unavailable (somebody got there first), or undesirable (dusty, dirty logging road near a scum-covered pond with mosquitoes the size of small planes). You cant make reservations (nobody to take em) and you cant stay much more than a week or two in your RV cause youve got to dump those holding tanks sooner or later.
"Well, I dont like being around a bunch of people." you say. Thats funny...the crooks waiting to break into your RV say the same thing. They dont like people either, for people can be witnesses to their crimes. Sitting in your RV with a loaded shotgun across your lap for security reasons is no way to enjoy the vacation with the family.
"But boondocking is an adventure!" Uh-huh. Finding a safe, quiet place to park your RV or pitch your tent is the REAL adventure and, after youve spent 2 out of your 3 weeks vacation finding that perfect spot, theres not much time to enjoy it. Well, theres always next year. But, like I said, you cant reserve that spot and chances are real good that, by next year, several hundred other people will have found it as well.
"I dont NEED facilities!" Oh...yeah...RIGHT! Just how long DO you wear those clothes before you burn em? And, just how big ARE your holding tanks, anyway? When you gotta dump, you GOTTA dump, and that means a trip back to civilization and someone grabs your spot while youre gone. Bummer!
Please...dont get me wrong. Im not saying that boondocking is not safe or fun. Some of the best experiences can be had out in the "sticks", and those experiences are best when they are spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment, and one-time-only, for they will become long-remembered, fond memories. Those will be the stories you can pass down to the grand-kids.
Now, lets look at what boondocking may actually cost. Well use figures obtained from state and federal campgrounds as a starting point. On the average, the cost to pitch a tent or park an RV is around $4 to $8 per night. Thats with a "Golden Age Passport", which means that your cost has been discounted by 50%. Just to be fair, lets split the difference and call it $6 per night. Now that seems like a pretty good price, doesnt it? Lets find out.
If you camp for 30 nights, youll spend $180. For that $180, you get: NO security, NO amenities, NO facilities, and, in all likelyhood, very little room for your rig. A great majority of these campgrounds were built quite a few years ago, when RVs were only as wide as a large car and 20 feet long. Now, however, these RVs may be up to 45 feet in length and, with slide-out rooms, over 12 feet wide. These older campgrounds simply cant accommodate them. I dont know about you, but Im not about to start clearing trees or brush just to park the RV. I DO enjoy roughing it, but I like to do so a little more smoothly. If you camp for 6 months, youll spend $1095 with the same NO goodies. If youre full-timing it (camping or living in your rig year-round) youll spend $2190 per year. Over a 10-year period, the cost comes down to a mere $21,900...for NOTHING except the space to camp! Thats boondocking...pretty inexpensive, isnt it...or IS it? YOU decide. Its your money were talking about here.
Weve thus far discovered that we can get absolutely nothing for our dollars except insect bites, sore muscles, calluses, rough hands, and dry skin with this type of camping regimen. Lets take a look at some other forms of camping which might offer just a little bit more for our money.
There are many public campgrounds (privately or company-owned and operated) which do offer some amenities and facilities, like showers and restrooms...maybe even a laundry. The average cost per night will be around $20 to $30 but, once again, well split the difference and agree on $25 per night. You wont find much in the way of 24-hour security, however, for that would make the cost(s) even greater. Gotta pay those guards wages, yknow.
Camp for 30 Nights $ 750
Camp for 6 Months $4562.50
Camp for 1 Year $9125 (full-timing)
Over our 10-year period, the costs round out to a whopping $91,250! Spen-DEE! Darn right. I know some folks who have never made that much in 10 years. Bear in mind that there are some campgrounds in the country which charge much more than what were using for our estimates (Is that whats known as "highway robbery"?).
Finally, theres "Membership Camping". One corporation (Sorry, Im not mentioning any names.) sells memberships for about 5 Grand PLUS $240 +/- for yearly dues PLUS $4 per night for camping fees (IF youre not camping at your HOME PARK where you bought your membership in the first place). At your home park, you may stay for 2 weeks, then you must leave for a week before you can come back. Oh...almost forgot! One OTHER little detail. You cant stay in any other affiliated park within 125 miles of your home park, either. Theres a HINT here, in case you havent guessed. Go to some park away from where you like to spend time and buy a membership there. Then go camp where you like. For instance, if you love the coast, buy your membership in...say, Colorado...then camp at the coast in ALL the affiliated parks. If you like the mountains, buy in Kansas, then go camping in the mountains. OK...what about cost? Heah come de NUMBAHS...
INITIAL MEMBERSHIP COST $5000
ANNUAL DUES $ 240
CAMPING FEES $ 4 (Camping away from your home park)
Camp for 30 Nights $ 120
Camp for 6 Months $ 730
Camp for 1 Year $1460
Once again, over our same 10-year period you may have spent: $5000 initially, $2400 in annual dues, and perhaps as much as $14,600 in camping fees, for a TOTAL COST of approximately $22,000! Well now...looks like THIS system of membership camping is a wee bit less than youd pay at some of those privately-owned campgrounds, doesnt it? Yep...to the tune of over 65 Grand! You may not believe it, but that IS close to what you would save if you belonged to this type of system and did NOT spend time in those other parks. "Where do I sign...where do I sign?" you ask. Dont get in such a rush. Were not DONE yet.
Another membership system offers the following WITH 24-hour security, ALL the amenities, ALL the facilities, pools, hot-tubs, outings, tours and excursions, activities, you-name-it:
Several MEMBERSHIP OPTIONS ranging in price from under $800 to just under $2500 and various levels of dues which may be based on just how much camping you do. Camping fees range from a little over $200 to just under $1100 annually, and YOU get to choose the rate that fits your camping style. However, were going to use the HIGHEST figures available to determine the total cost(s) involved.
INITIAL MEMBERSHIP COST $2495
ANNUAL DUES $1095
CAMPING FEES $ 0
Camp for 30 Nights $ 0
Camp for 6 Months $ 0
Camp for 1 Year $ 0
Cost for 1st Year $3590
Cost for 5 Years $7970
Cost for 10 Years $13,445
This figure, $13,445, represents the amount of money you will have spent, including your initial membership cost PLUS all camping fees (Annual Dues), over our 10-year period. When you break it all down, the total cost per night of camping is a measly $3.68! Cheaper than boondocking. Many members of this particular system virtually LIVE in the system, traveling from campground to campground, 2 weeks here, 2 weeks there, and so on. What about that "125 mile away-from-your-home park" restriction? Well, what about it? With THIS system, there is NO 125 mile restriction. Stay 2 weeks in one park, then move into the one on the other side of town or whatever. AND, you have the option of making reservations as much as 90 to 120 days in advance, all from your touch-tone phone 22 hours a day. This option allows you greater freedom for travel, for you already have in mind where you want to stay and when, so you can plan your trip more efficiently and enjoy it. After all, thats the name of the whole game...enjoyment.
If you dont have your own RV (maybe you sold it for some reason or another), you may still avail yourself of this systems rental units. Some parks have trailers with 1 or 2 bedrooms, some have cottages, and still others have "Yurts" (a kind of dome-shaped tent), which are equipped with kitchens, appliances, etc., everything you could want to make your stay pleasant and care-free. The prices may vary a bit from park to park, but theyre all much less expensive than a night at the Holiday Inn or, for that matter, Motel 6.
One thing I HAVENT memtioned: Resale memberships in various systems. Some of the prices Ive quoted are now, quite probably, a little out of date, but these prices were accurate as of 1993. Memberships are now being re-sold due to folks getting to the point where age or medical reasons prevent them from traveling as much as they used to, and they are putting their memberships on the market as "re-sales". These re-sales often sell for less than "new memberships" and, as a result, their value is even greater. But, to find these values, it takes some shopping around. Most systems have these re-sales available and some brokerage firms do, too. But, be careful. Be sure there are no hidden costs, such as unpaid dues, high transfer fees, or unusually high sales commissions. Also, be certain that whoever you make your purchase from can give you a current PUBLIC REPORT regarding the particular system you are considering. If they cant, or if they are unwilling to provide you with one, better look a little further. Knowing what you will be getting into BEFORE you buy will save you a great many headaches later on.
Mm-HMMM! Looks like youve saved more than $8500 over the other membership camping system(s) for our 10-year period and that aint bad. So. Whats holding you back? Check out these various systems today! Then...you makes yer choices and you spends yer bucks. If you dont, your kidsll spend it FOR you. Why do you suppose that there are so many bumper stickers proclaiming "Were spending our childrens inheritance."? ...uh-huh...
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