After purchasing your RV (and maybe a tow vehicle), your next biggest RV expense will be campground and RV park fees.
At first glance, $50 a night isn’t a big deal, but if you are camping extensively, or full-time RVing, this will add up quickly.
There are many ways to save on campground and RV park fees. The best way is to completely avoid them all together and do a little dry camping or boondocking. For those that want full hookups and amenities though, there are a few other options.
Find out how to save on camping fees with Passport America.
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So what is this Passport America thing?
Passport America is a discount club where you pay an annual fee and in exchange, you get 50% off of participating RV parks.
Before you sign up you can find out what RV parks are participating in the program by using their search function. The listings will help you know what amenities are available and how the discount can be applied to parks in the USA, Canada, and Mexico!!!
Passport America also has an updated listed of newly added RV parks and those that are no longer participating on their website.
How we Save on Camping Fees with Passport America
If you follow us on our adventures, you know that we are frugal when it comes to camping sites. If we must, we will pay retail for campgrounds, but we prefer to boondock and pay absolutely nothing.
Passport America has given us the opportunity to stay at a campground at half the cost when boondocking wasn’t available or when we needed a break from off-grid living (eventually the kids were clamoring for a pool or playground!).
We rarely plan and this membership saved us a bit of money on our travels. It really came in handy when we took 6 months off in 2017 to travel from Florida to Maine, without any reservations at all.
The beauty of the membership is that it gives you the opportunity to stay at full hook-up RV parks, with amenities, at the rate of a state park ($25 or less a night!).
Now, every park that participates in Passport America’s discount program is different. So you might find yourself at an RV park without amenities or without sewer connections, but you will still save 50% of their retail price.
How Much does it cost?
It is really cheap!! Passport America costs $44 each year. After that, you get to stay at participating RV parks for 50% off their camping rates. It basically pays for itself after booking a night. I don’t know of any other discount club like this one!
What’s the Catch?
All this sounds great, right?
Well, it is, but…
Each RV park sets various limits on when the discount can be applied and for how many days. For example, I found an RV park that didn’t allow the discount to be applied from June to August. In addition, many parks will not apply the discount on holiday weekends. Another limitation is that some parks may charge extra for more than 2 people. This is NOT always the case.
So you should always place a phone call (we’ve made some while driving to the park!!) to make sure you can use the discount. You aren’t going to be able to just show up and expect to get 50% off whenever.
The good news is that every RV park has detailed notes on how the discount can or cannot be applied. If they don’t specify, they always provide a number for you to call.
Always keep in mind that you do not make reservations through Passport America. You must contact the RV park directly for reservations, rates, exclusions, and extra fees.
We did not renew Passport America and Here’s Why
In short, it didn’t make sense for our current RV lifestyle.
We have been staying for free either on the property of friends and family or staying on public lands (also for free).
When we have stayed at campgrounds or RV parks, it has been 30 days or more and Passport America can’t be applied to stays that long.
We also know that we can renew the membership easily and at any time.
When we start moving around more often, we will renew our membership.
Why we Recommend Passport America?
Well, for some, this is a fantastic and simple way to get 50% off camping fees. There’s no denying that. I really feel that it is a beneficial program for RVers of all ages, especially if you fit the criteria below.
Is Passport America Right for You?
It is right for:
- Anyone that wants to stay at RV parks and save money without being locked into a small number of RV parks in a particular region. The program is nationwide and has over 1,800 parks in the system!!
- This membership can be used by planners and non-planners alike. Again, you probably won’t be able to spontaneously show up at a park and expect to be able to use the discount, but you can find a park the day before or the same day. If you are a planner, you will have plenty of time to search and find the perfect RV park for your family’s needs.
It is not for:
- People that hate RV parks.
- If you require a lot of solitude and quiet, you might want to look into boondocking or dry camping instead. Not only will it cost you $0 to camp, but you will get that beauty and privacy you long for. Not sure how to get started boondocking? Check out our “5 RV Boondocking and Dry Camping Tips!” post!
Other Ways to Save on Campsites
Now that you know how to save on camping fees with Passport America, here are few other resources to help you out: