As we head into a new camping season, you may be considering RV memberships in an effort to save some money on campgrounds. Today we’re taking a look at the Passport America membership. Is it as good as it seems?
We’ve used Passport America, so we can weigh in here based on our personal experience. We’ll also share what we’ve discovered after hearing from current members. And as always, we’ll give you an honest view from the peanut gallery, with pros and cons for your consideration.
Here’s the skinny!
- 1) What Is Passport America?
- 2) How Much Does Passport America Cost?
- 3) What Are the Benefits of Passport America?
- 4) What Are the Downsides of a Passport America Membership?
- 5) So, Is Passport America As Good As It Seems?
- 6) Have You Tried a Passport America Membership?
- 7) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews, Giveaways & More
What Is Passport America?
Passport America is an RV club that claims to offer a 50% discount on the nightly rate at over 1,200 campgrounds and RV parks throughout North America, Canada, and Mexico. Membership includes a copy of their “Discount Camping Directory”, released in January of each year (this is a printed directory, over 480 pages long… you’ll pay shipping fees to receive the printed version).
Passport America members also have access to the campground directly via the web and through a free mobile app that allow you to search the directory for participating campgrounds. The app also provides trip routing (using your smart device’s existing mapping option(s), so it’s not RV-safe).
Using location service technology, you can easily conduct a search of participating Passport America campgrounds near you (handy for when you’re looking for a place to stop right now).
Once you locate an RV campground in the campground directory that interests you, you can call and make a reservation, and you may save 50% on the fee. (We say “may” because there are some caveats that we’ll get to in a moment.) Sometimes you can simply drive into a park, show your Passport America card, and get your discount and your campsite.
However, many campgrounds recommend reservations, and others require them. (In fact, participating campgrounds all have different rules, so this is something to be aware of in advance. More on that in just a minute, too.) Reservation information is supposed to be listed for each park in the “Important Campground Notes” section of the directory, but Passport America notes that the information in the directory is subject to change.
Also listed will be amenities offered by each campground, including full hookups at some, but not all.
Membership in Passport America covers one RV, one campsite at a time.
How Much Does Passport America Cost?
At the time of the writing of this post, in the spring of 2023, membership in the Passport America Discount Camping Club will cost you $44 per year. But if you pay for two years, your membership will cost $79, which is a 10% savings.
If you want to save a little more cash over time and you’re confident that you’ll want to continue your membership, you can save 17% by buying a three-year membership for $109.
What Are the Benefits of Passport America?
Let’s take a look at the advantages of having a Passport America membership:
One of the benefits of membership is that you can try it out for only 44 dollars. This means you’ll likely recoup your membership fee if you camp frequently and obtain 50% savings on a couple of stays.
Campgrounds and RV parks have gotten more and more expensive over time. (Another reason why we love boondocking!) If you can save 50% of the campground fee on even a couple of your camping trips, you’ve made your membership worthwhile right there.
What Else You’ll Get
Additionally, when you join Passport America, you’ll receive the discount camping directory, your personalized 50% discount travel card, a decal, and a free subscription to the online version of RV America Magazine, which is Passport America’s club magazine.
What Are the Downsides of a Passport America Membership?
A few things to be aware of about a Passport America membership that could be a bit disappointing:
Perhaps the first thing that’s important to know is that as a Passport America member, you’re not guaranteed a campsite anywhere, and certainly not at a 50% discount.
That’s not to say that you won’t find your 50% off at many of the campgrounds in the directory, but access to any campground is on a space-available basis, and not every campground will grant the 50% discount at all times of the week or year.
Limitations and Restrictions
We belonged to Passport America for many years. We joined early on in our full-time life, and back then, we found PA to be an incredibly valuable tool. Just about anywhere we went, we could find an RV park that participated in PA to save 50% on our stay.
According to travelers who’ve been members more recently, it appears things may have changed over time. Many parks have imposed serious limitations where the PA discount is concerned. Some restrict its use to only certain days of the week. For example, you may only be able to get the discount on weekdays.
Other campgrounds will only grant the discount at certain times of the year. Snowbird parks, for instance, may only offer the discount in summer, but not at any other time of the year.
Some campgrounds/RV parks only allow the discount for a limited number of days. So, you may want to make a reservation for a week, but you’ll only get your Passport America discount for 2 nights, paying full price for the remainder of your stay. While at some other locations, you have to stay full price for some length of time to qualify for the discount.
Also, each park or campground owner/manager sets the terms regarding the number of people included in a per-night camping fee. Some only include two people (making them less attractive for families or groups). Others include more, but you need to check with each individual campground to make sure you understand what the additional charges may be, not only for additional campers beyond the number they cover but any other extra charges as well.
And finally, Passport America notes that the information in their directory is subject to change because campground ownership/management can change, and they may not be alerted.
One of the other complaints that we’ve been hearing is that the parks that participate in Passport America these days are the less-well-maintained parks that are having trouble getting customers at their full rate.
We’re sure there are likely some great campgrounds and RV parks that participate in Passport America, but it’s hard to know what you’re getting until you get there.
So, Is Passport America As Good As It Seems?
When it first started, we thought Passport America was fantastic. All participating RV parks offered the full 50% off, with VERY FEW limitations. Over the years though, that benefit has been being whittled away by parks adding more and more restrictions to the discount. It’s why we no longer include Passport America in our tool set.
But, depending on your travel style, needs, and budget, a $44/year membership isn’t likely to break your travel budget. And, with the potential for savings on campground expenses (which keep getting higher every year), it can easily pay for itself after just a few stays. After that, additonal savings begin to add up.
Passport America CAN be a worthwhile tool in your arsenal if you know its limitations. So, if you’re interested in a membership, visit Passport America’s website.
If you’d like to read about other ways to save on your camping expenses, check out this article for other ideas: How to Save Money On Campgrounds
Have You Tried a Passport America Membership?
If you’ve had a Passport America membership in recent years, please let us know your thoughts. Were you able to get your 50% discount most of the time? Did you run into many restrictions or limitations that impacted your membership use? How was the quality of the campgrounds and parks you visited?
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