There probably aren’t too many RVers that haven’t heard of the 50% off campground discount program known as Passport America (PA). If you haven’t, this post will serve as your introduction to this program which I believe is very worthwhile. If you’re already familiar with PA there may be a tidbit or two in this post that all save you money on other things you weren’t aware are part of the program.
In a nutshell a Passport America membership entitles you to discounts at participating RV campgrounds, typically 50%. That’s a sizable discount and taking advantage of it just one time during a year-long membership can more than pay for the cost of that membership. That’s the idea, after all, isn’t it? Tomorrow I’m headed for Ozark Country Campground in Branson, MO. The regular rate for a site there is $40. I’ll pay $20. Since I’m staying three nights I’ll save $60. Presto. My membership will more than pay for itself in this one use and I’ve already used it a number of times elsewhere.
At the time of this writing one-year memberships are $44 and 5 year memberships with an extra 6 months thrown in to boot are $179. As you would expect the five year membership saves you a little bit: $41 over buying five one-year memberships. Both can be very, very good deals. The key is that in order to pay off they have to be used. Since my plan was to take a trip of a year or two and then sell my RV I opted for a one year membership. Another reason for my going with a one year term was that I hadn’t used the program before and didn’t know if it would be worthwhile for me, personally. It has been very worthwhile.
In addition to to discounted camping fees memberships include a hard copy, telephone book sized directory of participating campgrounds as well as access to the PA web site, and mobile apps for iOS and Android. One perhaps little known benefit of memberships to the Passport America program can be found in the back pages of the hard copy directory in a section called Rental Accommodations. Here you will find PA member campgrounds that in addition to providing discounts on campsites also offer reduced rates to PA members on cabins, duplexes, banquet rooms, RV rentals, etc. Most of these discounts seem to be in the area 10% but some are as high as the 50% typically offered on campsites. I have not seen any mention of the Rental Accommodations listings in either the mobile apps or the PA web site. It gets a mention at the end of the campground table of contents in the hard copy directory.
Of course, Passport America promotes the 50% discount at campgrounds front and center in their promotional materials but what they don’t publish with quite the same verve is that many campgrounds limit either when the discounts are available or how long you can stay at the discounted rate. Some campgrounds may only offer discounts in the off-season. Others may limit discounts to Sunday through Thursday, for example, or exclude holidays. Many of the campgrounds limit the discount to one or two nights although some offer longer periods to which the discount may be applied while some do not impose any limitations at all.
At the time of this writing there are over 1900 hundred campgrounds featured in the PA system including listings in the continental USA (I didn’t find any listings for Hawaii), Canada and Mexico. There have been times when I’ve been unable to find a PA campground at which I could get a discount in an area I wanted to stay. Like me, you may not be able to find a PA campground all the time, or even most of the time, but I have found them some of the time and when I do it’s a welcomed situation.
During the 6 months of my own membership there have been quite a few campgrounds added to the system. You can set up your membership so at to get emails from PA when new campgrounds are added to the system. Campgrounds sometimes drop out of the system but I don’t think PA routinely notifies members of the latter. What organization would want to place center stage information showing its members leaving? It may not look good, but it’s part of the natural evolution of businesses to both acquire and lose customers. Dropped campgrounds can be researched on the PA web site or via the PA mobile apps, however. I think it’s always a good idea to call a campground ahead of time to double-check the campground’s Passport America membership status as well a campsite availability.
Campgrounds in the PA system are independently owned and operated, not owned by PA. Finding campgrounds along your planned route can be done via the hard copy printed directory, the Passport America web site as well as their stand alone mobile apps for iOS. If your mobile device is GPS capable the apps have the advantage of automatically using your location to find campgrounds near you in a radius that is user selectable. Cool. You can also search by city and state or using an in-app map.
Passport America says on its home page that “Passport America is still the best value, lowest price, and the World’s Largest network of Quality Campgrounds of its kind.” It also says “Our goal at Passport America is to save you money while providing you with the most quality & largest network of campgrounds, and a family of friends.” Factually, while some of the campgrounds may be very nice others are not so hot. I’ve seen glowing reviews of some of the PA campgrounds on web sites such as RVParkReviews.com and I’ve also seen some of them reviewed as lousy campgrounds. I’ve been to a small number of PA campgrounds myself and concur with the online reviews in terms of varying quality. I suppose that’s to be expected.
There’s also a trip routing tool on the PA web site. I didn’t find this tool particularly robust. It appears to me to be simply a repurposing of Google Maps with the ability to display Passport America member campgrounds along the route presented. Still, that can be of some use. Another tool on the web site will locate gas stations near you and display the current price for gas. This service is provided to PA by MapQuest.
A few other offerings included with PA memberships include email accounts, a discussion group membership and mail forwarding. All of these things are offered elsewhere of course and I suspect some of the other offerings may have more robust features or be otherwise advantageous. It’s my guess that Passport America is doing a little bit of reaching here in order to make their offering appear more attractive. In all fairness, that’s just a guess on my part, however. I mean, it’s hard to imagine that PA is going to have a more robust email interface than a GMail or a HotMail.
All told I personally think this is a worthwhile program just for the campground discounts alone. I’ve heard that sentiment echoed many times in many places. My membership has more than paid for itself in just a short while and tomorrow I’m off to a campground where it will save me $20 a night for as long as I wish to stay, no limitations. What’s not to like?
People who have perused the product reports section on my blog know that if I don’t like something I say so even if it may mean losing a potential commission. I can recommend Passport America in good conscience for those people who foresee being able to use it.
If you have found my comments useful or informative and decide to purchase a Passport America membership please do so via the banner ad below. Should you telephone PA please provide them with my affiliate code: non_rus