Anyone who likes to travel across the country knows that it can take a lot of money to get where you’re going. There are a number of ways to be thrifty in your travel – taking a train instead of a plane, using discount websites like Airbnb instead of staying at expensive hotels, making sure to pack what you’ll need and taking it with you instead of buying supplies as you go. But have you considered RV camping as a fun way to get in touch with nature, while also saving your wallet some of the strain of traveling?
Not only is staying at an RV campsite cheaper than most hotels, but you can find ways to make it even cheaper. Let’s review Passport America, considered the “original and largest discount camping club.”
Passport America only costs $44 per year to become a member, and you get a guaranteed 50% discount on participating campgrounds in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It also offers “Trip Routing” to help you plan out your trip from start to finish, with stops in between and the option to avoid tolls and highways and to include discounted parks from Passport America along the way.
In addition to campgrounds, you can find discount tent sites and narrow down your results in an area based on their rental accommodations. There is also a magazine that you are automatically subscribed to that gives updates on campgrounds and traveling, and a section on their website contains many tips about and rules related to using the discount – which you have proof of via a discount card mailed to you. Along with the card, you receive a large Passport America International 50% Discount Camping Directory that updates every year, a decal for your vehicle, and an online subscription to the RV America Magazine.
Now that you have a basic idea of what Passport America is about, it’s time to review it!
Pros of Passport America
- The website has a wealth of information that makes using the discount card a cinch! I’ve found it very insightful, most especially the FAQ section. It has a comprehensive list of pretty much any question I could think of related to the discount club, and then some more after that! There is even a toll-free number that can be used for making payments or asking additional questions!
- Passport America extends outside of the United States of America, encompassing all of North America. It’s available to anyone, not just people living in North America, that want to travel. I think this is great because it makes traveling outside of the country a bit easier than it would be otherwise. Any time you can cross country borders and find a place to stay that costs less is great in my book.
- The price for membership is more than fair, especially for what you get. For only $44 a year, I get access to a growing list of campsites at a very low rate, a magazine and online directory that give me a lot of information related to traveling, assistance in making a travel itinerary through the website, and access to a group of like-minded people that I can share ideas and experiences in travel with! That amounts to roughly $3.50 a month if you want to add it up that way. No matter what way you slice it, this membership is dirt cheap and easy to keep up with if you want your membership to extend past the initial year it gets purchased.
- All of the listed RV campgrounds, every single one, is 50% off. There are no surprises down the road and no hidden fees that someone can spring on you later in the year. Once I pay the membership fee and receive my card, that is the end of my payments to Passport America for the entire year. I also have the option of getting two or three years at once! Two years can be purchased for $79, and three years for $109, giving you a discount for buying more than a year’s subscription at once. This way I can be sure where my money is going, and when.
- I like the ability to connect with other like-minded people through the Passport America website, or by meeting other people with a discount card on my travels. So not only do I get a discount with Passport America, I get a community that I can say I’m happy to be a part of – one that extends all around the world and allows me to travel throughout all of North America!
- Roughly three months before my subscription needs to be renewed, I receive messages from Passport America that remind me of and give me options to renew my subscription. It’s easy to forget when exactly I started my membership with Passport America, so it’s nice to get a reminder with ample time to renew so that my service doesn’t lapse. I also get multiple ways to renew – by mail, by phone, or online. I can renew on the go, wait until I get home, or take the time to mail in my renewal and payment if I have the time to do so.
Overall, I would rate Passport America as a very good service for anyone that wants to travel. You get amazing discounts, help with travel planning, several options for places to stay on your travels, and a wonderful community full of like-minded, adventurous people to share experience, tips, and stories with. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s cheap and simple to become a member of Passport America – the staff takes care of practically everything for you!
These are all great reasons to look into becoming a member of Passport America in the future! If you’d like to give it a try, check them out here!
Cons of Passport America
In the case of Passport America, I find that the positives of having the membership to far outweigh the negatives. However, as with all things, there are always a few negatives to consider, so I will list the things I find personally unattractive about Passport America to give a fair review and let you decide if it is the best discount campground club for you.
- First of all, the rates are not guaranteed at every campsite for every situation. The campsite gets the option to have various blackout periods, such as weekends and holidays. However, the website does do a good job of noting those exceptions so that there are no surprises when you arrive. Aside from that, it’s always a good idea to call ahead to make sure you truly understand how your discount will apply.
- This is more of a philosophical one. 50% is great, but essentially you’re paying one company, so you get to pay less at another company. Thankfully, in this case, 50% per night more than makes up for the $44 I pay per year for Passport America, usually within two nights at most. For someone who travels a lot, this is great! For someone that may only travel once or twice a year, it’s not really a big loss to go without. I would even say it’s not much to miss if you travel at least four times a year.
- While there are a large number of campgrounds to choose from, space is limited in them, and I receive no higher priority in receiving space in the campground than any other person. This means that the campground I choose may be booked completely, and I have no guarantee of getting the space I want at any of the campgrounds Passport America is partnered with. I am also restricted to one pass, meaning I cannot go to one campground while a family member goes to another on the discount.
- Though it seems great that you are given a Passport America International 50% Discount Camping Directory when you initially become a member and can request a new directory when it comes out in January of each year, this directory is nearly 500 pages! It’s a waste of paper, quite honestly, especially since the website will have the same directory. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have the time to flip through 500 pages of campsites, rules, and other information that I may not ever fully use! I would be more likely to use that directory as a fire starter when I’m on a campground than read it! There has to be a better way to make a directory than to hand someone a novel and wait for them to go through it.
- Notice is given one time, three months before the renewal date, that I need to renew my membership in order to keep my benefits. From the looks of it, no other information is given at any other time unless it’s by request. That makes it really easy to forget about Passport America for months at a time, and the next time I think about checking the website – bam! My membership has already ended! This is especially true for people who may only travel a few times a year; in the time between vacations, it’s easy to forget and let the subscription lapse. And then where will I stay when I don’t have enough money with me to pay the full price of a campground, with no other place nearby to go?
Most of these complaints are just that – rather small complaints that can be easily ignored. But some of these could be deal-breakers, depending on your lifestyle and financial status. Overall, I’d still give Passport America a glowing review because of its cheap price, an expansive list of participating campgrounds all across North America, and the resources it provides. But that’s just my opinion.
Just Try It Out!
Take my review with your own grain of salt and take the time to research Passport America for yourself. You might find that you like it and become a member! Or you might decide to look elsewhere to find discount campgrounds. Just take a chance and see where finding out about Passport America can take you!