Every six months Chris and I have brainstorming sessions. In these sessions, we go over things like travel plans, memberships, and maintenance items that we have “overlooked”. We also talk about things like what items have we used and what is collecting dust. Then it’s time to decide actions on each topic/item that comes up. For us, it usually means at least one trip to the dumpster, a day or so of overdue maintenance items, and memberships and subscriptions get either dropped or added.
Pros and Cons
We just had one of those brainstorming sessions recently. When we got to the memberships and subscriptions part we took a look at what we have, what we use, and what has not been used. We then weighed the pros and cons of each one and decided to either keep, renew or discard.
Some memberships we have had for a while and others are new. None are safe at a brainstorming session… lol. During this session, we decided to drop a membership that I have held on and off since before I even knew Chris.
Currently, We Have Three
We currently hold three campground related memberships and of those three, two we have had for a while and one is brand new. The new membership that we absolutely love (and if you follow us at all you would know that) is Passport America. We have saved a ton of money on this one in a short amount of time so it’s a definite keeper. We also hold a Good Sam membership and that one also is a keeper.
We will be doing a blog all about Passport America and Good Sam memberships within the next week or two outlining their pros and cons. These are two that made the cut for us. Even though they work for us they might not work for you and we will cover all that in the upcoming blogs.
Now for the cut. Which one was it? It was KOA. I have been a KOA value cardmember on and off long before I met Chris although our current membership was re-started in 2014. I have stayed at numerous KOA campgrounds over the years and we even recently worked at two of them. With that length of membership, you would think they were an automatic keeper on brainstorming day. Nope, no one is safe on brainstorming day… lol
KOA campgrounds are usually located in big cities and near main roads which make them convenient. They are usually clean and have great customer service including deliveries to your site. Some have lots of things to do for kids such as jumping pillows, bike rentals, and activities. Some are just overnighters with limited amenities.
Super Easy System
They probably have one of the easiest online reservation systems around. It is so easy to jump online, find a campground, enter your info (your info is saved as a VKR member) and dates, and book your reservation. It is so easy it can be (we have done it) booked from your car as you travel.
If we were so impressed with KOA, their booking system, and their parks, why are we dropping our membership? Pure and simple… economics. It does not make sense for us. We will probably be working for KOA the next couple of years. As employees, we get a discount on the site already.
Changing Our Travel Type For The Next 2 Years
We will be staying on the west coast and only traveling a couple of hundred miles in between workamping gigs. Since we will be workamping, our campground fees will be covered/discounted. The membership does not give us any discounts while we are workamping at a KOA.
That being said, we will only need to stay at one or two campgrounds as we move between workamping assignments. Since we work for KOA we get travel vouchers if we want to stay at a KOA, or we have two other memberships (Passport America & Good Sam) that give us discounts if we stay at a non-Koa campground. So until we start a more frequent type of travel (projected for about two years from now) we really can’t justify the membership cost.
Here’s How It Works
Ok, let me explain how the membership works. If you are a value card member you get 10% off your reservation cost. You also get 10% off anything you purchase in the camp store.
You also build points that are good towards certain dollar amounts off your next stay. See the chart below to get an idea of how many points per stay you earn.
We do have one piece of advice when using these points. We have noticed is that at almost every KOA we have stayed at and tried to use these points there was a problem. It seems a lot of KOA employees don’t know how to apply these points. It has always been resolved and we have always been able to use them but it’s something you need to be aware of. Make sure your discount is applied before you check out of the campground!!!
The closest we ever came to not getting our points discount was at a campground on the way to Florida. When we arrived we tried to use some points during check-in at a campground in Virginia. The employees were very nice but didn’t know how to apply them. When we left the next day it still wasn’t resolved. They said they would straighten it out for us and not to worry and would call us when it was completed.
Long story short, after not hearing from the campground, we decided to call KOA corporate. After speaking to someone from corporate, they said because we checked out already there was nothing they can do. Just when we thought we were out the discount, the campground called.
True to their word, the campground itself wound up straightening it out. See our review on KOA Harrisonburg for the complete VKR story.
Lets Sum It All Up
As I stated above, for the most part, you know what you are getting when you stay at a KOA. When you pull into a private campground you are taking a crapshoot as to the cleanliness, atmosphere, and level of customer service. At a KOA there is a certain level of expectation that you expect and most hit the mark every time.
Since we work at the KOA’s and get our site included we see no reason to keep the membership as we do not build value points while we are working. So for us, that is the only reason the membership did not make the cut.
If you enjoy clean campgrounds with awesome customer service and kid and pet-friendly environment, then the membership would be something you should consider.