If you, like me, ( I have a wallet full of membership cards and a string of direct debits to prove it!) are a joiner of clubs and societies and if you are looking for a caravan, camping or RV club to join, then read on.
The saying “There is strength in numbers” may well apply to a group of caravanners as well as to a group who comes together to accomplish a more defined job of work. At first glance our hobby is one of independence, slimmed down living and self reliance. We set out as rugged individualists to select our RV and the rest of our kit, in the best spirit of the hunter gatherer and we make quick and robust decisions about which horizon we’ll be over by nightfall. When we get there we have everything we need and we are completely self reliant, at least until we get home again.
Or are we?
I joined the caravan and camping club.
When we went to find our first new caravan I had gone right through every piece of information that the club had to offer, both via its magazine and on its website. I looked at reviews, layouts of different models, what was new, what was useful and what was outdated. I read up on accessories that I wanted like the caravan mover and the awning. I looked at reviews of campsites, descriptions of places to visit and I spent hours going through the small ads looking for ideas and for things to buy.
When it came to time to book our first offshore trip I didn’t have the confidence or the language skills to deal directly with campsites in France, so off I trotted to the club. Using their brochure we selected the sites we wanted, booked them on the telephone and got all the paperwork we needed in good time to set off to catch the ferry. They offered a discount on the ferry and various insurance packages which meant that we could travel in confidence knowing that if the wheel were to come off, literally or figuratively, we were covered to get home.
Once we had built up some confidence in getting around on our own we decided that we’d save some money and do it ourselves.
Without saving money, and it took ages to tie up all the loose ends.
We then went back to the club, which a few years later gave us another good reason to be members. They helped us with a problem, which had it must be said, had been created by me to begin with. I booked the wrong campsite. When it came time to leave where we were and go to where we were to meet our friends the penny dropped. We were going to end up in campsites 60 miles apart. A quick call to the camping and caravanning club and it was all sorted. All I had to do was wait for the call back, pay up for the new site and look happy. I was my fault after all and it was surely a lot easier than trying to do it myself where my grasp of the language was not fit for purpose.
A quick look around the internet for clubs in different parts of the world shows us, in the usual alphabetical order, these ones which come to the top:
The Caravan and Motorhome Club of Australia CMCA: This has a large membership of 63,000 making it the largest motorhome club in Australia. As well a providing for its members a tailored insurance package and a specialist magazine, it offers, through 97 local chapters lots of social events for its membership. It is a not for profit organisation that exists simply to serve its members. It includes members only access to an online copy of its magazine, The Wanderer and specific access to the locations of campsites and dump points.
The Irish Caravan and Camping Council ICC: Offers information about caravan and camping parks in Ireland and includes a handy, basic map to help you find the one you want. When you have found the county that you want to visit, their website gives you plenty of information about the the location of various campsites, including a more detailed Google map to get you there. They provide information and links to places where you can rent mobile homes or statics and where you can rent or buy a caravan. Their website is a good source of information about special deals being offered by their campsites.
The Caravan Club of Southern Africa: Was established in 1947 and you can contact them on 011-828-3744. They offer discounts on selected magazines such as Caravan and Outdoor Life, discounted park fees during rallies, and the sense of belonging to a group that exists for a common purpose. Their footprint is wide and they publish a very useful code of conduct on their website.
The Camping and Caravan Club in The UK: Is billed as The Friendly Club and I have no experience of them being anything else except a pleasure to be a member of, and to deal with. For a very reasonable membership fee they offer a multitude of services including, but very much not limited to, information on UK campsites, holidays abroad, insurance, members marketplace and a Garmin Deluxe SatNav with information about campsites which is pre-loaded. Their help and advice service can be invaluable depending on what kind of a fix you find yourself in and they provide all sorts of information about events. Membership inquiries can be made to 0845 130 7632.
The United States: Has hundreds of these organisations depending on where you live and what your particular interest is. Have a careful look at how you do your RVing and then have a look at some of the following. These are only a starting point however and you will need to follow through until you find the organisation that best suits your needs:
- The American Camping Association has been around since 1910 and is now known as the American Camp Association. It deals with Kids Camps as well as RV facilities.
- The National Parks Conservation Association does just what it says, and a large part of their work is facilitating peoples contact with the wider landscape. A lot of people use their RVs to get there and part of their work is to ensure that this is done in a way which maximizes your experience while protecting the parks.
- The RV Consumer Group offers reports and ratings on RVs and related equipment, which can be an enormous help when you’re shopping for something new.
- Trek America sets out all kinds of adventure trips all over the States which include RV trips and a great deal of things that you can do while you’re out there.