As I mentioned in another post, I recently purchased a new travel trailer. When I came by to pick it up and do my walk through, the dealer had a folder with a voucher for free camping from Outdoor Adventures. Free camping??!!! Right? Um yes, please! He told me that the rep who gave it to him said it’s just a 90 minute tour the first time you come and then they validate your certificate for 21 days of free camping. Kind of like a timeshare meeting, but he promised it wasn’t super pushySounds pretty good to me! So I thought I’d write out what my experience was like.
First of all, the folder says to call in order to to activate your 21 day voucher. Lies! Well, not completely. It’s the first step, but it won’t activate your voucher. They will then try to schedule a time for you to come take your tour. They won’t validate without the tour, even though the paperwork and indicate it just takes a call. I’m not mad though, I suspected as much. They want you to take the tour so they can make the pitch for their membership. That’s fine. She said when you confirm a tour reservation, they will send you the voucher for 21 days of free camping, your parking pass, activity wristbands, and a $50 Walmart gift card! Sweet. She also said if you were just coming for tour and not staying to camp, they’ll give your lunch and ice cream.
It just wasn’t convenient to me because most of their resorts are in Michigan with 2 in New York and 2 in Ohio. I don’t live in any of those states so popping over for a tour isn’t exactly easy. I hoped to do it when I was ready to use my first campsite, but my camper was stuck in the shop for awhile. Then it was winter so I wanted to make use of my passes when it’s warmer, and I can use all the amenities. However, while I can use the passes 21 times anytime for up to a year, they said I needed to activate the pass as soon as possible. I was in the area around Thanksgiving so I just did the tour then with no overnight stay.
I visited the Arrowhead Lake campground for my tour. Ok so I’m going to clarify something now that was a little confusing to me. So I was given information, and was in contact with someone from Outdoor Adventure Resorts, but when I arrived the company name everywhere was Venture Out Resorts, and then they started talking about Coast to Coast which I’ll talk about later. So basically these are all their own individual companies that like partnered up as one thing? I know that Venture Out is an affiliate of Outdoor Adventures and you can get all the same benefits. Coast to Coast isn’t a name I heard until I met the sales guy. Yeah so that came out of nowhere. Here’s what I learned.
Apparently, Coast to Coast is a travel company owned by Good Sam. They have campgrounds all over the country, hence the name. They also have some in Canada and Mexico. So with the membership you can camp at the campgrounds in your home network for free, in this case Outdoor Adventures and their affiliates. Then you can use all those other campgrounds for $10/night.
The tour was mostly just a sales spiel. We did take a drive around the campground. The one I visited was a new addition and had a lot of upgrades planned to make it as fancy as the others. You can see a couple pictures I took below. The cabin-trailer was really cute. It was more like a tiny home. After the long explanation of everything they do and then breaking it down to show me “how it would work for me” they offered me lunch. It was just a cold turkey sandwich with a store bought cookie, chips, and string cheese so don’t get too excited. They didn’t offer me any ice cream, but it was a bit cold out. They did give me the $50 Walmart gift card first thing when I arrived, and at the end they gave me the 21 day punch card for the free days of camping.
All of the highlights they push are as follows:
- Camping & Cabins Free or $10/night
- Discounts on vacations including condos around the world as low as $100/wk
- Bring friends/family to use with you. 3 campsites or a campsite and cabin. Up to 10 people per spot.
- RV Storage – I never heard a price. They implied free.
- They’ll move it to a spot for you the night before you arrive.
- 24 hour security
- Open yearly (not all campgrounds)
Ok not gonna lie. That sounds pretty good. Of course, the sales guy starts doing the math. The national average (according to him) is $45/night. That seems to be about what I’ve found. So it sounds like you’d be saving money, but of course this all cost money. They have 3 plan tiers. They’ll only tell you about the top one at first, then they’ll bring the other ones out to hook you on. You’ll think that sounds great, but too expensive. Then they’ll say you can have it all for this much cheaper and it suddenly seems like a no brainer, but it’s still a lot of money. The tiers they showed me were as follows:
- Top tier: $17,000 You get all the things I mentioned before and it’s a lifetime membership and it’s transferrable to your children if you so choose along the line.
- Middle tier: $13,000 You get all the benefits except it’s a lifetime membership that is not transferrable.
- Bottom tier: $8,000 All the benefits for 10 years and it’s not transferrable.
You do have the option to upgrade one of the lower tiers to a higher tier and the money you’ve already paid will count towards that higher tier.
They only broke down the lowest tier for me because they acknowledged that the others didn’t make sense (and that I wasn’t going to even consider spending almost $20,000!) so those are the numbers I’m going to use now.
The way it broke down according to the sales guy, it would break down to $96/mth. Assuming $50/night, you’d only have to stay 2 nights to save money. Well, he conveniently forgot to factor in that extra $10/night because I won’t be staying exclusively in Michigan. Still seems like a good deal, maybe.
So….what’s the kicker. That’s what I’m trying to figure out the whole time. The first thing that is a red flag is that they want you to buy right there and then. They told me that the offer is only good that day. I asked multiple times if I could think about it, maybe wait and try out after I use those free camping days they’re giving me (why give it to me if I don’t have a chance to try it out, right??) They said that they couldn’t because they tell everyone they have to buy that day so if they didn’t make me, other people would get mad. I don’t see why they wouldn’t let everyone think about it if there isn’t some kind of catch I’m not seeing right then and there.
Then you have to notice that the $94/mth is only the first year. Why? Because there’s a yearly maintenance fee of $492 at the time of writing. That’s on top of the $8,000+ and it doesn’t go away even after you pay off the membership fee. There was no guarantee that price would stay consistent either. He said that in the past current members haven’t been required to pay the additional fee when the prices increase. He said there are current members who signed up the first year who are still paying under $200 for their yearly fees. But like I said, there’s not guarantee that’ll be true for you.
Finally, they really bury the lead on this one. It’s not so much a yearly membership subscription as it’s a purchase. Meaning those numbers are financing numbers! It’s a loan. I only figured this out because I asked what the cancellation policy was. He told me you cancel up to 3 days after. When I pushed for the long term cancellation, then he said that the bank isn’t going to just forgive the note. So it’s a loan. So all those numbers aren’t taking the interest price into consideration. They kept talking about the numbers for good vs bad credit ($94/mth is the good credit price). They told me that for bad credit the interest is 15%. 15%!!! That’s a really high interest rate. Of course, I asked what the lowest rate for good credit was because I do have good credit, and it was 14%! That’s basically no difference! That’s it, that’s the catch. My uncle said “so they’re loan sharks” when I told him about it. He’s not wrong. They are definitely making money off the poor financial decision to open a loan at that rate. The salesman said if it were him, he’d take the 6 months of no interest and then refinance with a personal loan from his credit union. While that sounds like a smart plan, certainly smarter than sticking with 15% interest, I don’t feel comfortable with all the uncertainties in that plan. I’d want to do my research and I’d probably just open a loan from the get go to get a rate I’m comfortable with, but honestly I’m not comfortable with any interest rate for this kind of purchase.
As you can guess, I walked out without making a purchase. I’m not upset that I went. They were really nice, and I got a gift card and free camping out of it. They never did send me the package in the mail with the passes and everything.
I tried to look up reviews online. They are definitely mixed. I saw one lady comment that she was excited to mostly use the international condos and vacation discounts, but later comment that after a year they never were able to use it because Coast to Coast’s prices were always higher than the other local options. I’ve also read reviews that said when they booked campsites in network that were supposed to be $10/night, the campgrounds blindsided them with additional fees that ended up costing them more than if they had just booked it normally without going through Coast to Coast. I find these quite concerning on top of everything else I already felt uncomfortable with. Makes me happy I didn’t get pulled into their sales pitch.
This was just my experience with one sales staff and your experience and pricing may vary. If anyone has used Coast to Coast, I’d love to hear your feedback!