Whether you're new to camping or not, there's a good chance you've heard of Kampgrounds of America or KOA.
- KOA Journey campgrounds tend to be near major interstate highways and have mostly pull-through sites, which are great for one-night stops.
- KOA Holiday campgrounds are for longer stays and offer full service sites, camping cabins, and plenty of activities.
- Resorts offer a “vacation-like” experience, including on-site food service, extensive camp stores, pet parks, and more.
KOAs are popular because of the standards, and consistency campers can expect no matter what kind of KOA campground they visit. But staying at a KOA usually costs more (sometimes twice as much) as other local campgrounds.
Is there any way to save money at a KOA? Possibly. For a $33 membership fee, you can join the KOA Rewards loyalty program and get discounts on some registrations along with other savings opportunities.
While $33 may not seem like a lot of money, don't assume that you'll easily get back what you paid because of frequent camping trips or lengthy snowbird stays. Read on to see if discounts are offered that align with your travel plans or if points you'll earn from KOA stays will help offset the cost of joining KOA Rewards.
Why Join KOA Rewards?
KOA Rewards is both a discount and rewards program. When you sign up for KOA Rewards, you get the following benefits:
1. 10% off the daily registration rate. But keep in mind you won't get the discount when you're offered special rates for weekly, monthly, or seasonal stays.
If you plan to stay less than a week, your KOA Rewards membership may save you some money. (Note: Always check what discounts will apply to your stay with the KOA you plan to visit.)
2. A free night of camping during KOA Rewards weekend. Each year, KOA Rewards members earn a free Saturday night of camping on this special weekend in September. In 2023, the weekend is September 8-9, and you can search participating campgrounds on the KOA Rewards Weekend website.
The free night of camping is only available at participating campgrounds and the fine print notes that the number of sites may be limited. But if you are able to enjoy this free night, it'll likely cover your membership fee in just one visit!
3. Special discounts from KOA partners. As a KOA Rewards member, you can save money by using the services of or making purchases from businesses that partner with KOA.
Check out the Marketplace of Savings and consider whether you're likely to take advantage of any of the offers. Some of the current companies KOA partners with include Dish, Zippo, Geico, Coleman, Goodyear, Dometic, Cruise America, and more.
4. Rewards points that you can use on upcoming KOA adventures. With a KOA Rewards camping membership, you can earn points by booking reservations online, paying your daily rate for a site, and camping at a KOA during special events.
Those who stay at a KOA for 27 days in a row can also earn points at a higher rate each day.
There are also different membership levels based on how many points you earn. Your level impacts how fast you earn rewards points.
Everyone starts at the Base level, and then you move up to the Bonus level (earning points 10% faster) after you reach 6,500 points. You reach the VIP level at 20,000 points and earn points 25% faster than the Base level and enjoy other key perks.
Points roll over from year to year as long as your account remains active.
You can use your points to receive money off the first night of your stay. (Note: You can use points for a discount along with your 10% discount on daily site charges.)
Receive $10 off by redeeming 6,500 points, $25 off by using 15,000 points, and $500 off by cashing in 25,000 points.
Pros and Cons of Staying at a KOA
Now that you have a better understanding of why you'd want to join KOA Rewards let's take a closer look at the reasons people enjoy KOAs and why others may try to avoid them.
3 Pros of Camping at a KOA
1. Reputation. If you've camped over the years, you've probably stayed in plenty of beautiful campgrounds, but at least a few you'd never return to.
KOAs are franchise operations subject to annual reviews to ensure they're maintaining standards (i.e., cleanliness) expected of a KOA. While there's always a chance you could have a bad experience at a KOA, you have a good idea of what to expect.
2. Amenities and Activities. KOAs typically provide a variety of amenities, including camp stores, camping cabins, laundry facilities, showers, playgrounds, swimming pools, game rooms, fitness centers, Wi-Fi access, and cable TV hookups.
Many KOAs also have pet parks so your dog can enjoy socializing with pet friends too! You can also participate in a wide variety of activities at a KOA, such as dance lessons, craft projects, group games, hayrides, movie nights, theme weekends, and more!
3. Safety. KOAs are well-staffed, and campground personnel frequently monitor what's going on throughout the property.
Since the majority of KOAs are near a city, you'll also have quick access to emergency and medical services if you ever have a need for them.
3 Cons Of Camping at a KOA
1. Crowds. You'll likely deal with crowded campgrounds (especially on weekends!) because of the popularity and reputation of KOA. To get a reservation at some parks, you'll need to plan ahead and book early.
If you're looking for a serene setting to enjoy quiet days, you should consider other local campgrounds or a state park.
2. Noise. When you have a crowded park, you're going to have more noise. But you also have to deal with noise because of how close your neighbors are parked to you in some KOA locations.
While we enjoyed a KOA we stayed at on a recent trip, you could hear the people in the site next to us snoring at night, and when your first neighbor is up in the morning, you'll likely be awake too.
Again, this can happen at any campground, but we have found that KOA's spots are much tighter than many other campgrounds.
3. Cost. You'll find that staying at a KOA usually costs more (sometimes double or more) than what you would spend at another campground. And that's because you're paying for clean bathrooms, hot showers, utilities, and all of the other amenities a KOA offers.
If you don't plan on using what KOA Campgrounds provide, there's a good chance you could save a lot of money on camping by choosing a different location and avoiding the extra costs.
How Does KOA Rewards Compare to a Good Sam's Membership?
You can also get campground discounts at over 2,000 Sam Parks, savings at partner retail stores, fuel savings at select Pilot Flying J's, and other valuable benefits by purchasing a Good Sam Club Membership.
A one-year membership costs $29 and you can save a few dollars if you buy a multiple year membership. So the cost is quite similar as are many of the benefits when you compare it to the KOA Rewards program.
One of the big difference you must consider is where you plan to camp and if the campground is affiliated with the Good Sam Club.
You can read our full review here: Are Good Sam RV Memberships Worth The Cost?
Who Should Join KOA Rewards and Who Might Skip It
One of the most important things to consider is where you plan to camp and what types of amenities matter most to you.
You won't get any value from camping loyalty membership clubs if you mostly camp in state or national parks or if you don't take advantage of the amenities at the parks or use special offers at partner businesses.
Those who enjoy KOAs like to plan ahead and know what to expect. The type of camping a KOA offers fits those who like a camping community atmosphere with lots of activity. KOA campers enjoy using the utilities they pay for and have peace of mind that their stay will be comfortable and the camping experience enjoyable.
You should skip the KOA Rewards program if you're just starting out and want to minimize your costs.
Determine your “camping lifestyle” first before joining membership programs for a few dollars off future stays at select campgrounds.
If you've made the decision that the KOA Rewards program is right for you, you can join here on their membership page.
We'd love to hear from you! Do you belong to KOA Rewards, or have you joined in the past? What other tips do you have for those considering joining?