UPDATE-Please be sure to read my Part 3 before you book a sales meeting.
Hello from Laughlin, NV! We are spending the night here before heading back to Pahrump. This morning we went to Lake Havasu to attend a sales presentation for Colorado River Adventures.
I was seriously dreading a high-pressure sales pitch.
But it turned out to be nothing like that. Also, much of the negative stuff I've read online about didn't seem to apply. It was a pleasant experience, and I'm glad I checked it out! If I decide that camping memberships are the best thing for us (which is too early to tell right now) I will get the CRA membership rather than upgrade Thousand Trails. Thousand Trails was a much easier decision since we have a 'teaser' membership that's super-cheap. CRA is much more comprehensive and has a lump-sum buy-in required.
I read a great deal of negative stuff online about CRA. I thought I had plenty of ammunition preloaded that would allow me to turn down the membership. However, the stuff online is either no longer applicable, or do not apply to CRA memberships originating from Arizona.
Arizona has the strictest Time-Share regulations in the country.
This is what the nice sales manager told me. He admitted that memberships that are made in other states, like California, have little to no regulations, so they're different. I have a feeling that the negative things I heard about CRA are from these low regulation states like California, but who knows? I can only talk about the experience I had at the Arizona Lake Havasu Springs Resort. I do not believe he was lying in the things he told me because we would have had to sign something in the end, and I obviously would have read it with great scrutiny.
I believe he was being honest with me. (The woman at the front desk was very nice, too!)
You probably want to get your membership in Arizona.
Again, I can't say if it's worth the drive if you're in California or elsewhere, but I'm telling you that the membership that was described to me was not this nightmare thing described on another web site.
You do have to go to a sales presentation at a resort and sign up in person. I tried to get details over the phone with the main sales office, but they wouldn't budge on this.
The good thing about going in person is that you get some free gifts so long as you meet their criteria:
- You can't have attended a CRA presentation previously.
- You and your significant other must make at least $40,000 combined.
- Both decision makers have to attend the sales meeting.
The gifts I got were an android tablet, a $100 gas rebate (I will report later about whether or not they honor this), a one year free membership to the Lake Havasu resort (with caveats), and a free hotel stay at some vacation spot for 2 nights. The choices were Bahamas, Denver, and a few other choice places.
The android tablet is awesome!
It was brand new in original sealed packaging and works fine. The gas rebate is a bit of a hassle. I need to collect receipts from Shell stations and mail it in. I do plan on taking advantage of it. I suggest that if you're driving down to the Havasu resort stop at Shell stations on the way to fill up. Only fill up $25 at a time (you need four receipts of $25 or more and only $25 is reimbursed per receipt) and get your four receipts. Maybe you can redeem this during your stay at the resort.
The free membership is good for one year at the Havasu Springs Resort. It provides up to 20 days of camping. A stay is 5 days maximum. Only 5 stays are allowed. One night constitutes a stay. You can't stay on weekends. Seven days out are required between visits. These caveats are what I'd heard on a different site, and were expected. I'll still get a 5 day stay sometime next winter. I'm making a point to get back to the resort in our travels.
Lake Havasu Resort is GORGEOUS. It's right on the water, and the water is turquoise with a beautiful mountain back drop. I saw a nice pier that you can fish off of. There were boats on the calm waters, hundreds of docks in the water, and a launching ramp. There were 500 RV spaces with many pull-thrus. Some looked a little small, but it was not as another site described. I saw many Class As side by side with their slides out with reasonable space around them. There were loads of other amenities, like clubhouses, pools, and a restaurant.
The camp attracted an affluent crowd. I did not see the scuzzy long-term residents another site reviewing CRA mentioned. There were a mix of all kinds of RVs. There was also just boats parked in spots. I'm not sure how it all works.
Bottomline: Lake Havasu Springs is an AWESOME park, and we will be staying there in the future.
We will take advantage of that free membership we got next winter. It's the end of March and it's already getting too hot to be down this south. The weather has been unseasonably warm this year.
Okay, now I'd like to go over what I heard, and what the reality is.
1. I heard that once you sign up it was like buying a time-share. You were stuck with the quarterly maintenance fees forever until you managed to sell the thing. FALSE: You can cancel your membership with CRA at any time,
but because there's a significant buy-in you probably want to try to sell your membership. There are also different membership plans, the cheapest being a 6 year membership for a $7,000 initial buy-in. After the six years it expires unless you put the $7,000 toward an upgraded life-time membership, which is $9,000 (only $2,000 when bought as an upgrade).
2. I heard that you only have 8 measly campgrounds with this membership. FALSE: CRA is now part of GoodSam's Coast to Coast program, which means you get Coast to Coast resorts too. There were a shit-ton of them. More than what Thousand Trails offers with their Encore Resort program. You get free stays at 100+ campgrounds, plus other benefits through the comprehensive Coast to Coast program. I kind of zoned-out during the video, but it includes discounted condo rentals in places like Maui, cheaper airline tickets, and...geez, I forget. But basically there were so many benefits that even if you didn't have an RV they had a decent enough sales pitch to get you to sign up. There are cabins at all the CRA resorts (the 8 core resorts) that you get a special discount rental rate.
The campground membership offered is similar to Thousand Trails in that it's 14 days in with 7 days out, however, for $95 you can buy your out days so that you can stay at the campground continuously for up to 6 months. If I try to pull a stunt where I use my ReadyCampGo membership to buy my out days and stay at a Thousand Trails resort continuously it will be $20/night or $140 to pull this off. CRA is cheaper in that respect, but also in the fact that I would have to pay a few hundred bucks for the additional ReadyCampGo membership each year.
Thousand Trails also charges $3/night for your 'in' nights and CRA doesn't.
3. I heard that CRA has quarterly maintenance fees of $210. FALSE: In my Arizona originating campground membership it's an annual fee of under $600 (I forget the exact amount) which is comparable to what I pay for Thousand Trails.
4. I heard you had to sign an agreement that said you wouldn't buy a CRA membership from anyone but them in order to get your free gifts. FALSE. The salesman came out with the android and certificates right from the start. GOOD GOING! I thought I was going to have to pitch a fit to get my gifts! Seriously, the sales manager at the Havasu resort was awesome and never made me feel pressured. When we said no they let us have our presents and leave. No resells. No locking us in a room until we agreed to sign up. It was not like that! This was a pleasant experience.
Now, I must say that we arrived early because we'd spent the night in Laughlin. (Great city, btw.) We asked if we could be in the earlier sales presentation, however it was still hours before that. Rather than have us wait the sales manager helped us himself. :) That was seriously nice of him! But he was the manager, not a commissioned sales-person. From the nice experience he gave me and my mother I feel that he doesn't allow any shenanigans on his watch.
5. I heard that if you wanted out of your CRA membership you had to sell it (not true) and that the company would make it as difficult as possible for you to do that, charging $1,000 transfer fees and the like. FALSE. The sales manager said he facilitated the sales of used memberships and the fee was 5% (possibly 6%, I'm not sure). The fact that he said that he would call us if a used membership with a lower buy-in came for sale gave some credence to this.
Okay, at the end of the presentation there was one little shenanigan, where he said that if we didn't sign up today we would not be allowed to sign up for two years. God bless them, they have to make sales, but we both know if I call him in a month and say we've decided we want the membership they're going to give it to us. He respected us enough not to belabor the point.
I think if you're in the market for a campground membership that CRA is worth considering.
I have a feeling your experience will be different in California, so as I say, you might want to trek to Arizona to buy. I'm not getting paid anything for this referral. When people treat me nice I don't have a problem spreading the word. I also feel that some positive press is needed for CRA to balance the negative stuff I encountered that turned out not to be true.
I feel kind of bad right now because the salesman gave me his card but it must have slipped into a crumb crack in the SUV or something. UGH. I was going to post his information so you could contact him directly. If I find his card in the future I will post this. In the meantime, if you want to pursue a membership you can contact them through their site