We Bought a Camping Timeshare

What on Earth is a Camping Timeshare?

How It Started

I’m sure that anyone who buys a timeshare never really intends to buy one, right? I’m so naive that I didn’t even know that I had signed up for timeshare spiel. I know this sounds super unlikely but here’s how the whole thing went down.

In 2017, one year after purchasing our camper at the Hershey RV Show, I returned to the show but stayed inside the arena, rather than touring the campers outside because I had already found the one, the only, Cramalot Inn. I was dazzled by the tech toys, like fancy GPS devices that claimed to route you on truck routes only, awed by clear stinky slinky attachments, but more importantly, I was enticed by a person who asked if I wanted to camp at Gettysburg. You see, we were only 5 months into our adventures and had yet to explore the possibilities beyond the few campgrounds we knew but I had told The Engineer that I really wanted to go to Gettysburg.

So I promptly put on the brakes and said to the lady, “Please, do tell me more.” She offered me the possibility of 21 free days of camping and even better, I could do 7 of those days at their Gettysburg resort. Oh me, oh my, was I excited. I told her to sign me right up. She told me the date that I was to show up and camp at Gettysburg and then we could learn more. The show was in September and due to other obligations, I couldn’t actually book the camping until early November. I left the show and promptly forgot that any of the above conversation even happened. I neglected to even mention it to The Engineer.

Months later…

About a week before our scheduled arrival, the agency called me to remind me of my upcoming stay. Oh, right!!! I completely forgot! By this point, it was starting to get chilly in PA, and I was concerned that an early November trip could result in frozen pipes and we were ready to winterize. Instead of making a weekend of it, we decided to turn it into a day trip.

We packed the kids in the car and drove the 2+ hours to Gettysburg, never fully comprehending what was about to happen. We explored the the battlefields and enjoyed our morning, blissfully unaware that we were about to endure hours of sales pitching.

As we hopped out of the vehicle to enter the Sales Office, The Engineer turned to me and said, “Wait, I think you signed up for a timeshare spiel! That’s what is about to go down here.” I felt the blood immediately drain from my face and had a moment of clarity but so many questions: Is there such a thing as a Camping Timeshare?! Is this not just a free camping offer?! 

Once we met our “tour guide” (aka Sales Rep), it was obvious that The Engineer was correct. We jumped onto the golf cart and toured the campground, suddenly aware that we were going to be faced with a decision at the end of the tour.


Upon completion of the tour, the Sales Rep told us to come on inside after we’d taken a look around. The Engineer turned to me and said, “We ARE NOT buying anything!”. I don’t know what he was all hyped up about because I was only there for the agreed upon 21 days of free camping. The Engineer then said to me, “How much did we spend this year on campsites?”. All in a panic, I tried to quickly do the math in my head, feeling like I was in a pressure cooker.


We walked inside and by this point, the kids were done being well-behaved and were running amuck, playing with every toy in the sales office they could get their paws on. The last thing they wanted to do was sit and listen to another, what seemed like, 3-hr sales pitch. I felt like there was a giant chaos-cloud just swarming around me. The sales person explained all of the numbers and reasons for why we should buy into the timeshare and at the end, turned to The Engineer and said, “So, what do you think?”. One important detail to note: The Engineer is also in Sales. In the most perplexing, unpredictable move of the day, The Engineer, said, “Sure, makes total sense. Sign us up.”. I visibly started to shake at this moment, unsure of what had possessed The Engineer, the one who stated that we weren’t buying anything. He started to speak of terms such as ROI (Return on Investment), and I suddenly realized that this accidental timeshare adventure had turned into a reality. We then became the proud members of Travel Resorts of America, with Gettysburg Battlefield Resort being our home campground. 

I’m still a little shocked by the purchase, over 3 years later. The Engineer seemed on the fence with his passion for camping, and he went into the sales office with the very strong stance of not buying anything. Each time we show up to camp there, I chuckle about that memory.

How it works

I bet most of you want to know how this camping timeshare deal actually works. I’ll provide the basics, and if you’d like to learn more, feel free to contact me.

We purchased the ability to camp “for free” at 6 campgrounds. I say “for free” because we already paid for the timeshare so while it’s free when booking, we definitely already invested the money. You can have 3 reservations in the system at a time and can book family and friends but there are restrictions around it. There are also restrictions around how many consecutive days you an be at a campground. Unlike hotel-offered timeshares, we have unlimited stays and aren’t restricted on which weeks we can use the timeshare. The battle is more around being able to remember to book in the system at the beginning of your booking window so that you ensure you get a site.

To stay organized, I start an Excel spreadsheet every year around December with one column being “# of days out to book” and another column that calculates the date that I need to book the reservation. I then set a reminder on the Microsoft To Do app so that I don’t forget to book the site. Depending on which level of the timeshare you buy, the window for booking can vary.

Coast to Coast Membership

With the purchase of the TRA timeshare, we have the option each year to renew a membership called Coast to Coast, giving us access to discounted camping ($10-$15 per night) in US and Canada. There are other perks as well, including hotels, B&B’s, houseboats, treehouses, and condos. Depending on which level of membership you opt for the price is less than $150 a year with an added bonus of a Good Sam membership, which is great for discounts at campgrounds, Camping World, and fuel at Flying J.

Coast to Coast also has restrictions based on the type of park you are staying at (Classic, Deluxe, Premier, Good Neighbor). Each year, we get a catalog with the rules listed and the details about each campground. I always take a picture of the page with the booking details and store it in Google Keep.

How much do we use it

Each year, we pay a maintenance fee that goes back into our home campground to make improvements; therefore, we attempt to camp enough in our 6-campground circle for free to make up the difference of the fee. Some years we do better than others at achieving this goal. We pick one of the campgrounds as our weeklong vacation adventures each year. Our first year, we took both sets of our parents and camped at Gettysburg Battlefield Resort for a week. Another year, we took my parents and the Faunt and Funcle and headed to Pymatuning. This year, we are headed to Bass Lake in Parish, NY, for a week in the summer. Because Gettysburg is our home campground and closest to where we live, we try to visit there at least 2-3 times a year.

We don’t seem to have enough time in our camping schedule to fully utilize the Coast to Coast membership. In fact, we used it for the first time this spring. We mainly use it for the Good Sam and Flying J discounts. We used it this summer to camp at Pioneer Campground in Muncy Valley, PA.

We hope in the future that we’ll be able to utilize more of the benefits that are included with the Coast to Coast membership, like renting a houseboat in Lake Powell, Utah, but with two demanding jobs and the kids’ sports and school schedules, we often find ourselves struggling to strike the balance. Maybe when the world returns to its new normal and we feel safer to travel again, we will explore more of the vacation benefits.

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