Sunday, July 4th, 2021

Which Caravan Club Should I Belong To?

There are two principal contenders when it comes to choosing a caravan club to join.  They are the Camping and Motorhome Club (formerly The Caravan Club) https://www.caravanclub.co.uk and the Camping and Caravan Club https://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk

At first glance, they are broadly similar, and, in many aspects, they are.  But look a little deeper and you will find there are subtle differences.  Finding the one that best suits your needs is the tricky part.

For the purposes of disclosure, we should declare; we are members of both and have been, for the same amount of time.  We joined at the beginning of our campervan adventures and are only now beginning to see ways in which each club offers different solutions to the same problem.

Caravan and Motorhome Club

Founded in 1907, the Caravan and Motorhome Club gives members the ability to stay on Club owned or licenced sites with a caravan, motorhome, campervan, trailer tent or a folding camper or caravan.  It offers members access to free help and advice including the Technical Advice team, a Legal Advice Helpline, and an Overseas Advice Line.

The Club offers members a free monthly magazine, special partnership offers and a range of discounts and offers on relevant products for members.

The Club operates as a business, with over 1200 employees generating a £100+ million turnover annually.  It offers members a range of insurance products tailored especially for caravan, motorhome and campervan owners.

The Camping and Caravanning Club

Established in 1901, the Camping and Caravanning Club is the world’s oldest and largest Club for all forms of camping. With over 700,000 members and 100 club campsites, set across the UK, it is a not-for-profit organisation.  It undertakes to invest back every penny spent by members into improving facilities and services. 

Arrival Breakdown Cover offering all the benefits of the RAC’s expertise plus specific assistance for caravans, motorhomes, campervans and trailers is available to all members as is a selection of other purposely written policies covering every aspect of life on the road from pets to overseas travel.  

Members can also take advantage of a technical helpline with free advice on all things camping, such as pre-journey checklists, solar energy, TV aerials and more.

Each Club offers benefits to their members, and each seems to operate on several different levels.  The first is as a club where members of both are encouraged to be part of a companionship movement.  Each club organises regional meets up throughout the year, hold local meetings and host an AGM designed to foster the feeling of belonging.  Whether or not you choose to join in these activities is up to you.  Secondly, the clubs offer members the opportunity to pitch on one of their owned or managed campsites.  Each club has a wide and geographically diverse spread of club campsites that they either own, operate or oversee the management of.  Finally, each of the clubs offer members additional benefits which we will cover later in this feature.

Club Sites

In our opinion campsites operated by either of the clubs are to campers what a multistorey car parks or motorway service stations are to motorists.  They serve a good function and should be used only when an alternative is not available.  But then to that statement, we must add the caveat that we designed and had built, our own campervan to be entirely self-sufficient so that we could operate off grid and camp away from the crowds.  We prefer not to park cheek by jowl to other vans no matter how likeminded the occupants maybe.  That is not to say we are anti-social, because we like a chat to compatible folk about our love for the outdoors and our chosen mode of relaxation.

Camp sites do have a function and as such are enjoyed by many.  The Camping and Caravanning Club has more than 100 of its own club sites across the UK.  Some of these sites are owned and run by franchisees.  All Club Sites allow a maximum stay of 28 days, after which time, you must vacate the site for a minimum of 24 hours before you can return.  Club camp sites are for recreational use only. Campers are not permitted to use the sites as a base for running a business or to carry out their work.

On a member only site, up to four non-members (adults and/or children) may be included in a members’ party provided the non-members camp in the member’s unit, with the member present.  The club operates a “six metre rule” which means that units (excluding guy ropes) need to be six metres apart from adjacent units to protect against fire.

The unit (along with any ancillary equipment) must fit within the confines of your pitch whilst maintaining the six-metre rule.  Children’s pup tents can be classified as an integral part of a unit, in the same way as an awning, when they are occupied by children aged 17 years or under and are included in the household membership.

The club encourages members to book online but allows telephone bookings.  Members select the site and pitch type, confirm occupants, and the price. before payment is taken.   Unlike the Caravan and Motorhome Club, the Caravan Club takes a deposit at time of booking.

Members who cancel 31 days or more prior to the first day of the booking and have paid a Deposit will get that deposit refunded in full.  Cancel inside 30 days or less, and the deposit is, in most cases, lost.

Members can review their booking online by logging into the member’s area, but we have found this very difficult to do.

The Caravan and Motorhome Club has 198 of its own club sites across the UK and 38 Affiliated sites.  Affiliated sites are privately-owned and managed, chosen with the aim of providing the same standard for members.

Club campsites in the UK can be booked without a the need to pay a deposit so you won’t part with a penny until you arrive on site.

To change or cancel a booking, members should do so in good time to give others an opportunity to book that pitch.  The minimum notice required for any pitch cancellation is currently 72 hours, this will be calculated from 12 noon on your arrival date.  Members who cancel inside this period or fail to turn up at a booked pitch on three occasions between will be contacted and may have their membership suspended and forward bookings cancelled.

There is no doubt, that the sites run by the Caravan and Motorhome Club have more regulation and adopt a stricter policing policy than does the Camping and Caravanning Club when it comes to interpreting those regulations.  From talking to others and from our own experiences it would seem fair to suggest that the Caravan and Motorhome Club is a formally run club where the Camping and Caravanning Club is perhaps more laid back.  Certainly we have been somewhat officiously told off by wardens at the Caravan and Motorhome Club where Camping and Caravanning Club are, in our experience, a little more friendly.

Operated Under Licence

For us, the most fundamental reason for us being members is to find small privately run sites that offer campervans the opportunity to pitch their unit on a quite well-located site. Exclusive access to these small privately run and operated sites where pitches are limited to just five units is the main reason we are club members.

These small sites (the Camping and Motorhome Club call them Certified Listings or CL’s and the Camping and Caravan Club call them Certified Sites CS’s) are each operated under a license scheme operated by one or other club.

In addition to the provision of pitches for up to five caravans, campervans, motorhomes or trailer-tents, the Camping and Caravan Club allows up to 10 tents at any one time to pitch on any of their 1,400 Certificated Sites across the UK and Northern Ireland. At least 700 of these remain open all year round. 

When it comes to the 2,200 CL sites available to members of the Caravan and Motorhome Club, these are reserved solely for touring units. This means tent camping is unavailable other than in the form of attached caravan awnings, toilet tents or small single-berth pup tents which are regarded as part of the outfit.

Each of these licensed sites are required by their respective clubs to carry Public Liability Insurance and provide a minimum standard of facilities.  They must, for example, provide safe access for caravans and motor caravans to include a 3.66m (12 foot) minimum width gateway and safe approach road.  Each must provide drinking water taps, a secure emptying point for chemical wastewater and an adequate number of covered bins for the disposal of rubbish.  They need not supply electricity or washroom facilities nut many do and these are listed in the excellent site finding guides each club issues annually

Websites

Both clubs have websites and both clubs would describe them as being excellent.  Indeed, they are if you are looking for information the club wants you to find.  But try looking for a telephone number to contact someone, or find a page that explains the dos and don’ts of booking cancellation and you will become frustrated at the number of clicks you have to make and the number of blind alleys you will get caught up in.

If I had to choose between the two websites then, I would suggest that the Caravan and Motorhome Club is slightly less frustrating than that of the Camping and Caravanning Club.

Shops

Both clubs have on line shops claiming to offer member savings on essential kit and services for those who enjoy the life of caravans campervans tents and motorhomes.  Thoughtfully well stocked?  Yes, but most special offers and members discounts can be bettered elsewhere if you seek them out so the shop is not a good reason on its own to join either club.

Magazines

Now here there is clear winner!  Both Clubs publish a monthly magazine which can be read either in the paper format or as a download.  Both are free to members but the readability of the offering from Camping and Caravanning by far, outstrips that of the Caravan and Motorhome Club which is, by comparison, a somewhat turgid read and is little more than a promotional vehicle.  Neither magazine comes up to the standard of the well written, Touring a free online magazine for Motorhome, Caravan and Camping Inspiration 

the well written, Touring is a free online magazine for Motorhome, Caravan club and Camping Inspiration

Cost Savings

Both clubs claim that membership saves members money ,and that might well be true but if it did, it would have to save a member more than the annual cost of membership to have value.  Our experience shows that seldom do we receive a discount by being a member that we could not otherwise have negotiated for ourselves.

Insurance

Each of the clubs has a well-accepted slew of insurance policies specially tailored for motorhome and caravan users.  This means that competitive quotes can be obtained from specialist underwriters for who the club acts as agents.  However, this seems only to be of benefit to those who drive or tow brand named units.  This is fine if your make and model is on the list but if you own a Fiat Ducato that has been converted by a specialist converter or one that you have built yourself, then you will be better off approaching insurance companies that normally insure motor vehicles.  This is not the fault of either club but is something they are lumbered with by the insurers.  Our own, high value campervan was insured by the NFU at a fraction of the cost offered by the so called specialist campervan insurance companies.

Our own, high value campervan was insured by the NFU at a fraction of the cost offered by the Caravan Club
Inside our campervan Voyager

Travel Abroad

The Clubs each have their own Overseas Travel Service, which makes ferry and site bookings for its members.  They can also facilitate access to overseas sites and offer worldwide tours.  This specialist travel agency business is indeed a good ideas for those who would rather someone else did their pre travel research but members should never forget that when they are booking travel through a club they are essentially using a travel agent.

How to Join

Joining a club could not be easier and the online process is simplicity itself.  Perhaps the easiest to use sections on the websites they host.  They are after all seeking to take your money so this perhaps explains why.

To join the Caravan and Motorhome Club click here

To join the Camping and Caravanning Club click here

Conclusions

For us, the decision to be a member of both is easy.  True, we pay double the fee but we get a greater choice of very small campsites which we enjoy and we get the best of both worlds when it comes to the other benefits.  If we had to choose to be members of just one, for financial reasons, we confess it is a difficult choice.  Who know perhaps one day the clubs will merge and then we the camping community will all share the enjoyment that club membership brings!

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