Thousand Trails Upgrades: Elite, Platinum, VIP ++

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As you may know by now, after five months of being hooked on the benefits of our Thousand Trails Zone Pass, we realized we wanted more! More campgrounds, more options, more flexibility, longer stays and less restrictions! Strange as it sounds, when we started out on our journey, we had no idea that any other Thousand Trails membership options (upgrades) even existed!

That is, until we started meeting and chatting with other members in the TT campgrounds. Many of them had long been full-timers and were usually either surprised or shocked to discover we’d been full-timing for several months on “just a Zone Pass”.

We learned that most of these people owned one of the many TT membership upgrades – Alliance, Platinum, Platinum Plus, VIP or Elite, to name a few. And, while you won’t find out about how you can get your hands on one of these from the Thousand Trails website, we can promise you that there are far more affordable TT membership upgrade options available than you might realize – that is, if you know where to find them!

2020 UPDATE: We just shared this update on the latest 2020 pricing on all NEW Thousand Trails memberships – Zone Camping Pass and upgrades – click here to read.

Get the latest inventory and pricing on Thousand Trails used / resale memberships.

Yes, Please send me more info on current inventory and pricing for Used and Resale Thousand Trails memberships

We first mentioned our plans to buy a TT Elite membership upgrade in our blog post “Time to slow down – we’re tired” but before dropping a much bigger wad of cash, we wanted to explore our options, find the right fit for our specific needs and naturally, get the best bang for our buck! We literally spent weeks researching, reading, calling, investigating and weighing up all of the options available to us before buying. This became such a minefield of information that we realized by sharing our experience, this could be helpful to other RVers too.

So while our quest to find the right membership was time consuming, confusing, sometimes frustrating or simply mind boggling, it doesn’t have to be that way for you! We’re happy to report that we now have a terrific TT membership upgrade that allows us to travel farther, stay longer and save much more on campground fees!

We’ve pulled together our findings in this article and shared our key nuggets, insights and tips. If you’re in the market for a TT camping membership, the time you spend reading this article can save you many hours of valuable time, help you avoid some common mistakes and save you a good chunk of money – anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. It may even save your sanity! Of course, we can’t guarantee all this, but what we can share from our personal experience is that it definitely pays to do your research and get well educated before you buy. It’s a significant outlay after all.

So whether you want to call it a crash course in TT membership upgrades, a cliff notes version, an FAQ or TT Membership Hacks, quite simply this is the blog post we wish had existed to help us when we first started down this path. It should definitely smooth out a few bumps and make this an easier road for you to travel and we hope you find it useful.

Now, if you’re not already a TT member, you might want to start by reading our post “Is a Thousand Trails Zone Pass right for you?” This will give you a good introduction to the TT Zone Park Pass, what you get, what worked for us, what didn’t, what we paid for it and what we got, along with our tips for getting the best deal on a Zone Pass.

If you’re already a TT member looking to investigate your options for an upgraded membership, or you are a full-timer RVer ready to jump right in with a solid membership upgrade from day one, please read this entire article before putting your money on the line. It will help you in deciding which membership is right for you, how much you can expect to pay, and where you can get your hot little hands on one.

Finally, before we dive in, please keep in mind that we are by no means at all “experts” in this area, nor are we affiliated with Thousand Trails in any way. We’re just a regular couple who have invested an enormous amount of time and effort in researching, comparing and assessing the various options available, before confidently making our purchase. The TT membership features, terms and prices shared in this article are provided as a guide, based on our discoveries during our own research – online, liaising direct with private sellers, through discussions with TT representatives and by dealing with an independent campground membership broker.

So, are you ready? Onward!

2020 UPDATE: We just shared this update on the latest 2020 pricing on all NEW Thousand Trails memberships – Zone Camping Pass and upgrades – click here to read.

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What you will learn by reading this blog post:

  • how you can travel full-time in your RV for under $4 per day
  • the different types of TT membership upgrades (Alliance, VIP, Platinum, Platinum Plus, Elite, Elite Connections) and pricing comparisons
  • what you need to know and look out for before committing to a purchase
  • a list of recommended questions to ask before buying
  • the process involved and the time it takes
  • who to contact and some links and contacts to assist you with making your purchase

But first….

A brief yet necessary history lesson on Thousand Trails and their memberships

Understanding the evolution of Thousand Trails throughout it’s 45+ years history will help you understand why there are now so many membership options and why it can get so darn confusing! Don’t worry, we’ll keep it short and stick to the most necessary facts and why these are relevant when considering a membership upgrade.

TT Gone CampingThe company was founded in 1969 with one property in Chehalis, WA then grew it’s west coast network to some 32 preserves. In 1991 TT merged with NACO, adding another 20 resorts to their portfolio. In 1999 TT took over Leisure Time Resorts adding 7 more properties. In 2004, the Thousand Trails company was acquired by Equity Lifestyle Properties. In 2006, the company purchased Outdoor World and Mid-Atlantic Resorts along with their east coast parks, thus expanding the of TT campground network to 80+ properties nationally.

Since Thousand Trails has been selling memberships for over 40 years and their product offering changed each time they tried a new sales tactic or purchased a new campground group, there are now over 100 different types of contracts on the campground membership resale market. Memberships have sold for anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to $10,000, depending on when and where they were purchased, the terms and inclusions.

If you’ve already done some initial research or spoken to other TT members, you may have seen or heard about names likes Gold, Alliance, VIP, Platinum, Platinum Plus and Elite being bandied about. Don’t be seduced, confused or overwhelmed by any of them. They are all simply fancy names or labels made up by the TT marketing department over the years to describe their latest product and, contrary to what you might expect, Gold is no better than Alliance, Platinum is no better than Elite – they are different, not better, just different. You need to remember this so you won’t be swayed by more desirable sounding names when it comes time for you to decide on the membership and price that is the best fit for you and your specific needs.

Of course, life would be so much easier if we could just go directly to Thousand Trails,and say “I’ll have one of those please”, then hand over our money and be happy with how much we paid and what we got for it, wouldn’t it? But that’s not the case. So let’s address that question right now.

2019 UPDATE: We just overhauled our Thousand Trails article on Zone Camping Passes with the latest information and prices. Jump over and read it here.

Why wouldn’t you just go to Thousand Trails for info and to buy a membership upgrade?

While you can certainly learn about the Zone Park Pass from Thousand Trails, as strange as it sounds, you will not find any clear or comprehensive information about the full range of membership upgrades on the Thousand Trails website. Even if you call them, they’re unlikely to share all of the options with you over phone either. Why not, you rightly ask? Here’s our take on it:

  1. Thousand Trails and their marketing dollars are focused on promoting their Zone Park Pass which is a low cost point of entry into the TT campground network. We call the Zone Pass the gateway drug, because if you’re a full-timer like us, soon enough you will want more than what you’re getting with just a Zone Pass. And, once you’re a member checking into campgrounds, you’ll be receiving promotional literature with your paperwork, telling you about the benefits you can get from a membership upgrade, along with the name and number of that campground’s ‘membership host, whose job it is to educate you about said upgrades and, hopefully, sell you one. Currently, there are two main membership upgrades available through Thousand Trails direct – these are called “Elite” and “Elite Connections” – and they are pricey.  The new Elite basic membership retails at around $6-7K but we were offered one at a special “RV show promo price” that reflected a discount of about 20%. And, if you want the Elite Connections membership with some extra accommodation privileges like the Getaway Cabins, you’ll be forking out another $3K or so on top of the Elite retail price, though we suspect you could probably negotiate something much better.
  2. As TT changes its membership upgrade offerings (in name and inclusions) every few years or so, not all of the membership upgrade options that are actually in existence are available to buy direct from Thousand Trails. When we say “all” we mean, all of the memberships that have ever been offered for sale by Thousand Trails. Yes, we know, strange yet true.
  3. Each and every Thousand Trails membership/contract can be different – it can depend on what it was called, when it was purchased, the promotional offers running at the time, who sold the membership, how motivated they were to ‘close the deal’ that day and the buyer’s negotiating skills! Some members who attended and signed up at one of the “timeshare-style presentations” of yesteryear may have invested $10K (or more!) in their campground membership privileges. Fortunately, TT’s business model is not based on those practices today.
  4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is a far less expensive way to obtain a TT membership upgrade without buying a new one directly through Thousand Trails. Yes, buying a “pre-owned” TT membership – known in the industry as a resale – is completely above board, legal and extremely common. People like us do it every day and enjoy the benefits for many years.

Naturally, if you are budget conscious like us and you like the idea of saving thousands of dollars and getting the best bang for your buck, it pays (literally) to explore the alternatives. But we also want to be sure to give you the full picture here, so it’s only fair that we take a look at the advantages of buying a new membership upgrade from Thousand Trails before we focus most of our attention on the resale options.

What are the advantages of buying a new Elite membership direct from TT?

If money isn’t an issue or you simply prefer the idea of buying from Thousand Trails directly, then go for it! It may end up being the best solution for your personal needs. There can certainly be some advantages to buying a “new” membership upgrade direct from Thousand Trails, it all comes down to what you are willing to pay for the privilege, such as:

  1. Immediate gratification – no need to research or wait for a used membership that meets your criteria AND you can start making reservations right away!
  2. Guaranteed access to all of the parks available within the TT system at the time of purchase (currently 80+)
  3. You can specifically select which park(s) you want exempted from TT’s “high use” restrictions policy
  4. If you are a good negotiator, you may get a better deal than the full retail price
  5. You can “gift” or “will” your membership to your descendants at a reduced transfer fee and allow them to enjoy the same benefits you did
  6. You can sell the membership if you don’t want or need it anymore and get some of your money back – the benefits listed in your contract will transfer to the buyer
  7. Some memberships allow you to gift additional memberships to family members
  8. Thousand Trails will allow you to finance your membership over many years, to keep your monthly payment low.

Now, even if you are in a financial position to spend the big bucks on a new TT membership, it’s still going to be worth your while to keep reading. But we’re pretty sure that the people who don’t blink an eye at dropping $5K+ on a membership probably aren’t reading this blog post to begin with! Now, onto the good stuff – let’s get educated on how to pick up one of these puppies for waaaaay less!

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2020 UPDATE: We just shared this update on the latest 2020 pricing on all NEW Thousand Trails memberships – Zone Camping Pass and upgrades – click here to read.

What is a Resale or Used Membership?

A resale takes place when the owner of a campground membership no longer has a need or use for it. Resales are good for the seller in that they can recoup some of their initial investment and stop paying their annual dues. Resales are good for the buyer as they are able to choose from any number of “pre-owned” memberships and find one that best suits their needs, while saving a significant sum of money compared with buying a new membership.

Resales are even good for Thousand Trails as they get to keep a customer (and collecting annual dues) instead of a membership simply being cancelled. All kinds of camping memberships become available for resale every day as members retire from RVing, spouses pass away and/or people seek to reduce the financial commitment associated with their membership. Note: Zone Passes cannot be re-sold.

Where can you find these Resale Memberships?

  1. You can buy a resale membership directly from a private party – whether it’s someone you know, your neighbor at a TT preserve, a poster on a noticeboard at your local campground, an ad in the back of a camping magazine, a listing on eBay, Craig’s List or any other kind of marketplace – online or otherwise. Of course, while you can sometimes find great deals this way, it can also be ‘hit and miss’. For us, it was a useful place to start our search, but we came to realize it was an extremely time consuming, frustrating and inefficient process that wasn’t delivering our desired result in the timeframe we wanted. That said, some people do find good deals that way, so by all means if you have the time go and see what you can find!
  2. You can buy a resale membership from a campground membership broker – one like Campground Membership Outlet that specializes in matching up sellers with buyers. A broker acts as the intermediary for all communications, handles the finances and paperwork between seller, buyer and Thousand Trails, and basically ensures everything goes smoothly. The broker does not charge the buyer or seller a fee – they make their money by way of a ‘cut’ on the mandatory transfer fee charged by Thousand Trails. In our opinion (and experience) a broker is an excellent way to go as they don’t charge you a service fee, they can educate and guide you about the best membership for your needs and it increases your chances of finding your ‘ideal membership’ sooner rather than later. Plus, you’re more likely to pick up a membership at a competitive price and avoid getting inadvertently stuck with a long term contract with less favorable terms. More on this as we go along.

What can you expect to pay for a Used / Resale TT Membership?

Luckily for all of us, when you buy a resale camping membership you save – a LOT! After all, the seller is motivated to get as much as they can for their membership and put that money in their pocket. Whether you buy from eBay, Craig’s List or a campground membership broker, the law of supply and demand comes into play. If there are lots of similar membership types available and few buyers, you’ll be able to pick one up for a lower price. Likewise, if a highly desirable and more rare type of membership becomes available and there are plenty of eager buyers, the price will be higher and the membership will likely be snapped up quickly.

This is where you need to do your homework and get clear on what you want. You need to decide on what specific benefits are a good fit for your needs, gauge what is a fair price for that specific membership and consider what you’re willing to pay. What we found was that while private sellers were more negotiable on price than a broker, they also tend to put a higher price on it initially. When you are dealing with a broker that sells these every day, they already know the fair value and nuances of each membership and price them accordingly. Brokers have a good inventory and a list of people they can call when one of their preferred memberships becomes available – their objective is to move memberships quickly, so they don’t usually price them above what the market is willing to pay.

Based on our research we found that, depending on the specific features and terms of the contract, you can pick up a decent TT membership upgrade anywhere in the vicinity of $1,000–$3,500 including transfer fee. Yes, for all resales, Thousand Trails charges a mandatory transfer fee (usually $750-$1,000) which covers the time and work involved for TT to process the paperwork, transfer the membership into your name and issue you with a new member number. If buying from a private party, the seller may offer to split the cost of the transfer fee with you so be sure you consider the price they are asking you in terms of what your total cost would be. If buying your membership from a broker, they will automatically include the transfer fee in the price they quote you.

As a guide, the Alliance memberships fall at the lower end at the $1,000-$3,000 price range (you can pick them up for free plus there’s a $1,000 transfer fee). The less common Elite Connections are at the higher end of the spectrum at the $3,000 – $4,000 mark, including transfer fee. The most popular memberships – VIP, Platinum, Platinum Plus and Elite – tend to fall somewhere in between around the $2,000–$3,000 mark including transfer fee.

Again, the price of each membership will vary depending on the specifics of the contract. The more you do your homework, know what you want and understand what is out there, the better prepared you will be to find a membership that works for you and your budget.

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Why you need to create a Membership Criteria / Wish List

Before proceeding with any purchase, we recommend you to sit down and determine exactly what your needs are as there’s no point paying for a membership level that offers more than you actually need. Do consider the next few years ahead as your needs may change, but not too far ahead as we just never know what the future holds and you don’t want to overcommit yourself financially. After doing this exercise, you may find that a Zone Park Pass suits you just fine, or if you don’t mind committing to a 10 year contract you may even consider an Alliance, but if your needs are anything like ours (full-timers who prefer to camp with hook-ups), you may find one of the resale VIP, Platinum or Elite memberships to be an excellent option.

Remember, in buying a resale you are taking over someone else’s contract, so you may not get every single item on your wish list, but if you are clear and you are patient you can simply wait until the right one comes along. They are regularly available for sale through the various sources we already mentioned,  but the more desirable memberships do tend to get snapped up quickly if they are fairly priced. If you are clear on your wish list and a membership comes along that fits the bill, be prepared to act right away, but don’t worry if you miss out – another will come along soon enough.

Now, sit down (with your partner if you have one) and consider how you like to travel and camp by asking some important questions to help determine which specific membership features will be right for you, such as:

  • How many nights a year do you camp and/or intend to stay in the TT system?
  • Which states/zones do you plan to visit and how many campgrounds does TT have in each of them?
  • How slow or fast do you like to travel – ie. are you happy to move every 4-14 days or do you like the idea of longer stays up to 21 days?
  • What are your ‘must-haves’ in terms of membership features –ie. is the park-to-park option essential?
  • Which features are your ‘nice to haves’ but not a deal breaker if you don’t get them – ie. you may not need access to all 80+ resorts if you plan to spend most of your time on the west coast
  • What’s your campground budget (monthly/yearly?)
  • What contract length are you willing to commit to?

Write out your Membership Wish List and put it up somewhere visible so you can see and read it daily. We do this often as a great exercise in manifestation – once you are clear on what you want and stay focused on it, it’s easier for the Universe to go out and bring it to you! After all, who doesn’t want the Universe on their side?

What is the difference between the various types of Membership upgrades available?

As mentioned, if you contact Thousand Trails directly about a new membership upgrade, you will be informed of the Elite, Elite Connections and Ultimate Odyssey options. Unless you are ready and willing to spend around $5,500 or more, forget it and keep reading!

To keep things simple and cost effective, we’re going to focus exclusively on the type of membership upgrades that are available for resale and actually worth considering. We won’t be discussing the Gold membership, as while it may sound appealing, in reality it offers fewer benefits than a regular TT Zone Pass, so steer away from those entirely.

Instead, we’ll provide an overview of the most common memberships, their camping privileges, features, contract terms and recap on the ‘fair price’ you can expect to pay. These are the key points you want to keep in mind when considering a purchase.

A couple more important points to keep in mind with ALL resales:

  • You cannot change any of the contract terms from the original – you are buying the contract and inclusions ‘as is’
  • Typically Membership Benefits can only transfer once ie. can be used by the original buyer and next buyer only. After that, the contract reverts back to the original terms before it was upgraded. For example, when we no longer want or need our TT Elite membership, we cannot sell it with the same level of benefits that we currently enjoy. We could only sell it as a “national pass” and it likely wouldn’t even be worth our while, as we plan to get our money’s worth out of it as full-timers, so will probably either let it lapse or give it away. The exception to this is the regular Platinum membership, which does allow re-sale with benefits intact.

Now let’s look at the Membership options.

2020 UPDATE: We just shared this update on the latest 2020 pricing on all NEW Thousand Trails memberships – Zone Camping Pass and upgrades – click here to read.

Alliance Membership

Typically, the Alliance membership allows you to stay up to 14 nights and move from park to park without having to stay out of the TT system for 7 days (a great advantage over the Zone Pass). You pay annual dues of around $550 which allows you to camp for ‘free’ for 50 nights, after that you pay $5 per night. The reservation window is typically 210 days.

The Alliance membership is considered to be a decent option for people who don’t have much money to spend upfront on a membership. However, you must look very closely at the bigger picture before committing! We found a TT Alliance Membership on Craig’s List that someone was willing to give away for free – all we’d have to do was pay the transfer fee to get the membership into our name but, after more investigation, here’s what we learned.

What You Need to Know:

  • Alliance Members are willing to give these away for free because there are plenty of them out in the marketplace
  • Has a higher transfer fee of $1,000, compared with the typical transfer fee of $750 (your total cost is $1,000)
  • The $5 nightly fees (after the first 50 nights) can really add up, especially if you travel extensively
  • Don’t be fooled by what may seem to be the deal of the century as it may end up costing you much more in the end
  • Comes with a 10 year contract!

WHAT!? a 10 year contract!? Yes – that’s why it’s so important you consider the bigger picture before jumping all over a “free” Alliance membership. But why? Well, even if the original owner may have had the membership for 10 years or more, once you take over their membership/contract, the 10 year contract term starts all over again with you! That’s right, you would be committing yourself for a minimum of 10 years! Now while this sent us running for the hills, a 10 year term may not faze you at all, especially if you’re planning to travel for the long term. But before you sign on the dotted line, let’s do the math:

Even if you pick up an Alliance membership for free, your real total commitment is: $1,000 transfer fee + 10 years at $550 pa which comes to $6,500 over 10 years PLUS your nightly camping fees of $5 for every night over the first 50 in each year. If you are a full-timer like us and spend say 250 nights a year in a TT preserve at $5/night (over the first 50) that’s an additional $1,000 per year. Even if you plan to RV full-time for say three years, then go back to camping only 50 nights per year, that comes to a total of $9,500! Of course, if you end up full-timing for 10 years, that will end up costing you $16,500 over the life of the 10 year contract. All that said, this may end up being a deal that works for your personal situation, as it’s only going to cost you a maximum of $137.50 per month over the contract period, if you stay full-time in TT campgrounds. But will you? Just be sure to ask yourself this question – can you guarantee you will be RVing full-time for 10 years?

We almost proceeded with this Alliance membership until we sat down and crunched the numbers, –we realized there was no way we wanted to commit either to a 10 year contract or this princely sum! So back to the drawing board…

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Platinum / Platinum Plus / VIP / Elite / Elite Connections Memberships

Despite the fact that these all sound very fancy and important, they are essentially all different names describing what is pretty much the same basic kind of camping membership and usage privileges. The major difference between them tends to be which campground networks – and how many campgrounds – are included in the contract. Remember our history lesson above? This is why you needed it!

The most popular memberships are typically Platinum, Platinum Plus, VIP and Elite – with Platinum and Platinum Plus being the easiest to find as there are simply more of them out there. The Elite membership, being the latest TT offering, has only been around for a few years, so they don’t come up as often and generally cost a bit more, as they have additional parks on the east coast – ie. access to all 80+ preserves nationally.

Here is an overview of the features and terms of these memberships, which share some key commonalities:

Generally, these memberships all allow you to stay up to 21 nights and move from park to park without having to stay out of the TT system for 7 days. Your annual dues of around $550 – $600 allow you to camp for free year round with no limit to the number of nights and no nightly fees. These are the unique benefits that make these memberships more desirable and therefore, so much more popular.

Other benefits may include: 7 night extension (28 days instead of 21) twice a year for just $29. Reservation window ranges from 90 to 210 days, depending on the contract. Ability to rent campground units at member preferred rates. Member benefits can be utilized by your children, parents and grandparents when they are issued a Family Card ($65/year) and they can camp at the same time as you (same or different campgrounds) three times per year. Option to add on RPI campground network (additional fee applies). The Elite Connections has more rental and Getaway accommodation privileges.

What You Need to Know:

  • These memberships, while costing more upfront, can end up saving you more over the medium to longer term than the Alliance (or even a Zone Pass)
  • Potential access to all 80+ campgrounds nationally, the number of parks depends on your specific contract
  • Even though some memberships may offer fewer parks and locations, they may still meet your specific needs (ie. if you don’t spend much time on the east coast)
  • It’s easier to find Platinum and Platinum Plus memberships at good prices as they have been around longer (they include some east coast locations but not all)
  • Elite memberships are newer (since 2011) so there are less of them on the resale market and they tend to sell at a higher price
  • Elite memberships include all of the 80+ campgrounds nationally
  • Transfer fee almost always $750
  • There may be a High Use season limitation for popular parks at peak times, limiting your stay to 14 nights instead of 21 and needing to stay out of that park for 28 days before returning and only allowing 2 high use reservations in the system concurrently
  • You can usually pick these up for anywhere between $2,500 and $4,000 including transfer fee (depending on the contract and inclusions)
  • 3 year contract period
  • Ability to put membership on hold after year 2 (ie. pay no annual dues for a specified period)
  • Contract can either be cancelled in writing after the 3 year contract or you can continue year to year indefinitely

So, while initially we were hesitant to spend more upfront on one of these membership upgrades, when we did the math it made a lot more sense for us as full-timers to go with one of these options. Here’s a cost comparison:

We looked at the overall total investment over 3 and 10 years to provide an accurate cost comparison with the Alliance membership example above and based it on a purchase price of $2,500. Now factor in 3 years worth of annual dues @ $550 per year and that brings your total real commitment to $4,150 – averaging out at a touch over $115 per month for 3 years. If you ended up using the membership full-time for 10 years then it would be $2,500 + $5,500 (10 years @ $550/year) which comes to a total of $8,000 – or just a shade under $67 per month over the 10 year period. Of course, it could end up costing you even less if you bought one of the lower priced resale membership options in the $1,500-$3,000 range.

Now you can see why, despite the difference in upfront cost, the Alliance is not quite as good a deal as say an Elite or a Platinum – at least not for our needs! Compared with the Alliance membership nightly fee of $5 (after 50 nights) and full-time RVers have the potential to save around $5,350 over a 3 year period and $8,500 over 10 years on one of these memberships. Of course, most of us don’t stay exclusively in Thousand Trails campgrounds 365 days a year – this was just an example. We recommend you do the math on all of the scenarios you are considering.

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So you want to buy a Resale Membership – what are the next steps?

After creating your Membership Criteria / Wish List, you need to decide on where you want to start your search.

DIY: Are you the kind of person who likes the thrill of hunting down a screaming deal on Craig’s List or eBay? Perhaps you are a master shopper/negotiator and confident you can find an Elite membership for $500? By all means, go ahead and search! Just because we didn’t find our membership that way or anywhere near that price, it doesn’t mean you won’t! I did hear of one story of someone picking up an Elite membership for under $1,000, however, that transaction was during the financial crisis when many items (just like RVs) were being sold at a heavy discount. So those opportunities may exist, for sure. Even if you don’t find what you’re looking for at a good price, sometimes going through this process for yourself can reaffirm what we have shared above and what you feel is good value – so you don’t have to simply take our word for it!

Outsource: Or, do you want your Membership ASAP and can’t be bothered messing around with the Craig’s List folk (yes, we’ve all had at least one of ‘those’ experiences) and ultimately prefer to deal with a broker who can be the middle person between you and the seller? If your time is valuable and you don’t mind paying a fair market price for something (as opposed to a rare fire sale deal) then a broker is likely the best option for you – as it was for us.

Regardless of which method you choose, you need to ask the seller or broker a few initial questions to determine if the membership meets your key criteria. For example, if it meets your number 1 requirement of “21 days, park to park and no time out of the system” your next priority may be to confirm which campgrounds are included. Keep in mind, if you are buying direct from a private party, they may not know the answer to all of your questions unless they are VERY familiar with the specifics of their contract (you’d be surprised at how many people aren’t) however a broker will likely be able to address your initial questions on the spot.

Remember, each contract has different nuances, so once a membership has made your short list, the best way to get all of the details and facts you need to make an informed decision is to obtain the last name and member number of the seller and call the team at the Thousand Trails Member Services Department. This is common practice and the seller has nothing to be concerned about, so they should not have any issues with providing you with their name and member number for the purpose of verifying the terms of the contract. TT will not divulge any of the seller’s personal information –they will only share with you the specifics of the contract terms relevant to the potential transfer. 

Below is a handy checklist to help you get clear on the membership contract specifics – remember, you will be contractually obligated by the terms in the Membership you purchase, so you need to be fully aware of what you are getting into. Your contract is your responsibility, so there’s no blaming anyone else for what you may have missed after you’ve signed on the dotted line!

Questions you need to ask before committing to a Resale Camping Membership

  • What is the membership contract length required that I am legally obligated to fulfill as the new owner?
  • What is the minimum time commitment before I can exercise my option to cancel or place the membership on hold?
  • Is the membership currently in good standing? (ie. Have the annual dues been paid?)
  • What is the transfer fee? (typically $750 unless an Alliance or otherwise specified in contract)
  • Is the transfer fee included in the price you are asking?
  • Specifically, which parks are included in the contract (ie. TT, Naco, Leisure Time, Outdoor World, Mid-Atlantic Resorts, Encore?)
  • What is the total number of campgrounds available within the contract?
  • How long is the advance reservation window?
  • What is the maximum length of stay at each preserve and requirements for time out of the TT system?
  • What are the rules around future transferability of the membership and benefits?
  • Which family members can also utilize our member benefits? (eg. parents, grandparents, children?)
  • Can the annual dues be frozen once a member reaches a certain age?
  • If I choose to sell the membership at a later date, what benefits will transfer to the new owner?

You may have some other questions of your own, but we found this to be a pretty comprehensive list that helped us narrow down the best membership for us so we could feel confident about committing to our contract terms.

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Tips for dealing with private parties – Craig’s List, eBay etc

Despite the fact this didn’t work out for us (aside from the education and experience) it MAY be worth giving this avenue a try. But honestly, we don’t recommend spending (wasting) a ton of time on this (as I did). Just have a quick initial look to see what’s available and see if any memberships you find line up with the guidelines and criteria in this article. In our opinion, it’s far lower risk – and likely going to be less expensive – to buy a membership through a broker. They tend to have the most inventory, an accurate pule on what each membership is worth and should sell for. And handles everything for you, with money in escrow etc, so you won’t run the risk of being ‘ripped off’. And yes, we’ve heard plenty of those stories.

That said, if you DO embark down the DIY route, at least now you’ll be armed with the information and tips we’ve shared in this post. Knowing exactly what membership type you want in advance is extremely helpful in narrowing down to a short list of solid potential buys. Here are some tips for venturing into the land of Craig’s List, eBay and so on.

  • Before you commence your search, get clear on exactly which membership you are looking for
  • Know in advance what is a fair price to pay
  • Search Craig’s List in your local area as well cities that are popular with RVers (snowbirds)
  • Search aggregator sites like SearchCraigsList.org and OneCraigs.com to widen your search nationally
  • Use specific terms to help you narrow down your search eg. Thousand Trails, Elite, Alliance, Platinum, VIP, Camping/Campground Memberships
  • Look for ads that provide a good amount of detail, like the membership features and contract terms – it shows the seller knows what they are doing
  • Beware of overpriced memberships unless the seller is negotiable
  • Once you have narrowed down the field, obtain the member number and name to verify specific contract inclusions and terms with TT
  • Use the list of questions provided in this post to find out from the seller (and TT) what the membership specifically includes
  • It’s fine to buy from people no matter where they are located, as long they are genuine (up to you to discern) – you can do it all electronically and/or by mail

We know of a couple of people who have succeeded in buying a resale membership upgrade this way, but we have found that most end up buying through a broker to save themselves the time and hassle – and for the peace of mind they are dealing with a knowledgeable and reputable source.

A few general warnings and words of advice

  • Some members don’t really know the specifics of their membership contract as they only recall what was relevant to their own needs eg. 21 days in, park to park. They may not be aware that the new contract term starts over with you once it’s transferred (like the 10 year Alliance contract) and some may call it a ‘lifetime’ membership which doesn’t really mean much (any contract can be lifetime as long as you keep paying your annual dues), so the more educated you are, the better you can navigate this.
  • Some owners may be reluctant to share their membership number with you so you can call TT Member Transfer Department for clarification. We had some resistance from a couple of people and one fellow was downright rude, suggesting we pay $10K for a new membership instead. If you cannot obtain this information from the seller, simply move on and don’t waste your time with them. You do not want to commit yourself to a contract without knowing exactly what you are getting yourself into! And you can’t do that without the name and member number.
  • Be sure the Membership is up to date financially. One woman we contacted via Craig’s List was keen for us to “have” her Elite membership for free, but after a week of evasive answers to our questions, she eventually admitted that she had fallen behind on her payment plan. She authorized TT to provide us with a payout figure if we were to take over her membership, but the amount was higher than what we would pay via Campground Membership Outlet, without the hassle.
  • Some members have paid several thousand dollars for their membership and may have been told by a TT Sales rep they can get good money back when they go to sell it. These people often put a high price on their membership listing without being aware of the prevailing market price. Often, these people are the least negotiable on price as they are so attached to what they believe it is ‘worth’. Of course, something is only worth what another is willing to pay for it! That’s why it pays to be educated.
  • In your online research, you may come across articles and claims that TT is a scam and/or that people have been ripped off. While we cannot know for certain which of these claims (if any) have any validity (after all, the company has changed ownership, management and sales tactics many times over the years and used to sell via persuasive timeshare-style presentations with a high ticket price) it does pay to be aware that some people may have overpaid for their membership and/or committed to a contract without properly reading the terms and then became angry about it (some of them are really angry with themselves for making a poor decision). While unfortunate for them, it is all the more reason to buy resale instead of a new membership and yet another reminder to thoroughly research what you are getting before handing over your money and signing a contract. There are many thousands of happy TT members as well, so be discerning in whose opinions you pay attention to.

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2020 UPDATE: We just shared this update on the latest 2020 pricing on all NEW Thousand Trails memberships – Zone Camping Pass and upgrades – click here to read.

Our experience dealing with a broker

Finally, after our adventure in trying to find a membership ourselves, we purchased our Elite membership from Chad Hoel at Campground Membership Outlet. Chad actually reached out to us (not the other way around) when he called in response to an email we had sent to a private party regarding their listing on Craig’s List. Chad had since taken over the management of the sale of the contract for them and was acting on their behalf. Initially, we were dubious and little suspicious, assuming the price would be inflated, however after dealing with Chad for a week or two, continuing our own research and speaking to the ladies in the transfer department at Thousand Trails, we came to realize that dealing with Chad and his sister Kim, was a whole lot easier, seamless and enjoyable. He was laid-back, helpful, informative and a straight-shooter. And, he had the exact membership we wanted – for a much lower price than we’d seen advertised on eBay.

Here’s what we came to learn about the benefits of dealing with a broker instead of a private party:

  • These guys have been around since 1991. They specialize in reselling campground memberships for a range of different camping resorts so they understand all the different kinds of companies and camping memberships out there
  • Brokers (like Campground Membership Outlet) have a wealth of knowledge, offer sound advice and have access to a number of different kinds of memberships and options (not just Thousand Trails)
  • Due to the complex nature of Thousand Trails Memberships and the 100+ types of contracts in existence, working with a broker can greatly simplify the process
  • A good broker will educate you and help you find the type of membership you want at a competitive price and know the ins and outs
  • They act as the middleman between seller and buyer and handle all of the paperwork and payment
  • The prices they quote are transparent, fair and include the transfer fee (no hidden charges)
  • No fee for service to buyer or seller – the broker makes their money from a discount on the Thousand Trails transfer fee
  • They provide you with the member number and last name so you can call Thousand Trails yourself to verify the contract specifics
  • Usually they have a large inventory of membership types to choose from, and if they don’t immediately have what you want, they can often find one fairly quickly
  • They offer a zero risk guarantee

We can personally recommend Chad Hoel and his sister Kim Hoel as we obviously had a very positive experience. What we liked about Chad was his responsiveness, how easy he was to work with and his transparency – there’s no hidden agenda. We decided Chad was the eHarmony of campground membership resales and told him so – he laughed.

So if you’re also looking into a resale camping membership – whether it’s Thousand Trails or any other network – do give Chad or Kim a call on 800-272-0401 to ask for their advice and they will point you in the right direction. Their contact info is also at the bottom of this post. They can sometimes be hard to reach as they gets so many calls so email is often the best way to get started – click here to email for the latest pricing and available inventory.

Please also tell them that Marc and Julie Bennett of RVLove.com referred you. To be transparent, Chad and Kim do have a referral program and may send a commission to clients who have referred business to them, but this is not the reason we are recommending them! The fact is, after several weeks of trying to do this ourselves, we found dealing with CMO was simply the most time and cost-effective way to find the ideal membership for us – professional, painless and risk-free. You don’t pay any fee for their service, and of course, we got our Elite membership from Campground Membership Outlet at a MUCH better price than we had been able to find ourselves via private sellers. Done deal!

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How long does a Membership transfer take?

Regardless of how you find your membership, once you’ve identified the right one for you and agreed on a price with the seller/broker, you should allow between 4-8 weeks for the transfer to be completed. There are many factors that can impact the timeframe of the transfer process, including:

  • how tech-savvy both the seller and buyer are – it’s faster when both can receive, sign and return documentation electronically
  • geographical locations of the buyer, seller and broker – it can really slow things down when documents have to be mailed via the US postal system between key stakeholders around the country
  • peak periods – Thousand Trails has a heavier workload to process in the spring/summer when everyone is getting ready to go out camping

While we were able to sign and return documents promptly by email, our seller was not, so this slowed things down a bit for us. All up, our membership transfer process took about 4 weeks.

What was the process we went through to buy and transfer our Membership?

Because we ended up buying our membership through a broker (CMO), we have shared below the process that was specific to our experience. While we don’t have direct experience going through this with a private party, the overall process should be fairly similar so you can use this as a guide. Here’s the summary of our dealings with CMO and the steps required for the membership transfer to be completed.

  1. Either CMO would call us or we would call them to ask about available memberships that met our criteria (we were after an Elite) and they ran us through the features, benefits and price(s)
  2. CMO provided us with the member name and number so we could call TT direct to verify the contract specifics
  3. We called TT Member Transfers (Ph: 1-800-388-7788, Option 4) and asked them to describe the membership features and answer my list of questions (above)
  4. We then called CMO back to advise whether or not it was a membership we were interested in pursuing further or not
  5. Once we found a membership that fit our criteria, CMO emailed the contract terms for us to review before agreeing we wished to proceed
  6. We gave CMO our credit card info to take that membership “off the market” and put the money in escrow until the transaction was completed
  7. At the same time, CMO emailed us a “Buyer’s Offer Letter” to review and sign and return so he could proceed
  8. CMO then liaised with the original owner (the seller) and sent them the paperwork to sign, authorizing the sale of the membership to us
  9. Upon receipt of the signed Membership Transfer Agreement from the owner, CMO emailed us a copy of the contract to countersign, along with a few other documents, which we scanned and returned by email
  10. CMO forwarded all signed documents to TT Member Services to start processing the transfer
  11. From this point, we liaised directly with TT regarding completion of the transfer (progress updates)
  12. Transfer complete, TT provided us with a new Member Number our Zone Pass membership was canceled*
  13. Our new TT online membership login access was activated and we went to town making all kinds of new 21 day back to back reservations! Woohoo!
  14. TT sent us a Member Welcome Kit in the mail, including a hard copy of the contract

Our membership transfer began in late September and was completed at the end of October.

* Something you need to be aware of is that you cannot maintain a Zone Park Pass and an upgraded TT membership at the same time. So your Zone Pass will be canceled upon purchase of an upgraded TT membership. Your existing bookings can be transferred across to your new membership. However, you cannot sell your Zone Pass, you will forfeit any remaining time left on your annual membership and you can’t get a pro-rata refund of the unused portion of your membership. Not a deal-breaker for us, but it’s important to know, especially if your Zone Pass is new!

Final reflections on our Elite Membership – cost, benefits, learnings and insights

Having used and enjoyed our Elite membership benefits since October 2014, we’re pleased to report that we continue to be very happy with it and have been using it frequently – averaging about 50-60% of our time in TT campgrounds – it usually depends on which part of the country we are in and how strong their presence is there.

We tend to travel slower, due to our work commitments, so we love being able to stay up to 21 days and move straight to another TT park without any time out of the system. This has definitely reduced our exhaustion and stress levels from moving too quickly (like we did in September) and allowed us more time to settle in, relax and explore the local areas.

Early on in our travels, we realized we were likely to continue this lifestyle for a minimum of two years, more likely three (or more), so we took a 3 year view to our financial commitment. When we add up what we’ve spent on our original Zone Pass (we had this for 6 months before it was canceled), our Elite membership upgrade and factoring in three years of annual dues, our total investment in TT comes to around $4,700 or about $1,340 per year. We divided this by 42 months, as we really need to consider our investment is over a 3.5 year period, taking into account the first half year of our Zone Pass.

This comes to an average of $111 per month for campground fees and of course, includes electric, water, sewer and trash! It’s definitely a huge saving compared with our stick and brick home with the mortgage payment, HOA and utilities. Plus, we get to travel all the time 🙂 Of course, if we continue traveling beyond the 3 years, our ongoing annual expense will be capped at $549 or $45.75 per month, regardless of how many nights we use the TT system.

Note: we did end up increasing our budget for this purchase from when we started. Initially, we didn’t want to spend more than $1,000 on a membership upgrade and thought the Alliance was the right one for us. But as our research progressed and we recognized the greater value overall in spending more on the Elite, it became an easy decision. As we didn’t have that kind of cash just laying around, we put the purchase on an interest-free credit card that gives us 12 months to pay it off without incurring any credit charges (as long as we pay it off within the 12 months, which we will (did).

While we are grateful for the knowledge and experience we gained from trying to find a membership ourselves via Craig’s List and eBay etc, we are also very happy that we ended up making our purchase through a broker. Dealing with an expert like Chad gave us the confidence that we were buying the right membership for our specific needs as full-time RVers who intend to travel the entire country and want access to as many campgrounds within the TT network as possible.

That’s why the Elite membership was the right choice for us – it provides maximum access while helping us keep our campground expenses fairly low and largely “fixed” over the next 3 years. Of course, we also need to pay for our stays at campgrounds outside the TT network, especially in the middle states where TT doesn’t have a presence, but this solution definitely helps keep our expenses more manageable.

And while an Elite was the best choice for us, don’t rule out the Platinum or VIP memberships as they have other unique advantages that may be a better fit for you, and they are less expensive to buy.

In our dealings with the Thousand Trails Membership Transfers Department, we found the ladies there to be extremely patient, friendly and helpful, taking the time to highlight contract terms that we should be aware of or steer clear from. We really felt as though they were ‘on our side’ and did their best to help us ensure we were taking over a contract that offered all the benefits we had specified in our criteria. It was also obvious that both the ladies at TT and Campground Membership Outlet have had a long, successful working relationship and spoke highly of one another. Doing these transfers every day means they are working together as a team, which makes things go much smoother for everyone. Knowing this also gave us great peace of mind.

In a nutshell, had we known back then what we know now, we would have started our journey by going through a broker in the first place. But we didn’t know they existed, and we wouldn’t have had all of this content to share in this blog post with you, would we?

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2020 UPDATE: We just shared this update on the latest 2020 pricing on all NEW Thousand Trails memberships – Zone Camping Pass and upgrades – click here to read.

Need More Information?

While we’ve been happy to share our knowledge and experience with you here, if you want more detail on features and prices on TT membership upgrades (resale or new), please contact the relevant parties that can help you:

If you decide to go down the Resale path as we did, reach out to Chad or Kim Hoel at Campground Membership Outlet on 800-272-0401 or email by clicking their names. They will be able to quickly and easily help you identify and purchase the best contract for your needs. They have plenty of inventory, but even if you have to wait a bit for a specific type of membership (like an Elite which may not come up as often) it’s a still far easier process than trying to do it all yourself. It won’t cost you any extra and their guarantee of a risk-free transaction offers great peace of mind in what can be a very murky territory. We’ve included some more useful contact information and links below for your convenience.

For a Zone Pass or New Membership Upgrade (Elite, Elite Connections and Ultimate Odyssey), we recommend you speak with our trusted sources within TT – call or email Jim and Brandy Reneau (770-622-4188) who we have met personally, like and trust. We like their approach as their focus is on helping people get the right membership for their individual needs, as opposed to trying to just ‘make a sale’ – like others we’ve encountered.  Just tell them you got the scoop from RVLove and they’ll do their best to get you the best deal available on new memberships at that time. They have an automatic RVLOVE discount that they apply to new membership upgrades for our RVLove community.

Finally, we do not make any claims that this article is perfect, but it’s definitely a solid place for you to start. Ultimately, this is designed to be a guide, so please be aware that it is your responsibility to conduct your own due diligence, do your homework, consider each membership option and carefully review any contract before signing. Well, that about sums it up! Good luck!

2020 UPDATE: We just shared this update on the latest 2020 pricing on all NEW Thousand Trails memberships – Zone Camping Pass and upgrades – click here to read.

Useful Contacts and Links

Campground Membership Outlet: Call 352-242-0401 and ask for Kim Hoel (Chad’s sister Kim now runs the family business) or click here to email. Kim is equally helpful and knowledgeable as we found Chad to be.

Thousand Trails Zone Pass or New Elite and other Membership upgrades: Jim and Brandy Reneau Ph:770-622-4188 or email brandy_reneau@equitylifestyle.com

List of TT campgrounds and partners – see which parks belong to the specific camping networks (TT, NACO, Leisure Time, Outdoor World, Mid-Atlantic Resorts etc)

RPI (Resort Parks International) – to learn more about their membership add-on option

Encore – to learn more about their rates and the discounts you get as a TT member

Trails Collection – you can buy the TT Trails Collection add-on for just $299 a year which adds another 100+ Encore RV Parks to your Thousand Trails membership. Learn more about it in this article.

Thousand Trails Member Transfers (for resales): 800-388-7788 (Option 4)

Was this article helpful? Here’s how you can thank us!

1. “Like” this post and share it with your friends and networks that may be interested

2. If you decide to buy a resale or used membership via Campground Membership Outlet, please tell them Marc and Julie Bennett from RVLove.com referred you. If they send us a “thank you” bonus in appreciation for the referral”, we’ll go out for dinner to celebrate all the time and money we saved you! And, it doesn’t cost you a cent! Wouldn’t that be super? 🙂

3. If you decide to buy a new membership upgrade direct from Thousand Trails with contact info above –  or any other TT campground membership host – please let them know that Marc and Julie Bennett of RVLove.com referred you. Who knows, they may even send us a “thank you” too? Yippee!

Of course, we never ever expect it, but we sure aren’t going to say no to any unexpected forms of abundance that may come our way! Yes, there are many, many hours of research, effort and work that go into these articles, but above all, we’re happy if they help you in some way. Happy Trails!

© RVLove.com

150 thoughts on “Thousand Trails Upgrades: Elite, Platinum, VIP ++”

  1. I’d divide this in three parts–the first part was learning about the memberships and finding what I wanted. Kymberly was wonderful in explaining this all to me. She was thorough, engaging and almost gave too much information–5 stars. The second part was the sale and negotiations–that all went well and again Kymberly was crazy good–kudos–5 stars. The last part has been the 4-5 weeks it was to take to transfer this membership. I am at 11 weeks, there has been no follow-up and nothing appears to be happening. I’d go negative 5 stars–for as much money as you spend, you’d thing they’d make sure everything got handled–but they don’t. I am sitting here without any membership 3 months after I paid and nothing is happening at all. Good luck if you go with them.

    Reply
    • Hi Daniel, Glad to hear the article was helpful and Kim took good care of you, she is very helpful. Yes, as explained in the blog post, transfers can take a while on resale memberships. Typically we advise people to plan for 8 weeks (it’s usually less) to be on the safe side, but 2020 has been a very unusual year. I did reach out to find out what was causing the additional delays, and in a nutshell, Thousand Trails – like many companies – had to transition their employees to work from home, requiring different systems and processes. And with RVing exploding in popularity this year, the demand for memberships has been at record highs. All of this means an enormous volume of memberships being processed by a small Transfer team (I also understand one of the team was out sick during this time, unfortunately). Kim did advise that your membership transfer has now been completed as of last month. 2020 certainly has been a year of practicing patience for us all, with everyone doing the best they can amidst trying circumstances. We do recommend that people who want their membership sooner consider buying new so it is activated immediately. But one of the ‘catches’ of buying resale is a longer processing time, as advised in the article – and this can vary. I understand the team is getting caught back up now and yours must have been during one of the lengthy delay periods. On the plus side, you saved yourself a good couple of thousand on your TT camping membership! We hope you put it to good use and enjoy the ongoing savings. Cheers, Julie

      Reply
  2. This was such a great post! We are in our second year of full time and realize we need to stay put in places a little longer and more aware of our spending. HA! We did a lot of short stays and moving and it was more expensive. We have thought of Thousand Trails and that it would fit really well into our full time life style. We are mostly in the West areas, formerly from CA but now South Dakota residents while we travel.
    I just wanted to thank you so much for ALL this great info! We plan on contacting CMO to get started.
    Yay!!
    Ellen

    Reply
    • Hi Ellen, Glad you found it so helpful. We too find it gets expensive – and tiring – to keep moving at a faster pace and enjoy the longer stays. Kim at CMO will take great care of you! Just be sure to allow plenty of time to find a suitable membership, enable toe transfer to take place, to start making advance reservations, well before you need them. All the best! 5.5 years in and we still love our TT membership. Cheers, Julie

      Reply
  3. Any ideas on a chart or list of which parks have high use restrictions and when those restrictions are? It’s hard to see the value in the extended reservation window, when knowing you will be limited to only having 2 high use reservations in the system at a time. Thoughts anyone?

    Reply
    • Very good question and insight Karen! We don’t have a list of that info as it can change. But based on our experience, parks with high use restrictions )that we know of) in the south in the winter include:
      Florida – TT Orlando, Peace River, Three Flags
      California – Palm Springs, Wilderness Lakes
      Arizona – Verde Valley
      Nevada – TT Las Vegas

      And in the summer –
      Oregon – Whaler’s Rest and Seaside.

      We have a 120 day advance reservation window wit our Elite Basic – and some campgrounds (like in Florida) only allow us to book 90 days out. But as long as I book popular places/peak times at the start of my reservation window, I’ve always been able to get what I wanted when planning ahead. It’s when you get closer to your stay dates that it can get to be a bit more of a juggle. We still manage to find places to stay (eg. beyond the initial 2 reservations we can have in the system at a time) but it can involve some flexibility and persistence, calling TT regularly to take advantage of any cancellations or dates that have opened up. It’s worth the small inconvenience to me to be able to stay “for free”.

      Outside of peak times, securing reservations in most places has not proven to be an issue for us at all.

      I will reach out to my contacts and see if I can get a more definitive list to share. I agree this would make a good post for folks to refer to. Thanks and hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. Great article. Do you still have a list of which parks are included in the various packages? The link is broken and I think you mentioned in one of the replies that you have a list you could share.

    Reply
          • Do you know of how Thousand Trails handles transfers from person to person? I understand they don’t deal with the money for the sell of the membership but do they have something in place to protect the seller and buyer to ensure funds where paid?

            Reply
            • Yes Blake, that is true. You are referring to resale memberships, which is basically buying a ‘used’ membership from another TT member who no longer has a need for their membership. They list their membership for sale with a broker – Campground Membership Outlet (CMO) is the biggest and best known and we personally have used them ourselves, so can recommend. They have an inventory of all kinds of used memberships and a list of buyers, so they essentially match buyers with sellers and handle the whole transaction. They liaise with the buyer, the seller and TT so are essentially the middle person. For you, as the buyer, you d not pay anything for their service. You just buy the membership at the agreed (market) price, and they make their $ from the listing fee (paid by the seller) and also from the transfer fee from TT, which will transfer the membership from the seller to the buyer’s name. This process can take 2-8 weeks, depending on the time of year, how busy TT is etc… the average is usually 3-4 weeks, but it’s always best to allow a longer timeframe to find the right membership for your needs, and the paperwork to be completed. CMO keeps the money in escrow until the transaction is completed, thus protecting both the buyer and the seller. It’s all covered in our blog post https://rvlove.com/2015/01/28/thousand-trails-membership-upgrades – we share exactly the process we went through with CMO buying our used Elite membership back in 2014. We still use and love our TT membership and how much it saves us. Hope this helps. We do recommend going with a trusted broker such as Kim and Chad Hoel of Campground Membership Outlet for many reasons… a big one being you are protected (both buyer and seller) in terms of the funds being held while the transfer takes place. They can also advise on the fair, going market price for any type of membership, share a copy of the contract so you can read the fine print and understand what you’re buying, and also give you the membership number to call TT and verify the info, ask any questions, before completing your purchase. We had our fair share of dubious communications with folks from eBay and Craig’s List, and after 2 months, decided to buy from CMO. A decision we remain very happy with, especially as you pay no extra for that peace of mind and convenience. Good luck! Hope that answered your question! Here is Kim’s email: kimberly@membershipoutlet.com or you can call them on 800-272-0401. Let them know you read RVLove’s article and they will take great care of you. Happy New Year!

              Reply
  5. Extremely helpful content here. Currently have zone pass and getting ready to go full time. You posted a link for “List of TT campgrounds and partners – see which parks belong to the specific camping networks (TT, NACO, Leisure Time, Outdoor World, Mid-Atlantic Resorts etc)” but that link is not working, nor can I find a list of which parks can be used with Platinum and VIP etc. The lack of being able to see such a list is hampering my search & purchase of an upgrade, I tend to spend most of my time on the east coast, and I understand Elite covers the east coast the best, but my budget has me looking at Platinum (and Plus). Any update on that list available elsewhere???

    Reply
    • Hi Cliff. Hmmm yes that link does indeed appear to be broken! I do have that list somewhere so let me go see what I can dig up. If the Elite is not in your budget, you could also consider a Platinum with the Trails Collection add-on – that is only $214 a year extra, and gives you access to many Encore parks on the east coast. However be aware that you will be limited to stays of up to 14 days at a time, and have to stay out of Trails Collection (Encore) parks for one week in between. This is not a limitation with Thousand Trails parks (with an upgrade). If spending time on the east coast is most important to you as well as stays more than 14 days and/or back to back reservations, then Elite really is your best option. If it’s out of your price range, you can also consider buying a new one – it will cost you more overall, but it does have advantages too. a) You can get it and start making reservations immediately (no wait time for transfer process); b) you can finance it, with monthly payments; c) you can sell the membership when you are done with it and recoup some of your investment. Just a thought. But overall, if you have the funds up-front for buying a resale, that will be a less expensive option. Leave it with me to find that list for you!

      Reply
  6. Your article on purchasing a resale / used TT membership is what prompted me to purchase a VIP membership through Campground Membership Outlet. The purchase process was very, very easy. The actual transfer to my name with a new number has been nothing like I was led to believe through your paper or by CMO. Let me explain.

    I purchased / paid for the membership on January 10, 2019. It took several phone calls to TT Transfer begging for the paperwork so I could make a reservation for our start of summer excursion. I finally received the paperwork on February 1, 2019 via eMail. I signed it that day and returned it to CMO. I am still waiting for my new membership number and am being told it will be another 7 to 10 days at the earliest before I receive it. As you know, you CANNOT make reservations without a new membership number.

    Throughout this process, CMO has been practically worthless. They have done nothing other than give me the 800 # to call TT. I know they don’t make a lot of commission off of any one sale but it would seem they could at least assist in trying to speed this process. It has been 34 days and counting. I finally called TT Transfer once more and begged them to at lease make a reservation for me starting June 1st.

    Please do not write back and tell me all the TT excuses for why they can’t do this faster. I have heard them all and it would seem that at $750 per transfer they could hire a couple of more people to make the process go quicker instead of pocketing the cash and making 2 employees do the work of 4.

    You have a good relationship with TT, maybe you can talk to their management about this situation. You would think they would want new, happy members and not new, angry members who start their new membership by being mad at the way they were treated during the transfer process.

    Lastly, in your next version of this document, please tell a more realistic story about the wait time and frustration that trying to purchase a resale TT Membership really is like.

    Thanks for listening, SteveB

    Reply
    • Hi Steve, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you’ve experienced a delay with the transfer of your membership and hope it is completed soon. You stated you are at 34 days and counting. We did share in the post that ours took about a month or so, and under the heading “How long does a Membership transfer take?” we also shared this: “Regardless of how you find your membership, once you’ve identified the right one for you and agreed on a price with the seller/broker, you should allow between 2-6 weeks for the transfer to be completed.” If yours is done within the next 7-10 days as promised, it will be around the 6-week mark.

      We do also share (on other posts) that one of the advantages of buying new is that a purchase is immediate – you don’t have to wait for the transfer of paperwork – but you DO pay more for the membership. Buying resale can save you thousands but does require extra patience for the process to be completed.

      Being February now, I really cannot imagine you won’t have your membership number in plenty of time to make a June 1 reservation, so there is little need to be concerned about that.

      Finally, I would like to share that, to keep things in perspective, we published this blog post four years ago, and yours is actually the first comment we have received that has expressed a negative experience – either with CMO or the TT Transfer Team. At times, there are delays with a backlog of paperwork, especially after the holidays and during peak seasons. We generally only receive positive emails about the service experience.

      Every person’s experience is different, and we’ll certainly keep yours in mind in our next series of blog posts about TT (we’re currently doing a refresh on the series) and perhaps extend that window for purchase from 2-6 weeks to 7 or 8 weeks, to really ensure people understand that it CAN take a while. We have actually met people who got theirs surprisingly fast, in 2-3 weeks, but again, factors do vary in every case. We still believe our blog post to be realistic about what to expect when purchasing a TT resale membership, as most are completed in under 6 weeks, to the best of our knowledge. We have only had a positive experience with both CMO and the TT Membership Transfer Team who are all working hard and doing the best they can. Sometimes a surge in membership purchases can catch them by surprise and it’s such a complex arena, it’s not as easy as just employing someone new quickly.

      In closing, we will pass on your feedback and have every confidence your membership transfer will be completed soon, and that you will soon be enjoying the many benefits and savings of your TT resale membership for years to come, as we have done since 2014 and saved tens of thousands of dollars along the way. Happy Trails!

      Best of LIFE, Julie

      Reply
    • HI,
      I found this article to be absolutely AWESOME! You guys answered almost all the questions I had in my mind and some I hadn’t thought of yet (and wouldn’t have without your article!) But first let me say that one of the first things I learned about TT in the almost 2 months since first hearing the name, is that it takes a long time to get a re-sale processed. If you are in a hurry, buy new and get instant gratification….you will pay dearly for it but if you need it fast go new. And your article does convey that message just fine.
      One question I now have after reading this, is that you stated no all membership benefits transfer on a resale and it wasn’t clear to me what type of benefits it is that do not transfer. Could you list a few examples to for clarification? Again, thanks for a great run-down of TT memberships. Cy

      Reply
      • HI there, so glad you found it helpful. It can be a MINEFIELD. Yes we generally recommend allowing 4-6 weeks for a membership transfer to be processes, so you need to be patient. IN busy times it can be 6-7 weeks, but usually within 4 weeks. New is still a good option for those who: a) need it sooner, as you can start making reservations right away b) don’t have the funds to buy a resale outright; and c) like the option of financing through TT so they can make monthly payments.

        Now re the benefits that do not transfer. Basically, when a resale membership is in the hands of it’s second owner… they are the last to enjoy the full benefits of whatever that membership is… and if they sell it, then that membership reverts back to what it was ORIGINALLY before it was upgraded. So if original owner had a Zone Pass then upgraded to Elite, then SOLD that membership… by the time Owner #2 is done with the membership, if they tried to sell it, it would revert to Zone Pass benefits, thus no advantage in doing do. However on occasion, a member will upgrade from say an old VIP or PLatinum… or even a basic Elite… and upgrade to say an Elite Connections… if they sold THAT then the membership would go back to the benefits related to the VIP/Platinum/Basic Elite (usually the 21 day park to park privileges) Hope that helps!

        Reply
    • I don’t believe this is a CMO problem but a TT issue. I sold a membership recently and TT flat out-and-out stated that it would be a minimum of 6 weeks before my membership would transfer to the buyer. From everything else I’ve read, TT works at a snail’s pace, unless it is collecting your dues. Day late? They call. Two days late, they call – they call daily until you make payment.

      Reply
      • Yes it’s a TT delay not CMO – there was a period last summer where the TT transfers department got very behind – I believe one of their staff members left – and it’s a small department, plus summer is their busiest time, and the demand for TT memberships spiked heavily, causing a larger than usual workload to process. They are caught back up now and member transfers can take place within a week or two, but we always recommend folks allow a good 6 weeks to be on the safe side (though it did stretch out to 8 for the first time for a brief period last summer). Have personally never had an issue with calls re dues… Ours is either on auto renew with the credit card on file or we pay on time, before the due date.

        Reply
  7. I would love to see a new article on Thousand trails, Trails collection story. I have had a membership for the past 3 yrs. This year I was informed that with the Trails collection, no matter how many days you stay you must be out for 7 days. you no longer can stay at a resort for 4 days ( TT TC) The 4 day dump from. resort to resort only happens between TT campgrounds, if you go to a TC (encore resort you must stay out for 7 days.) Why pay for the extra pkg if you cant use it the same way.

    Reply
    • HI there, yes at TT (I am assuming you have a Zone Pass?) you can move every 4 days without having to stay out of the system for Thousand Trails Parks for 7 days, as you would need to do if you stayed 5-14 days at a campground. Trails Collection expands your membership by 100 parks nationally for just $214 a year. The 7 day out rule is the rule for Trails Collection Parks – a membership add-on. They are not Thousand Trails parks, so different rules apply. It’s only $214 for one year to be able to stay up to 14 days in an Encore RV Resort for free, throughout the year – the caveat being you must stay out of an Encore (TC) park for 7 days before being able to enter another one. Regardless, it’s still incredible value that can’t be beat. Most Encore parks cost $50+ a night, so just one week would cost at least $350… far more than the $214 for an entire year that the Trails Collection would give you. We use it often and find it to be an amazing, valuable, and cost-effective way to expand the benefits of our camping membership.

      Reply
    • Yes, it’s also why we really do recommend you use a camping membership broker like Campground Membership Outlet instead. They are reputable, hold the money in escrow, and handle the transaction, so you are protected. And they don’t charge for their service as they make their commission from TT. In our experience, most members were trying to sell their memberships for a premium (more than market value (as they had their own idea of what it’s worth (or what they owe on it) rather than the actual value based on prevailing market conditions.

      Reply
  8. I’ve read a few of your blogs here and appreciate all the information and will take advantage of the time you’ve spent to share your research and experiences before purchasing a membership. I worked for Thousand Trails home office in Bellevue, WA, around 1984-1985. It was during some very hard financial years they were having and they were about to go under. They put a wage freeze on all employees, and although I got a very nice promotion, my pay did not increase 🙁 During that time, I typed many letters and memos and the recurring typo I would make was Thousand Trials! How apropos for the time! I had to triple-check my letters every time, since spell check wouldn’t catch that one! I soon decided it was time to go back to being a stay-at-home mom. In any case, we were also Gold Members back then, with 10 years of free trailer rental (2 weeks per year) since we owned no RV at the time (one of those short-term promotions). We loved it and it was a great way to raise the kids and have quality family time. We stayed at so many of the resorts you picture and those pictures you post bring back fond memories. I’m now looking at the company again for my daughter and grandchildren so the grandkids can start forming memories of their own (we gave up our membership) . Thanks for your time!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience! We are so glad you have fond memories of camping with your family and our article was able to bring a smile to your face 🙂 Can only imagine the ‘hard times’ would have been difficult to navigate… the company almost went under a few times, so we are glad they’re still around, even though it hasn’t always been an easy road. Too funny about the “Thousand Trials” LOL mine does that sometimes too! Gotta keep an eye out to catch it! All the best to you and hope you find the right membership for your family 🙂 Happy Trails!

      Reply
  9. We cannot get anyone to pickup with number you gave for Jim and Brandy Reneau (770-622-4188). There is no answering system to leave a message and the call just drops. Good signal on our end. Is this a personal/business phone number for them or a TT number? Do you have an updated number or know if they are still in the business?

    Update:I just noticed that the number for them was likely typed wrong the first time in this post. It is listed 770-662-4188 the second time.

    Another update. The second number listed for them is disconnected.

    Reply
  10. We have have been members of TT since 2002 and found your article telling it as it was and is very refreshing. We have upgraded (the expensive way out of lack of knowledge) and currently hold the Elite Connections. We have also found that to fill in the middle states where no TT campgrounds exist is to look into RPI and Ready,Camp,Go. Depending on your usage, possibly the least of the benefits of RPI their $10 – $15 per night campgrounds and they tell us they have lots of parks in the middle US, and you automatically receive a membership in Ready,Camp,Go at no charge which reduces the cost of stays at Encore parks from a 20% discount to $20 – $24 a night. This alone at a park we were considering staying at was $900 with the 20% discount and $500 with the $20 + $4 park fee.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your experience Cheryl – yes we find the RCG and RPI very helpful as well – it’s on my list to write a post about those too! Shame you had to upgrade “the expensive way” but regardless, am sure your membership is saving you thousands each year… the initial investment seems high until you look at the annualized costs! Then it’s easy to see what value it is. Happy TRails!

      Reply
    • Another wonderful post answering so many of our questions regarding TT membership.
      Your help is greatly appreciated!
      Gary & Eva

      Reply
    • Can you share with me how you got caught up in the expensive way? We are looking into the different memberships and want the most options for the least money like everyone lol and was hoping for insight. I might consider resale if it is a great deal but the ability to resell is an incentive to buy new in case something unexpected happens early on in our full time rv experience. I definitely like the idea of reservations 6 months out. Thanks

      Reply
    • Hello Jim,
      Thank you for the complement on the post. We have some additional content we plan to share on this topic that will probably make it up in the next month or so, but as for an update on how we feel about it two years later. We still love our Thousand Trails membership. We spent 189 days in their parks in 2015, and only 90 in 2016. Our pocket books definitely felt the reduced stays, but the 90 days still made the membership very worth while. We will probably spend substantially more days in TT in 2017.
      Thank you
      -Marc

      Reply
  11. WOW! What an informative and well written article—TY so much!! I am seriously considering going full-time after I sell my house and, as a single woman, I would like the security of staying in secure parks, being able to reserve sites, etc.

    One question, is it difficult to *get* reservations, especially in the popular parks? This all sounds wonderful unless there are too many people wanting to reserve a limited # of sites….

    Reply
    • Good question Kati and one we get a bit – as long as you don’t mind making advance reservations you will be fine – we book popular places as early as we can and just adjust dates as needed as it gets closer. Sooner you can book the better – but we’ve never had a problem, just don’t expect to rock up or book last minute, that’s my advice! Good luck to you!

      Reply
  12. Thank you for the extremely informative post, I can appreciate how much research went into deciphering the TT system. Question… now that you’ve been using TT for some time now, roughly what percentage of your time do you spend in TT campgrounds these days? I currently have a region pass but I’m trying to decide if it’s worth plunking down the extra money for an Elite membership.

    Reply
    • Hi Andy – thank you – great question and very timely, as we just posted a snapshot of our 2016 expenses on the website a couple of days ago – check it out here. We shared same in 2015 here and you can see the difference in number of days we spent in the “TT system” and what it cost us… in a nutshell, every 90 days we spent in TT saves us about $2,500 in camping fees, so you can see the upgraded memberships like an Elite pay for themselves very quickly! Even for 90 days a year of use it’s still very worthwhile in our opinion as it helps subsidize the costs of our camping overall annually and frees up that money for other things 🙂 Hope that helps! The folks at Campground Membership Outlet are awesome and can get you dialed in with a great membership, you can save more if you skip the Elite and go with a VIP or PLatinum, if they will suffice for your needs. All the best to you!

      Reply
    • Glad to hear it. Just be aware that ‘lifetime’ membership is a misleading term. Any of the memberships can be for a ‘lifetime’ as long as you pay your annual dues – don’t let that term be what dictates what you buy as it may not be the best fit…if you read our post when you are ready to buy that will help you narrow down to the option that may be the best one for you. Hope that helps! Feel free to ask any questions as you need.

      Reply
  13. We found this article about one year ago. We were ready to begin our full-timing adventure with the zone pass, already anticipating dry-camping for each week we had to be out of the system.

    Thanks to you, we paid $2,700 for a platinum membership which has almost all the benefits of an elite membership, plus the highly valuable exemption from high-use restrictions (all winter in Palm Springs!).

    We’ve been on the road full-time since January, and we undoubtedly have a significantly higher quality of life than we would have otherwise thanks to you and this article. Either we’d be spending weeks out of the system and paying $3 a night, or we would have gotten roped into paying the $200+ per month to upgrade to the elite and enjoying fewer of the benefits that actually matter to us. Instead we pay $48 a month to relax and be where the amenities are.

    So, thanks a lot!

    Reply
    • Fantastic Jason! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and glad you found a good one. It definitely saves a ton of money compared to regular campground fees, especially as a fulltimer, Glad you are enjoying the life! Cheers

      Reply
  14. Julie, I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this blog post. I read it a couple of weeks ago and took notes, but, overlooked a very important point and did not call Kim or Chad Hoel before looking for memberships online.

    My husband and I were looking at another online website with campground membership sales and found a platinum plus membership for $2995 plus the $750 transfer fee and foolishly thought that we would go ahead with that.
    Only after some complications with getting the proper information from the buyer and not feeling quite satisfied with the whole thing, I decide to go back to your article, above, and find the link to the broker.

    I called and talked to Kim today and she was absolutely amazing! I found out from her that we were going to be paying $1000 more for that membership then we should have! And, it did not offer what we really wanted and needed, which was the 21 extra campgrounds that the elite membership offers. We have now made a commitment to buying a full elite membership that includes an RPI preferred gold membership and some other really great perks!
    I gave her yours and Marc’s name and website and told her how much help you have been to us. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
    We are a couple of very happy campers! 🙂

    Reply
    • Oh Robin, I am so glad to hear you managed to catch this in time and save yourself that $1,000 AND get a better membership. Truly, I spent SO LONG searching for memberships online (ebay/CL) thinking I would find a bargain therem only to find Chad and Kim have a whole inventory of all kinds of memberships and it costs NO extra, in fact I found their prices better than what private sellers were asking for as they mistakenly believe they can get higher amounts for them based on what a TT sales rep tells them. So glad the article helped you get the right membership and saved you an expensive mistake. This is precisely why I wrote it, so thank you for taking the time to share your experience. Sounds like you got a great membership and benefits there and you will truly get SO much value out of it as we have. We are out of the TT system now and really noticing the impact on our wallet! LOL You’re so very welcome. Enjoy your travels!

      Reply
    • Mark and Julie,
      I have read and re-read your articles several times. They are packed full of useful information and I’m grateful you have taken the time to share with your readers. We are moving closer to pulling the trigger and committing to a full timer lifestyle. Your article on Thousand Trails memberships inspired me to post on Craigslist that I wanted to purchase a PLATINUM or ELITE membership. Within a few days I received a message from a widow with an ELITE membership to sell. She seemed to be a little vague on contract specifics (as your article points out) but after obtaining her membership number and contacting TT directly and confirming it is an ELITE membership I contacted her to set up the purchase. Her asking price of $1500 was acceptable and I will pay TT for the $750 transfer fee. Her investment in the original membership and the later upgrade to ELITE was almost $9000. The information you have supplied in your article was invaluable in obtaining this membership. I have a suggestion for a future article. Preserves in TT network which are ” Big Rig Friendly”. I drove through some TT preserves in my state of Oregon and came away concerned a diesel pusher of 42′ may not fit in many spaces. Since I haven’t yet purchased a motorhome I would welcome your views on the subject as you have been in many TT preserves. Thank you both for all your hard work and time. There are many of us out there you are helping.

      Reply
      • Hi Roger, so glad you found the TT article a helpful guide, along with many others. Yes that is an excellent point about the ‘big rig friendly’ TT parks… there are certainly a few that won’t accommodate over 40′. As much as we love some of the bigger rigs (we have friends with 45′ Entegras, Newmars, Tiffins etc) we would be unlikely to go to that size (or over 40′) as you really are more restricted – in state and national parks too. Of course plenty of people with big rigs find places to go, but I’m sure it takes quite a bit more advance planning and organization. Many TT parks are older and so aren’t always set up for big rigs, but we have friends with a 45′ that go to many TT campgrounds. It’s definitely something to consider before pulling the trigger. Being space restricted in soma places is just something you’ll need to be prepared to deal with. There are many options, but the smaller your RV the more options you have. Hope that helps!

        Reply
  15. Marc & Julie,

    I’m only exploring buying and living in an RV in the not-too-distant future (I’m 57, so there’s not a long time to plan for), and this piece is beyond invaluable. I’m bookmarking this post to my Favorites bar and expect to refer to it often. Some terrific advice.

    I’m leaning toward a Platinum or Elite membership because there are enough TT campgrounds just in the Pacific NW (aka “home”), not to mention northern California, to get by 2-3 weeks at a time per site following a circuit of sorts up and down the coast. I can think of worse ways to spend life in retirement.

    Much food for thought here. If I contact Chad or Kim, I’ll make sure to give you credit for the reference. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Hi Bruce! So glad you found it helpful. It’s a really cost effective way to live and travel, and if you plan on spending most of your time in the PNW, then you may not need the full Elite. Why pay more for what you don’t need? When you’re ready, give Chad/Kim a call – they are very helpful in ensuring people end up with the ‘right’ membership for their needs and will not push you into buying anything which is one of the things I really appreciated about them. They are patient and often deal with people for months before they actually buy, so don’t be afraid to even make contact in initial research phase if it helps you plan and budget, they are a great resource. All the best to you!

      Reply
      • Hi Again, Julie

        After a few weeks of digging around and semi-deep thought (I know my limitations), I emailed CMO to let them know I was thinking of going the TT route. Kimberly got right back to me, we’ve swapped a couple emails and at this point, I’m ALMOST ready to take the plunge on a Platimum membership. The price will be right, so it’s just a matter of my own commitment. I’ll decide before the end of the year, but it’s at least 75/25 that I’ll do it. Then there’s the matter of finding an RV.

        Thanks again for this post. Invaluable time-saving stuff here…anyone considering a campground membership should bookmark this page and refer to it often before taking the plunge. Ironically, I live about a dozen miles away from TT’s original campground outside Chehalis, WA. Kismet?

        Bruce B

        Reply
        • Ah I understand bruce, it’s a LOT to take in and process and just so very glad all the PAIN I went through to try and work this whole thing out has been of such benefit to others, it truly makes it worthwhile knowing how much time and how many headaches it is saving others! LOL Wow you ARE close to TT Chehalis. Glad Kim is taking good care of you, they are good people over there at CMO. The Platinum is a good membership too and quite sufficient for most people, not to mention the savings. Wishing you will with it all!

          Reply
  16. This is all so incredibly helpful. I’ve been putting off fully researching this for the longest time, and have been so unsure about whether to buy the membership, and trying to think about which one has been SO overwhelming.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love research and generally do it exhaustively for every large purchase I make. But this particular topic felt like it was going to be a months long task! An here you’ve done a good portion of it for me, and have made it concise and easy to understand and SO much less confusing.

    Thank you for this! And if/when we buy our membership from Chad, I will absolutely use your names!

    Reply
    • Glad to hear it! You are right, it literally did take me months to research it, every time I thought I had it all dialed in and understood it, I would discover another nuance or layer – so frustrating and time consuming! That’s why I’m so glad the post has helped demystify things for others, as not so many are as willing to put in the amount of time, effort and research as people like you and I. But it is SO worth having this membership, we absolutely love it and are so happy we were able to buy a resale at half the price of new. We definitely get our money’s worth out of it! If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to email us or reach out to Chad (or his sister Kim) – both are very helpful and can help reduce the time and pain involved in narrowing down to the right membership for your needs. They won’t try to upsell on a membership that is more than you need, on the contrary, they are really good about understanding each person’s style and need for camping )and locations) and know how to find the best match for you, so you are not paying for a higher membership level that you may not need. All the best – maybe we’ll see you out there one day!

      Reply
      • Excellent read… Thanks for all of the work that you guys put into this. I do have a question that I didn’t see an answer for and was hoping you may have come across it during your research.

        My History:

        I have had a lifetime membership with NACO/TT since 1982 originally just NACO) and several years ago upgraded to a Platinum Membership. Every year (with the exception of the last 2 years because I had suppressed my membership), the dues have increased. I just requested yesterday to un-suppress them and the Member Services representative suggested I also request my dues be frozen; which I did in a separate email as suggested. We just got a new trailer at the end of last year and have started camping again.

        Because we have only those campgrounds offered as part of the original TT/NACO (about 62 with only a handful near us in VA), we were thinking about upgrading. While speaking with the Member Services Representative I asked about it and I was told they would have to have a sales representative call us. (The last fellow from TT we spoke with a few months ago to “go over our benefits” was trying to sell us a whole new package with hotels and timeshare style stuff. We declined after the webinar.)

        After considering an upgrade, my wife came across your article here on RVLove and had me read it. It says the average annual dues for a Platinum Membership is around $550.00. Because of the amount of time I have owned it, my dues are in the neighborhood of $1600.00.

        The Question:

        Do you know of any way to get those either decreased rather than just frozen (if they approve that, just sent the request yesterday.) Or, a way to have the rest of the TT Campgrounds from the various systems (OW,LT etc..) added without incurring more upfront or annual costs? I love the TT System and campgrounds, I just don’t want to get taken to the cleaners every year.

        I know of course you can’t speak for TT and each membership is different, but any suggestions you may have would be welcomed!

        Reply
        • Oh my goodness Jim – your annual dues are $1600 a year!?!? I have never heard of such a thing – that, in my opinion is DEFINITELY taking you to the cleaners!!! Ok let me now pick myself up from the floor! Gasp! LOL. I would absolutely go back to TT and see if they can review your fees. I would NOT pay more than $600-700 a year MAX! But if they don’t/won’t, you may be better off simply canceling your membership (which you’ll need to do in writing) or better yet, contact Chad or Kim at Campground Membership Outlet first for their advice. You may actually be better off selling this ‘old’ membership (Chad/Kim can do that for you if they feel it’s the kind of membership that will find a buyer) or even canceling it and buying a new one with more benefits and a lower annual fee. We pay about $575 a year for an Elite membership with 21 day park to park and over 80 campgrounds nationally – we bought this as a resale from Chad 2 years ago and love it. The annual increase should NOT be greater than inflation! Honestly, I feel you are being ripped off which is such a shame as you have obviously been a lifelong, loyal TT member. Honestly, call Chad or Kim and explain your situation. For the excessive annual fees you are being charged, you are probably better off just selling/canceling it and getting a new (resale) membership becuase you’d be saving $1,000 a year in dues alone AND get a better deal. Within a couple of years it would have paid for itself in the dues saving on your old membership. So YES there are ways out, you should NOT be committed for life with this membership – you can enjoy the BENEFITS for life as long as you pay your annual dues, but I don’t believe your contract means you are locked in for life. Of course, as you know every contract is different so be sure to get yours out and read the fine print and you can also call TT Member Services for clarification…. but I would start with Chad/Kim to explore your options, get their advice. They are good people and you can trust them, they are not the kind of people simply out to make a sale. They are genuinely interested in helping people find the best membership for their needs. PS. Don’t tell TT I say you were being ripped off! LOL bit definitely ask questions – Campground Membership Outlet is an independent company and will give it to you straight.Here is their number 352-242-0401. Good luck and please do let me know how you get on once this is resolved! I would be very interested to know. (still in shock at your dues bill! OMG)

          Reply
          • Thanks for the reply… We did go to TT and get resolution. We did the upgrade to Elite Connections ($4600) and they lowered our dues and locked them in. (since I am only 53, this was a good thing since they normally won’t freeze them until 62) They are still around $1100 a year, which was what they were in 2013, but they are frozen for life and we won’t ever have to upgrade again… When we did the math to maintain everything, even by selling and buying new, we still feel good about what we got.

            We have all of the parks in the Thousand Trails system with several “free” Encore parks. Anything picked up by TT through Encore and added to the system, will also be available at no extra cost. We get all of the benefits that come with the Elite Connections, Regular Cabins and Getaway Cabins, family passes etc. Of course it also comes with the RPI Gold, Passport America, etc.

            Our representative Stan (non-commissioned) was very helpful and managed to get us what we asked for. (Even Thousand Trails thought the dues were very high.) Apparently what happened was; when I upgraded from Alliance to Platinum several years ago, it almost doubled my membership dues. Because I have had it for as long and I have, once the dues doubled, went up almost 10% each year, it climbed to where it is. I believe since I have been with them for 34 years, they were more willing to work with me. We are satisfied with the outcome. The dues may still be a little high compared to others however, since I didn’t expect to actually get them lowered and frozen, and we will have what we have for life, we are happy. (I guess not too many people bought these at 19 years old and maintained them into their 50s.)

            Thanks again for all of your input and assistance; it helped us with what to ask and what to look for in an effort to get a decent deal…

            Reply
            • Hi Jim, thank you so much for taking the time to write back with an update – that is helpful for me to know that in case anyone else has similar concerns. You are quite right, it’s very unusual to buy a membership at age 19 and still have it into your 50s – TT should take very good care of you being such a loyal customer. Glad you managed to work together to find a deal that was agreeable to you. Because you use it often, it still represents excellent value and gives you peace of mind to have them frozen now as well. Nice to have additional Encore parks as well to broaden the network. Very happy you have a much better deal now, it definitely pays to ask, I wonder how many others out there don’t!? Main thing is, you’re a happy camper, glad to have been able to help. Cheers!

              Reply
  17. Was thinking about a TT membership. Enjoyed your info. My concern is we live in Florida and just starting out (1st MH). We want to travel the country but not sure as to how long we can do it. We are both 71 so real long term contracts that you cannot get out of is not good. Right now not sure which membership is best for us.

    Reply
    • Yes I understand – we didn’t want to be locked into a long term contract eithe and would would not recommend others sign up for a long term commitment either. You have a few options. 1) You could just buy a TT Zone Pass (get the BOGO deal) and renew annually if/when you choose to (no ongoing contract – just don’t sign up for the 4 year if they offer it to you) or 2) you can buy a TT resale membership – these are heavily discounted and the contract is technically 3 years but really only 2, as you can put the membership ‘on hold’ after the 2nd year and then yoou can always cancel it. This is still a good way to go, as you will probably save enough money in campground fees in your 1st year to make it worth your while in cost savings. We estimate our resale upgrade membership paid for itself within 6 months – of course it all depends on how much you use TT campgrounds – being in Florida, you are fortunate to have 3 in your state – plus several on the east coast (NE/SE). If you are interested in anything other than a Zone Pass (say if you plan to travel within more than just 2 zones) then I would recommend you call Chad at Campground Membership Outlet and explain your situation to him – there are some less expensive membership upgrade options that may be a good fit for you and won’t cost as much but will still provide you with excellent benefits and the ability to stay up to 21 days at a time so you don’t need to move/travel too quickly. He’s a good guy and very much about getting the ‘right’ membership for each person, depending on their needs. Good luck!

      Reply
  18. Hi Julie, this was the absolute most beneficial explanation of TT memberships and sale (resale) information I have read, seen or heard. We have been on the fence about considering a TT membership for several months now. The detail you provided, especially the financial aspects, have me adding Chad and Kim to my phone contacts.

    You did a lot of work putting this information together, we owe you.

    So greatly appreciated!

    Glenn and Julie

    Reply
    • Always love hearing how helpful this has been to folks – I remember what confusing territory it was for us when researching it! So glad to clear things up a bit 🙂 Am sure Chad/Kim will take good care of you when you are ready. Happy Trails!

      Reply
  19. Great blog guys. This is one of the best blogs I’ve seen on the subject.
    We are FTers and have been TT members since 2008. We are currently in a TX TT resort and just sat thru an Elite sales upgrade presentation last Saturday.
    We have a National Membership with 14 in, 7 out and include all CGs except the Mid-Atlantic group and the 14 Encore parks they are including in the current Elite upgrade.
    How much did the upgrade cost you guys thru Chad? We are being quoted $4600 to purchase directly thru TT. (An email to me with your prices would be fine).
    I have sent an info. request to CMO, but will try and hookup with Chad directly on this matter. Definitely will use your names as a referral.
    Thank you for a great, concise blog.

    Reply
    • Hi Steven, glad you found the article/info helpful. It’s a convoluted and often overwhelming subject for sure. I sat through one of the presentations you talk about in Texas last month. I came away very disheartened with the approach (angry even). Maybe it was just that guy, but I wasn’t impressed. The difference for us is we did not buy an upgrade exactly, but we bought a re-sale Elite membership… so while that is an upgraded membership from our then Zone Pass, our ability to buy that Elite membership was in o way related to our Zone Pass.. that ended up just getting cancelled. So while you’ve been enjoying the benefits of your National Pass for the past 5-6 years, you don’t even need that (or any) existing TT membership/Zone Pass in order to buy a re-sale from Chad. You could walk in off the street with no TT affiliation whatsoever and buy a resale outright at HALF the price of the TT upgrade they try to sell you direct at a preserve…. (and let’s not forget your initial TT investment). Every TT resale membership price will vary as it depends on a) the benefits attached to that particular membership; b) market demand vs supply levels and c) what the owner is asking, which tends to be based around (b) and how motivated they are to sell it quickly. You may not even need to pay the higher amount to get the Elite – a resale VIP or Platinum may even suffice, depending on which parks you want to be able to access… as they each have their own extra benefits (ie. one you can re-sell with benefits intact and this recoup much of your purchase price, the other is not impacted by ‘high use restrictions’ which tend to apply to popular parks at popular times eg. Palm Springs CA and Florida parks in the winter. Let’s just say we saved about $2k on what you are being quoted… so the resale is a much better deal. You MAY even be able to sell your National membership which can help offset your investment in the resale membership and you’ll end up with much better benefits – longer stays up to 21 days and more parks. I know Chad can sometimes take a few days to get back to you as he’s just so slammed with business (which is great for him) – this is a hidden gem that a lot of people just don’t know about how much they can save… unless like you they do the research and find this article! Hope that helps, good luck and tell Chad we said hi – he’s a really good guy. If you can’t get a hold of him (sometimes he’s out traveling, like at trade shows) speak to his sister Kim – she is just as knowledgable and can help you just as well. Thank you and good luck!

      Reply
  20. We had been thinking of the TT membership for a while but kept getting cold feet after reading so many opposing views. Your very informative post finally tipped us over the fence. I gave Chad a call and we are now the proud owners of our very own TT Elite membership! Just waiting to get everything finalized with TT and we can make our first reservation! Thanks for gathering and organizing all of that convoluted information! It helped a lot to know what we wanted before calling Chad. (I did tell him I got his contact info from your blog.)
    Have you run into any difficulties making reservations where you want to go? We have the 120 day reservation option and had hoped that would be plenty.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hi Pam, that is awesome news! We are so happy our post was helpful for you and that Chad took good care of you, as he did us. We love our TT membership and the money it saves us. We tend to make our reservations for peak periods/high use well ahead of time and so we’ve not run into issues booking a site. We have the 120 day option too. For example, we made our Florida reservations for the winter as soon as our res window opened up and we got exactly the dates we wanted…. but when Peace River recently closed unexpectedly due to flooding, we could not go there for the two weeks as we’d planned. And so we just kept calling TT Orlando (sometimes as often as 3 times a day) to get a res, which started as 3 days then as we continued calling, we were able to add extra days onto it until we got two weeks – and that was at short notice during peak season. People change reservations all the time, so it’s pretty rare we can’t get into campgrounds when we want to. Hope that helps! Julie

      Reply
  21. Mark & Julie . Thanks for all the info. We are in our 50’s we will be going full time after we sell everything first of the year . We currenty are in our second motorhome it’s a 42′ 2014 fleetwood expadition. I have been reading and watching your YouTube videos since you started .And all of the others that are out there. And enjoy them all. We don’t plan ahead to much we just kind of go with it . I am not sure how easy it is to get into the TT campgrounds with reservations or is there always open spots.we just sent Chad an email for him to start looking for us a plan. I did mention yours and marks name and also your membership #. Thank you again for all the info. As I go full time I will have to get more comfortable with blogging. It seems that what every does .
    John &Susan Brodie From NC

    Reply
    • Awesome John and Susan! You can usually get into many TT campgrounds without too much of an advance reservation in the off seasons, but that’s not guaranteed. We always make our reservations well ahead of time, usually at least a few months in advance, of course we can change them – and we do from time to time – but we like having the peace of mimd that we have a space reserved for us so we can turn our attention to other things. We don’t like to be constantly planning and looking at where to go next as we just don’t have the time, still working and all. You will definitely want to book your space as early as possible for peak seasons like in the south for winter, north for summer. Re just going with the flow and not planning ahead, you may be ok – it really does depend on the campground, location and time of year. Maybe you can just see how you go with it and if you find you aren’t able to be accommodated, you may need to start making advance reservations. Or reserve ahead of time with an idea of where you think you’ll be going and you can always cancel/change them without penalty (as long as do it ahead of arrival). Am sure Chad will take good care of you – and thanks so much for mentioning our names! All the best 🙂

      Reply
  22. Hi Julie,
    This is a great posting providing terrific info. We will be retiring and going full time summer 2016 and I can’t see how we can go wrong with one of the upgrades and will call Chad when the time comes and will tell him you sent us. My only concern about TT in general is I have read some comments on other blogs about some of their parks being old and in need of repairs/updates. Has this been your experience? Hope to meet you on the road one day. ?
    Thanks-David in SC

    Reply
    • Hi David, our pleasure 🙂 Yes a TT resale upgraded membership is really a no-brainer for fulltimers like us! (and you soon). Yes, you are quite right, some TT parks are in need of some TLC. We find the standards can vary quite a bit across the board – some I would call rustic, some are middle of the road and some are lovely and very nicely maintained. Regardless, unless you like staying at high end parks all the time (spendy) TT is an unbeatable deal. We always look up sites like RVparkreviews.com and Campgroundviews.com and Google for reviews (sometimes Trip Advisor too) when deciding which parks to stay at… and we try to avoid the less desirable ones (like Soledad Canyon, Acton, CA – we went there in November but won’t go back – too rundown). That said, we really liked TT Palm Springs, loved Kenisee Lake in Ohio and really enjoyed our time at Cloverdale, CA and Oakzanita, CA (both I’d call rustic), we liked Pacific City, OR, Seaside, OR, Chehalis, WA (very nice). We even liked St Clair, MI (an hour north of Detroit) but wouldn’t bother returning to Bear Cave, Belvidere, MI. We are enjoying our time in Moody Beach, Wells, Maine… and heading to Cape Cod on Saturday, then Accord, NY then VA, NC, SC… so we will get to experience more east coast parks over the coming months. So yes, I would agree, many parks need some updates and TLC, but for the low investment, you still can’t go wrong – for us as long as it’s decent, we have water, electric, sewer (or dumpstation) and above all, good Verizon signal on our MIFIs (haha), we are happy campers. Just pick and choose the parks with higher ratings (at least a 6) and read the reviews to get a sense of what people do and don’t like. It’s still amazing value… And no utility bills! 🙂 Oh one more thing, TT is GREAT for families and socializing, meeting people… which will be great for your granddaughter – we met some families who wanted to stay only in state parks but they ended up joining TT so they could meet other families and their kids could make friends. A few families ended up all traveling together as a convoy to many parks so it worked out ideal for them..Chad will take good care of you – just be sure to start the ball rolling a good 2-3 months in advance so he has time to find you a good membership, allow time for TT processing and to get your membership number ASAP so you can start making reservations in the system, especially at the popular preserves during peak season. Yu will want to book those at least 90 days out if you can, or more. Shoulder seasons not such a big issue. Hope that helps! Hope to meet you on the road too! 🙂

      Reply
      • Thanks again Julie. I’ll borrow a favorite phrase from Roy Rogers & Dale Evans (before your time and as an Aussie you may not know them but worth a google search) “Happy trails to you until we meet again.”
        David

        Reply
      • Hi again Julie,
        I’ve been watching a few YouTube videos getting a feel for some of the TT parks and several times people have mentioned the Rangers being on duty or something about the Ranger station. Are some of the TT locations somehow affiliated with state or national parks? Thanks again for your help. We’re actively shopping for another coach for full time starting late spring/early summer 2016.
        David in SC

        Reply
        • Hi David, no TT has their own rangers within each campground. It’s nothing at all to do with state/national parks. Hope you guys didn’t get affected too badly with the flooding down there in SC?

          Reply
        • Oh and the ranger station is the front office of the campground usually where the ‘ranger’ resides and greets people coming in, but that isn’t the case at all campgrounds, sometimes the only time we see a ranger is when they are driving around to make sure everyone in the park is meant to be there (we get sheets with our name/departure date which we have to display in our window) and that everything is in order. Hope that helps. Gone With the WYnns did a bunch of videos on TT CGs which you can find on their YouTube Channel and also on the TT website – check each campground page on the TT site to see if it has a video. I think we’ll start doing some reviews too… I just find I keep so busy with all the other content! But seems folks are really interested and asking for them.

          Reply
      • Hi Julie
        I’ve noticed when looking at TT parks some list in their amenities wifi or tv with a $ beside them. Does that mean there is any extra charge? Also some don’t show wifi in their amenities so does that mean they have none? Thanks again for all your great info.
        David

        Reply
        • HI David, hmm have to say I haven’t paid much attention to those $ in the icons before! We have our own WIFI hotspots so never use campground wifi, which is often pretty unreliable anyway (we’ve been told). Certainly not stable or robust enough for our needs. AND we don’t watch TV! haha I would recommend you call Thousand Trails to ask that question… in my experience, the Thousand Trails book and website are not kept as up to date as they should be. For example, on the website it said the Circle M campground was open year round, but I was unable to book past 1 November as they are only open weekends then Thanksgiving they close until the spring! Usually if I have campground specific questions, I will call the ranger station at that preserve (campground) to ask first hand as HQ doesn’t always have the answers either AND things are constantly changing! Frustrating i know. I can tell you that SOME parks charge extra for 50amp and some do not. I usually call ahead mainly to confirm a) if they get decent Verizon 4gLTE signal and b) if we can have mail/packages sent there. That’s about it. But it’s also a good idea to check if they have any particular instructions for driving there as our visit to Accord would have been much less stressful if we have known to avoid driving through New Paltz and the 11′ bridge!! (GPS fail). Hope that helps. We are starting to pull some reviews together in next couple of weeks so stay tuned….

          Reply
      • Hi Julie,
        Just an update we have bought our full time coach, 2010 Allegro Red 38QBA, and our house is now on the market. Getting very excited about hitting the road. We’re having discussions now about which direction to go first. Isn’t that a nice problem to have? 🙂

        Reply
  23. I am interested in purchasing pre-owned, can you tell me exactly where in the story you cover this, it’s a little long and gives some info i’m not needing, but am lost as to where the pre-owned info is. thanks

    Reply
    • Hi there, yes the article is long and intentionally so – it is very comprehensive so that it adequately covers the most important things people need to understand before making such an investment – it should also help make the conversation and process with the broker much faster and more efficient. But if you feel confident it’s for you and just want to buy one, the details are at the bottom of the post – I have included them here too for ease. Give Chad at Campground Membership Outlet a call on 352-242-0401 or email him chadhoel [at] aol.com – if you mention RVLove and our blog post, he will know exactly what you are talking about and need and can help you. Good luck and thanks for the note!

      Reply
  24. HI Julie-
    Your article was awesome. So informative. I have never stayed in a TT park. We have a big rig of 42 feet plus we tow a car. We are at 65 feet total. What percentage of the TT parks do you think are big rig friendly? Have you had good luck with that or should we forget the whole idea.

    Thanks so much,
    Dawnya

    Reply
    • Hi Dawnya, so glad you found the article helpful. I am not a TT expert by any means but will do my best… in answer to your question, first I need to let you know that we haven’t stayed at every TT park yet, most of our travels so far have been on the west coast. We are heading east for the next 6 months so we’ll have a better sense of those parks by the end of this year. Our setup is 36 foot MH pulling a MINI on a tow dolly, so our total length is probably around 55 feet. And we can tuck the dolly somewhat under the coach if squeezed for space at a site. So far, we haven’t had any problems fitting into TT sites, although Oakzanita Springs in CA was a bit tight and I wouldn’t recommend for rigs much bigger than ours. I have seen many RVs much larger than ours (big trucks pulling 5th wheels, Class As pulling enclosed trailers) at TT parks. It’s not uncommon to see 40 foot rigs or 42 or larger at Palm Springs, CA; Blaine, WA; Morgan Hill, CA; Rancho Oso, CA and more… many TT campgrounds have pull-through sites which make it easier for big rigs like yours. I don’t know which part of the country you are in, but what I would recommend is calling Thousand Trails and asking them directly… If you are a member of RVillage, you could also ask in the Thousand Trails Forum – maybe some people can offer advice there. If you haven’t stay at a TT property yet, you might like to do that before investing… or start with a cheaper Zone Pass as we did before deciding if an upgrade is worth it to you. As mentioned in the article (can’t remember if I covered this in the upgrade or Zone Pass article) some TT parks are very nice and others are more ‘rustic’ so you need to be aware of that in advance… we are happy with the standard of most of them for our needs (and cost savings/facilities/convenience) but others who like staying at more higher end parks may not like some of the TT properties. It really comes down to your personal preferences, but yes knowing you can fit into the parks is number 1 priority! Even if you only used SOME of the TT parks, and if you were a full-timer like us – it’s hard to beat the value for money….I did a quick Google search and here are a few mentions that may help https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=what+size+rigs+can+Thousand+trails+accommodate but really, feel free to call TT and get their answer. Ask if they will also you a free night or weekend to try out a local campground before deciding to buy a membership of any kind. Doesn’t hurt to ask! Good luck and let me know what you find! cheers, Julie

      Reply
  25. Julie, after reading your excellent article on TTN memberships (we have thought about upgrading when we go fulltime this fall) I pulled out our contract. We bought it in 2006 and it is designated as a “National Membership” contract. I don’t see any of the flashy terms such as Platinum or Stupendous, or anything.

    But, I was concerned when I read “you may not use the services of a broker or tother third party to solicit, arrange, or negotiate the sale or transfer of your membership.” Needless to say, I had a What The? moment when I read that.

    Do you have any experience with that clause? Has it gone away? Does it affect our ability to upgrade with a better resale contract?

    Thanks!

    Roy

    Reply
    • Hi Roy,

      I am not a TT expert by any means (just did a truckload of research and shared what I learned) but…I think the reason that clause may be in there as I don’t think “National” memberships are re-saleable…sounds like yours may be one that provides access to “all parks” – at least those in the TT system at the time you bought it. Honestly, I think the best way to find out your options is to: a) Call TT member services and ask them what this means and what your options are for upgrading b) Call Chad at Campground Membership Outlet to get his advice on your options and c) Perhaps even find out what it would cost to upgrade your existing National Membership to an Elite Membership (warning – could be as much as $5K!). Then consider your options and weigh up what would be best for your needs.

      Most importantly, what does your existing membership provide you with and would that be enough/suitable for your requirements as full-timers? eg. How long can you stay at one time? Can you move from Park to Park without time out of the system? How many parks do you have access to and does it include the ones on the east coast as part of their latest acquisition on the east coast (ie. Outdoor World etc)

      Consider what the costs and extra benefits of a further Upgrade would be – and whether it’s worth it to you. If TT quotes you anything more than $2,500 for an upgrade to Elite, you’d probably be better of just buying a re-sale through Chad – that is… ONLY if you find your National Membership is insufficient for your needs…

      I wouldn’t think your existing National Membership would impede your ability to buy a better resale contract…. they would just cancel it and the new re-sale contract would supersede it…my guess is that yours is just not the kind of contract that is available to on-sell to anyone else. Or perhaps you can only sell or transfer it to someone privately.

      Get it from the horse’s mouth and call TT and Chad for your best available options. In truth, my comments are just my best guess!

      Hope that helps!

      Julie

      Reply
  26. We thought about getting one of these as an option as we plan to stay in Bar Harbor Me for a month at an Encore park. I was concerned that we would only get inferior sites relative to paying the monthly rate. Do you find your options are limited to lesser more crowded areas of the parks?

    Reply
    • Hmmm not quite sure how to answer that. When traveling and staying at TT parks, it’s “first come first served” and sites are not allocated at all. Re Encore, we only stayed at one of their properties – Tahoe Valley last June-July and they ended up moving our site as we wanted to extend our stay by a couple of days to include the 4th July weekend. Despite being very busy, they found a way to make it work and we were happy with out site. It didn’t have cable – which is not an issue for us as we don’t watch TV – but it may be an issue for some… I don’t think getting inferior sites would be an issue but honestly I wouldn’t know -I I would call Thousand Trails and Encore direct and ask them point blank what their policy is on that!

      Reply
  27. Thanks so much for writing this post! I have a question: After your 21 days are up, how long do you have to be gone from the park you just left? Could you dry camp up the road for a night and come back in 24 hours??

    Reply
  28. Hi,
    Thanks for such a well written and informative article.
    Also enjoyed reading your ventures and blog…
    What a great lifestyle you are living..enjoying and adventuring to new places.
    I have a quick question. In reference to “new Elite” and if Chad knows how that is different from just Elite??
    Next time you are back in PNW please look up LaConner as a stay over option…our close to home favorite. Large preserve and on the bay, beautiful location.
    Happy & Safe Continued Travels!
    beachwalkmm

    Reply
    • Hi Mary Ann, thank you! We are definitely loving the lifestyle 🙂 I am pretty sure Chad would know the difference between the various Elite memberships – TT changes them all the time which is why the most important thing is always reading the specific terms of each individual contract as they can vary so much! Hence, why TT can be so confusing to so many (including us!) I understand there are literally more than 100 different types of contract out there, and there may even be half a dozen different Elite contracts, if not more. We have heard La Conner is beautiful! We really wanted to stay there but the cell coverage was insufficient for us to work… so hopefully the next time we are in that area Verizon will have a tower servicing the area. Happy Trails to you! 🙂

      Reply
  29. i bought an outdoor world master membership through Chad at campground membership outlet almost 8 years ago. Paid $1800 and my daughter will inherit it. I upgraded to Elite connections in the first round of offerings 5 years ago. I bought directly from ELS for $7000 and again, my daughter inherits. Here are two examples of how even Elite connections can morph:

    1. I receive one free getaway week per year for 10 years. After that I can rent getaways for $49 per night. Contracts now have changed to $75 or more per night.

    2. My contract has a clear, very plain clause that states if there is any conflict or loss of privilege between the OW master membership and the elite connections, the OW master member contract prevails. So, for example, I have a one year reservation window at OW Parks, 120 day reservation window for the other parks. This has been made “fuzzed” out in subsequent contracts according to posts on the TT Facebook pages– changes get made to contracts when they are sold or upgraded.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing those insights Barbara – yes buying new memberships definitely has additional advantages when they can be inherited! (we don’t have any heirs). Also good tips re the changing offerings, prices etc – this is why it is so important anyone buying a membership shouldn’t go simply by the name but read the specific contract terms very carefully! Great that you are so on top of yours – have spoken to many people (that I tried to buy from) who had no idea what their specific membership contract included, and were offended when I asked…. they didn’t understand there can be many different variations of the same “type/name” of membership. The most important thing anyone can do when considering a re-sale (or even a new one) is to read the terms carefully, including what is transferable to heirs, or on resale. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  30. We have been traveling full time now for seven years and are in our late 40s. I skimmed through most of the article and it was wonderful. Great job on explaining TT. We have been using them full time since we have been traveling and have upgraded a couple times to accommodate for new parks and longer reservation windows. We have found it beneficial for us to do this since our kids are stretched from Florida to Maine. I don’t know if it was in your post but if you had a previous VIP membership and you upgrade to the Elite you also keep your previous exemptions from high use parks, and we found a lot of people didn’t know this. You have to contact member services and they fix it for you in the system because it doesn’t link an old contract with the new amendments. Also we had a couple of friends that looked into purchasing a used Elite membership, and they were both told that even though they were lifetime contracts that the resales were now limited to ten years. I wasn’t sure if you had that in the article, but it is also great info to know! Safe travels, and again, great work on the article!

    Reply
    • Thanks Tiffany! Great to see you are getting such great value out of your membership! That’s a great tip you shared re the VIP/Elite… just another one of those bizarre nuances which is why it’s all so confusing for people! Will keep that in mind. Yes I have heard that the “lifetime” membership now means that you can continue paying your annual fee for a lifetime but you are not actually contractually obligated for a lifetime (I understand it was that way years ago during one of TT’s many iterations to which they got a lot of backlash). I think the 10 year contract only applies to the Alliance memberships whereas the others are limited to 3 years (4 for the new Zone Pass of bought on a payment plan). Honestly, I do wonder if they make it confusing on purpose sometimes! Safe travels to you too and thanks for the positive feedback!

      Reply
  31. Margo publishes the RV Lifestyles newsletter, and the rvlifestyleexperts.com website. She also moderates the Thousand Trails group over on rvillage.com, which is how I found your blog! Some folks were raving about your article, so I jumped over and read it. They were right. At this point I have actually read quite a few of your posts here … great travel writing. I feel like I’m traveling along. Sorry about Coda … know what that is like. I am near retirement, and was planning to work three more years to pile up more savings. However, reading some of the great blogs on full timing is like playing around on a slippery creek bank … might fall in unexpectedly! I have also read quite a bit on wheeling-it and Technomadia. You all have great, well organized, inspiring, fun and helpful blogs. Fortunately for me, my wife Sharon is completely up for it, and more adventurous than me. So, who knows? I could jump in much sooner than originally planned.
    Doug

    Reply
    • Hi Doug, thanks for that – must connect with Margo! Her site sounds great! Wonderful to hear so many people are appreciating the article, thank you! Yes you just might fall into that slippery creek bank of full-time RV living sooner than expected… fantastic your wife Sharon is on board – one thing I will say is if you do, you won’t regret it… most of the long term full-time folks we have met have said their only regret was not starting it sooner… but I guess everyone does it when they are ready… it’s a big step, but a worthwhile one. Hope to see you out on the road sometime!

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  32. So enjoyed this blog. We have been elite members for about 5 years. We did the upgrade thing for about $4000. I wish I had this information back than, I would have bought resale. I am glad we have it, just wish we had been smarter about buying it. I will share this.

    Reply
    • Thank you Linda! I hear you… but as long as you are getting good use and value out of your membership, it is still great value. For us as full-timers, we think buying new would have still been worth it, but buying resale just made it moreso sooner. Hope to see you at a preserve somewhere sometime. We appreciate you sharing the article – please do!

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  33. Wow & double wow!!! We are starting to plan for the jump to Full Time RVers. Two things mystified me – the domicile issue (including health insurance) and the whole camp membership thing. Margo helped me understand the domicile thing (along with some help from the wheeling-it folks). And this article really takes the mystery out of the Thousand Trails thing …you have pulled back the curtain and we can see the wizard over in the corner!
    Doug

    Reply
    • You are right about the Wizard behind the curtain Doug – the whole TT thing IS mystifying! So happy our post is helping people like you… it’s a big thing/investment so you definitely need to do your homework! Who is Margo (re the domicile?) We have a domicile post coming up soon (mentioned it in our latest 9 month video update) as we changed to Texas recently…. but sounds like you are all sorted there. Technomadia has a great article on that too.

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  34. Excellent post! We currently have a zone pass we got as a “freebie” with our travel trailer purchase. We will have used the pass about 45 days this year and are considering our options. It is very confusing and your post has helped clarify it all. Many thanks!

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  35. Thank you thank you thank you for this post! My husband and I are seriously considering full timing and this is the exact thing I was looking to learn about but I was having a tough time finding the info I needed. You are amazing and if we go this route I will definitely let Chad know you sent me!

    Reply
    • So glad we could be of help Chelsea… We were like you just last year and the search for detailed, accurate information on this topic was sadly lacking…. so I am very happy that all of my hours of research and navigating the minefield that is TT is able to help so many…. like we said in the article, this is the one we wish had existed when we started this journey. Good luck with everything and hope to see you on the road sometime! Chad is great, very helpful and knowledgeable, he will find you a great deal when you are ready.

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  36. Thanks for the great article! You mentioned an option to freeze dues at 62. Is there a cap to increases prior to that? Also, after your contractual years of dues does it revert to a year to year contract and can TT at that time end the membership or change the conditions since the contract is up? Just things that came to mind while I was reading. Thanks again for the research and information. Travel safely and have fun.

    Reply
    • Hi Ethan, answering this “to the best of my knowledge”… I don’t know about options to freeze dues prior to age 62. I don’t know if TT changes the terms of the contract after you time (eg. 3 years for us) is up – from what I understand the contract terms remain the same, you are just free to cancel if you wish and pay annual dues for ongoing privileges. I have heard from older members that they have seen a “special levy” of something when the company was going through a hard time years ago, which members paid to help keep things going… sorry I don’t have more detail on that. Feel free to call TT and ask them these questions – or Chad at CMO – as they will likely have more accurate answers than me.

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  37. What a great job you did in speaking to the different types of TT memberships and the pros and cons of each. We are FTers (a bit over
    two years now) and purchased our TT National Membership directly from
    a TT repr. at a preserve in 2008. Although it included all NACO, LTR, and Outdoor World Resorts (not the Mid-Atlantic group) we OVERPAID!
    I have been “presented” the Elite membership during one of our stays on the west coast, but I would only be interested in the direct park-to-park feature and the dues frozen at age 62 feature. The repr. from TT wanted $4100 about a year ago for this. I think I might contact your re-seller and see if his company has anything which might be beneficial to our situation.
    Thanks again for a great article on this subject. (Wish I had found it prior to our purchase in 2008. LOL)

    Reply
    • Hi Steve, Oh I’m sorry you overpaid, bummer. But the good news is if you’ve been using the membership a lot you may have already gotten good value out of it – see if Chad at CMO can sell it for you, you might get something for it to help offset buying a resale upgrade. Glad you found the article helpful, like I mentioned in the beginning, this is the article WE wish had existed when we started our research too, it’s a minefield, quite confusing and can be quite painful – at least it was for mel! LOL. Anyway good luck with everything!

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  38. Thank you for all that great information. My husband and I are getting ready to retire next February at 55, but have been courtesy card holders for over 20 years under my parent’s membership they purchased in the early 80’s. My dad passed away, and mom is living in an assisted living home and can’t travel, so I’ve been trying to figure out and have finally figured out how to get their membership in my name. Once I had my dad’s name removed, there was room for my name to be added to their membership, which means I get ALL their benefits, and their dues were frozen and will remain that way. My husband and I did upgrade over a year and a half ago and we will begin to reap those benefits in less than a year. Can’t wait to travel. We sold our house last June to live in the motorhome, to make sure that we could survive in it on a more permanent basis. Yes we both work, but when we are together it’s not too bad. It does help to be in a 43′ Newmar. Again thanks for doing all the legwork, on some questions that I had, as I haven’t yet thoroughly read the original contract, but being a Platinum memer, “The Sky’s are Unlimited” as they say!

    Reply
    • Oh lucky you Kathy! That is great news for you. Yes a 43′ Newmar would be VERY comfortable I am sure. You will love the FT lifestyle – glad the article had some useful info for you.

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  39. Thanks for a very informative article! I’m retiring and my wife and I are seriously considering selling the condo and going full time. When you say you get free camping with your membership are you paying for the hookups?

    Reply
    • Hi Mike – thank you! Yes, with the Elite membership upgrade we bought, we pay an ongoing annual fee of $549 and there is NO additional fee to stay hooked up at TT campgrounds. The caveat to that is some TT campgrounds offer 50amp sites instead of 30amp for an extra $5 (or so) per day. We have only used that once though – and only because we preferred that particular section – but otherwise we get by just fine on 30amps by not running too many appliances at once or overloading the system. Some (many) TT campgrounds don’t charge extra for 50amp sites so I’m not sure what the company policy is on that across the board, you could call and ask them if 50amp is high value for you. $5/day doesn’t sound like much but if you’re a full-timer it really adds up! But it’s optional.

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  40. Wow, this is such great information! We are just retiring and considering RVing as our main form of travel in the coming years. We currently travel on our motorcycles, so the RV would be our tow vehicle. 😉 We heard about TT this weekend and now we have a great base to make decisions from. Thank you!

    Lynne

    Reply
  41. Outstanding blog! We just advertised our Platinum Plus Thousand Trails membership on Craigslist-Tucson, AZ and are expecting a call from the broker you mentioned tomorrow morning. Not sure you want ads here, but I just have to add that we’ve been extremely pleased with our TT membership. Sold our RV and don’t plan to have that lifestyle any longer. We paid $10,000 for our membership and are selling it for $2,000 OBO, plus there will be a $750 transfer fee. At our purchase time, I wish we could have found a resale membership, but estimated we got back about $6,000 in return for all the campgrounds we stayed in “free”…in five years, not full-time.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! We appreciate that. Great to know you were pleased with your TT membership and got great value out of it. And also great you can get a good chunk of $ back when you sell it! That is one thing we cannot do is re-sell ours with the same benefits, so there are still benefits to buying new like you did… the main thing is you were happy and got good value out of it!

      I am happy to post a message on our RV LOVE Facebook page alerting people to your membership for sale, if you would like? Let me know by sharing a link to the CL ad with your contact info. There may be some interested people which may help expedite the sale. I still think it’s a good idea to deal with Chad as the seller, as he has a list of customers ready to buy and as the middle man, handles the paperwork. iT definitely removes some of the headaches and you don’t have to pay for his service. Good luck!

      Reply
      • I’m not quite sure if you are directing this question to Robin’s message (the lady who said she is listing her membership for sale)? I’d suggest you contact Chad Hoel at Campground Membership Outlet as I believe he is handling that now.

        Reply
  42. Great article! Thanks so much. I have a couple questions. I may have missed the info in your blog. First, do you have to purchase a zone pass first and then upgrade? If so, how much do they cost? I will definitely be using Chad upon your recommendation. God bless. I Enjoy your videos immensely.

    Reply
    • No need to buy a zone pass at all. It may be different though if you buy thought TT direct as they usually sell upgrades on the zone passes. If you buy used through Chad you should not need that at all but give him a call to confirm. Good luck!

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  43. Great Post! Kevin and I are fans of Thousand Trails Zone Pass. Your post is very informative. Were going fulltiming soon and might upgrade our memberships. Great Info!

    Reply
  44. MARC AND JULIE–THANKS VERY MUCH FOR SHARING ALL OF THIS INFORMATION. WE HAVE BEEN BURNED BY ONE MEMBERSHIP AND YOUR INFORMATION WILL ASSIST US FROM MAKING FURTHER MISTAKES.

    WE ARE CLOSE TO BECOMING FULL TIMERS AND ARE LEANING TOWARD A MAJOR INVESTMENT IN SOLAR POWER. WE HAVE TWO PORTABLE HONDA GENERATORS PLUS THE ON BOARD 7.5 GENERATOR AND CARRY TWO 20 POUND BOTTLES OF PROPANE WE USE WITH AN EXTEND A STAY FITTING ON OUR ON BOARD PROPANE TANK. WE HAVE ALSO GLEANED INFO FROM OTHERS ABOUT MANAGING OUR FRESH WATER AND WASTE WATER THROUGH THE USE OF A BLUE BOY AND PORTABLE WATER BLADDER WHICH WOULD ALLOW US TO NOT DEPEND ON STAYING IN PARKS ALL THE TIME.

    WE ARE RETIRED AND DO NOT NAVE THE SAME NEED FOR ELECTRICITY THAT YOU DO.

    WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF HEAVY USE OF SOLAR POWER COUPLED WITH A PROPERLY SIZED INVERTER?

    THANKS. HOPE TO MEET YOU ON THE ROAD SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE!!

    RAY

    Reply
    • Hi Ray, glad you found the post useful! Sorry we can’t answer your solar question as we don’t have solar! We love the idea of it, but the investment was going to be very large (at least $4K installed, possibly $5K) and we just weren’t in a position to spend that kind of money, which is why we stuck with the campground option for now. The other consideration with solar = boondocking, is we are nervous about having sufficient cellular coverage in more remote areas. We have to be connected for our work. We are doing our first week of boondocking from this Friday in Yuma – will be interesting to see how we manage! Will have to rely on the generator a bit 🙂 All the best in your plans to go fulltime soon!

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  45. p.s. I forgot to mention that I hope we run in to each other someday. If we do, we’d definitely like to take you out for a thank-you dinner! (But only if A.T. Rocker comes!) 🙂

    Reply
  46. Wow! We can’t thank you enough for this! My husband and I will be full time by the end of the year. We’ve been thinking about getting a Thousand Trails membership and it is daunting to say the least. You have really helped take some of the leg work out of it.

    We do have one question if you don’t mind. What made you pick Thousand Trails over some of the other membership options out there? I have to admit I’m a little nervous about TT – if you keep up on the Facebook groups, there are a lot of complaints about the quality of the campgrounds, although most of them seem to be in the Southeast. I hope they are exaggerating a bit.

    I’m going to call Chad today and will be sure to mention you!

    Reply
    • Hi Leah, glad you found the article helpful. We went with TT as it seemed the best value for us at the time – starting with a Zone Pass was a low cost way to see how we liked it. We didn’t find too many other memberships that were similar. What have you found? FOr us, it came down to value for money. There are certainly some TT campgrounds that are more rustic than others and could do with some love (and money spent on them!). We did share some of those examples in the post. And I am sure there will always be complainers on Facebook/Social media – there always are… I think it all comes down to expectations. Because of how inexpensive it is and such excellent value for us to have hookups in a campground for so little, we are very forgiving, plus that’s just our nature, we tend to look at the positives in everything. We have not been to the Southeast TT preserves yet, only west coast. Heading east in Summer (north east) and making our way down to southeast by winter, so we will know more then. I am sure if people paid upward of $5K for their membership they would be more peeved than others about campground quality… that’s why I wrote these posts, to help people find a way to get them cheaper. It’s all about perspective… we love the hookups we get and long stays that we get for free (after the membership purchase of course) along with adequate cell coverage to work. Honestly, those are out main priorities – connectivity and affordability! We like that TT properties have security, many have nice facilities (some better than others). We don’t use the lodges or pools much. We use the laundry, hot tubs etc and so far they have been mostly fine. The people are generally very nice. We like the community aspect of getting to know members, we’ve made quite a few new friends that way, which is also high value for us. We don’t stay exclusively at TT, sometimes they don’t have a park in the areas we are traveling to (like soon when we head to New Mexico, Colorado) so you will need to factor that in…. some parks are a little ways out from the action ie. we drive 45 mins each way to get to San Diego from where we are currently at Oakzanita Springs. But we don’t mind that as we are both drivers and have a fun car (Mini Convertible!) There are probably only 2-3 parks on the west that we wouldn’t rush back to – Lake Minden (hot, boring, no pool), Morgan Hill (dustbowl, boring) and Acton, CA (rundown, boring 50 mins drive from Santa Monica). But internet connectivity (via our own WIFI hotspot) was good at all these places and that is honestly one of our main concerns… plus we love that our campground expenses are much more manageable (lower) than alternatives. We will have to spend a lot more in April-May-June as we head east as there are no TT parks in the middle of the country! In many ways you get what you pay for – if you are expecting the Ritz Carlton of campgrounds, TT will mostly disappoint. If you are happy with a Best Western, you’ll probably be happy. Again, just consider your most important criteria for your camping needs and go from there. You might want to start with a low cost Zone Pass and be sure you like it first, before investing further in an upgrade, that’s what we did. Gave us a chance to try before we spent more….and even though the Zone Pass was not used the entire year, we still feel we got good value for the time we did use it as we stay in TT 80% of the time. We thought the Palm Springs resort was among the best we’ve been to, yet we heard some people complaining about how ‘old’ the sites were….didn’t bother us at all, really does come down to personal preference. I just say KNOW what you are getting into and manage your expectations accordingly and you should be just fine. We don’t know of a better value membership than TT but if you do, please let us know so we can check it out! PS. Would be great to run into you sometime – and AT Rocker is always up for a night out 🙂 All the best!

      Reply
  47. Thanks for this, lots of great information, we will be starting fulltime later this year so it is a lot of legwork done for us.
    Thanks

    Best Regards
    Bruce and Mariline

    Reply
  48. Just wanted to applaud you two..for such an informative post. I’ve only been reading RV blogs for 7-8 years…but the Thousand Trails posts..should be the “go to” articles…for anyone curious about Thousand Trails.
    I found your blog about 2 weeks ago and am so impressed with the overall quality.If I didn’t know better….I would think you’ve been living the RV life(and writing an RV Blog)…for many years.
    Looking forward to more good stuff!

    Reply
    • Oh Ralph you are too kind! Thank you so much for your comments. We’re only 7 months in so it’s nice to know our blog and content is so well regarded, hopefully it will only continue to get better as we go! Have a great day 🙂

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  49. Marc & Julie greetings from SNOWY and COLD Delaware OH.
    All I can say is WOW!!!!! Julie, you did and excellent job in researching and explaining the membership issues. GREAT JOB!!!!!
    Wish you happy travels

    Reply

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