Thousand Trails Memberships – New vs Resale?

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We know a lot about Thousand Trails memberships. As most of you know, we have been members of Thousand Trails (TT) since we hit the road in 2014 with an annual Zone Camping Pass. This worked well for several months until we decided to upgrade to an Elite membership in the fall of September 2014.

This is a big part of what makes our RV lifestyle so affordable for us. We don’t stay exclusively in Thousand Trails campgrounds. However, the money we save when we do helps offset our camping fees at other places throughout the year.

How we save with Thousand Trails Memberships

Our stays at Thousand Trails parks are free. All we pay is annual dues of about $570 a year for our Elite membership, plus $299 for the Trails Collection add-on The Trails Collection add-on gives us access to and extra 100+ Encore RV Parks where we can stay up to 14 nights at no charge.

We typically spend anywhere from 3-6 months a year camping in TT and Encore campgrounds. Yes, we get all that for about $870 a year! Pretty hard to beat that for us. It is sometimes cheaper than boondocking as we save on the costs of running our generator, dumping tanks and an expensive solar installation! Plus, we like the free-flowing electricity, water, amenities like pool, hot tub, laundry AND the social aspect, with all the people we get to meet.

In recent months, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about Thousand Trails memberships. We’ve been asked about the benefits of buying a Zone Camping Pass vs an Elite membership upgrade. And other questions on the benefits of buying a NEW Elite membership direct from Thousand Trails instead of as a resale, as we did back in 2014.

Since Then

Since that time, Thousand Trails has made some changes to their membership offerings which offer some distinct advantages to buying a NEW membership upgrade. Yes, it costs more, but the advantages may be worth it to you. So we feel it’s worth considering both options and weighing up which is the best fit for you.

I do plan to write a much more in-depth comparison blog post about the different kinds of Thousand Trails memberships, the pros and cons of each. But wanted to share a few key points here quickly now. Thousand Trails is running some Spring Specials that you will want to know about if you’re in the market for a camping membership. Hopefully, this information will help you decide which way is best for you. And allow you to take advantage of the current prices before they increase on April 1st, 2018.

I just got off the phone with our insider contacts Jim and Brandy Reneau at Thousand Trails and have these updates to share.

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.

Zone Camping Pass (ZCP)

These are usually $575 $599 for an annual Zone Camping Pass for one year. They are currently advertised on the TT website at a discount of $100. (Plus tax, if you buy from their call center in Florida, or some other states.) If you commit to the 4 year Zone Pass, you’ll get an even better price.

However, if you buy through our TT insider contacts Jim and Brandy Reneau (call them on 770-622-4188 or email), you’ll enjoy a bit more of a savings. We can’t publish the price here and it’s always changing. So it’s always best contact them directly to find out more about the current best deals available.

If you have plans to upgrade to a NEW Elite (or other) membership upgrade via Thousand Trails within the 4 year term you can do that as this locks in your annual dues at this rate ($499) for the first 4 years. However, if you plan on trying out the Zone Pass first before potentially upgrading to a one of the resale Thousand Trails memberships down the track, stick with the one year (not 4 year) Zone Pass so you’re not locked into that longer contract.

Adding Extra Zones

You can also add a second zone to your Zone Camping Pass membership any time you like for just $49 $59. Which is a much better deal than when we first bought our Zone Pass back in 2014. Back then, additional zones cost over $500 each. We were lucky enough to score a BOGO deal at the time!

This is a great option if you plan to travel more widely than one state or area. The Zone Camping Pass is a great way to ‘try out’ Thousand Trails memberships at a low-cost and with a low commitment. You can cancel within your first year to avoid the auto-renew. if you aren’t sure if you want to invest more heavily in the upgrade option like an Elite. We upgraded ours after 4 months on the road full-time.

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.

Contact Jim and Brandy Reneau by phone on 770-622-4188 or email them at brandy_reneau@equitylifestyle.com and mention RVLove. They will help you snag a Zone Camping Pass at the best (unpublished) price available. We can personally vouch that they are very friendly, helpful people and will not pressure you into buying anything!

This is actually a big reason why we like dealing with Jim and Brandy and feel comfortable recommending them. Especially after I felt burned by an awful, high-pressure sales pitch from a TT fellow in Texas who shall remain nameless.

Jim and Brandy are the kind of people you’d want to sit around a campfire and enjoy happy hour with! So don’t be concerned at all about picking up the phone to ask your questions in person. Sometimes that’s easier and more efficient than playing email tag. Call me old-fashioned, but in this digital age, I still prefer a phone call so I can have all my questions answered at once. But if you prefer digital communications, you can either click here to email Jim and Brandy, or click here to buy direct from TT online at the going rate (plus taxes).

Thousand Trails Membership Upgrades (eg. Elite, Ultimate Odyssey)

As we mentioned, we purchased our Elite Membership as a resale in 2014 and wrote a detailed blog post about it. We love that we can go from park to park and stay up to 21 nights at a time. It has really helped slow down our travel pace. And while we still believe the resales offer great value (you can buy older memberships much cheaper, but there are some limitations). There are also some very attractive benefits to buying a NEW membership upgrade from Thousand Trails.

That’s why I wanted to share a few key points here, that make a NEW TT membership upgrade worth considering when weighing up which option is best for your needs.

Before we go into that, you need to know that there are 3 types of membership upgrades available NEW directly from Thousand Trails. They are Elite, Elite Connections, and Odyssey. All of these memberships allow you to travel directly from park to park.

The Elite and Elite Connections allow you to stay up to 21 nights at a time. While the Odyssey allows 28 night stays (this is MUCH more expensive). Elite Connections memberships offer other travel benefits including staying internationally at hotels and is more expensive than the Elite. But to be honest, in our opinion, the regular ELITE (cheapest option of the three) offers the best bang for your buck.

Of course, if you really want the luxury of 4 week stays instead of 3 weeks and are willing to pay for it, then consider the Odyssey. Again, we’ll go into more detail on all these in a longer blog post. But for now, we think the regular Elite (the less expensive of the 3 options) is a good way to go.

Benefits of Buying NEW vs Resale

  • Reservation Window is 120 Days for ALL campgrounds on the NEW Elite Basic, and 180 Days for Elite Connections and Odyssey. By comparison, our older Elite membership has a reservation window of 90 days for some TT campgrounds (Outdoor World and Mid Atlantic Resorts) and 120 days for the rest.
  • Ability to freeze membership dues at age 62. We can’t do this. It goes up with inflation. Nothing too crazy so far though. (Ours is still about $570 a year).
  • Ability to finance membership purchase for up to 6 years, with monthly payments. Ours being a resale, we had to pay for our Elite membership in full up front.
  • Membership is activated immediately. We had to wait for almost 4 weeks for TT Member Transfers to process it. Sometimes can be faster but up to 4 weeks (or longer, up to 6 or 8 weeks) is not uncommon, especially during busy times like Spring-Summer.
  • Ability to re-sell membership with full membership benefits intact and recoup some of your initial investment when you sell it. Our Elite member benefits don’t transfer to the next owner if we sell our membership, so it’s pointless to do so.

The upshot is, we feel both options for Thousand Trails memberships upgrades – NEW and RESALE – are worthwhile and have their unique advantages. It all depends on which of these are most important to you.

Which is the best option for you - New or Resale?

If getting the cheapest possible resale Thousand Trails membership is more important to you and you’re willing to trade off the above benefits, then consider buying a resale. But, if saving time so you can get all the latest benefits, commence your membership right away and start making reservations immediately is more important to you, then consider buying new.

If you don’t have the money upfront to spend thousands on a membership of any kind, and prefer a monthly payment, then buying new from TT and financing it up to 6 years may be a better option for you financially. This is especially true knowing you can re-sell it down the track and recoup some of your initial purchase price. We’ve met a lot of folks on a fixed or limited income who find this option works well for them.

Prices on the NEW membership upgrades from Thousand Trails usually cost around $6,000, depending on what promotions they have running at the time. The best way to find out the latest prices is to contact Jim and Brandy. See below for their contact info. Thousand Trails doesn’t publish the prices of their membership upgrades on their website. They only list prices for the Zone Camping Pass. That’s their sneaky way of getting you in the door! Ha!

Save $500 when you mention RVLOVE

To get more information or prices on buying a NEW Thousand Trails memberships upgrades (eg. Elite from Thousand Trails, contact Jim and Brandy Reneau on 770-622-4188 or email them at brandy_reneau@equitylifestyle.com and mention RVLove. They will give you an automatic $500 discount when you mention RVLove and ask if there are any additional promotions running at the time. And as I mentioned above, they are no-pressure team, so don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call them or email, they are very friendly and easygoing folks.

Closing Thoughts

As Thousand Trails – and RVing in general – becomes more popular, we have started noticing we need to book farther out to secure reservations. Especially true for the more popular campgrounds and peak periods.

Therefore, we do see the benefits of the longer reservation window offered by the newer memberships, especially if you are a planner who likes to have certainty around your reservations well in advance. If you don’t like to plan too far in advance and are willing to be more flexible, this won’t impact you as much.

When you buy a new membership from TT, your membership is activated immediately so you can start making your reservations right away. This means you don’t have to wait a month or so for your membership to be transferred from a resale. This is an important, key benefit to keep in mind especially if you are planning to stay at TT campgrounds within the next few months.

Reservation Timing

Regardless of whether you buy new or resale Thousand Trails membership, if you are planning to stay at Thousand Trails campgrounds this spring or summer, we DO recommend you start making your reservations as soon as possible. Know that your dates and reservations aren’t set in stone. You can make changes to your dates if you want to (subject to availability of course.

We move our bookings around all the time as our itinerary changes. But it is definitely advisable to try and get your reservations ‘in the system’ as soon as possible, to avoid disappointment. This is especially important for popular places and at peak times. Outside of peak times (eg. from Memorial Day to Labor Day in most places and in the south during winter eg. Florida, Arizona, Texas, plus all major holidays) you shouldn’t have as much trouble finding reservations. But in the peak times, keep in mind you’ll be competing with summer vacationers or winter snowbirds to secure campsites.

The moral of the story here is don’t leave things until the last minute or you may be disappointed when you can’t get reservations. The sooner you get your membership and can start booking your stays the better.

Our Recommended Contacts for Buying a Thousand Trails Membership

Zone Camping Pass:  Contact Jim and Brandy Reneau by calling them on 770-622-4188 or email brandy_reneau@equitylifestyle.com and mention RVLove to get the best deal available. They are super helpful, no-pressure and can answer all of your questions.

NEW Membership Upgrades – Elite, Elite Connections and Odyssey: Contact Jim and Brandy Reneau on 770-622-4188 or email brandy_reneau@equitylifestyle.com and mention RVLove for an automatic saving of $500. They can help you buy an Elite, Elite Connections or Odyssey membership upgrade and answer all of your questions.

RESALE Membership Upgrades: Contact Kim Hoel or Chad Hoel at Campground Membership Outlet on 800-272-0401. Or email membershipresale@gmail.com and mention you read RVLove’s articles so she knows you’re informed. Kim is super helpful and knowledgeable about all the different kinds of memberships and can help you find a resale membership that best suits your needs and budget. For example, she might have VIP, Platinum, Platinum Plus, Elite, Elite Connections, even Ultimate Odyssey etc. Many older memberships that are no longer available through Thousand Trails. Each has their unique pros and cons which we will cover in a separate blog post coming up.

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29 thoughts on “Thousand Trails Memberships – New vs Resale?”

  1. What states offer the cheapest prices for Elite Connections? I dont want to pay in full do i will be financing and heard some states and parks have different prices for the same thing. Im in CA and the prices are Elite Basic $5945 and Connections $7645. Are they cheaper anywhere else?

    Reply
    • Hi James – yes, there are ways of finding the best price and some savings that we’re ‘not allowed to publish’ – if you email brandy_reneau@equitylifestyle.com or call Jim Reneau on 770-622-4188 and tell them you are an RVLove community member, they can get you the special RVLove discount AND best price – it’s often changing hence the Reneaus are who you want to speak to, just mention you have been communicating with RVLove. Good luck!

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  2. This is all new to me and I was wondering what happens when you’re done RVing. Are you stuck paying an annual fee until you can sell your pass/membership?

    Reply
    • It would depend on the type of membership you purchased. If you bought one new, you could probably resell it. If you bought a resale membership, it usually is not worth selling as the benefits cannot be passed on multiple times in most cases. Some memberships only have 2 or 3 year commitments, others have 10 year. So, you are not on the hook to pay dues indefinitely. You could just let the membership expire depending on individual case. But if anything like us, our membership has paid for itself many times over at this point.

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  3. Hi Ya’ll! Question…do you still have the Elite basic and Trails collection? I guess I’m not seeing if you changed? I’m looking at buying from a reseller. But I’ve heard that TT won’t freeze the annual dues at 62 if you buy from a reseller? Thank you

    Reply
  4. We received free passes with purchase of a motorhome. After those passes expired I called and purchased a year 2 zone pass. After using only once when staying in Florida and receiving a 10% discount at an Encore property we decided not to renew as we are only accasional travelers. We have been receiving statements and phone calls most recently threatening action against us. We never signed a contract, nor were we informed that this membership was binding. How do we proceed from here?

    Reply
    • Zone passes are usually only one year commitments, with no long term contracts, unless you set them up on payment plans. What do Thousand Trails employees say when you call and talk to them? Have you tried escalating to a manager to get resolved?

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  5. Hey Marc and Jules! Jon here again. Just wondering about TAXES and the ASSESSMENT fees I’m seeing on our newly purchased Thousand Trails Elite Basic membership ? Any ideas? THANX

    Reply
    • HI Jon, Just replied to your comment! You didn’t indicate if you bought new or resale, but I would contact your TT membership specialist if you bought new… or call TT Member Services phone as they can look at your exact contract – they can all be so different! Hope that helps – thanks!

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      • Enjoy reading your article we are planning to take a trip in May around the United States from Maryland traveling quickly to Colorado and then spending a lot of time heading towards Seattle. There we will be taking a cruise for a week and then heading on down ports California and southern Utah and then down to Texas fort Worth spend a little time there and then head towards Kentucky towards the ark and then back home after being in a little over two months what would be the best thing for us to do you think in buying a membership being that the rest of the time we spend on the East coast no further than Tennessee and a lot of time down in Florida. I’m over 65. Enjoy your videos all the time your dick from love your new one it’s a lot like ours except ours has gas

        Reply
        • Hi Ramon, Your travels sound wonderful! We love road trips and cruising too. Now to your question…hmm that’s a tricky one to answer, without knowing more about how you would plan to travel and use the membership after this quick trip. Seeing your fast traveling itinerary and where you plan to go I would first suggest you get a Passport America Membership, as your stays will be short and in many states where TT does not have a presence (eg. Colorado, Utah). PA will give you 50% off nightly stays (usually Sun-Thurs) and has a lot of parks to choose from around the country – here is the link: http://bit.ly/RVLPassport

          If the Map of Thousand Trails parks https://thousandtrails.com/explore-campgrounds/mapsearch appears to have campgrounds in locations that will align with your itinerary, then a TT membership can make sense to save on camping fees, and May is a shoulder season before Memorial Day weekend, which should make it easier to get reservations. TT also makes sense if you will be spending a lot of time in Florida as they have 3 campgrounds and plus many Trails Collection / Encore Parks to choose from (in the east and west). The Trails Collection is a worthwhile ‘add on’ for $299 if you believe you will use it for at least 7 days within a year. The thing to always keep in mind is this – Florida in the winter is ALWAYS popular and busy, so it can be harder to get a reservation, in Jan-Feb especially. Book as far as you can in advance for Florida in the winter! This goes for everywhere, not just TT parks. That’s where one of the upgrade memberships with a reservation window longer than 60 days is beneficial. But again, it depends on how much you plan to use TT, how long you want to stay each time and WHEN? Peak times and holidays are always the highest demand. You need to ask yourself, will a Zone Pass suit your needs, so you can stay up to 2 weeks at a time, then you will need to spend a week out of the TT system. Or do you want the ability to stay up to 21 nights and move from park to park without any time out of the system. If so, then you will want to consider one of the upgrade options. If you want to talk it through in more detail with a Membership Specialist, for new memberships (Zone Pass, Elite etc) you will want to talk to Jim and Brandy Reneau on 770-622-4188 or email brandy_reneau@equitylifestyle.com – but if you are considering a resale / used membership, then Kim Hoel is who you want to speak to – here is her email: kimberly@membershipoutlet.com – if you really are not sure how much / often you plan to use the membership and/or are only wanting it for occasional trips and vacations, then a Zone Pass is probably the best place to start… low cost, low commitment…and then if you like it enough, you can always upgrade later… Hope that helps! And glad to hear you love your coach! We are very happy with ours too 🙂 All the best!

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  6. What about annual TAXES on the yearly re-newel of your Thousand Trails Elite Basic Membership? I also heard there are ASSESSMENT fees. Some people paying $45 and others paying $65 each year. What’s this about?

    Reply
    • Hi there, Ah welcome to Thousand Trails which we jokingly refer to as “Thousand Contracts!” No two memberships are alike it seems, or at east, it used to be that way. They seem to be aiming to streamline things in recent years. I reached out to our insider contact at TT for an answer to this and here’s what they had to say: “If a person bought in a state like Florida or Washington, there will be tax attached. Sometimes when there are natural disasters (flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes and fires) there may be an annual assessment charged to help offset insurance deductibles.” Our contact says she has never seen it over $65, is states in the contracts.

      Also she says that members that have the older contracts may be exempt from the assessment. A person buying that resale will lose that benefit. Assessments have to be paid. And Assessments may be more for a member who has higher usage than a person who has less usage.”

      Personally, from our experience over the past 5 years, SOMETIMES an assessment 9usually $25 or so) is added to our annual dues, but they seemed to be optional. We have always elected to pay them as it’s so minimal and we get SO much use / value out of our TT membership that we were happy to contribute in ways to help improve park amenities etc.

      FYI we have an Elite that we bought used in the fall of 2014.Hope that helps!

      Reply
  7. why is it you have to pay for renting spaces. it almost more then hotels i am a member i thought i would save money. i tried to make a reservation in seaside ore and it said i couldnt make it i had to wait for sixty day before the dates i wanted. also can a member make two reservations like for family please let me know you can email me thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Don, Once you buy a membership, you do NOT pay for renting spaces. You most definitely save $ as a TT member. That is, if you use it. That is correct – in the Zone Camping Pass terms and conditions and in your contract, the booking window is 60 days. That should have been clearly explained to you when buying the pass. You cannot get family member passes with a Zone Pass – they would need to but their own. The upgrade memberships have an option for family passes (for an additional fee). If you already have the Zone Pass, pull out your contract and you will see the terms and conditions all laid out. Cheers!

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  8. As always, great information. I also bought my Elite on the resale market but in retrospect I wish I would’ve bought new. I had to pay a stiff penalty ($250 I think) to get out of my 4 year Zone Pass contract since I was buying someone else’s membership vs. upgrading my own (and of course I didn’t find out about the penalty until after I already bought the used Elite). In addition it took well over a month for the full transfer to complete, which cost me some very valuable pre-winter Florida booking time (makes me wonder if this is TT’s way of punishing us for not buying through them). And like you, I also discovered the 90 day max booking window for some of the OW campgrounds (and of course I didn’t find out until I actually tried to make reservations almost 4 months out and the system wouldn’t let me – had to call TT to get the answer). I should be able to re-sell mine though, but only as a VIP since that was also bundled with it and supposedly VIPs can be transferred twice. But we’re talking hundreds of dollars instead of thousands. So to anybody reading this and not sure which way to go my advice is buy new. The couple thousand more you spend up front you will be able to get back if you ever decide to sell one day. Plus TT makes significantly less on transfers so I’d rather see them get the full sale so the money gets pumped back into the system, which ultimately makes the campgrounds better for all of us. Again, hindsight is 20/20…

    Reply
    • Hi Andy, sorry the delayed reply to this email. Thanks for sharing your experience. We do cover the points you mentioned at “gotchas’ in our articles, so not sure if you read all of those first before buying your resale membership? We still advocate for buying both NEW and USED (resale) AS LONG AS PEOPLE ARE PROPERLY INFORMED and educated and know what they are getting into. We do warn people about buying the 4 year contracts if they suspect they may want to buy a resale upgrade within that timeframe, because of that penalty. We also alert people that resale transfers can take up to 8 weeks, especially during busy times… and to factor that into the timing of when you buy a resale, considering how far in advance you want to make your peak time reservations. There is so much to learn and understand about the TT system, and it CAN be confusing and overwhelming when you’re new or in the buying phase. That is why we strive to be very comprehensive in our very long posts, to help people know what they are getting into and to understand everything before jumping in. New is great for the reasons you mentioned… the immediacy of the membership is a big one, as is the ability to sell if/when you no longer need it… but resale is still of value, if you plan ahead and especially if you want a particular kind of membership benefit that is not available in the NEW TT upgrade options eg. no high use restrictions (VIP) which can be handy. Anyway, again apologies for the delayed reply, not sure how I missed this one… but hopefully the info may help other folks reading the comments too. All the best to you!

      Reply
  9. Hi, and thanks so much for all the info you’ve posted on TT memberships. You’ve shed a lot of light on a strikingly confusing topic! Just to give you an update, I did call Jim today to talk about a Zone Pass, mentioned RV Love sent us, but we were only offered the website price instead of an “unpublished” deal. Turns out the first place we wanted to stay was booked up, so we decided to hold off on the membership anyway because we won’t be around any other TT campgrounds for a few months. We full time and would like to try TT before dropping a ton of money of an Elite, especially if it’s difficult to get in to a TT campground. What has your experience been with scheduling stays? Thanks again!

    Reply
    • HI there and apologies for my oversight and delay in replying! Somehow this slipped through the cracks and only seeing now. Sounds like you were after a Zone Pass – yes it’s not common for Jim to be able to get any better deal on those than what is published on the website BUT they can often save you on the state taxes.. something to keep in mind. Either way, we’re only talking a few bucks on the <$500 zone passes, so don't worry about trying to get the rock bottom price on that as it's minimal compared what you will save by simply starting use it! but said, if place wanted stay was booked up anyway, may well hold off... bookings and availability can do change... keep in mind.... definitely agree best try tt with a pass first ensure like it before dropping bigger $ an elite... only determine is for way buy. re scheduling stays - rarely problem us we have elite 120 day booking window. long book advance popular places (eg. florida palm springs winter, maine oregon summer) are fine. sometimes still able snag res last minute well. i would say 98% of time, want when it...it's not unusual ahead move our reservations around. good luck!

      Reply

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