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Every now and then Thousand Trails runs special promo offers on their Camping Zone Pass, but even when they’re not actively showing an offer on their website, you can still probably snag a deal. In this article, we share our tips for how to make a good deal even greater and get more bang for your buck. In a nutshell, for just $565 you may get to choose 2 Camping Zones instead of one. It’s a fantastic deal and one we highly recommend for anyone considering trying out the Thousand Trails (TT) campground network, but it just may be possible to get a few more perks thrown in. Sound good? Keep reading…
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. Thousand Trails no longer offers BOGO Zones (buy one get one free) but adding a new zone is now MUCH less expensive ($65 per zone in 2021).
The Thousand Trails network is made up of 5 zones – Northwest, SouthWest, Northeast, Southeast and Midwest and offers 80+ locations around the country – click here to view a Map of the 5 Zones.
Basically, the Zone Pass is a low cost, low commitment camping membership for a year that you can choose to renew when it comes up for renewal after the year is up. If you’ve read our other blog posts about Thousand Trails, you’d be aware we started our full-timing travels with a 2-for-1 Zone Pass (Northwest and Southwest) which gave us a good feel of the campgrounds and saved us a ton of money on campground fees. We really liked the ability to stay up to 14 nights in a campground for next to nothing – having a membership reduces or eliminates nightly campground fees. A no brainer for full-time RVers like us! After that you’ll need to stay out of the TT system for 7 nights before coming back in again.
You can also stay up to 4 nights and move directly to another TT park and keep park hopping for as long as you like – as long as you don’t exceed 4 nights for each stay… When staying anywhere from 5-14 nights, the ‘7 day out’ rule applies.
As full-timer RVers still working, we found that pace a little too hectic and wanted to slow things down a bit. So after 4 months of enjoying the benefits of our Zone Pass, we decided to upgrade our membership which allows us to stay up to 21 nights at a time and move from park to park, as well as access 80+ locations nationally.
We discussed the TT Zone Pass in detail in our blog post “Is a Thousand Trails Zone Pass right for you?” and considering their latest offer, thought it was worth recapping on a few key points to help you:
a) Decide whether a Zone Pass is a good investment for you
b) Avoid being trapped in a Zone Pass contract that may limit you in the future
c) Understand how and what you can negotiate to get an even better deal!
So let’s get started.
Who is the TT Zone Pass Ideal for?
- Casual/occasional campers – vacationers, weekenders
- Part-time RVers – still have a regular home but like to travel RV for part of the year
- Seasonal RVers – travel seasonally by RV eg. snowbirders
- Full-time RVers – living full-time in an RV and wanting to try the TT campground network out first at a low cost/low commitment with a Zone Pass before deciding if a membership upgrade is worth the investment. It is good for those who are on the fence regarding the upgrade so you can dip your toe in the TT waters and see if it’s right for you.
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.
How to get an even better deal on the TT BOGO Zone Pass offer
Getting two TT zones for $565 is unquestionably a sweet deal, but in addition to selecting the two zones that you think you’ll be most likely to use, you can squeeze even more juice from the orange with these tips and a few questions to ask of the TT rep before handing over your credit card.
- Zone Switch Option: Check to see if you can swap out one of the 2 zones for another (3rd) as a one-time request during the year. We had the option of being able to do that with our Zone Pass and while we did not exercise our right to do so (we upgraded with a resale after just 5 months) we appreciated the flexibility this provided, as it essentially enabled us to travel and camp throughout 3 TT zones within a year (for the price of one) ie. you aren’t limited to just two. Also ask if the Zone change option is a one-time only Zone change or if you can switch a Zone once each year if you choose.
- Bonus Encore properties: Encore and Thousand Trails are both owned by Equity Lifestyle Properties, so ask the TT rep if they can throw in any bonus Encore properties as part of your TT Zone Pass camping membership. They often have special promotions running for Encore RV Parks, for example when we signed up for our Zone Pass back in 2014, TT included the Encore South Lake Tahoe, CA campground as one of our resorts and we enjoyed a 14 night summer stay, completely free of charge. Encore parks are located around around the country, with a heavy presence on both the east and west coasts. Click here to view the Encore RV Park Map and be aware that this map also shows Thousand Trails campgrounds, so these are not all Encore properties specifically. It seems that Encore and TT each have around 85 properties, totaling 170. Be sure to also ask about the new Trails Collection option that came out in August 2017
- Benefit retention beyond Year 1 – Confirm with the TT rep that if you choose to renew your Zone Pass after the first year, you will retain all benefits (the two zones, zone switch option plus any extra Encore properties) in your membership privileges for each year that you renew, not just the first year – check if there is a limit to the number of years you can continue to enjoy these benefits.
- No long term commitment – Check to ensure you pay only one annual fee for the Zone Pass (USD$565) and you will have no further commitment beyond the first year, should you decide not to renew. Important Note: At the end of the initial term, your Pass will automatically renew for additional one-year periods. You may cancel your membership by notifying TT in writing at least 30 days prior to expiration. Click here for Thousand Trails FAQs
- Pay the whole year upfront – Pay for your BOGO Zone Pass as a one time purchase, it’s only $565 so just put it on a credit card – one that will give you cash back or earn you points/miles for even more travel (like ours does), if you happen to have one. They probably won’t give you the option to finance it if you just sign up for the Annual Zone Pass anyway, and you may need to consider whether you really want to commit beyond the first year anyway (read on for the warning below that explains why).
Warning: Things to be Aware of
- Unless you are an occasional/vacation RVer that doesn’t plan to stay at TT campgrounds for more than say 30 nights a year, you are better off considering the TT Zone Pass for a one year commitment only. You can always renew it after the first year is up, but if you want something more then you also have the freedom to cancel the one year Zone Pass membership upon expiration (or sooner like we did) to upgrade to an Elite, VIP or Platinum membership that entitles you to longer (up to 21 day) stays and the ability to move from park to park with no time out of the TT system as well as access to more parks.
- If you’re traveling to multiple states, TT may suggest a National Camping Pass which gives you access to all 5 Zones. We DO NOT recommend this. Frankly, in our opinion it’s simply not a great deal. If you want access to all 80+ TT campgrounds nationally, you will get a MUCH better membership with more benefits and at a much lower price by buying a Resale Membership(VIP, Platinum or Elite) via Campground Membership Outlet, like we did.
- Finally, TT will probably offer you the option of their 4 year payment plan option which discounts the annual dues to just $425/year over the 4 years instead of $565 a year – saving you a total of $480 over a 4 year period) IF you commit to a 4 year Zone Pass contract. We recommend you give this a LOT of thought before signing on the dotted line. Why? Sounds like a good deal doesn’t it – a saving of $120 a year for 4 years? Here’s why you should really think long and hard about this deal before committing.
- If you think there is any chance at all you may want to upgrade your membership to a Elite, VIP or Platinum (as a Resale) to enjoy the extra benefits – this is especially relevant if you are a seasonal or full-time RVer as you will inevitably want or need a membership that offers you more than you’ll get with a Zone Pass. If you are committed to a 4 year contract, you will not be able to cancel/get out of it in order to buy a resale membership (at a substantial discount), but if you simply have a one year Annual Zone Pass, it’s already been fully paid for upfront and so it can be cancelled easily, thus freeing you up to take over a resale contract (note: you won’t get a pro-rata refund on any remaining time left on your Zone Pass).
- You may not want or need the Zone Pass for the entire 4 years (after all, anything can happen) yet you will be committed to paying out the full value of that contract. That makes it a $1,700 commitment over the 4 years and for that money, you could have picked yourself up a Resale Upgrade with more benefits for less money.
- With all that said, if you are more inclined to buy a NEW Elite membership upgrade directly from Thousand Trails instead of picking one up on the resale market, then your annual dues remain at only $425 a year for the 4 years, then annual dues revert to $565 a year. While we are big fans of buying a TT membership upgrade as a resale for the cost savings, we do acknowledge that buying an Elite membership new direct from TT does have its benefits as well – it really all depends on your personal needs, finances and situation – hence why you really need to think it all through and assess your future travel needs before making a commitment. One of the biggest advantages of buying new, directly from TT is that you can finance the cost over time instead of a lump sum payment.
So what’s the upshot? Be sure to fully consider your travel needs (present and future), the financial and contractual obligations and limitations, as well as the opportunities and savings – before signing any contract. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people will eagerly sign up for a ‘good deal’ without fully understanding the full extend of their commitment.
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.
If you are considering buying a TT membership upgrade at any time in the future – say if you decide to go full-time and/or after you have decided you like TT enough to buy an upgrade – you have a couple of options:
- You can buy a discounted resale membership upgrade direct from Campground Membership Outlet (average $2K–3K) at any time and you do NOT need to be a Zone Pass member first to qualify, thus saving on this initial $565 expense. This means you can put this money toward a Membership Upgrade from Day 1 as long as you are confident this is the best option for you.
- If you prefer to buy a New TT membership upgrade direct from TT ($5.5K–$10K+) and don’t mind paying the extra $ over a resale, you WILL need to be a TT Zone Pass holder first, so do consider this when doing your budgeting and overall anticipated expenditure. In this case, the 4 year plan with reduced annual dues for the first 4 years may be a good option for you.
If you are a full-time RVer (or plan to be soon) and are unsure whether a Zone Pass or Membership Upgrade (whether resale or new) is the best option for you, then we recommend you read the two articles below first as they will answer many questions you are likely to have.
And of course, you can always ask more questions in the comments section of the articles or email us. We’ll share our answers as best we can.
Finally, please note that we cannot guarantee if or when TT will honor a BOGO promotion outside of their advertised promotional period, nor can we guarantee that you will get bonuses such as additional Encore properties or Zone Switch option. We simply hope that by sharing what we were able to negotiate it will give you an idea of what may be possible and what to ask for. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like “Do you have any other offers or bonuses that would help seal the deal for me to make my purchase today?”
Who knows, you may be able to negotiate an even sweeter deal than we did! If so, do let us know – we’d love to hear about it!
Who to Contact to buy a TT Membership
To buy the TT Zone Pass
You can make direct contact with our trusted sources within TT Jim and Brandy Reneau (770-622-4188) – who are known for being able to pull off deals even better than listed on the website. We have met them in person and we like their approach as their focus is on helping people get the right membership for their individual needs, as opposed to trying to ‘make a sale’ – like others we’ve encountered, then walked away feeling queasy. And we’ve let them know what the people reading this article will be looking to get, so they should be able to get you the best deal available – just tell them you got the scoop from RVLove and they’ll know what we’ve suggested you try to negotiate (saves you having to haggle too hard!).
To buy a TT Membership Upgrade Resale, call Chad Hoel or Kim Hoel on 800-272-0401 or click their names to email. Let them know that you have read our articles – that way they will have a good understanding of what you already know so they can fill in any gaps and help guide you to a membership that is the best fit for your travel needs and budget.
How to say thanks
If you found this post helpful, end up buying a TT membership and you feel inspired to say ‘thanks’ please feel free to say you were referred by us: Marc & Julie Bennett, TT Member Number 298683360. They may send us a VISA Gift card which will buy us a round of drinks. Naturally, we never expect this but it’s always a very welcome bonus which we’ll graciously accept as we toast you and your new membership 🙂 Maybe we’ll meet up at a campground sometime!
We hope that’s been helpful for you! We know it can be a bit of a minefield trying to make sense of it all and, of course, we all want to get the best deal that we can.
And while we’re aware that Thousand Trails may not be for everyone, personally we’ve been very happy with them in the 3 years we’ve been members as it’s saved us a ton of money (literally thousands of dollars in camping fees), we’ve enjoyed many long stays (up to 4 weeks at a time) at some great campgrounds plus we’ve made many wonderful friends who we continue to reconnect with along our travels. Somehow, being a member based group seems to make all the difference in people being extra friendly and warm.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, we have no relationship or affiliation with Thousand Trails aside from being paying members who use them frequently and are happy with what we get for our money. We just can’t help ourselves when it comes to sharing tips and tricks that we’ve learned along the way and especially ways to save money!
Good luck! 🙂
Still got questions?
Please leave them in the comments section below so the answers can be public and shared for everyone’s benefit.