Disclosure: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost to you – we earn a commission if you make a purchase using our links. We only link to products and companies we use and recommend. The income goes toward supporting the free content on this site and community.
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.
2023 UPDATE: We just overhauled our Main 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 ($90 per zone in 2023).
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 Thousand Trails system for 7 nights before coming back in again.
You can also stay up to 4 nights and move directly to another Thousand Trails 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 Thousand Trails 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 Thousand Trails 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 Thousand Trails 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 Thousand Trails waters and see if it’s right for you.
2023 UPDATE: We just overhauled our Main Thousand Trails article on Zone Camping Passes with the latest information and prices. Jump over and read it here.
Bonus Encore Properties
Encore and Thousand Trails are both owned by Equity Lifestyle Properties. When we signed up for our Zone Pass back in 2014, Thousand Trails 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.
Adding single bonus RV parks to your membership has not been an option since Thousand Trails introduced the much better Trails Collection option in 2017. Read more about the Trails Collection here.
No long term commitment
Check to ensure you pay only one annual fee for the Zone Pass (USD$670) 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 Thousand Trails in writing at least 30 days prior to expiration. Click here for Thousand Trails FAQs
Warning: Things to be Aware of
- Unless you are an occasional/vacation RVer that doesn’t plan to stay at Thousand Trails campgrounds for more than say 30 nights a year, you are better off considering the Thousand Trails 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 Thousand Trails system as well as access to more parks.
- If you’re traveling to multiple states, Thousand Trails 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+ Thousand Trails 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, Thousand Trails will probably offer you the option of their 4 year payment plan option which discounts the annual dues over the 4 years. 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? 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 commitment over the 4 years and for that money, you could have picked yourself up a Resale Upgrade with more benefits for less money.
- While we are big fans of buying a Thousand Trails membership upgrade as a resale for the cost savings, we do acknowledge that buying an Elite membership new direct from Thousand Trails 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 Thousand Trails 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.
2023 UPDATE: We just overhauled our Main 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 Thousand Trails membership upgrade at any time in the future – say if you decide to go full-time and/or after you have decided you like Thousand Trails enough to buy an upgrade – you have a couple of options:
- You can buy a discounted resale membership upgrade direct from Campground Membership Outlet at any time and you do NOT need to be a Zone Pass member first to qualify, thus saving on this initial $670 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 Thousand Trails membership upgrade direct from Thousand Trails ($8K–$16K+) and don’t mind paying the extra $ over a resale, you WILL need to be a Thousand Trails Zone Pass holder first, so do consider this when doing your budgeting and overall anticipated expenditure.
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.
Is a Thousand Trails Zone Pass right for you?
All about Thousand Trails Membership Upgrades – Elite, Platinum, VIP etc
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.
Who to Contact to buy a Thousand Trails Membership
To buy the Thousand Trails Zone Pass
You can make direct contact with our trusted sources within Thousand Trails 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 Thousand Trails 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 Thousand Trails membership and you feel inspired to say ‘thanks’ please feel free to say you were referred by us: Marc & Julie Bennett, Thousand Trails 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 9 years we’ve been members as it’s saved us a ton of money (literally tens of 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.
44 thoughts on “How to get best deal on a Thousand Trails Zone Pass”
I have gotten so confused about Thousand trails membership, can anyone help please?
what is the difference between the Platinum PLUS and the elite family (full elite or VIP elite).
We need to be full-timers with 120 days advance reservation, since we are not familiar with the full time RV life we assume the cabins and all the rest or no really important to us.
Please if anyone is knowledgable about thousand trails membership help us out, especially about the difference of Platinum plus with the Elite family.
Hi Ali, of course! We totally understand. Thousand Trails can be soooo confusing! Took us quite a few months to wrap our heads around it all many years ago! Here, this article will help:
And if you reach out to Kim at Campground Membership Outlet at [email protected] and let her know RVLove referred you, she will send you the latest list of memberships available, prices, and the benefits of each. There is also e membership inquiry form you can complete in the blog post we shared above – you can simply complete that and she will send you the info with more details. She is super helpful, patient and will help you determine the best membership for your needs.
Let us know if you have any more questions, happy to help.
Did a cost comparison: when they offer $150 off one zone is the best value, as $150 is almost 3x the cost of one add-on zone. So that’s like almost getting 3 free zones for the price of one.
BOGO: $599 + $0 = $599
$150 off: $449 + $59 = $508
So, when $150 off, could get entire set of zone and Trails Collection for $984.
Thanks for sharing your quick summary of your experiences. deals are often changing with TT, and agreed that the $150 off is a great price. -M
One major complaint I have heard about TT is that reservations at some parks are non-exsistent. One may be able to secure one or two nights or no nights! For full timers like us who really do not want to make reservations months in advance this may be a huge issue for us, true or not true?
All depends on when and where. If you are trying to stay at popular places and at peak times, naturally they will book up sooner – as is the case with all campgrounds everywhere – TT or not. Especially as RVing becomes more popular. Saying “reservations at some parks is non-existent” and a generalization and untrue. Be wary of people who make sweeping general statements without specific examples and facts to back them up. Reservations DO exist at all parks – but expecting to get every res you want anywhere at anytime without notice is just not reasonable. Anywhere. Those in high demand will always book up first. We tend to make our reservations in advance and move them around as it gets closer, depending on our schedule. We don’t stay in TT all the time, ye helps subsidize ALL of our camping costs. But we sure do like being able to stay there as much as we can and it saves us thousands every year. We have reservations in the system through to August/September, but will likely change them around some as it gets closer. We have been members for 5 years and it works well for us. TT isn’t perfect, but financially it would be hard for us to full-time without it. If you book with at least some notice – especially outside of the peak periods, like Florida in the winter – you should be able to get reservations without too much of a problem. Booking window depends on your membership type. We have an Elite with 120 day advance booking window (90 for some campgrounds). Hope that helps!
What fees (if any) do Jim Randell and Chad & Julie Hoel charge for their services? Thank you.
Marc & Julie Bennett, TT Member Number 298683360. They may send us a VISA. Yes read interesting articles on rving full time weighing options thank you .
Great article. My questions are as following:
1. If you buy RE-SALE membership, do you have to pay anything extra to TT ????
2. Can you purchase the Odyssey membership like the Elite???
I have a friend that I finally convinced to go Full-Time with me. They told me about your site and have read it all. They are concerned about the pricing. I recommend to start no low than Elite. So with I have told them and this article, I think they are ready to join. Thanks Again for a wonderful article.
In answer to your questions:
1. The price on re-sale memberships will have the Thousand Trails transfer fee (typically $750) included in the total price quoted. You would not pay anything direct to TT. The broker handles everything and goes via escrow. They will be transparent about all that with you.
2. If there is an Odyssey membership available through the broker, then sure you should also be able to buy that, but I believe they are fairly new and so may not be available…. it is completely variable and based on supply/demand.
If your friend is concerned about pricing, a resale Elite is a great way to go – or even a VIP or Platinum – it will depend on where and how they plan to travel. Kim at Campground Membership Outlet is excellent at helping people get into the right memberships. For example, if they don’t plan on spending much time on the east coast, they may not need the Elite as that is what has most of the east coast parks. Glad to know the article helped them! Thanks for your kind words. Happy Trails!
Is there any way to buy an Encore membership instead? We spend a lot of time in Florida and Ga and there are so many Encores but not many TT’s. Thanks!
Thousand Trails memberships can provide discounts on Encore parks, and there is another membership called Ready Camp Go to consider as well. Chad and Kim at Campground membership outlet (mentioned in our other Thousand Trails article regarding upgraded memberships) can help provide additional detail after you read that second article.
You guys rock! My Dad had one of the original TT memberships many years ago and swore by the savings it gave him over 6 years of FT RVing. Now we’re considering dipping our toes in the water with some snowbird RVing and maybe a possible move to FT in the future. This article was a great in helping us understand the options that are now available and I really appreciate the contacts as well – we’ll be sure to pass along your name as a reference!
Great – yes we love how much it saves us – more money for playing, eating out etc! Cheers!
Hi Marc and Julie!
So grateful I came across your posts on TT today…I have been stressing a bit about anticipated RV park costs as we prepare to go full-time in June. Since we are uncertain at this point whether we will continue after the first year, your info about getting a BOGO on Zone Passes + bonuses was PERFECT. I think that is how we will most likely start out here in the next few weeks…and I will absolutely mention your names when I talk to Jim.
Thank you so much for your thorough and enlightening post! I believe it will make this next year traveling with my family even more enjoyable and stress free.
Hope to see you on the road! Cheers.
HI Todd, SO glad to hear this was helpful and gave you some peace of mind, knowing your camping costs can be managed through TT is a huge benefit to us RVers. Say hi to Jim, he will take care of you 🙂 Enjoy your travels and yay for no stress! See you on the road!
I’m soon to be a Mississippi Resident, thus not eligible for the TT passes. Does TT offer other memberships in which I could use?
(P/T camper w/ 3-5 yr contract) would be great, thanks.
HI Kenneth, I think you emailed me separately withy our question and I answered you, yes? If not, then anyone is eligible to buy a TT membership, but they don’t have any campgrounds in Mississippi – if you travel to other states you could use them there where TT has campgrounds.
Julie, thank you for the research and time you have committed to explaining the TT memberships. The TT site is vague and not that helpful, by design I’m sure. I plan on calling your contact person in the next few days and I’ll be sure to mention your name. Thanks again! Kelly
Hi Kelly, yes I suspect you are right about being ‘vague and not helpful, by design’ – glad you found the info helpful and rest assured – the contacts I have shared numbers/email for in the article will take good care of you. Thank you for your note and for mentioning our name, always appreciated. Cheers! Julie
Julie and Marc–thanks for all the work you did and for sharing your analysis with the rest of us! One thing I’m wondering about and haven’t seen addressed is: how difficult (or easy!) have you found it to make reservations when and where you’d like? Our experience years ago with a different camping membership was challenging–we could rarely get a reservation, which meant we had “free” camping privileges but mostly ended up paying to camp in other parks. What’s your experience been with TT?
Hi Donna, so glad you found the article useful! That is an excellent question and I’m happy to answer. We have never had a problem getting a booking at TT unless it’s last minute during peak season at popular parks. We tend to make advance reservations anyway (and often adjust dates slightly as the time draws near) and even when we just had a zone pass (60 day advance res window) we always got the reservations we wanted. Even at peak times. Now we have an Elite membership we can book 120 days ahead so I always get reservations. If you show up without a reservation at many popular parks (especially during peak) they may not have availability eg. Thousand TRails Palm Springs during winter – but it’s never been an issue for us. Hope that helps!
Just was you to know how much my husband and I appreciated you breaking down the various memberships. We had been with Outdoor World for 25 years. We are planning to start rving again and spoke with Jim Randell who was very informed about the various memberships. Thank you for your information.
Great thanks for letting us know! We really enjoy our TT membership, we started with a Zone pass and now have an Elite upgrade (which we bought as a resale, saving a few thousand dollars) so if you are planning to RV full-time, I would recommend you also read that article. If not going full-time then the Zone Pass is a fantastic option and excellent value. Hope you enjoy it too!
We read all your TT articles and armed with this info we were able to snag 2 zones (running special right now), zone switching option, and
6 Encore properties in Florida! It helps to know what to ask for. Thanks for all your work, it really helped us newbie full timers. Hope to see you out there. I gave your referral info so you should get a $50.00 gift.
Love your other content too.
HI Bob, wow you got a bonus 6 parks in Florida – that is AMAZING! Nice negotiating my friend. Really great bargain you got there! Thanks for sharing our info – we’ll toast you over a nice dinner! Cheers and enjoy the benefits and savings!
Thanks for sharing all the wonderful information. I have a question (sorry if its been answered or if I missed it in the blogs)…
For the upgraded TT membership, example the elite, where you can stay 21 nights before going to another TT site. Can you hop between the same two TT sites every 21 nights indefinitely? Or at least several months?
We are thinking of RVing full-time for a couple years. I’m a registered nurse and can do travel nursing, but would have to stay in the general area of my assignments for 13 weeks at a time. So just wondering if we were at an assignment and had 2 TT sites nearby if we can hop back and forth at the same sites, every 21 nights?
Hi Ron, our pleasure. Yes with an Elite (or any of the other upgrade resale options like Platinum, VIP) you can theoretically hop between TT parks 21 days at a time. The only exception might be if you were staying in parks affected by the high use restriction in peak periods. For example: Palm Springs, CA, Any TT Florida parks in the winter… or a handful of the Oregon and other popular parks during the peak summer holiday periods. TT only lets you have 2 high use reservations in the system at any time, so for example peak periods and holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s etc. Also during the peak periods, like Florida in the winter, you have to stay out of a part 28 days before returning (it’s usually 7 to return to the same park). It probably would not present a problem most of the time but you might need to have a back up plan during those times. That said, there is one membership option that you can buy on the resale market where high use restrictions don’t apply (I can’t remember if it’s the VIP or Platinum, it’s one of those, maybe VIP?) but if you call Chad at Campground Membership Outlet he’ll be able to clarify. Let him know we said hi and that we said he would get you sorted with a great membership for your needs. Hope that helps Good luck!
Another great TT article. Thanks Julie and Marc!
Hi Julie, my husband and we’re just talking about TT, wondering if we should buy a zone or two on the east coast. We live NY and our house has been put up for sale and thought the passes might be helpful while exploring the east coast before heading west. Of course where we head will be determined by when we sell the house. We will look into this and will definitely give your names as referrers. Ta muchly for taking the time to share with us, your readers.
Yes the zone pass it a great low cost investment to get started and see how you like it (TT campgrounds). Be sure to get the 2 for 1 deal (and extras) but if anyone can swing it for you out of an official promo period, it’s Jim. We enjoyed our time on the east coast as well as west…
as usual a very informative post thank you so much .We enjoy reading your blog !
In our preparation to full time we have thought about membership camping. This provides a lot of information but one question also. We have a 40 foot motorhome and will be pulling a 25 foot long car hauler . Our overall connected length will be 65 feet.
My question is From your stays in many thousand trail parks have you found that to be a limiting factor or just plain not possible at all in many TT parks.? Having the car trailer is a limiting factor for us to be sure but one we find we must deal with at this time.
Thanks again for your wonderful blog keep posting, we will keep reading !
Great – glad you found it helpful. We have friends with a similar setup to you and they stay at TT often. Some parks you will be limited (eg. Oakzanita Springs in CA is difficult for any rig 40′ or over, regardless of trailer/toad) but a great many will be able to accommodate you and your trailer just fine. I would recommend calling ahead of time to check before you make your reservations. Perhaps TT Member Services has some info on how many of the 80 campgrounds can accommodate rigs of your size – give them a call to ask. Good luck and thanks for the positive feedback!
Most parks has an OVERFLOW parking for extra vehicle. I have NEVER used it but giving them a call and see if there are any additional charges.
Also the Bennett’s, very nice article. Wish I knew this info before up-grading to Odyssey. I like the 28 days stay at a time, then park to park.
Yes, good point – thanks for the tip! 28 days park to park would be very nice indeed. We can only do 28 days twice a year by paying $29 for the extra week on top of 21 days. But to be honest we have only used that privilege once in 2 years… we get itchy feet after 3 weeks! LOL
Bought the TT BOGO just as you described. Asked for everything that you said to ask for and got it! 1 year commitment, 2 zones + one Encore property with zone switch option. We are brand new, bought our RV in March, planning on being on the road most of this year and going full time early next year (selling our house, etc.). Thanks for the great site!
Great to hear! Did you buy it via Jim or the call center? Hope he took good care of you, sounds like you got a great deal 🙂 Yay!
Hi Julie, I purchased via the call center. I overlooked your recommendation for Jim and your TT number – doh. I felt terrible because I benefited so much from your post, so I called my rep @TT back and had him add you and Mark as the referrers and gave him your TT number (yesterday). Hopefully everything falls in place and you get the referral – it’s the least we, your readers, can do!
Oh thanks Louis, that’s nice of you! Many thanks 🙂
How much discount do you get at TT camp grounds on average.
Hi Sharon, I am not quite sure what you mean as you don’t get a ‘discount’ so much as much cheaper overall camping because of the membership options. Once you pay your membership/annual fee, TT is free (or $3 a night for Zone Pass after first 30 nights). I would say the average non TT campground costs $30-40 a night and we would average paying $5-$10 a night at TT overall. Hope that helps. If you haven’t already, suggest you read our posts on Thousand Trails membership types which explain in quite a lot of detail the costs, benefits and structure. Just click the related TT image at the top of our website (revolving images) to go to the article for upgrades, there is a link to the in depth Zone Pass article from there too.
You guys are the best! I’m still a couple of years away from purchasing an RV but I learn a lot from those of you willing to share your experiences. Thanks!
Great, we’re happy to share! 🙂