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After 6 years of life on the road, traveling as full-time RVers, we reviewed our biggest RV-related expenses, to see what this footloose and fancy-free lifestyle has really been costing us each year. We start by answering one of our most often asked questions. Is our Thousand Trails membership worth it?
In this report, we share what Thousand Trails has cost us, how much we use it, and whether or not the money we’ve spent on our Thousand Trails membership has been worth it. We have written a ton about Thousand Trails over the years, but this is the first time we’ve done such an extensive review after so many nights of camping.
A lot of people are looking for ways to save money on RV camping right now. And with Thousand Trails running sales on new membership upgrades from time to time, we hope that the information we share here helps you make an informed decision for your own RV lifestyle and budget.
We have so much info to cover on every aspect of the expenses related to our RV life since 2014, that we decided to break it up into a series of posts. This is the first, so keep an eye out for other articles coming up on our 6 years of full time RV travel expenses!
To find out the current prices and special promotions, contact Membership Specialists, Jim and Brandy Reneau, and mention RVLOVE to get the best price, guaranteed. Click here or call 770-622-4188 for more info
Making breakfast at Thousand Trails in Bend-Sunriver, Oregon
What Camping Membership(s) do we Have?
We’ve actually had just about every kind of camping membership out there! Passport America, Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, Good Sam, Escapees, Coast to Coast…. But the core of our camping membership arsenal is Thousand Trails.
Since 2014, we have purchased two different types of Thousand Trails memberships, plus an ‘add-on’. Let’s go over those, their key benefits, and what they cost us.
Annual Zone Camping Pass
Even before we started our full time RV life in mid 2014, we purchased an annual Zone Camping Pass with 2 ‘zones’ (there are 5 zones nationally) about two months before we hit the road. We wanted to start making our summer reservations 60 days in advance.
Back in 2014, this cost us $545 (plus tax) and enabled us to stay up to 14 nights at a time at 37 campgrounds, across the two zones. We had the South West and North West Zone with 18 parks each, plus the South Lake Tahoe Encore property which was included as a bonus.
We then needed to stay ‘out of the system’ for 7 nights, before we could stay at another Thousand Trails campground. Our ‘7 days out’ of the Thousand Trails system at other RV parks, usually cost us around $200-$300 for the week, depending on where we stayed (eg. state parks, private campgrounds where rates were usually $30-$40 a night, sometimes buy 6, get 1 free.)
Additional Fees with a Zone Pass?
Years ago, Thousand Trails used to charge a $3 nightly fee after the first 30 days of free camping, but they don’t anymore. In the 4 months we had our Zone Pass, after the free 30 nights we were charged for some stays, but not others – which seemed odd. We used 68 nights of our Zone Pass, so we should have been charged for 38 of those @ $3 each ($114) but we were only charged for about half of them. So, we estimate we paid about $60 in additional nightly fees.
We are glad Thousand Trails doesn’t charge the $3 nightly fee anymore, as it was just a nuisance more than anything. Occasionally you’ll come across a Thousand Trails campground that MAY charge $3–$5 a night for a handful of sites, say in a new 50 Amp section. But it’s rare, and we usually pick another site. We stayed only a few times in a site with this small charge, but we didn’t track the cost as it was so minimal. It is rare and optional anyway.
How we used our zone camping pass
Sometimes we would stay at a Thousand Trails park for 4 nights, then move to another campground for 4 nights and so on, then finish up with 14 nights. You can stay up to 4 nights at a time and keep moving every 5th day indefinitely, for no nightly fee, with NO time out of the system. But we work while we travel, and this became VERY tiring. By September, we had learned of a membership upgrade that would allow us to slow our travel pace, stay longer, and save on those “weeks out”.
We really liked our Thousand Trails membership, how much it saved us, and the friends we made in the campgrounds (an unexpected bonus). Even though we’d only had our Zone Camping Pass for about 4 months, we had already gotten our money’s worth. So we decided to take the leap and buy the more expensive membership upgrade, knowing it would save us even more in the long term.
NOTE: We cover the latest 2023 Thousand Trails pricing here. These days, you can pick up a Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass for $670 (or lower during special promotions).
To find out the current prices and special promotions, contact Membership Specialists, Jim and Brandy Reneau, and mention RVLOVE to get the best price, guaranteed. Click here or call 770-622-4188 for more info
Elite Basic Membership Upgrade
The Elite Basic is the entry level Thousand Trails membership upgrade, and at the time we bought our membership, it was the one with the most benefits and number of campgrounds. We bought this as a resale in 2014 for $2,500, but you will pay a lot more for one now as Thousand Trails has become so popular. Used memberships are cheaper than new ones, but we have noticed the price difference (saving) isn’t as much as it used to be.
These days, we see pros and cons to both new vs used, and the different options in terms of pricing and timing. We’ll cover this in more detail further down. In addition to the Elite Basic membership, Thousand Trails now also offers Elite Connections and Ultimate Odyssey upgrades. These offer more benefits, like a longer booking window and stays which can be of high value for many.
What our membership provides
Our Elite Basic membership still works just fine for OUR needs. We can stay for 21 nights at a time, and move directly to another campground, with NO time out of the Thousand Trails system. This means we save on those ‘weeks out’ which really started to add up.
Now we pay NO nightly fee when we stay at Thousand Trails. Just our annual dues which are under $600 a year for our Elite Membership. In December 2014 we paid $549 in annual dues, and in 2021 we paid $625. So the annual dues increase incrementally each year. Twice a year we can also extend our 21 day reservation by 7 days to stay a total of 4 weeks for just $29. We have also done that a couple of times.
We are able to stay at ALL of the Thousand Trails campgrounds around the country – about 81 parks across 5 zones. And we have a 120 day booking window which makes it easier to secure the reservations we want.
Trails Collection Add-on to Thousand Trails Membership
A few years ago (in 2018) Thousand Trails created a new membership add-on called the Trails Collection. This add-on offers up to 14 nights (per visit) of camping at 110 of their Encore RV Resort properties. Most charge no nightly fee, but a handful do charge $20 a night. We initially paid $199 in 2017 and it’s increased each year over the past few years. But the 2023 pricing for the Trails Collection is $370 a year. This add-on is included on our annual dues statement.
We jumped onto the Trails Collection as soon as Thousand Trails announced it. It was a no-brainer and amazing value for money. The Trails Collection more than doubled the number of available campgrounds we could stay at. And the annual fee for this add-on is less than the cost of a week’s stay just about anywhere else. We also like that the Encore parks in the Trails Collection offers more geographic diversity than Thousand Trails alone, around the country.
You can learn about the latest pricing and specials on all Thousand Trails memberships here.
Total Nights Stayed at Thousand Trails
So, how many nights have we spent in the Thousand Trails camping network each year, since 2014?
2014: 137 nights (68 on Zone Pass, 69 on Elite Membership for half year July – December)
2015: 200 nights
2016: 88 nights
2017: 132 nights
2018: 124 nights
2019: 126 nights
2020: 16 nights (half year January – June)
2021, 2022, and 2023 we are doing part time RV travel, not full time. But still stay in the Thousand Trails system 30-60 days per year. So our membership still more than pays for itself every year.
As you can see, we have spent a total of over 900 nights camping in the Thousand Trails network. That works out to be an average of 137 nights a year, or just over 4.5 months (more than a third) of the year.
More detail on nights stayed
You will also notice that we spent well over 100 nights a year in Thousand Trails during our first 6 years (except 2016) but hardly spent any time in 2020. That’s because we spent January-February driving around in a rental RV in Florida plus another RV rental trip in Texas, where we DID stay at Fun-n-Sun RV Resort. Shortly after that, we ended up boondocking for 5 weeks in the desert when the pandemic ‘shelter in place’ order was issued. 2020 was an unusual year for almost all of us!
We also have a really robust off-grid system on our RV now, as well as big holding tanks. This makes it much easier to camp off grid for extended periods, so we’ve been doing more of that. Then we traveled to Colorado to spend a few months. In 2020 Thousand Trails didn’t have any campgrounds in Colorado but now they have Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch.
Of the 823 nights in the first 6 years, we spent 231 nights (about 28% of our time) in Encore / Trails Collection parks, while 592 nights were spent in Thousand Trails campgrounds.
Boondocking in the Arizona desert
How Much Has Thousand Trails Cost Us?
We added up all of our expenses related to buying and using our Thousand Trails camping membership from mid 2014 – mid 2020.
This includes the purchase of our Zone Camping Pass and Elite Basic Membership Upgrade in 2014, Annual Dues on our Elite membership (2014-2019) and the Trails Collection add-on (2017-2019), plus nightly fees for Zone Pass extra nights and Trails Collection / Encore.
- Total Thousand Trails Investment: $7,242 (over 6 years)
- Total Nights of TT Camping: 823
- Average Annual Cost of our Thousand Trails membership: $1,207
- Average nightly stay: $8.80 (based on 823 nights)
Of course, if we used our Thousand Trails membership more, obviously we’d save even more.
Spending 137 nights on average at Thousand Trails means we’re spending 228 nights on average each year somewhere else! And paying quite a bit more for that.
If we didn’t buy our Thousand Trails membership, we would have spent significantly more on RV camping fees over the years than we have. Buying our membership when we were still RV newbies seemed like a lot of money at the time – but we knew it would save us even more in the long run and it did.
So, let’s take a quick look at that.
Spending the winter at Thousand Trails Palm Springs, California
How much has our Thousand Trails membership saved us?
What we would have paid for those camping fees, had we NOT bought our Thousand Trails membership? Let’s compare it to paying regular nightly rates at campgrounds around the country.
In our experience, most campgrounds and RV parks tend to range from $25–$80 a night, depending on the location and amenities. The midpoint of that is about $52.50. But let’s be conservative and base our calculations on $35 a night for an ‘average’ campground. Let’s keep in mind that weekly and monthly rates at campgrounds are often less expensive than paying by the night, so we think $35 is a fair average to use.
If we’d spent our average annual 137 nights of Thousand Trails camping at a non-Thousand Trails campground and paid $35 a night, it would have cost us $4,795 instead of $1,207.
So, based on that nightly fee, our Thousand Trails membership has been saving us around $3,588 a year.
That’s a total saving of $21,538 over our 6 years of full time RVing.
Of course, you can do the math on what the savings would have been at higher or lower nightly campground rates. As we said, we feel $35 a night is pretty conservative. And as you might have already discovered, it’s really is not that easy to find campgrounds for $35 a night anymore, especially at peak times and holiday weekends.
Remember, these numbers don’t reflect the total cost of ALL of our RV camping expenses! We are only comparing the number of nights we actually spent at Thousand Trails campgrounds, on average each year. We cover our total camping costs over the past 6 years in this article.
Meeting the animals at Thousand Trails Gettysburg Farm, Pennsylvania
How much could YOU save?
Let’s take a look at what our nightly camping fees would average with different levels of usage, staying within the Thousand Trails camping network. This may help you get a sense for how much YOU could save, if you were to use Thousand Trails for more or less time than we did.
- 100 nights a year: $11.56 a night
- 200 nights a year: $5.78 a night
- 300 nights a year: $3.85 a night
We actually know a lot of people who stay almost exclusively at Thousand Trails campgrounds – over 300 nights a year is common.
Thousand Trails tends to be popular with those on a fixed income, families, or anyone – like us – who simply wants to RV inexpensively, with the convenience of hookups and amenities.
For us, saving thousands of dollars each year on our RV camping fees has been HUGE. And of course, the savings could have been much more. But we are personally very happy with the mix of our travels and type of stays over the years, as we’ve had a lot of variety. Our travels are not ALL about how much we save, but it sure does help!
To find out the current prices and special promotions, contact Membership Specialists, Jim and Brandy Reneau, and mention RVLOVE to get the best price, guaranteed. Click here or call 770-622-4188 for more info
Cost / Benefit Summary of Thousand Trails
When reviewing our total financial investment in Thousand Trails against how much we’ve actually used the Thousand Trails system, this is our takeout.
For us, investing in our Thousand Trails membership has absolutely been worth it.
Being able to camp at Thousand Trails campgrounds for only $8.80 a night – for just one third of each year for the past 6 years – has easily saved us over $21,000 so far.
When we hit the road as RVers back in 2014, we really had no idea what to expect. Managing our expenses was important. And the way we looked at it, the less we spent on campground fees, the more we had to spend on other fun stuff. Things like eating out, adventures, activities and the occasional splurge on more expensive (non Thousand Trails) RV parks in prime locations, like Niagara Falls and Key West, Florida.
Our Thousand Trails camping membership is what has enabled us to do that, comfortably, and really enjoy the variety of our RV travels.
How we use our Thousand Trails membership
Some years we stay in Thousand Trails parks more than others. But we bought our Elite membership with a 3-year view. Our intention was to use it enough in the first few years to justify the larger, initial investment. After that, we really only need to camp 3-4 weeks a year in the Thousand Trails network to make it worthwhile continuing to pay our annual dues (ours are under $600 a year). And if we decide we don’t need it anymore, we can just cancel it. But we don’t see that happening.
Typically, we only stay at Thousand Trails campgrounds when it suits our travel itinerary. If we’re exploring the middle of the country where Thousand Trails doesn’t have many locations, we don’t stay at Thousand Trails. That’s when we’ll use one of our other camping membership options – like Harvest Hosts, Passport America, or Coast to Coast.
Knowing that we pay a fixed amount for our annual Thousand Trails camping membership and we can use it as much as we want – while saving us thousands of dollars each year in camping fees is well worth it to us. It’s been a huge factor in making our RV life financially sustainable, enabling us to keep on RVing in the longer term. And that is priceless.
Some of our favorite RVing memories have been made at Thousand Trails campgrounds, and we’ve met some of our closest RVing friends that way too. So while we joined Thousand Trails for the cost savings, it’s worth noting that these other, unexpected benefits to our membership have exceeded our expectations.
Playing golf at a Trails Collection park – Clerbrook Golf and RV Resort in Florida
What are Thousand Trails parks like?
A lot of people ask about the standard of Thousand Trails parks. And how easy is it to get a camping reservation at Thousand Trails? We’ll tell you straight up that Thousand Trails is not perfect! Some campgrounds are better than others, but we tend to pick and choose the ones we prefer to stay at more often. We have shared a lot more detail about the parks we’ve stayed at in our campground reviews. Most Thousand Trails parks are ‘good’ and some ‘very good’ and certainly worth the price we pay for them!
We can usually get the reservations we want when booking in advance, using our 120 day reservation window. But if we’re trying to secure a campsite at the most popular places during peak seasons, without a lot of lead time, then we may have to adjust our dates or find somewhere else to stay, if they are full. But we’re finding that to be the case at most campgrounds these days anyway – ones you pay a nightly fee for!
So for us, the positives of Thousand Trails still far outweigh any potential downsides. Just know what you are buying and manage your expectations and weigh up what’s most important to you. Upscale RV parks or saving money? That’s why we have shared so much about Thousand Trails over the years, to provide an accurate understanding of what to expect, before you buy. We have noticed that those who are well researched before buying a Thousand Trails membership are usually happy with it.
Campground prices are going up
We are definitely seeing a trend that nightly campground fees are rising each year. Along with increasing demand for RV sites, there are so many new RVers hitting the road. And more people able to work remotely. We’re seeing $55 a night on average more of the new norm in 2023. But we don’t have to worry about that so much with our Thousand Trails membership, as we’re now just paying our annual dues ($960 in 2022 for our membership plus Trails Collection add-on).
We like the convenience of booking online
Travel planning can be time consuming. And we don’t really enjoy having to research campgrounds for hours on end, or call around RV parks to check on campsite availability. We like the convenience of being able to make our Thousand Trails reservations online and adjust them as our travel route changes. Sometimes we do call the Thousand Trails reservation line, and find them to be very helpful.
As RVing gets busier, we have found call wait times can be longer than usual, which requires some patience. But again, we are finding this to be common with many campgrounds now, as they are all so busy. We don’t mind a little inconvenience when we’re saving so much money.
RV camping by the marina at Sunshine Key and RV Resort in the Florida Keys (Trails Collection)
How to Buy a Thousand Trails Membership
Well, we hope this article has been helpful! If what we’ve shared has you interested in learning more about Thousand Trails memberships and how you can save on your own RV camping fees. We’ve shared some additional useful info and contacts below to help you get the right Thousand Trails membership for you.
You have a couple of options for buying a Thousand Trails camping membership – new or used (also known as a resale). There are pros and cons to both so you’ll need to decide which is the best way to go for you. We’ve written a ton of articles to help you understand them all, which you will find rounded up here. Or you can just go straight to our recommended contacts below for more info and to get a quote. We’ve shared some key tips below.
Buying a New Thousand Trails Membership
Whether you are looking to start with a Zone Camping Pass or get a membership upgrade like an Elite Basic, Elite Connections or Ultimate Odyssey you can buy these directly from a Thousand Trails Membership Specialist. Your membership will activate immediately so you can start making reservations right away. You can also finance your membership with Thousand Trails so you can pay for your membership by the month, instead of paying a lump sum up front.
And, when you no longer need your Thousand Trails camping membership (say if you decide to stop RVing or your life circumstances change) you can sell your membership on the resale market and recoup some of your initial investment costs. Just keep in mind that the sooner you get a Thousand Trails membership the sooner you’ll start saving on your campground fees. That’s one reason buying new makes a lot of sense these days. You can start using it right away, instead of waiting for the resale transfer period.
It’s a good idea to pick up one of these new Thousand Trails memberships during one of their special promotional sales, as you will save quite a bit. You can get on the list to find out when the next sale is.
This is who we recommend you buy it from…
Jim & Brandy Reneau, Thousand Trails Membership Specialists with friends @ Fun-n-Sun RV Resort, Texas
Who We Recommend for Buying a New Thousand Trails Membership
Call Thousand Trails Membership Specialists Jim and Brandy Reneau on 770-622-4188 or email [email protected] – that’s them in the blue and white hats above at a German event at Fun-n-Sun RV Resort in Texas.
That’s why you will always get the BEST deal from Jim and Brandy when you mention RVLOVE (and even save $ in areas we can’t mention here).
We’ve had a long standing relationship with Jim and Brandy. We trust them to take great care of our RVLove community.
We guarantee Jim and Brandy will get you the best deal available – whether it’s a Zone Camping Pass or a membership upgrade like the Elite Basic, Elite Connections or the new Adventure upgrade – year-round.
To find out the current prices and special promotions, contact Membership Specialists, Jim and Brandy Reneau, and mention RVLOVE to get the best price. Click here or call 770-622-4188 for more info
The pool at Fun-n-Sun RV Resort in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas (Trails Collection)
Buying a Used/Resale Thousand Trails Membership
While you can’t buy a Zone Camping Pass as a resale (you can only get those direct from Thousand Trails) you CAN buy a used membership upgrade like the Elite Basic, Elite Connections, or Ultimate Odyssey. You can also buy some of the older Thousand Trails memberships like the VIP, Platinum and Platinum Plus. These have fewer campgrounds available, but some of those memberships offer different benefits, that are no longer available direct from TT and may appeal to you.
You will still be able to stay 21 nights and move from park to park. And buying used is still cheaper than buying new. BUT there are a few things you need to be aware of when buying used. These come down to time and money.
Keep these in mind when weighing up your options.
- Resales/Used Thousand Trails memberships usually take about 4-8 weeks to buy, process, and transfer ownership into your name, so you’ll want to plan ahead. During busy times, a resale transfer can take up to 12 weeks. This option may not work for you if you want/need your membership right away to start making your camping reservations weeks or months in advance. For example, booking your winter camping in Florida, California, and Arizona. We recommend you start the process of buying a resale membership 4-6 months before the date of your first stay, to be on the safe side.
- You will also need to have the money or credit card to pay for a resale membership upfront in full. While you will save money buying used, it is important to note that for MOST resale memberships, you won’t be able to sell it once you’re done with it. The full camping benefits only remain intact for the original purchaser (when new) and for ONE resale buyer. So if your situation was to unexpectedly change and cause you to stop RVing, you likely won’t be able to sell your used membership and recoup some of your investment (unless it’s a Platinum membership.)
If you aren’t in a rush to start using your membership, you have the funds to buy it outright, and/or you’re looking for a specific kind of membership benefit that is no longer available directly through Thousand Trails, then buying a used/resale Thousand Trails camping membership is a great option.
Who We Recommend for Buying a Used Thousand Trails Membership
To buy a used Thousand Trails membership, contact Kim or Chad Hoel from Campground Membership Outlet on 800-272-0401 or send an email to: [email protected] and mention RVLOVE for the best price and service. Or simply complete the quote form below and they will get back to you with more info on inventory, pricing and availability.
Used/Resale Thousand Trails (and other) memberships are available year round from Campground Membership Outlet. We have a great, long standing relationship with them as well. They will take excellent care of you! Just let them know you’re a member of the RVLove community.
Camping cabin at Thousand Trails Chesapeake Bay, Virginia
If you’re interested in getting a Thousand Trails membership but aren’t not sure which way to go, don’t worry! It really doesn’t matter whether you buy your Thousand Trails membership new or used – from Jim and Brandy Reneau of Thousand Trails or Kim and Chad Hoel of Campground Membership Outlet.
All of them offer a fantastic service and will take care of you, helping you get set up with the best membership for your needs, timeframe and budget. But, based on our experience, the sooner you get started with a Thousand Trails camping membership, the sooner you will start saving money and enjoying your membership benefits. Time really is money, in this case.
One thing we will say is we are SO glad we did our research in advance and started our RV life from Day 1 with our Thousand Trails camping membership. We were able to save on our RV camping fees right away. In hindsight, it would have been great to start with the Elite membership from the beginning. But back then we didn’t know it even existed. It wasn’t even mentioned on the Thousand Trails website like it is now!
Starting with the Zone Pass ended up being a great, low cost way for us to try out the Thousand Trails system before diving in. By the time we DID upgrade to the Elite after 4 months of full time RV travel, we were already confident that it would work for us. So we were not afraid to spend the larger sum of money, because we knew the savings would come back to us quickly.
Last but not least. We know that Thousand Trails certainly isn’t for everyone. But as we have shared, Thousand Trails has worked really well for US personally for over 6 years. And of course, we plan to keep on using and enjoying our membership benefits as we travel. We’ll keep sharing our experiences and campground reviews with you.
– Julie and Marc
How to find Thousand Trails Campgrounds
You can find Thousand Trails (and Encore / Trails Collection) campground locations and reviews in a few places. We always recommend reading up on reviews to check them out as they can vary quite a bit.
- Read our RVLove TT campground reviews
- Explore campgrounds at Thousand Trails website
- RV Trip Wizard / RVLIFE app / Campground Reviews (these are all integrated – you can search for TT campgrounds within the RV Trip Wizard Trip Planner using a filter as you plan your route)
- Campground Views
- The Dyrt
GOT COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS?
We would love to hear from you. Drop us a note in the comments section below.
60 thoughts on “Is Thousand Trails Worth it? Our Comprehensive Review”
I am curious about your stay. Are you staying more than 21 days @ a TT park? My membership limits me to 21 days. I then must move. I can go park to park, though. Thanks for all of your great articles. Very helpful and fun to read.
Our stay lengths at TT parks vary. We just spent 9 weeks in Palm Springs area for the winter. We spent 28 nights at Thousand Trails Palm Springs for a cost of $29 as we get 21 nights free and can use our twice a year privilege of an extra week for just $29! We then went to an Encore park down the road (Oasis) which is part of our Trails Collection membership add-on, for no nightly fee. And went back to Thousand Trails Palm Springs for another couple of weeks for no nightly fee! We actually had a 3rd week booked so could have stayed longer, but decided to bounce out a week earlier and head up the coast – where we stayed at a couple more parks in our Trails Collection, both very nice ones – Pacific Dunes Ranch and Marina Dunes – which cost us $20 a night each. Of course tax is on top of that. We had a very inexpensive winter of RV camping! Glad you enjoy the articles and find them helpful!
My family and friends of mine have stayed at Mt Hood RV in Welches Or for 39 years in up to 15 sites and this last weekend where the worst we have spent. Spending $90.00 a night some of sites did not sewer, and then some of the sewer pipes were broken and stunk awful. The manager was not helpful at all. We will not be back.
Sorry to hear of your experience. We stayed there a few years ago and didn’t have those challenges, it was a pleasant stay, but didn’t cost us $90 a night due to our camping membership. It’s not unusual for many of the TT campgrounds in the west not to have sewer hookups. Sounds like they had some issues last weekend that need to be fixed! One thing that we have learned, from ALL of our campground stays, not just in the TT network, is not to make a judgement based on a single experience as things can change over time. It sounds like your family and friends had 39 years of positive camping experiences in order to keep returning, but this last one was disappointing. We have seen many campgrounds struggling over the past year – across the board – with the increased number of campers. Hopefully they will get the issue sorted soon, as we found it to be a nice campground in a lovely area. Happy trails.
I have 3 observations:
1. This probably does not make sense for the casual camper who does not spend a lot of time on the road.
2. Because you calculated the costs going back to 2014, which were significantly lower than current prices, this would tend to understate the cost for someone who buys a new membership.
3. I believe that you are earnest in recommending this product, but because I think you receive a promotional fee from TT or those who sell the memberships, I can’t help but be a bit skeptical.
Hi Scott, thanks for your observations. To answer:
1. The casual camper who does not spend a lot of time on the road would probably be better off buying an annual TT Zone camping pass (or not!?). This has no contract and you would need to spend 10-14 nights to ‘get your money back’ on the cost of the membership. We always suggest people pick these up when they are ‘on sale’ – usually $100-$125 off or 20% etc – these sales come up quite often. There is no commitment/contract on the Zone pass and it’s a good chance for people to ‘try before they buy’ and see if TT is for them or not. Obviously they would need to check the locations and ensure they are in locations they planned to travel. But casual campers could also just pay for nightly stays anywhere they wish with NO membership. It’s personal choice.
2. The Zone Pass has changed structure since 2014, but it’s not more expensive. It used to be around $565 per zone! In 2014, we managed to get a BOGO deal so two Zones for the price of one. But those are no longer offered. Now you can buy a Zone Pass for $615 but with a 20% off sale it is $492. With a $100 off deal it’s $515. You can add extra zones for just $65 each now. So it’s actually cheaper. Re the upgrades – yes both new and used have increased in price over the years, due to increased demand, inflation… and in the case of NEW memberships, they have different offerings and more benefits. But you can still buy resale and save thousands of dollars, just know what you are buying and the conditions. Do your homework! We have written a ton about that here https://rvlove.com/thousand-trails – check out the upgrades post and new vs used. Resales have also increased in price since 2014 when we got ours, due to supply and demand. Thousands of people have learned about TT through RVLove articles! There is much higher demand for these memberships now, but they can still be a great saving IF you use them. Re membership upgrade costs being lower in 2014 (whether new or used) yes that is true – however, nightly campground fees were ALSO much lower back in 2014.. and we’ve really seen camping fees take a hike in the last couple of years. Which cancels this point out. You may pay more for a membership, but you also have the potential to save more on the higher camping fees that now exist. One of the things we like about TT is for one annual flat fee, you can camp almost as much as you like and are not as impacted by nightly campground fee increases staying at other private parks eg. holiday weekends and peak seasons when rates are often higher! We shared the math of our 6+ years of experience in this article so you could do your own calculations and determine for yourself if TT makes sense for you or not. Base your math on today’s membership fees AND today’s nightly camping fees, and how often you might use it, and weigh up the value for your needs.
3. We are earnest because if it wasn’t for TT, we would never have been able to RV full time all these years – and for that we are eternally grateful. We simply could not have afforded the lifestyle we lived paying regular camping prices. But that’s us. Yes, we are transparent in this – and all of our other posts – that we do receive a commission from TT if you buy a membership from them and mention RVLove/use our links – and you also get to benefit from a $1,000 or more discount on new memberships when mentioning RVLove. We have been writing in depth articles about Thousand Trails since early 2015, without ANY commissions at all – we didn’t even know they offered them back then. We just wanted to help make the road easier for others, because there was little information about all the different memberships back in 2014 when we were researching. We spent two solid months making sense of it all (because it was so darn confusing and still can be!) and wrote a couple of lengthy and thorough blog posts to help others understand it. Here is an example: https://rvlove.com/rv-camping/memberships/thousand-trails/upgrades – I think it wasn’t until 2017 (about 2.5 years later) that someone at TT offered to make us an affiliate so we earn commissions – which we obviously said yes to, as we were writing and sharing about them anyway, in our efforts to be genuinely helpful to others. And most people realize that those who create content also earn to earn an income to keep being able to produce it! Understand you may be skeptical, but we only ever share about things we truly believe in. We are always completely honest with people about whether or not TT is right for them, based on our understanding of their needs, budget and goals. And will often advise folks against it – if we don’t believe TT is a fit. That is why we go to so much effort to be educational and provide a lot of detail, so people can make their own educated choices about a TT (or any) membership. By starting with a Zone Pass, people can ‘try before they buy’ one of the upgrades and the outlay is very small, to have a chance to use the system and get a feel for it before deciding if they want to upgrade or not. Likewise, we always recommend people plan to use their TT membership in a way that ensures it pays for itself ASAP, then the rest is ‘gravy’. TT is NOT for everyone… and we say that throughout our content – but if you are on a budget and want to camp affordably – and are willing to manage your expectations around TT parks and the varying standards at times, then it can be a great investment and the difference between being able to afford RVing or not. Just do your homework, determine your own needs and priorities, and if you do decide to give it a go, then go in with an open mind and a positive attitude. We made it work for us, hence we shared our experience for the benefit of others. Whatever you decide, good luck and happy camping!
What about availability in TT campsites? The most difficult part I have found isn’t spending the money to stay in decent campsites, it’s finding available sites especially in Florida during the winter. Everything is booked so far in advance you have to get lucky with cancelations or constantly move from site to site park to park.
Yes, that is true – especially this year, being such a record year for RVing. And Florida is ALWAYS popular in the winter, whether you want to stay at TT parks or not. It’s just the way things are right now across the board. Finding campsites everywhere is proving to be more challenging than usual! We did a last minute trip to Florida a few months ago in Feb-March with a 45′ motorhome, and we managed to find a couple of 2 week stays at TT Parks with the Trails Collection add-on (Encore parks).I also tested the system a few weeks ago and managed to book all summer at various TT sites around the country – obviously some locations were much easier than others. and weekends were trickier to find availability. We often have to juggle and move around between parks, and sometimes we get lucky with cancelations. You just have to be persistent with checking availability, as people cancel/change/move their reservations and dates all the time. We usually try to book the busy/popular places well in advance to secure a campsite – our Elite membership has a 120 day booking reservation window for most TT parks (some are 90 days, and we have a 60 day res window for Trails Collection). I do believe it will be harder than usual for those with a Zone Camping Pass to get camping spots at the popular places during their peak times but not impossible. The key to finding campsites this year is definitely: 1) book well in advance if you can; 2) be flexible on dates and locations; 3) always have a backup plan; 4) be persistent and keep an eye out for cancellations (they do happen but can be harder at peak times). The challenge of finding campsites is something all of us are having to navigate right now. Hope that helps and good luck!
We have the same problem!We’re Thousand Trails/Encore members in California, and although we like the Thousand Trails resorts we’ve been able to book, we can seldom get a reservation. Our membership allows us to book 60 days in advance, but even two months ahead, there’s seldom any space for us.
We’re in our second year of membership and we will not renew again.
Ah sorry to hear that! It does seem to be harder to get reservations inside the 60-day window now that RVing and TT are so much more popular. However, people DO cancel and change their reservations often. And if you are patient and persistent, you can often find availability. One trick we use is to grab whatever dates we can – say 2 consecutive days at a park – then keep calling or checking the website/using online chat feature – to expand with more days on either side of that, and eventually get up to as much as 2 weeks! It does take time and persistence, but it can definitely be done. We just can’t always get a one or two-week block of dates within the 60 day window on the first try… but more often than not, we eventually DO get the dates we want (or near enough). Flexibility helps, as does avoiding high season! Wishing you all the best!
So , my take reading the Reviews ??? Half are Satisfied / Others Very Unsatisfied ! My life Experience tells me that one side is being extreme. In the 80s I was The Maintenance Director at The Lynchburg Va location. The problems then were finding decent employees ! The Truth. All membership companies Spend their monies where the members are spending their’s. I will visit the ones I would like to spend my time. Before I buy a Membership. A Quick walk thu will tell Me what I want to know. Thanks for your Detailed Financials.
Good insights! Thanks for sharing. Yes – that is why we always say to people, start with a Zone Pass first, try out a few different parks before making your judgement, and also try different times of year. It’s not hard to get your money’s worth with less than 14 nights stay in a year – and then you will have first hand experience to be able to decide for yourself before considering spending more money on one of the upgrade options. It’s not for everyone, but for those who it DOES work work, it’s great – we are so grateful for how much it has saved us over the years. And yes – reviews are to be read with a grain of salt. There are pros and cons to everything and those with an axe to grind generally yell the loudest and farthest! All the best to you and glad you found the article helpful.
Do you have any contact information for someone who could assist with a problem using the voucher that they give you with your membership purchase for a free week stay in a cabin? Son has a membership and wanted to gift me his voucher for a weekend getaway and membership services is telling us it has to be a week long stay. Makes no sense!
Membership Services is the right place to call and arrange!Why don’t you just book it via Member Services for a week but only stay the days/weekend that you want? You don’t have to use all the days. Enjoy your stay!
Father in Law had a membership for about ten years. 75% fulltime. For him it was a love hate thing. There were times when it worked out for him where he wasn’t too particular where he stayed and was flexible with his schedule. Biggest complaint was having a specific timeframe and area that required a park close by. I have since researched for our needs and come to the same conclusion. There isn’t a campground in my state. Trying to figure out the pricing and different levels not to mention the variability on the pricing gives me serious pause. I build my trips around specific sites and areas that I want to spend time. Researching member parks within an hour of many of these areas is futile. I spend my summers in Maine. Busiest season I know. Last I checked there were only a handful of parks in only 2 areas of the state. Works for some apparently but way to limited for me.
Thanks for sharing your experience John. Great to see you are doing your research. It definitely is not for everyone, but has been absolutely amazing for us, and many others. -M
Great Article – one of the best summaries we have seen on the advantages and costs of the TT membership. We also purchased a used Elite Membership in preparation for going Fulltime down the road. We bought this a few years before taking the leap since I could afford the lump sum payment while we are still working. This in an investment into a cheaper retirement living. Thanks again for the efforts in pulling this together!
Hi Nick, Glad you found it helpful.Having so many years and nights of experience in TT now, we fell, makes us qualified to be able to speak to the pros and cons of the membership. TT is not for everyone, but it has been a godsend to us, making the RV lifestyle affordable. Their campgrounds are far from perfect, but with the nightly cost of camping going up each year, our Thousand Trails membership (being a one time fixed cost purchase, and annual dues that don’t increase much each year) is another benefit, in that we aren’t impacted by the rising camping costs of other RV parks.It IS a cheap investment into retirement living, and the savings at TT parks help subsidize our ‘nicer stays’ at other, more upmarket parks. Glad you found a good used Elite! Wishing you all the best in your travels!
Do all of the TT campgrounds allow van/tent camping?
Yes – TT parks allows you to camp in vans and tents. However, Encore (Trails Collection) properties require you to be in an RV and NOT a tent (van should be OK) – check with the park you are wanting to stay at. Hope that helps!
We too enjoy many TT or Encore parks.. Like Kenisee too (if I could learn to catch more bass from the lakes) True the annuals take really good care of their sites for the large part. We’ve wintered in RGV of S TX and are moving to Harlingen at Tropic Winds Encore Resort (and yes many of the RGV Encore parks do qualify more toward gated resorts! Had Jim and Brandi over last year for one of our dances.. I had referred people to them (from other referrals I’d heard from & postings in various forums) even before I ever met them.. Except by phone.. Sounds like you recently stayed there in the RGV.. Was that Jim & Brandi’s home park? What a great area to winter and become a “Winter Texan” not a snowbird.. That whole area (almost as far south as Miami FL..) welcomes you with open arms.. And winter rates in the $400 /m & up range + electricity at some of their upper end resorts is still one of the best bargains out there. We camp almost 150 per year at paid Campgrounds. Thanks so much for the time and depth you two put into your articles, blogs, & vlogs. Safe travels.. If anyone is ever thinking about coming to the Rio Grande Valley (and South Padre Island) feel free to contact my wife and I.. We’d be happy to “share some of the insights we’ve learned from others” about the area.
Thanks you William for sharing your experiences with the parks you mentioned. Yes, we did visit the Rio Grand Valley RGV in January 2020. Mostly to visit Jim and Brandy at their winter location (their primary park is in Chesapeake VA) as they spoke so highly of the area for wintering and we had not previously been to extreme southern Texas yet. We had a great time and agree that many of those parks truly are resorts, and also love the ‘winter Texan’ versus snowbird open arm reception in that area. Thanks for offering to share insights with others too. Safe Travels and enjoy your new place at Tropic Winds. -M
Hi Julie and Marc, Thank you again for all the time you spend sharing this information. I’m shocked to read people making general comments that ALL TT parks are bad or that ALL TT managers are rude. Our personal experience as positive people with the sun above our heads all the time instead of a constant negative gray cloud is that if we check in to your campground with a smile and are nice that we get the same in return. Negative people usually get out what they put in. In fact, we are blown away at how “lucky” we get with great campsites and experiences just because we feel we have a positive aura energy around us that make others feel good instead of getting the creeps. Sorry that negative people feel the need to unload on you after you spend hours creating a reference of value for them. We realize that all those negative people can wallow in their own sh** and we will continue to enjoy life to its fullest. We followed your advice 5 years ago and got our used TT membership from Chad & Kimberly Hoel and it was the best investment we could have made in our full-time RV lifestyle. We can’t thank you enough.
Hi Brett and Cheri,
Thank you for your wonderful message full of sunshine. We really appreciate it, and agree with you completely about how when you show up with positive energy it nearly always flows back to you and can result in many ‘lucky’ benefits and experiences. Thank you for sharing your kind and uplifting message with us and others, and we are so happy to hear that you have also had such positive experiences with your TT membership. Wishing you every continued success and joy! -M
Well we took Marc & Julie’s advice and looked into TT used membership. We got lucky and found an Elite membership for $750! We also paid the transfer fee that TT charges of $750, so we had $1500 total in fee’s. We then bought the Trails Collection, which was by far, the best bang for the buck if you winter in Florida, Texas, Arizona or Calif. No regrets here, as we paid zero camping fee’s last year other than our original outlay. We don’t expect or want KOA so called resorts. We use TT to visit historical monuments, parks, etc. After all, we are only sleeping there! We have also found that we have been treated well at every resort and only found one we would not return to out of the many we stayed at last year alone! For full timers, this is a no brainer!
Thank you for sharing your experiences. We are so happy to hear that you have also had such a positive experience with your TT membership. Sounds like you got amazing value from your last year! Thanks again and safe travels. -M
This is another great article on TT. Before we went full time in 2016 I spent months researching the RV lifestyle, different manufacturers, and campground memberships. You were instrumental in guiding me toward our purchase of a resale Elite Connection membership and I’ve been grateful for your help. In two years we spent over 500 nights in TT and TC parks with an average “all in” cost of $9 per night. In 2018 we put our membership on inactive status and sold our coach due to health issues. We recently reactivated our membership and have begun using it part time. We’re hoping next year to go back to full time if all goes well. Thank you for the help you’ve given many newbies over the years.
Hello David, Sorry for the delay responding. Thank you for your kind words about the information we have shared over the years. Loved reading that you have enjoyed your membership so much and have gotten so much value out of your membership (500 days in 2 years) Sorry to hear about your health issue, but great that you were able to put your membership on hold until you are now ready to do some traveling again. Thanks again and safe travels. -M
I would encourage anyone new to RVing to buy the zone pass and try out some of the parks for a year. We bought the zone pass on a 4 year contract (discount given) and upgraded with a resale Elite membership last year. We added the TC when it became available. Your reviews match our experience, we love TT. You guys do a great service to the RV community with your detailed reviews and blogs.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience Todd. This will be helpful to those considering TT. We agree with trying TT out with a Zone Pass first, to ensure you like the campgrounds and system first, then upgrading if it you do. Knowing what one is getting into first and managing expectations is key to increasing the chances of a positive experience – like you and we have had. Thanks for your kind words about our content. Wishing you all the best!
When I bought my latest camper I received a free year in one zone. That was in February. I have yet to stay at any of theTT campgroundS. Every site I look at looks horribly packed in and little if any shade. I guess if you are into swimming pools and other sports it might be a good deal but as a widower with a dog can’t see staying at one of their sites. I’ll stick to state and federal (corps of engineer) parks. But thanks for the review.
Hi Rich, you didn’t mention where you are located. TT parks are all different, We have stayed at many with plenty of shade and you get you pick your campsite. The parks can be busy – especially from Memorial Day to Labor Day, peak summer season, But to be honest, that’s the case with many campgrounds these days as RVing is so popular! The amenities are appealing to many – but we rarely use amenities except for the laundry. TT is not for everyone but it’s worked out great for us. As a widower with a dog, we can appreciate you would enjoy quieter places without families… we like state parks too. Haven’t stayed at a COE park but we have heard they are great. You might prefer trying a TT park in fall when it’s not as busy, or even winter – but winter in the south does tend to get busy (everywhere). Wishing you all the best and glad you enjoyed the review! Happy trails!
Our experience mirrors yours to a degree. We started with the Zone Pass. Then, we decided we were gonna go Full Time and bought a used Elite membership. We found some favorites that we loved going to (like Palm Springs) and some that we either packed up within hours and found somewhere else to go or only stayed overnight. Unfortunately, after a year and a half we had to come off the road to become caregivers for my parents. But we’ve kept our membership and the moment we’re no longer “needed”, we’ll be returning to the road and to TT. For the most part, we love what TT afforded us to do and really wish they’d invest in renovating the more run down locations. You can see that in their heydays, these were beautiful establishments and it’s just sad to see them run down. In some places, it seems they bit off more than they could chew. And just need to gradually make basic improvements to bring them back to their luster. Slow and steady. And we’ll just keep doing what we were doing as well.
Well said Gwen. Similar experience indeed. Hopefully you will be able to get back out there in time. We are seeing improvements happening to several properties but you are right – it can be slow going – big infrastructure projects, getting the budget approved, city approvals and such… hopefully within a few years they will all be back up to an improved standard, but like you, we pick and choose. All the best to you!
My parents bought a used TT membership from a family member when they retired and had it for about 15 years before they decided they were too old to continue camping. During that time, we always had a family courtesy card, which started out around $30 per year. That allowed us to camp up to 21 days a year at a TT campground. Which was a great savings! Now they have passed that membership on to my sister, who bought it from them, and we have a courtesy card through her, which is now $109 per year. We are going camping with two other family members for ten days over Labor Day weekend and after, and we are still saving over $400 on just that one camping trip using the courtesy card. That is one benefit that you didn’t mention, and I’m not sure if it’s just a certain level that offers that or if most of the memberships offer that. But you can give family members a huge discount on camping at any TT park by getting them a courtesy card for about what it would cost for 2 nights of camping. We work full time, and so having the ability to get a reservation at a TT for about once a month is certainly worth it to us. We live in South Florida, and so we normally use Wauchula, though we have also stayed at the Orlando Resort. I don’t think that the “Trails” ones are available to us or the “Elite” ones, but they may offer a discounted rate (like 10% or something). It’s ok, we like the Wauchula one as it’s on the Peace River, and is a quiet campground. Yes, we have seen the quality fluctuate, and we heard that was due to less funds coming to them for maintenance, and things happen that are not expected.
For example, one of the roads had a long row dug up by a camper who drove out of his site and forget to lift his stabalizer, which dragged halfway up the road tearing up the tarmac until he realized it and stopped. They just didn’t have funds to call in a road repair crew for that one half a road, so it stayed that way until they could. I don’t blame the owners for that, its thousands of dollars to repair that, and they didn’t charge the camper who did it, though I think they could have.
I’m not saying it’s like that for all the parks, but I do know for that one park that we frequented enough to call it our “home park” that they did maintain it to the best of their ability, but sometimes irresponsible campers made that more difficult.
We also planned a trip to Williamsburg, VA a couple of years ago, and stayed at a TT campground that was about an hour away from the historic site. Saved us over $300 in camping fees because it was free to us. The family courtesy card is well worth the price to us at least.
Great point Beth! We did forget to mention the family courtesy cards, how fantastic you are getting such great value out of yours! And your family has been using the membership so much too. You made another great point about the damage to the campgrounds – these things do happen (camper damage) and a lot of people don’t think about that. It’s often to easy to just blame a big company, but from what we see, hear and know, they are definitely invested in making improvements – but it is often a bigger, more complex, time consuming and expensive proposition than people realize… Glad you are getting your money’s worth and more! Cheers!
OMG, if you need to make a long winded article on whether a TT is worth it or not than it probably isn’t. After your first page I lost interest. I would need to transform all of the useless information you just provided onto a spread sheet
In order to make comparison and at the end I was waiting for a toll free number saying if I act now I get free bed sheet too.
Worse then buying an extended warranty. There needs to be a better explanation.
Congratulations – you are the first person in over 5 years or writing in-depth articles to complain about and criticize the level of effort and detail we provide in our TT reports! Yay you. Really, there is no need to be rude and disrespectful to the amount of work we invest to help others. Maybe have a think about that. So let me summarize it for you in 10 words.
6 years, 823 nights, over $20K saved (conservatively) on campground fees.
That work for you? It doesn’t take a spreadsheet to work out if that’s worth it or not. The article helps answer many of the hundreds of questions we constantly get about TT. Sorry if it didn’t meet your criteria. TT has been well worth it to us. Sounds like it is not for you. All the best.
It is consistently bad. We have been members for 30 years. My wife and I bought our membership before we were married so we would have a safe place to camp with our expected family.
The plan worked great for a few years. As TT went through mergers and acquisitions, they gradually declined in quality. The last acquisition has destroyed the TT system.
The parks are not maintained. E.g. Lake of the Springs. Our new 40ft coach was scratched because the roads and shrubs were not maintained. The scratches are deep in the paint and cannot be rubbed out. Florence, Oregon has the same problem. We blew a tire pulling out of a site. (A large sharp rock was placed next to a drain, which I did not see. Shame on me.)
In general, we have found Thousand Trails managers are arrogant, rude and only support TT rather than provide help to their customers.
Save your money. There are plenty of alternatives to Thousand Trails.
Sorry to hear of your experience. It sounds like TT is not for you anymore. But it has worked well for us – the campgrounds and the service. Honestly we have generally found TT managers, call center staff and employees to be friendly and helpful. So not sure where you go, but it’s not been our experience. Many others like us are also grateful for an affordable way to RV camp, despite it not being a perfect system. We have heard things were different 30 years ago, but we can only base our report on what has been true for us in our 6 years of membership. There are options for everyone and ultimately it is up to each individual to weigh up whether TT is right for them or not. We are not aware of any alternatives to TT that allows us to RV camp around the country for so little cost – if you can please share some comparable examples, we would love to hear about them. Thank you!
We had TT for 1 year primarily because of St. Clair RV Resort was within 10 minutes of family. This place appeared to be a defunct campground that was re-opened WITHOUT improving any of the property. Many sites were on very uneven ground, the mini-golf course was ripped up and overgrown, swimming pool was “being repaired”, the game room had 3 video machines, 2 did not work.
Another camper voiced his displeasure stating that, as it was listed as a “resort”, he had booked a whole month in this disaster of a resort. Others we stopped at did not seem to be in the best of condition. Needless to say, we have not renewed because of the disappointment in their parks.
Thanks for sharing your experience – curious when this was, and what other parks you stayed at? We spent 3 weeks at St Clair and liked the proximity to Port Huron, Canada etc. It was a bit rundown in places but the pool was open. It is worth keeping in mind that all campgrounds will have periods where they are making repairs or things don’t work, we have seen that at upscale parks too on occasion. We agree – the resort term can be misleading for some properties. It’s always best to read reviews of places, especially before booking long stays. Sounds like you had the one year zone pass and were able to use it to camp affordably near your family. So hopefully you got your money’s worth in that time and lucky you were able to just choose not to renew after a year. We did find it eye opening to see the Detroit area in general has really suffered over the years and the entire surrounding city is in a state of disrepair, since so much of the automotive industry has left the state. One of the highlights of our stay was visiting the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and Greenfield Village – we had a wonderful weekend exploring them. Cheers, Julie
We are not members but did have reservations at their campsite at Mammoth Cave. Asked for a pull thru and reserved it. Got to the park and a member had moved to the pull thru so back to the office then they wanted to move us to a back in. We ended up canceling and moving down the road. The park wasn’t that great anyway. Don’t think we will try that again.
OK. no worries!
We tried TT because we were moving from Florida to NC. We made a reservation at one place that was sooo bad, we didn’t bother to check in. Rundown campers on blocks everywhere, bumpy, narrow roads, garbage throughout and they were going to shoehorn us in a space that couldn’t fit a car, much less a small class C. The next place was ok, but mostly liveaboards. Not a level site anywhere. No one was checking sites to see needed repairs. Roads again were filled with potholes and very narrow. We got there a bit early and the person at the desk said we’d have to wait cause she was busy. An hour later she finally got to the customers as rigs piled up. No friendly face, no customer service. If this is typical of TT in our zone, we’re done. We then stayed at a beautiful city RV park for a month till we closed on our house.
To us, not worth it. I hope TT will clean up their act and not call these trailer parks resorts.
Thanks for sharing your experience, you didn’t mention specific parks. They are not all the same, that is for sure. For occasional campers, perhaps TT is not the best option. But for full time RVers like us or those on a budget, or prefer to save their money on other experiences, TT can make the difference between being able to RV full time or not. From our experience in ALL 5 zones, your experience of customer service is atypical. But we also go in with smiles on our faces and a friendly attitude just about everywhere we go, and if someone seems stressed, overwhelmed or having a bad day, we try to consider what they might be dealing with and try to give them a smile of our own to help brighten their day. TT certainly is not for everyone, we like small city parks too.
We purchased a TT membership with our first Class C in 1998. All in all, sad to say as time went on it slowly became a monumental waste of money.
The quality of their parks took a nose dive in the 2000’s but ever hopeful we kept paying the annual $450 plus dues. We tried to to sell our membership but finally just stopped paying dues three years ago.
TT may be an attractive deal for seniors on a very tight budget, but the parks are in no stretch of the imagination resorts with perhaps the exception of two or three on the Washington coast and maybe Rancho Oso near Santa Barbara.
Yes TT almost went bankrupt several times over the years. It would have closed down completely if the current parent company, Equity Lifestyle Properties, had not bought it, and ALL members would have lost their investment. So while we empathize with those who bought TT back in the early days and have witnessed how it has changed, we can only report on the experience we have had since joining in 2014. For us, the cost savings have been worth it. We are not seniors on a very tight budget, but appreciate the cost savings and benefits it has offered us over the years. We like Bend, Palm Springs, Verde Valley, Kenisee Lake, Maine, Seaside, South Jetty, Orlando, and many others… We also like Rancho Oso, but as we work, it’s impossible to get sufficient internet to do so. It is not for everyone, but as camping expenses continue to rise, we only see more people being unable to afford nightly camping rates – and TT helps us overcome that. All the best.
We purchased a TT membership with our first Class C in 1998. All in all it was a monumental waste of money. The quality of their parks took a nose dive in the 2000’s but we kept paying the annual $450 plus dues. We tried to to sell our membership but finally just stopped paying dues three years ago.
TT may be an attractive deal for seniors on a very tight budget, but the parks are in no stretch of the imagination resorts.
Hi John, sorry to hear of your experience. We agree calling them ‘resorts’ is a stretch. We have heard the parks today aren’t like they were a couple (or few) decades ago. TT had a lot of financial trouble over the years and almost went bankrupt a couple times as we understand. Equity Lifestyle bought them a while back (more than a decade) and has been slowly trying to get them improved. TT certainly isn’t for everything, but as we explained in the article, and shown by the math, our membership has been very worthwhile for us. TT does not only benefit seniors on a very tight budget. We are 40-something working age professionals, and we like to RV affordably. Our TT membership has enabled us to do that, full time, for over 6 years – and for that we will always be grateful. TT is also popular with families, who otherwise could not afford to life the RV life. Is TT perfect? NO. And we openly share that in our articles in trying to help people ‘manage expectations’ to avoid disappointment. But we like to stay focused on the positive, and the savings we’ve enjoyed and the friendships we have made, have made our investment in TT worthwhile for us, and many others. Hope you have been able to find other RV parks and campground you enjoy more! All the best.
We were Tt members for over twenty years,visiting dozens of parks across Texas and the southwest. The last five years or more we have seen a serious decline in quality and up keep of the parks,dumpsters over filled,trees untrimmed, sites so unleveled you would need a wood stack to level up. Amenties closed, always being renevated. People living there with campers on blocks,a junk yard out front, few sites for large rigs. We cancelled our membership after attempting to sell for a year.thousand trails is a white trash trailer park and no more.
Sorry to hear that was your experience. We’d be interested to know exactly which parks you were staying at to experience this. We have found the standards to vary somewhat across campgrounds around the country, but there are many parks we really enjoy returning to – we tend to pick and choose. We’ve seen some parks in need of improvements and others have really been updated since our first visit. But we have heard they aren’t the same now as they were 20+ years ago. We know the company went into decline over a decade ago and Equity Lifestyle Properties bought them to rescue them from bankruptcy, at least as we understand it. It’s taken a while but we are seeing improvements to properties eg. Lake Conroe, TX – some more than others. At places like Kenisee Lake, Ohio, we noticed the annual sites were kept VERY well, nicer than the annual sites. but we have also seen some as you described. Point being, it has not been our experience that all campgrounds are as you described… when did you cancel your membership? We are still grateful for how much TT has saved us over the years as it has made full time RVing affordable for us and we’ve met some wonderful people. We must respectfully disagree with your closing comment, however, as that was rather a harsh generalization, and presume you haven’t visited all 80 campgrounds when making that claim.
One person’s level of quality is different from another. We have been to most of the parks in Texas and the sw region going California and a few in the tenn. valley and surrounding areas. Great twenty years ago but no more. The so called upgrades havent happened and it has been over a decade. The Conroe camp had some of the sites up graded but the majority of the park is still very poor.texoma park had eight sites open for members while all others were full time livers. Thus white trash trailer park, come on man.
Yes that is true – everyone has different levels of quality. And this is why we always aim to manage expectations for people considering a TT membership. Those expecting upscale parks will be disappointed, sites are not paved, not always level. Our priorities were managing our budget – and TT has allowed us to do that. We don’t spend a lot of time recreating in the campgrounds, as we work inside the RV a lot and go exploring elsewhere. But as a place for us to park our RV, have electricity, water and sewer (at most parks) it’s been great. We do pick and choose our parks. Lake Conroe had some substantial upgrades but interior roads needed attention – but they may have been improved as we haven’t been back in a few years. Kenisee Lake was very nice and most of the seasonal sites were beautifully kept, we found many similar in Maine. Some others the RV sites can be rundown, yes. But what we are hearing from you is a broad generalization – we do not agree this is the case for all TT parks. Some are certainly better than others, as we stated, we pick and choose and return to the ones we really like eg. Palm Springs, Verde Valley, Kenisee, Maine, Orlando, and more… plus Trails Collection / Encore parks. My point is this. The article was NEVER intended to be a report on the best quality RV parks. It was specifically about how much money TT has saved us over the years and if it was worth it TO US. And it was. That was our experience.We don’t expect everyone’s experience to be the same. If it had not been for TT, we would have had to spend an additional $20K+ in camping fees over the past 6 years. It has enabled us to afford to RV full time for the past 6+ years. Many we know are forced off the road as they can’t afford it. We don’t mind occasional average campgrounds so we can afford to also stay at much nicer ones when we choose. And there ARE many TT / Encore parks that we actually find to be very nice. For those who want a higher standard of campground all the time, we would certainly say perhaps TT is not for you. Of the 80 parks around the country, we’ve been happy enough with the vast majority of them for our needs. But each to his own. All the best.
Thanks for the detailed article. I’m curious about something. We’ve stayed at a couple of TT parks as non-members. The parks were fair to okay in terms of upkeep/quality, but the check in process was awful. After waiting in line, they take your money and then say “go find a spot and then come back and let us know the number”. In the Oregon park we had to drive around a large park with many tight turns trying to find an empty space large enough for our rig. I guess if there aren’t any suitable spaces you are out of luck. We have never gotten this kind of treatment anywhere else. We have avoided TT ever since. Do the TT parks treat everyone this way, or only non-members?
It is common / standard process for TT members to drive around the campground to find the RV site that will best work for their RV as all have different needs. We then call the TT office or drop by letting them know which site we selected. Some parks can be tighter than others, but it does sound like your experience was just ‘different’ to what you have previously experienced or expected. We have a 40′ motorhome and have never not been able to find a spot, but sometimes we have more options available to us than others. TT is a membership based campground network and the vast majority of people are members who understand how the system works. So I can understand how, as a non-member, if this process wasn’t explained to you it could seem a little unusual. Personally, we like being able to pic the site we like for our rig, but we understand others don’t like the process. Hope that helps!
We live in BC Canada and if the border was open we would be getting a TT membership but as it stands now I cannot see the point of it.
Yes, unless you plan to stay in the Cultus Lake campground in BC enough to justify the cost, now may not be the time for you. But if you planned to spend 2 weeks or more in a year at Cultus Lake BC, then a Zone Pass might make sense just for that campground.
How consistent is the internet at Thousand Trails?
We NEVER rely on campground internet at ANY campground, TT of otherwise. Internet varies widely at locations and campgrounds and towns across the country and so there is never a clear or satisfactory answer to this. We always say to people, if internet is important to you, get your own WIFI / mobile connectivity solution… campground WIFI across the board is too inconsistent to RELY upon. And we are speaking about campgrounds across the board – NOT TT specifically. If you are doing occasional email or web surfing it may be OK to use campground internet, but it’s also going to be a public network, which we also never use, for security purposes. Not sure if its the answer you wanted but its the best one we can give.