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Whether you’re already a Thousand Trails (TT) member – with a Zone Pass or one of the upgrade options like Elite, Platinum, VIP, Alliance, Odyssey etc – you’re going to want to check out the “Trails Collection” offering by Thousand Trails. This post will help you consider if it’s worthwhile adding this extension onto your existing membership. The Trails Collection is basically a selection of Encore RV Parks (Encore and Thousand Trails are owned by the same parent company, Equity Lifestyle Properties) and so it’s an attractive way to dramatically expand your camping options for a bargain price.
UPDATED 6/16/2021: This article has been updated to reflect the 2021 price for the Trails Collection add-on (post originally published in 2017).
What you will learn
In this article, we’ll give you the lowdown, along with the benefits and limitations, to help you understand how the Thousand Trails Trails Collection works. And help you decide if you’re ready to pull your credit card out and snag one of these while you can. You will notice I use the term “Trails Collection” and “Encore RV Parks” interchangeably. Just know it’s the same thing.
The ‘Trails Collection’ is (from what I can see) ‘Thousand Trails branded terminology’ for a group of Encore RV Resorts that are now being made more affordable and accessible to new and existing Thousand Trails members. It’s a marketing term that simply distinguishes the Thousand Trails parks from the Encore parks. But first, for the benefit of those of you who may not be familiar with Thousand Trails and their camping memberships, let’s start with a brief introduction before diving into the detail. If you are already a TT member and familiar with how it works, you can jump down to the features and benefits, rules and limitations section.
We recently learned about the new “Trails Collection” while staying at the Thousand Trails campground in Bend-Sunriver, Oregon. Occasionally, while staying at a Thousand Trails campground, we’ll drop into one of their sales presentations to see if we can learn something new or different to share with you all. This one turned out to be a serendipitous drop-in indeed. And well worth our time. If you’re a full-time RVer like us – or even an extended stay / part-time RVer – it’s pretty well known that it’s pretty hard to beat the value for money offered by a Thousand Trails camping membership (we consider it a no-brainer, but also understand, it may not be for everyone).
With 81 campgrounds available around the country that you can stay at ‘for free’ (after buying a membership and paying your annual dues) it makes our RV lifestyle extremely affordable and we consider it a no-brainer for full-timers especially. If you’re spending at least 30 nights a year in a Thousand Trails campground, it’s virtually impossible to find a cheaper way to camp. For us, it’s actually less expensive staying in Thousand Trails campgrounds than boondocking, which is one of the reasons we do it so often. We get water and electric hookups, sewer (most of the time), access to a laundry, pool, hot tub and more… plus it’s become one of our best ways to meet fellow RVers and find community. Many of our RVing friends also stay in Thousand Trails often, so a campground stay can often turn into a reunion!
Expanded camping options
So when we discovered a way to expand our camping network from 81 parks to 191, we were all ears! We showed up at the presentation, hosted by Jim and Brandy Reneau who provided wine slushies, cheese and crackers, and settled in to get the scoop. We have to say, it was actually the most enjoyable TT presentation we’ve ever attended. Jim and Brandy were laid back, friendly, fun and patiently answered our many questions. (It was definitely a welcome change from the overly pushy salesman I encountered at a TT presentation at one of the Texas campgrounds last year.)
Let’s get back to the Trails Collection and what you get for just $315 a year! (Note: originally $199/year, but price has increased annually since it was first offered in 2017. It’s still a bargain.)
In August 2017, Thousand Trails introduced the new Trails Collection camping option that can be added onto ANY Thousand Trails membership. That means Zone Passes AND any/all of the upgrade options. Regardless of whether you bought it new direct from Thousand Trails or whether you picked up a discounted, resale membership as we did back in 2014.
The Trails Collection essentially makes a large number of Encore RV Parks available to Thousand Trails members for free (after purchase). Encore and Thousand Trails are owned by the same company, Equity Lifestyle Properties, which seems to be taking steps to consolidate the brands.
In a nutshell, for just $315 per year, the Trails Collection adds around 110 Encore RV Parks to your existing Thousand Trails membership, which allows you to stay up to 14 days at a time at any available Encore property for free, multiple times a year.
There is NO nightly fee (not even the $4 nightly resort fee) for 92 of the properties, but for 18 of the higher end/more popular Encore properties such as San Francisco RV Resort, there is a $20 per night fee, plus taxes. Considering the retail rates for this particular park can be well over $100 a night, this still makes for an awesome deal. The Trails Collection is essentially a group of Encore Properties – not all of them, but 110 of them, a significant number. They are considered “Affiliated Resorts” so it’s not exactly the same as simply expanding the 81 Thousand Trails camping network to 190, but kind of.
OK, let’s dig into the key features and benefits of the Trails Collection
Photo: Our campsite at Thousand Trails in Bend, Oregon with TT reps Jim and Brandy Reneau and their awesome dogs Cash (Mastif) and Princess (King Charles Spaniel)
Features and Benefits of the Trails Collection
- There are 110 Encore RV parks that are added onto your TT membership
- When combined with Thousand Trails parks, you gain access to a total of up to 191 campgrounds/RV parks nationwide
- You can stay up to 14 nights at a time at any park
- There is no fee to stay at 92 of the Encore RV Parks in the Trails Collection, but 18 parks charge a nightly fee of $20 + tax
- You can make advance reservations up to 60 days in advance
- The Trails Collection add-on currently costs $315 per year
As you can see, the Trails Collection is likely to be a pretty attractive option for just about any Thousand Trails member, regardless of your membership type, as it automatically expands your camping access by 110 parks ON TOP of what you already have included in your membership, no matter which kind you have.
What I find interesting is that even people with a single annual Zone Camping Pass (a single Zone/region costs $615 per year as at January 2021) will be able to add the 110 Trails Collection (Encore) parks NATIONALLY onto their membership. This makes for a pretty incredible deal. But remember, if you want longer stays (up to 21 nights) and have the ability to go park-to-park with no time out of the TT system, you will want to consider an upgrade option, like the Elite, VIP, Platinum etc and while these are more expensive (usually in the thousands) they are still very worthwhile for people who get a lot of use out their membership, as we do.
UPDATE: In 2020, Thousand Trails introduced the Adventure Membership, with the exclusive Trails Collection PLUS add-on. This gives you the the ability to book Trails Collection (Encore) parks 90 days in advance and stay up to 21 nights and also move directly from park to park. This is a HUGE benefit for those who travel extensively and like to stay at Thousand Trails / Encore parks a lot.
Photo: Our campsite at the Encore Mt Hood RV Resort in Oregon
Rules and Limitations of the Trails Collection
There are, of course, some gotchas that you need to be aware of. Yup, the fine print! But don’t worry, they aren’t too bad.
- If you are Zone Pass holder spending 5 or more nights at a park (TT or TC) you must stay out of the TT/TC system for 7 days before going to another park
- If you have a TT membership upgrade (Elite, Elite Connections, Odyssey, Platinum, VIP, Alliance etc) with park to park privileges, the ‘7 days out rule’ does NOT apply
- You cannot move directly from park to park with Trails Collection properties like you can with the TT membership upgrades
- You cannot make back to back reservations. For Trails Collection parks like you can with Thousand Trails, no matter which kind of membership you have. ie. You can go from Thousand Trails to Encore to Thousand Trails but you cannot move directly from Encore to Encore Parks within the Trails Collection
- Reservations are subject to availability and not all sites are available for Trails Collection members (eg. premium sites)
- Every park has a minimum of 10 sites allocated to Trails Collection members (we heard that some larger properties may offer 40+ sites)
- Some Encore RV Parks may have an RV age or condition restriction – this means they may not allow RVs more than 10 or 15 years old to stay in the parks. This is not a hard and fast rule across the network, but tends to be dependent on each park/manager. If in doubt, check the rules and restrictions at the time of making your reservation. (Note: This RV age restriction rule does not apply to Thousand Trails campgrounds, but the RV condition restriction may still apply.)
- Many Encore RV Parks in the sunbelt (eg. Arizona and Florida) are MEMBER AGE RESTRICTED in that at least one member must be aged 55 or older in order to be able to stay. While we have seen and heard of occasional exceptions, this rule tends to be more strictly enforced during peak times, like winter in the southern states.
- If your TT membership already has specific Encore parks INCLUDED, then your usual TT reservation window (eg. typically 120 days or more) remains the same for those Encore parks ONLY (check your TT contract for details). For all other parks in the Trails Collection and not included in your TT membership the reservation window is 60 days.
- The $315 Trails Collection fee is charged immediately when you sign up and is automatically added to your annual dues invoice at renewal time but you can request Thousand Trails to cancel/remove the Trails Collection if/when you choose (no pro-rata refunds)
- Thousand Trails will not pro-rata the $315, so if your annual dues anniversary is January and you buy the Trails Collection in September, you will pay $315 twice – at time of initial purchase then again with your annual dues again in January
- You can contact Thousand Trails Member Services and ask them to delay activating your Trails Collection privileges until your annual dues date, to avoid two charges close together (they did this for us)
- Membership in the Trails Collection is only valid for one year and is subject to renewal, with possible cost increases annually (as we have seen, it was $199 back in 2017 and now in 2021, it’s $315 a year).
- You must be a Thousand Trails member in good standing (ie. your dues/payments up to date) to access the Trails Collection
- Trails Collection privileges are NOT available for Family Courtesy Card holders to use
- Encore RV Parks will only accommodate RVs that are fully self-contained. NO tents, popups or van conversions.
- Some Encore RV Parks (eg. Portland-Fairview in Oregon) may have stricter rules around the AGE of the RV (eg. no RVs older than 10 years). Rules can vary from park to park, so be sure to call ahead and check on their rules before making a reservation as it may not be honored upon arrival if you don’t qualify according to their rules.
Remember, if your annual dues are coming up soon, you can call and ask TT to sign you up but hold off starting the Trails Collection access until your dues date. They will charge you the $315 right away but at least you won’t be paying $315 for say just 3 months of access and be charged again with your next round of Trails Collection dues. You will get access for the full year for your $315. This is what we did (but back in 2017 it was just $199).
In fact, we signed up online right away the first weekend it became available, then a TT Membership Representative called me on Monday and offered to delay our commencement date until our dues anniversary in early December. This saved us from being charged in August and again in December. Of course, we can’t use the Trails Collection during that time, but we didn’t need to anyway. We do plan to use it in December though, so it made sense for us to delay our start date and avoid having to pay the Trails Collection add on fee twice, just a few months apart.
There are only a few things that really stood out to me as potential red flags to be aware of:
- As the Trails Collection becomes more popular, we expect those 10 (or more) allocated campsites for TC members will probably get snapped up pretty quickly. However, with 110 properties and being a fairly new program, this probably won’t start to become an issue for a while yet. We would hope that as Thousand Trails monitors the occupancy, they may increase the site allocation in line with demand, but of course, there are no guarantees.
- For all bookings, we recommend you check the RV Park’s policies to make sure you qualify for a stay before making your reservation. Each park is entitled to set their own rules, so be sure to go to the specific park’s page on the Thousand Trails website (or call them) and ask if they have any specific policies you need to be aware of, especially around age restrictions of Member OR RV. Some Encore properties, especially in the sunbelt in the winter (AZ, TX, FL) are “Age Quaified” which means at least one member must be 55 or older to be able to stay. Plus Encore properties have a strict 10 (or 15) year RV AGE RESTRICTION, so be sure to check first to ensure your RV qualifies.
- If you are a Thousand Trails member traveling with a tent, popup or van conversion, you’re out of luck – RV units must be self contained.
Where Are the Trails Collection Parks?
As you will see from the above map, the heaviest presence is on the east and west coasts, midwest and Texas, which correlates pretty closely with the geography of Thousand Trails campgrounds. However, we do find many Encore parks to be of a higher quality and often more conveniently located than many Thousand Trails campgrounds. Some of our favorite Encore parks are included in the Trails Collection, like Narrows Too near Acadia National Park in Maine, San Francisco RV Resort in California and Mt Hood in Washington. And we’re looking forward to getting out and exploring a whole lot more Encore properties now!
To view the list of Trails Collection parks, click here and scroll down to the map and the text below it. You can view by individual zone or click TRAILS COLLECTION (on the right) to view the entire list.
Something to note: For some reason, they have called the Trails Collection Properties in the northern part of the USA “Campgrounds” and those in the southern part (snowbird belt) “RV Resorts” but they all work exactly the same when it comes to benefits, reservations, and usage. When looking at the above map, you will see that campgrounds are shown as Yellow dots, RV Resorts are shown as Blue dots and Thousand Trails properties are shown as Brown dots.
Photo: View from the bike path by the Encore San Francisco RV Resort in Pacifica, California
Is the Trails Collection Worth Getting?
Of course, that is for you to decide, but hopefully by now, you’ve been able to work out that this really is a screaming deal for anyone who likes to stay in RV parks with hookups. In our opinion, it is DEFINITELY worth paying $315 to get access to an additional 110 Encore / Trails Collection properties as part of your Thousand Trails membership.
When you consider that most campgrounds charge a minimum of $35 a night and the majority of Encore properties are easily $50 and up, just one week at an Encore / Trails Collection park would more than cover your $315 investment. When we stayed at the San Francisco RV Resort in July (one of the 18 TC parks that charges a $20 fee) they had a sign showing their retail rate as over $100 per night! With the Trails Collection, that particular park would only cost you $20 a night plus taxes. But remember at the other 92 Encore resorts, your stay would be free for up to 14 days.
How to get the Trails Collection
If you’re already a member, it’s SUPER easy. Simply log into your Thousand Trails Member account and you will see on the left side menu “Trails Collection”. Simply click that button and it will bring up your account and add $315 per year. You will be charged immediately, regardless of when your annual dues are due.
Note: When we signed up for the Trails Collection back in 2017, it cost $199, so that’s why you see that amount below. As of 2021, the Trails Collection costs $315 a year.
Or, if you prefer, you can call Thousand Trails Member Services on 800-388-7788 and simply ask them to add it for you. No matter which way you go, upon paying the $315, you will be charged immediately and you will get almost instant access to the Trails Collection properties and be able to start making reservations right away.
I have to admit, it was pretty exciting to log into my Thousand Trails account and with the click a few buttons, suddenly see my choice of campgrounds jump from 81 to 191! It feels like we now have a smorgasbord of places to explore and opens up our camping options dramatically. Gotta say, as an RVer, it feels a bit like Christmas!
Remember, if you are NOT already a Thousand Trails member, you will need to become one first in order to be able to buy and access the Trails Collection. There are a few options below to choose from and we have provided a quick overview of each, along with the contact details of the people we personally know, trust and recommend to help you get set up with a great deal.
How to Sign Up for a TT Membership
Below we have shared a few options for you to consider. Which is the best way to go depends entirely on your needs and budget. Read on to dig a little deeper and learn more about each of them. We’ve included links to some of our other related blog posts which we hope you find helpful to learn about thr different memberships and narrow down to the best option for you.
To buy a Thousand Trails Zone Pass
Reach out to one of our TT inside connections and contact Jim or Brandy Reneau by phone on 770-622-4188 or shoot them an email. If you’re happy with the 14 days in, 7 days out limitations and the low cost/low commitment the Thousand Trails Zone Pass, they will be able to help you get a better deal and more personalized service, than you will experience online or via the TT call center. We have met Jim and Brandy personally (see the earlier photo with their awesome dogs), spent several hours getting to know them and we appreciate their laid back, non-salesy approach. They are easygoing, helpful and will be happy to answer all of your questions. They can sign you up for a Zone Pass and add the Trails Collection at the same time to give you instant membership access. Zone Passes usually cost $565 for a year and you can add an additional Zone for $49, but they often have specials (like the 20% off for Fall running now). Tell them RV Love sent you and that we said hi! We already did the legwork by grilling them to make sure they look after our followers, so Jim and Brandy will be sure to get you the best deal available.
To buy a NEW Membership Upgrade from Thousand Trails
Again, we recommend you contact Jim or Brandy Reneau by phone on 770-622-4188 or shoot them an email. When it comes to buying a NEW TT membership upgrade, you have 3 options – Elite, Elite Connections and Odyssey. Plan on spending $5K-10K (or more) for these – it depends on which one you purchase and how well you negotiate! We suspect there’s a good chance you could negotiate the Trails Collection to be included with your membership, especially if you’re dropping that kind of cash! Whether you buy outright or choose TT’s monthly payment plan (with interest), ask how you can get the best deal. At certain times of the year, TT runs special promotions that aren’t usually publicized so you may get lucky. Or, if you aren’t in a hurry, you can give Jim your number or email address and ask him to contact you when a special deal comes up. Tell them RV Love sent you and that we said hi! Remember, we already did the legwork by grilling them to make sure they look after our followers, so Jim and Brandy will be sure to get you the best deal available.
To buy a RESALE (used and discounted) TT Membership Upgrade
You’ll want to reach out to Kim Hoel at Campground Membership Outlet (CMO) on 800-272-0401 or click here to email. We wrote extensively about buying our resale membership upgrade here and cannot recommend Kim (and her brother Chad) from CMO highly enough. They are membership brokers who handle the majority of TT membership resales and transfers and there is absolutely NO FEE for their service. We had a great experience with them in 2014 and since then, dozens of people have emailed us to say the same. Buying a resale membership can be extremely complex and confusing, so before you even attempt to do this, please read this article to learn about them and get our advice on what you need to look out for.
With a resale membership (usually $3k-5k depending on what you buy) you actually have several options, including some of the older memberships that are no longer available but still have great benefits – like the Platinum, Platinum Plus and VIP. These tend to be less expensive than the Elite, Elite Connections and newer Odyssey memberships but they may be all you really need. We have an Elite, but honestly, some of the Platinum and VIP memberships are cheaper and just as good (or even better with unique benefits no longer offered by TT).
And now that you can add 110 Trails Collection / Encore properties nationally to your TT membership, the need for an Elite membership (which has more east coast properties) with the ReadyCampGo options is less relevant than it was before, as many areas are now covered by the additional properties in the Trails Collection. Just know that you will have to pay for the membership in full up front as they don’t offer a payment plan, but this is by far the most cost effective way to buy a TT membership upgrade.
How Long Will the Trails Collection Be Available?
To be honest, we don’t know. According to the Thousand Trails website, it is a “Limited Time Offer” and we aren’t sure if that’s just a marketing tactic to get people to sign up quickly, or if it really is only available for a limited time! What we do know is that already it’s been extremely popular (for good reason) and I wouldn’t be surprised if Thousand Trails either starts limiting access or increases the price. Like we said, at $315 for a year it’s a no-brainer and Thousand Trails regularly monitors campground occupancy, so if the parks start getting too full, they may have to make some changes.
Finally, we do not make any claims that this article is perfect, but it should give you a pretty thorough understanding of the Trails Collection, the benefits and limitations. As we learn more, we will continue to make updates. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer them. And of course, you can also call Thousand Trails directly for answers.
Did You Find This Post Helpful?
If you found this article helpful, you end up buying a TT membership (Zone Pass, new or resale/used) and you feel inspired to say ‘thanks’ please feel free to tell your member representative that you were referred by us: Marc & Julie Bennett of RVLove, TT Member Number 298683360. They may send us a VISA Gift card which will buy us a round of drinks. Of course, 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
If you’re simply adding the Trails Collection to an existing Thousand Trails membership, there is no referral option, so simply log into your account or call to upgrade and enjoy!
But if you STILL wanted to say thanks in some way, please feel free to use this link next time you do your Amazon shopping (for anything, not just RV gear). We are Amazon affiliates and earn a small commission from them and it won’t cost you a cent extra to use our Amazon shopping link. And if you do, THANK YOU! :)
We sure hope you get as much value and use out of the TT Trails Collection as we intend to. Maybe we’ll meet up at a campground sometime? Happy Trails!
Useful Contacts and Links
Trails Collection Properties and Map – View the Encore properties included in the Trails Collection
List of TT campgrounds and partners – see which parks belong to each networks (TT, NACO, Leisure Time, Outdoor World, Mid-Atlantic Resorts etc) that makes up the Thousand Trails camping network
GOT COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS?
We would love to hear from you. Drop us a note in the comments section below.