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If you’re looking for ways to save money and camp, you have probably heard about Thousand Trails (TT) camping memberships, such as the Zone Camping Pass. Thousand Trails is a popular choice among RVers (like us) looking for affordable camping options. But with several memberships available, Thousand Trails can quickly get confusing. In this post, we cover everything you need to know about the Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass, also known as the Zone Pass or ZCP. And help you determine if the Zone Camping Pass is right for you, and worth the cost.
A Quick Background Of Our Thousand Trails Zone Pass
Let’s start with a quick background on our experience with Thousand Trails. In the (over) six years we were full-time RVing, and other years part time, we’ve spent over 900 nights in more than 60 RV parks within the Thousand Trails camping network. It has literally saved us thousands of dollars each year in camping fees. In fact, we conservatively estimate we have saved well over $20,000 on camping since we joined Thousand Trails.
A couple of months before we began full-time RVing back in 2014, we bought a Thousand Trails annual Zone Pass. We knew it would help us manage our expenses on the road, and it did. Actually, we ended up with two “zones” (more on zones in a bit) for five hundred and forty five dollars. This was a low cost, low commitment way for us to get started, and try out the Thousand Trails camping network first hand, as we settled into our new life on the road.
And while we did upgrade our membership (later that year) to take advantage of the extra benefits, that was a bigger commitment, both in terms of money and time (contract term). This may be something you are interested in too. But we don’t want you to get confused already, so we won’t go into that now. We’ll cover that in a separate blog post.
The main point here is that we started out with a Zone Camping Pass, and we still think it’s a terrific inexpensive, low risk way to “try Thousand Trails before you buy”. Especially if you are on the fence about whether you want to invest in one of the more expensive upgrade options.
So let’s start with the basics – the Zone Camping Pass, which we jokingly refer to as the “gateway drug” to Thousand Trails!
Are you ready? Let’s go!
What Is Thousand Trails?
Thousand Trails, commonly referred to as TT, is a national campground membership network of 81+ private RV resorts and campgrounds (also called parks or preserves) in 22 US states and B.C., Canada. Thousand Trails is celebrating “50 years of camping” in 2019, and have over 100,000 member families. So they’ve been around for a long time, with a few changes of ownership along the way. The parent company, Equity Lifestyle Properties (ELS), is a publicly traded company, based in Chicago, IL.
Being a private, membership-based camping network, Thousand Trails only makes a few campsites available for the public to camp in nightly, at an above average nightly rate. Their focus is on selling camping memberships – like the Zone Camping Pass – which is a much more affordable way to stay.
We describe Thousand Trails as being kind of like a “campground timeshare” but with less cost and commitment.
What kinds of camping options are available?
Thousand Trails offers camping sites for all types of RVs and tent campers, plus rental accommodations such as cabins, cottages, travel trailers, yurts, and even covered wagons! Most sites offer electrical, water and sewer hookups (some campgrounds are water/electric only); BBQ pits and picnic tables. All Thousand Trails parks have bathroom/shower rooms. They also have a dump station for dumping your waste tanks.
Facilities vary by location but typically these include a clubhouse, tennis/pickleball courts, pool, hot tub, laundry, restrooms/showers, library, RV storage, campground store, nature/hiking trails, playground, game room, horseshoe pits and so on. Some locations have mini golf, fishing, and organized activities. Thousand Trails campgrounds are gated, providing security with a ranger station at the entrance (some manned 24 hours) with gate codes for member access.
Thousand Trails has over 80 Thousand Trails campgrounds (or preserves) around the country, across 5 Zones. Plus another 110 “Encore” RV parks, that you can access with an optional “add-on” to your membership (stay tuned for more on the Trails Collection). So all up, you have the potential to access over 190 campgrounds/RV parks nationally, as a Thousand Trails member.
What is a Thousand Trails Zone Pass?
The Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass (also known as the Zone Pass) is an annual pass that gives you access to stay in campgrounds for free around North America.
That’s right. Free. As a Thousand Trails member, you pay NO nightly fee when staying at Thousand Trails campgrounds. You only pay the fee to purchase an annual Zone Camping Pass which provides you with flexible, any-time access to the Thousand Trails parks in your “zone” for one year. You can stay up to 14 nights at a time, before having to stay ‘out of the system’ for 7 nights, before re-entering.
So once you’ve paid for your annual zone camping pass, it means each time you go camping, it’s free.
The number of parks and locations available to you as part of your Zone Camping Pass all depends on the “zone/s” you purchased as part of your membership. Keep reading.
What you need to know:
Zone Camping Passes automatically renew every year on the due date (at the market rate at that time). But you can choose to cancel it so you aren’t charged beyond the initial year, if you choose. You will need to provide notice in writing in advance of the renewal date, to advise of your wish to cancel the auto-renew.
Where Are The Zones?
Thousand Trails divides the country up into 5 zones – Southwest, Southeast, Northwest, Northeast and Midwest – with each zone offering between 13 and 23 campgrounds.
- Northwest (Washington, Oregon, BC Canada) = 18 campgrounds
- Southwest (California, Nevada and Arizona) = 18 campgrounds
- Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin) = 13 campgrounds
- Northeast (Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania) = 14 campgrounds
- Southeast (Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia) = 23 campgrounds
When you sign up for a Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass, you pick your primary “zone” and have the option of adding on more zones, if you choose, for an additional fee per zone. You can add more zones at any time, and these are valid until the renewal date of your Zone Camping Pass.
How Many Zones Will You Need?
Unless you’re traveling really quickly, one or two zones is often sufficient for most people within a year. And you can change your zones at any time. For example, you may spend one year on the west coast and the following year on the east coast. Or vice versa. And just buy the zones you need for each year.
For example: When we started RVing in 2014, we purchased two zones: Northwest and Southwest, with a total of 36 parks. This allowed us to stay in Thousand Trails campgrounds from California, Arizona, and Nevada, all the way up to Oregon, Washington, and even BC, Canada. That was all we needed in our first year on the road. When we upgraded to an Elite membership later that year, that gave us national coverage. Hence, we never needed to add more zones to our Zone Camping Pass.
What Do You Get With Your Zone Pass?
As a member of Thousand Trails, with a Zone Camping Pass, this is what you get:
- Choice of your primary zone
- Ability to add as many zones as you like for just $54 each per year
- Unlimited access to all of the campgrounds in the zone(s) you select
- Overnight camping in your own RV or tent (no nightly fees)
- Unlimited day use of the parks in your zone
- Stay at one park for up to 14 consecutive nights, then stay out of the Thousand Trails system for 7 nights before you can stay again at any Thousand Trails park (ie. you cannot go directly from park-to-park)
- Stay up to 4 nights at any park and move immediately to another, without any time out of the system (ie. you’re on the move every 4 days)
- Make reservations up to 60 days in advance (online or by phone)
- Ability to book rental units, cottages, trailers and yurts within the campgrounds
- Access to low cost RV storage areas at many Thousand Trails parks
- 20% Off Encore RV parks (via www.RVontheGo.com) and Seasonal Deals
- Ability to add the new Trails Collection add-on with 110 Encore parks. More on this below.
- (1) Holiday Reservation in the system at a time
How Much Does a Zone Camping Pass Cost?
At the time of this most recent update, the annual Zone Camping Pass for a primary zone costs USD $670 for one year in 2023. This is amazing value, but if you keep an eye out for their seasonal promotions, you can often pick up a Zone Camping Pass at either 20% off or $100 off. When you do the math, the 20% off deal brings the price down to $536, which is $34 cheaper than the $100 off promo, which brings the price down to $570.
This is for one year, with no ongoing commitment, and no additional nightly camping fees. Pretty amazing value, huh?
Note: Depending on how and where you buy your Zone Camping Pass, you may also be charged the state tax on top of that. Either way, it’s still great value. More on ways to buy at the end of the article.
And, while it’s always great to nab the best deal possible (if you can), don’t get overly hung up on those few bucks. In the whole scheme of things, it’s a fraction of what you’ll end up saving every year in camping fees. Just buy at the right time for YOU, as the sooner you start using Thousand Trails the sooner you’ll start saving, no matter what you paid for it.
Now, if you happened to read any of our older articles, you may have read that folks used to be able to pick up a “buy one zone, get one free” deal (as we did back in 2014) and even get a bonus park included in your membership. Thousand Trails has since made some changes to their system, and we actually think their new offering is even better. Here’s why.
Adding More Zones to To Your Pass is Cheap
You can buy additional zones for just $90 for the year, or part thereof. And these zones can be added at any time. But the expiration/renewal date will be the same as your main zone camping pass. They don’t pro-rate the fee if you purchase it part way through the year.
What that means is you pay $90 for a single extra zone – whether you use it for a year or a day. So, you can add up to 4 additional zones (giving you national access and all 80+ Thousand Trails parks) for an additional total of $360, on top of what you pay for the primary zone – usually $670 (unless they’re running a special promotion).
Now, keep in mind that you can’t be everywhere at once anyway. So it makes sense to simply buy the primary zone you want to start with, then pay for the additional zone when you are ready to start making reservations in that zone. There are no cost advantages to buying additional zones sooner than when you plan to start making reservations (up to 60 days in advance).
Note: You can ONLY buy a Zone Camping Pass NEW from Thousand Trails. They are not available to be purchased (or sold) as a used or resale membership from anywhere else.
Comparing The Current Deal To Former Offer
Here is a big reason why the new Zone Pass is a better deal these days. When we bought our zone pass back in 2014, only 30 nights of free camping were included. After that, we needed to pay $3-$5 per night. Doesn’t sound like much but it adds up. And it was more a a nuisance than anything. The new Zone Camping Pass memberships do not charge any extra for nightly camping, so over time, that is a massive saving if you are using the system a lot, as we do.
Access More Campgrounds with Trails Collection
With Thousand Trails, you get access to more than 80 campgrounds. But there is another way to add even more RV parks to your Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass membership with the Trails Collection, which is a collection of 110 Encore RV Resorts. Thousand Trails and Encore are owned by the same parent company, Equity Lifestyle Properties. And we are big fans of their Trails Collection offering.
As a Thousand Trails member – even if you just have a single Zone Camping Pass – you are eligible to purchase the optional “Trails Collection” add-on. The Trails Collection gives you access to 110 Encore properties nationally. And you can stay up to 14 nights at a time, at NO nightly fee for MOST parks. But, there are about 18 parks that are considered “premium” parks in popular locations, and charge $20 per night.
So as well as – or instead of – buying extra zones, you can enjoy the perks of even more parks within the Trails Collection add-on. This costs $370 per year (in 2023), and the expiry/renewal date is the same as your primary Zone Camping Pass.
You cannot move from park to park using the Trails Collection upgrade. You will still need to spend 7 nights out of the system, whether you stay at a Trails Collection or Thousand Trails park.
Click here to read our in-depth article about the Trails Collection.
How Does It Add Up? Let's Do The Math.
While all this sounds like a great deal – and it is – if you’re a full-time or extended travel RVer, you will also need to factor in your ‘out of network’ costs. That is, you will need to spend up to every 3rd week “out of the system”. So you’ll need to find (and pay) for 7 nights of camping for your “week out” of the Thousand Trails camping network before you can go back into another park.
Consider the average nightly camping fee these days averages out at $30-50 a night (and increasing every year). You’ll soon see how easy it is to get your money’s worth out of a Thousand Trails camping membership. Let’s take a look at some cost-benefit scenarios.
What is the Average Nightly Cost with a Zone Pass?
Theoretically, if you’re prepared to move every 4 days and stay only within the Thousand Trails network, you could camp 365 days a year with Thousand Trails for $670. Or even $536 if you scored the current 20% off deal.
This averages out at around $1.83 per night or $1.47 based on the sale price.
While technically not impossible, moving every 4 days is a pretty frenetic pace for anyone to keep up for a year. It would also be geographically limiting. Thousand Trails doesn’t have campgrounds in every area you’d most likely want to visit. And we like to mix things up. When we hit the road, we never intended for ALL of our RV camping to be in Thousand Trails parks.
So let’s look at some more likely options.
Option 1: One Zone Pass, staying up to 14 nights
Let’s say you buy a single Thousand Trails Zone Pass, with a maximum of 23 parks (one region).
Imagine you camped for 14 nights at a Thousand Trails park, then stayed out of the system for 7 nights. Then repeatedly stayed 14 nights in, 7 nights out of Thousand Trails parks and so on for an entire year. You could theoretically camp within the Thousand Trails network for about 243 nights a year.
This averages out at $2.76 per night, or $2.21 (based on the $536 promo price). Sounds amazingly cheap, right? But remember, you also need to factor in the costs of camping OUT of the Thousand Trails network, for 7 days each time in between campgrounds. After all, it’s nice to mix things up anyway, so you may decide to stay at another private campground, or a national, state or city park.
Let’s say you spend the other 122 nights out of the Thousand Trails system at a campground with an average rate of $45 per night.
That would add up to $5,490 a year, or $458 per month.
Your total camping costs for the year would be:
- Initial ZCP $670 + $5,490 = $6,160. Average nightly camping fee $16.88.
- Initial ZCP at the 20% off sale price of $536 + $5,490 = $6,026. Average nightly camping fee $16.50.
If you paid $45 a night for camping 365 nights a year (as a full-time RVer), you’d be looking at paying something like $16,425. By taking advantage of discounted weekly and monthly rates, you would end up paying less than that.
Now, keep in mind that it’s getting harder and harder to find campgrounds for $45 a night or less. Campgrounds prices are going up in response to increased demand. It’s not uncommon these days to see campgrounds charging upward of $60-80 or even over $180 a night in some highly desirable areas (like the Florida Keys).
The point here, is to show you just how much a Thousand Trails camping membership can help keep your camping costs down. Even if you don’t use it all the time, it can help subsidize your overall camping expenses through the year. That’s how we use it anyway.
Option 2: What if you boondocked half the ‘time out’?
Let’s say you only spent half of your “time out” of the Thousand trails camping network in campgrounds, and half the time boondocking for free. In places like free public lands; Harvest Host wineries, farms and golf resorts; Walmart parking lots etc.
Then Option 1 above would still end up costing you $2,745 a year for your time ‘out of the Thousand Trails network. And your overall annual camping fees would amount to just under $3,415, or $285 per month.
This drops your average camping fee all the way down to $9.35 per night.
Option 3: Buying Two Zones + Trails Collection add-on
Let’s say you plan to do quite a bit of travel and want to be able to stay in campgrounds across two zones. And you also want to purchase the Trails Collection add-on for the extra RV resorts. Let’s take a look at how that adds up.
- Buy your Primary Zone for $670
- Add the second zone for $90
- Add Trails Collection $370
- Total Cost: $1130
This would give you access to anywhere from 27-41 Thousand Trails parks, plus 110 Trails Collection parks nationally. A total of 137-151 parks to choose from. This gives you much greater variety and geographic diversity.
The same 14 day in / 7 day out rule applies. So you can still only stay in the system for a maximum of 14 days at a time.
Let’s say you spend 243 days in the Thousand Trails system, that brings your nightly rate down to an average of $4.65 a night.
How much will you plan to stay in the Thousand Trails network?
Now, how much you save will all depend on how much you stay in the Thousand Trails system. We know some people who stay in it year round (with a different, upgraded membership option that allows them to do that). But most people tend to use it some of the time. That’s because we like to experience different kinds of camping, and visit areas where Thousand Trails may not have any parks in the area.
Personally, we tend to spend anywhere from 90-180 days a year camping within the Thousand Trails network.
We’re also going to assume you buy the two zones plus the Trails Collection (as above) as that’s such a great combo that we believe would suit most people very well, with a huge number of parks to choose from.
So let’s the do the math on that basis.
- Even if you only spent 90 nights a year in Thousand Trails/Trails Collection parks, your average nightly rate would be $12.56.
- Let’s say you spent half the year in Thousand Trails (say 180 nights), that would mean a nightly rate of $6.28.
That is still significantly lower than most any nightly fee you will find anywhere else in your travels. As you can see, Thousand Trails really helps subsidize your camping costs. This helps offset what you are spending at other non-Thousand Trails-parks throughout the year. We pick and choose where we stay, which allows us to splurge at other, more expensive parks from time to time. Say at Niagara Falls or the Florida Keys.
Zone Camping Pass - One Year or Four?
As we mentioned above, in 2023 you can buy an annual Zone Camping Pass for $670 – or as low as $536 if you score one of their 20% off promo deals, without any ongoing commitment. Keep in mind, when your annual renewal comes up, you will be charged the current market rate, which is subject to annual increases. It’s usually not much. Since 2014, we have seen the Zone Pass increase from $525 to $670 a year. That is just $145 over 9 years.
Now, you can get a better price on the annual zone pass if you make a longer, four (4) year commitment and elect monthly payments. You pay the first year up front, and the rest in monthly installments for the remaining three years. Then, after the 4 years, you can cancel your contract by providing advance notice in writing, or just keep paying annual renewals.
If you’re a vacation camper who stays in one area (or two) and you see yourself camping this way for the next four years, this option may work for you. But if you’re planning to go full-time and explore all of the states, like us, you may not want to lock yourself in for that long.
Remember, this is a legally binding contract.
And you won’t be able to get out of it, even if your travel and camping needs change. So we generally recommend just signing up for the one-year commitment when talking about Zone Passes. That way you have the flexibility to renew if you wish or make a membership change that is better suited to your camping style, without being locked into another contract.
Of course, if you do decide to commit to four years, and want to upgrade your Thousand Trails membership (say to a new Elite or Adventure, and pay for that in monthly payments) during that time, you can absolutely do so. Your annual dues commitment simply gets applied against your new membership upgrade contract. Just keep in mind, that option is only available for new membership upgrades made directly through Thousand Trails (not resales).
Getting The Best Deal On A Thousand Trails Zone Pass
Thousand Trails is pretty active when it comes to running special offers and discounts on the Zone Camping Pass. As mentioned above, the two most common promotions we see are 20% off or $100 off. And they do run special promos several times a year. However, they don’t publish those dates in advance.
If you have a relationship with a Membership Specialist (as we do), you can ask them to add your name to their contact list to notify you when the next promotion is announced. Thousand Trails Membership Specialists work for Thousand Trails and are based at their campgrounds around the country.
Note: One of the advantages of working with our connections (below), is they are the first to know if Thousand Trails extends it and can let you know. Or find you another promotional deal.
Who do we recommend?
If you want to contact our own trusted sources within Thousand Trails, they are Jim and Brandy Reneau – phone 770-622-4188 or email [email protected] – we know them personally and they take great care of our RVLove community. They will ensure you get the best deal, and they provide a great service. Even if you’re not ready to buy yet, shoot them a note and ask to be added to their contact list. They let you know when the next promotion is happening and answer any questions you may have.
Jim and Brandy are very pro-active about getting you the very best deal but are NOT pushy or salesy. These are just a few of the many reasons we like and recommend them.
Try Before You Buy (an upgrade)
If you are on the fence about Thousand Trails – and unsure whether you’ll like it or get value out of it – we suggest starting out with a Zone Camping Pass first. That’s what we did, and it ended up being a great decision for us.
We recommend you try staying in a few parks to get a feel for the variety, as they can be quite different. If you find Thousand Trails is not your cup of tea, then you haven’t committed much money or locked yourself into a longer contract. Even if you only spend a few weeks or months trying out different campgrounds, based on a conservative $45 a night camping fee, the $670 comes down to about 15 nights of use. It won’t take long to get your money’s worth, and you are not committed long.
Our Zone Pass Experience
Even though we upgraded from a Zone Pass within the first 6 months, we got loads of value out of our Zone Pass during that time. Back when we first hit the road in 2014, we did not have the confidence, knowledge or funds, to make an initial, larger investment in one of the upgrade options.
But the Thousand Trails Zone Pass was the perfect stepping stone for us to get there when we felt ready. By the time we did upgrade, we had absolute clarity and peace of mind that we were making the right decision for us, so we could slow our travel pace down and enjoy longer stays. This was especially important for us, as we work full-time.
If you travel extensively, as we do, and wanting to manage your camping costs while on the road, Thousand Trails is a fantastic way to help you do that. If you find you do like the Thousand Trails camping network, you can explore your options to upgrade, and start enjoying more benefits.
Benefits like the ability to stay 21 days at a time (with the Elite Basic, Elite Connections and other options available as resales) or even 28 days at a time (with the Adventure), and move from park to park without having to stay out of the Thousand Trails network for 7 days in between reservations.
By then, you will know exactly what you’re getting into and can feel good knowing you are making a sound investment that is in alignment with your travel goals and budget.
Pros and Cons of the Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass
In summary, let’s recap with the pros and cons of a Thousand Trails Zone Pass:
- Affordable, low-cost way to camp for a year with no nightly fees
- Stay up to 14 days at a time
- Low commitment of just one year (auto renews unless you cancel)
- Variety of locations: choose 1-5 zones with 13-23 campgrounds each
- Allows you to try out Thousand Trails and ensure you like it considering a membership upgrade
- Option to add Trails Collection with an additional 110 RV Parks
- Good choice for the vacation camper, part-timers or full-timers
- Ideal for anyone on a budget, fixed income, or wanting to save money on camping fees
- You need to spend 7 days out of the Thousand Trails system after each stay 5 nights or more
- If you commit to a 4 year payment plan, understand that it’s a contract and you won’t be able to get out of it if your travel needs change (well, you probably CAN cancel it, but you will have to pay a $ penalty)
- There are no Thousand Trails campgrounds in UT, ID, MT, NM, SD, ND, NE, WY, KS, OK, LA, AR, MO, IA, MN so there are some real gaps around the country
Is A Thousand Trails Zone Pass Worth It?
Honestly, whether you buy the Zone Camping Pass on the special promotion or pay the standard $670, Thousand Trails still offers amazing value. You won’t find more affordable camping anywhere else. We know as we’ve looked high and low, and this is the only camping membership network that makes camping so affordable. Especially for full-time RVers like us. The more you travel and use it, the more you save.
Over 9 years and 900 nights later, we calculate that our Thousand Trails camping membership has easily saved well over $20,000 in nightly camping fees. It’s a no-brainer for anyone considering camping more than two weeks a year, RVers who do extended or full-time travel. And especially if you’re on a budget and want to contain your camping costs.
An Unexpected Bonus of Staying in Thousand Trails Parks
One big unexpected bonus to us of our Thousand Trails membership is the friends we’ve made while staying Thousand Trails parks. Because Thousand Trails is membership based and most RVers tend to travel north in the summer and south in the winter, we’ve met many people that we see at multiple parks along the way. We get to catch up often as we travel, and being in the same campground makes reconnecting so much easier. So while we joined Thousand Trails to save money, we now have a fantastic RVing community as an added bonus! And that’s priceless to us.
Ultimately, only you can decide if a Thousand Trails Membership – and in this case a Zone Camping Pass – is worth it for you. But we hope that what we’ve shared from our own experience helps you on your way. It’s low cost and low risk. What have you got to lose by trying it out? As you’ve probably gathered, having been Thousand Trails members now for almost 5 years, it’s a camping membership that we are big fans of. It’s an important part of what makes our full-time RVing life so affordable.
How and Where to Buy a Zone Camping Pass
Ready to give it a try? You can ONLY buy the Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass from Thousand Trails (not from private parties or on the resale market). You have a few options for buying a Zone Camping Pass, which we’ve listed below.
1. Buy from our insider Thousand Trails contacts
Contact our trusted sources within Thousand Trails, Jim and Brandy Reneau. Ph: 770-622-4188 or email [email protected]
We have met Jim and Brandy in person several times and really like their friendly, laid back approach and their focus on on helping people. So we feel very confident referring our RVLove community to them, knowing they are in good hands. They can also keep you updated of any upcoming promotions, special discounts and answer any questions you may have about new Thousand Trails upgrades, like the Elite Basic, Elite Connections and Ultimate Odyssey, which we’ll be covering in more detail in a separate post.
PS. That’s us with Jim, Brandy and their awesome dogs Cash (the big fella) and Princess in the photo above.
2. Buy direct from Thousand Trails via website or call center
If you’re the type who likes to instantly purchase online, you can buy a TT Zone Pass online right here. Or you can phone the call center on 1-877-730-5935.
3. Buy from another Thousand Trails Membership Specialist
If you happen to be at an RV show, RV rally, or even a Thousand Trails campground where you get chatting to another Membership Specialist, you can also buy direct from them. Let them know you read our article, if it helped you in your decision to buy.
And remember to also factor in sales tax on top of your purchase, which will vary depending on the state you buy it from.
How to say thanks
If you found this article helpful, there are a few ways you can say thanks!
- If you do end up buying a Thousand Trails membership – whether it’s from our contacts Jim and Brandy, another Membership Specialist, or the Thousand Trails online / call center – and you feel inspired to say ‘thanks’ please tell them we referred you: Marc & Julie Bennett, Thousand Trails Member Number 298683360. It won’t cost you anything, but Thousand Trails may send us a VISA Gift card which will buy us a round of drinks. Naturally, we never expect this but it’s always a very welcome bonus which we’ll graciously accept as we toast you and your new membership! And the money you’ll be saving!
- Please share this article – via social media or email – we truly appreciate it!
- Please leave us a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!
Maybe we’ll meet up at a campground sometime! Until, then, Happy Trails!
GOT COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS?
We would love to hear from you. Drop us a note in the comments section below.
74 thoughts on “Is the Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass Right for You? | Thousand Trails Explained”
Lots of detailed info here, but I saw very little of the type of RVing we want to do. We work hard on our property & when the weather (Oregon coast) says: “time to escape in our “new” unit”, then it’s time to pack up. This is usually very spontaneous & the idea of making ADVANCE res is too dicey. We’ve been trying to BUY property just for this reason, but that’s become undoable because lots of Oregon counties won’t let u stay on your own property in an RV unless u r planning on BUILDING! So our needs are to be able to pack up & go & be just about guaranteed we’ll have a place to stay for a few days. We’re looking at a NW PASS.
Janis & Tom – Bandon
Hi there, yes these days RVing is so popular it has become much more difficult to just wing it and travel spontaneously without reservations. Places all around the country are booked up… as there is so much demand. It is not impossible, however, especially for those who have smaller rigs, can travel during the week and are willing to be flexible. The Pacific North West is one of the most popular areas in the country, especially in the summer. If you want to be GUARANTEED of a place to stay, as you mentioned, then you really have no option but to make a reservation. Otherwise there simply are no guarantees! The good thing about Thousand Trails is, you can make a bunch of reservations, and if you decide a 2-3 days before that you don’t want or need those dates, you can simply go online and bump out the date or cancel the reservation, usually at no penalty.You may not get every date you want every time, hence the need for flexibility – but there really is no more afforadble way to stay in campgrounds in an RV. Luckily they have a number of NW properties, and if you add the Trails Collection add-on (recommended and great value) then it really does expand the number of properties available to you. However, some of those may have a longer window required for changing reservation dates or canceling. Keep in mind, campgrounds are popular EVERYWHERE not just within Thousand Trails or the NW. It’s just the way things are these days for all of us. You say the idea of making advance reservations is too dicey (why?) yet you also say you want to be ‘just about guaranteed’ to have a place to stay…? As mentioned above, there is no risk or dicey-ness about having reservations on the books, that you may change or cancel. People do it all the time – including us. Good luck!
Thank you so much for this very helpful series of articles concerning Thousand Trails. My wife and I are retirees who have purchased our first travel trailer. I have been thinking about the Pass to determine amount of use. I have also signed up for your email newsletter.
I have one question I hope you will be kind enough to answer. We will be initially purchasing the SouthWest Pass and are wondering how difficult it is to secure a location. We will plan ahead but I’m fearful of trying to get a reservation only to be told that there is “no room at the inn.”
Hi Wade, glad the articles were helpful! Welcome 🙂 Yes we totally understand your concerns about not being able to get a reservation! This will depend on many factors: 1) WHERE you book – the most popular campgrounds will fill up sooner and availability will depend on location/how big the park is. 2) WHEN you book – obviously the sooner you book – say the first available day of your 60 day reservation window – the more likely you will be able to secure your dates. Also, what time of year / season? Trying to secure holiday weekends and peak times will be the trickiest, eg. Memorial Day, 4th July, Labor Day… and in the south during winter. BUT it is not impossible! Generally speaking outside of those peak times you should be OK… BUT there is never a guarantee. Flexibility is key… I don’t say this to discourage you, so much as share the truth and manage your expectations. The fact is, RVing is becoming more popular than ever before (with COVID, people being able to work from home ie. RV) and so there is simply a lot more demand for RV campsites than previously. This is the case with MANY campgrounds – not just Thousand Trails. If you book in advance and are flexible with your dates, and plan to travel at various times of the year (not just holidays/peak season) then you should certainly be able to get your money’s worth out of your Zone Camping Pass. This is one reason we also recommend people start with a Zone Pass first – to “try TT on” before investing in one of the more expensive memberships – and ensure it is right for you. Typically, we suggest to folks that aim to use TT for at least 3 weeks a year, so it pays for itself, then any stays after that are ‘bonuses’! Also, keep in mind people change or cancel their reservations often, so even if you aren’t able to secure a reservation right away, it is highly likely dates will open up at a future time, so you can check online, or call member services. Even if I cannot find all the days I want for a stay at TT, I will grab what I can – say a few days in the middle – then keep trying online or by phone (online is easier these days) to add another day at the front of back end of the reservation. It may sound a bit time consuming or a hassle, but it’s really not, you get to know the system and how it works with practice. Just be patient and flexible… start out by booking campgrounds and dates that aren’t at peak times/holidays, and it should be easier.. and you will start getting good use out of it. Last minute reservations are also quite do-able. The way we use TT is to try and get as many reservations as we can within the TT system (obviously that saves us the most money) but we always have backups… we never plan or expect to stay exclusively in TT all the time. Having the Southwest should be easier to secure reservations than say Florida (Southeast) where there is a much higher population and demand, especially in the winter. Give Jim and Brandy Reneau a call to get your Zone Camping Pass – they often have a special deal running to get you the best price, and sometimes even prices that are not shown on the website – just mention RVLove when you speak to them. They are very helpful, and Brandy may even be able to help you set up your first reservation. You are wise to ask the question first before buying, so you can know what to expect. Like I said, you should be fine, just be aware holiday/peak times may be trickier (though not impossible). Many times I have been able to get a res later (after initially appearing full) as space opens up when others cancel/change their reservations. And for under $500 for the year, it won’t take you long at all to get your money’s worth. If you decide you like the TT zone pass and want to upgrade to one of the other membership levels which offer longer stays, no time out of the system, and a longer booking window (120/180 days) then you should have no trouble getting your dates… Zone Passes (being 60 days) are a little trickier as more people have them AND not that many people book way in advance. But they are a good way to start with TT at a small investment to ‘try before you buy’ and minimize your initial investment until you are sure you like it. TT isn’t for everyone, but it has been a godsend for us and saved us a fortune in camping fees, which is what has made it affordable/possible for us to RV full time for the past 6 years. Hope that helps! Here is Jim and Brandy’s info: Ph: 770-622-4188 or email [email protected] – wishing you all the best!
Thank you for all the information. We are members but don’t use it very often. By now retired hopefully we can use him more. Would love to get your email newsletters.
Hello Paulette, Thank you for your appreciation of the information we share. Hope you can use your membership more, now that you are retired. Per your request, I have added you to our email list, so you will get future newsletters. Thank you.
Thank you for this! We are really interested in this membership and your information was incredibly helpful! We will be on the move a lot…so this may be an incredible fit for our family. Our only hesitation is the ability to make last minute reservations. Do you get any perks if someone signs up when we mention your name??
Hi Karissa, Glad you found the information helpful! Making last minute reservations is not impossible, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do that anywhere as RVing becomes more popular. Not just with TT – everywhere. For example, I just tried to make a reservation here in Colorado for Sunday night at a KOA Sunday nights are usually pretty easy to get a res in most places, but they are booked up (2 days in advance). Keep in mind that it is summer, peak time and this is a popular area. So there are always varying conditions. You will likely find places in less popular areas, mid week and certainly outside of Memorial Day to Labor Day much easier to find reservations. And keep this in mind, people make changes to their plans ALL the time. So finding a last minute reservation on ‘the day of’ a planned stay is possible – as people can cancel last minute. This is an unusual year and camping is more popular than ever. So flexibility is the name of the game, but there are thousands of campgrounds around the country (80 of which are TT) so there is always somewhere you can find to camp. We tend to make our reservations well in advance for Thousand Trails and then adjust / make changes as the dates draw closer. There is no fee to do that and it’s easy to do online or by phone. We are sure there are many people like us who make reservations, then cancel or change them as their plans change… if someone signs up with TT and mentions us as the referrer, they should send us a gift card – so yes and thank you for asking! 🙂 Good luck and happy travels with your family!
We PAY a lot for our Membership to enjoy the amenities! This year I’ve been told by several TT parks they are not opening the POOLS at all this summer 2020. This is so WRONG!! We pay so our kids can use the pools! We should be compensated with months memberships for next year or be reimbursed for months the amenities are not available!! Ridiculous!! I’ve tried calling TT and have been on hold for over 3 hours with noone answering!! This is Customer Service at the Worst. Not to mention the ton of emails I have sent with no response!! DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY!!!!
Debbie, while we hear your frustrations, please know that we are not Thousand Trails and you need to take your concerns up with them. Our articles are written to educate people about the membership options. Please also understand that the entire country (and world) is dealing with a most unusual situation – a PANDEMIC – and every single person and business is doing the best they can do navigate a very difficult and unprecedented time. Thousand Trails – like all RV parks, campgrounds, hotels and other public facilities – are also having to work within local, state and federal rules and CDC guidelines around keeping the pubic SAFE and helping to spread the transmission of COVID-19 for all. Pools – like many other public areas – are high touch point areas – and thus represent higher risk, not to mention require additional staffing that many of them just don’t have. There are many thousands of happy TT members, who appreciate that we can camp safely in our RVs, with or without pools, very affordably, thanks to our membership. Many parks are located by rivers and lakes. For the most part, people are being reasonable, understanding and appreciative of the efforts being made by TT to take care of their 100,000+ members. By all means, if you aren’t happy with TT camping options, you are welcome to stay at other campgrounds or even hotels that meet your requirements. Or even join a local YMCA or visit public pools IF they are open. If you aren’t happy with your TT membership, you also have the option to cancel. We are not aware of provisions being made to extend memberships because of pool closures. There are other ways kids and and adults can entertain themselves safely. A garden hose or inflatable kiddie pool is an option for you to “cool off”. Keep in mind, TT has a vested interest in keeping you, your family and the rest of us SAFE. If you have a Zone Camping Pass, these are not a lot of money and you are welcome to cancel. If you have an upgraded, more expensive membership, you can also sell it as a resale/used membership to get back some of your investment. If your membership upgrade is NEW, we are sure TT will work with you to cancel as long as its within a reasonable timeframe and hasn’t been used much. Good luck and stay cool and safe this summer.
Thank you for the great information and experience. We were just gifted my dad’s TT Elite as he passed away and mom isn’t going to use it. Have no clue yet what were going to get with it as the original contract has parks they no longer use. We had looked at zones but it seems Elite will have access already to all of the zones, am I correct? Still waiting for our membership to activate.We will use sporadically for a couple years then be gone for retirement 4-6 months out of the year, Do you advise adding anything? We have a new 36 ft 5th wheel so it looks like most of the TT places will be accommodating.
Hi Linda, so happy the article was helpful to you! And we share our sympathy for the loss of your dad. Yes with a 36′ fifth wheel you should be OK in most campgrounds. And you are correct – the Elite camping membership offers you access to ALL 80 TT parks around the USA including the one in BC, Canada. Afte’or you’ve activated it, you should only need to ave to pay the annual dues (which you can also put ‘on hold’ if there is going to be a period of time you wont’ be using it for a year or more). You can stay 21 days and move from park to park with no time out of the TT system. Some parks have a high use restriction of 14 day stays during the peak times. If you want to consider adding more options, the Trails Collection is excellent value – we wrote all about it here – https://rvlove.com/2017/09/09/new-thousand-trails-collection-add-encore-rv-parks-to-your-membership – note it is now $299 for the year. I need to go update TT pricing for 2020 on all of our previous posts! You may also want to add RPI, but unless the current network of parks doesn’t meet your current needs for sporadic camping, you can wait and add that later when you are ready to head out in your retirement travels. Check the TT map of locations, also the resortparks.com website for locations – to determine if you need that (yet). So glad you are going to be able to use the Elite membership benefits, we are sure your dad would be happy to know that his Elite camping membership is going to continue to be enjoyed by you now and even more in your own retirement years.
Thanks for the very helpful information! I am just starting to get into how to plan our RV adventure starting in a few months. It’s a little overwhelming! So this info is really appreciated
You are very welcome. Glad to be able to provide valuable information about this. We agree that it can be overwhelming sometimes. Wishing you every success. -M
Hi Marc, Love all the information. We are getting ready to start full timing. I want to know if I bought two memberships would I be allowed to stay 14 days on one membership then switch to my other membership for the next 14 days? This way I could stay year round or as long as I want at any site or move anytime anywhere and stay in the system. I figure this would cost me for two zones year round about $1250. Is this a viable option?
Hi Jim, Sadly no, it is not. You can only have one membership per household. But you can buy a membership upgrade on the resale market which is less expensive than buying new, and that will give you 21 days park to park with no time out of the system, for most types of membership. New is also an option, more expensive, but you can finance it and activate the membership immediately. And re-sell later to recoup some of your investment if you no longer need it. We wrote this article covering the pros and cons of each option – hope it helps! https://rvlove.com/2018/03/15/thousand-trails-memberships-spring-specials-new-vs-resale/
Wow what a thorough and informative article.
I am currently researching affordable options for extended snowbird stays starting next winter.
I am a Canadian from Nova Scotia planning 2 to 3 months in FL next winter….I think this may be the answer to making that dream a reality.
Can you give me some upgrade info or direct me to a recent blog post on it?
Also more info on resale and how it works.
the upgrade seems like it will be a good option for us we would likely use it in the summer in the maine parks for a couple of weeks but primarily it would be for snowbirding
Do you have any recommendations for me based on these plans..specifically starting next winter
It seems like being able to stay 3 weeks in a park and no out time would be beneficial.
Keeping Florida in mind would i be able to pick one area that has 3 or 4 parks..for example orlando area…and just keep rotating those parks 3 weeks at 1 3weeks at the next and the next then back to the first ?
Or is it 3 weeks…and done.
Also whech parks in fL only allow 2 weeks?
So many qiestions!!
I am happy to ready any other recent blog posts and to glean from your experience and of course will reference you when thetime is right to invest in a membership.
Hi Angela, based on what you have shared, you will probably want to buy one of the used/resale memberships with the 21 day park to park privileges. Florida in the winter is always super popular! So yes, one of the memberships with a longer booking window will be advantageous. However, keep in mind during High Use Season (eg. winter in Florida) you are limited to 14 days not 21 – during the peak season at ALL Florida parks. That is the case for everyone, except those with a VIP membership which is except from high use restrictions. You can learn more in this article –
– have a read of that and it will provide a lot more info… glad the articles have been helpful! Thank you for offering to mention our name when the time comes to purchase. We have saved many thousands in camping fees over the years, with our Thousand Trails membership.
Hello Marc and Julie. We stumbled upon your web site (RVLOVE.COM) while searching for information on Thousand Trails. After reading your entire article on TT zone passes, along with most of the 51 follow up comments, we ran out the next day and forked out $24 bucks for your book. we’ve been carrying it around like a bible ever since. Among a few differences, we could not believe how similar our lives have been, including traveling to Australia. However, two observations immediately surprised us: the book is more like photo album (over 75 images), and you guys are still working.
We’ve got so much to say and couldn’t decide where to start; either from the end and work backwards, or from the beginning and work forward; or maybe somewhere in the middle.
After enjoying our 12-foot tent trailer for 10 years, and several trips to RV shows, our desire to travel after retirement was spawned. When our four adult children all moved out by 2014, and took their pets, my wife, Linda, and I began a 2-year de-cluttering process of our 2,700 sq-ft. custom home, which was filled with 26 years of stuff. We bought our first 44-foot 5th wheel toy hauler in June of 2016 (Forest River XLR Thunderbolt 375 AMP), and had it delivered to an RV park in Sacramento, where, at the time, we were still working as managers for the State Water Department and the Dept. of Social Services. We did not have a tow vehicle yet. We both retired in December 2016, after over 70+ combined years of civil service with the State of California. We lived in the new RV and the house for 9 months, modifying and stocking our new coach to fit our needs. After numerous trips to GOODWILL and our newly acquired storage unit, we then bought a new 1-ton Ford F350 tow vehicle and finally sold the family home in March of 2017. Upon settling into our new coach in May, 2017, we loaded our Harley Davidson into the toy hauler’s garage, hit the road, and have been full-time RV’ers ever since.
In 29 months, we’ve traveled over 23,000 miles, stayed in over 80 RV parks, in 25 states and four Canadian provinces. In May of this year, we traded in the XLR and bought a new DRV Full House JX450. We then renewed our TT membership for the second year, and altered our zone passes to cover areas that are more in line with our upcoming itinerary. We only stayed 54 nights in TT parks last year with $648 membership and zone fees. That’s $12 per night and a savings of $2,861 based on a $65/night average daily RV park fee.
We’ve zip-lined in Utah, cruised the Mississippi River on the Natchez, been SCUBA diving in the Florida Keys and white water rafting on the Arkansas River, took the Harley on the Dragon’s Tail in N. Carolina, hiked the Glacier fields in Alberta, and watched thousands of bats fly out of Carlsbad Caverns. At first, with all of the preparation, RV repairs, modifications, and traveling we’ve done, I thought I could write this book myself. But we haven’t finished reading it yet, and we want to view your You-Tube videos. What we have seen and read so far has inspired us to keep reading and that we’ve made the right choices in “hitting the road”. I’ll be submitting more comments soon.
…Mike & Linda
Hello Mike and Linda. Thank you for sharing your story with us and others. We love hearing that our content, including the blog, book, and youtube) has been so beneficial to others. Quite a journey you have had the last few years transitioning to full time life. What you shared will likely also benefit others going through those steps. Also great to see that you have seen such good value from your Thousand Trails membership even staying only 54 nights in the system. We will likely spend more than 100 this year. Thank you again for sharing your comments today. Welcome to the RVLOVE community and looking forward to hearing more from you in the future.
Hello Marc and Julie. After 3 years of full time rving, we decided to purchase TT pass and the trails collection with the two zones on the south and east coast.
The first two year’s we were content in staying 6 months in Canada and 6 months in Florida.
Now were itching to travel North America and see all there is to see. Your article’s on TT convinced us, this is the pass for us.
We did go to Jim and julie for our pass and Jim was more then helpful, and as you said, Not a pushy salesman. We are looking forward to saving thousands of dollars especially when you consider we have a 30% exchange rate on our Canadian dollar.
Our first day in Voyager RV park in Arizona has already saved us $122.14 usd for a two day stay.
This is a no brainer.
We are heading back to Florida over the course of the next few weeks now that we see the value of the pass. Originally we were going to take just 5 days to cross the US but now this pass will pay for itself before we reach Florida.
We have a bottle of wine with your name on it as I’m sure our paths will cross. Cheers and keep on spreading your RVLove.
Keith and Cathryn
My wife and I have been considering a Thousand Trails membership and I was very impressed with your extensive information about their programs. I have some concerns. I have looked at some other sites which have complaints and reviews. Unfortunately their are many poor reviews about Thousand Trails parks from both members and others who paid full price to stay in the parks. There are many, many complaints about run down and unkept facilities, rude employees and management, etc. Another concern I read many times is the Thousand Trails customer service not returning emails, and the management not responding to inquires and complaints. Here is a link for a site I was looking at which goes on, and on, and on. https://thousand-trails-rv.pissedconsumer.com. After reading so many similar complaints I am having real reservations about Thousand Trails. Please take a look at this site and give me your thoughts.
Hi James, glad you enjoyed the articles and information we shared on TT. Yes, there are plenty of complaints and negative reviews out there about Thousand Trails (and just about everything else). We can only share based on our own experience… and that that of others we know who use – and enjoy/appreciate the benefits that TT offers them. Those who don’t like it and complain often end up not renewing their membership. And that’s OK, it’s not for everyone.
We did our research on TT before buying, knew what we were getting into, our expectations were managed accordingly, we bought well, used it well, and it’s saved us many many thousands of dollars over the past 5.5 years that we have been TT members. I believe we are over 750 nights of use since 2014, at the present time. No regrets, it’s served us well. In fact, we’re on our way to another TT park now that we have stayed at previously and are looking forward to it.
I did take a look at the website you shared. Yes, there will always be unhappy people, people who like to complain, people who like to write bad reviews. That’s the nature of the internet and indignant people wanting to be heard. Perhaps some cases have a valid point and perhaps some just have an axe to grind. We will never know the truth of those.
All we know is this. There are many thousands of happy campers out there enjoying the heck out of their TT membership and don’t have the time, interest or need to write bad reviews. Or simply keep things in perspective. And others may have the occasional ‘less than ideal’ experience (which can be the case at any campground/place) and then deal with it appropriately… or find it was an isolated incident. Others may find the negative everywhere they go and never see the good in TT (or anything) and that’s life. You will always find complainers. Especially in this day and age of social media. Everyone has a voice and loves to be heard, especially the whiners. Same goes for looking for bad reviews about RVs, RV manufacturers, and dealers.
Many people complain because they didn’t do their due diligence and properly understand membership rules or read the contract before signing. Then get upset when they find it isn’t what they want or ‘thought’ they were getting. Some complain that they overpaid – again perhaps because they didn’t do their homework/research (which is why we wrote our articles). Or bought a membership in the 1980s and don’t like that it’s changed over the years (change of ownership – it happens everywhere). Some complain because they expect 4 or 5 star properties, for what they paid…. and are angry when it’s not. Some feel the rules don’t apply to them. Some feel ‘entitled’ to get special treatment. The list goes on. It is ALL about managing expectations in the end. And that is ALWAYS what we try and do in our articles – to educate and empower people with the information for them to weigh up and determine for themselves, if TT is right for them… or not.
We also, in our articles, recommend people “try before they buy” one of the higher level memberships, by starting with a ZONE camping pass first… a low cost, low commitment membership that you can buy for under $500 and get access to TT campgrounds in a single “zone” (or add another for just $54) for a year, and stay up to 14 days at a time…Try a few different parks, and judge based on your first hand experience. Only then can you really decide if TT is for you or not. And we feel that is the best way to really know…everyone is different. Everyone has different priorities, preferences and values systems. If you consider the average cost of a night at an RV park/campground these days is around $35-45, it’s easy to see that a TT zone Camping Pass membership will easily ‘pay for itself’ in about 2 weeks… We consider that to be a small price to pay to try out a few campgrounds first, before deciding (as we did) to make a bigger commitment into one of the bigger, more expensive memberships that allow 21 day stays with no time out of the TT system (unlike the Zone Pass). If, after using for a couple of weeks, you decide it’s not for you, you haven’t lost anything, you had some camping stays, and you can cancel your zone pass before the renewal date. Low cost, no commitment. And buy/renew/upgrade based on what is right for YOU… or not.
We have seen some TT parks run down and in need of repair, and we have seen some that are very well maintained. We have for the most part, had a very good experience with rangers and staff across the board.. but attitude and how one deals with situations certainly plays a part. We have also seen some parks being upgraded and improved over the years, with nicer amenities which we enjoy. We have a 20 year old motorhome that is not perfect, and never been turned away – EVER. Not even close. We have managed to secure most of the reservations we want most of the time, especially when booking ahead and always making advance bookings during peak periods. We often call TT member services – as a regular member just like everyone else – and have always found their staff to be very helpful and accommodating. Some campgrounds have a higher percentage of annual sites than others… some of those sites are nicely kept and some are not. Some campgrounds we love and we return to regularly, others we aren’t such fans of and simply choose to not return…We have seen it all, having visited campgrounds all around the country.
But here is what I CAN tell you. In all the years of being TT members, and of the many thousands of people who have bought memberships after reading our content it is VERY RARE to come across someone who was unhappy with their decision. Because they were educated, informed and managed their expectations. We find most have been pleasantly surprised at how much they like it. And many LOVE their membership and simply could not RV full time without it. But as we always say, TT not for everyone. So you need to decide what is important to you. If saving money on camping fees is high value, then you won’t find a better deal than a TT membership. We are independent of Thousand Trails, we share our honest experience and advice. And if we don’t think TT is for someone (eg. a person who always likes paved, level sites and landscaped grounds and in the best locations) then we will tell them so… but of course, you pay for the privilege of staying at those ‘nicer’ places with your wallet…. which you may be willing to do.
We personally have a great appreciation for the TT membership network, and the campgrounds we can stay at around the country. We have made some wonderful friends through TT, and we have had many great experiences with the staff at the parks at at head office by phone. We have only emailed once, I believe, and didn’t get a reply, but we always find someone by phone. To be honest, we almost never have a need to as we have no complaints big enough to warrant.
I hope this helps. Ultimately, only YOU can decide if TT is for you or not… and what you want to believe is written out there… we always strive to provide a balanced perspective, and not get caught up in the whiners…they aren’t the kind of people most of us want to be camping with anyway! If you want additional feedback, jump onto the Thousand Trails Good, Bad and Ugly Facebook Group to read some other commentary. I think you will find the majority of members express they are very happy with their membership. But there will be a couple who aren’t. It’s par for the course.
But again, manage your expectations and investment accordingly. In life, we must all take a little risk here and there, and a TT Zone Pass is about as low risk way to try out TT for yourself as there is…. just don’t try and test it out in the peak of winter in Florida with a 60 day reservation window… as that’s always the toughest location/time of year.
Nothing in life is perfect, but the money we save and the places we get to stay thanks to our TT membership, has made it very worthwhile for us. Good luck! Cheers – Julie
Julie, Thank you so very much for your very quick and thorough reply to my concerns about a Thousand Trails membership. I can’t say enough how impressed I am with your responses to all of my concerns. I said “WOW” and “OMG” aloud several times while reading your response. I also immediately asked my wife to read your response as I did not feel I could explain all of the details you provided any where as well as you did. I plan on contacting Brandy in the near future to get more details on current memberships.
I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to your YouTube videos. RVLOVE is great.
Oh Jim, I am so happy to hear my reply was helpful! Thanks so much for your kind words. I do understand TT can be very confusing and also concerning to those who come across negative comments and reviews – of which there are plenty – but we’ve learned to weed through those and just pay attention to our own experience, and that of the many hundreds (if not thousands) of people we know of, who are very happy with their membership, and HOW MUCH IT SAVES US! We all keep things in perspective and turn down the volume on the whiners. The most important thing is you feel educated with balanced and objective information, so you can make the best choice for you. Brandy will take good care of you, for sure. All the best to you! – Julie
Wow! That was an excellent and detailed response. I appreciate that you both take (your) time to respond to so many people with such great suggestions and answers. It will definitely help me better decide if I end up purchasing a membership. Keep up the great work and…thanks again. Best regards to you both.
You are very welcome. Happy to help and wishing you every joy in your travels. -M
Hello and thanks for the insightful article. My wife and I are wanting to take the leap of faith and RV for an extended period and it looks like we have a million things to figure out! The questions I have for you that I didn’t see addressed involves your experience with reservation difficulty. In my limited research of TT I have seen many people write that they we extremely disappointed with how few options they had when trying to book a stay. They say that they are told everything booked and they feel they have wasted their money. Do you have to book everything months in advance? Are there some many people out there now that TT may be “oversold”? Thanks again!
Hi there. Glad the article was helpful. And yes, we have heard many comments like that. We have an Elite with 120 day reservation window in most parks (90 days in a few) and when booking well in advance, have always been unable to secure a booking. We know to book well in advance for popular places at popular times, like Florida for the winter and Maine/Oregon coast for the summer. The problem with reading reviews like what others have shared is this…
1) People usually don’t specify which membership they have and therefore the booking window
2) They also don’t specify how far in advance they tried to book eg. Last winter, we heard of a lot of people buying a membership and being unable to get a res in Florida right away. ALL of Florida is booked up in the winter and it almost always requires reservations well in advance, whether it’s a TT park or not. That’s Florida. So those people’s expectations – in my opinion – were completely unrealistic. This is why we always try to manage expectations when educating people in our articles.
3) We don’t know about TT being oversold, but we have noticed it’s not as easy to get reservations now as it was 5 years ago when we first started, but we are still able to secure most of the reservations we want – all of the ones we book 120 days in advance. Also keep in mind that RVing in general has become more popular and there is a greater demand for campgrounds everywhere in North America. I think people are forgetting that. Personally we would rather pay less via TT and deal with the occasional inconvenience of not always getting what we want when we want it (when it comes to booking at shorter notice, that is) and being flexible. We NEVER expect to stay in TT 365 days a year, on average we use it 3-6 months a year – and that has saved us a ton. Some people don’t like booking in advance – and I understand that, and while we often do that, we also often move our reservations around a bit as the dates get closer.. sure sometimes it requires a bit of time and persistence, but it is still worth it to us, for the savings. I think many people are going to start realizing that as RVing becomes more popular, ALL campgrounds are becoming busier and require longer advance reservations… and those outside of the TT network are much more expensive. As we say in all our articles, when it comes to TT (or anything RVing) get educated, and manage your expectations. If you plan ahead, and buy the membership that works for your needs, and use the membership, soon enough you will get your money’s worth out of it. Perhaps start out with a low cost/low commitment Zone Pass, and try out some TT parks out of peak season and at some of the less popular parks to get a real experience for it. Those who expect to get short notice reservations at the most popular places at peak times are bound to be disappointed, and when people don’t get what they want, they complain. Those we know who use TT “well” and understand it (us included) remain very happy with the membership and how much it saves us. The problems we see tend to be with people who don’t go in properly educated or understanding it and expect everything for nothing “now” – if you know what I mean. Hope that helps!
Hi – the picture on this page with the lap top and other monitor set up on dashboard – can you give me any pointers on how you set this up? I have a desk in my RV and don’t need it on the dash – but I liked the overall setup.
Hi Amy – sure we actually did a video about both our work spaces sharing the detail – you can watch it here https://youtu.be/oE62OZ5QAww Cheers1
I am considering a TT pass but am concerned about site availability. It’s nice to have this membership but what if no sites are available? Can you send some light on tjis?
Sure Denise. First of all, if you have a reservation, there should always be a site available for you at a TT park. Where it can get tricky sometimes is because it is a first come, first served basis, then if you have a bigger rig in particular, you MAY find there are a limited number of campsites available, compared to someone with a smaller rig. But I can tell you in 5 years of full timing, spending over 700 nights in TT parks and driving a 40′ motorhome, we have NEVER not been able to find a site. Even in Orlando, Florida in January during peak time, when we arrived late one afternoon/early evening, we still found a site. It wouldn’t have been our first choice so we had to take what was left. But we have never NOT been able to find a site. I think what people are going to find, as RVing becomes more popular, finding campsites is going to become tricker in general for ALL RV parks. The difference is, with TT, you pay so little for your camping fees, and being a member-based camping network, they don’t open too many sites to the public, and you can reserve a spot (just not a specific site). The good thing about a Zone Pass is it’s a great, low cost, low commitment way to try TT before considering a bigger commitment, like an upgrade. For under $500 you can’t go wrong. You will get your money back in the first 2 weeks of camping! Just book ahead – especially for the most popular places and most popular times…. you should be just fine.
Are the cabins included in with thousand trails membership? Or do you still pay full price to stay in cabins/yurts?
Hi Guys, My wife and I are seriously considering purchasing a resale membership. We are both retired and are going to start our adventure in Jan of 2020 or when we feel confidant of our daughter taking over the business. We have friends who are in the “Coast to Coast” network and they are telling us they like it and that we should buy into it. I like what TT has to offer though with the upgraded memberships. My question is did you guys consider Coast to Coast? If so why did you go with Thousand Trails? Most of the You Tube RV folks seem to have picked TT also. I just want to make the right decision Thanks in advance if you have time to answer. Sincerely, Isaac
HI Isaac, first congrats on your decision to hit the road in 2020! You are wise to be doing your research this far in advance, especially if considering a resale membership as this purchase/transfer time can take up to 8 weeks, and of course, you want to be making your reservations a few months ahead as well. To answer your question, yes we did also consider Coast to Coast. Five years ago when we were investigating our TT resale options, we spend considerable time in discussion with Campground Membership Outlet. At the time Chad…. now his sister Kim runs things – she is awesome as well, SUPER knowledgeable. After much discussion and sharing how we wanted to travel, a TT Elite was the best fit for our needs. We believe for what you are planning on doing, that would be a great fit for you too. If you want to better understand the nuances you can contact Kim directly to get her take. but there’s a good reason TT is the most popular. It provides the best value for money, especially for extended travel RVers. We have been writing a lot of articles about this for the past 5 years (a lot of the YouTube folks have since followed our lead after reading our content). We have spent over 700 nights in the TT system and it has paid for itself time and time again… if you have not already read this article, highly recommend you do https://rvlove.com/rv-camping/memberships/thousand-trails/upgrades/
– the VIP is a great option if you want to avoid the high use restrictions. And the Platinum if you want ability to re-sell with benefits intact. Elite of course gives you access to more parks (most of the additions are in the east) BUT keep in mind the Trails Collection add on now opens up a whole new world and many east coast parks as well. If you are wanting to make reservations for winter early 2020 in peak locations (eg. AZ/FL in winter), getting the ball rolling now is perfect timing so you can secure your reservations as soon as the booking window opens, and allowing the 8 weeks for membership transfers by TT – they get behind and slow in processing during camping season. Hope this helps! And when you do speak to Kim, please say hello from us – she is wonderful to deal with.
Hi Marc and Julie,
I want to thank you for all of the information that you have made available on the TT system. There are a lot of opinions out there from all sorts of people. But RVLove has been a consistently reliable source of facts and information that is balanced and reasonable about what to expect from TT. We also enjoyed your book too!
For my wife and I one of the best features of TT that is not often discussed very much is how affordable it makes camping costs in the Northeast part of the country. There are so many RVers that spend most of their time out west because of the prevalence of BLM land where camping is essentially free. And that’s how they keep their camping costs down. So they don’t venture much into the eastern part of the country where BLM land and free camping options are very limited.
But boondocking has its own set of demands on people and rigs. And for those of us who need hookups and also want to enjoy the beauty and points of interest found in the Eastern US as well, and especially in the New England area, TT is a godsend. With the Zone Pass and Trails Collection, you only have 1 week out of three that has to be spent in regular campgrounds. That’s a big savings!
With that combination, you have plenty of choices even in Massachussetts, New Hampshire, and Maine where camping costs are very expensive. Since we have relatives that live in New England, this makes TT very attractive to us for that reason alone.
Anyway, I just thought I would add that feature of TT that is important to us. Please keep giving us the straight talk about TT. It’s much needed!
Thanks so much Duane! We appreciate your comments – that is exactly what we strive to do. Share balanced, informative facts in a way that each can make their own decision. And we totally agree withy our comments about why many RVers stay our west to save money on BLM land! We also enjoy campgrounds and hookups in our RV, and TT has been a godsend for us too! In fact we’re enjoying the east coast now! We haven’t been here for 4 years and with the new Trails Collection add-on, we have way more campgrounds available to us as part of our TT membership than out west! Camping in the north east is VERY expensive, when you’re paying for it. But with TT, it’s amazing to be able to explore all the beauty this area has to offer. Thanks again for sharing how it’s helped you, and for the kind words. TT isn’t for everyone, but for those who value affordable camping with hookups around the country, it’s hard to beat. Happy trails!
“You cannot move from park to park using the Trails Collection upgrade. You will still need to spend 7 nights out of the system, whether you stay at a Trails Collection or Thousand Trails park.”
I watched a YouTube video where a person said that since the TT and Encore are two separate contracts, they were able to go back and forth between the two. The reservation system allowed that.
Do you have or know anyone who has tried to go between the two staying 14 days at each?
Hi Doug. That information in the YouTube video is incorrect. With the Trails Collection. you MUST STAY OUT of a Trails Collection park for 7 days before you can go into another one. The Trails Collection is an ADD-ON to the primary Thousand Trails membership. When the TC add-on was first released, there was a “hole” in the TT online booking system where some people were able to book Trails Collection/Encore parks back to back – but that loophole has not been closed. If you have a Zone pass, you must stay out of TT for 7 days if your previous stay was 5 nights or more. If you have one of the membership upgrades, you can stay up to 21 nights (28 nights with an Ultimate odyssey) and then move park to park within TT. You can go direct from a TT to a TC/Encore park for up to 14 days, and go straight to another TT park BUT you cannot go from TC/Encore to TC/Encore without a 7 day gap in between. Hope that helps! We understand TT can be very confusing, and we strive to always share the facts and a balanced perspective of TT here.
We are currently TRA members we can book 90 days out and stay in their system for 21 days then out for 7, We are looking at thousand trails elite membership is it correct that you can book 120 days out then stay 21 days and go from park to park in the entire 190 park TT system including Outdoor World, NACO, and MidAtlantic parks? Then is there no need to purchase the “zone pass” is the Annual fee still $549
Thanks so much
Hi Denny, With a Thousand Trails ELITE membership, you can book 120 days out and stay 21 days and move from park to park with no time out of the system. The Elite Connections has a 180 day reservation window. Ultimate Odyssey gives you 28 days park to park. There are 80+ parks in the TT Network. The 190 parks you speak of would be with the Trails Collection Add-on, which has 110 parks, So all together yes, it’s about 190. And yes, the Elite memberships (and above) do give you access to all of the TT, NACO, Outdoor World, and Mid Atlantic Resort parks. Some of the earlier memberships (only available as a resale) don’t include Outdoor World/Mid Atlantic Resorts.
Now, if you are not already a TT member, whether or not you need to buy a Zone Pass and pay that annual fee depends on whether you purchase your Elite (or Elite Connections) membership NEW or as a RESALE (used).
RESALE – If you buy used on the resale market, these are less expensive than buying new, BUT there is a waiting period while TT processes the transfer. Currently with the busy summer time and processing backlog, this can take 4-8 weeks. You would NOT need to buy the TT Zone Camping Pass at all. But you will have to pay annual dues on top of your membership purchase (this is generally under $600 a year). You WOULD however, still need to buy the Trails Collection add-on for $214 for the year, to get access to the other 110 parks (total 190). You will need to buy a TT membership resale outright (ie. no financing available) and we recommend Kim Hoel from Campground Membership Outlet for this option. You can email her at [email protected] or call 800-272-0401 (email is best). We wrote extensively about this here https://rvlove.com/rv-camping/memberships/thousand-trails/upgrades/
NEW – Your other option is to buy a TT membership NEW. While this is more expensive up front, there are some advantages.
1) You immediately get the membership activated and can therefore start making reservations right away (no need to wait 4-8 weeks for the membership to transfer)
2) You can finance it if you wish, with monthly payments so you don’t need to come up with the lump sum up front (note you WILL pay interest on the financing)
3) If/when you decide you no longer have a use for the membership, you can sell it with the full benefits intact (you can’t do this with most resales, benefits generally only transfer from original owner to second owner)
All NEW TT memberships start with the Zone Camping Pass purchase (usually under $500) and then you upgrade to an Elite, Elite Connections, Ultimate Odyssey for the additional benefits. If you do it immediately (upgrade) then your zone pass annual fee becomes your annual dues for the Elite. Once you upgrade, you only pay one annual fee per year (not both Zone Pass and upgrade – you only pay the one). Also you will still need to pay the $214 to add on the Trails Collection. So all up, would cost around $800 a year in dues, AFTER membership purchase.
So ultimately, to answer your question, the only time you would NOT need to purchase the Zone pass and pay that annual fee is if you bought a RESALE/USED membership. This can be a great way to go and a cost saving IF you don’t mind waiting the 4-8 weeks for the transfer to take place to get the membership in your name.
There is no one best or right way to go – it’s dependent really on when/how soon you want the membership to be activated and start using it AND whether or not your have the funds available for an upfront purchase (or need financing, as membership upgrades usually start at a couple thousand and can go much higher, depending on the membership level you choose)…..
In a nutshell…it comes down to time and/or money
TIME – Want TT now? Buy New. Do you have a couple of months up your sleeve? Then Resale is a great option to save yourself some $$$
MONEY – Have the funds to pay for a membership outright? Resale is a good way to go. If you don’t have the funds and want to start saving on your camping right away, you may prefer/need to finance? Then new is the way to go.
If you are buying new – Zone Pass and/or Elite, Elite Connections, Ultimate Odyssey – then we recommend Jim and Brandy Reneau – they are great to work with and you can contact them 770-622-4188 or email [email protected] – they actually have a great sale on the new membership upgrades at the moment for the July 4 holiday week. A much bigger discount than they are usually able to offer. You can call/email them anytime (evenings/weekends/holidays too)
Whether you buy new or used, all of the people we recommend here are excellent and will take great care of you, as part of our RVLove community. We have been dealing with them all for many years now, so please let them know we referred you. Hope this helps! Sorry for the essay, but as you can see, there are many dependent factors to help you determine which is the best way to go for you.
Have a great weekend!
HI Dennis, Just realized I missed one part of your question in my answer. You can stay 21 days in the 80 TT parks. You can only stay 14 days in the Trails Collection (TC) parks. You can go directly from TT to TT, or TT to TC without any time out of the network. But you CANNOT go direct from TC to TC – you would need 7 days out between the Trails Collection Parks. Hope that clarifies for you. We tend to stay up to 21 days at a Thousand Trails Park, then move for 14 days to a Trails Collection Park then back to another TT park.. works great and we did 3 out of 4 months in the TT network this past winter in Florida. Cheers!
Is it true that you have to pay a nightly charge at the TT campgrounds if you need 50 amp connection?
No, not typically. However, there are SOME TT campgrounds that MAY charge extra for a 50A connection at SOME sites. Some 50a in the same campground may be no feee and others may have a fee. It depends on the campground, and you will never pay extra for 30A service which all campgrounds have. It’s rare we have to – or choose to – pay extra for 50A at a TT but it happens on occasion.
I am wondering if you could share your thoughts on buying a new membership vs a new membership for thousand trails.
Hi Tracy, you mean new vs used? Here is our article where we discuss that. https://rvlove.com/2018/03/15/thousand-trails-memberships-spring-specials-new-vs-resale
Honestly, in our opinion they BOTH have their merits… and it’s going to come down to what is the best fit for your needs in terms of:
a) timing (how soon you want to start making reservations/using the TT system)
b) budget/financing options
c) type of membership that best suits your needs
When we bought our resale Elite back in the fall of 2014 it was a great choice for us – the membership transfer process used to take 2-4 weeks (ours took 4 due to an internal TT technical glitch) but as we already had a Zone Pass, we were able to still stay in the system and make reservations. We save a good couple of thousand on the price compared to new. However since then, quite a few things have changed.
1) there is now a lot more demand for these memberships
2) prices have increased due to the increased demand, so while you will still save $, it’s probably not as much as it was for us, but still, you save
3) TT is taking much longer to process the transfers (we have heard 4-8 weeks is now typical) which means you need to start the resale purchase process well in advance, especially if you want to book at peak times say in summer up north, winter in the south
4) If you want a SPECIFIC type of membership (say a VIP which has no high use restrictions, or a Platinum that you can resell with benefits intact) then some of these are ONLY available as a resale and no longer sold new by TT
TT Sells the Zone Camping Pass, Elite, Elite Connections and Ultimate Odyssey directly to members.
For many folks, they want their membership immediately so they can start making reservations and saving right away. In this case, NEW would be the best way to go so you don’t have to wait.
Also some folks don’t have the funds readily available to buy a resale membership (usually at least a few thousand, depending on which type you buy)… and so they elect to buy a NEW TT membership, as they have the ability to finance it with more affordably monthly payments (note, you will pay interest on financing).
We are also seeing the trend of lot of folks going for the newer memberships with longer booking windows.
One more benefit of buying new is you can re-sell the membership down the track with the benefits intact. This is not usually the case with resales (there are a few exceptions) as the member benefits only stay with the original owner and one after that.
All that said, if you have the time to wait and plan ahead, and the money to buy a resale outright, and they have the specific type of membership you want, then this can be a good way to go. You could buy a Zone Pass in the meantime to start using the system until your resale membership transfer is completed, as it is easy to spend $200-$300 a week or more on campgrounds in the meantime (which could easily add up to a couple of thousand if you end up waiting 8 weeks for a resale membership to transfer). Just something to keep in mind and budget for.
But if you want a membership now, and especially if you want to finance it with monthly payments, and you don’t have a particular attachment to one of the resale memberships (some hav unique benefits) then going new is probably a good option.
As you can see, it’s really not a one size fits all answer…its totally depends on your individual needs and budget… but I hope this helps.
No matter which way you go, the people we personally recommend -through our own positive experience and that of others – are all listed in each of our articles. No matter if you buy resale from Kim at Campground Membership Outlet, or new from Jim and Brandy Reneau, they will all provide you with excellent service and the best membership and deal for your needs. It’s why we continue to refer to them regularly, because we know how well they take care of our RVLove community…
Here are their details for your convenience – please let them know Julie of RVLove referred you – the Reneaus can often provide a special RVLove discoount on new memberships…
Kim at Campground Membership Outlet – [email protected] or call 800-272-0401
Jim and Brandy Reneau – [email protected] or call 770-622-4188
Both will take great care of you. And you will save a ton with TT no matter which way you go. The sooner you start, the sooner you will start saving.. We are now 5 years in and over 700 nights in the system – it has literally saved us tens of thousands of dollars in that time.
Hope this helps! Good luck! – Julie
My wife and I are huge fans of your website! We’ve been full-time RVers for the last month or so and are thinking about joining Thousand Trails. Our preference would be to buy two Zones and add the Trails Collection add-on for $853.00. I have a few questions:
1) Are there any annual maintenance fees for the TT Zones or TC add-on?
2) Is the camping truly free once you join? Just curious if there are any additional nightly fees.
HI Jon, glad you find the content helpful! You pay the fee for one zone pass which is an annual fee (usually under $500) and $52 for the additional zone. $214 for the Trails Collection. That’s it for the year. It will auto renew on your membership anniversary unless you request in writing in advance that you wish to cancel. There is no additional nightly fee for camping once you are a member unless:
1. You elect to stay in one of the handful of 50A sites that SOME parks charge a small fee for (usually $3-5 a night). Note, many parks have NO nightly fee for 50A, but there are a few that do for SOME of their 50A sites (not all). Weird and confusing, but it happens. Of course you don’t have to stay in those. We usually just get by with 30A or one of the 50A that doesn’t have a fee. It’s the minority of sites/campgrounds that even have this additional fee and it doesn’t make sense, but a few CGs have their reasons/rules which we have never quite understood. Either way, it’s not enough of a common situation to concern yourself about.
2. You stay at one of the premium Encore parks in the Trails Collection – 18 of the 110 charge $20 a night, but the vast majority don’t.
I think that’s it! Contact Jim and Brandy on 770-622-4188 and tell them you’re part of the RVLove community, they will take great care of you.
How many parks have pull thrust and accept 41 ft rvs?
Are you referring to a 41 foot motorhome or towable, which would also be towed by a truck? I can’t give you an exact number as that information is not readily available. While the majority of parks – I would estimate at least 80% – should be able to accept rigs of that size (likely more, just being conservative), the number of pull through sites will vary. Best you call individual parks in advance for that info, but even then, you will be limited to what sites are OPEN and available at the time of your arrival, as you cannot pre-book a specific site.
I’ve heard from other TT members that during your 7 days out of the system that you are able to stay at an Encore property. Now I’m reading from you that this isn’t true. Is there somewhere that I can read the rules straight from Thousand Trails? Thanks for everything you do! Marsha
No, that is not true. If you have a Zone Pass, you must stay out of the system – TT and Encore Parks – for 7 days before being able to go back in. For a while there, some members WERE able to make reservations at Encore within their “7 days out” period, but that was due to a technical glitch in the system, and TT has now closed / rectified that loophole. So, for Zone Pass holders – 7 days OUT of the system before re-entry. And if you have an upgraded membership, you must stay out of an Encore resort for 7 days before going to another Encore. You are welcome!
I hope to visit this location one day soon.
Thank you so much for your detailed information on Thousand Trails! My husband & I are about to become full-timers, and actually heard about TT briefly from someone who stopped by our moving sale this weekend. We have an online business, and would appreciate any info. that you can provide on your experience with internet connections at the parks. We pay a monthly hotspot fee through our cell provider, and have a wi-fi booster, but read something about paying additional fees for internet service at the parks. Thanks in advance for your thoughts. We are also looking at purchasing a Mini, and enjoyed reading about your journey with the Mini as well! 🙂
Hi Mary – cellular reception depends on where you are – anywhere in a valley or canyon will be the most challenging, but not impossible. eg. We stayed at Verde Valley,AZ (not great but if you have sufficient booster/antenna you can get by) and also Soledad Canyon, CA which worked OK in section N. Yosemite Valley, CA is terrible – forget it – so we just enjoyed the National Park and didn’t work. Sometimes you need to drive around campgrounds to find the best section for cellular connectivity which we are happy to do as it is such a priority for us. Honestly, we have never paid for additional Internet/WIFI at TT in our 5 years as members. We know Pio Pico has an option to pay for internet service and if we go there, it may be worthwhile for us to pay that to stay for free… but it’s rare you will have to do that if you have a decent hotspot with a major provider. Just make sure you have a solid internet / connectivity setup, and also plan your travels around having good signal. Verizon and AT&T are generally the best but we also have T-Mobile and that has been great too, so we are well covered with the 3. We have a cellular booster and are about to install an antenna/router and will be sharing more on our new connectivity setup soon. We loved our MINI! Such a fun car! We cried when we waved it goodbye… but we love the new experiences we can have in our Jeep now too. Hope all this helps!
You are correct in stating that the information about TT can be confusing. We are looking into the Camping Pass now but it appears that there are only a few spaces in each location to use these passes, as few as 10. If that’s true, and with only a 60 day reservation window, how realistic is it that space will be available? And are these space out in the “hinterlands” of the park? Thanks! And great website!!
Hi Laurie. Oh yes, TT can be SO confusing!!! If you are talking about a TT Zone Camping Pass, there is NO LIMIT to the number of spaces you have available to stay in. The 10 number is the MINIMUM number of spaces that are made available in the ENCORE parks, as part of the Trails Collection add-on. That’s optional and separate to the actual TT Zone Camping Pass. Obviously, the most popular places will book up faster, especially at peak times eg. Florida in the winter! But people change their reservations around all the time, and sometimes we find that with a call to the reservation line they can often find us a res that we may not have been able to find online. Also some places may be booked up, but as people cancel, availability opens. You may need to be a bit flexible, especially at peak times and popular locations… but overall it’s incredible value for money. Just book your stays in advance (we do and often move them around as needed) at the 60 day park (you won’t always need to book that far out) and you should be fine. Not sure what you mean about your ‘hinterlands’ question? We have no specific answer or info on where the campsites are for the 10 (or more) Trails Collection spaces are in each RV park, that is different for every property and determined by them at each park, not TT. Hope that helps!
Are there age requirements for the rv. We have an 89 in very good condition
Not for TT. Some Encore Parks may have an age restriction eg. Portland-Fairview in Oregon. Always best to check the rules and restrictions for each park before making a res, specifically for Encore/Trails Collection. Never had an issue with TT parks though. Ours is a 1999!
. Do most of th campgrounds in the “zones” include full hookups? Or, do you need to use the trail collection to get them Thank you. ??
Many TT campgrounds have full hookups, I would say all of them have water/electric, but sewer connections are at many sites. Not all. Some parks will have a combo of W/E and full hookup sites. For example, we will often prefer a W/E site over full hookup as it may be in a better location in terms of view or cell coverage. On the east coast, we find most sites are full hookup. On the west coast, W/E is more common…. but there are still on the west many with full hookups. And of course, this is changing all the time, as the parks continue to upgrade. So it’s probably a good idea to call ahead to individual parks if that’s a “dealbreaker” for you. All of them have dump stations, and some even have a “honey wagon” pump out service (for a free). Majority of Trails Collection (Encore) parks are full hookup, but not all, definitely most. Hope that helps!
We are looking to purchase a TT membership, to be effective 5/1/19
We have dealing with a broker, or middleman.
So, we have been discussing platinum and elite memberships.
Do you recommend going this route? We will be full time.
We head out 3/27.
Thanks for taking the time to make this information available for those of us who are very confused. Lol
OMG Dawn absolutely! If you have not already read our article (sounds like you have not) on the upgrades, please do so here https://rvlove.com/rv-camping/memberships/thousand-trails/upgrades/
– it will help you understand it much better. It can be SO CONFUSING! I don’t know which broker you are dealing with, but we highly recommend Kim Hoel from Campground Membership Outlet [email protected] or call 800-272-0401. She is SO knowledgeable and helpful and has been doing this her whole life. Her dad even helped set up the TT system decades ago and she grew up in campgrounds and full-timed with her kids for years. So no-one knows TT and the resale memberships better than Kim (and her brother Chad). We get emails almost every week from people thanking us for referring us to Kim as she is so helpful. Just know that the sooner you get the ball rolling on your resale the better so you can start securing reservations. The transfer process can take up to a month (usually) but sometimes during busy season they can get backlogged and we have heard it take up to 6 weeks (though that’s an anomaly). Of course, buying a new membership also has its merits: 1) you get your membership and can start making reservations instantly and 2) you can re-sell it with benefits intact to recoup some of your initial investment… Of course new is more expensive, but you also have the option to finance it, which is high value to some folks who may not have the option to pay upfront in full for a resale. If you decide buying new may be a fit for your needs, we recommend Jim and Brandy Reneau (TT Membership Specialists) – we know them personally and they also are very helpful and provide a great service, not salesy or pushy either! They take great care of our RVLove community. You can email [email protected] or call them on 770-622-4188. Whoever you go with, you will be well taken care of, especially if you tell them you’re an “RVLover” and have read our articles 🙂 Good luck with launching into your full-time RV Life! The one final caveat we have on the membership upgrades by the way is you do want to be sure TT is for you if you have any hesitation about spending the higher amount on an upgrade from day one. You cannot sell most resales with the benefits intact. That’s why we try to encourage people to try a Zone Pass first… but some feel comfortable enough to go for an upgrade right away. It’s all personal choice and budget… managing expectations and risk, based on your own personal situation. Hope that helps! Either of those people (Kim/Jim/Brandy) will definitely be a great and help resource for you, as you explore your options. Cheers!
I am looking at a class C You hauler. Is Class C allowed at TT? I know there are parks that will not allow them
That’s a good question and sorry, we don’t know the answer to that. I would give TT a call and ask them!
We absolutely love Thousand Trails. We have had a Zone Pass for six years. Previously we had the Max Pass add on but that has since gone away so now we have added the Trails Connection. As Canadian Snowbirds in our 70s we felt it was not worth it to upgrade as we would not be able to recoup that cost. Our week out is usually spent boondocking in free areas. We are currently in Florida and have found plenty of places to stay in Water Management Districts and Wildlife Management Areas. (We are currently in Lake Panasoffkee WMA, which is about 5 minutes from a TT campground in Wildwood). As you say, we have met some of the best people in TT campgrounds, including you! Happy Camping, Mike and Dee.
Thanks for sharing your experience Mike and Dee. We are so happy to have met you both! And we love how you have found a great, cost effective way to make TT work for you. See you in a few weeks! 🙂
I’ve heard a lot of complaints from people who bought a zone pass and then couldn’t secure a reservation because of the limited booking window. In your opinion do you think TT is overselling themselves? Especially with more and more sites being converted to long-term/annuals.
Hi Andy, yes we’ve heard this too. I think one of the big problems is a lot of people buy a zone pass and try to immediately make a reservation inn LESS than 60 days and get annoyed if they can’t secure one. We heard it happen a lot recently here in Florida for the winter. People heard about it, bought a pass, then found the parks were full. But this is Florida, peak season and in high demand right now. So I am sure those incidents are isolated. If people are diligent about booking when their window opens – AND stay mindful that there are no guarantees – especially in peak times at the most popular places – they should not experience that issue on a regular basis…We have made reservations 60 days ahead plenty of times with no issues, when we had a zone pass. We do think TT is becoming more popular as people find out about it and what great value it is, especially for us full-timers. And so there is more demand. We also believe this is one of the reasons they introduced the Trails Collection with more Encore Parks, to open up more sites for members. Some campgrounds have more long-term/annuals than others… there are many parks that don’t. We would like to see more sites within the Trails Collection system being opened up to members to make more available, for sure.Ultimately though, as described in the blog post, once you have spent 2-3 weeks in the TT system, you already have gotten your money’s worth in value compared to paying for other campsites… it is not designed for people to stay in it ALL the time, though we know folks who do (a lot). If we can’t get a reservation when and where we want, we stay somewhere else. We don’t depend on TT to meet our every need, all of the time. It’s one of the many tools in our camping membership arsenal, albeit the one we use the most. One final note, the longer advance reservation booking window is one of the advantages of the upgrades (eg. Elite) plus the ability to stay 21 nights and go park to park. As we said repeatedly in the post, the TT Zone Pass is a good way to “try before you buy” an upgrade (which costs thousands) and see if you like the parks and system first. Any concerns about booking window being too short can be mitigated with one of the upgrades…. but you only want to do that if you are sure TT is for you first… and that’s where a Zone Pass is handy. There should be no problems making reservations outside of the peak periods and holidays… within a 60 day window, especially at parks that are not considered the most popular. Hope that helps! Remember, you will always find people complaining about something – it’s not a perfect world – we just try to manage people’s expectations so they know what they are buying and can make their own choices accordingly. A Zone Pass is a low cost, low risk way to try TT out. It is not going to be for everyone. But for those who have found it works for them it’s priceless.
I agree with your article that TT is a good value. Many of their resorts are very nice, some are less then desirable and a few are just disgraceful and in need of an overhaul.
However, overall, I am satisfied as I have been able to avoid the less then desirable resorts primarily because I am also a Trails Collection member (great value).
I have been a member since 2016. In 2017, I signed up for the four year plan. In 2018, changes were made to that plan, yet I was not notified. As the changes negatively impacted the ability to travel from park-to-park within the Encore system, I had questions relative to clarifying the revised rules.
When I called TT directly, they told me I had to write to Customer Services . I wrote to them on 11/26/18, 11/27/18 and again on 1/12/19. I never received even a reply to my questions nor did anyone follow-up with a phone call. TT is quick to take money, but rude and non-response to a client’s simple request to clarify the contract changes.
This is no way to treat a client and more important, it sends a negative message to prospective customers/clients.
Hi Joseph, glad to see you are getting good value out of your TT membership, and that you pick and choose your parks, as do we. That sounds very odd about your plan changes. Did you take it up directly with the membership specialist who signed you up? Tat’s what we would recommend. Also TT is notoriously bad at responding to email/written requests. We don’t get replies either. Calling in by phone seems to be the best avenue. If you have a signed contact, those are the rules that apply to you. If they change them, and it’s not in your contract, it should not apply to you. What you have in writing is what should be correct for you.
Has there been times when you could not get a reservation at the desired park? Has there ever been a park that was not up to the expected standards?
Hi Patti. Yes and yes. Park standards do vary. We tend to be more forgiving of Thousand Trails parks as we pay next to nothing to camp in their system. For example. If we were paying $40-50 a night, we may not be happy with the standards, but because we are staying virtually ‘for free’ we don’t let it bother us too much because it saves us so much money. That said, we do have our preferred parks and with over 80 in the TT system to choose from (plus the 110 Trails Collection Parks) we have more choice than we would ever likely use. So we like to pick and choose where we stay. Some of our favorite parks include Orlando, Palm Springs, Medina Lake (because of the deer and we like nabbing a waterfront site and watching the sunsets – the CG and amenities standards are fairly rustic), we also loved Seaside, Sunriver-Bend, Lake Conroe, to name a few and for the Trails Collection… Clerbrook Golf & RV Resort, Miami Everglades, Voyager, Narrows Too… we don’t have to like ALL of the TT parks, just enough for us to have variety and enjoy staying in. And some we like purely for the location. We think that’s an important thing to keep in mind and help manage your expectations. You are not going to get free camping at top shelf parks for under $500 a year. That said, some are really nice and we enjoy them a lot. If we book well in advance, we don’t have trouble getting reservations. But if you book popular places at high season and short notice, then yes, you’re going to be likely to experience a harder time getting a res, but not impossible. Sometimes persistence, patience and some calls to the reservation line are needed. But we’re in Florida for the winter now where the demand is high.. we have been here since early December, staying in TT/TC parks for free almost exclusively. We would recommend you make your reservations as soon as your booking window opens (60 days for Zone Pass) to avoid disappointment. Especially for holiday weekends. But this is going to be the case just about anywhere. As RVing becomes more popular and more people are looking for places to park, campground prices will continue to rise and getting reservations will get trickier at the most popular spots and times.. everywhere. It’s basic supply and demand. But we are almost always able to get reservations if we book in advance… and may need to be flexible in case we can’t get our first choice… that’s why we recommend the Zone Pass to start. Camping and demand are changing over the years. And first-hand experience is always the best way to make a decision to see if it’s a fit for your needs. The way we see it, a Zone pass is a low cost, low risk way to try out TT and see if it’s for you or not. We’ve met people who found it wasn’t for them, and we know many more who love it… and would not be able to afford to RV full-time without it. Like us! So it also comes down to your priorities, preferences and values. We don’t particularly care for the place we’re in now (Sunshine Holiday in Fort Lauderdale) and would not rush back, but we’re inside the RV working all week anyway and have water/electric/sewer and a place to park our RV ‘for free’. So we deal with it knowing it’s saving us at least $250 for the week we are here, compared to say a nicer state or city park nearby (presuming we could get in). LOL We loved our stays at TT Orlando and Miami Everglades, and even Winter Garden which, while not top shelf, was in a fantastic location where we could walk to everything and that was high-value for us. So really, it comes down to your personal preferences and priorities as well. We just really like for people’s expectations to be managed. Don’t go in expecting it to be amazing, and you won’t be disappointed… in fact, you may be pleasantly surprised, especially if you’re on a budget and managing your camping expenses is important to you. Hope that helps!