Is Thousand Trails Worth It? Memberships, Booking Hacks & More
In a recent video, we had several of you that didn't know what Thousand Trails was. So what is Thousand Trails? It is a membership-based camping group that has 81 core RV parks.
Today, we're going to go through Thousand Trails'membership options, how it works, some booking hacks you might not know, as well as answer the question: is Thousand Trails worth it?
Camping Pass membership
The basics start out with something called a Camping Pass. I think it's $599 a year, and that allows you to spend 14 days in a group of RV parks and campgrounds. Then you have to leave for at least seven days, and after that, you can go back in for up to another 14 days.
Theoretically, you could spend three out of every four weeks in Thousand Trails parks.
Encore Trails Collection
There are more things available, something called the Encore Trails Collection, which adds another 110 RV parks with an add-on cost of around $299 a year.
Thousand Trails zones
Then there are zones. With your basic camping pass, you get one zone, and there are five zones in the country. For $59, you can add additional zones depending on what part of the country you want to camp in.
With the basic camping pass, you can book up to 60 days in advance. Of course, that's just the basic camping pass with the Trails Collection.
Thousand Trails premium memberships
There are several other levels after that, which get you more benefits, like being able to stay up to four weeks in a Thousand Trails park and being able to reserve those camping spots up to 180 days in advance.
One of the things with the higher packages, it seems like you get placed in some of the nicer spots available plus there are some family benefits.
Sometimes there's no availability or limited spaces available. If it's the busy season, you might not get into the park you want to get into. Thousand Trails is nationwide and has a few parks in Canada, but it's really only on the coasts. If you're going to be camping in the middle of the country, there really aren’t many parks available. There are lots of rules, and those rules could vary from park to park.
You're not guaranteed a specific site. You're guaranteed a site, but it may not have the power you want. For example, 30 amp instead of 50 amp and you may not get full hookups. Some sites and parks might be awesome, but many of them are not. Some parks have sites very close together and you may not be able to fit into a site.
Is Thousand Trails worth it?
So with all these negatives, is Thousand Trails worth it? Well, think of it like your favorite sports team. Do they always make you happy? No. Do they make mistakes? Yes. Well, that is a good analogy for Thousand Trails.
They are not perfect. They have plenty of flaws and make plenty of mistakes, but they're still the best membership out there for all that they have to offer. If you're willing to look through some of these crazy complicated details, restrictions, and rules, and if you really want to save money camping with mostly full hookups in some pretty cool places all around the country, you definitely should check it out.
If you buy directly from Thousand Trails, there are monthly payment plans. We have this membership for life now, so for however many years we decide to RV going forward, all we have to do is pay a yearly maintenance fee. It's like $600 a year that is on monthly payments. We have access to nearly 200 parks altogether and our membership level gives us access to a 21-day stay at all of the Thousand Trails core RV parks.
I can't say that Thousand Trails is something you should do. It's an individual choice. It is a lot of money and if you are not a full-time RVR, or you really prefer boondocking, it may not be worth it to you. If you prefer being in RV parks with full hookups, a few more amenities, and you want to save money as well, you should look at it. I would recommend starting out with the Camping Pass then you can decide to add whatever zone pass to that.
If you decide it’s not for you, you're not obligated after the end of that year and go on to pay whatever you normally pay for campgrounds. I think at the minimum if you use it for a few weeks, you're going to get your money's worth out of it, and then you'll have an idea if it's something that you want to continue.
Thousand Trails booking hacks
Now for some Thousand Trails booking hacks.
1. Ask the park management
The first one is if the park is not that busy and you've stayed 14 days or 21 days, and you want to stay longer, then you can ask the management if you can stay longer. We have done this several times when it's the off-season and the management calls the Thousand Trails office and I think we got an extra week for no charge. So that's something to keep in mind that 14-day, 21-day, and 28-day rules are not necessarily completely hard and fast.
2. Book when the window opens
The next one is to be observant of those booking windows. If you have 60 days to book, you want to be ready to book right when that window opens. If you call the office or reserve online, and you get it right at that 60-day window opening you really increase your chances of getting into the site you want.
3. Try again in case of cancellations
Also, remember that cancellations happen. So even if you get turned down the first time you try, just keep trying each day because people cancel their plans all the time and you never know when a spot might open up.
Thousand Trails campgrounds
If you want to try out the Camping Pass, remember that you can't buy that used. Even at the direct price, it’s a good way to try out Thousand Trails campgrounds to find out if the membership is a good fit for you.
Let us know in the comments if you’re a fan of Thousand Trails campgrounds and be sure to include why or why not.