Thousand Trails – Is It Right For You?

A map of all Thousand Trails campgrounds in the US

Thousand Trails campgrounds are not for everyone. If you search the internet, you will find opinions for and against Thousand Trails memberships. And there are valid arguments for both sides. But for many, they are a way to be able to affordably full-time travel by RV.

In this article, I just want to point out one advantage that Thousand Trails campgrounds provide that is often overlooked. And that is how affordable the 1000 Trails campgrounds can make traveling by RV in the Eastern US, especially New England.

Camping costs by region – not all are equal

Many full-time RV campers like to spend their time in the western states to save on campground costs. This because there is plenty of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land in the west. And campers can often stay at designated areas on these government managed lands for free. Of course, it means that they have to boondock, or forego hookups of any kind. But if you have the right rig and can adjust to the demands of boondocking, you can save money. Primarily in camping or campground costs.

But in the eastern states, the camping situation is totally different. There is very little BLM land in the east. Therefore there are also very few places to be able to camp for free. So campgrounds generally charge more in eastern states simply because they can.

Thousand Trails campgrounds to the rescue

This is where a 1000 Trails membership can really shine. If it is used in the eastern part of the country, serious campground savings can be had. Even if you only have a Thousand Trails Zone Pass, the savings will still be substantial.

This is because a Zone Pass only costs about $585 at the time of this writing. A Zone Camping Pass allows you to stay at Thousand Trails parks for two weeks for free with full hookups. You must then stay outside the park system for 1 week wherever you choose. After that week you can stay at another Thousand Trails park for two more weeks. Then just repeat the process.

Many regular campgrounds in New England’s popular areas will cost about $50 per day even on weekdays. Therefore a month of camping at these campgrounds could cost $1500 or more in New England. But for two weeks out of three, you can stay at Thousand Trails parks for free. Of course, there is the cost of the Zone Pass, which would be roughly $50 per month. Obviously then, there are savings to be had with a TT membership, especially in the northeast.

A map of all Thousand Trails campgrounds in the US
The Thousand Trails Zones and map of campground locations

Encore RV Parks make camping even better

As you can see Thousand Trails can really help lower campground costs, especially in the northeast. But if you add the Trails Collection (TC) of Encore RV parks to your Zone Pass, it gets even better. This add-on gives you camping in Encore RV resorts nationwide for an additional $214 a year. Just to be clear, you can use the Trails Collection Encore parks anywhere in the country. Even outside your TT Zone Pass area.

The Trails Collection also adds significantly to the number of campgrounds available to you in New England. They are found in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. And the same rules applies to the TC parks as to TT parks. That is, 2 weeks in, 1 week out, rinse and repeat.

Yes, the TC does add to your overall camping costs. But for what you get, and the small extra cost per year, I think it’s a great bargain! And Encore campgrounds are typically a cut above TT parks in amenities too.

Can Thousand Trails help in other eastern states?

Campground savings in the rest of the eastern states may not be quite as dramatic, but they are still significant. Your free camping options may be slightly better in the lower eastern states. But they are still severely limited compared to what is available in the west. So that is why TT is able to deliver such value for camping costs in those areas as well. And, of course, there is always the added benefit of the TC Encore Parks in many of those states too.

Final thoughts about eastern Thousand Trails parks

You should base your decision on buying a TT Zone Pass on many things. And the availability of eastern camping options should only be one of those reasons. But for those who want to travel in the eastern states too, it’s a great way to do that and save money. If you have a TT upgrade membership, like the Elite or Ultimate Odyssey, you can even save more! But that discussion is for another time.

The Smoky Mountains are incredible to see. So are the Adirondacks. New England has breath-taking scenery and unique history. What a shame to miss all of that and more because camping costs are too high. And if you have family in that area like we do, all the better.

Please comment below and tell us about your thoughts or experiences with Thousand Trails

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