Our Thousand Trails Review – $0 Per Night Camping In 2024

Our Thousand Trails Review

In this Thousand Trails review we’re going to be talking about Thousand Trails Campground memberships.

Specifically, we’re going to be talking about the pros and the cons of using Thousand Trails campgrounds.

And how you can stay at their RV parks for $0/night. Now if this is what you’re mainly interested in, just click here to go to that part of the article.

Also, we will provide information about our experiences with Thousand Trails overall. And whether or not it has saved us money.

Now when you go online, you are going to find that there are some RVing subjects that are controversial.

Well this is one of those subjects. There’s lots of Thousand Trails complaints to read about.

About whether they provide the kind of value that you would hope and expect.

Hidden Cove in AL
Thousand Trails Hidden Cove in AL

Especially for the money that you invest in one of their memberships.

But even if Thousand Trails campgrounds do save money on camping costs, there are still some other questions that have to be answered.

For instance, do they provide all the amenities you are hoping for? And are they a good value for the money that you invest into a membership?

Those are very good questions that I will answer in this article. But before I do, you need to see the Thousand Trails memberships explained first.

Because you can’t really understand the pros and cons of Thousand Trails membership levels without knowing what they are. So let’s get started.

2024 UPDATE – This article has been updated to include the latest Thousand Trails memberships and prices. And that includes the new Thousand Trails Escape membership.

Table of Contents

How Does Thousand Trails Work?

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard Thousand Trails memberships explained by some as a time share.

But that is not a very good explanation of how Thousand Trails works. And I know because I have owned time shares myself.

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In a typical time share, you buy a week or weeks at a resort. And you are only entitled to stay for the week(s) you bought at that particular resort.

Of course, if you join an exchange program you can trade your week(s) to stay elsewhere. But you still only have the week(s) you bought to trade.

Thousand Trails memberships don’t work like that at all. Instead, you can use a membership to stay at qualifying campgrounds any time of the year.

And you don’t have to exchange anything. You can use the same membership in RV parks all across the country. And Thousand Trails has a lot of campgrounds in their program.

So you can travel throughout the US and use your Thousand Trails membership as often as you like. Or as often as the Thousand Trails rules allow for the membership you bought.

Now that you know how it works, let’s make sure that the Thousand Trails memberships are explained clearly.

No Thousand Trails review is complete without discussing their membership options. So here we go.

Watch my video explaining the Thousand Trails membership levels

Thousand Trails Camping Pass

The most basic Thousand Trails membership level is the annual Camping Pass. It used to be called the Thousand Trails Zone Pass, but they have just changed the name.

As of 2024, the Thousand Trails Camping Pass cost is $670 for a whole year of camping. But there are ways to get this membership for less.

And I’ll discuss that later in this Thousand Trails review.

Thousand Trails Camping Pass rules

So what are the Thousand Trails Camping Pass rules? Well, here they are:

  • You can stay at any Thousand Trails campground for up to 14 nights at a time. And it will cost you $0/night to do so.
  • You may only stay at Thousand Trails parks that are within a zone (or defined area). And you get to choose the zone you want from 5 areas in the US.
  • If you only stay 4 nights or less, you can move from one Thousand Trails campground to another. And there would no need for time spent outside the system.
  • If you stay 5 nights or longer in one campground, you must be outside the system for 7 days. After that, you can stay again at another Thousand Trails campground.
  • You can make reservations for a stay at any Thousand Trails campground up to 60 days in advance.
Thousand Trails review - Zones Camping Pass
Thousand Trails Camping Pass benefits and rules

Who should get a Thousand Trails Camping Pass?

If you are not familiar with Thousand Trails memberships at all, this is a good place to start. In fact, this is where we started with Thousand Trails.

One of the great things is it allows you to learn how the system works. And you don’t have to invest a lot of money to do that.

It works very well for RV campers who like to camp on weekends or vacations. And it can also work well for some part-time RV campers too.

As long as you use the membership for at least two weeks in the year, it pays for itself. And anything after that adds up to camping savings!

How To Avoid Buying An RV Money Pit

So what happens if you decide that you don’t care for the Thousand Trails system though? Well in that case, just cancel your Camping Pass renewal. It’s that simple.

However, if you want to use it again for another year, it will automatically renew.

Where can you use your Camping Pass?

There are 5 defined zones of Thousand Trails campgrounds in the US.

They are the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and Northwest zones. And you can view them here on this Thousand Trails Zones Map.

Thousand Trails Zones Map

As you can see, most of the campgrounds in the system are closer to the US coasts. There is not a lot of them available in the middle of the country.

But if you live in any of the five zones, a Zone Camping Pass could be a very good choice for you.

Now, only one zone is included when you get your Thousand Trails Camping Pass though. However, you can add zones for $90 per zone.

So if you lived in North Carolina, you could get the Southeast zone included in your Camping Pass membership. But you might want to add on the Northeast zone too for another $90.

By adding zones, it extends your camping possibilities within the Thousand Trails network.

Thousand Trails Escape Membership

New for 2024 is the addition of another membership level.

And it fits in between the Zones Camping Pass and the Elite membership I will discuss next.

It still has most of the features and restrictions found in the Zones Camping Pass above.

But it has one distinct advantage – the reservation window is moved from 60 days to 90 days instead.

This allows you to reserve Thousand Trails sites 30 days earlier than owners of the Zones Camping Pass.

But the reservation window is still at least 30 days less than other upgraded membership options.

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And I will discuss those options later in this article.

Also, you have a $670 per year annual dues to pay in addition to your initial membership cost.

This keeps your Escape membership current each year. But your dues will be frozen at age 62, and not increase in cost from that point on.

How much does an Escape membership cost?

The cost of the new Thousand Trails Escape membership depends on how many zones you select.

Thousand Trails Escape membership

But this is how it breaks down:

  • The cost for one zone is a one-time $2995 fee
  • The cost for two zones is a one-time $4995 fee
  • The cost for 3 zones is a one-time $5995 fee
  • The cost for 4 zones is a one-time $6995 fee

And once again, don’t forget that even though you pay for the membership up front, you still have yearly dues to pay going forward.

But this Thousand Trails review will also show you hot to save money on the membership cost later on in this article.

Who should get a Thousand Trails Escape membership?

This kind of membership option is not really for full-time RVers or snowbirds.

It just doesn’t provide enough additional benefits to compete with the other upgraded memberships.

And you will see what I mean about that soon.

But if you currently have a Zones Camping Pass and are having a hard time getting reservations, this membership option might work for you.

And especially if you tend to camp within just one or two zones yearly.

Thousand Trails Elite Membership

OK, let’s suppose that you have used your Zone Camping Pass for a while and you like what you see.

But you would like more benefits than is included in the Escape membership option.

If so, you can think about upgrading your Thousand Trails membership level. And the next one in line is the Basic Elite membership.

And here are the Thousand Trails Elite membership benefits and rules:

  • You can stay in any Thousand Trails park for up to 21 days without moving.
  • You can then transfer directly to another Thousand Trails park. And you don’t have to spend any time outside the system to do so.
  • You also can now stay at all 80+ campgrounds in the network. So there is no more need for zones to stay in. You have the whole country included in your membership.
  • You can extend any stay for an extra week after 21 days two times per year for $29 each time.
  • Your window for making reservations extends to 120 days (4 months). And that’s a great improvement over the Zone Camping Pass.

How much does a Thousand Trails Elite membership cost?

If you have a Zone Camping Pass already, you can upgrade at any time to the Elite membership.

And as of 2024, the cost of the upgrade will be $8995. But you may be able to get it for less. And I will discuss that later in this Thousand Trails review article.

Basic Elite Thousand Trails membership
Thousand Trails Basic Elite membership benefits and rules

Of course, you may be able to get a discount for the remaining time left on your Zone Camping Pass too.

And you can pay for the membership in cash. But you can also finance it through Thousand Trails too.

RV repairs - don't pay for them

Typically financing your membership upgrade requires a 10% down payment. But just ask them about what they offer at the time.

Then going forward, you will not have to pay for the Thousand Trails Elite membership again. You now own it for life.

However, you will have annual dues to maintain the membership. And you are required to pay those dues for at least two years.

And as of 2024, those dues can be anywhere from about $500 to $670 per year. It all depends on your membership contract.

Who should get a Thousand Trails Elite membership?

Well, now we are getting into the area where full-time and part-time RVers benefit.

Obviously, the membership cost is hefty up front. But if you travel and camp a lot, it may be a very good choice to control your camping costs.

And as camping nightly fees keep rising in the years ahead, this is a way to lock in lower costs for many years.

In fact, if you are 62 or older, your annual dues will be frozen at that age. And that is another way to keep your camping costs low going forward.

Hershey PA
Thousand Trails Hershey PA

Thousand Trails Elite Connections Membership

Next in the membership upgrade path is the Thousand Trails Elite Connections membership level.

And here are the benefits and rules for that membership upgrade:

  • You can stay in any Thousand Trails park for up to 21 days without moving.
  • You can then transfer directly to another Thousand Trails park. And you don’t have to spend any time outside the system to do so.
  • You also can now stay at all 80+ campgrounds in the network. You have the whole country included in your membership.
  • You can extend any stay for an extra week after 21 days two times per year for $29 each time.
  • Your window for making reservations extends to 180 days (6 months).

Obviously, the big draw of this membership is the 180 day camping reservation window.

This allows you to reserve a campsite much earlier than even the Elite members.

And as more people come into the RV lifestyle, that benefit will only get better over time.

Otherwise, this membership is pretty much the same as the Elite. But it also comes with some perks that include discounted cruises and condos.

How much does a Thousand Trails Elite Connections membership cost?

As of 2024, the Thousand Trails Elite Connections membership costs a maximum of $11,345. At least that is the cost if you upgrade from a Zone Camping Pass.

Elite Connections Thousand Trails membership
Thousand Trails Elite Connections membership benefits and rules

But later on in this Thousand Trails review, I’ll show you how you can this membership for less.

You would still have your annual dues that could range from $500 – $670 per year. And you can still freeze your annual dues at age 62 going forward.

Who should get a Thousand Trails Elite Connections membership upgrade?

Once again, full-time and part-time RVers benefit most from this membership.

Especially since the upgrade cost has increased considerably. And that puts it farther out of the reach of many weekend and vacation RV travelers.

But it also works well for those that travel a lot and like to have flexibility in their travel plans.

So if you like to also take cruises and stay in condos for a while, this could be a good choice.

Thousand Trails Adventure Membership

So now we get to the top of the upgrade path. And that is the Thousand Trails Adventure Membership level.

And here are the membership benefits and rules for this upgrade:

  • You can stay in any Thousand Trails park for up to 21 days without moving.
  • You can then transfer directly to another Thousand Trails park. And you don’t have to spend any time outside the system to do so.
  • You also can now stay at all 80+ campgrounds in the network. So there is no more need for zones to stay in. You have the whole country included in your membership.
  • You can extend any stay for an extra week after 21 days four times per year during off-peak times for $29 each time. And two times annually during on-peak times for $99 each time.
  • Your window for making reservations extends to 180 days (6 months).
  • You have special privileges at RV resorts in the Thousand Trails Trails Collection Plus.

So as you can see, the main benefits of the Adventure membership is pretty much the same as the Elite and Elite Connections.

But there is one big difference. And that has to do with the Thousand Trails Trails Collection Plus.

And that is a group of Encore RV Resorts that are also available for camping reservations.

In the Thousand Trails Adventure membership you get special privileges in those parks.

Just skip down to the next section and I will explain what those privileges are.

But there are also more travel benefits in the form of cabin and condo stays, and cruises too.

How much does a Thousand Trails Adventure membership cost?

As of 2024, the cost for this top level membership is $17,595. At least that is the most you would pay for upgrading from a Zone Camping Pass.

Thousand Trails review of the Adventure membership
Thousand Trails Adventure membership benefits and rules

But look farther down in this Thousand Trails review to find out about savings on this membership.

Clearly, that is a big investment for most RVers. But as I said above, the main attraction is the addition of the special privileges at the parks in the Trails Collection Plus.

Again, you will have to pay yearly dues to keep your membership active.

And those dues are similar to the ones mentioned above for other Thousand Trails memberships.

Who should get the Thousand Trails Adventure membership?

Obviously, the cost of this membership is significant. And that means that many RVers cannot afford it.

But if you are a full or part-time RV traveler, it could be worth it. Especially if you like to vary your method of travel and nightly stays.

It also appeals to those who want an extensive list of RV resorts and campgrounds to choose from. And you will se why that is true in the next section.

Thousand Trails – Trails Collection

The Trails Collection is an add-on that can be used with any of the Thousand Trails memberships. And that includes the Camping Pass.

It is a group of RV resorts managed by Thousand Trails Encore. There are 110+ resorts that can be added to the 80+ Thousand Trails parks.

And these Encore parks are spread all across the country. The only downside is that they are again located mainly on the US coastal areas.

But that means that by adding the Trails Collection package, you could have nearly 200 resorts and RV parks for camping. And that is pretty impressive.

Just look at the map below to see the Thousand Trails Encore resorts across the country. (They are the ones you see in blue and tan)

A map of all Thousand Trails campgrounds in the US
The Thousand Trails Trails Collection Map

The Rules and benefits of the Trails Collection

Here are the rules and benefits of adding the Trails Collection on to any Thousand Trails membership.

  • You can stay up to 14 nights at a Trails Collection park
  • You must then exit the Encore resort system for 7 days
  • After the 7 days are up you can stay at another Encore resort for up to 14 days
  • You can however move from an Encore resort directly to a Thousand Trails park without exiting the system and vice versa
  • Most Encore resort campsites can be reserved at $0/night. But some charge up to $20/night extra
  • There are a small number of resorts in the Trails Collection that are age qualified at 55 years of age
  • The longest reservation window for these resorts is 60 days in advance

How much does the Thousand Trails Trails Collection cost?

So how much does it cost to add on the Thousand Trails Trails Collection?

As of 2024, the annual cost of this add-on is $370.

So for $370 you can increase your number of available parks by more than double the amount in the Thousand Trails membership system alone.

Thousand Trails Collection
Thousand Trails Trails Collection benefits and rules

Thousand Trails Trails Collection Plus

Remember I said that the Thousand Trails Adventure members get special privileges in the Trails Collection?

Well, it’s called the Trails Collection Plus. And here are the benefits, rules and costs of the program:

  • You can stay up to 21 nights in the Encore park system
  • You can move from one Encore park directly to another without staying outside the system at all
  • Your reservation window for campsites extends to 90 days in advance
  • It will cost you an additional $300 ($670 total) to add on this Trails Collection Plus package to an Adventure membership every year
Monte Vista Encore Resort in AZ
Monte Vista Encore Resort in AZ

Who should get the Trails Collection Plus?

As you can see, the cost almost doubles when you add on the Trails Collection plus to the Adventure membership.

But the ability to stay longer at each Encore resort is a big plus.

And for many, being able to move seamlessly from Encore to Thousand Trails and back without any time outside the system is huge!

Remember though, that the Trails Collection Plus is only available to Thousand Trails Adventure membership owners.

So you can’t access its benefit on any other Thousand Trails membership at any price.

Thousand Trails Trails Collection Plus benefits and rules
Thousand Trails Trails Collection Plus benefits and rules

How To Save On Thousand Trails Memberships

OK, it’s time to explain how you can save money on Thousand Trails membership levels. That should be part of a Thousand Trails review too.

Of course, if you call Thousand Trails you can get a membership anytime you want. But you won’t usually get any really good bargains that way.

However, when we decided to upgrade our membership to the Elite level, we learned about a way to save money on our purchase.

Other full-time RVers in Thousand Trails explained it to us. And I will share that insight with you now. Here is what I recommend:

Contact Joanna & Patrick Parizo by email at Joanna_depace@equitylifestyle.com

Or you can call them at 631-921-1674 or 352-396-6835.

If you work with them, you will get the best deal and the lowest prices on new Thousand Trails memberships.

They are very easy and pleasant to work with too. Just be sure to tell them that Duane at RV Inspection And Care referred you.

They represent Thousand Trails, but they bring a much more personal experience to the whole process.

And since they represent Thousand Trails at the Tampa RV Super Show each year, they always have the best deals handy.

They have already helped lots of RVers save on their membership cost. And I’m sure that they can do the same for you.

Thousand Trails used membership cost

But there is another way to save money. And that is to buy a used Thousand Trails membership.

So part of this Thousand Trails review will explain how you can get a used membership.

You see, one of the great features about Thousand Trails memberships is that they can usually be resold.

So at some point if you decide that it is not working for you anymore, you can sell it to someone else.

And in our experience, it seems that you can often recover about 2/3 of your original Thousand Trails membership cost.

The good news about this is that there is a healthy market for used Thousand Trails memberships.

And there are usually plenty of various Thousand Trails memberships for sale almost always.

Now of course, you can try selling your membership yourself. Maybe on Ebay, Craig’s List, or some other way.

But there are people who can help get it done and guide you along the way. And it makes the process so much more pleasant.

A Market For Used Thousand Trails Memberships

We personally had a great experience with Campground Membership Outlet when we looked into this option.

So if a used membership may be more attractive to you, contact Kimberly to find out more.

She can give you plenty of information on used Thousand Trails membership levels.

And she can explain the Thousand Trails used membership cost as well. For us, we could have bought a used Elite membership for around $4500.

But that was about four years ago and they may be a little more expensive by now.

Just give her a call to talk about it. She won’t pressure you and she will be a big help all along the way.

Just tell her that Duane from RV Inspection And Care sent you.

Now let’s discuss whether or not our Thousand Trails membership has been worth it or not.

Our Thousand Trails Review – Is It Worth It?

A Thousand Trails membership works great for some people. And it doesn’t work well for others. That’s the honest truth!

That’s why I recommend that you try the Zone Camping Pass first. That way you can try it out first before you upgrade to a more expensive option.

For us, it has been one of the best decisions we have made for our full-time RV travel life. And we know plenty of others who feel the same way.

But that doesn’t mean that Thousand Trails memberships are perfect. And we acknowledge that.

So now that we’ve covered the Thousand Trails membership levels, more is needed.

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of Thousand Trails campgrounds in our Thousand Trails review now.

Click here to visit the Thousand Trails website

Watch my video about the pros and cons of Thousand Trails memberships

Our Thousand Trails Review – The Pros

So let’s start this section of our Thousand Trails review first with the pros, or advantages.

And the number one pro, and I mean you just can’t get around it, is that $0/night cost.

When you are making reservations in the campground system in Thousand Trails and it tells you that you owe $0/night, that’s a great feeling!

But you might say, hey, but you haven’t included the dues that you have to pay each year.

That’s true. But let’s see how much impact yearly dues actually have on your nightly Thousand Trails costs.

So lets take the dues you have to pay and maybe even add on the Trails Collection. And let’s briefly review what the Trails Collection is first.

The Trails Collection adds over 100 more Encore resorts nationwide for making reservations.

And that’s in addition to your Thousand Trails campgrounds.

Now the annual dues for our Thousand Trails membership at this time is about $600/year.

And the Trails Collection adds $370/year as of this writing in 2024.

So even with all of that together, spreading that cost out through the year, it’s less than $3 a night.

And don’t forget that it’s the cost for camping with full hookups every night.

Now, to me that’s a big pro! Especially since what I’m talking about is full hookups.

And yes, Cheri and I have enjoyed full hookups including 50 amp electrical service all across the country. And that’s included in our $0/night.

That’s been pretty much our experience wherever we have gone in Thousand Trails.

Also our Thousand Trails Elite membership allows us to go from park to park nationwide.

And we are still able to maintain that $0/night figure when we do.

But there are more pros to mention in this Thousand Trails review.

Thousand Trails Pro #2 – Selling Your Membership

Still another pro is that if you decide that you want to sell your membership, you are able to do so.

Of course, we can’t see ourselves doing that for many years.

But if we decide that we are not going to be on the road anymore, we can sell our membership.

And if we do, we can recover about two-thirds or more of the original investment.

That can be done by selling our Thousand Trails membership on the used market as I mentioned above in this article. To us, that’s a huge pro!

Thousand Trails Pro #3 – Campsites

The next pro is that you can fit almost any kind of rig into Thousand Trails campsites.

I have seen them all out there, I mean everything from tents and pop-ups to the biggest rigs.

And if you have a larger rig, you have to consider whether you can fit in some campgrounds.

But with Thousand Trails it’s generally not an issue at all. It certainly has not been a problem for us!

Of course, there might be a few with tighter restrictions than others. But you can put almost any rig in most Thousand Trails campgrounds.

Here’s another pro in this Thousand Trails review:

Thousand Trails Wilmington in OH
Thousand Trails Wilmington in OH

Thousand Trails Pro #4 – Reservations

If you plan ahead, you can get almost any reservation, anywhere, anytime, with Thousand Trails.

Now I know that some folks are not big planners. They like to fly by the seat of their pants and are more last-minute kind of people.

And that’s fine. They love to be very spontaneous and that’s the way they like to do things.

And interestingly, they too are still able to get good results from Thousand Trails with reservations most of the time.

But if you are a planner, then it gets so much easier.

In fact, you can make reservations even in parks in high traffic areas.

For instance in places like Florida, Texas and Arizona, even in the winter time.

And many of these Thousand Trails parks are incredibly nice.

So by planning ahead you can usually get the reservations you want, when you want them.

Now as of 2024, planning is becoming even more important since RVing continues to grow in popularity.

And that it is making it a little more challenging for those who like to camp spontaneously.

But making reservations in Thousand Trails well in advance still works well in most cases.

And of course, the longer reservation window your membership provides, the better and easier the process becomes.

Our Thousand Trails review - A scenic spot at Kenisee Lake RV Campground.
A scenic spot at Kenissee Lake RV Campground

Thousand Trails Pro #5 – The Trails Collection

Now another pro is that you can add on what’s called the Trails Collection that I mentioned earlier.

No Thousand Trails review should leave out this advantage.

This allows you to have access to so many more campgrounds throughout the country.

So what is the Trails Collection anyway? It’s a group of Encore Resorts that can be added on to your membership’s Thousand Trails parks.

And you can visit them just like you do Thousand Trails, and stay for $0/night in most cases.

So, let’s say that you add the Trails Collection parks to your membership too.

In that case, you will now have nearly 200 campgrounds around the country to be able to stay at.

And that’s a really nice pro to have access to such a large network of campgrounds.

Especially when you consider the low annual cost to add on the Trails Collection to your membership.

Thousand Trails Pro #6 – Friendly People

Now here’s something else that I’ll mention on a personal basis that is a pro to us.

And that is that we have found that in the Thousand Trails system there are some really friendly people.

So if you’re friendly, and you like people, well you’re going to enjoy Thousand Trails.

That’s because there are lots of other folks in the system that are friendly and easy to get along with too.

But not everything is always rainbows right? As always, there’s some cons as well. So we need to talk about the cons too.

And here is the first Thousand Trails review con:

Thousand Trails Review Con #1 – Locations

One very big con is that Thousand Trails is not available everywhere in the country.

In fact, they tend to be settled mostly in the coastal areas, up the East and West Coast, and across the South.

So there’s a whole area right in the middle of the country that has no Thousand Trails parks available.

And some find it really irritating to have no Thousand Trails in areas where they like to camp.

For instance, where the national parks are in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

And even going across into North and South Dakota and then heading down into the Plains states. No Thousand Trails there.

So that is a con to many who find that very difficult to deal with. They can’t just go anywhere in the country and find a Thousand Trails Park.

Thousand Trails Orlando in FL
Thousand Trails Orlando in FL

Thousand Trails Cons #2 – Park Conditions

Another con is that there are some parks in Thousand Trails that are not in the best shape. They should be, but some are definitely not.

But the majority of parks that we have stayed at so far in the system have been fine.

There were a few things that we might want to see improved, but overall they were really good parks.

But there are some where it’s clear that they need to be doing more work though.

And honestly, there was one park that we would not go back to at all. It’s just not being cared for.

Now, that being said, let me again say, that’s not the rule. It is the exception.

There are many fine parks and resorts in the Thousand Trails and Encore system.

And I have to say that we have seen evidence that Thousand Trails is investing in their parks now.

They are working to try to upgrade them and really bring them up to snuff again.

So hopefully in the future, some of those lower quality parks will be cared for. And if so, I will be able to say that this is not a con anymore.

Thousand Trails Review Cons #3 – Seasonal Campers

Another con that many find irritating, is that some Thousand Trail parks have lots of seasonal campers. Or even long-term residents.

Some find it very difficult to see them in a park that they are paying a membership for.

But the truth is that we’re still getting our reservation at the RV park for $0/night.

So as long as I can do that, it doesn’t bother me. But for some, it’s a real irritation.

So that could be another con with Thousand Trails Parks that needs to be considered.

But now let’s consider another possible Thousand Trails review con.

Thousand Trails Cons #4 – Rustic Campsites

Another possible con is that Thousand Trails usually will provide a rustic campsite.

So if you are not into that type of campsite, that’s a big con for you. What do I mean by rustic?

Well, it means that you’re probably going to have either a gravel or dirt campsite to park your rig on.

Of course, there are some very awesome sites set in natural settings among trees or next to lakes.

But for the most part, you’re not even going to drive around in the park on paved roads.

And there will not usually be concrete or asphalt pads to put your rig on.

So if you want a really modern upscale type park, be aware that it’s usually much more of a rustic setting in Thousand Trails.

And if you don’t like that kind of setting it could be a problem for you.

And any unbiased and honest Thousand Trails review needs to mention this.

Thousand Trails Gettysburg Farm in PA
Thousand Trails Gettysburg Farm in PA

Thousand Trails Review Cons #5 – Initial Investment

Another con is that it does require a significant investment to get one of the upgraded Thousand Trails memberships.

These are the ones that allow you to travel from park to park across the country. And I covered the membership options earlier in this article.

Generally speaking, on the used market you’re probably going to need to invest around $4,500 or so. That is, as of the time of this writing in 2024.

Of course, if you are buying a new upgraded membership from Thousand Trails it starts around $9,000 now. That’s the 2024 prices anyway.

And the cost of Thousand Trails memberships keep going up.

For some, that is just too much money to come up with for a camping membership. So for them it’s a big con.

Thousand Trails Cons #6 – Confusing Options

And there is one more con, or disadvantage, we want to talk about. That is that there are lots of confusing options in Thousand Trails membership programs.

When you speak with membership sales this becomes very apparent. So with each different add-on there are also restrictions that come with it.

After a while, it actually becomes very confusing. This is because there are just so many details that have to be understood and remembered.

I explained the major benefits and rules of each Thousand Trails membership above in this article.

But there are lots of smaller rules with each membership that are not so obvious.

So, yes it is not simple and I fully understand the irritation that many RVers feel about this.

And I agree that the system should be much simpler. It should be easier for folks to be able to decide what kind of membership they want.

And it should be very clear what they’re getting. But that’s not always the case.

So having someone who is helpful and personable guide you through the purchase process is important.

For that, just check my recommendations for personal assistance earlier in this article.

And they will be able to make the whole comparison process much easier.

But the complexity of Thousand Trails memberships is an unfortunate con to be aware of.

Who Should Get A Thousand Trails Membership?

So now let’s talk about what kind of RVer or camper best fits into the Thousand Trails system.

This is an important part of a Thousand Trails review.

First, number one and foremost, are full-time RVers who are on a budget.

In other words, they need to keep their camping costs under control. And Thousand Trails is designed to do that really well.

Now maybe you have a lot of money. And it really doesn’t matter to you what you spend on camping costs.

Well, someone like that doesn’t necessarily have to think about getting a Thousand Trails membership.

But if you don’t fit that criteria, then it’s really good for full-timers that need to be on a budget.

It helps them watch their camping costs and keep them reasonable.

Thousand Trails Chesapeake Bay in MD
Thousand Trails Chesapeake Bay in MD

Part-time RVers benefit too

Yet another person that’s really good for a Thousand Trails membership is part-time RVers. Or those who camp on weekends or vacations.

They can get a Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass for the year for $670 in 2024.

And for them it’s a great way to sample the system and see how it works. And it will save them money on camping costs too.

So even part-time campers get benefits from Thousand Trails at the Zone Camping Pass level.

What kind of campsite do you prefer?

Another person that benefits from Thousand Trails is people who like rustic campgrounds. You know, they like to be in nature.

They don’t really want to be around big cities and things like that as much. In that case, you are going to really like Thousand Trails.

But a Thousand Trails membership is not going to benefit folks that want the best of everything in their campground membership.

And maybe you are the type of person that really wants the best luxuries and amenities. You want to go first-class.

And if you are not really flexible with not always having the best, Thousand Trails is probably not for you.

That’s because you have to be flexible and adjustable in the Thousand Trails system to be happy in it.

So you need to consider that when trying to determine your RV camping needs and wants.

Then you can decide whether they line up with what Thousand Trails actually provides or not.

How Thousand Trails has worked for us

Now, Cheri and I really like Thousand Trails. It works great for us. It’s saved us a lot of money.

And our Thousand Trails review reflects that we are satisfied overall with our camping membership.

We have liked most Thousand Trails and Encore parks almost everywhere we have gone.

But we’re the kind of folks that are fairly easy to get along with on most things. And we easily adjust to most situations.

We don’t expect the best and we’re flexible as a result of that. So it has worked well for us.

But Thousand Trails does not work for everyone.

So we all need to be honest with ourselves about what we expect from RV campgrounds in our travels.

And that will help you make the best decision about whether a Thousand Trails membership works for you or not.

But there is one more very important thing to explain in detail in this article.

Our Thousand Trails Review – Dollars And Cents

And that is to answer the question – Does Thousand Trails really save you money?

Watch my video that answers the question – Is Thousand Trails Worth it?

Especially over conventional RV parks? Is it worth it from a dollars-and-cents standpoint?

That’s usually what people really want to know in a Thousand Trails review.

Well, we have been Thousand Trails members for over three years now.

And we didn’t want to write about this subject until we had fully experienced the Thousand Trails system.

But now we’ve been out there and we’ve camped in their system for a while.

And we have the dollars-and-cents figures worked out. So now we want to share that with you.

And by the way, these are not just opinions on what the facts and figures are. But rather, the cold hard facts on how they worked out for us.

So let’s go ahead and get started using our first year’s camping costs on our cross-country RVing trips.

The first year of our membership

First of all, we started our trip in Arizona. Then we traveled across the bottom of the country until we got close to the east coast.

After that, we made a big turn and went right up into the Northeast. So from Arizona to our destination in New Hampshire, it was a 3300 mile trip.

We did it in one hundred days. So it took us a long time. Why? Well, we are not one of those RVers that just wants to be on the go all the time.

In fact, we think that the destination is not the only part of the journey you should enjoy.

So we like to stop and get to know the areas we’re in for a while.

And we enjoy getting out on some day trips and enjoying the culture in each part of the country.

So because of how we travel, it took us 100 days to go 3300 miles.

Now during that 100 days, we only spent 11 nights outside the Thousand Trails system.

The only reason why we went outside is because there wasn’t a Thousand Trails park in that particular area.

Next we want to look for a benchmark figure that we can use per night to know what Thousand Trails is saving us.

Our first trip costs

So on that trip across the country, those 11 nights averaged out to cost us between $35 and $40 a night.

That is how much it cost us to stay at conventional campgrounds on that trip.

Of course, camping costs are even higher now in 2024. But let’s still use the lower figures from a couple of years ago to place a value on camping costs.

But keep in mind that any higher nightly cost would make the savings even greater at this point.

Now let’s use the lower average cost of $35 a night. Then let’s apply it to the nights that we were in Thousand Trails instead of conventional campgrounds.

So in total, we stayed 89 nights in Thousand Trails. And if we multiply that out (89 nights times $35/night), Thousand Trails saved us $3,115 on that trip.

In other words, that’s what those nights in conventional RV parks would have cost us for 89 nights. That’s pretty impressive!!!!!!

Our stay in the northeast

But then we arrived in the Northeast. And we were there for about 60 days.

Out of that 60 days, we spent only 7 nights outside of Thousand Trails.

So let’s use that same benchmark figure of $35 a night for conventional campgrounds.

And that means that during the other 53 nights we stayed in Thousand Trails parks in New England, it saved us $1,855!!

Now we need to make one point here about being in the Northeast in the summertime with an RV.

And that is that if you have done that, you know that $35/night is not going to be sufficient for nightly camping. Not by a long shot!

You might find some places like that. But the reality is that it’s honestly more like $50 or even close to $60 a night on average at conventional campgrounds.

But we are are still going to use that $35 a night benchmark average for campgrounds across the country. Even in New England in the summer.

Thousand Trails Tuxbury Pond in NH
Encore Resort Tuxbury Pond in NH

Our second trip costs

Now after being in New England for a couple of months we left for Florida.

And our Florida trip was a 39 day trip altogether. During that time, we stayed seven nights out of the Thousand Trails system.

So once again, we will use the $35/night benchmark for the other 32 nights that was in Thousand Trails.

And if we do that, Thousand Trails saved us another $1,120.

So as you can see, the savings are really adding up now.

Our third trip costs

Then after being in Florida for a brief time, we headed back to Arizona for the winter months. And that was a 45 day journey.

And on that trip we stayed a total of 10 nights outside of Thousand Trails campgrounds.

So then the remaining 35 days on that trip we were in Thousand Trails campgrounds.

And if we again use that benchmark of $35 a night, a total of $1,225 was saved on that trip.

All right, now I’ve gone through a whole lot of facts and figures here about our travels last year. So let’s get to the bottom line.

Our Total Savings Using Thousand Trails

And that is that we made three long trips across the country that year.

And the total saved is $7,315 on trips that took us just eight months to complete. Now why do I say that?

Because that still left 4 more months to go in the year. But in just 8 months we had saved over $7,000.

Now, I knew the savings were pretty good. But going over the facts and figures again, I have to say that is really impressive!

Of course, I know what some are going to say though. Wait a minute Duane, you’re not being fair!

What about weekly and monthly rates?

Because you could have gotten some weekly rates, or perhaps monthly rates along the way.

You’re right, conventional RV parks do offer better rates for those time periods. But here’s the thing I have found.

Weekly rates at RV parks save you some money. But that’s not where the real savings is. It’s in the monthly rate.

And we are not doing this to be spending a month or more in a campground in any one location.

As you can see, we are traveling quite a bit. We’re not doing it fast but we’re definitely moving along.

So monthly rates were really out of the question for us.

So then we get back down to that $35 a night average for most RV parks.

And I feel it’s reasonable to use an even higher figure as a benchmark for camping costs now.

Clearly then, there is definitely savings in using Thousand Trails. Because our nightly stay in their system was only $0/night.

Mesa Spirit in AZ
Mesa Spirit Encore Resort in AZ

Our Thousand Trails Review – Adding In Our Yearly Dues

Of course, that’s not counting our dues or what we paid for our Thousand Trails membership either.

We are just talking about the nightly stay which is $0/night.

But as I showed earlier in this article, the cost of dues spread out over a year is less than $3 night.

So the savings are still very real in Thousand Trails!

Now let me make another couple of points here. On all of these trips where we stayed at Thousand Trails campgrounds, we had full hookups.

None was without full hookups which included 50 amp electric, water, and sewer. And that’s an important point to me as well.

And we also never had a reservation refused. That’s also very important.

Because I often hear RVers talk about how they just can’t seem to get reservations at campgrounds.

Well, we never had one refused, and have never had a single problem reserving a spot.

Of course, we planned our trips out well in advance. We like to do it that way, and by doing that, it no doubt helped us.

But we had no refusals for a reservation at any Thousand Trails Park. It all went very well.

Our Thousand Trails Review – Adding In Our Membership Costs

Of course, we have to say in all fairness that we have an upgraded membership. So we have to consider the cost of that too.

But you know what? By adding it all up this way Cheri and I came to some important conclusions.

We figure that in these first three trips alone we have saved over $7000 in nightly camping costs.

And that more than covers the cost of our upgraded Elite membership that we bought in 2019. And that is in the first eight months alone of that year.

So that’s not even considering the savings we accumulated during the other four months of the year.

What that means is that you can pretty much cover the cost of your membership by the benefits you receive in the first year.

Especially if you are full-time RVers who travel a lot like we did.

And going forward, that original membership cost doesn’t apply from year to year any more.

Especially if you cover the cost of it in the first year’s savings.

What about the Trails Collection?

And what about the Trails Collection? It’s true that it costs a little bit more yearly than just the Thousand Trails parks alone.

But we like it because it gives us a lot more parks to choose from. But you don’t have to add the Trails Collection if you don’t want to.

Now so far we have considered the real world savings that Thousand Trails allows on RV camping.

And I honestly don’t know how you can get your camping costs any lower than Thousand Trails allows.

Not and have full hookups which include 50 amp electric, water, and sewer all on-site.

What about boondocking?

Of course, the cost of camping can be cut down quite a bit with boondocking or dry camping though.

But there’s a lot of extra effort that goes with boondocking. And I’ve made that point in other articles.

For instance, it means you have to bring your power with you. And you’re going to have to bring your water with you too.

You’re also going to have to manage all of your waste tanks and so on. Whereas in Thousand Trails all of that is taken care of for you.

The other thing is that boondocking can only be done easily in certain parts of the country.

For instance, most boondocking spots are located in the western part of the US. That’s where you find a lot of BLM (Bureau of Land Mangement) land.

But in the Eastern US, places to boondock become more and more scarce as you go. And that’s another real consideration.

2024 Thousand Trails Review Update

There is a lot to consider when reading through this review. And some may wonder whether things have changed since this was first published.

But I can say confidently that we have come to appreciate and value our decision to buy a Thousand Trails membership even more now.

The costs for staying at the average US campground has increased a lot over the past couple of years. And that makes our membership value even better.

Also, Thousand Trails has been expanding the number of available campsites. And they are actively upgrading many of the parks in their system.

And the value of our membership on the used market has gone up as well.

To the point that we could easily get the vast majority of the amount we paid for it back if we chose to sell it.

How to get the best membership deal in 2024

So if you want to get all of your questions answered and get the best deal possible on a Thousand Trails membership, here’s what you should do:

Contact Joanna & Patrick Parizo by email at Joanna_depace@equitylifestyle.com

Or you can call them at 631-921-1674 or 352-396-6835.

If you work with them, you will get the best deal and the lowest prices on new Thousand Trails memberships.

They are very easy and pleasant to work with too. Just be sure to tell them that Duane at RV Inspection And Care referred you.

They are Thousand Trails membership specialists, but they bring a much more personal experience to the whole process.

In fact, they usually represent Thousand Trails at the Tampa RV Super Show each year. And they always have the best deals handy.

Now the only issue that hasn’t improved much with Thousand Trails is the complexity of membership choices. In fact, they have even added more options in the last year.

But hopefully, this article will help clarify your choices and make the decision an easier one to make.

Our Thousand Trails Review Conclusion

The bottom line in this discussion is that we feel that the numbers don’t lie. And I hope that our Thousand Trails review has made that clear.

The upgraded campground membership we bought with Thousand Trails has paid for itself already.

And that’s just within the first eight months of our first year of use. And it has continued to save us money during the past couple of years as well.

So without question, it has saved us some very serious money overall.

That means that the savings with a Thousand Trails membership are very real.

And it means that you can travel cross-country and enjoy your RV trips with Thousand Trails as well.

You can also stay most of the time within their system as we did. But you can choose how much you wish to stay in Thousand Trails. It’s up to you.

And remember that for many, a Zone Camping Pass is just fine for their needs. Especially if they aren’t a part-time or full-time RV traveler.

So I hope this Thousand Trails review has been helpful for you. If you have any questions about what you have read, please comment below.

Have safe and happy travels!

8 thoughts on “Our Thousand Trails Review – $0 Per Night Camping In 2024”

  1. This sounds great. I am new to this retirement RV travel and I have some additional caveats to work out but once I get my RV and do some traveling I will definitely keep Thousand Trails on my check list. Thanks

    1. That’s a good idea Cathy. Thousand Trails has worked out very well for us and many other full and part time RVers we know. So it may be a good solution for you as well. Have safe and happy travels when you get your RV!

  2. We are in our first season of using our TT and Trails Collection add on that we purchased. We also used Kimberly to purchase our resale membership and yes, she is wonderful.
    We’ve been to two TT parks so far and about to head to more. One of the two I’d only go back to for an overnight to get somewhere else. TT does not represent their parks truthfully on their website with the pictures they show. They’re camp grounds are in gross need of maintenance.
    I’m not all about amenities but if you’re going to advertise them on your website then be truthful about them. Don’t show me a picture of a beautiful tennis court that once I arrive is actually closed and needs to be mowed because so many weeds are growing through it.

    1. Hi Kim. It’s hard to make a fair representation of all of the TT campgrounds when you have only seen two so far. We have visited dozens of them all across the south, southwest, north central, southeast and northeast. I agree that some are in need of attention and are not fairly represented on the TT website. But the majority we have stayed at have been good enough that we would be happy to return again in the future. Also, keep in mind that they are steadily upgrading their parks too and some may have not received the upgrade attention that they need yet. Of course, as I mentioned in my review, if your expectations are very high and you demand the best campground accommodations, you are going to be sorely disappointed. But for the majority of campers, TT offers reasonable camping facilities at an incredibly low price. So for us and many others I know, it’s a bargain and we are happy that we have a membership in their program.

      1. We love thousand trails and I think you did a very honest review thanks

        1. We love TT too Andy. But we also recognize that it isn’t perfect and there are some things that need improvement. So I try to be honest about that. Thanks for sharing your opinion and leaving a nice comment!

  3. It was great resources for choosing right membership. It was most detailed and easy to understand description ever I found. Thank you for your hard work!!

    1. I’m glad it was helpful.

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