Specifically, we’re going to be talking about the pros and the cons of using Thousand Trails campgrounds.
And we will also 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 controversy out there about Thousand Trails campgrounds.
About whether they provide the kind of value that you would hope and expect.
Especially for the money that you invest in one of their memberships.
But even if Thousand Trails campgrounds does save money on camping costs, there are still some other questions that have to be answered.
For instance, do they provide all you are hoping they will? And are they a good value for the money that you invest into a membership?
Those are very good questions. So let’s talk about that a little bit.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of Thousand Trails campgrounds in our Thousand Trails review.
Our Thousand Trails Review – The Pros
So let’s start first with the pros. 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 explain 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 about $300/year as of this writing.
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 service all across the country. Pretty much wherever we have gone in Thousand Trails.
Also Thousand Trails allows you to go from park to park nationwide. And you will still be able to maintain that $0/night figure when you 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. To us, that’s a huge pro!
I’ll discuss this a little more farther down in this article.
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.
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 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 really 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.
Many of these Thousand Trails parks are incredibly nice. And by planning ahead you can usually get the reservations you want, when you want them.
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 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 more than 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 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, 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.
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.
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 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 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 a setting it could be a problem for you.
And any unbiased Thousand Trails review needs to mention this.
Thousand Trails Review Cons #5 – Initial Investment
Another con is that it does require a significant investment to get one of the upgraded memberships.
These are the ones that allow you to travel from park to park across the country.
Generally speaking, on the used market you’re probably going need to invest around $4,000 or so. That is, as of the time of this writing.
Of course, if you are buying a new membership from Thousand Trails it starts around $6,000 now. That is what we paid for our membership.
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 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.
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 in many cases, it’s not.
And that is an unfortunate con about Thousand Trails 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 under control.
Part-time rvers benefit too
Yet another person that’s really good for Thousand Trails is part-time RVers.
They can get a Thousand Trails Zone Pass for the year for only about $500 or so.
These are campers who like to do more weekend camping or extended camping a few times during the year.
And for them it’s a great way to sample the system and see how it works. And it will save you money on camping costs too.
So even part-time campers get benefits from Thousand Trails at the zone 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.
So maybe you are the type of person that really wants the best luxuries and amenities.
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.
We have also 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.
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? Especially over conventional RV parks? Is it worth it from a dollars-and-cents standpoint?
Well, we have been Thousand Trails members for about a year now.
And we didn’t want to write about this 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 last year’s camping costs on our cross-country RVing trips.
our RV trips last year
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. The journey as you go is just as, if not more, important.
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 the 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 between $35 and $40 a night.
That is how much it cost us to stay at conventional campgrounds on that trip.
And you know, it’s kind of getting to that price point now in most places. It used to be that it was about $30 a night on the average.
Well, that’s kind of in the past now, as many other costs are.
So now, $35 to $40 a night on average for campground costs across the country seems to be a good benchmark.
Now let’s get to the math part and find out if there truly is a reasonable savings with Thousand Trails.
So let’s use the lower average cost of $35 a night. And let’s apply it to the nights that we were in Thousand Trails instead of conventional campgrounds.
We stayed a total of 89 nights in Thousand Trails. So 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 tonight is not going to do it as a nightly average.
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.
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 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. 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 last 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 leaves 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, 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 that as a benchmark for now.
So there is definitely a savings in Thousand Trails, because our nightly stay in their system was only $0/night.
Our Thousand Trails Review – Adding In Our Yearly Dues
Of course, that’s not counting our dues or what we paid for our membership.
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 real in Thousand Trails!
Now let me make another couple of points here. On all of these trips we stayed at Thousand Trails campgrounds where 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.
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. And that is in the first eight months alone.
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.
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 some parts country.
So in the Eastern US, places to boondock become more and more scarce as you go. And that’s another real consideration.
Our Thousand Trails Review Conclusion
The bottom line in this discussion is that we feel that the numbers don’t lie.
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. So without question, it has saved us some very serious money.
That means that the savings with a Thousand Trails membership are very real.
And you can travel cross-country and enjoy your RV trips with Thousand Trails. You can also stay most of the time within their system.
So if you want to investigate a Thousand Trails membership further here is what we recommend.
Contact Jim and Brandy Reneau by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or you can call them at (770) 622-4188 or (717) 585-6137.
Be sure to tell them that Duane at RV Inspection And Care referred you.
That way you will get the best deal and the lowest prices on Thousand Trails memberships.
If a used membership may be more attractive contact Kimberly at https://www.campgroundmembershipoutlet.com/
She can give you plenty of information on resale Thousand Trails memberships.
I hope this Thousand Trails review has been helpful.
Have safe and happy travels!