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Americans are always trying to save money – clipping coupons, buying Groupons, or taking advantage of deals and discounts at retail stores. Travelers aren’t any different. Finding ways to save money on the road or while weekend camping is essential.
A membership is one way RVers can do that. One of the most popular campground memberships in the country is Thousand Trails. Perhaps you’ve heard of it but aren’t sure of the Thousand Trails membership cost.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and costs of the varying levels to help you decide if it’s the right money-saving membership for you!
What is Thousand Trails?
Thousand Trails is one of North America’s largest networks of RV resorts and campgrounds. With locations spread across the United States and Canada, Thousand Trails campgrounds allow members to stay for free. Non-members can make reservations but must pay a nightly fee.
These locations run along the east coast in vacation destinations like Orlando, Fa., and Hershey, Pa. Others are along the Pacific Coast near popular places like Yosemite National Park and Bend, Ore.
Because Thousand Trails has been in existence for decades, the campgrounds aren’t top-of-the-line resorts. But, they do offer the basic amenities every RVer needs.
Where Are Thousand Trails Campgrounds Located?
Thousand Trails campgrounds are in over 80 locations in 23 states and British Columbia. For members with just the basic pass, there are zones they can access that include some of these 80 locations.
Members with nationwide access to all Thousand Trails locations can travel anywhere and stay for free for unlimited nights within the system.
Most campgrounds are along the east coast, the pacific coast, and across the southern portion of the United States through Arizona and Texas. There are very few options in the Mountain West or Midwest regions.
What Are the Different Zones for Thousand Trails?
The basic camping pass allows members to stay at campgrounds within a zone. There are five zones to choose from when purchasing a membership: Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, Southwest, and Midwest. The zone with the most locations is Southeast, stretching across Texas, Florida, and Virginia.
There are 23 Thousand Trails campgrounds here. The smallest zone, the Midwest, has eight campgrounds in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky.
Both the Northwest and Southwest have over a dozen locations. There are 18 in the Northwest zone of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. The Southwest has 19 in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado.
Sixteen of the 19 in the Southwest are in California. Finally, the Northeast has 14 Thousand Trails campgrounds from Pennsylvania to Maine.
How Long Can You Stay at a Thousand Trails?
Your length of stay depends on your membership level. The basic camping pass allows members to stay at a campground in their zone for 14 consecutive days. Then they must leave the Thousand Trails system for seven nights before returning.
Travelers with upper-level memberships can stay up to 21 nights in certain locations and don’t have to spend any time out of the Thousand Trails system.
They can go from campground to campground and zone to zone. In essence, members with these membership types would never pay a nightly fee during the year if they just hopped from one Thousand Trails to the next all year long.
Thousand Trails Membership Levels and Cost
Below are the different membership levels. The Thousand Trails membership cost will vary from level to level. Your budget, travel lifestyle, and location will help determine which option is best for you.
Zone Camping Pass
As mentioned earlier, the camping pass is the most basic membership but still gives you free nightly stays. You’re just only allowed 14 nights at campgrounds rather than 21 nights. Also, you have to be out of the Thousand Trails system for seven nights between visits.
A third difference is the booking window. Members with a zone camping pass can only book reservations 60 days in advance, whereas other memberships allow a 90- to 120-day booking window. This Thousand Trails membership cost is $630 per year.
If you’re a weekend warrior and plan on spending at least one weekend every month at a Thousand Trails campground near your home, this might be the best option. Even if you stayed only two nights a month during the year, that would break down to about $26.25 per night.
You won’t find many full hookup sites for that price. If you stayed four nights a month during the year, the $630 yearly fee totals about $13.13 per night.
One change you can make to your zone camping pass is adding another zone. For $70, you can add another one and have full access to those locations. This works well for folks who are near a zone’s border or planning a vacation to another zone that particular year.
Trails Collection Add-On
Thousand Trails also offers a Trails Collection Add-On for all members. Whether you have the camping pass or the Adventure package, you can add over 100 additional locations to your membership for $330. These are across the country and not zone-specific.
This add-on renews yearly, so if you don’t need these additional locations one year, you don’t pay for it. Then if you want to add it the following year, you pay the $330 and have access to the locations.
The stay limits at these locations are 14 days, and you can’t go from Trails Collection location to Trails Collection location. You can, however, go from the Trails Collection location to the Thousand Trails location and back to the Trails Collection location if you have any of the upgraded memberships other than a zone camping pass.
These locations include the Florida Keys, Miami, Wisconsin Dells, Lake George, and many other popular tourist locations. Trails Collection campgrounds are in 17 different states.
If you plan on wintering in Florida with your Thousand Trails membership, it’s almost a must to have the Trails Collection Add-On to access the 17 locations within the Sunshine State.
Keep in Mind: With a Trails Collection Add-On, you can have access to Encore RV Resorts! Take a look at this Guide to Understanding Encore RV Resorts
The Elite Basic is not a yearly fee like the zone camping pass. This membership is purchased upfront, and you pay yearly dues to maintain it.
Because it’s the most affordable, it’s the most popular upgraded membership option. This Thousand Trails membership costs around $7,995 with annual dues of $630.
With an Elite Basic membership, you can stay up to 21 days in any Thousand Trails location. It is not zone-specific. You can also travel from one campground to another within the Thousand Trails system without spending any nights outside the system.
For example, if you stay 21 nights at Lake Conroe in Willis, Texas, and then travel about four and a half hours southwest, you can stay another 21 nights at Medina Lake in Lakehills, Texas, for no cost.
This membership also gives the option to buy two extension weeks for $29 each at any Thousand Trails campgrounds. The booking window is 120 days, which gives Elite Basic members a much better chance of booking campgrounds in popular locations than members with a zone camping pass.
Additional benefits include one week free in a standard cabin rental for the first five years of the membership with 50% off additional standard cabin rentals. There’s also one year of free RPI RV campground membership and one holiday reservation at a time.
The Elite Connections membership is very similar to the Elite Basic, with a few upgrades. The 21-night stays and park-to-park benefits are the same as the option to buy two extension weeks for $29 each at any Thousand Trails campgrounds.
However, the booking window is 180 days with the Elite Connections membership. This can help full-time travelers get reservations before other Thousand Trails members in high-use campgrounds.
Additional benefits include one week free in a standard cabin rental for the first five years of membership with 50% off additional standard cabin rentals. It also includes two years’ free RPI RV campground membership and one holiday reservation at a time.
The Elite Connections membership also gives members one free week in a getaway cabin. That’s an upgraded cabin, for the first 10 years of the membership. As expected, this Thousand Trails membership costs more than the Elite Basic at around $10,345 with annual dues of $630.
Finally, the newest membership and the membership with the most benefits is the Adventure package. Launched in January 2021, the Adventure membership was designed with full-timers in mind who need access to campgrounds far in advance and want the Trails Collection Add-On every year.
Perks of the Adventure package include the same 21-night stays and park-to-park accessibility as the Elite Basic and Elite Connections memberships. But that’s where the similarities end.
Since this Thousand Trails membership costs significantly more at $16,595 with annual dues of $630, there better be more perks. And there are.
Adventure members can make reservations at Thousand Trails locations 180 days in advance and at Trails Collection locations 90 days in advance.
No other membership level allows reservations to be made 60 days before arrival at any Trails Collection location. This is a huge benefit for travelers who want to spend the winter in the Florida Keys or beaches of Miami.
Instead of the option to buy just two extension weeks for $29 each at any Thousand Trails campgrounds, Adventure members have the option to buy up to four weeks. In addition, they can buy two extension weeks during high-use periods for $99 each.
No other membership allows extension weeks during high-use seasons. You can book two holidays at a time.
Additional benefits include five free weeks in a standard cabin rental, ten free weeks in a getaway cabin, and two years’ free RPI RV campground membership.
Let’s consider a family who travels full-time. If they stay all 365 nights at Thousand Trails and Trails Collection locations during a year, that breaks down to about $47.19 per night the first year.
Then with the second year only having to pay the $630 annual dues, the family pays $1.73 per night.
Keep in Mind: Ready to purchase a Thousand Trails Membership? Here’s Where to Find a Thousand Trails Membership for Sale!
Can You Buy a Used Thousand Trails Membership?
You might think a Thousand Trails membership is great for your travels. But you just don’t have the budget to purchase an Elite Basic membership, much less the Adventure package.
There’s another option. You can buy a used Thousand Trails membership from Campground Membership Outlet. You’ll still have the same or much of the same perks as a new membership for a fraction of the cost.
Campground Membership Outlet also has access to older memberships that are no longer sold by Thousand Trails, like the Platinum membership or Odyssey membership.
These memberships have different benefits, so you’ll want to understand exactly what the different levels give you. But you’re bound to find a membership that suits your needs and budget.
Is a Thousand Trails Camping Membership Worth It?
There are two main factors when determining if a Thousand Trails membership cost is worth it. First, where are you traveling?
If you live in Kansas and plan on venturing out on the weekends, you don’t have any options within a few hours of your home. It makes no sense to invest in a Thousand Trails membership when you can’t use it.
However, if you’re in North Carolina, you can access 10 campgrounds within the Thousand Trails and Trails Collection systems. Not to mention the two in Tennessee, seven in Virginia, and two in South Carolina. You could spend all year traveling to different locations for the weekend.
Second, how often are you traveling? If you only plan on camping two or three times during the year, it might not make sense to spend the money on a membership.
Even paying $630 for the zone camping pass might not be the best idea if you’re only going to camp eight to 10 nights a year.
But if you’re a full-timer moving around the country, it’s almost a no-brainer to invest in a Thousand Trails membership.
The upfront cost seems high for some travelers, but when you break down the cost per nightly stay, you’ll recoup your money quickly and enjoy staying for weeks at a time in a single location.
So is a Thousand Trails membership worth it for you?