Everyone wants to save money, right? We look for deals, clip coupons, and gather discount cards. If you’re an RVer wanting to save money, Thousand Trails is a membership you’ll want to check out. Depending on how much you travel and where you go, your Thousand Trails savings could be hundreds, if not thousands, per year!
Thousand Trails is one of the largest networks of campgrounds across North America. Both members and non-members can stay at their in-network resorts, but there are perks to having a membership that we’ll discuss in a bit.
With five different zones across the country and over 190 various RV campgrounds and resorts, you’re sure to find a Thousand Trails location near you on your next adventure. Want more information? Let’s dive in!
How Does Thousand Trails Work?
Depending on your membership level, you have a limited amount of time you can stay at one campground or resort before having to check out.
Others require you to stay a certain amount of time outside the system of campgrounds. We’ll take a closer look at these different memberships below.
What is a Zone Pass?
A Zone Pass (sometimes called a Camping Pass) is an annual fee you pay to stay at any Thousand Trails location within a particular zone of the United States. With a Zone Pass, you don’t pay nightly fees. There are five zones: northeast, southeast, midwest, northwest, southwest. You choose which zone you want based on where you’ll travel.
For example, if you live in North Carolina and plan to only camp in North Carolina and the surrounding states, you would choose the southeast zone and gain access to all of the Thousand Trails campgrounds and resorts in that region for the entire year. If you think you’ll need another zone for travel, you can add one for an additional $65 per year.
There are limits on your length of stay with a Zone Pass. Because this is the most basic membership, you can only stay 14 days at one time in one Thousand Trails location. Then you have to be out of the Thousand Trails network for seven days before returning.
If you stay four nights or less, you can move from Thousand Trails location to Thousand Trails location without time out of the system. It’s when you hit that fifth day that you’ll have to leave the Thousand Trails network for seven days before returning. Let’s look at an example.
You book a stay at Three Flags RV Campground in Wildwood, Florida, because you have the southeast Zone Pass. Then, you stay for 14 days at this campground with no nightly fees. But you must leave for seven days at check-out. You can return for another stay at that same campground or another Thousand Trails campground for another 14 days only after you complete your seven-day exit.
On the other hand, if you stay at Three Flags RV Campground for only three nights, you can travel down the road to Orlando RV Resort and stay for three nights. Then you can repeat that process. Most people don’t travel this way, but the Thousand Trails network is there if it fits your lifestyle.
The Zone Pass may not be the best option for people who travel full-time because of the 14-day limit and time out of the resorts. There’s also a 60-day booking window with the Zone Pass. So let’s look at some other memberships available.
The Zone Pass is the most basic membership and costs $615 per year. However, you can use our link to save $100 on your first year.
The Basic Elite membership varies based on the current promotion. Typically, you won’t pay more than $7,500 for this one-time purchase when buying new. However, you are able to buy used memberships through resalers like Campground Membership Outlet. This is where we bought our Elite Membership for only $3,800.
Used or new, you will still pay yearly dues (and those vary, too). With a Basic Elite membership, you can stay longer (21 days) and move from park to park without taking time out of the Thousand Trails system. You can also make reservations 120 days in advance.
The Elite Connections membership again varies based on the current promotion. Typically, you won’t pay more than $9,200 for this one-time purchase. Again, you’ll pay yearly dues, but you get a couple of added benefits. The reservation window is larger (180 days), and twice a year, you can stay at a park for up to 28 days.
The Adventure Membership is the newest Thousand Trails option. The price is around $15,500, which is the most expensive membership option. But it also comes with the most benefits, like the Basic Elite and Elite Connections memberships. You can stay for 21 days at any park without paying a nightly fee and travel park-to-park without time out of the system.
There’s a lot more to each level, so be sure to read all about the different Thousand Trails Membership Options too.
Additional Benefits of a Thousand Trails Membership
The Basic Elite, Elite Connections, and Adventure memberships also offer discounted cabin rentals and family benefits, so if you’re interested in benefits beyond just camping, check those out, too!
Finally, the Trails Collection is an add-on to any Thousand Trails membership for $315 per year. This add-on gives you access to over 100 other parks across the country. However, after seeing all of these numbers, you may still be asking, where’s the Thousand Trails savings?
This will depend on how much you travel and where. Pay attention to the map that shows where the Thousand Trails campgrounds are. If you spend most of your time in the Colorado, Wyoming, or Montana area, the Thousand Trails network won’t be a good option due to the lack of campgrounds.
And if you want to spend longer than 21 days in a park, the Thousand Trails network won’t be a good option.
But if your travels seem to match with Thousand Trails offerings, it boils down to how many nights you’ll camp per year. If you’re a full-time RVer, Thousand Trails is very appealing. You don’t pay any nightly fees no matter if you stay in the parks for 365 days a year or 25 days a year.
How Did We Save $4,585.51 in 2020 By Using Thousand Trails?
Let’s take the high-end annual dues at $615. Divide that by 365 days, and you have a nightly rate of $1.68. If we look at a monthly rate, it’s $51.25 per month. Now, let’s be realistic: You probably won’t spend every night at a Thousand Trails location. Examine your travel schedule to decide how much it will cost you per night. If you only stay in Thousand Trails parks half the year, it will still only be around $3.38 per night. I’d say that’s a pretty good Thousand Trails savings!
Personally, in 2020 we spent $894.49 renewing our Thousand Trails and Trails Collection Memberships. We stayed in their park system for 137 nights, making our average nightly rate only $6.53!
Most campgrounds will run anywhere from $30-50 per night. Even if we take an average of $40 a night, we would have spent $5,480 for 137 nights. If you subtract our membership cost from what we would have spent without it, that’s a savings of $4,585.51 in camping fees!
What Are Thousand Trails Campgrounds Like?
As you will find with any campground membership, the parks vary from location to location. But generally, the campgrounds within this network are simple and basic, sometimes even dated. They do have a few popular parks that members love as well.
They aren’t Jellystones or luxury. Don’t purchase a Thousand Trails membership if you want to camp only at resorts. If you need paved sites, spa services, shuttles, spotless bathhouses, or other high-end amenities, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Although these campgrounds are no-frill parks, they do provide the essentials: hook-ups, gravel sites, swimming pool, playground, etc. Most people who purchase a membership aren’t looking for luxury; they want to save money.
Is a Thousand Trails Camping Membership Worth It?
If you’re a full-time RVer, a membership is usually worth it. Even at the higher levels where the initial purchase cost is more, the overall savings is substantial. Consider the Thousand Trails savings if you travel for five years. That means staying 100 nights at a Thousand Trails park each year!
However, if you’re only a part-timer, you may want to take a serious look at your travel plans. You want to make sure purchasing a Thousand Trails membership is the right decision. With a basic Zone Pass, you’ll be spending $615 for an entire year of camping. You’ll want to make sure to camp at least 15 nights a year to make the Zone Pass cost worth it!
Thousand Trails savings is for real if you take advantage of what this network offers!
Do you think a Thousand Trails membership is best for you?