Thousand Trails can be a little controversial. You either love it or you hate it. During our research, we found that the pros of a Thousand Trails membership far outweighed the cons and decided that it was something that we needed to have for our full-time RV journey. We have enjoyed staying at Thousand Trails all over the country including Thousand Trails Gettysburg Farm, a real working farm, in the picture above. See below for why we think that you should have it too.
When you are full-time on the road without a home base, there is very slight stress in the back of your mind. What if we can’t get reservations somewhere or what if we need to fix something on the RV. What if there is a global pandemic?
Thousand Trails can and has acted as a home base for us when we had limited options in other places. We used it to fix our RV in Houston after a caliper broke on our brakes. We also used it as a safe haven when campgrounds were closing all over the United States, including State and National parks, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We also use it when visiting family for the holidays. While Thousand Trails are not all over, there happens to be one within 30 minutes of our family’s houses in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orlando, and San Antonio. It’s amazing to be able to stay for three weeks near family and not need to pay a steep nightly rate.
When you have a large RV, you have more limited options when trying to find RV parks. This is even more true with National park campgrounds. Most of them do not even have spots to fit your large RV.
The ones that do have spaces that can fit your RV have a limited number of spaces so they are quickly reserved. We would love to stay inside more National parks but we knew that was a limiting factor when we choose the comfort of a large RV.
State parks are more likely to have the space for your RV but we have seen the roads be a limiting factor. Either the turns are too sharp for longer RVs, too thin to properly back into your site, or they are lined with trees.
State and National parks are also more remote than most Thousand Trails campgrounds, while you are surrounded by beauty and they are great to get away, no cell service means we can’t work from the RV.
While a few of the 120+ campgrounds (including Trails Collection campgrounds) may not have space for large RVs, the rest of them overwhelmingly do. We have never had an issue in three years finding a place in a Thousand Trails campground that wouldn’t fit our 42 ft fifth wheel. That was a worry with the first-come, first-serve aspect of most of the parks.
One of the main complaints we hear about Thousand Trails campgrounds is their locations. There are none in the central states of the US. While true, that isn’t a major detractor for getting the membership for us (or other full-timers)
We love the coast and spend over half the year in coastal states on the East or West coast. We’re not the only ones either, according to NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management, 40 percent of the nation’s total population lives in coastal counties.
While we would love to always have a Thousand Trails campground where we want to camp, we understand that it is not always the case. But, they are in a majority of the areas where we (and others) like to spend their time.
Constantly traveling can get tiring. Never knowing where the grocery store is, or any store for that matter adds stress to your life. Sometimes you just want a little familiarity. We love that we can stay put for three weeks at a time when we need to feel a little grounded. Most Thousand Trails memberships grant 21 days with the option to extend another 7 nights twice a year. Some memberships even allow for us to 28 night stays.
Other memberships like Harvest Hosts are great for travel days but only allow you to stay for one to two nights at a time max.
If you want to stay at public campgrounds like Corps of Engineering or dispersed camping like BLM land or USFS then the maximum you can stay is about 14 days.
The main reason we like to stay at Thousand Trails campgrounds is to save money on campgrounds fees. We know people who stay mostly in Thousand Trails campgrounds and have reduced their nightly rate down to around $5 / night for the year. That is incredibly cheap!
Our friends You, Me, and the RV wrote a post about why you should not buy Thousand Trails and how they prefer Corps of Engineer (CoE) campgrounds so we will compare the nightly rate costs with those campgrounds.
(35 nights x avg. $26 nightly rate) + $0 annual fee = $910
You may stay in more expensive CoE campgrounds or cheaper ones but you will never be able to get close to the low price that Thousand Trails offers.
(35 nights x $0 nightly rate) + $850 annual fee = $850
This year as of May, we have already stayed 49 nights in a Thousand Trails campground. That brings our total nightly rate in Thousand Trails campgrounds down to $17.35 as of May. What about the initial purchase cost? We paid that off in our first year of using it by staying over 200 days in Thousand Trails.
Still Enjoy Other Campgrounds
Just because you have a Thousand Trails membership does not mean you NEED to stay in a Thousand Trails campground.
We still go boondocking on BLM and National Forest land (like at the Grand Canyon), we still stay at Harvest Hosts (like the Gator Farm), we still use expensive resort campgrounds (like Palmer Gulch KOA right next to Mt. Rushmore), we still stay at National Parks (like Hot Springs National Park), and we still stay at State Parks (like Traverse City Michigan State Park).
We are also members of a few different RV clubs. Check out our article on choosing the right campground membership for your travel style for our recommendations for RV clubs that will work best for you.
We like to think of our Thousand Trails membership as another tool in our camping tool chest. Sometimes it’s the right tool to use and a great way to save money and other times something else is better to use. How do you know what the best tool to use? Check out our secret weapon for maximizing our RV club benefits while trip planning.
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