If you want to get serious about RV camping, odds are good you’ve heard of a Thousand Trails Membership. It seems like a pretty good deal, but are you wondering if it’s too good to be true?
Honestly, we don’t think so. A Thousand Trails membership is a fantastic investment… for the right people.
Read on to learn more about what a membership entails, including pros and cons, how to make the most of one, and information to help you decide if it’s the right fit for you!
Benefits of Thousand Trails Membership
There are many benefits to a Thousand Trails membership, so let’s take a closer look at some.
A complete Thousand Trails Membership gives you access to over 80 incredible campgrounds nationwide. Many kinds of campgrounds are included, ranging from coastal, mountaintops, to deep in the forest.
There is also an option to add the “Trails Collection” to your membership, adding another 100+ campsites in popular locations, like the Florida Keys and Lake Tahoe.
If you’re not planning on traveling cross-country, you can also opt for a regional pass. Thousand Trails has broken down the continental United States into five different regions, with anywhere from 8-23 campsites in each one. You can choose a membership to one region, a couple of regions, or all of them! It’s like a build-your-own membership.
Suppose you plan to camp regularly throughout the year. In that case, the financial benefits of a Thousand Trails membership are impossible to beat. Even if you get the top-tier membership, your monthly fees will break down to a few nights at an average campground.
That means if you plan on camping more than three nights a month, you’ve broken even on your membership! Anything beyond that is “free”!
On top of those savings, keep an eye out for promotions and sales that could make your membership cost even less.
With a membership, you have a wild amount of flexibility when planning your travel schedule.
This flexibility makes Thousand Trails work for various camping preferences and styles. Whether you’re looking to stay for two weeks or two nights, in luxury or boondocking, there’s a campground that’ll work for you.
All reservations can be made online, which is also a huge plus if you’ve spent any time trying to plan travel. Gone are the days of calling individual campgrounds and trying to make reservations. With a membership, you can make all your plans on one website at once, as long as the reservations are within the booking window.
Drawbacks of Thousand Trails Membership
While membership with Thousand Trails is terrific, we’d be remiss not to include a few drawbacks to consider before committing.
While traditional RV camping may cost more money over the long run than a Thousand Trails membership, it’s spread out over time, where a membership is a large lump sum upfront. That may be difficult for individuals or families on a tighter budget.
The membership can be paid in monthly installments with a longer commitment and down payment, but there are benefits to paying it in full when you start your membership. Check their website for current prices and promotions.
Nightly fees are also associated with some resorts included in the optional “Trails Collection.”
Most membership levels limit your stay at any Thousand Trails campground to 14 nights. After that, you’ve got to be out of their system for at least seven nights before going to another one of their campgrounds. You can eliminate that with the highest membership level, but the cost difference probably isn’t worth it unless you RV full-time.
There are also sometimes limited stay durations and even blackouts in popular campgrounds during peak seasons.
While hundreds of Thousand Trails campgrounds are in their system, there are still availability challenges for some.
You’d experience them if you live in the middle of the country and are looking for quick trips. From Missouri to Montana, there are only a few campground options. You’d have to travel many hours, up to days, to get to the nearest campground.
Regardless of where you’re going to camp, availability of campsites can be a challenge during especially busy seasons.
Who Would Benefit Most from a Thousand Trails Membership?
We won’t make the blanket statement that a Thousand Trails membership is for everyone, but a few groups would massively benefit from one.
A membership will open up a world of opportunities for fun family memories! RV camping as a family has many benefits—quality time spent together, learning about and experiencing nature firsthand, meeting new people, and more.
Families can experience even more benefits with a Thousand Trail Membership because spur-of-the-moment trips are possible without the traditional nightly campground fees. When you’ve already paid for your camping, you can pick up and go whenever you get the itch without considering the impact on your budget.
If you’re living full-time in an RV, investing in a Thousand Trails membership is almost a no-brainer!
Staying at a campsite every day of the year would cost nearly $15,000 if you pay the average rate of $40/night. A membership would save you thousands of dollars every single year.
For the maximum benefit, full-time RVers should invest in the highest membership option to do away with the need to spend one of every three weeks in a campground outside of the included ones. That would also allow you to explore an area of interest instead of being rushed to see and do everything in two weeks.
A membership will also help regulate annual budgets. You’re guaranteed not to exceed budget on-site fees when you’ve paid them all in advance!
Snowbirds and Retirees
Snowbirds and other retirees would greatly benefit from a Thousand Trails membership for a couple of reasons.
First, many different campground options exist in beautiful, warm weather like Southern California, Florida, and Arizona. You can escape the winter blues and enjoy the warm sun on your face all winter!
Also, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the fixed price is a huge plus, especially on a retired, fixed income. For one price, you can camp all year long.
Tips for Maximizing the Value of a Thousand Trails Membership
If you choose to get a Thousand Trails membership, here are a few ways you can guarantee you get the most bang for your buck.
Understand Membership Level
Many complaints floating around the internet come from people who got a membership without fully understanding the terms and conditions of each membership level.
Different levels come with various perks– the more expensive the membership, the more perks available. The highest level includes unlimited guests, an earlier reservation window, extra member events, and waiving additional resort fees (when applicable).
Does that mean it’s not worth it if you don’t get the highest membership level? Absolutely not!
You need to spend time reading all the membership rules before jumping in so you have appropriate expectations.
Also, keep your eyes open for adjustments and updates to their policies and procedures, as they change sometimes.
When planning your trips or vacations for the year, try to choose a location with a Thousand Trails campground nearby! Then, you can enjoy whatever the area offers and the campground amenities at no additional cost.
There are campgrounds near Disney World, plenty of Six Flags parks, and even some in the Trails Collection right on the beach!
The return on your membership investment will increase by the number of nights you stay at one of the campgrounds. If you’re planning a trip and the rest of your schedule allows it, take advantage of the maximum stay limits and stay put for a week or two!
Or plan to visit an area of the country with several campgrounds within short distances of each other and stay a few nights at each, all in a row. That way, you’re still using your membership well and getting to explore more than one campground.
Take advantage of the online booking system and book your trips early to try to ensure you get a spot at the campgrounds you want to visit.
Booking windows vary by membership level, so be aware of yours and use it! This is especially helpful for popular spaces during busy seasons, like winter in Florida or the mountains in the fall.
Being flexible in your dates and campground choices means you’ll get to use your Thousand Trails membership more than someone rigid or set in their ways.
If you are always trying to book a specific campground on specific days, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself frustrated or disappointed.
Instead, knowing the area you’d like to visit but not knowing exactly where or when is perfect! You can hop on the website, research different campgrounds in the system, and then choose travel dates based on what’s available at your desired campground.
When you invest in a Thousand Trails membership, you’re a member they care about! They want to know what’s working for you and what could be better.
Giving open and honest feedback will allow them to continue to grow as a company.
They want and need to know what members want and need! It helps them continue to create and implement new benefits and perks for you as time goes on.
Is a Thousand Trails Membership for You?
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if a Thousand Trails membership is worth it, but we feel confident in encouraging you to try it if it sounds like something you’d use and enjoy. It offers a budget-friendly way to explore so much of our beautiful country!
Ready to get traveling? Make sure you’ve got your RV prepared for your first Thousand Trails adventure by checking out our Ultimate RV Packing List!
- About the Author
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Stephanie Lamberth is a writer who enjoys exploring new places and helping others feel prepared to make incredible memories.
While not a seasoned wilderness expert, Stephanie has enjoyed and learned a ton on the camping trips she’s taken and has a unique perspective as the child of full-time RVers. With firsthand exposure to the RV lifestyle, Stephanie has insight into the comforts and challenges it can bring.
Stephanie can help bridge the gap between rookie samper and seasoned outdoorsman to help you make the most of your own camping adventures!
She currently lives in Tennessee with her husband and three children.
Stephanie can be reached at email@example.com