Our Thousand Trails membership is one of the ways that we are able to travel full time with kids and not spend a fortune on campsites. There are a few misconceptions about the Thousand Trails campground system that we would like to go over for anyone that may be looking into a membership.
Addressing The Misconceptions About Thousand Trails Memberships
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When you land on the Thousand Trails website, you see photos of idyllic camping destinations with perfectly laid out campsites and resort style amenities in a picturesque setting.
Although there are some absolutely gorgeous parks with great amenities in the Thousand Trails system, many of the campgrounds are more modest and therefore, we feel like having realistic expectations are really imortant when purchasing a membership or booking Thousand Trails campsites.
If you would like more information on some of the ,e,bership packages, we have a more in depth blog post explaining how the Thousand Trails memberships work.
Four Real Expectations
1: Not "RV RESORTS"
If you've ever been to a very expensive RV resort, you will see meticulously landscaped grounds, private sites with perfectly laid out concrete pads, resort style pools and spas, and you'll usually pay a pretty penny for such amenities.
Thousand Trails campgrounds are just that...campgrounds. Not all of the parks are on the same level of quality. Some are very, very nice. Some are not so nice. Although we have had great experiences with our membership, we would not classify any of them as a 5 Star resort.
We like to think of Thousand Trails parks being on par with most state park campgrounds. You'll find a few added amenitites such as a pool, clean bath houses, and laundry facilities.
2: Most Parks Are In Rural Locations
Most of the Thousand Trails campgrounds are located a little off the beaten path. There are a few that are located close to tourist attractions or vacation destinations, but most are a little further out.
This does not bother us in the slightest. We do not use the parks as a place to be close to attractions but more as a home base to be able to stay an extended period and then venture out on day trips to things in the general area.
With that being said, there are a few parks that are super convenient as a place to be near vacation spots. Williamsburg VA, Orlando FL, Las Vegas NV, and Hershey PA are a few that come to mind.
You can see the entire map of campgrounds on the Thousand Trails website.
3: Booking Your Campsite & What You Get
Booking with Thousand Trails is a little different than most independent campgrounds.
Because it is a system of parks, they are all booked through a central reservation system. You can do this online or by calling them.
When booking as a member, you are only given the option of an RV site. This does not specify WHICH particular site in a park you will get. It just means that they have a space for you.
You could arrive at the park and pull into a beautiful, spacious, 50 amp, full hook up site. Or, you could arrive and there could only be small sites with 30 amp and no sewer available.
Most Thousand Trails parks are first come, first serve when it comes to picking your site. You arrive at check in, they hand you a map, and you go find the site you want...or possibly snag whatever may be left if they are busy.
A select few do assign sites, but we have not found this to be the norm where we have traveld so far. Some people love that they can pick their own site, and some wish that every park assigned them. It just comes down to personal preference.
As stated before, we use Thousand Trails as a way to save money on our site fees. Although we prefer (and usually get) a 50 amp, FHU site, we try not to be disappointed, or upset if we don't get an ideal site.
4: Learning Curve When Booking Parks
Booking your campsites with Thousand Trails is very dependent on the particular pass or membership that you have.
We have an upgraded membership that allows us to book 120 days in advance. This is not the same booking window that you will get with the basic Zone Pass or a higher "Elite" package.
When booking campsites, it is always best to book as far in advance as you are able. We usually do not have a hard time getting where we need to be at certain times as long as we are flexible. I am almost always willing to move a reservation a little to the left or right on the calendar, especially if we are booking for 2-3 weeks.
Holidays have certain restrictions on what you can book. This may vary depending on membership, but ours allows us to only have one "holiday reservation" on the books at a time.
I am able to book a holiday reservation and then immediately book another one as soon as we complete that reservation. There just cannot be two holidays booked at a time.
There is also something called "High Use Restrictions" which means that you can't book certain parks for longer periods at high use times. I believe this applies mostly to highly visited places like Orlando, FL and Las Vegas, NV. We have not encountered this issue yet.
Learning to navigate the reservation system is not hard, especially once you learn all the ins and outs of your particular membership.
Why Do We Still Love Thousand Trails?
1. Budget Friendly
The NUMBER 1 reason we utilize Thousand Trails is to SAVE MONEY!
Whether you purchase a yearly "Zone Pass," or an upgraded membership, Thousand Trails makes it possible to save a ton of money on site fees, especially for fulltime RVers like us.
Before we purchased our membership, we were spending an average of $35/night on campground fees. That adds up to over $1000 PER MONTH!
That cost went up or down depending on whether we were able to boondock (mostly out west), stay on a friend's property, or were forced to stay in a much more expensive campground because cheaper ones were not available.
With Thousand Trails, we love that we can book a reservation and stay several weeks without paying anything extra per night. Since purchasing our membership, we have had months where our nightly campground fees were $0!
2. Meeting Like Minded Full Time Families
Many people who are traveling full time with their children utilize Thousand Trails just like we do.
We have met some great friends while traveling full time. Some of them have even given us video tours of their renovated rigs.
Finding community on the road was hard for us in the beginning of our travels, but Thousand Trails has helped with that. We have met many of our dearest traveling friends just by our kids meeting on the playground or pool.
Families are always having a potluck, kids movie night, or planning a day out together. And becuase so many of us stay in the same parks, we tend to cross paths again and again, allowing our children (and us) to make true friendships that last!
Side note: Another way we have found community is by joining Fulltime Families. Click the banner below to learn more!
3. Great Customer Service
We have found that the customer service with Thousand Trails has been top notch. I had a great experience when purchasing our membership and it has not changed since.
We have had several situations over the last two years that I needed to alter a reservation, or a series of reservations at the last minute. I called the membership customer service line, and they were able to assist me with no problems.
Three times, we have needed to extend at a park we were currently in. Even though the online reservation system said they were booked and I could not extend, I called and talked to the park staff.
All 3 times, they were able to help us to stay the extra days we needed.
4. Safe Campground Locations
I never worry about pulling into a Thousand Trails park and wondering if we will be in a safe area. This is not the case with some private campgrounds.
The majority of parks we have stayed in have been gated as well. You can check out our review of Timothy Lake South to see what we mean.
5. We Have 190+ Locations With Our Package
Thousand Trails owns and operates over 80 campgrounds in 22 states and British Columbia. We can stay at any of these parks for up to 3 weeks, and immediately hop to another park within the TT system.
By adding on the "Trails Collection," we gain access to another 100+ parks that we can stay for up to 2 weeks for no additional nightly fee.
When combined together, we are able to jump from park to park and potentially stay in the Thousand Trails system for months at a time.
In fact, in the summer of 2019, we traveled from South Carolina to Maine, bouncing around a little in between, and never stayed a night out of the TT system from May-October! Talk about massive savings!
Who Is Thousand Trails For?
Who Is Thousand Trails Not For?
Just like we stated in the video above, Thousand Trails is a TOOL in our traveling toolbox. We utilize our Thousand Trails membership mostly in order to save money, meet other families, and have a safe place to park our rig so that we can explore a particular region of the country.
We do not use it expecting a 5 Star resort experience or a picturesque view from our campsite.
If you use Thousand Trails like we do, it is a fantastic option to travel a good portion of the country and save money while doing it.
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If you do not already have a membership to Thousand Trails and decide that you would like to look into purchasing one, we would appreciate you mentioning our name when asked how you learned about Thousand Trails.
In addition, if you would like to find out how you can save up to $500 on an upgraded membership, please reach out to us via email at [email protected]!
Happy & Safe Travels! ~Stephanie