Thousand Trails: Membership Camping at its Finest

Lisa Fritscher September 29, 2012 No Comments

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Membership Camping Views

We pay nothing extra for the spectacular views!

As full-time RVers, Dad and I are always looking for ways to minimize our costs while maximizing our enjoyment. We are members of a variety of camping organizations, but no single camping club has been as valuable to us as our membership in Thousand Trails. Although the RV community is sharply divided in its feelings about the program, it has literally saved us thousands of dollars in the three years that we have been members. But the various membership options and benefits have changed dramatically over the years, and deciphering exactly what you get can be confusing. Always run any contract by your attorney before making a financial commitment.

Zone Camping

Thousand Trails activity centers

Thousand Trails activity centers are warm and inviting.

The Zone Camping Pass is Thousand Trails’ current (as of 2012) entry-level membership program. The premise is much simpler than that of other membership options. The country is roughly divided into four zones, and you can select any number of zones to include in your membership. Each zone contains approximately 20 campgrounds, for a total of 81 across the country.

As of 2012, the one-time enrollment fee is waived for the first zone. Additional zones are $795 each, with a discounted price of $1,995 total if you purchase all four zones. The annual fee is $499, no matter how many zones your membership includes. You are committed only for the first year, although you must express your desire to cancel in writing 30 days before your membership auto-renews. Passes are valid for the passholder, his or her spouse, and dependent children aged 23 or below who live at home or are in school away from home. Financing is available.

Thousand Trails Orlando

Thousand Trails Orlando is in the heart of the Sunshine State.

The annual fee includes 30 nights of camping at no charge. Additional nights are billed at $3 per night. You are entitled to use any of the campgrounds in your membership as much as you want, but the maximum stay at any one time is 14 nights. If you stay for more than four nights, you must spend seven nights entirely out of the system before entering the same or a different membership park. Each site can hold up to 10 people in one camping vehicle plus two tents or three tents with no camping vehicle. You may also park two non-camping vehicles on your site.

The Tent Camping Zone Pass works similarly, but is valid for a maximum stay of seven nights. As with the RV Zone Pass, if you stay for more than four nights, you must leave the system entirely for seven nights. You will be charged $3 per night after the first 30 nights of camping. Each tent site can hold six people and two tents, along with two non-camping vehicles. The annual fee is $249 as of 2012, while the enrollment fee is subject to change. No financing is available for the Tent Camping Pass. The pass includes access to tent sites at 14 Encore parks that are not part of the Thousand Trails system.

Traditional Memberships

Thousand Trails Camp Stores

The parks have very nice and well-equipped camp stores.

Dad and I purchased our Thousand Trails membership before the current Zone Camping Pass program. We spent a free weekend at the campground in Clermont, Florida, just outside of Orlando and toured the park with a sales representative before making our purchase. We financed that membership with monthly payments of around $100. Dues, which we also paid monthly, were approximately $40 per month. Under that membership, we were entitled to use any park in the Thousand Trails system as well as parks in the Leisure Time and NACO systems. We could stay 14 nights at a time, and had to leave the system for seven nights between stays. We were not charged any additional fees no matter how many nights we used in a year.

Thousand Trails Activities

Thousand Trails parks offer mini-golf, volleyball courts, puzzle rooms, swimming pools and a wide range of scheduled activities, all at no additional fee.

The program worked very well for us, but when we were offered the chance to upgrade our membership, we jumped at it. We rolled our existing loan into the new loan, effectively raising our monthly payment by around $50 per month. Our dues payment remained roughly the same. Under the new contract, we now have access to parks operated by Outdoor World and Mid-Atlantic Resorts as well as our previously available parks. We can stay in any one park for 21 days at a time, and then go directly to another park with no time out of the system. We are only required to remain out of the park we just left for seven days. As full-time RVers, it is nice to be able go directly from park to park. Although we also enjoy visiting non-Thousand Trails properties, we know many full-timers who simply live within the Thousand Trails system. We also have some side benefits, such as discounts on cabin rentals at the parks. We also enjoy frequent discounted camping at Encore parks.

Upgrading Your Existing Membership

Deer at Thousand Trails Medina Lake

At Thousand Trails Medina Lake, the tame deer flocked to the campsites.

Whether you currently have a Zone Camping Pass or another type of membership, upgrades are always available. Encore, the parent company of Thousand Trails, works hard to respond to member requests and suggestions. Even though we are Elite, which is supposed to be the top level of membership, we recently received an invitation to a meeting to discuss yet another upgrade.

Resale Memberships

Thousand Trails memberships are easy to find on the resale market. Most sellers provide their membership number in their ads, allowing potential buyers to call Thousand Trails Member Services and check the validity of the offered membership. A resale membership often represents an incredible savings, but because so many different membership types have been offered over the years, make sure you do your due diligence. Carefully research the different options to learn exactly what each membership includes. Thousand Trails charges a $750 transfer fee, so be sure to include that fee in your calculations when comparing different memberships. Although this can be a wonderful way to pick up a premium membership that is no longer available, this is not the time for an impulse buy.

Related Articles:

Introduction to Membership Camping
Comparing Membership Camping Alternatives
RVing with Kids

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Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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