When I first started RV living fulltime, I struggled with finding affordable campsites. The options available were either out of my price range or somewhere that didn’t have the best amenities.
I knew there had to be a better way to find a place to stay in my RV so I started researching camping club memberships and stumbled across Thousand Trails. It seemed like a reasonable solution to my issue, so I did a little more digging to find out if it was right for other fulltime RVers like me. Here’s what I found.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Camping Club Membership
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Camping club memberships are programs that allow RV travelers to stay in selected campsites year round. They operate similar to a resort timeshare. You pay an upfront cost and/or yearly membership fee, then get your pick of campgrounds during your travels either at no cost or a discounted rate. The purpose of the program is to help RVers save money when camping or traveling.
Who Should Consider a Camping Club Membership
Fulltime RVers often discover that finding affordable overnight camping options can be a bit of a pain point. That’s why camping club memberships like the Thousand Trails are great for RVers who spend most of their time in campsites. With a little planning, you can save some serious cash on camping.
What to Think About Before Buying a Camping Club Membership
To determine if a camping club membership would be worth it, focus on how much you’d want to spend per night at a campsite and try to figure out how many nights you’d plan on using your membership. This simple calculation will help you determine if a membership is the most cost effective option for your RV living.
The Thousand Trails Membership
Thousand Trails (TT) is a camp membership organization that’s been operating for over 45 years. They offer over 80 locations spread across 22 states, mostly featuring sites on the East and West coast. Their resort-style campsites feature common amenities, like water and electric hook up, WiFi and cable. Each TT site has its own set of unique features, from activities you can enjoy with the whole family to game areas and splash pads.
One key aspect of the TT program is that their campsites are divided into five zones. Depending on your membership, you can have access to every zone or just one. If you plan on only staying in a single region, then you can save money by opting for a more basic membership which only covers one zone of campsites.
- You can save money staying in overnight RV camps throughout the year.
- Booking a reservation is an easy process.
- You can switch sites during your stay if you don’t like the first one you find.
- Organization has some administrative issues and tends to be disorganized.
- Some of their parks are mediocre quality. We can’t speak for every campsite, but we’ve heard a few that had areas under construction and poorly maintained facilities.
- Selecting a membership can be confusing, especially if you aren’t familiar with TT.
Thousand Trails Membership Features and Benefits
When selecting a camping membership program that works for you, it’s important to factor in the benefits and features that will influence you the most. What makes a great camping experience for you may differ for other RVers.
I recommend making a list of what you want to get out of your RV campsite, and make your decision from there. To help you decide if Thousand Trails membership is for you, here are some of the features I found with the program.
Big Savings During Your RV Travels
Some campsites on the East coast charge RV owners around $50 per night. With TT, you pay a yearly membership fee and upfront cost for the package deal. When broken down, some RV enthusiasts calculated that their membership cost them almost half the Eastern average (around $25 per night), which is a pretty awesome deal to us.
Easy Reservation Process
You can book your reservation online or over the phone. The online option gives you an overview of the sites available in your zone with each featuring their own web page and a break down of their amenities. You can see the availability for each location, and will receive a confirmation email once you book your site.
Keep in mind that TT works on a first-come-first-served basis and you select your site when you check in. Get there early if you want a good spot!
Activities for The Family
Keeping your little ones entertained while on the road is a struggle for most traveling families. Once you get to the RV park, they may be cranky and ready to release some energy. Fortunately, TT parks offer something for everyone.
Their amenities range from pools to lakes to games that the entire family can enjoy together. You can relax by the pool, take a dip in the lake or entertain the kiddos with a game of horseshoe or cornhole. Some locations offer additional social activities, like mini-concerts and BBQ’s, so you can meet some of your fellow campers.
Flexible Arrival Times
Being chained to a schedule sort of defeats the purpose of RV living. TT gets that, and allows you to check in to their site whenever you’re ready.
Want to take your time leaving for your campsite in the morning or just enjoy a few sightseeing stops along the way? The TT flexible check in times let you do that without any late fees or risk of losing your reservation.
While you may decide to take advantage of the flexible check in times, remember that the TT campsites operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. Meaning, you’ll have a better chance of finding a good spot if you get there earlier or on a non-peak day for vacationers.
However, don’t get discouraged if the only spot you find is less than ideal. You have the freedom to switch campsites later on at no charge, once all the weekend warriors pack up and leave.
Sightseeing Opportunities Nearby
The beauty of RV living is the chance to see some of the amazing sites throughout the U.S. The TT campsites are located in “the heart of desirable resort locations.” You get to stay in a campsite near popular theme parks, national parks and other attractions to give your family something to do outside of the campsite. If you start to feel a little stir crazy, take a quick road trip to check out some of the several attractions near your TT campsite.
Unique Experience At Each Resort
If you’ve been RVing for a while, you may start to notice that most campsites look a lot alike. They tend to offer the same amenities, activities and features, which is comforting but also monotonous. Part of the excitement of traveling is enjoying new experiences.
The risk of cookie-cutter campsites with camping memberships program is high, but TT offers a unique experience at each of their locations. They provide different types of entertainment, like casino nights and luaus, at each location so you can get a diverse experience while on the road.
Enjoying nature is one of the many perks of RV living. Which makes the TT membership preferable for the strong, outdoors type of RVers. Each of their campsites are located in remote, rural locations, away from the hustle and bustle of nearby cities.
While you may pick a site due to its proximity of a specific city or attraction, you can still enjoy nature and the remote benefits of camping. Surrounded by trees, lakes and wildlife, you get all the perks of camping while enjoying the luxury of your RV and TT amenities.
Thousand Trial Membership Reviews
From what I’ve learned about the Thousand Trial membership, it definitely seems like something that makes RV living more affordable and easier. But don’t just take my word for it. I’ve scoured the Internet and found some additional TT membership reviews from happy campers.
The service was excellent, as it is at all thousand trails sites that we visit over the last 25 plus years of our membership. keep up the great work and tradition that you have installed with your very friendly and helpful staff at each of your locations. We look forward to camping at thousand trails each time we take a trip. Thanks to all.
Love this campground! The wonderful staff is friendly and accommodating. You meet some of the nicest people at campgrounds. Everyone is always willing to give advice and help the novice campers. We were in section E this time and I think it is now my favorite spot. It’s only an hour’s drive from home so it’s a great place to go to get away for the weekend. Love the meat bingo!
We have weathered the recent upgrades to this resort and are now enjoying the results to date. The new electric posts are sound and in the sites we have stayed in nicely placed. Some sites do not have a table so if you need one be sure and check. Staff continues to be professional pleasant and very helpful. We stayed in the ‘B’ section.
These reviews painted a fairly positive picture of the TT membership experience. But as always, we suggest doing some of your own diligent research when deciding which camping club membership is best for you.
Alternative Camping Club Membership Options
When making your decision about camping club membership, it pays to learn as much as you can about all the options available. Thousand Trails offers an affordable upfront cost and yearly fees for unlimited camping at their locations. Other programs differ in their pricing structure, costs and amenities. It’s up to you to find the best one for your needs. Here’s a list of similar camping club memberships to consider when making your decision.
Escapees is more of a support and resource membership for RVers rather than the traditional camping membership program. Although their website advertises nineteen Escapee parks located between Washington State to Florida, some users reported they couldn’t easily find such parks listed under Escapee.
However, what they lack in campgrounds, they make up for in RV support. If you’re new to RV living, they offer a community and support group that can provide insights and connections with fellow RVers.
- $39.95 each year
Compared to Thousand Trails:
- Is an RV community and support program
- Provides resources and meetups for RVers
- Can attend events to meet and network with other RVers
Check out their website to learn more about their RV community, membership details and upcoming events.
Passport America is a membership program that can save you 50 percent of campsite fees. By paying an annual fee for membership, which is extremely affordable, you get access to over 2,000 parks across the country at half of their normal rate. You can easily make your membership money back within a couple stays at participating parks.
While there is a variety of quality, you still have a huge list of parks to choose from during your travels. And they also provide a handy mobile app to easily book your reservations on the go. You can also make money with their affiliate referral program by receiving $10 for every person who signs up from your referral
Cost: $44 annually, but less for advanced sign up options
Compared to Thousand Trails
- Less expensive annual membership fee
- Must pay 50 percent of park rates for overnight stays
- Parks are participating in program, not owned by it
To learn more about how you can save and make money with your RV travels, check out the Passport America website.
The Good Sam Club is a reward program that saves members money while staying at specific RV parks (separate from their roadside assistance and other services). By signing up as a member, which is relatively cheap, you save ten percent when staying at any participating location, along with other savings regarding RV supplies from Camping World and gas savings at Pilot and Flying J.
Once you sign up, they can be a little spammy. You’ll receive weekly emails trying to sell you new products for RV living and promoting discounts for your purchases. If you’re looking to stock up your RV, that could be useful. But in terms of their campsite discounts, saving ten percent at every site isn’t much. You may have to use them consistently for several weeks before you make your money back.
Costs: $27 per year
Compared to Thousand Trails
- Over 2,100 participating campsites to choose from
- Only save ten percent for every overnight stay
- Receive discounts for camping supplies from Camping World
Visit the Good Sam Club website if you want to learn more about their reward perks.
If you’re a fan of getting immersed in the local flavors of your travel destinations, then Harvest Hosts could be a great option for you. It’s a unique membership program that allows you to stay for one night at participating wineries, farms and agri-tourism sites for no extra cost – you just pay an affordable annual fee.
Theoretically, you should make your money back within one visit. However, it’s expected that you’ll purchase products from the locations you are visiting, which could run up your tab a bit. Not to mention, most of the locations don’t offer any hookups, but since you’re staying for one night, it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Cost: $40 per year
Compared to Thousand Trails:
- Visit local wineries, breweries and farms compared to traditional RV camps
- Great way to experience local culture
- No hookups at campsite
Interested in meeting locals while staying at wineries and other attractions? Visit the Harvest Host website to learn more.
RVers need to do what they can to save on expenses when traveling. Camping memberships like Thousand Trails help you do just that.
The Thousand Trails yearly membership fee makes it easier to plan and stick to your budget – there’s no risk of being surprised by a higher than average campground cost. And when you’re on the road, convenience means a lot. You can easily set your reservation for your TT campsite and then arrive at a time that works best for you. That quality of service and convenience is hard to beat.
If you’re ready to sign up or still want to learn more about Thousand Trails, check out their website for more details.