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Thousand Trails, discounts?


FL-JOE
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We have always maintained membership in Passport, Good Sams, sometimes KOA, and now will soon be adding Escapees.  When pursuing discounts for camping spot are we overlooking any good deals for full timers?  How about Thousand Trails?  It looks like for just under $600 a year you pick a "zone" in the U.S. and can camp in several CG's for free there?  Any full timers have experience, thoughts, or comments about Thousand Trails?

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We got our Thousand Trails membership from someone who couldn’t use it any more.  We’re glad 
we went that route rather than buying one from the company because it saved us literally 
thousands of dollars.  We think TT is a good deal if you are going to actually use the 
membership.  

Having said that, for those who aren’t familiar with TT, the Zone Pass is probably a better
 way to go.  With no commitment you get access to all the preserves in an area for a year.  
That gives you opportunity to decide if you want to jump in all the way and get a membership. 
 If you use the ZP for just 30 nights you’ll have spent less than $20 a night – that’s a 
great camping rate.  After that it gets even better, just $3 a night for the rest of the
 year!

The TT campgrounds are a mixed bag.  Some are terrific.  A few are subpar.  Most are 
somewhere in between.  You’ll almost always have water and at least 30 amp electric.  
Often you’ll have full hookups.  Generally, there will be a surcharge of $3-5 for 50 amp 
service.  There will be a pool, possibly some kind of spa, an Activity Center, and maybe 
a few other sports venues – generally these amenities will be somewhat tired but progress 
is being made in bringing them back to life.  The same can be said of the roads.  

If you go with a “used” Thousand Trails membership you’ll want to carefully check out 
the contract because older memberships are all over the place in privileges.  Some 
memberships don’t include all the preserves – that may or may not be a big deal to 
you depending on your travel plans.  The biggies in our opinion are that you want 
“park to park” privileges so you won’t have a mandatory week out between stays, a
 minimum of 2 or 3 week stays, and a national membership that works coast to coast.  
You also want to know how many “free” nights you get by paying your annual dues 
(we get 50) and then what it costs per night after that (we pay $5). Other things to 
check out are being sure dues increases are stopped (or halved) at 62 or 65 and, of 
course, the actual dues amount.

If you are going to use the preserves at least a month or two a year and if you are 
okay with the quality of the preserves, it’s a good deal.  If not, well, anything you 
purchase but don’t use is a waste of money.  We are happy with our membership and would 
do it again without hesitation.
Edited by GR "Scott" Cundiff
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I'll second the recommendation to try the Zone Pass for a year.   And often they will have a 2 for 1 'special' going where you can get two zones for the same price.  If you are going to be on the west coast, it is a smart thing to do.   Agree with Scott, the parks go from marginal to really great.   They are all older and some are slowly improving.  We almost always spend two weeks at Russian River park in Cloverdale, CA - it has to be one of the marginal ones, very small sites, 30 amps only, only 1/2 or sites can get satellite, BUT, it is in Sonoma Valley and we use it for staging our forays into the wineries. :D    

 

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We are not a good fit for the RV park membership groups, but I believe that Scott is giving you good advice. For those who enjoy that type of park, it can be a major money saver. We have known many happy members of TT or similar groups. The key is the amount that you would use it. For us, that would never be enough to justify the cost but it comes down to your preferred type of RV park. We are more the COE & state park type of travelers.We rarely stop in any one place for more than a few days unless it is a place we want to volunteer for our site. If you are new to the RV lifestyle, I suggest you try both ways as well as any other style of RVing that looks interesting before you commit to any one way. 

Remember that the only limit to the ways you can live in your RV is your own imagination. Take the time to figure out what fits you best before you invest too much money into one style. 

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Thanks Scott, and everyone for responding!  I kind of remember checking some of this out the prior to our first go around at this full time thing.  I think I have a good basic understanding of it now though.

We may wait a year and revisit it again.  Currently we are set up in a CG up north for 2 or 3 months that will average $13 per day with full hook ups.  One more we think we can get in for a month in the spring and a month in the fall for $10 per day plus electric, so between these two places we are working toward our goal of keeping our fees down.

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