Aug 302015

Yesterday I got an e-mail from somebody who is interested in purchasing a Thousand Trails membership but was confused by all of the options as to what parks a member can use, how long they can stay at a park, and if they can move from park to park or must stay out of the system for a certain number of days. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to explain the program, but I’ll try, to the best of my understanding.

The first thing to understand is that Thousand Trails (TT) is only one part of a large campground chain owned by Equity Lifestyle Properties (ELS). There are also NACO parks, Leisure Time Resorts (LTR), Mid-Atlantic, and Outdoor World (OW). Equity Lifestyle Properties also owns Encore Parks. Some memberships allow use of only part of the system and some allow full use of all parks.

There is no ONE Thousand Trails membership. There seem to be a few basic ones, each offering its own benefits and limitations, and then dozens of exceptions to the rule, depending on how much the salesman wants to make a deal and how good a negotiator the customer is.

The most basic, and the one Thousand Trails (TT) is pushing hardest, is the Zone Pass. This is good for a specific area (Southeast, Southwest, etc.) and is usually on an annual basis.

Then there are the many different regular memberships. Members pay an annual dues, and in exchange can stay for a certain number of days per year without paying anything more, and then once they have gone over this limit, they pay a small fee per night. Some memberships allow 14 days in the system and then you must be out 7 to 14 days before going to another park. Others allow 14 days in and you can go right to another park with no days out.

We started out with a used Platinum Membership, which allowed us to stay at all TT and NACO parks for 14 days and go right to another park with no days out. A few years ago we upgraded to an Elite Membership, which gives us access to all of the Thousand Trails, NACO parks, Leisure Time Resorts (LTR), Mid-Atlantic, and Outdoor World parks. Our annual dues give us 50 “free” nights a year, and then we pay $5/night for each additional night after that. Members can also opt to pay a higher annual dues fee and stay an unlimited number of nights in the system, but they are still required to move every 14 to 21 days, depending on their membership.

We can make reservations 180 days in advance, stay three weeks and go right to another park with no days out. However, there are exceptions. Some parks in the system have what are called Peak or High Usage times, during which we can only stay two weeks instead of three.

I know it sounds confusing, and it is. And I’ve discovered that sometimes even the salesmen don’t seem to know what is what. I’ve had one tell me one thing and the next one says something entirely different.

I always recommend purchasing a used membership, and first calling the main office with the membership number first to be sure of exactly what that membership includes, and if there will be any changes.

For us, as fulltimers, our Thousand Trails Elite membership has been a great bargain. We have spent our entire summer on the Oregon and Washington coasts, moving from park to park. at a fraction of what it would have cost at regular commercial parks.

I hope this helps you understand the whole Thousand Trails thing a little better.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials: Famous Murderous Pirates Book Series: THE LIVES AND ADVENTURES of FAMOUS and SUNDRY PIRATES. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Pirate Trials book 3


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Nick Russell

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  3 Responses to “Thousand Trails Explained”

  1. Nick, thanks for this explaination. When you upgraded to the Elite plan did you buy another used membership or go thru the company sales department?

  2. You keep saying that there are a certain amount of “free” nights with Thousand Trails memberships. You pay an annual membership and it “includes” a certain amount of days. You are paying for those nights up front, whether you use them or not. If Thousand Trails had “free” nights they would be out of business.
    There is no “free” lunch in this world.

  3. Debbie – We kept the same membership and upgraded through the manager at Verde Valley Thousand Trails.

    Roy – You are correct. A better way to word that would have been our annual dues entitle us to 50 nights at no additional cost. But I think most readers understood what I was saying.

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