RV Membership Campgrounds and Clubs – Update
This year, 2021, is certainly going to be a different kind of adventure for the RVing world. Instead of the rather laid back, spontaneous life of recent years, the scramble is on for a place to park. When I started full-timing in a motorcoach back in 1995, the world was open to us. We rarely made a reservation as we wandered here and there, stopping for a night, a week, and even the occasional month at our favorite stops. Living and traveling in an RV was a curiosity that intrigued everyone we met.
Most commercial parks were averaging $15 for one night unless you stayed a week or more. True, the parks were only offering 30-amp sites (sometimes 20A) and carrying a blue boy for trips to the sewer dump came in handy. . . but ah, the adventures. We had the “world on a string.”
After our first year of traveling, one of our camping neighbors introduced us to Thousand Trails Campgrounds and their mind-boggling system of membership opportunities. At that time, salespeople were on-site, not a voice on the phone. You toured the park first, then sat down with a live person and talked value.
Resale memberships popped up in the conversation when we balked at the $10,000, $7,000, $4,500 entry levels and walked out with a resale. All the same membership goodies as the $7,000 level. Strangely, a new membership is still about the same price today. [Disclaimer: I do not receive any compensation from TT.]
With a Thousand Trails Campground system resale membership, we paid a one-time fee of $1500, then $450 a year maintenance fee. That was the total cost for a two-week stay, then out for a week or on to another system park for two weeks, no limit.
As primarily West Coast travelers, all the parks in the system cost us $0. Using other Network Parks made available to us through the membership, another 1000 parks invited us in for a one to two-week stay at no cost. [Over the years, the maintenance fee has zoomed into the $600 range, but in-park stays average 21 nights now, out for one week, still park-to-park.]
Our budget for park sites after the first-year membership fee was roughly $1.23 per night. What a great deal. We traveled to most of the parks offered in the western states, if only to check out the quality. Some parks fell in the “resort” category, more just a stop for the night. Campgrounds, indeed, not RV resorts. Having already stayed in various commercial campgrounds around the country, we were accustomed to little in the way of utilities and no amenities. Most were just a stop to tour the area, that was fine with us. Being able to travel all the time for a little more than a dollar a stop was heaven.
As the RV lifestyle became popular, naturally prices begin to climb. Commercial parks moved out of the $15 nightly range into the $30+ per night class. We continued to use the Thousand Trails system for years at the same rate per our contract. Those resale memberships are still available in the $2,000+ range by the way.
Because Thousand Trails (TT) is still the only membership choice that owns 80+ parks, if this mode of travel suits you, check it out first. If you own a big rig and need resort amenities, pass on this system. There are other membership opportunities for you out there starting at $10,000 plus an annual maintenance fee.
Feel free to check out the resources listed here. Before making an investment, read all the fine print.
Experts on the Thousand Trails Campground adventure:
Read First: RVLove.com
Then read for more insight: GetawayCouple.com
For the downside: Avoid Thousand Trails memberships:
More campground systems to explore:
Memberships that provide discounts at commercial parks, vineyards, farms, etc.:
Websites to explore for resale memberships:
One of the many websites to check out the campgrounds before making reservations:
More . . .
Margo’s 3-eBook Collection contains everything you need to know before you start the adventure of a lifetime… all in one volume. Interested in traveling solo, need information on maintenance, or how to save money, it’s all in here.