We are often asked about membership campgrounds and discount camping clubs. In case it is helpful to others, here is our experience.
We personally belong to Thousand Trails with the associated membership campgrounds of Resort Parks International(RPI). And we also belong to Happy Campers. Each of these memberships have annual dues and TT had a one-time upfront fee.
A Thousand Trails membership is an individual decision. The financial aspect really boils down to how much you will use the TT parks, which in turn has a lot to do with where you will travel. If you plan to fulltime and/or do a lot of RVing in the years to come...it is a membership campground program well worth consideration.
Here is our situation. When we bought our motorhome, the dealer (Lazy Days in Florida), waived the one-time initiation fee, which got us into a "zone" membership (basically, half of the country). We just had to pay the annual dues.
We did that for a couple years even though we were not on the road much. We figured the waived fee was a good deal, and that we would use the membership a lot more once we were full-time.
Then, when we did go full-time on the road, we upgraded to the National membership - our dues stayed the same (with expected cost of living increases).
While we were in the Northeast USA, TT was not very helpful since they really don't have much in the way of parks in that area. As we made our way across country, we stayed at Thousand Trails parks in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and also used a few RPI and Happy Camper parks. Once we hit Oregon and California, we used the Thousand Trails membership campgrounds exclusively.
Since we expect to full-time for a long while, we upgraded to the Platinum Plus membership. This enables us to go park to park within TT, stay 3 weeks (with some restrictions in some parks in high season). It also gives us access to RPI Preferred (so we can stay longer at some of those parks). We pay $10/night for RPI parks. Depending on the type of RPI park, we can stay from 1-2 weeks per stay. Note that the reduced rate/free stays are based on our paying annual dues.
Note: At the time we upgraded, we also had access to a program called Resorts of Distinction (ROD), which gave us a bunch of parks where we could stay for free for 1-2 weeks per stay. Since then, the rules have changed and TT members are no longer eligible for ROD. However the ROD program is still available - you just have to join one of their participating member campgrounds.
The TT parks themselves are usually quite nice. They are not the very highest-end resorts, but they are very pleasant places to stay, usually in a scenic area. Some of them are off the beaten path, but we are not looking to stay next to a highway anyway. They usually have a variety of recreational facilities (swimming pools, tennis, pool tables, horsesehoes, shuffleboard, etc.) and activities of some sort going on. Bottom line, we are happy with what they offer our lifestyle.
Give some thought to the various member camping options, based on your individual circumstances and travel plans.
To learn the details about Thousand Trails and the associated RPI and ROD programs, we suggest you go to a membership campgrounds presentation. This popular program seems to be cutting back on the sale of full memberships, so hurry to take advantage:
A visit to one of the Thousand Trails parks will give you a chance to consider park locations, your personal travel plans, and then do the math on possible savings.
NEW!! Thousand Trails is now selling Zone Pass memberships.
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