Something I have experienced in the last 6 months is that the organization “Thousand Trails” can be a very controversial topic. You can Google it and you are going to see all sorts of good and bad things about it and that’s just what it is. What I plan to do for you is put it in to perspective. You are welcome to do what you want and have your own opinion. Welcome to America. Ha!
Thousand Trails is an organization that caters to travelers. You can set up a tent, rent a cabin, park your RV with full hookups and be a part of a travel club. These all depend on your membership and where you are wanting to stay but you get the point of what Thousand Trails has to offer. They have more than 80 locations within 22 states. Sounds like a pretty big variety or a small variety depending on your travel expectations.
So, where does the controversy come from? Great question. I personally think it’s because people like to complain and don’t put things in to perspective, but again, it’s America and I am entitled to my own opinion. Here is the reality of things. Are all the parks great? Definitely not. In fact, as I sit here writing this, I am in a park that I absolutely hate and will never return to. That’s beside the point though. Some people like it here. Each location you will find your pros and cons. But my pros and cons will be different than yours.
Some of the locations are going to be very tight. What I mean by this is you are going to be tucked in like sardines in a can. You might not be able to put out your awning or your slides. Think of it this way….location, location, location. (Something I learned in Real Estate) Some locations you are going to be so remote that you will not have cell phone service, internet and not even antenna TV. For someone running a business, this might not be ideal, for someone who is retired or loves to be out in the middle of nowhere this may be amazing. Do you see how everyone can form their own opinion based on their own preferences?
Well, let me give it to you straight. If you are going to travel full time, this organization is a NO BRAINER. There are a lot of people who wouldn’t be able to afford this lifestyle without a company like this. It would be near impossible. If you haven’t tried this lifestyle yet, let me put some perspective on it. Most places you visit that have full hookups are going to be between $35-$50/day. Most will have discounted weekly or monthly prices. Say you are staying at a place for 5 days at the rate of $35/day. That is $175 for 5 days. Then what? You move on to the next place for a week and maybe you get a discount there and you pay $190. Multiply that by 4 and you are approaching $760/month. That’s not including your gas, food, exploration, entertainment and all your other miscellaneous bills. I’m guessing you can see where I’m going with this. That could get really expensive and stop a traveler in his/her tracks if they haven’t prepared properly.
That’s where a company like Thousand Trails is a savior. There are different options you can choose from based on your circumstances and plans. That is a great thing. With traveling, no two travelers are alike and they recognize that. They have zone passes where you can stay in the parks for a week at a time. You also have to be out of the system for a certain amount of time before you can camp again but that’s what the pass gives you. This is a low annual fee for a zone. You have 5 zones to pick from and can usually get a discounted rate for an additional zone. If you travel/camp sometimes, this is also a no brainer.
If you are like me, you are full time and trying to cut costs in the beginning. Here is where an elite membership is key. With this you get access to ALL of the parks and you get to stay for 21 days and go from park to park. In places like California, I can literally go from one park to another in an hour. So, I get to stay at 1 park for 21 days, explore, enjoy, relax, etc and then only have to go an hour to the next park (cheaper in gas) and do the same thing until it’s time to leave. For me, this seemed like a no brainer and I was confused as to why any person would ever have to think about this kind of an investment.
I know you are on the edge of your seat right now wondering what the cost is but I’m not going to tell you. OK, I’m just kidding. I will give you approximate numbers because it’s different every day, based on who you talk to, what deals are going on, etc. So my plan was about $6,000. I can see the sticker shock for most of you right now and hope you keep reading because I’m going to break it down for you real fast. That $6,000 is my LIFETIME membership. I never have to pay that again. I’m 35. I plan to be doing this the rest of my life, but let’s assume that I can only do it for the next 10 years. Let’s take $6,000 and divide it by 10 years with 365 days. Be prepared to be amazed. If I only do this for another 10 years I am paying $1.64/day to camp in over 80 parks throughout our country with full hookups. Please, explain to me where in the world you can go to get a place to set up shop, have electricity, water, garbage, sewer, most places a pool and other amenities for only $50/month.
The answer is you can’t. You just can’t. I don’t even think your parents will let you live with them for 10 years and only pay $50/month. Ok, so that’s the membership fee. There is an annual fee you will have to pay every year. Now I can see your eyes rolling saying “I knew there was a catch.” Honestly, this isn’t a catch, it’s still amazing. From my understanding it goes up a little every year. Maybe $25ish. So my annual due this year was around $430. So divide that by 365 days and that’s about $1.18/day. OK. So now I am paying about $2.81/day. So, $2.81/day to have everything we mentioned before. So, now we are realistically up to about $84/month for everything you need. It’s still the same thing. Good luck finding a deal like that. To top all of this off, they also offer financing. I realize not everyone has $6,000 laying around to throw out and that’s what makes this even more amazing.
So back to the controversy. You are going to get people who want to complain. It’s what they do and no matter what they will find something to complain about. It’s in their nature. No judging. Yes, some of the parks are not the most pleasant. You might run in to a park that is very tight, or the people aren’t the nicest, or the internet sucks, or the location isn’t ideal. The next week or month it could have great internet, new people and they are nicer, and it’s not peak season so there are plenty of spots. See how everything is circumstantial? In addition to that, think about it. What right do you have to complain about a place that you are paying $2.81/day for? You don’t. If you want to complain, go pay the $35-$50/day and have everything you want. The funny thing is, no matter where you go, you can find something bad. We have had our fair share of full price locations that I would gladly relocate to the absolute worst Thousand Trails Park before ever returning to that park.
What I’m trying to say is this: if you are going to be doing this full time and you are price conscious, Thousand Trails is a no brainer. If you have money coming out of your ears, don’t listen to me, do what you want. If you aren’t going to be full time it might still be a great option for you. It all depends on your circumstances. They have smaller packages, like the zone pass mentioned earlier and larger passes that include things like Getaway Cabins and Cruises. The main point is that if you are going to be traveling, look in to all of your options. Remember you are going to get what you pay for, thank your lucky stars you are able to have this dream lifestyle, put on a smile and have fun.
PS-No, I am not getting paid or recognized for this in any fashion. I am just simply here to help out fellow travel enthusiasts. I certainly would have saved quite a bit of money had I known about this when I first started and not 4 months later.