Thousand Trails is a membership club for RVers where you pay a fixed membership fee and then can stay in within the Thousand Trails (TT) parks without additional charge, and in affiliated parks at a reduced rate. They are one of the largest and most successful providers of RV resorts & campgrounds in North America with 81 locations in 22 states & British Columbia, Canada. Many of their campgrounds are so big, they are called Preserves.
I'm not going to lie, the membership is costly and there are several levels. There's an entry level called a Zone Camping Pass. It allows you to camp up to 14 nights at a time, with no nightly fees, within the “Zone” that you purchase. There are five (5) zones with a total of 80 campgrounds in North America. Each zone has 8-23 campgrounds within the USA, plus one in Canada, BC. After each stay of 5 nights or more at a TT campground, you need to stay out of the system for 7 days before re-entering. Or camp for 4 nights, move to another Thousand Trails campground, and repeat (indefinitely) with no time out of the TT network. You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance. This membership is for one year, and auto renews annually, unless you cancel it in writing in advance. You can also buy a multi-year zone pass on a contract that locks in a discounted annual rate for that term. You can add up to 4 extra zones, giving you access to a total of 5 zones. As of this writing, the cost for this is $599 and you can add additional zones for just $59.
You could upgrade the Zone Pass with lifetime memberships. First is the Elite Basic. It is the first level of membership upgrade from the Zone Pass. The Elite Basic allows you to camp in Thousand Trails campgrounds for up to 21 nights with no nightly fees, then move directly to another park, without any time out of the TT system. You have access to TT’s entire national network of 80 campgrounds. Twice a year, you can also extend your stay by one week for just $29, extending your stay from 21 days to 28 days. You can make your camping reservations up to 120 days in advance. Annual dues are frozen at age 62. And one year of RPI Resort Connections membership is included. In 2020, the Standard Price is about $7,000. You pay ongoing, annual dues of $499–$599 – depending on the membership contract you are upgrading from.
The next level is called Elite Connections. Just like the Elite Basic, you can camp for up to 21 nights at a time in a Thousand Trails campground, then move directly to another park, without any time out of the system. And you can access the entire network of TT campgrounds. Twice a year, you can extend your stay by one week for just $29, for a 28 day stay. You can make your reservations 180 days in advance. Annual dues are frozen at age 62. And two years of RPI Resort Connections membership are included. In 2020, the Standard Price is about $9,000. You pay ongoing, annual dues of $499–$599 – depending on the membership contract you are upgrading from.
The highest level is called Ultimate Odyssey. One of the big steps up with the Ultimate Odyssey is the ability to camp for up to 28 nights at a time in a Thousand Trails campground, then move directly to another park, without any time out of the system. And you can access the entire network of Thousand Trails campgrounds. Plus four times a year, you can extend your stay by one week. For example: pay $29 to stay for 35 days twice in one year, and during high season, you can add an extra week for $99, giving you two x 21 day stays (instead of 14 days). You can also make your reservations 180 days in advance. In 2020, the Standard Price is about $13,500. You pay ongoing, annual dues of $499–$599 – depending on the membership contract you are upgrading from.
With each level, you can add the Trails Collection, which is a group of 100+ Encore RV parks (they often call them RV resorts) around the USA that expands your network of Thousand Trails campgrounds even further. Trails Collection currently includes 108 Encore parks around the country (primarily in the sunbelt). When you add those to the 80 Thousand Trails campgrounds available nationally you will have access to 188 RV parks nationally.
We ultimately decided that as full-time RVers, it would make sense for us. We chose the Elite Connections level and after full-timing for about a month and a half, we've stayed at 3 Thousand Trails parks. The parks we have stayed at are the Lake Texoma RV Campground (3 nights), the Bay Landing RV Campground (21 nights), and where we are currently, the Medina Lake RV Campground (6 nights). If we were to pay to stay at the campgrounds, we estimate that it would cost us around $1500. It's already on its way to paying for itself. The 3 campgrounds that we've stayed at are huge. They also have amenities like a club house, a pool, playground for kids, etc. They are for the most part, kept up well and the three that we have stayed at are right on the lake. So far, we have no complaints.
As I mentioned, we are currently at the Medina Lake RV Campground.
We drove here after our stay at the San Antonio KOA. Lake Medina is about an hour west of San Antonio. It was a little stressful driving on the freeway, but once we got to the highway, it was a bit more enjoyable. The Texas hill country is beautiful. We made it to the RV park with no fuss or muss and picked the perfect site. We remembered everything Duane (our RV driving school instructor) told us and backed in perfectly with no help at all from any outsiders. We definitely got our money's worth!
The Medina Lake RV Resort was huge but the big draw is of course, the lake, but also the deer! There were many, many deer. Everywhere you looked there were deer. Not just in the morning or evening but all throughout the day. The dogs could not stop looking at them. We also like how the sites were surrounded by trees. It gave a sense of privacy. Overall, we like this park.