5 Reasons to Avoid a Thousand Trails RV Membership

By Kyle & Olivia Brady | Founders of Drivin' & Vibin' | We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

5 Reasons to Avoid a Thousand Trails RV Membership

If you’ve spent any amount of time learning about the RV life online, you may have heard of Thousand Trails. Many RVers (including ourselves) recommend this camping membership to anyone who wants to save money on full-time RVing. 

But, is Thousand Trails really all it’s cracked up to be? 

Today we are taking the road less traveled and letting you know the reasons you might want to avoid a Thousand Trails membership.

Here we go!

What is Thousand Trails? 

Thousand Trails is a collection of campgrounds around North America that are owned by the same company. This company sells memberships for customers to enjoy these campgrounds at no cost (many restrictions and variations apply depending on membership). 

Thousand Trails campgrounds and resorts are typically large with many resort-style amenities. Many are located in prime locations. 

How do Thousand Trails Memberships Work? 

There are many different types of Thousand Trails memberships, and they all work differently. Some memberships allow you to stay 14 days in a park, then 7 days out. Some allow you to go park-to-park with no days out. 

This is all dependent on what membership you choose!

All memberships have great benefits. And, Thousand Trails is a great way to save money as a full-time RVer if you enjoy RV park life

5 Reasons to Avoid a Thousand Trails Membership

We know there are many reasons to join Thousand Trails. But, you don’t hear the negatives of joining very often. So, here we’ve compiled 5 reasons to avoid Thousand Trails. 

Some Facilities Are Run Down

It’s true. Some Thousand Trails facilities are pretty run down. You can learn this without ever visiting one, just read the reviews on different campground review websites. 

Thousand Trails campgrounds are run and managed independently, so each park is different. Different rules, different standards of service, and so on. Many Thousand Trails Resorts have a family lounge and an adult lounge. Also, some have a kids pool and an adult pool.

But, because of budget cuts, natural disasters, or whatever other reasons, some facilities will be in disrepair and closed. 

This might not seem like a big deal, until you’re trying to enjoy peace and quiet in the adult pool or hot tub and kids barge in being loud and splashing everywhere. 

Some reviewers report not wanting to stay at a location because of full-timers in the park with dirty sites. This can be a negative, but just because someone has a dirty campsite doesn’t reflect on the entire park or organization as a whole. 

Membership Terms Can Be Really Confusing

Every experienced Thousand Trails member knows this: membership terms can be super confusing. Thousand Trails has a call center of salespeople selling memberships. 

Most of the time, these people have no experience with RVing and just have a sales quota to fill. 

This can lead you to getting roped into paying way more than you need to. 

rv dealers

If you do your research, and lots of it, you will find that there are many ways to become a Thousand Trails member. You can even buy resale memberships at a lower price, and it’s totally within the terms and conditions to do so. 

If you’re thinking about joining Thousand Trails, do your research and talk to experienced members. 

Pro Tip: Take a look at this guide to Thousand Trails Membership Options here. 

You Have To Make Reservations Several Months in Advance for Some Parks

For the most popular Thousand Trails parks, you have to make reservations well in advance. Some of these parks are in prime locations. Or, are prime locations for a certain season – like Verde Valley RV Resort near Sedona, or Palm Springs RV Resort in Palm Desert. 

These are winter RVing hot spots, and, as a result, are always full!

Having to make campground reservations several months in advance is common for many RV campgrounds, not just Thousand Trails. But, for a membership that you want to exclusively spend your time at, it can be a slight annoyance. Especially if you’re a go-with-the-flow person instead of a rigid planner!

Many Parks Have Bad or No Cell Signal

Just like RVing in general, some of the parks in the Thousand Trails system have spotty or non-existent cell service. This is tough for those digital nomads out there!

Many parks make an effort to provide wifi for guests, but this isn’t always reliable, as you might have learned from other campground experiences.

If you rely on good wifi or strong cell signal to get work done, do your research before booking a park. And, as always, have a plan B… and a plan C. 

If you are serious about internet, we suggest traveling with an RV cell booster.

Boondocking With Rooftop Cell Booster
Boondocking With Rooftop Cell Booster

Parks Are Independently Managed – Leading to An Inconsistent Experience 

As we stated in #1 – the parks in the Thousand Trails systems are independently managed and run. 

This means that while the campgrounds are under the same company and many have the same facilities, they’ve got different management and different rules. 

From personal experience and from reading reviewer reports, some Thousand Trails campgrounds implement the 10 year rule. The 10 year rule is a rule some RV parks follow that basically means they won’t allow you in if your rig is 10 years old or older. 

This rule is to keep broken-down and “ugly” RVs out of the park…but 10 years is nothing in RV years! Although, that’s a topic for another day. 

Before booking a Thousand Trails park, be sure to read the reviews. 

Always take reviews with a grain of salt. Some people have a much higher standard than others. And, some people can find something to complain about no matter what. 

The most important thing is to know what you are getting yourself into before you head in to pick out a campsite. 

Should You Get A Thousand Trails Membership?

In our opinion, the positives of Thousand Trails far outweigh the negatives. What is a deal-breaker for one person might not even be noticed by another. 

That being said, if you decide to join Thousand Trails (and we recommend it), just do your research. Be educated, be informed, and have fun! 

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6 comments

  1. We have belonged to Thousand Trails for 20 years and have seen it become very hard to make a reservation unless you can make it months ahead. When we first joined in 1988 there was a policy that you would never be turned away. That is long gone

  2. I have a thousand trails membership that I bought used 8 months ago and its almost paid for its self. Some places are not the best but I always had a full hook up. Then some places were awesome and I will definitely be back. Like moody Beach in Maine. Lake Gaston in North Carolina not to mention beth page in Virginia. Just thouse 3 make it worth while.

  3. I have a 1999 rv and have never been resyricted at the 5 thousand trails parks I’ve visited. There is no cells because they’re in secluded areas, which is what I want. Maintenance is an issue at some, but for my camper level membership it has been a good value, saving me hundreds in per nite fees.

  4. I have been a member for over 40 years. Now I am retired I can use it. Reservation system is horrible. Modifying a reservation can be challenging, it is best to call the park as they can help you.
    With so many annuals in the parks there is little choices when you arrive & look for a space. Some parks keep track of open spots but most don’t. You waste your time looking for a spot. Check the electrical before you settle in. There are TT parks that we cannot access because they were not parks when we purchased. So the complicated contracts and choices are as the article stated, confusing.

  5. We wish we had never bought it. Found it difficult to find a good spot. And now have to pay for something we dont use. You can’t get out of your contract!! When covid19 hit all the amenities we were paying for were shut down. So, we bought a house and turned our camper into an air bnb. Still looking for the way out of the contract.

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