We belong to a lot of clubs. Some for pure educational or recreational purposes and some are big money savers for us and allow us to live the lifestyle we love.
So let’s do the math:
Campgrounds can run from $30 to over $100 a night depending on where they are located and the amenities they provide. For this exercise, we’ll just use the lowest price to do the numbers – $30. If you’re full time like us you’ll be camping 365 days a year.
365 days x $30 a night = $10,950 in camping fees!
Did that just blow your mind? And that’s the low end of what you’ll pay! That’s why having various campground memberships are necessary to help defray the costs.
All in all, we pay about $1,200 a year in membership fees but that allows us to stay at campgrounds for free or for minimal charges – some as low as $20 a night. Even a few lower than that. But that’s our cost after we initially paid $3,600 for a used Thousand Trails Basic Elite. See below for details on how and where to buy one of those.
Here is a list of some of the Clubs and Memberships we belong to and if any fit’s your lifestyle, I would highly recommend joining.
This has got to be the most awesome and moving endorsement that I can imagine!
If you’re still on the fence regarding Thousand Trails, read this. Printed with permission from Kimberly Hicks. Thank you, Kimberly, for allowing me to share your story. ❤️
I first learned about TT through one of your videos. I was homeless and just recently got SS Disability which enabled me to buy a cheap RV. By getting a TT membership, I can actually afford to live in my travel trailer, see the country, and have money left over to eat/do repairs/buy gas/whatever I need. Thank you for the information that you share.
– Kimberly Hicks
Thousand Trails –
Before you read further, please watch this video. Matt Colender, a Financial Planner who has been writing articles for this website to help people plan for this great lifestyle just did a YouTube video interview with Kimberly Hoel at Campground Membership Outlet where many people -myself included – purchased used memberships and saved thousands of dollars. Matt and Kimberly answer every single question you can possibly think of – and more. The various TT memberships can be confusing for the novice. Matt and Kimberly really do a great job explaining the difference between the various membership levels and the add-ons such as Trails Collections, RPI and Coast to Coast.
It’s an awesome video!!
You can buy a Zone pass for $615 (as of 3/1/21) which covers just a section of the United states or purchase an upgraded membership that covers all Zones for a more hefty price. You can also add additional Zones for an additional fee of $65 per additional Zone (as of 3/1/21). You can pay for it in full or by the month. If you do the monthly and have it drafted from your bank automatically you get a discount.
You can stay for 2 wks then must be out of the system for a week before going to the next TT park. If you upgrade, for example, to the Basic Elite like we have, you can stay for up to 3 weeks and then go to the next park without having to be out of the system. That means you can go from park to park to park. You have access to over 80 TT parks and discounts at Encore parks. BUT – do not buy an upgraded membership from Thousand Trails. Buy a used one from a broker. You will save thousands of dollars. We almost bought a new one from TT. They wanted $5600. Then we talked to a broker and got the same thing by buying a used membership for $3600. We have been traveling for almost 5 years now since we bought it and have found it to be invaluable. It’s paid for itself in the first 3 months.
The company we bought our used membership from was Campground Membership Outlet. Once you purchase your membership, you can then add on the Trails Collection and RPI (Resort Parks International) (see below for details).
Please note: Usually memberships can only be sold once after purchase so if you buy a used one, you probably can’t resell it. We knew that from the beginning and that was ok for us. We already made our money back many times over so we’re good just walking away when we no longer need it. You’re not obligated to continue to pay maintenance fees for the rest of your life like a time share. Just send them a notice in writing and you’re done.
We also added the Trails Collection and RPI (Resort Parks International) to our Thousand Trails Membership.
The Trails Collection adds 100 more campgrounds which allows us to stay 2 wks at their upper end Encore parks for $20 a night. The Trails Collection is now $315 (as of 3/1/21). You must be out of the Trails Collection for a week before you can book another Trails Collection park but you can go from a Trails Collection park to a Thousand Trails park without having to be out of the system.
Another great sources for info on Thousand Trail can be located here: RVLove.com They have all the information you need to decide whether or not a membership with Thousand Trails is a good fit for you.
Here’s another link that you should read before you make a decision about buying a Thousand Trails membership.
Note: Some TT parks are really nice. Some are just so-so. None have been unbearable. Read all you can at RVLove.com to be as informed as possible before making a decision. Some parks also charge $5 or so additionally for 50 amp service and even $1-$5 per package if you have packages delivered while you are there. Other parks won’t accept mail at all. If your planning on having mail/pkgs delivered to your next park, call ahead to see if they allow it. Some have even accepted them for us before we got there and just held them until our arrival. They also have their own app you can download.
* * * UPDATE * * *
Just before buying a new Thousand Trails Membership, one of my viewers saw a post I put on Facebook and then went to my site to get more information. He contacted me and we discussed like a million things including Thousand Trails and I explained to him how we saved thousands of dollars by buying a used membership. This is what I received from him the next day:
Hi Carol, Just got off the phone (because of you) with TT. $7,000 for elite basic & almost $10,000 for elite connections. That is unbelievable. Also, the chap told me all the parks shown are owned by the parent company. They have been around for a long time so I guess the business model works. Thanks for the broker tip.
– Albert D
So glad we were able to provide him with information on saving money by buying a used membership before he committed to a new one.
Local Clubs – We are members of a local Texas Club called Texas Boomers and a club in Oklahoma called The Happy OK Wanderers. We met a couple that were members of HOW in Roswell, NM as we were coming back from Las Vegas several years ago. They have become dear friends so we always look forward to going to their rallies.
Both are clubs that have rallies in the general Texas/Oklahoma/Arkansas area where we used to live and it’s such fun to meet back up with them as often as possible.
So look for clubs to join in your area. Facebook is a good place to start your search.
Thor Diesel Club
Website: Thor Diesel Club
TDC is an exclusive club for Thor Diesel owners only but check for your manufacturer. Most have groups you can join. TDC has regional clubs that meet throughout the year. Check for one in your region. They also have an International Rally every year in Goshen that is a lot of fun. Usually it centers around a theme. Past themes have been Pirates, Hawaiian and Out Of This World. 2019 was going to be Team Sports themed but alas it got cancelled due to COVID-19.
You can also find TDC on RVillage too.
You must have a diesel unit and must be a member of FMCA to join.
If you have a another manufacturer’s brand, check your see if they have a club. Most do and they have rallies throughout the year.
RVillage – A Mobile app supported by Escapees RV Club. Many groups are now using them as a platform for social media rather than Facebook. FMCA and Thor Diesel club are among those. It’s free to join.
Note: You can upgrade your membership to Gold for an additional onetime fee of $20 (this may have gone up) and get some great discounts on some of the clubs and items listed in this write up such as Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, TireMinder,etc.
FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) – Provides all kinds of benefits for members. Travel insurance, deep discounts on Michelin tires, has great rallies with lots of educational seminars and vendors, membership includes free FMCA Assist for emergency evacuations, return of dependents or pet or RV/vehicle. They also have a Roadside Assistance program for towing, jump starts, lockouts, tire service, mobile mechanic, etc. Membership also includes a monthly magazine. They also do mail forwarding, tours, etc. Initially, the club was only for Motor Coaches but they have since expanded to include 5th wheels and pull behinds.
Escapees – Fee based online RV community which provides discounts, education, mapping tools, rallies, job boards, support, domicile locations for Texas, Florida and South Dakota, Park discounts, etc. Cost is $39.95 (current price as of 6/24/20 but will be going up to $49.95 11/1/20) a year. We use Escapees for our mail forwarding and domicile address. Mail forwarding is $95 a year (as of 6/24/20) plus the cost of shipments. Mail scanning is an additional $10 a month. They will scan every envelope and post it online for you to see. You can then decide to have it shredded or have it sent to you in your next mail shipment. We really like using the for mail plus having a domicile address in rural Texas makes our RV and car insurance a cheaper.
Good Sam’s Club – Owned by Camping World. Members get a 10% discounts at participating campgrounds. Fee based Membership. They also offer various insurances. Research carefully before buying their insurance. There are lots of pro’s and con’s when it comes to insurances.
Passport America – Fee based membership. 50% discount at participating campgrounds but they can have a lot of restrictions on when they will honor it. Some are only on weekdays not weekends. Some won’t during their peak season. Always check the Allstays App for special requirements and ask when you make the reservations. They also have their own app you can download.
Boondockers Welcome –
Facebook: Boondockers Welcome Group
Annual Membership required. Cost is $50 a year (as of 6/24/20). These are people that have room on their driveway or on their property that host members for free. Usually they do not provide hookups but occasionally some will. If you get in a pinch and can’t find a campground in your area, you can log on and find a host close by that will let you stay at their place. We have used them several times and found them to be a great resource. We met a nice couple in PA that we stayed with for 5 years now and we have become fast friends. The length of the stay is determined by the host but members are reminded not to overstay their welcome. Please negotiate up front. They also have their own app you can download.
Also, Harvest Hosts (see below) is giving BW members a 20% discount when you join HH so joing BW first then HH!!
Great story to share:
About 4 or 5 years ago we stayed at Pocono Peace and met our hosts, Yan and Shanti. They have become dear friends and we have traveled with them on numerous occasions. We don’t go 5 days without texting or talking to them. This week, we were able to stop by and visit with them again. We sat outside by the fire, visited local farmers market and went out for dinner last night. We truly enjoy their company. You just never know what’s in store when you stay at a host location. Thank you Boondockers Welcome and Pocono Peace!!
Harvest Hosts – (harvesthosts.com)
Membership required. $79 a year (1092 locations) or $119 if you add golf courses (1448 locations). Prices are current as of 6/24/20. Hosts have wineries, farms, museums and breweries/distilleries that allow you to boondock on their property. Members are encouraged to support the Hosts but it’s not a requirement. One night stay unless the host offers to extend. We have stayed at several wineries, a car museum and a farm. We have camped in the middle of a vineyard and in the middle of an apple orchard. We highly recommend joining as we have stayed at some amazing places. They also have their own app you can download.
Here is our referral link to save 15% off membership costs: http://harvesthosts.refr.cc/kenandcarolv
Military – If you’re a member of the military (retired or active) you can stay at military bases. Most have hookups.
Elks Lodge – If you are an Elks member, you can stay at their lodges but I believe most are without hookups.