Thousand Trails, Pros And Cons

I’ve had a few e-mails from readers who noted that we are currently staying at a Thousand Trails preserve and wanted to know if I felt that  Thousand Trails membership was a good investment.

As I have said many times before, like anything, a campground membership can be a good investment if you use it enough. If you don’t, it’s a waste of money. I know Thousand Trails members who get a lot of value from their memberships, and others, like Terry and myself, who really don’t use it enough to justify the annual dues.

We knew going in that it would take us some time to free up our schedule enough to really take advantage of our membership, and we got it cheap enough that we can handle that.

We have stayed at Thousands Trails and NACO campgrounds in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Ohio, and visited preserves in several other states. Most have been more than adequate for our needs, but overall we have not found them to be the idyllic resorts that the fancy brochures the marketing people put out depict.

This is our third visit to the Colorado River preserve in Columbus, Texas, and the first time that we have not had problems with electrical power (so far). As in past trips, the electrical posts at several RV sites are covered with plastic bags and inoperable, so even though the campground is supposed to have 94 campsites available, a number of them are out of service. Nobody ever seems to get around to repairing them.

This lack of maintenance seems to be a common theme at many Thousand Trails/NACO preserves across the country. We have been to some preserves where interior roads were in poor shape, and others where swimming pools and hot tubs were out of commission. There have been a couple that we have not even visited, because of the poor reports on them posted at the Thousand Trails Yahoo group.

Despite maintenance problems at some locations, every preserve we have visited or stayed in has been very clean, and the staff have always been very friendly and helpful.

Be aware that this system was designed for family camping, so in the summertime you can expect lots of kids, bicycles, smoky campfires, and such. If this isn’t your thing, like us, you will probably want to avoid the preserves when school is out of session.

Many Thousand Trails members have expressed concern over the growing numbers of RV sites that are leased out on a seasonal basis, taking them out of the pool for traveling members. These are usually the most desirable sites in the preserves. Given that, we still have always been able to find a site at any Thousand Trails or NACO campground we have visited.

What really burns me up is the fact that they have hired an outside company to handle annual dues payments. This company is also a collection agency, and there has been a lack of communication between them and the Thousand Trails office a couple of times in terms of posting payments.  Twice the dweebs at the outside company have called us and acted like we were deadbeats, when in fact the payment was already made, but Thousand Trails had not updated the records they share with them.

If you are interested in a Thousand Trails membership, be sure to get a nationwide one, with the NACO package included. And be aware that no two Thousand Trails memberships seem to be the same. It’s all about how good a negotiator you are and how hungry the salesman is, as to pricing and what added benefits your membership may have.

You can come to a preserve and sit through their sales spiel, but be aware that like all campground membership sales reps, some of the folks hustling these memberships are very much into the hard sell. A new membership will cost you thousands of dollars. Or, like us, you can buy a used membership.

There are tons of folks out there who have Thousand Trails/NACO memberships who just want to get rid of them and stop paying the dues. You can find a used membership for anywhere from free to about $1,000. Some people ask a whole lot more for them, because they believed the salesman who sold it and told them they could always get their money back.

When we decided we wanted a membership, I simply put a post on the Escapees forum and was swamped with folks wanting to unload theirs for anywhere from free to $5,000.

We got our membership used for $100 plus the $750 transfer fee, from a lady whose husband died and she wasn’t RVing any more. We can stay at any Thousand Trails or NACO park nationwide for fourteen days, and go directly to another one with no days out of the system. The original owner wanted to give it to us, but my attorney said to give her $100 to make it a binding contract.

Our annual dues are $500, which gives us 50 nights of camping, and after that, we pay $5 a night. If we wanted to pay higher annual dues, we could stay in Thousand Tails/NACO parks 365 days a year. So it can be a good bargain if we used it enough, which we hope to do, now that our schedule is not so complicated.

If you are considering a used membership, always call Thousand Trails and give them the contract number and ask what it includes, and if there will be any changes if you buy it. Here is a link to a website where you may be able to find a good deal, if you are looking for a used membership

And while you’re online, check out Bad Nick’s new blog post What Does It Take? and leave a comment.

Thought For The Day – A cloth is not woven from a single thread.

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