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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thousand Trails, RPI, Passport America, Harvest Hosts

We wanted to share about campground memberships as we're asked often and they're very beneficial to fulltime RVing families.

Thousand Trails
While it can be confusing, our Thousand Trails membership is awesome for us! People keep asking (and buying actually, we should get a commission! referral info below) so here is our experience. We are thrilled with our TT membership and haven't paid for camping in ages.
It takes a LOT of research to figure out what to buy for the way you travel. Every membership is different if you buy used (ebay, craigslist, etc). We know a family who got one for free, just paid the transfer fees! You just have to shop around and ask lots of questions to learn the exact contract details. We get to stay 3 weeks in and go park to park, with no week out of the system. Some can only stay 2 weeks and some have a week out in between. Ours doesn't include Outdoor World (20 parks) but newer memberships do.
Our campsite at Wilderness Lakes TT in Menifee, CA
The cost
We bought a used lifetime membership and spent $1400 plus $750 for transfer fees. We can stay for free at 61 parks across the country.
FYI that's $180/month ($6/night). Compare that to a mortgage+ water+ electric+ sewer, or even our average campground fees last year of $400/month!
And each year from now on we will only pay the $550 annual fee.
FYI that's $46/month ($1.50/night). Yeah, really!

Thousand Trails Zones
The zones can be a great deal, especially if you'll just be in one or two zones. You may get a better deal if you do the research. Although they do include Outdoor World (and less confusing contracts, and no long term commitment), so that's a trade off. But we wanted all four zones, so it was cheaper to find a full membership. FulltimeFamilies.com offers a discount for zones & upgrades and some RV shows offer great deals as well.

Thousand Trails Preserves (Parks)
So far we've loved the TT parks! Lots of activities for kids, other families, security, nicer sites, pull throughs, pools, hot tubs, libraries, laundry, etc. Much better than most of the cheapies we stayed at during our first year. :) And we can find plenty (especially on the coasts) of TT parks as we travel (except the middle of the country where we'll have to use PA or RPI, see below).
Candy Bar BINGO in the clubhouse with other RVing families
Our Recommendation
If you're just going on the road for a year, you might not bother with a membership, unless you can use a zone or two. If you know you'll be out for years and can choose where you travel and plan your route around TT parks, it's very worth it in our experience.
If you do sign up with Thousand Trails, we'd love it if you would use us as a referral. Use code: MBRP and Allen Lundy. Thank you!
Three other RVing families at Wilderness Lakes TT
RPI
With our TT membership, we got to join Resort Parks International for $90. Our RPI Plus membership lets us stay up to one week at any RPI park (more than 200) for only $10/night or any Enjoy America park (more than 380) for 50% off. We never used this and dropped it after a year, but some like it.

Passport America
Passport America is only $44 and pays for itself the first time you use it. PA gives 50% off (over 1700) parks and has a great map online plus an iPhone app. We used it almost exclusively last year and usually paid $10-20/night. Most weren't fancy, but we didn't care about that. (We're spoiled now though with fun TT parks.) :) We have an affiliate link but FulltimeFamilies.com has a PA discount too. It's good to use where you can't find a TT park or for quick overnights.
Just watch the restrictions, dates, and kid tax. Some parks block weekends, offer limited stays, or charge additional fees per child. We call those "we don't really want kids here" fees and avoid those parks. But many parks are lovely and we've enjoyed them fully, while paying only half!

Harvest Hosts
We also use HarvestHosts.com. It's only $30 and provides free, interesting, and educational stays at farms, wineries, etc. To us it's worth a look, but for a quick overnight, it's usually easier to stop at Walmart or a rest area than to look for a farm. And you should get there during business hours, not be grouchy from a long drive, etc. Although it is a fun option and we've enjoyed fresh apple cider, a harvest festival, and even an alpaca shearing!
Alpaca farm in South Carolina
Easy reference map for campgrounds
Since we can't use all the parks on the TT website and don't want to cross reference, we created a color-coded Google map of our available TT parks (blue), plus RPI (green) and some discounted Encore parks (yellow) in Florida (a TT member special). If we still can't find anything, then we can look at the Enjoy America or Passport America websites.
So all of the blue parks are completely free! The green ones are $10/night. We think it's a pretty sweet picture!
Some of the links are affiliates, most of the info is opinion, and hopefully part of it is helpful.
We're not responsible for any changes, policies, prices, scams, late nights researching, mean people, bad weather, flat tires, flies, water leaks, or barking dogs.
Remember, if you sign up with Thousand Trails, we'd love it if you would use us as a referral. Use code: MBRP and Allen Lundy. Thank you!

2 comments:

Jenn said...

Did you get my PM on families on the road last night?? I just asked you about TT!! ;-)

One of my concerns about TT is that it would dictate where we go. We aren't planning to do this for more than a year or two and our focus is studying history. Have you found TT to be close to many of the state and national parks and important landmarks? Or have they been sort of out of the way?

Also do you know someone I could call who understands all the sort of memberships? Did you call TT directly when shopping for a used membership. It's all so confusing!

I don't see a comment notification check box so I'd love if you could send me an email. jenn (at) nimsmedia (dot) com

Barb said...

Us too. Researching what would be best buy for our RV needs. Joe retires next year. Our home is in escrow. Will probably stay around California. I've always dreamed of taking the AlCan hwy to Alaska.
So we welcome any comments about parks and memberships. Thanks & God bless you and keep you. May He turn the hearts of your enemies. And if He can't turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles, so that you know them by their limping. :) newbarb@hotmail.com