Now and then Thousand Trails runs a Buy One Get One (BOGO) promo offer on their Camping Zone Pass and they are running one now, until April 1. In this article, we share our tips for how to make a good deal even greater and get more bang for your buck. In a nutshell, for just $545 you get to choose 2 Camping Zones instead of one. It’s a fantastic deal and one we highly recommend for anyone considers trying out the Thousand Trails (TT) campground network, but it just may be possible to get a few more perks thrown in. Sound good? Keep reading…
The Thousand Trails network is made up of 5 zones – Northwest, SouthWest, Northeast, Southeast and Midwest and offers 80+ locations around the country – click here to view a Map of the 5 Zones.
Basically, the Zone Pass is a low cost, low commitment camping membership for a year that you can choose to renew when it comes up for renewal after the year is up. If you’ve read our other blog posts about A Thousand Trails, you’d be aware we started our full-timing travels with a 2-for-1 Zone Pass (Northwest and Southwest) which gave us a good feel of the campgrounds and saved us a ton of money on campground fees. We really liked the ability to stay up to 14 nights in a campground for next to nothing – a Zone Pass gives you 30 days of camping for free, after that it’s just $3 per night. A no brainer for full-time RVers like us! After that you’ll need to stay out of the TT system for 7 nights before coming back in again.
You can also stay up to 4 nights and move directly to another TT park and keep park hoping for as long as you like – as long as you don’t exceed 4 nights for each stay… When staying anywhere from 5-14 nights, the ‘7 day out’ rule applies.
As full-timer RVers still working, we found that pace a little too hectic and wanted to slow things down a bit. So after 4 months of enjoying the benefits of our Zone Pass, we decided to upgrade our membership which allows us to stay up to 21 nights at a time and move from park to park, as well as access 80+ locations nationally.
We discussed the TT Zone Pass in detail in our blog post “Is a Thousand Trails Zone Pass right for you?” and considering their latest offer, thought it was worth recapping on a few key points to help you:
a) Decide whether a Zone Pass is a good investment for you
b) Avoid being trapped in a Zone Pass membership that isn’t as good a deal as it may first appear
c) Understand how and what you can negotiate to get an even better deal!
So let’s get started.
Who is the TT Zone Pass Ideal for?
Casual/occasional campers – vacationers, weekenders
Part-time RVers – still have a regular home but like to travel RV for part of the year
Seasonal RVers – travel seasonally by RV eg. snowbirders
Full-time RVers – living full-time in an RV and wanting to try the TT campground network out first at a low cost/low commitment with a Zone Pass before deciding if a membership upgrade is worth the investment. It is good for those who are on the fence regarding the upgrade so you can dip your toe in the TT waters and see if it’s right for you.
How to get an even better deal on the TT BOGO Zone Pass offer
Getting two TT zones for $545 is unquestionably a sweet deal, but in addition to selecting the two zones that you think you’ll be most likely to use, you can squeeze even more juice from the orange with these tips and a few questions to ask of the TT rep before handing over your credit card.
Zone Switch Option: Check to see if you can swap out one of the 2 zones for another (3rd) as a one-time request during the year. We had the option of being able to do that with our Zone Pass and while we did not exercise our right to do so (we upgraded with a resale after just 5 months) we appreciated the flexibility this provided, as it essentially enabled us to travel and camp throughout 3 TT zones within a year (for the price of one) ie. you aren’t limited to just two. Also ask if the Zone change option is a one-time only Zone change or if you can switch a Zone once each year if you choose.
Bonus Encore properties: Encore and A Thousand Trails are both owned by Equity Lifestyle Properties, so ask the TT rep if they can throw in any bonus Encore properties as part of your TT Zone Pass camping membership. They often have special promotions running for Encore RV Parks, for example when we signed up for our Zone Pass back in 2014, TT included the Encore South Lake Tahoe, CA campground as one of our resorts and we enjoyed a 14 night summer stay, completely free of charge. Encore parks are located around the country, with a heavy presence on both the east and west coasts. Click here to view the Encore RV Park Map and be aware that this map also shows A Thousand Trails campgrounds, so these are not all Encore properties specifically. It seems that Encore and TT each have around 85 properties, totaling 170.
Benefit retention beyond Year 1 – Confirm with the RR rep that if you choose to renew your Zone Pass after the first year, you will retain all benefits (the two zones, zone switch option plus any extra Encore properties) in your membership privileges for each year that you renew, not just the first year – check if there is a limit to the number of years you can continue to enjoy these benefits.
No long term commitment – Check to ensure you pay only one annual fee for the Zone Pass (USD$545 for the 2 zones) and you will have no further commitment beyond the first year, should you decide not to renew. Important Note: At the end of the initial term, your Pass will automatically renew for additional one-year periods. You may cancel your membership by notifying TT at least 30 days prior to expiration. Click here for A Thousand Trails FAQs
Pay the whole year upfront – Pay for your BOGO Zone Pass as a one time purchase, it’s only $545 so just put it on a credit card – one that will give you cash back or earn you points/miles for even more travel (like ours does), if you happen to have one. They probably won’t give you the option to finance it if you just sign up for the Annual Zone Pass anyway, and you definitely don’t want to finance it or commit beyond the year (read on for the warning that explains why).
Warning: Things to Beware of
Unless you are an occasional/vacation RVer that doesn’t plan to stay at TT campgrounds for more than say 30 nights a year, you are better off considering the TT Zone Pass for a one year commitment only. You can always renew it after the first year is up, but if you want something more than you also have the freedom to cancel the one year Zone Pass membership upon expiration (or sooner like we did) to upgrade to an Elite, VIP or Platinum membership that entitles you to longer (up to 21 day) stays and the ability to move from park to park with no time out of the TT system as well as access to more parks.
TT may try to sell you on their 4 year payment plan option which may discount the rate even further (we’ve seen these go as low as $425/year instead of $545) if you commit to a 4 year Zone Pass contract. DO NOT DO THIS. Why not? Sounds like a good deal doesn’t it – saving you $120 a year for 4 years? Here’s why you should avoid this deal: If you think there is any chance at all you may want to: a) upgrade your membership to an Elite, VIP or Platinum (resale) to enjoy the extra benefits (especially relevant if you are a seasonal or full-time RVer; or b) you may not want or need the Zone Pass for the entire 4 years (after all, anything can happen) then you will be committed to paying out the full value of that contract. That makes it a $1,700 commitment over the 4 years and for that money, you could have picked yourself up a Resale Upgrade with more benefits for less money.
TT may also try to sell you on a National Camping Pass which gives you access to all 5 Zones. DO NOT DO THIS either. Frankly, it’s simply not a good deal. If you want access to all 80+ TT campgrounds nationally, you will get a MUCH better membership with more benefits and at a much lower price by buying a Resale Membership (VIP, Platinum or Elite) via Campground Membership Outlet, like we did.
What if you miss out on the BOGO Offer?
If you are reading this after April 1st and missed the BOGO offer, don’t worry – call TT and try to get the BOGO offer anyway. If they say no, then be prepared to tell them you will “think about it” and hang up. They want to make a sale/close the deal, so while we certainly cannot guarantee you will get it, we suspect if you hold your ground and are willing to pay upfront right away, you have a decent chance of still being able to get the BOGO deal honored, even if the rep has to get authorization from a supervisor. We got our BOGO deal at a time TT was not actively running a BOGO promotion, but we were persistent and ready to buy on the spot. Having a credit card handy and ready to use is powerful with any salesperson.
If you are considering buying a TT membership upgrade at any time in the future – say if you decide to go full-time and/or after you have decided you like TT enough to buy an upgrade – you have a couple of options:
a) You can buy a resale membership upgrade direct from Campground Membership Outlet at any time and you do NOT need to be a Zone Pass member first to qualify, thus saving the $545 initial expense, so you can put this money toward an upgrade from day 1 if you are confident this is the best option for you.
b) If you prefer to buy a New TT membership upgrade direct from TT and don’t mind paying the extra $$$ over the cost of a resale, you WILL need to be a TT Zone Pass holder first, so do consider this when doing your budgeting and overall anticipated expenditure.
If you are a full-time RVer (or plan to be soon) and are unsure whether a Zone Pass or Membership Upgrade (whether resale or new) is the best option for you, then we recommend you read the two articles below first as they will answer many questions you are likely to have.
Is a Thousand Trails Zone Pass right for you?
All about A Thousand Trails Membership Upgrades – Elite, Platinum, VIP etc
And of course, you can always ask more questions in the comments section of the articles. We’ll share our answers as best we can.
Please note that we cannot guarantee if or when TT will honor a BOGO promotion outside of their advertised promotional period, nor can we guarantee that you will get bonuses such as additional Encore properties or Zone Switch option. We simply hope that by sharing what we were able to negotiate it will give you an idea of what may be possible and what to ask for. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like “Do you have any other offers or bonuses that would help seal the deal for me to make my purchase today?”
Who knows, you may be able to negotiate an even sweeter deal than we did! If so, let us know – we’d love to hear about it!
Who to Contact to buy a TT Membership
To buy the TT Zone Pass call Jim Randell on 352-396-6835 or click here to email him. You can also buy the TT Zone Pass direct online, but then you won’t get to speak to anyone to ask the questions above. You can also contact the TT Call Center but the staff there are less likely to be able to take as good care of you as Jim will.
To buy a TT Membership Upgrade Resale, call Chad Hoel or Kim Hoel on 800-272-0401 or click their names to email. Let them know that you have read our articles – that way they will have a good understanding of what you already know so they can fill in any gaps and help guide you to a membership that is the best fit for your travel needs and budget.
How to say thanks
If you found this post helpful, end up buying a TT membership and you feel inspired to say ‘thanks’ please feel free to say you were referred by us: Marc & Julie Bennett, TT Member Number 298683360. They may send us a VISA Gift card which will buy us a round of drinks. Naturally, we never expect this but it’s always a lovely bonus which we’ll graciously accept as we toast you and your new membership 🙂 Maybe we’ll meet up at a campground sometime!
We hope that’s been helpful for you! We know it can be a bit of a minefield trying to make sense of it all and, of course, we all want to get the best deal that we can.
While A Thousand Trails may not be for everyone, personally we’ve been very happy with them in the 2 years we’ve been members as it’s saved us a ton of money (literally thousands of dollars in camping fees), we’ve enjoyed many long stays (up to 3 weeks at a time) at some great campgrounds plus we’ve made some wonderful friends who we continue to reconnect with along our travels.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, we have no relationship or affiliation with A Thousand Trails aside from being paying members who use them frequently and are happy with what we get for our money. We just can’t help ourselves when it comes to sharing tips and tricks that we’ve learned along the way and especially ways to save money!
Good luck! 🙂