Monday, March 16, 2015

Using Thousand Trails with Ready Camp Go

The clock is ticking down for me, my mom, and our three cats.  We close on our house sale April 10th.  At that point we'll have no home except for our luxury palace on wheels.

It's Go Time!

I read a lot of blogs where the full-time RVers do tons of boondocking on free BLM lands and pay next to nothing for camping each year.  Some of these campgrounds look pretty sweet.  I'm surprised that there are so many lakes with free camping around them. 

Most, however, look like the vacant stretches of scrub brush I currently see stretching around my house.  I could probably manage to camp in such places sometimes...but I think it would be depressing long term.

I want some luxury and amenities!!

My best camping experience so far was last July when we went to Morro Bay to try out our old trailer.  It was by the ocean in a quaint little town with delicious oysters!  I had fun fishing off the pier and catching baby halibuts that got gently thrown back.  The other campers were so friendly! 

I would love to camp full-time on the California coast, but these places are expensive even off-season.  I'm too frugal for $1,100 worth of RV rent per month! 

$325 is well within my budget, however.  And that's how we're starting out.  We've booked a month at a very awesome RV park in town to tie off all the loose ends before wandering far afield.

What about after that?!

I just know I'm not resourceful enough to find free boondocks we actually will enjoy 365 days a year.  Also, part of the reason I'm getting out of Pahrump is because I'm too isolated here.  I want to occasionally be around other humans (preferably friendly ones).

So...last September we decided to buy a membership with Thousand Trails.  WAIT!  Don't rush out and buy yours yet.  This isn't quite a recommendation yet.  Read on!

Thousand Trails is a campground membership where you pay an annual fee in order to be able to camp at campgrounds in two of their 'zones.'  The zones we picked cover the whole southern half of the United States, from California to Florida.  Here's the skinny on Thousand Trails:

  1. For $600/year you gain access to campgrounds in two of their Zones.  They always seem to have the 'Two Zones for One Annual Fee' promotion going, so don't feel rushed to sign up.
  2. You can only stay 14 consecutive days at a Thousand Trails campground.  Then you must get out of their system for 7 days before starting a new stay. 
  3. The first 30 days you camp is no charge.  You then pay $3/night.
  4. If you stay four days or less and then move immediately to a different Thousand Trails campground you don't have to stay out of their system for 7 days.
  5. If you give them a hard sell when you are buying your membership they may sweeten the pot with a free gold membership to ReadyCampGo, which will give you 60 days at any Thousand Trails or Encore resort for $20/day.
If the 14 on 7 out caveat had been presented to me up front I probably wouldn't have bought the membership.  I thought this was solution to my full-time camping needs.  Alas, no.  The membership will require a lot of moves in and out with my unwieldy massive travel trailer. 

I figured I'd do 14 days at a Thousand Trails campground, boondock 7 days, and then check into another Thousand Trails campground.  Maybe?  I could probably put up with scrub brush for 7 days a month, right?  When I look closer at my Thousand Trails and Ready Camp Go memberships I'm hoping there's a better way to do things, which will require fewer moves.

I'm hoping I have a useable hack for Thousand Trails

Maybe I can stay my 14 days, and then book the next 7 days at the SAME CAMPGROUND with Ready Camp Go.  These could be my 7 days 'out'?  It would be $140 for 7 days, but that's within my campground budget (it would be $212/mo with the $3/day fee on the 'in' days).  Then I could go to a different Thousand Trails campground or perhaps even stay at the same campground for another 14 days.  This would cause me to only have to move every 35 days. 

I don't know if I could get away with this.  TT has lots of upgraded memberships they want to sell that give you longer times at the campgrounds.  I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes.

If this system works I would have 60 days a year to put towards 'out' days.  I think if I wanted to live at Thousand Trails resorts exclusively, and if my hack worked, I would probably need more 'out' days.  This means $299/year for a Platinum Ready Camp Go membership.  Plus $600 for Thousand Trails.  Plus the $20/mo for out days.  Plus $3/mo for in days.

I don't know...maybe I'd be better just doing monthly stays at campgrounds and boondocking occasionally?  I guess I just don't want to stay at shitty campgrounds, you know?  I didn't pick this life to save money.  The cheapest thing I could have done was stay in my house, which I'd already paid off in full.  I'm traveling for adventure, spirit reinvigoration, and to meet new people. 

On our way to Morro Bay we spent the night at a shitty campground for $20.  It had some creepy people, who obviously lived there forever, and one nice guy who seemed to like living there forever with the other creepy people.  (I was happy to meet him!)  Anyway, I would never want to live in such a campground forever, no matter how cheap it was.  It was in the middle of scrub brush desert, in an ass-crack of a little methville town with nothing but an overpriced gas station for miles.  P. U.!

On the other hand...we have stayed at one Thousand Trails campground and had a negative experience there also.  BUT WAIT!  It wasn't Thousand Trails fault!  The staff was nice.  The space we got was huge, in shade trees, and with a picnic table.  The problem was that it rained the whole time and we were stuck in our old tiny trailer being miserable.  My mother caught a nasty cold.

I picked this campground in Menifee California because there was supposedly fishing on site in the canals.  We stayed during the winter and the canals were empty of fish at the time.  It was still kind of fun to try.  But the days were short and sunny weather was sparse.  I was bummed.

Like I said, most of the problems with the Menifee Campground wasn't Thousand Trails Fault

...But I still wouldn't camp there again.  Well, maybe if we really got devoted to TT we'd end up there on the way to somewhere else, but I wouldn't make an effort to be there.  I had some problems which I seriously hope are the exception and not the rule.

People were not friendly.

Sorry.  It needed to be said.  By and large people stayed in their RVs watching TV and had no interest in socializing.  These were retired full-timers who seemed to resent having to live in crowded RV parks.  They wanted as much privacy as they could get in a place that smooshes you all together.  I got the cold shoulder a lot.  (I kind of worried that it was my old cheapie RV turning them off.  It was probably the cheapest RV in a sea of Class As and 5th Wheels and we might have been too poor for them to want to associate with?)

When I went to the 'adult' rec center the pool players found the interruption of my presence annoying and yelled at my mother to close the door.  @_@  Seriously people?  How rude!

In the 'all-ages' rec center we met a nicer older woman and also attended a really nice church service.  That was cool.  It was also not as beat up as the 'adult' center.

The other problem with Menifee--it's a puny town with only one good restaurant.  For most things you had to fight through traffic to get to Temecula and...TEMECULA SUCKS.  What a crowded, obnoxious place!!  The restaurants were terrible.  Grocery shopping was annoying.  Traffic traffic traffic!!  Plus it's expensive. 

If I never visit Temecula again it will be too soon!

If every Thousand Trails campground is as snooty, clannish, and poorly located as this one we will not be renewing our membership this coming September.  We're going to give it a solid chance, and I really hope it works out, but I'm not going to be married to it if it doesn't give me the life experience I'm looking for in this Full-Timing adventure.

So stay tuned to future posts to see how we end up rating our Thousand Trails membership!


  1. How has your adventure turned out? I am sorry you are getting introduced to Thousand Trails at this stage. They organization as a whole has really run the parks into the ground. But the folks at most parks aee awesome!

  2. How has your adventure turned out? I am sorry you are getting introduced to Thousand Trails at this stage. They organization as a whole has really run the parks into the ground. But the folks at most parks aee awesome!

  3. After getting out we're considering getting back in...maybe it wasn't so bad?

  4. I am sorry you had a poor experience with the full-timers. I live at 1000 Trails most of the year and I am a friendly sort, I like to think. Keep up your positive attitude and don't let anyone get you down. Thanks for posting this blog.