If you happen to follow us on Facebook, you may have noticed that we spent a great deal of time in Texas this year. I’ve had people ask what we were doing there for so long, so this is the answer…
First, we always want to get as far from cold weather as we reasonably can. This year, we traveled to Galveston Island, TX at the end of January and spent a month at an RV resort across the street from the beach.
This was strictly because we wanted to see the area; Ken had been there before to leave for a cruise, but I never had. We enjoyed running and even riding our bikes on the beach and tried to get outside as much as possible.
But, as you may have seen on the news, Texas got slammed with unseasonably extreme winter weather. Thankfully, we have a generator on our RV, because we had 3 days without power and one of those was without water! After that, we headed north, where we stayed for three weeks apiece in Columbus, Bridgeport, and Point, as well as a week in Gordonsville, before leaving Texas.
What took us to those random-sounding towns is our membership in a nationwide campground network called Thousand Trails (TT, for short). They have seven locations in Texas, and between last year and this year, we visited them all. In 2020, we stayed at Lake Conroe, Lake Medina, and Lake Whitney (after which we went off the road due to the quarantine). In 2021, we stayed at Colorado River, Bay Landing, Lake Tawakoni, and Lake Texoma. While they are admittedly not fancy campgrounds with luxurious amenities, we only had to pay $3 per night, for an (optional) upgrade to 50 amp power from 30 amp. As an added bonus, we were able to catch up with some old friends on our trip, though not everyone, of course—Texas is huge.
Before embarking on the full-time RV lifestyle, we purchased a used Thousand Trails elite membership through a broker. It may sound a bit like a timeshare situation, and in a way, it is.
The people who sold it were no longer using it, so we picked up where they left off. Our particular membership allows us to stay at any TT campground across the nation for up to 3 weeks at a time for free; we may reserve a spot (but not a particular site) up to 180 days in advance. We like this because it allows us to plan far ahead. (While some full-time RVers like to live on the edge, not knowing where they will park next, that’s not us! Since we’re working, we don’t have the luxury of taking off whenever we want; we only travel on weekends.)
In addition to our regular membership, we recently purchased an add-on called the Trails Collection. This expands our options to include ‘sister’ parks known as Encore RV Resorts. Unfortunately, we can only book those 2 months out, and we cannot stay at them back-to-back. Because of this, on our trip to New England this fall we’ll alternate between Thousand Trails and Encore parks. The only ‘out of pocket’ campgrounds we will stay at will be in places where there are no TTs or Encores: near Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH) and Niagra Falls, NY. Other than those, all our lodging is covered by our TT membership.
If we were asked by a newbie whether they should purchase into the Thousand Trails system, our response would be yes, as long as they read the fine print closely to get a complete grasp of the restrictions and terms of their particular membership. (Some plans do not allow you to stay in the TT system continuously as ours does; instead, you must be out of the system between stays.) Total disclosure: the condition of the parks may not meet their standards if they have high expectations. They are not full-time, exclusive TT campgrounds; they have people who live there year-round (which means their sites may be trashy—or nicely landscaped), as well as cabins and sites for weekenders who pay nightly (usually those are the party-people: noisy and not well-versed in campground etiquette). Most of the ones we’ve stayed at looked like they were way past their prime, but we have had everything we needed: electricity, water, and sewer. For us, TT has been a great way to RV without worrying about breaking the bank; we plan to eventually travel the entire country within their network!