Ok…I’m throwing this out there because people have asked since I own both a Thousand Trails membership and a Coast to Coast membership what I think of them and which one they should buy. So this is my personal assessment of the two memberships.
Please note I do not work for either company nor do I make any money if you buy a membership…unless you ask me for a referral. This is just to help you decide if either or both is right for you.
Ok. First let me apologize. I was a software developer for years so data analysis is my thing. So here’s what I can tell you about CtC and TT.
1. I’m attaching a spreadsheet I put together with all the parks I can visit. It is in Excel. You can filter it by state, membership, etc. It’s pretty rough for my use only but will give you some ideas. You should be able to download a copy here. Campground Spreadsheet You may also use this link Campground Map to see a list of all the campgrounds in the various memberships. Please understand this is based on MY membership levels but you can turn on or off different things so if you want to see where CtC parks are and where TT parks are, it’s a nice way to compare visually.
2. I have a TT Elite Connections. I have a CtC Premier. I also have RPI that came with my TT for one year. I also have ReadyCampGo that came with my TT for one year that let’s me stay at any Encore park for $20 a night plus resort fee.
3. I went through all the books they gave me and tried to enter every park I could stay at. TT and CtC are shown as free. Others will show a rate. Then it calculates based on my familiy of 6 if there are any extra fees for extra people, 50 amp, a/c or heater, one charged for sewer and I tried to get an accurate amount to put into the TOTAL fields for off season and prime season. These fields may be a little confusing. But basically the fields in CAPS are the totals and the others just show me all the little nickle and dime charges they tack on to change their “discount” rate. This only applies to the RPI properties which are the EA and the RPI’s. RPI I was told was $10 a night. But it’s not. They have several different levels and I haven’t found one yet for $10 a night.
4. The Good Neighbor parks are also shown. Now CtC is part of Good Sam these days. BUT not all Good Sam Club parks ARE Good Neighbor parks.
Ok. So here’s the run down on what I’ve figured out so far. TT if you have the Elite is a great deal. I have 6 kids and I’ve never had to pay extra. I put TT first when looking for a park. Some of the parks say they charge $5 a night for 50 amp but I’ve only been charged that once I think. However, some parks do not have 50 amp and in the New England areas we’ve found many parks without sewer. I think that’s a regional thing. In the south we never went without sewer. We haven’t been west with TT yet so I don’t know about those.
We joke about 1000 trails, 1000 pot holes. Some of the parks do have some pretty rough roads. But I look at it as…what I paid to join and my yearly dues and how long I will be doing this makes my camping cost me pennies a day. I can’t complain about pot holes for pennies a day. My one rule is I never use the bathhouses. It’s just my selfish thing. I don’t like hauling my stuff and dealing with a public bathhouse. My kids some have used the bathhouses some haven’t. It depends on what’s going on. So I can’t really say how clean they are anywhere.
Now CtC. I’ve found that many parks overlap. Some are CtC and some are TT. If that happens I book with TT instead of CtC.
CtC has several levels of membership as well. 3 I think. I have Premier which is supposed to be the top of the line. I can stay at Deluxe, Premier or Classic but each type of park has different rules. If you look on page 2 of my spreadsheet you will see I listed each type of membership and all the details. Like how long in advance I can make reservations, how long can I stay, etc.
With TT Elite Connections I get 21 days at any park. Now for my membership I have a “no high use” clause. Except in Oregon if TT invokes the high use rule they will change all 21 day reservations to 14 day reservations. They cannot do this to me even in Florida in the winter. But many Elite members think they get 21 days until a high use goes into effect and they find out they have 1 week with no place to stay. So check and see. I think the no high use clause is a very rare thing to have. I have heard that some people made reservations for 21 days arrived at their park and were told their reservation didn’t start until several days later as high use was put into effect. What I’m reading on the web is that TT never notifies these people that their reservation was shortened. But again, I’ve only heard that never experienced it. So check your memembership and if you make 21 day reservations in high use areas always call ahead before arriving.
Ok. So back to CtC. My Premier membership let’s me stay at classic parks for 7 days and I can only stay in the same park 2 in any year. Deluxe I can stay 14 days with 2 stays per park. Premier I can stay 14 days with 2 stays per park.
Classic I can book 60 days in advance, Deluxe 90 days and Premier 120 days.
No matter what I use in CtC I must be out of the system for 7 days. I have to be out of the same park 7 days or 30 days depending on which type of park it is.
With TT elite I can go park to park so I never have to be out of a park.
TT only seems to have parks on the east coast and west coast. CtC has parks across the country but still not in every state.
Reservations in both systems can be made online and are ok systems for booking.
TT let’s me change my reservations online at any time as long as it isn’t my last day. I’ve moved my reservation for tomorrow on the day before I’m supposed to be there and it works. I’ve also changed my reservations while in that park online. However, the day I’m supposed to check out I tried to add another day and I cannot.
CtC does not let me make changes online within a 72 hour window. So when things happen and I have to adjust at the last minute CtC can be a pain. I have to call the park I’m visiting get permission then call CtC and ask them to change it give them the name of the person I spoke to and then they will change it. It’s a PAIN.
CtC can also charge the extra fees for 50 amp. I had one CtC park also charge me resort fees so I wound up paying like $20 a night. I didn’t know they could do that. I didn’t argue. It was a great place and even $20 a night is a good deal.
Sometimes the CtC parks can be a little bit nicer than TT but it depends on the “owner” of the park. There are several resort companies. Outdoor World, Resorts of America, etc. Some of those brands tend to take better care of their parks. But ALL of them have potholes. Just seems TT parks have worse pot holes.
We have been to parks from Texas along the southern border to florida and all the way to Nova Scotia. One thing I’ve found is TT knows what I’m arriving in but often the CtC parks have no clue what size rig I have even though I input that info into the reservation and they email me that information back. I’ve talked to several campground managers about this because I’ve arrived and been put into a grassy area with less hookups because of my 38′ class A being too big for their sites. When I asked about it because I had a reservation I expected to receive what I booked I was told that CtC does not give the campground anything but your name and address info that all the info about your rig is not sent to them. I have asked CtC about this and haven’t gotten a response. So I’ve stayed at CtC parks that had full hookups but I haven’t gotten them. The park in Nova Scotia we stayed at I asked why we were stuck on the grass when there were great sites up the hill. She said because of my size and the trees. Upon further investigation she assumed that because we were a class A and the tree limbs might touch our RV that we wouldn’t want to stay there. I told her I expect tree limb scrapes and scratches or I wouldn’t be doing this. So she let us choose any open site and we backed into a great site in the trees that was larger than the grassy sites, had full hookups that the grassy sites didn’t and had trees to provide shade so we could handle 30 amps instead of needing 50.
Both TT and CtC allow people to live in their parks. So there is always a section of campers who are permanently there. I’ve noticed several parks will have separate areas for those of us passing through to stay. Sometimes this means that on the web site it says full hookups but when you get there they aren’t. Usually it’s sewer. So far as I said it seems to be the New England area that doesn’t have sewer. Most of these places will charge a fee for their honey wagon to come through. Once they did it for free. I don’t mind a $5 fee for that but one tried to charge $20 for the service. We said no thank you. That’s a bit steep for me.
I have done great using both memberships. Yes CtC seems to be a little cheaper but you don’t get to book as far out and you don’t get to stay as long and you have to stay out of the system for 7 days and they limit the number of stays to any park at 2 in a year.
Now my ReadyCampGo card that came with my TT for the first year gives me $20 a night at any Encore park. But you can only book so many days out which makes it a little harder and their web site STINKS. It won’t work with Internet Explorer so I had to switch to Google Chrome. Usually with them it’s easier to call on the phone. Several times i’ve tried to book and it wants to charge me full price instead of the contracted price. And they only allow a few spots for TT members. I can go online and see there is no availability but when I call them they see something different. I HATE calling for reservations as it takes me longer but with ReadyCampGo Encore parks it is often the best way. They also charge a $4 resort fee.
Now ReadyCampGo has to be renewed every year to keep it but for $24 a night…I paid the $100something they wanted to renew. I’m still trying to book in the Florida Keys. Not sure I will ever be able to but I’m going to keep trying.
Now with RPI you supposedly get $10 a night. NOT. I haven’t found one yet. BUT Encore parks are included at a 30% discount. So I’ve booked an Encore park through RPI if the ReadyCampGo system says no availability. It costs me more but at 30% off it’s still usually a good deal.
Now with CtC you get the Good Neighbor Parks as well which is not a Good Sam park. It “is” a Good Sam park but all Good Sam parks are not Good Neighbor parks. WIth a Good Sam membership you get 10% off at any Good Sam park. With the CtC Good Neighbor benefit you get 10% off but you can book them on their online system and usually you pay with points. This is where it gets strange. I was told I got Good Neighbor parks for $10 or $15 a night but that’s not what the information on the web site says. I have booked Good Neighbor parks online anywhere from $10 a night to $40 a night depending on the park. It seems to be a crapshoot. I went ahead and bought $500 worth of points because at $500 they gave you an extra $50 or something like that. I figured it would be easier to just have that out there so that when I book things I don’t have to figure out how many points I need go buy the points then come back to the system. So far I’ve used very few points. GNP are my backup park. I do TT first, CtC second, then I check for an RPI park but again I’ve NEVER found a $10 RPI park, then I look at Encore and GNP to see who’s in the area and the cost for each and I choose based on cost.
I’m sure there’s something I’m leaving out but this is what I can think of as the differences.
TT also offers things CtC doesn’t. For instance with my membership I can give away 8 national memberships to family. Maybe friends I’d have to read the fine print. When I die I can will I think 8 memberships to my kids. So all 6 of my kids should inherit a TT membership upon my death. Pretty cool benefit. Of course they have to pay dues.
I tested this out with my mom. I gave my mom a TT membership as a family member. She gets a basic membership. She gets 14 days and has to be out of the system 7. All she paid is $199 the first year, the second year she pays $299, third year $399 fourth year $499 and the fifth year dues are whatever the standard dues are. But at her age on her fifth year they will lock her dues at that amount. So it’s a pretty sweet deal for her.
When I bought my CtC membership since I am single mom and I both talked to the salesman. He was the park owner. He cut us a sweet deal but we had to promise not to tell anyone. So I can’t tell you who gave us this deal. We bought a repossess CtC membership. Meaning someone didn’t pay their dues. So we paid only what was still owed on the original membership. They were going to put mom and I on the paperwork as if we were a couple but more and more questions came up and they realized that wouldn’t work. So instead of doing paperwork for one CtC membership they gave us 2 for the price of just the 1. So mom has a free CtC membership at the same level I do. She will, however, have to pay the annual dues. I’m not sure the exact dues but I think they are about $500 like TT is. Might be a little less. So for me it was a no brainer to go ahead and pick up a CtC. I essentially set my mom up with both memberships and she’s only paid $199 for the first year! Next year she’ll probably have to pay about $800 but for her being full time…that’s pretty cheap. Eventually it could cost her around $1,000 a year but that’s less than $3 a night for camping. Or $90 a month for her living expenses outside of food, clothing, entertainment, etc. Not a bad deal.
There are also benefits with cabins and trailer rentals and get away weeks, etc. But I haven’t used any of those and don’t know which one offers what. I think CtC gives me 50% off one week in a cabin and $299, $399 and $499 special get away weeks and travel benefits in other places you can’t camp. I hope to use those benefits further down the road after we see all 50 states.
I hope this helps. It’s a lot of info. Depending on membership levels it might be different for you. If you have any questions let me know and I’ll answer them if I can. Chat is the best source of information. He was great for us because he would tell me what to look out for, where the holes and the gotchas are.
For me doing this full time for an indefinite period of time…I bought both. The first year it was a high cost but I track my usage and see how my daily rate for camping keeps going down. When you consider $40 a night or more for camping 365 days a year that’s $14,600! I’ve already saved money and we’ve stayed in places where they would charge $60 a night. Sometimes I find the occasional park for less than $40 but sometimes they are not places I really want to stay.
The other thing I’ve noticed about both CtC and TT. Location. Most have a gate requiring an access code so it’s more secure but they also aren’t right on the freeway either. When we’re heading somewhere we stop at Walmart or truck stops for one night. We might even do this 4-5 nights in a row to get somewhere quickly because we know we don’t need water or dump for 7 days if we’re careful. TT and CtC we’ve found are usually off the main highway and one we never would have found ever without the directions from the park. Sometimes this puts you in a pretty location with trees or a river or lake and sometimes it just puts you out away from traffic. But I think it makes them a little safer for me being a single mom than the parks you pass on the side of the freeway. I figure more questionable people passing through hitchhiking or whatever will be near the main roads not off down some country road 20 minutes from the major road. We travelled in 2013 without any memberships. We did Walmart, Truck Stops and Rest Areas as much as possible and when we’d need hookups we’d find one of those parks along the freeway. Most of those I would never go back to again. Most of the CtC or TT I would stay a week at with no hesitancy.
Good luck! It’s a lot of information. I think I’d advise to figure out where you want to travel. If you can go park to park with TT and are only doing the east or west coast…use that one. Then when you decide to go cross country or visit interior states then add a CtC membership.
Since I wrote this I upgraded my TT Elite Connections to an Ultimate Odyssey because I wanted to add more Encore parks included. I think now i get like 20 something Encore parks. I’d have to check. I also get 28 day stays in any park except I think 3 which are subject to high use and I can make reservations like 180 days out I think. I also get 2 weeks free stay in get away cabins every year plus I still have my 1 week rebated cabins and I”m told I can trade my cabins into the “system” and book condos but I haven’t figured that one out yet.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me. There should be a contact page on here somewhere. If I know the answer I’ll be happy to tell you. If not I might be able to send you to someone who does.