Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Keri Stooksbury
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I signed up for a Thousand Trails Cabin Pass in late June 2023. About 3 months in, I’ve stayed at 3 Thousand Trails cabins, and I’m enjoying my membership. It’s saved me money and offered comfortable cabins for my family at destinations we want to visit.
With the Cabin Pass, I can book up to 7 consecutive nights at qualifying cabins and cottages. There are restrictions, including a 14-day waiting period between stays and a maximum booking window of 60 days. And only so many cabins are available to members, so booking exactly what you want is not always possible. Still, the value was too good for me to pass up.
So far, I’m happy with my membership, though there are some drawbacks to remember if you’re considering getting a Thousand Trails Cabin Pass.
Read on to learn more about what the Thousand Trails Cabin Pass offers and my experience so far.
Thousand Trails is a network of campgrounds in North America, with more than 200 campgrounds in the U.S. and British Columbia, Canada. The campgrounds generally offer a few ways to stay, ranging from RV and tent camping sites to cabins and cottages. Some provide unique lodging options, such as yurts.
You can book Thousand Trails campsites and cabins nightly or become a member. RV campers have various membership options, including regional memberships, memberships with expanded location options, annual sites, and RV storage.
The Thousand Trails Cabin Pass opens campgrounds up to campers who don’t own an RV. The pass works for cabins and cottages at the campgrounds rather than RV sites, but some members combine RV memberships with cabin memberships.
There are more than 125 Cabin Pass locations in 25 U.S. states.
Thousand Trails Cabin Pass locations are incredibly varied. You could stay beachside, in a valley, along a river or lake, or close to attractions such as the Las Vegas Strip or Walt Disney World.
Fiesta Key RV Resort is on the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys, with cabins overlooking the ocean. The resort is its own private island surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico with an on-site restaurant, beach, pool, and spa.
Thousand Trails Verde Valley is just over 30 minutes from Sedona, Arizona, and sits along the scenic Verde River with Red Rocks to the north, the Mingus Mountains to the west, and the Hackberry Mountains to the south.
We’ve stayed at 3 Thousand Trails campgrounds so far: Yosemite Lakes in California and Colorado River and Medina Lake in Texas. All were quiet and scenic, and we felt welcomed. Deer roamed the tree-covered Texas campgrounds we visited, and a river fork runs through the Yosemite Lakes valley.
These campgrounds have a completely different vibe from amusement park campgrounds like Jellystone Park — where my kids convince me at least once a year to pay $250+ for a weekend of sleeping on the ground with noisy neighbors.
The Thousand Trails campgrounds we stayed at could easily be mistaken for state parks but with resort-style amenities like pools and pickleball courts.
We’ve entertained ourselves at Thousand Trails campgrounds with hiking, swimming, arts and crafts, mini golf, playgrounds, and wildlife interaction. There are often practical amenities such as on-site stores for essentials and laundry facilities.
Although we appreciate the amenities, it’s clear some of these campgrounds have seen better days. Don’t expect perfectly manicured grounds or the latest technology. There were 8-track tapes in the lodge at the last campground we visited — I found them delightful, but they confused my kids.
The mini golf turf is usually faded, the roads bumpy, and the common areas are generally older facilities with dated decor. Wi-Fi isn’t a sure thing and varies by location. Forget about room service — though you might get free coffee and donuts at the lodge like we did once.
It’s also clear cabins aren’t the main attraction at these campgrounds. At the campgrounds we’ve visited so far, most of the space is devoted to RVs, and the campgrounds are sometimes referred to as RV resorts.
Cabins generally range from 4-person pet-friendly cabins to 8-person tiny homes. So far, we’ve stayed in 2 4-person pet-friendly cabins and a 6-person 1-bedroom cabin.
What you get depends on the location, but all of the cabins we’ve stayed in had heat and air conditioning, a nearly full kitchen (everything but an oven), a full or queen bed, and a sofa bed and/or bunk beds.
With the Cabin Pass, members can book cabin and cottage stays at participating Thousand Trails locations. Stays can be as long as 7 consecutive nights — if you can find availability for that many nights. More than 125 qualifying campgrounds throughout the U.S. offer Cabin Pass accommodations.
Reservations are available as far as 60 days out. If a cabin is available for your selected dates, you can book it with no campground fees. You can only have 2 bookings at a time, but you can make your next booking as soon as you check in to a new stay.
While you can stay for up to 7 consecutive nights, you can’t jump from campground to campground. No matter how long or short your stay is, there is a 14-day waiting period between stays. Also, you can only book 1 holiday per year. For example, if you stay in a cabin for Thanksgiving, you can’t stay for Christmas.
Availability isn’t guaranteed, so you may find that there isn’t a cabin available for the dates or locations you prefer. Thousand Trails campgrounds generally have specific cabins or cottages allocated to Cabin Pass membership. Additional cabins may be available on-site to retail (per-night) customers but not available to Cabin Pass members.
When the Cabin Pass cabins or cottages are booked, they are no longer available to members. And the Cabin Pass sites aren’t necessarily the same as what non-members can book. That means you could be in a cabin that’s not as nice as the cabins available to retail customers — or retail cabins could sit empty even though you couldn’t get a stay as a member.
The Thousand Trails Cabin Pass currently costs $1,695 annually if you pay in full. I paid $1,495 for my pass in June.
If you prefer to finance your pass purchase, you can make a $446.25 down payment and 11 monthly payments of $141.25. The financing option has a 17.994% APR — on par with credit cards. You can probably find a better way to break up those payments, like using a credit card with a 0% introductory APR.
Some campgrounds require a refundable deposit — generally $100 — and pet fees of around $10 per night for pet-friendly cabins. Linens may be included, or you may have to pay a linen fee if you don’t bring your own. Depending on the campground, you may encounter other costs, such as laundry, boat rentals, and firewood.
Cabin Pass members can make reservations in 3 ways: with an online booking, via online chat, or by calling 855-605-4519.
I’ve made most of my bookings using the online reservation system. I can log in to my account to input my travel dates, desired location, preferred accommodation, and the number of guests. Based on that information, the system shows me campgrounds with availability.
After I click on a campground to reserve, it takes me to the campground’s page, where I again enter my information and get to the reservation page.
Sometimes, cabins aren’t available for the exact dates or locations I want. When that’s the case, the online booking system tells me to adjust my dates. It offers suggestions for when the cabin is available for the nights I want to stay. I can also pull up an availability calendar to see where I could fit in.
The online chat is helpful when I encounter booking issues or want an agent to help me play with dates. This option was great when I wanted to get into a popular Florida campground and planned to book right at the 60-day mark. The cabin I’d hoped to reserve wasn’t available, but the agent on chat advised me I could adjust my booking to a day earlier to get in a different cabin.
I learned about the Thousand Trails Cabin Pass while exploring my lodging options near Yosemite National Park. I was going to book a resort or roadside motel but found Thousand Trails Yosemite Lakes appealing.
I was looking at a cost of $750 for 2 nights at Thousand Trails Yosemite Lakes once I factored in taxes and fees. Comparatively, the Cabin Pass was $1,495 when I bought it. I figured getting about half of the value of the pass over 2 nights with the rest of the year to get another $750 in value out of it would be fairly easy, and so far, it has been.
I liked the idea of paying a lump sum for a whole year of stays at campgrounds. Rather than paying $750 for 2 nights and walking away, I could pay double that and get many more nights out of the pass.Hot Tip:
I paid for my Thousand Trails Cabin Pass using my Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which earned me 3x points per dollar on this travel purchase.
The Cabin Pass appealed to me because we enjoy camping, but I’m not always on board with sleeping in a tent. The window of favorable tent camping weather is far too small in Texas, between the brutal summers, practically year-round mosquitos, and the occasional deep freeze that shuts down the whole state.
Sure, we could pack up our camping gear and seek campgrounds in areas with more comfortable camping conditions. But that’s a lot of work, and we generally stay in hotels when we travel instead.
It’s nice that with the Cabin Pass, we don’t have to haul out our tent and sleeping bags or worry that temperatures are pushing triple digits — we can sleep in a tiny house with real beds and a bathroom just steps away.
Another appeal of the Cabin Pass is replacing paid hotel stays with cabin stays we don’t have to pay anything extra for.
In addition to our Yosemite Lakes visit, we’ve done a couple of weekend road trips to nearby campgrounds. I wouldn’t say these saved me money because we only visited because we had the pass available. These weren’t trips we planned to take otherwise, so the pass didn’t offset any lodging costs we would have paid for planned vacations.
Still, it was fun to stay at nearby campgrounds. These offered relatively low-cost getaways because we didn’t need to pay for a hotel room and had a kitchen available to reduce food costs by making some of our meals.
The real value of the Cabin Pass is cabin stays at destinations where we’d otherwise need to pay for a hotel room. Those bookings have been more challenging to achieve because we have to align our travel dates with what Thousand Trails has available. That can be a tall order at popular destinations with limited availability that might not align with when we can travel or when flight prices are low.
With flights or longer road trips, it’s not as easy as hopping in the car for a few weekend nights at a nearby campground when Thousand Trails has an opening. But we have upcoming out-of-state trips booked with Thousand Trails, saving us hundreds on what we would have spent on hotel stays.
The most significant limitation is there aren’t Thousand Trails Cabin Pass locations everywhere we want to go. Locations are in 25 states, which is pretty good but not nationwide. It’s not like we can completely eliminate hotel costs using the Cabin Pass — it’s entirely location- and availability-dependent.
Also, the Cabin Pass doesn’t work great for road trips with multiple destinations because you can’t do 1 or 2 nights at a destination and then go immediately to the next destination for another few nights. You have to take a 14-day break in between stays.
The math checks out on Cabin Pass value for me this year. Our stay at Thousand Trails Yosemite Lakes would have cost around $750, about half of what I paid for the membership. With 2 additional stays so far at nearby campgrounds that would have cost us about $400 each, we’ve already made back the value of what we paid for the Cabin Pass.
Will it make sense again next year? Let’s do the math.
Since I purchased my Cabin Pass, we’ve stayed at a cabin about once per month for an average of 3 nights. Let’s say for all of those nights, we would have paid $150 to stay at a hotel instead. If we were to do a 3-night stay ($450 value) every month, that works out to $5,400 annually.
With a Cabin Pass cost of $1,495, we stand to save nearly $4,000 on lodging costs over a year of membership if we stay as much as we have so far.
That said, I’m assuming we will keep a pace of staying a few nights each month — I still have several months to see whether that actually happens. It all depends on availability, and I can only book a maximum of 60 days out, so I can’t be sure what our future holds with Thousand Trails.
Also, the Cabin Pass membership fee has increased since I purchased it. While I paid $1,495 for my Cabin Pass, new members today will pay $1,695. There’s no guarantee that the price won’t increase again by my renewal date.
These are the main points to consider if you’re interested in a Thousand Trails Cabin Pass. The positive aspects are compelling, but it’s important to understand the limitations and drawbacks.
The Thousand Trails Cabin Pass has been a good choice for me. It’s saved me money, and I’m having fun planning all the places we can go and stay at no additional cost over the next several months. I’m taking our membership a year at a time and will assess our future travel plans and costs when it’s time to consider renewing for a second year.
Cabin type and availability depend on the campground. Cabin Pass accommodations range from tents and yurts to tiny houses. We’ve most commonly seen 4-person and 6-person cabins and cottages with bunk beds, kitchens, bathrooms, air conditioning, and a patio or front porch.
Pet policies depend on the campground. Some locations have multiple Cabin Pass accommodations that accept pets, while others have none. And bookings are subject to availability, so you even if a location has a pet-friendly cabin, it might not be available. Most locations that allow pets charge an additional fee. Service animals are permitted in cabins.
Amenities are as varied as the campgrounds. There is often some sort of swimming recreation, whether it’s an on-site pool, lake, or river. Campgrounds generally have lodges available with game rooms, including billiards tables and big screen TVs, books, and puzzles. Some have activities directors who plan events such as scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, and movie nights. Outdoor recreation often includes mini golf and playgrounds; some locations offer boat rentals.
There are no nightly fees to use the Cabin Pass, though you may encounter additional costs. For example, some cabins do not include linens but offer linen rentals. If you bring a pet, expect to pay a nightly pet fee of about $10.
Booking availability depends on what you’re looking for. Some campgrounds are easy to book with wide-open availability, while popular locations during high seasons may have much tighter availability. If you want to visit a popular location during peak seasons, it’s best to book early.
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