Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Friday, January 31, 2020

Arriving at Palm Springs and Thoughts on Thousand Trails and Other Discount Programs We Use

At Palm Springs Thousand Trails, Palm Desert, California...

Well, if perfect winter weather is why we're touring the Southwest, we haven't been disappointed.  The weather here at Palm Springs is much like that at Yuma--in the seventies during the day and in the fifties at night, with mostly blue skies.

Palm Springs is the first Thousand Trails park in which we've stayed other than Lake Conroe--where we've stayed many times.  

Thousand Trails Palm Springs

Our Site at Thousand Trails Palm Springs

We have checked out other TT parks, like Medina, near Columbus, Texas, and Bay Landing, near Bridgeport, Texas, but the latter two didn't meet our needs in terms of full hookup availability, site conditions or cell service.

We are like most RVers, I think, in that we like to stay in nicer parks but, being a trifle cheap, we prefer not to pay full price. That's why we always look for discounts. That was our idea when we signed up for a Thousand Trails Elite membership. It's hard to beat staying in Palm Springs or any other TT park for two or three weeks at little or no cost. Of course, that doesn't take into account the membership initial cost and annual fees. It's all a matter of how much you use the membership; if you use it a lot, you can't help but save a bunch of money. 

The problem with Thousand Trails (hereinafter referred to as TT), for us, is that many of their parks do not meet our standards that I mentioned above--full hookups, nice sites and good cell service. When I mention nice sites, I'm talking about fairly level sites that are gravel or concrete--not dirt. Dirt is a no-no because dirt+rain=mud. We don't do mud. We don't boondock, either; we are, unapologetically, not into roughing it--not even a little bit. We love beautiful scenery and all the wonderful creatures that live in the outdoors, but we have no desire to mingle with them. I'm pretty sure this is in line with God's intention; otherwise, He wouldn't have given most of them the desire to kill us. 

We also don't tolerate well the demonic little bloodthirsty insects that somehow know when we appear outside. With the first blip we make on their radar (and it's probably not a small blip), they immediately begin a nosedive toward us--clearly not fearing what could be a suicide attack--due to the possible payoff of what must appear to them as two well-marbled ribeyes--their ultimate targets of opportunity. 

Many of the TT parks, especially on the west coast, are old parks that are not big-rig friendly and haven't been maintained all that well. Phannie just barely fits into her space here at Palm Springs, and maneuvering among the palm trees is very tight. In fact, when we leave here, I'm going to have to ask two of the RVers across the street to move their tow vehicles, or I'll never be able to make the turn to clear the palm trees where we are parked.

Fortunately, out of the 88 or so TT RV parks across the country, there are a small number that are acceptable, given our criteria, so we limit ourselves to these and forget the rest. Even with these restrictions, we think we come out slightly ahead because of the free stays for weeks at a time. There is also a TT membership provision that gives pretty good discounts at Encore properties and--for an additional yearly fee--discounts called the Trails Collection at about 200 other parks. We also get an automatic "in"  with Resort Parks International (for a modest fee after a year), another discount camping outfit. 

At Lake Conroe TT, which is, I suppose, our "home" park, we almost always get a very nice concrete site that rivals most of the nicer parks in the country, and we've noticed that improvements are slowly being made in some of the other TT parks after years of neglect under changing ownership. Some of these other owners were unscrupulous asset-flippers who skimmed the income and invested nothing in the parks. Lifestyle Equity Properties, the current owner of TT, seems to be more interested in improving things, but there is much work to be done. 

If you are thinking about a TT membership, you need to take into account your requirements, as most of the parks are not up to the standards we prefer, and many are found in remote locations, which also usually don't work for us. If your standards are a bit prudish, like ours, I would probably advise against it. But, if you aren't such prima donnas and are willing to stay in remote, rustic areas--like real honest-to-goodness campers do--it can be a surefire money-saver.  

We also use Passport America 50-percent discounts fairly often, and we'll stay in low-cost government parks (federal, state, county, municipal, etc.) that fit our requirements, although there aren't many of these that measure up. Escapees also has some discount parks that we use from time to time. The bottom line is this: We can almost always find some kind of discount park that we can tolerate, but it does take some significant research and planning, and these things don't come easily for retired and lazy people like me and, for fulltimers, the job never ends. Once we find a good park that's a real bargain, we'll probably stay there for a while and come back when we're in the area. There are other discount programs, like Coast-to-Coast, but we haven't run across any of their members who could give us the lowdown. And we're not even counting the Good Sam or KOA discounts, as they are only 10 percent. We use them from time to time, but we don't consider that much of a bargain.

Once in a while, we just have to bite the bullet and pay through the nose to get into a decent park in high-priced areas. That'll be the case when we get to San Diego; the reasonably priced parks either fail to meet our requirements or are too far away.

We've got more to report on Palm Springs, but that'll be in the next post.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood


  1. I enjoy your travels. My standards are a lot lower.
    The old Cargo Dog.

    1. Well, it's not just my has a lot to do with it. God bless 'em.

  2. I am looking forward to what you see and do in the area. Our plan is to make it as far as the Palm Springs area between early to mid-March, before we begin our slow trek back to KS.


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