I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to make the most of their RV vacations.
In recent years, RV travel has become increasingly popular, but it is definitely impacting the ways in which camper, travel trailer, and motorhome owners vacation.
There are a number of reasons for the current RV buying frenzy which include but are not limited to the fact that
- the economy has improved,
- baby boomers are starting to retire,
- technology has improved and
- more young people have started purchasing RVs than ever before.
Furthermore, people who are tired of sharing beds with strangers, standing in line and paying outrageous prices in restaurants like the idea of being able to sleep in their own beds, eat their own food, avoid waiting in lines and being forced to travel based on the timing of other people's schedules.
However, the decisions of these individuals to vacation on their own terms have definitely caused changes in the quality of their vacations.
For this reason, it's a good idea for RVers to learn about the new trends and then think about things they can do to make sure that they continue to have the best possible travel experiences.
The Boom Has Created a Sellers' Market
In 2016 the Recreational Vehicle Industry reported that 430,000 travel units of all kinds were sold and that this was a 15% increase over the year before.
Since then, sales have continued to rise at ever increasing rates.
This has caused prices for both new and used travel units to rise significantly.
Costs for parts, repairs, storage and amenities have also risen to dizzying levels.
There is no question that everything related to RVing has resulted in a sellers' market that continues to make owning a coach an expensive proposition.
Of course there are always “workarounds” that help to balance these costs, but for those owners who don’t take the time to do their homework, these can be elusive.
For example, owners can
- avoid buying new recreational vehicles,
- learn how to do minor repairs themselves and
- join discount camping clubs to help mitigate the high fees many RV Parks now charge.
What Has Fueled the RV Boom?
There was a time when recreational vehicle travel was mostly for the over 55 traveler, but in recent years, the number of younger people who buy RVs has exceeded that of the older folks who purchase them. In fact, people under the age of 45 are now buying more than half of the RVs that are sold in the US!
Improvements in technology have also helped to fuel recreational vehicle ownership because it has made connectivity easy and convenient.
In the past, few people could earn livings while traveling, but with the advent of smartphones, hot spots, and downsized laptops and printers, making money while RVing is easy.
People who wish to do so can sell everything they own, buy an RV and earn as they go. How to Earn Money as You Travel in Your RV explains more about this option.
Many have also learned that there are ways to live for little or no money, too. Live Rent Free in Your RV discusses more about this issue.
In recent years, gas has been cheaper, and credit has been easier to obtain. For example, someone who wants to purchase a large, expensive motor home can now get 15 to 20 year financing.
In fact, when buying from dealerships, people no longer even have to go to their bank or credit union because deals can be consummated on the spot.
How Massive RV Ownership Affects Travel
This is an issue that deserves attention because as you can see, the things that are happening definitely can impact the quality of one’s vacations.
People buy RVs because they expect to have good experiences when traveling in them.
However, they need to understand that some of the changes that are occurring will improve their travel experiences, but others will have the opposite effect.
Below is an overview of some things RV travelers can expect to see going forward as more people purchase campers, travel trailers and motor homes.
Due to the increased popularity of RV ownership, there have been many improvements that most people can both afford and enjoy. Here are some of them:
People who have plenty of expendable income are the ones who will benefit most from the improvements in RV travel.
In recent years, gorgeous resorts have sprung up that provide every imaginable amenity for those who can afford them.
They offer large lots with 100 and 200 watt hookups, WIFI, cable and phone pedestals, immaculately groomed grounds, exercise rooms, beautiful clubhouses with planned activities, massage parlors, restaurants, golf courses, movie theaters and magnificent scenery. Resorts such as these offer a great deal of privacy, are gated and offer 24/7 security.
Because they are expensive, the average person cannot camp there, so they are not crowded. The people who do stay there do so knowing that they are in a protected environment and have neighbors who, like them, can afford the best.
Years ago there were very few such resorts, but today, you can find them in almost every state.
Deeded RV Lots
For those who don’t want to tow their coaches in order to vacation or who want to live year round in a spot they own but do not have to maintain, there now are ownership parks that offer deeded RV lots.
People can buy a spot, park their unit on it and pay a monthly maintenance fee much as they would if they owned a condo. This helps them to reduce or avoid the rising costs of gasoline and camping while at the same time getting the pleasure of staying in their camper, travel trailer or motor home.
Increases in Numbers of Campgrounds
As more consumers take to the roads, the need for camping spots increases. As a result, there are now thousands of resorts and campgrounds which did not exist prior to the RV Boom.
This makes trip planning much easier and eliminates most of the worry of not being able to find a place to stay while traveling.
RV Friendly Gas Stations
The larger recreational vehicles are, the more difficult it is to manipulate them, especially when stopping for gasoline or diesel fuel.
However, these days truck stops and many gas stations have expanded their properties to make it easier for people to reach their pumps. Many actually provide special spaces for RVs that wish to stop overnight and dry camp.
Some even provide dump and fill stations and the ability to refill propane tanks.
As is always the case in life, there are negatives that occur as the result of changes. Here are a few of the most glaring ones that have resulted from excessive RV ownership.
Larger cities have always been a tough drive for people who own recreational vehicles, but in the past, other areas have been much more pleasant.
I can remember driving in Montana, for instance, and not seeing another car for miles. It is not that way anymore.
The western states have become very crowded with RVs, especially during the tourist seasons.
So, instead of being able to relax and enjoy the scenery in many areas or find nice spots to pull over for lunch, people spend their driving hours stressed out because of traffic, parking difficulties and waiting in line to get gas.
However, by traveling off season or for only small portions of each day, RVers can avoid some of these problems. Staying away from large cities and popular venues will also help.
Unless you’re one of the wealthier people who can afford to stay in high end luxury RV resorts, you’re going to find yourself more often than not squeezed into camping spots like sardines, being told parks are full and listening to barking dogs, fighting couples and crying children.
This is not the case in all parks, but it used to never be the case anywhere. In the past, you could pull into peaceful campgrounds that had well-spaced campsites where you could just relax and enjoy your vacation.
Some still exist, but they are fast disappearing.
The best way to avoid this problem is to research parks before you leave home by using a good camping guide such as the one put out by The Good Sam Club. This book is a treasure trove of great information that will help you to find spacious campgrounds and good contact information. My husband and I have used it for years and have always been happy to have it on board when RVing.
More travelers equates to higher costs for everything.
Not too long ago, you could camp for around $12 to $15 per night. These days, unless you belong to a good discount camping club, plan on paying upwards of $40 per night.
Sewer and cable hookups used to be part of the base price in most parks, but in some places they charge extra. Some even charge to use their shower facilities!
Government parks have also raised their prices significantly. Florida state parks now charge $40 per night to camp, and this is without full hookups. They used to charge half that much.
Labor costs can cost as much as $189 per hour when a few years ago shops were charging a third as much.
Prices for travel units have also risen significantly. Even a popup trailer can cost as much as $18,000!
If people want to make do with less, they can spend less. However, for the average person, owning an RV is reaching a point where it will become too expensive for some people.
However, as you've already seen, there are many ways to reduce these costs, and you should take advantage of them whenever possible.
The Need for Reservations
Because so many people hit the roads in their RVs, it has almost become a requirement for travelers to make reservations so they can assure that they will have campsites awaiting them.
This was not the case until things heated up, but it’s a problem.
RV travel is not the same as other forms of vacationing. There are many things that can go wrong either before leaving home or during a trip. It may seem a simple thing to reserve a spot, but the truth is that people can get sick at the last minute, have breakdowns, run out of gas or even have accidents. Any of these things can mess up a reservation.
However, once you reserve you commit yourself to paying at least for the first night, whether you reach your destination on time or not.
Furthermore, having to reserve a spot takes away the spontaneity that makes RV travel so wonderful.
People dream of being able to enjoy the freedom of the open road, so having to be tied down by a timeline simply undoes that dream.
This is probably the worst downside that the immense popularity of RVing has created when it comes to the quality of this type of vacationing, but with a little research and a willingness to stay away from the most popular areas, you can still RV comfortably and without using reservations.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, the increasing popularity of RVing has had both good and bad effects on vacation quality.
Clever owners who plan carefully can sidestep or even take advantage of some of the issues discussed here, but doing so requires a great deal of research and planning prior to leaving home.
RVing is still a terrific form of travel, but before you become involved in it, you should make sure you understand the benefits and caveats that it’s increasing popularity have created for those wanting to vacation in recreational vehicles.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 21, 2018:
Thank you. I suggest you rent an RV and give it a go before you make a final decision.
Katharine L Sparrow from Massachusetts, USA on July 20, 2018:
Wow, great way to compare and contrast benefits and drawbacks to inform your readers! I'm still a decade from retirement, but had already begun to think about RVing when I do retire. The idea appeals to me, though I've actually never traveled in one! Your article is one I'll remember as the time draws nearer, though by then the pluses and minuses will have changed. I'm sure there will always be both! Great article, good job!
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on June 20, 2018:
LizWestwood: Thanks for posting this. Apparently other countries are now dealing with the same issues as the US.
Liz Westwood from UK on June 20, 2018:
This is a very interesting article. I was brought up with holidays in a camper van. I used to look at the bigger RVs on campsites in Europe enviously. In recent years I've noticed many more RVs around western Europe. Parking lots by the coast are often full of them. We have come across retired people from the UK who spend the winter touring round the Portuguese and Spanish coastlines to escape the British winter. I've noticed a lot of French number plates too, as well as Dutch and German.