Is This The Summer Of The RV?

States across the U.S. are starting to open back up. What does that mean for when, where, and how to travel?

With the unofficial start of summer behind us and months before the kids go back to school—or not—many would-be-travelers with canceled plans are looking for ideas to travel safely. “Safe” does not mean the same thing to all people: While one person might be comfortable in an RV park because they have personal accommodations, another might find the campground itself too crowded for personal comfort.

Sea Breeze RV Resort, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In any typical year, the end of May marks the official start of road trip season. But 2020, as we’re all painfully aware is not a typical year. The COVID-19 pandemic is not just wreaking havoc on people’s health and livelihoods—in just a few months it’s all but decimated the travel industry as well. Airplanes are grounded, cruise ships are docked, hotels are closed, and several states still have stay-at-home orders in place. 

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But for those of us who prefer road travel in our own vehicle over flights and cruises, the news isn’t all bad. According to recent headlines from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNN, LA Times, and many others, the American road trip is about to make a grand, splashing comeback. (Though, if you ask me, road trips never went out of style in the first place.)

Spirit River and Mount St. Helens, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer vacation will look at lot different for many families this year but perhaps what no one saw coming was the rise of the RV. The spread of COVID-19 has made air travel and public transportation mighty unpopular options while personal vehicles feel like more of a safe haven. Recent studies have shown travelers feel more comfortable in a personal vehicle where they can control the scenario, unlike shared transportation.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The RV Industry Association says RV sales have increased 170 percent when compared to this time last year. Some dealers are reporting sales at any all-time high.

In an effort to keep things more contained, those renting RVs aren’t looking to hit the road and travel to crowded areas. RVshare said its study found 93 percent of respondents want to avoid crowds and 65 percent want to be surrounded by nature. We could see a far greater number of trips to national and state parks and wide-open spaces.

Along the Colorado River, Arizona side © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps playing to Americans’ stir-crazy feelings of confinement, they’re planning to take longer trips, too. Almost half of those surveyed planned to get away for a week or more than 10 days. But, if you’re thinking about taking the plunge on an RV and socially distanced vacation, just know you’re not alone. Quickly, isolated areas could become the next popular destination.

Sedona, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roadtripping is a great way to explore some of the most beautiful places in the country while still avoiding big crowds, and after being cooped up at home many are understandably antsy to hit the road again. Remember to be mindful of risks, both to yourself and others.

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As we venture out consider that some of our fellow travelers are still adjusting to a new normal. To ensure everyone enjoys their chance to travel, keep these common-sense guidelines in mind:

  • Before heading out, check the status of the area you plan to visit
  • Phone ahead to determine under what conditions a park or attraction has reopened
  • Check the rules for recreation ahead of time for the specific area you’re planning to visit
  • Avoid high-risk activities like rock climbing or backcountry activities as law enforcement and rescue operations may be limited
  • Select low-traffic locations and times
  • Consider visiting less-traveled locations at off-peak hours to avoid potential crowding
  • Practice physical distancing outdoors by staying at least 6 feet apart
  • Avoid crowded locations where physical distancing may be difficult
  • Plan ahead, as services and facilities will be limited
  • If you are feeling even mildly sick, you should remain at home until you feel better
Historic Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If we learn anything from these last few months, it should be to behave respectfully toward any people you encounter or communities you visit during your travels. Be kind, act responsibly, and leave it better than you found it.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.

—Okakura Kazuko

RVs Could Be the Answer to Your Summer Travel Plans

The coronavirus is making people rethink what a summer vacation looks like

As the country began locking down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus the entire travel industry was severely impacted. On April 7, the Transportation Security Administration recorded the lowest number of U.S. flyers screened in the agency’s history when it dropped to below 100,000—a 95 percent decrease from the same day in 2019. On May 20, the TSA screened 230,367 passengers, compared with 2,472,123 on the same day last year.

Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and international travelers spent $1.1 trillion in the U.S. in 2019 which supported nine million jobs and generated $180 billion in tax revenue. One-third of coronavirus job losses in the U.S. are connected to the travel industry.

RV Park at Rolling Hills, Corning, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While many summer travel plans have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus, one form of travel might be a viable way to go: RVs. As of May 19, bookings on RVshare, an RV peer-to-peer booking platform, were up 1,000 percent from early April. Yes, 1,000 percent.

SeaWind RV Resort, Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the pandemic has halted most forms of travel, families are looking for safe ways to get out-of-doors after months of home isolation. But for some people—about a million, to be exact—living out of an RV is the norm.

Buckhorn RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many analysts expect summer 2020 to herald the return of the Great American Road Trip as travelers explore destinations closer to home in the comfort of their own vehicle. Mark Wong, an exec at Small Luxury Hotels of the World, told CNBC, “Road trips—the drive market—will be this summer’s trend. Travelers will be more comfortable hopping into their own RVs or rental units than commuting in mass transportation.”

Along Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nicholas Devane, owner of RV rental company Texino, told the LA Times he was doing good business until having to shut down because “I think corona is making people rethink what a vacation looks like. What is their ability to travel without going through airports? Camper vans and RVs are a great way to do that.”

Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An RVshare survey found that 77 percent of respondents were looking to make travel plans within the next three months. Sixty-five percent of travelers said they want to be in and around nature including locations like a national park (65 percent) or a lake (47 percent).

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVillage offers a place for RVers (and wannabes) to talk to one another. Whether you are considering purchasing an RV for an upcoming vacation, deciding to leave your conventional home behind, or have been on the road for years, about 3,000 crowd-sourced groups are available to field RV-related questions and discussions. Over 11,000 new RVillage accounts were created in the past month alone pushing RVillage to over 220,000 users.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the pandemic RVers also use the platform to help plan their next move safely. People are talking to each other and asking what’s open and what’s not open. What are best practices right now if you want to go with your family? Where to avoid? How does social distancing work in the RV?

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even before the pandemic, the RV industry had been showing significant growth. According to RV Industry Association data, beginning in 2009 RV unit shipments increased year over year through 2017 although the number began dropping in 2018 (down 4.1 percent) and even more in 2019 (down 16 percent). RV retail value was over $20 billion in 2018, the latest year for which a figure was available.

Another benefit of RV travel during a pandemic or any other time is the ability to have everything you need for travel within your own space.

Gulf Coast RV Resort, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As Sir Richard Burton once put it, “man wants to wander, and he must do so, or he shall die.” That being said, traveling around the U.S. isn’t going to be a cakewalk. Different states are in very different stages of easing the pandemic restrictions. Ultimately, we need to know what is going on where. That means don’t travel to an area that has an active shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order. Period! Don’t travel if local communities don’t feel ready to welcome travelers, either.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

—Benjamin Franklin

Will It Be Safe to Travel This Summer? Consider Your Options

People are turning to RVs to save their summer travel plans from coronavirus

Most of us have been social distancing for weeks if not months now and between coronavirus anxiety and the weather getting warmer, a getaway sounds pretty nice right about now. Dirt-cheap flights and discounted hotel deals are even more tempting when you add a little cabin fever to the mix.

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But should you really book a summer vacation now? Whether you’ve already booked a trip or are itching to take a vacation as soon as possible, this post will answer your questions when it comes to traveling this summer, from safety measures and travel restrictions to creative alternatives.

Old Town Temecula, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When will we be able to travel? Because the situation changes every day, it’s hard to give an exact date. But right now, many countries are still experiencing severe coronavirus outbreaks and have extended their mandatory quarantines and border closures. To get a better feel for summer travel and where and when you can go, it’s best to continue checking every day as the situation develops.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s important to take your departing location and your destination into consideration. For example, if you live in an area where things are improving but want to travel to an area where they’re not, you should consider pushing back your travel dates or changing your destination.

Yuko-En Japanese Friendship Garden, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed a No Sail Order on cruise ships until the end of July but could be extended even later. Given the nature of cruises—living in close quarters with thousands of people, eating buffet-style food, and not having access to major healthcare facilities, it’s safer for everyone to avoid being out at sea for the foreseeable future.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This summer will be the summer of ground transportation. Both Amtrak and Greyhound are still operating and requiring employees and passengers to wear masks, providing extra sanitation methods, using a digital ticketing process, and waiving all change fees. To ensure social distancing on board, Amtrak has reduced its sales to 50 percent of its normal capacity and Greyhound is said to be operating at just 35 percent of capacity. However, workers and passengers on both train and bus companies have contracted coronavirus despite these efforts.

Hyannis Harbor, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Few things having to do with travel will be unchanged in the post-coronavirus world but of all the ways we travel the road trip will be least affected—at least from a regulatory standpoint.

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one will tell you to wear a mask or take your temperature or demand blood work before you hit the road this summer. But questions abound about this American institution including whether it’s safe—at least safer than airline travel.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Data from MMGY Travel Intelligence in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association seems to bear this out. In a survey taken April 17-22, 47 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to travel by car, an increase from 35 percent in data collected April 4-11.

El Moro National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For all travelers, safety is a priority and many are asking whether driving is safer than flying these days. In terms of the coronavirus, probably, said Dr. Robert Winters, a Southern California infectious disease specialist.

“Car travel has to be safer than airline travel when you factor in controlled boarding/exiting processes, number of people on the airplane, unknown health status of people on the flight, uncooperative children sitting near you, etc.”

Champlain Canal, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paula Cannon, virologist and USC professor at the Keck School of Medicine, said that “being alone in your own car is going to be the safest way of travel.” Road trips not only provide a safe way of transportation, but allow you to choose a safer, less common destination. It’s also an inexpensive option, as gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in years. The national average has stayed under $2 per gallon during the pandemic (in some states, under 99 cents a gallon!) and is predicted to stay cheap over summer.

Welcome to what could be the year of the recreational vehicle, more commonly known as the beloved RV.

Ohio River at Marieta, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With experts predicting that any return to travel will likely start with short, domestic trips, the RV could become the go-to vehicle for travel this summer. Though the outlook for RV sales entering the year was grim—504,000 RVs were sold in 2017 and that number slipped to 364,000 last year—many dealers across the country are reporting an unexpected uptick in sales.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As so many try to keep their distance and avoid crowds during the coronavirus pandemic, peer-to-peer RV rental company RVshare said last week bookings had increased 650 percent. The spread of COVID-19 has made air travel and public transportation mighty unpopular options while personal vehicles feel like more of a safe haven. Other recent studies have shown travelers feel more comfortable in a personal vehicle where they can control the scenario, unlike shared transportation.

Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans and Canadians love the space and freedom of the outdoors and the enrichment that comes with living an active outdoor life. RVs not only enable this lifestyle, they also provide a self-contained existence that other forms of travel don’t allow.

Mount St. Helen’s National Monument, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While we wait to see what the future holds, stay safe and take a road trip this summer. Who knows, it may turn into a bucket-list trip after all.

Worth Pondering…

I hear the highway calling. It’s time for a road trip.