For Kirk Wong of southwest Washington, there’s only one way to travel: He loads up his 37-foot motorhome with two kids, four bikes, two dogs and a tortoise, and he and his wife Andrea take off for some much-needed, uninterrupted family time.
“In our house we’re always scattered and our schedules have us running,” Wong told MSNBC.com. “But in the RV, this time is invaluable. The boys take turns sitting next to me when I drive, we talk. For me, it’s never about the destination; it really is about the journey.”
Suzi and Jason Jewett of Forest Grove, Ore., hail the benefits of traveling with their 29-foot travel trailer this way: “It drives family time,” she said. “We actually sit down together and we can play board games for hours.”
More than 30 million Americans travel by RV. Despite high fuel prices, this number seems to be on the rise, with more families realizing a surefire way to spend time together and enjoy nature in a comfy home on wheels.
Brent Peterson, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to RVing” (the third edition was just published), cites another reason for the rise.
“Air travel is becoming uncomfortable and expensive enough that it’s pushing more people into RVing,” he said. “RVing has grown through hard economic times, and if done right, it can be economical.”
Many young families, he said, start by pulling a pop-up trailer and then move up to bigger RVs as their needs grow. By seeking out $30 campgrounds, fixing your own meals and traveling at times of lower fuel prices, families can enjoy cheaper trips than had they flown, stayed in hotels and eaten out every meal.
“I don’t have the ability to save money when I’m traveling without my RV because I have to stay in a hotel, buy meals and pay for every little thing,” Peterson said. “Traveling by RV gives you choices.”
And it is the choice that appeals to the Wong and Jewett families, too. The Wongs, who this summer plan to take weekend trips to the Oregon coast and a bigger trek to Yosemite National Park in August, like that they don’t need a travel agenda.
“If we see a basketball court or a water park or a nice lake, we just stop and check out,” he said, adding that his younger son is crazy about basketball. To decide which campground to stay the night, he checks out RVParkReviews.com.
Wong also likes that he can often get three or four hours of driving under his belt, home-brewed coffee in hand, before his boys, ages 13 and 15, even crawl out of bed.
Jewett enjoys the options her trailer’s floorplan gives them. In the evenings, she can close off the small bunk-bed room in the rear for her 5- and 2 ½-year-olds to sleep in while she and Jason play board games or read with their 13-year-old son. She said they typically stay in nice campgrounds with pools, mini-golf courses or recreation centers so there is something for everyone, often choosing campgrounds from the member-based Thousand Trails.
The Jewetts originally bought the trailer four years ago just before their 8-week sabbaticals from Intel. They spent the time off trekking to Crater Lake, Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks, as well as Las Vegas, Monterey, Santa Cruz and back through Florence, Ore.
“It was something fun that we could involve the kids in and we wanted to use the money for something we’d have for longer than just eight weeks,” said Jewett, now a manufacturing manager for Care Innovations. “It allows us to get out into nature more than if we just had tents.”
If you’re curious about RV travel, Peterson recommends renting one before making a big purchase. Cruise America is the nation’s largest RV rental chain, and others are El Monte RV and Camping World. The Recreational Vehicle Rental Association (RVRA) has a complete list of rental companies on its website.
The typical base rate for a seven-day rental on a five-to-seven-passenger RV is $600-plus, or nearly $100 a day, according to Peterson’s book. That does not include taxes, mileage fees (about 32 cents per mile), hourly generator fees (about $3) nor, of course, gas. To save money, Peterson advises checking rental sites for specials; going at non-peak travel times; and bringing your own linens, pillows, and eating and cookware. A must: Make rental reservations to get the RV you need with enough space as early as possible.
Similarly, Peterson said, start RVing as early as you can, in particular when your kids are young. Car seats and seat belt laws apply. RVing, he said, is a great memory-maker, and a fun and easy way to be together.
“With kids, having an RV is the great equalizer,” Peterson said. “You can overpack, have the comforts of beds and a kitchen, and still get out into nature together.”
Fans of RV travel are a hardy group. They endure traffic jams, mosquitoes and the occasional bear, so fluctuating gas prices won’t keep them and their RVs parked at home this summer.
According to an Associated Press report, average U.S. gas prices rose above $3.90 this spring, though they had dropped in most places by the start of June to $3.61 a gallon. But whether they’re up or down doesn’t make a huge difference for those driving motorhomes, like Bill Battle’s Winnebago Itasca Suncruiser that averages about 7 mpg.
Battle and his wife plan to drive their 38-foot motorhome (towing their Jeep) about 1,400 miles round-trip from their home in southeastern Michigan to Forest City, Iowa, for the Winnebago Grand National Rally this summer. It will likely cost them between $700 and $800 in gas, depending on pump prices, plus another $750 for food, campground fees and other expenses. The rest of the year they expect to stay closer to home, driving less than 600 miles per trip.
Even if gas were to go as high as $5 or $6 — though that seems unlikely given the direction prices are headed at this point in the season — Battle, a 68-year-old retiree, said they wouldn’t stay home. “We’ll still go, but we’ll do shorter trips,” he said. On the other hand, a steep drop might inspire more travel: “If fuel prices were $2.50 a gallon we probably would have made a second big trip to the Western U.S.”
A recent survey shows others have arrived at the same conclusion. Of nearly 425 RV owners interviewed in March by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), 60% said fuel prices were affecting their plans, and that they would adjust by driving less and traveling to destinations closer to home.
KOA, which represents about 500 campgrounds, has been marketing to the “camping closer to home” crowd, and reservations for this summer are up about 4% over 2011, said spokesman Mike Gast, in Billings, Mont.
There are about 9 million RV owners in the United States, and sales of new campers are expected to increase 5% this year, said RVIA spokesman Kevin Broom, in Reston, Va.
About 90% of the units sold are towable trailers, as opposed to motorhomes. Broom said that has less to do with high gas prices, and more to do with the purchase price. The average price of Class A motorhome is about $176,000, while a small travel trailer averages $20,900 and a folding tent trailer $9,400, Broom said.
In fact, manufactures have been conscious of rising gas prices for the past few years, making campers smaller, more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient. A new 32-foot Class A motorhome, for instance, might get up to 15 mpg, Broom said.
The industry commissioned a study on the cost of RV travel last summer, and PKF Consulting found that the average weeklong two-person vacation using a Type A motorhome, staying in campgrounds and cooking all meals, would cost about $4,285, when factoring in the RV purchase price, maintenance and gas.
The cost for two people flying economy to their destination, renting an intermediate car, staying at a standard motel or a hotel like Days Inn, and eating in restaurants for the week would cost $2,735. Only with first-class plane tickets, premium SUV rentals, dining out and the most expensive hotels — like the Ritz Carton or Four Seasons — did it become more costly than Type A motorhome camping, averaging $5,360 per week, the study found.
On the other hand, pulling a travel trailer with a light truck and staying and eating at campgrounds would cost about $1,845 for the week, it found. Savings or not, Battle likes his 5-year-old Winnebago Class A motorhome and has no interest in flying. He reels off a list of reasons why camping is better: no airports to deal with, no security lines, room for more luggage and golf clubs, a fridge and freezer he can stock, no bedbug worries and the company of Buddy, his chocolate lab.
“One day we can be in a quaint village touring wineries and the next we can be in a RV park on the shore of one of the Great Lakes,” Battle explained.
In order to watch the pennies, Battle said he uses an interactive AAA site to map his route and check the prices at gas stations along the way. He and his wife will often barbecue instead of eating out, and they’ve been known to overnight in a casino parking lot.
“You know what you have to spend and you make your plans ahead of time,” he said. “We love the convenience of the motorhome.”
Click here to listen to an interview, courtesy of National Public Radio, about the following story.
Freelance writer and photographer Andy Isaacson rented a 19-foot motorhome in the summer of 2011. He enlisted two friends, and together they spent eight days traveling from California to Oregon and back.
With a bathroom, kitchen and beds on board they found the freedom to roam without reservations — spending nights in a Walmart parking lot, a winery, and beside a stream in a national park. Isaacson discovered what he calls a tribe of people who travel by RV, and wrote about his trip for the New York Times.
NPR’s Neal Conan talks with Isaacson about his trek through the RV world, and the interesting people he met along the way.
Editor’s Note: The following New York Times article, authored by contributor Andy Isaacson, chronicles his first trip behind the wheel of an RV. Isaacson and friends rented a motorhome from Cruise America and headed out for an RV rally in Oregon. To view the entire piece along with accompanying photos click here.
I have spent the night in a Walmart parking lot. I have driven through a national park with a trail of cars in my rearview mirror. I have learned how to dispose of my waste through a plastic hose, and I have filled my gas tank more times in one week than I thought was possible.
But this is to be expected when you’re driving a small studio apartment, or, as I began to call it, my “rig.” One man in a rural California border town even called it cute. He said it reminded him of a Doritos delivery truck.
The rig was a 19-foot-long, gleaming white, class-C motor home — an RV that I rented from Cruise America, the country’s largest recreational vehicle rental company; 800-RV-4RENT was prominently emblazoned across the exterior, as were colorful images of America’s national parks and natural patrimony.
It was a proverbial flag patch sewn on a backpack, and as someone who makes an effort to downplay the fact that I’m a tourist when I travel, this granted no disguise. And just as well: I had never driven an RV before, and for this I could say I had never experienced my own country as millions do every summer, and have for more than a century.
When I booked the RV online a couple of months earlier, I found myself signing up for not so much a mode of transportation as a set of desirable feelings. “With a Cruise America RV,” the Web site said, “you can roam wherever your spirit takes you, throughout the US and Canada. And with a full kitchen in your RV, you can skip out on endless drive-through menus and enjoy more satisfying meals and snacks.” Roam, spirit, satisfying meals: these are not the sort of words used to tout a rental car or an airplane seat. An RV road trip promised the distinction of freedom and flexibility, comfort and convenience: a travel experience unencumbered by the need for reservations.
To view the entire article click here.
Go RVing’s first-ever national RV giveaways, conducted in partnership with Great American Country Network (GAC) and Outdoor Channel this spring, generated significant consumer interest while also providing impressive results for the national advertising campaign.
According to a press release, the two sweepstakes combined to draw more than 811,000 entries and yielded 46,329 leads for the Go RVing effort from entrants who opted into receiving information from participating Go RVing dealers, manufacturers and campgrounds.
“The Ultimate Country Music RV Giveaway” sweepstakes with GAC offered entrants the chance to win a 2012 Lance Camper Ultralight 1685 travel trailer as the grand prize along with two VIP tickets and backstage access to the CMA Festival in Nashville in June. Running from March 1-April 16, it drew 646,714 entrants, of which 122,376 were unique entries, and generated 23,156 opt-in leads. According to GAC, these results represent “a huge success for a custom sweepstakes.”
As part of the GAC partnership, two 60-second vignettes featuring country music artist Chuck Wicks enjoying RV getaways in the prize model Lance travel trailer aired on GAC. Go RVing also has a branded “On-The-Road-Guide to Summer Hot Spots” special section in the June People Country magazine (available on newsstand now). Featuring a country-music theme, the six-page custom section promoted the sweepstakes and RV travel. Details about the sweepstakes, Go RVing interactive banner ads, information on RVing, and the Chuck Wicks vignettes were featured on GACTV.com.
Go RVing’s “Spring Fever” sweepstakes with the Outdoor Channel attracted 165,000 total entrants, of which 31,217 were unique entries, and accounted for 23,173 opt-in leads. This contest ran through April and featured a Columbia Northwest 2012 Somerset OR12SD off-road folding camping trailer as the grand prize.
The promotion included four custom RVing vignettes featuring Outdoor Channel talent Pat Reeve and Nicole Jones, host of the hunting show Driven, and Mark Zona, host of Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show. Outdoor Channel also promoted the sweepstakes and the benefits of RV travel to audiences through outdoorchannel.com, their social media outlets, and targeted emails.
“We were very pleased with the success of our first national RV giveaway sweepstakes,” said RVIA Vice President of Public Relations and Advertising James Ashurst. “These two promotions were popular with the public and helped spread our key messages about RVing with receptive audiences. The amount of leads created by the sweepstakes was particularly encouraging.”
Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp. and Columbia Northwest Inc./Aliner were selected to provide the grand prize RVs through a lottery in January of RVIA members who offered a unit for the two sweepstakes.
The Go RVing and MLB Network “Home and Away Tour” is on the road with a specially-wrapped Jayco Inc. motorhome serving as a touring studio broadcasting features during the MLB Network Game of the Week from ballparks across the nation, according to a press release.
Through this special promotion, negotiated as a value-added element to Go RVing’s 2012 media buy with MLB Network, there will be on-air reports and interviews with players conducted both inside and outside the motorhome over the next two months on the popular On Deck Circle, the networks signature show featuring major league baseball highlights and analysis.
There will also be teasers and promotional mentions of Go RVing and the “Home and Away Tour” on The Run Down and the MLB Network Game of the Week. Video highlights showing the exposure being generated by the promotion can be seen by clicking here.
The “Home and Away Tour” motorhome is a Jayco Seneca 37RB Class C motorhome, which the company provided in response to an RVIA-member lottery invitation. It is wrapped with visuals from the new Go RVing “Away” national advertising campaign as well as logos for Go RVing.com, MLB Network and Jayco. The tour kicked off earlier this month with the motorhome appearing at the Florida Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies on April 12 and at the Texas Rangers vs. Boston Red Sox on April 17.
Go RVing’s new “AWAY” campaign is helping generate awareness of RV travel among consumers during the busy selling and travel season as illustrated by the increased activity on GoRVing.com since the campaign’s launch in February.
According to a press release, from Jan. 1 through April 9, total web visits were up 13% from 284,292 in 2011 to 321,342 in 2012 while page views were up 24%, rising to nearly 2 million this year from 1.6 million in 2011. The number of unique visitors has also jumped from 241,761 in 2011 to 289,394 in 2012, a 20% rise.
Go RVing’s “AWAY” campaign drives consumers to the all-new GoRVing.com website, which is designed to be a comprehensive information source to guide prospective buyers through the purchase process and travel experience. The website features new interactive tools to help visitors explore RVs, choose the best type for them, compare typical family vacation costs, watch new videos featuring real RVers and sign up for more information from participating Go RVing dealers, manufacturers, show promoters and campgrounds. Consumers who opt in to be contacted are posted on the Go RVing leads database in the industry-only area of the site, ranked by likelihood to buy.
The Go RVing “AWAY” effort is the first all-new industry advertising campaign since 2005. Built upon the evocative concept of “AWAY,” the new ads return to the emotion-driven family focus of past campaigns, along with continued emphasis on the affordability and accessibility of RV ownership for multigenerational families.
There’s something about an RV, from tent trailer to Class A motorhome, that makes it more than the sum of its parts.
As reported by the Windsor (Ontario) Star, RV owners aren’t just looking for a place to spend the night, cook meals and hide out of the rain; they are buying into a lifestyle.
Ask anyone who has driven to the Northwest Territories to see 24 hours of sunlight, or has spent a spring or fall enjoying the scenery of Canada’s East Coast — a recreational vehicle is a ticket to a very different kind of vacation.
Ken Maines has been spending weekends at campsites since he was a child. His family owned a series of RVs, and as an adult he continues the tradition. In fact, he now works in the RV industry.
But Maines still takes time away from running Race Track RV in Airdrie, Alberta, to hit the road with wife Charlene and take in the fresh air of the great outdoors.
Maines says the RV lifestyle is about freedom, and it’s a complete 180-degree turn from everyday life.
“When you get to a campsite it doesn’t matter if the Flames lost or the Dow Jones dropped points,” says Maines. “The most important things become ‘what are we going to do this afternoon?’ and ‘what are we going to cook on the open fire?'”
He says it is a joy to be able to park in a beautiful location and go fishing, take a walk or simply relax by the fire. What makes the experience even better, he adds, is that wherever he goes, he meets people with the same priorities.
Not only is taking a trip in an RV a great way to meet new friends, Maines says, it is also a great way to get to know your family.
He says once you get away from all of those distractions at home, you can really have a chance to sit down with your kids and teach them how to fish or make a fire, or just talk.
One of his fondest memories is camping as a child and being taught how to whittle by his grandfather.
“Are you going to teach your kids how to whittle in the backyard? That’s not going to happen — they’re too busy with their Playstations and Nintendos or whatever.”
He adds that people who want to bring all of the conveniences of home along with them have plenty of options. Today’s RVs can include premium stereos, large-screen televisions, microwave ovens and everything else that might make a trip a bit more comfortable.
The RV lifestyle also provides people with the ability to go where they want, when they want.
Maines says instead of taking one trip that may cost $3,000, putting that money every year toward an RV allows people to take vacations, from overnights and weekends to weeks-long holidays, whenever they want.
He says there is so much to discover within driving distance in Alberta, the northern United States and the rest of Canada that there’s no reason to hop on a plane.
An RV owner can take a drive out to Lake Koocanusa one weekend, and then visit the Taber Cornfest the next; take a drive up Highway 7 in Ontario in the fall and see the amazing colours, tour through Quebec — and then do something completely different next time.
“The RV lifestyle is fantastic because you can stay for a day, you can stay for a week, you can stay for a month, or whatever you want.
“It’s whatever you want to do,” says Maines.
When you hook up the tent trailer or climb into the camper or motorhome and hit the road, memories are created.
“Things happen when you’re camping or RVing that would never happen at home,” says Maines. “Every day something happens.”
“I have so many memories of camping and RVing
In addition to all-new creative materials promoting RV ownership at the national level, Go RVing has created new resources for local RV businesses to capitalize on the “AWAY” campaign through the Go RVing Industry Tie-In Program.
According to a press release, the program offers RV dealers, show promoters, campground owners and their agenciesonline access to campaign collateral, tools and consumer leads to use in incorporating the national advertising messages into their local marketing efforts.
Key elements of the program include:
• Go RVing’s Leads-Plus Program – Leads are ranked according to the consumer’s likelihood of purchasing – highly likely, moderately, likely or interested – using a sophisticated mathematical model to analyze confidential credit bureau data.
• Go RVing Image Library – All-new high-resolution images from Go RVing photo shoots of consumers enjoying a variety of RV products are now available for download in the Industry Only section of GoRVing.com. These images are ideal for use in advertising, websites and other promotional materials.
• Go RVing B-Roll – Footage shot during the Go RVing “AWAY” television production shoots will be available in April to download from the GoRVing.com Industry Only section for use in producing local television commercials. The nine-minute video features footage of motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheel travel trailers and truck campers driving along scenic roads. In addition to the new download option, high-definition HDCAM tapes and standard definition BETA tapes of the footage are also available.
• Taggable “AWAY” TV Spots – The three “AWAY” 30-second television spots will also be available to download and tag with company-specific information in the final five seconds of the commercial.
• Go RVing Posters – Participants in the Go RVing Industry Tie-In Program will receive a set of new posters featuring the “AWAY” theme. These are perfect for displaying in a dealership or at special events or shows.
RV dealers interested in learning more or registering for the Go RVing Industry Tie-In program should contact Chuck Boyd at RVDA at (703) 591-7130, ext. 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The program cost for dealers is $225. Campground operators should contact ARVC’s Barb Youmans at (303) 681-0401 or email@example.com for registration and pricing information for the program. Other industry members can contact RVIA’s Margie Spence at (703) 620-6003, ext. 357 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Go RVing’s “Find your AWAY” ads have hit the marketplace, setting the stage for a reenergized effort to grow and expand the RV market with the first all-new RV industry advertising campaign since 2005.
Go RVing’s new TV spots began airing Feb. 21 on the SPEED Channel, capturing big SPEED audiences on programming surrounding the Daytona 500 and driving 75% more visitors to GoRVing.com than last year’s SPEED launch. Go RVing commercials will continue to run through November on SPEED, complemented by an original RV travel vignette featuring on-air personality Rutledge Wood.
Built upon the evocative concept, “Away,” the new ads reflect consumer research demonstrating that people buy RVs to get away with those who matter most and do what they love to do, more often and more affordably.
The emotion-driven campaign includes three 30-second TV spots featuring the return of Tom Selleck as voiceover talent. Four new print ads and four web banner ads were also produced by The Richards Group, under the guidance of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) advertising staff and the Go RVing Coalition. Click here to see the new Go RVing “AWAY” creative.
This year, Go RVing ads and custom RV vignettes will also be seen on Great American Country Network (GAC), National Geographic Channel, National Geographic Wild, Outdoor Channel, Cooking Channel, MLB Network, NFL Network and CBS Sports. Special partnerships with these networks will add value to Go RVing’s $4.8 million television investment for 2012.
The TV plan also includes direct response advertising on approximately 40 other networks from March through September. Among these networks are Travel Channel, Discovery, TBS, TLC, USA, HGTV and ABC Family Channel, all of which have a good record of running Go RVing commercials at optimum times of day and delivering a strong leads response.
Concurrently with the rollout of the television ads, new banner ads began running on dozens of websites and search engines through Go RVing’s $2.6 million Internet buy. Consumers are able to link directly to GoRVing.com from the ads, running on leads-generating powerhouses like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Facebook through September.
The $2.7 million print buy for 2012 includes 20 magazines offering a good editorial environment and targeted audience for the ads, including: Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, National Geographic Traveler, Family Circle, Reader’s Digest, People Country, Guideposts, Budget Travel, and more. Ads began to hit the newsstand in February and continue through October.
The “AWAY” campaign drives consumers to an entirely new www.GoRVing.com website, designed to be a comprehensive information source to guide prospective buyers through the purchase process and travel experience. On the website are new interactive tools to help visitors explore RVs, choose the best type for them, compare typical family vacation costs, watch new videos featuring real RVers, and sign up for more information from participating Go RVing dealers, manufacturers, show promoters and campgrounds. Consumers who opt in to be contacted will be posted on the Go RVing leads database in the industry-only area of the site, ranked by likelihood to buy.
For Go RVing tie-in program participants, a new image library, taggable TV spots, stock footage for local ads, looping video and AWAY ad posters are coming in mid-March. For information on how to sign up and order new AWAY collateral, contact Margie Spence, RVIA advertising manager, email@example.com.
“The industry’s response to the new AWAY campaign when it was unveiled at RVIA’s Louisville show last December was tremendous,” said Go RVing Coalition co-chairman Bob Olson. “We are confident that consumers will also respond with enthusiasm, driving traffic to our new website and to dealers.”