(Broadry) — 2020 was a strange and unpredictable year in a whole lot of ways. Many people found themselves canceling plans for concerts and sporting events and travel. People who did travel grappled with crowded airports and how to stay healthy in hotels, or where to sit on a plane that allowed them to safely distance from others.
However, there was one method of travel that exploded in popularity – RV camping. RVing surged in 2020, and experts believe it will continue to be a big choice in 2021.
2020 Was a Huge Year For RV Travel
Traveling by RV in 2020 attracted a lot of people, including many first-time RVers. RVshare research showed that 80% of the renters on the site that year were new customers.
It makes sense. Traveling in a trailer or motorhome allowed many families to get out of the house and explore in a safe way after having been cooped up inside for a while. They could visit parks or beaches or landmarks without having to worry about exposing themselves to large, enclosed crowds at airports. They didn’t have to stay at hotels, or eat out at restaurants, or even stop to use public restrooms. RVs allowed people to stay completely contained within their “bubble” but still have new travel experiences.
People also chose RV travel because their lifestyles changed. Many adults had to work from home, and kids switched to online schooling, which meant that as long as there was a WiFi connection, they could log in from anywhere. A lot of families took that as an opportunity to hit the road, and “roadschooling” – homeschooling from the road – increased as well. It allowed families to do online work for part of the day, and spend the rest of it exploring new things together. Nothing makes schoolwork come to life quite like a hands-on ecology lesson at a natural park, or a visit to the Space Center, or a trip to an art museum to see paintings you’re studying in art class. RV camping has opened up a whole new world to students, and a lot of families realized they could bring a dimension to school lessons that they didn’t have access to before.
2021 Will Be Another Big Year For Motorhomes
After a banner year of RV travel in 2020, 2021 is expected to be another big year. Many people who tried RV camping in 2020 simply caught the bug and will plan another trip in 2021. Also, more people are planning to visit family and friends in 2021 as COVID restrictions loosen, but they still like the idea of having a clean, self-contained method of travel. In fact, a good percentage of people who intend to travel in 2021 say that minimizing their interactions with other travelers and the general public is important to them as they plan their trips.
A lot of people are still uncertain of their travel plans, and renting an RV or camping trailer can give them flexibility in where they choose to go. Also, people who purchased an RV in 2020, or those who realized they could work from the road, will continue to travel in 2021 as well.
It’s important to point out that while more people may hit the road in a rental motorhome or trailer, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. People planning an RV vacation may be worried about increased crowds, but the rise in popularity of RVing can also be a blessing. Many campgrounds have noticed and benefited from the surge and they have taken the opportunity to upgrade their services. You may find that a favorite spot has improved their landscaping, or added amenities. A lot of campgrounds have upgraded their WiFi, since they know that an increased number of people now work from their motorhomes. Many resorts and campgrounds also now give customers more control over things like which site they can choose, rather than randomly assigning them.
Now Is The Time To Book Your Spring and Summer Travel
With the increase in RV travel, many families are no longer bound by the traditional school year and don’t have to wait for the start of summer vacation to plan a trip. This means if you want to travel this spring or summer, now’s the time to start looking for an RV rental and planning your trip!
If you’re interested in a popular campground or resort, such as one at a well-visited national park or Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort in Florida, do not hesitate to book those now. Many travelers begin making reservations at national parks a year in advance. Other, less popular destinations will allow you more time and flexibility when you book them, but this is still the time to get started.
Tips For Booking Travel
As you plan your travel and camping, you’ll need to know a few things ahead of time. First, of course, you’ll need a destination. Do you want to head to the mountains, or the desert, or the beach? Is there one specific spot in mind, or are you flexible? What will your budget and time constraints allow?
1. Learn about your camper and the campground
You’ll need to know a few things about your RV before you book a campsite. Most importantly – you need to make sure your campsite can fit your rig. This shouldn’t be a problem with a Class B campervan or Class C camper, but if you plan to rent a large Class A motorcoach or travel trailer, you’ll want to know how long it is, and how wide it will be with any slideouts extended.
If you’re staying at a site with hookups, you’ll also need to know whether your RV requires 30 or 50 AMPs – if you’re renting an RV, the listing should tell you this information. You’ll want to know if the campsite has water hookups as well, and whether there is a sewer hookup or dump station available at the campground. If you’re nervous about backing up your RV or trailer, find out if the campground has pull-through sites, or just back-up sites.
Ask about after-hours check-ins if you plan to arrive later in the evening, and whether the campground has lights to help you set up camp if you have to do it at night.
Finally, you can check the campground website, or call to see if they have other amenities like a pool, camp store, barbeque pits, access to nearby attractions, and other perks. If you plan to work from your RV, make sure they have WiFi and that it will be reliable. If there is a ratings system or place for people to leave reviews and comments, read those to see if staying at the campground was a pleasant experience for most visitors.
2. Plan around your vehicle
If you are renting a larger motorhome or trailer, you’ll want to plan a trip with wide roads that are easy to navigate – no one wants to find themselves trying to maneuver a lengthy Class A motorhome on a mountain road with hairpin turns on what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation! If you’re using a larger vehicle, map out as many of the roads on your trip ahead of time as possible. Consider whether there are any bridges, tunnels, or parking garages with low overheads that you’ll need to avoid, or whether there are bridges you’d drive on that have weight restrictions.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll likely be driving an RV slower than you would a zippy little sports car, or even a minivan or SUV. Make sure you plan destinations each day of your road trip that are realistic and that allow time for setting up camp and relaxing after you arrive.
3. Plan out your budget
Traveling in an RV can cut down on expensive plane tickets and hotel costs, but it does come with its own set of expenses. You may need to pay for some or all of the following:
- RV rental fees, plus any added expenses (owners sometimes offer to set up an RV or trailer for renters for a fee, and there are other optional expenses)
- RV maintenance or repair costs, if you own your motorhome
- Fuel costs – keep in mind that RVs, campers, and trailers have lower gas mileage than most cars
- Increased highway toll costs for larger vehicles
- Campsite booking fees
- Hookup or dump station fees
- WiFi or cable fees (most campgrounds offer these services for free)
- Admission fees – if you’re visiting national parks, museums, amusement parks, or other attractions
- Food and supply costs, including fast food or restaurant costs
- Souvenir and other “fun item” costs
You may also have other expenses that are unique to your trip.
3. Avoid weekends or holidays
People may be traveling more during the off-season now, but weekends and holidays remain the most popular time to vacation. You’ll have more luck finding a campground if you can travel during the week, or at least on a non-holiday weekend. You may even find that campground prices are lower during the week, and there could be fewer people at the campground when you get there.
4. Be flexible
It helps to have several possibilities for campgrounds and road trips so that if your first choice is booked, you have a backup…and even a backup for your backup. The more options you leave open, the more likely you’ll find a spot for a great vacation.
Also, broaden your search. If you want to visit a national park that is booked, see if there is a nearby state park, or a private campground with spaces and then drive into the national park in the morning.
If you do have a campground you want to book that is already full, also ask about cancellation policies. Perhaps there is a waitlist, or the owner could notify you if someone has to cancel their booking.
5. Consider dry camping
If you can camp without needing hookups, you’ve now opened up many more possibilities for campgrounds and places to set up. Many national parks have lots of campsites available that don’t have hookups, so you could have a better chance of getting a spot at a park if you try one of those. Also, lesser known campgrounds at state parks or smaller parks may also not have as many improvements as more well-known spots. If you can dry camp, you can try one of those as well.
6. Try an up-and-coming spot
According to RVshare’s research, some of the most popular destinations and campgrounds for RV travelers are Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. It seems likely camping spots at those places will go quickly.
However, if you want to try something new and off the beaten path, there are a few cities that are beginning to show up on the radar as increasingly popular cities for travelers to pick up an RV to rent. Those include Houston, Phoenix, San Bernardino, and Oklahoma City. Some of those cities have exciting things to explore right in town. Some of them just happen to be a short road trip away from beautiful national and state parks or other attractions. Either way, they could be a good alternative to more popular campgrounds.
When you do begin planning your travel, you can rent a motorhome or trailer with an RV rental site like RVshare. It’s a great option for first-time RVers, because the site connects you with the actual owner of the vehicle. They can talk you through every step of how to operate the RV, answer any questions you have, and generally help you out as you navigate the motorhome or trailer. The company also has 24/7 roadside assistance and a 24-hour customer service line to answer questions or help travelers with any problems they may have while on a trip. It’s a great service for anyone who has never rented an RV before.
Editor’s note: Broadry features the latest product news from our members and may earn commission on sales of products featured, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions.