Why More People Are Adopting the RV Lifestyle
By Helena Tavares Kennedy
Leisurely traveling whenever you want, wherever you want isn’t only for retirees. Many enjoy the freedom of traveling by recreational vehicle, commonly referred to as “RVing,” regardless of their stage in life.
In fact, the largest growing segment of RV owners are age 35 to 54, according to a national survey sponsored by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) (www.rvia.org). Lindsey Reines, owner of Reines RV Center on Balls Ford Road in Manassas, helped to explain this shift, noting that the ability to accommodate the entire family affordably can be a draw.
“We are having younger families buying RVs because with low interest rates they are affordable. Many of the units we sell have bunk beds in both motorhomes and travel trailers,” he said. “Travel Trailers that are well equipped and can sleep up to seven people are very popular in the price range between $13,000 and $19,000.”
RVIA’s 2011 study, which the University of Michigan conducted, also shows that RV ownership remains at high levels across all age groups, with a record 8.9 million households in the U.S. reporting RV ownership. RVIA announced that in February alone, RV manufacturers shipped nearly 31,000 RVs. An 11.5 percent increase over shipments during the same month last year, this was the largest February shipment in eight years. In 2013, the RV industry shipped more than 321,000 RVs throughout the country, a gain of 12.4 percent over shipments during 2012.
Why Are More People RVing?
There are a number of reasons for such RV industry growth. “I think more people are being turned off on flying, hotels and cruise ships. They are finding that RV travel is a great way to spend a weekend with the family or just to take off and see America,” said Reines.
RVIA, in an April report on its website, summed up some of the benefits of owning a RV:
–Provides quality family time. According to RVIA, RV owners in a Harris Interactive survey reported that RV travel enables them to experience nature and outdoor activities and enjoy quality family time. RVers reported stronger bonds with loved ones and benefits to children.
–Saves money. Citing a 2011 study prepared for RVIA by PKF Consulting USA, a member of an international travel and tourism consulting group, RVIA reported that a family of four traveling in a RV spends 23-to-59 percent less than for other types of vacations, even after factoring in ownership costs and fuel. Even when fuel prices rise, more than 80 percent of RV owners said their RV vacations cost less than other forms of travel.
–Accommodates a variety of uses. RV owners use their RVs to participate in leisure activities “as diverse as the people who own them,” according to RVIA. Tailgating, traveling with pets and engaging in outdoor sports are just some of the leisure activities RV owners enjoy in their recreational vehicles.
–Is tax deductible. For most RV buyers, interest on their loan is deductible as second home mortgage interest.
-Permits travel freedom. RV owners surveyed said that their RV makes it easier to take more frequent weekend getaways or mini-vacations that accommodate busy family schedules.
There’s also the comfort factor. “Always at home wherever we roam” is a RVer saying.
A Lifetime Interest
Area resident Norm Frizzle has been RVing since age 9. Frizzle, an engineer at the British multinational defense technology company QinetiQ and a volunteer with the Nokesville Volunteer Fire Department, grew up in Massachusetts. His family rented a camper at a lake in Maine for their summer vacations. After college, Frizzle bought a pop-up camper for summer vacations and eventually purchased a 31-foot pull-behind that sleeps eight. He said he uses the RV about six times a year to go anywhere from Canada to Florida. Frizzle said he prefers the pull-behind because once he’s arrived at his destination, he can unhook his car to sightsee.
“I think more people … are finding that RV travel is a great way to spend a weekend with the family or to just take off and see America.” — Lindsey Reines
However, “you don’t even need to own a camper to enjoy RVing,” Frizzle said. “You can rent one.” He explained that renting gives you a taste of the RV lifestyle, and if you really enjoy it, then you can look at buying a RV.
Local couple Yonnie and Tina Nania started camping in tents when their kids were young. Eventually they bought a conversion van and then a pop-up trailer and now have a 36-foot Class A motorhome that they have owned for four years, Yonnie Nania said. Their flexible work schedule allows them to travel for long weekends in their motorhome, which they use six or seven days a month to visit their children and grandkids, who live in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other areas.
“We were going to buy a cabin at Lake Anna, but a friend suggested we look at motorhomes instead, so we could go to different lakes all over the country instead of being tied to one lake all the time,” said Yonnie Nania. The couple spoke to Reines at Reines RV Center and researched a variety of motorhomes over two years. “[We] even went to the RV show at the Dulles Expo before we finally decided on which motorhome to buy,” he said.
Besides size, when buying a RV, “you should consider if you want a gas engine, which is less powerful, but fine for shorter trips and is less expensive, or if you want a diesel engine which is more expensive, but better for long trips, especially anywhere with hills or mountains like going out West,” said Nania.
Price is also a consideration. A smaller new motorhome starts at about $50,000, said Reines, adding that larger new gas models sell for about $80,000 to $115,000, and big diesel deluxe motorhomes start at about $160,000. To keep down costs, you can buy a used RV. About 40 percent of sales at Reines’ business are pre-owned recreational vehicles, he said.
Not Your Grandma’s RV
Early RVs in the 1970s sometimes weren’t more than a mattress in the back of a van. Today, they come with technology and luxuries you may not expect. Even the smaller and more affordable travel trailers, fifth-wheels and pop-up trailers contain basic furnishings, such as a bed and kitchen or dining area. Higher-end RVs are full of home conveniences, such as a flatscreen TV, air conditioning, a full bathroom and king-size bed. They may also sport an icemaker, microwave and side and rear cameras for easier navigation.
You can even maintain communication and online access on the road. “We have our mobile phones, Cathy has an iPad, and we use a Verizon Hotspot where needed on the road,” said Burnett “Chip” Deyerle, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, of the devices he and his wife, also retired, bring when RVing.
“We stay at RV parks which have solid and reliable Wi-Fi.KOA® campgrounds [found throughout the U.S. and Canada] do a consistent job in providing reliable Wi-Fi,” he said. “We have the option of having either satellite TV when traveling or we can receive TV signals off the air through our antenna system on the RV. We also select campgrounds that provide cable hookup to avoid the cost of having satellite TV.”
The Deyerles, former Bristow residents who recently moved to Colorado, travel to Palm Desert, Calif., each November through December, proof that RVing isn’t limited to summer. “It’s a long drive for us, but our planned stops along the way permit us to visit old friends and family,” said Chip Deyerle.
He noted that cooler seasons are “when campfires in the evenings add a special delight to camping and family experience. For some RVers, an electric space heater is all that is needed to spend a nominally warm night. Larger RVs have an on-board furnace fired by propane or a heat pump to keep things comfortable, even on a cold and windy Virginia night.”
RVers interviewed said that RVing is not just about going out on your own to travel, but about joining a community. “What I think is so amazing is how friendly everyone is, and [how] you are not restricted to just your local town or area for friends. You make friends with other RVers wherever you go,” said Nania, who referred to RVing as “living the dream.”
In the spirit of camaraderie, RVers meet to share food, music and stories. Nania belongs to Virginia Allegro Lovers, a chapter of the national Allegro Club, which is comprised of owners of RVs manufactured by Tiffin Motorhomes. Group members meet once a month in locations including Virginia Beach, Luray in the Shenandoah Valley and Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville, Nania said. The club often plans in advance, with members taking turns as “wagon master,” or meeting organizer.The gatherings usually include a potluck.
RVers may also tie hobbies into their travel. Nania said one member of Virginia Allegro Lovers visits lighthouses, and another has a goal to see every presidential library in the country.
RVing in Prince William
Prince William includes and is also near numerous popular destinations ideal for weekend RV trips. “Fridays, you hit traffic early and make your way over to Route 50 to the Eastern Shore for the beach, nice restaurants or just to hook up with fellow RVers for rest and relaxation,” said Deyerle.
“Other RVers from [Prince William] head out on Route 95 North or South to camping destinations in Maryland and southside Virginia,” he said. “Route 66 West and Interstate 81 offer prime camping spots in the Shenandoah Valley and western Pennsylvania.”
Of the local RVers making these weekend trips Deyerle said, “families find it to be an easy way to spend time together and see the area, especially state parks and historical locations. … Many [are] located a short drive in Virginia, West Virginia [and] Maryland.”
At 32 to 36 feet or more, RVs can be large, and some homeowners’ associations don’t permit parking RVs in driveways or yards. However, most RVers start with a travel trailer that can be pulled by a pickup truck or passenger car, said Deyerle.
Reines agreed. Also, many trailers are much lighter in weight than ones years ago, making it easier for smaller vehicles to tow them, he said. Additionally, “there are now smaller motorhomes on the market that are easy to drive and can be parked in a driveway,” Reines said.
Enjoying the Adventure
From young families to retirees visiting grandchildren to adventurous solo travelers, the options are nearly endless when your home is on wheels. Whatever the reason to RV, every vacation is an opportunity to create memories and savor experiences. For instance, no camping experience is complete without s’mores and a hot cup of coffee or hot cocoa on a chilly night, said Deyerle.
Also, don’t let technology replace gathering around a campfire and storytelling, he advised. “There are always stories to be told about past camping adventures, experiences, hikes and sights seen. It is also the time to make plans for the next day, or the next RV trip,” Deyerle said.
Before Setting out on Your RV Vacation:
- Plan your meals in advance and bring what you need with you, especially if you plan to travel to a remote area not conveniently located near a grocery store or restaurants.
- Stop your mail and newspaper. This is sound advice for every traveler, as a pile of papers or mail is a telltale sign that your home is vacant and could invite criminal activity. Also, make sure you pay all your bills before going on a long trip.
- Put yourself in the right RV. Whether you own or rent, RVs can vary greatly, from small conversion vans and pop-up trailers to full-size motorhomes complete with all your usual home conveniences.
Visit GoRVing.com for more information about the different options. The site also includes a video on how to get started RVing. Go RVing® is a Reston-based coalition of RV-related businesses and associations.
Marketing and communications consultant Helena Tavares Kennedy has resided in Manassas for 13 years. She enjoys freelance writing and dreaming about a RV vacation with her husband and two children. She can be reached at [email protected] or visit her blog, LivingGreenDayByDay.com.