The RV industry expects to see 10 million recreational vehicles on the road this year, driven in part by millennials
Millennial travelers are looking for a wheely good time.
Recreational vehicle travel isn’t just for retirees touring the country in the comfort of their own motorhomes anymore. More millennials are being drawn to RVs, and these younger travelers are driving a resurgence in this old-school form of transportation even as tiny homes are gaining popularity, polished aluminum Airstream trailers are being hailed as trendy and millennials are seeking jobs where they can work remotely.
Kaaron Ryan, 34, and her fiance Brian Kehoe, 44, set out as girlfriend and boyfriend (along with their cat Jake) on what they expected to be a three-month cross-country road trip in February, in a 24-foot, 1996 Coachmen RV that they purchased for less than $15,000. And nearly six months later, they’re engaged and still trucking. And they’ve managed to make the most of their time and money by starting a company between stops at the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park and Nashville honky tonks.
“We have a custom printing business called Magnets for Marketing, and we can do it from anywhere we’re connected,” Kehoe told Moneyish from a lodge in Alabama. And Ryan credits Thousand Trails, the $500 camping membership pass they were gifted from their RV dealer, which lets them park in various camping locations across the nation. “It’s really helped us draw out the length of our trip,” she told Moneyish. The former New Yorkers expect to return to their North Carolina home in October.
They’ve got company on the road. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association has forecasted a record-breaking 10 million RVs are hitting the road this year, and it’s expecting 504,599 wholesale RV shipments, marking the eighth consecutive year of RV growth since the recession. And 51% of millennials said they planned to camp more in a 2017 survey, making RVs a viable option for those seeking an affordable way to travel.
The cost of an RV ranges from $10,000 to $300,000 depending on the style and features, according to CamperReport. And that can be a good investment, as using an RV can save the average family more than $2,000 per week while on vacation by alleviating the need for a hotel room, dining out and renting a car, the RV rental company Cruise America reports.
And, the financial footprint of traveling in a RV can be easier to swallow than a five-star trip. A new study conducted by CBRE Hotels Advisory Group determined that RV vacations are by far the most economical, even when factoring in the cost of fuel. For a travel party of four, RVs provide cost savings of 21% to 64%, depending on the type of RV and type of vacation.
Plus, traveling with their own accommodations allows RV owners to eat healthier on the road, sleep in their own beds and use their own bathroom facilities, instead of having to seek out fast food, hotels and rest stops on the road, according to a Harris Interactive Survey. And RVs owners tend to travel more than those who don’t have them — more than 90% of them take three or more mini-vacations per year. With only 23% of Americans taking all of their allotted vacation time off, traveling via RV can make it a little easier to escape.
Joel Holland, owner and CEO of Harvest Hosts, a network of wineries, breweries and organic farms, told Moneyish, “Millennials are realizing that happiness doesn’t come from fancy cars and nice watches, but rather from experiences shared with others.” He suggests that many realize that RVing is the perfect way to experience the freedom of the open road with many of the comforts of home.
Vacationers are also more comfortable with camping if they can stay connected. Forty-three percent of millennials say their access to technology allows them to spend more time camping, according to the 2017 North American Camping Survey conducted by Kampgrounds of America. So RVs outfitted with power and wifi provide 20- and 30-somethings with easy access to their email and social media accounts. “RVs today provide the glamping experience that millennials crave; the ability to explore interesting places while retiring to a camper complete with a bathroom, shower, stove, fridge and flat screen TV,” Holland said. And, he said July was the highest month in the company’s history for both traffic and new member sign-ups. “August is also off to a strong start to break additional records,” said Holland.
That’s why Nicholas S., 31, who declined to provide his last name, rents an RV for about $5,000 every year to get to and from the Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert from Venice, Calif. He and his dad spent seven days living in the 31-foot Ford during the fest last year. “Normally for that time frame an RV costs about $1,100, but for that week it’s about $5,000,” he said, because “they have to power clean the outside and inside of those things three times over,” due to the desert grit. So paying $5,000 to rent an RV to have a place to seek solitude and shower, instead of choking on dust while squatting in a tent, is totally worth it.
For others, traveling via RV provides a change from the traditional planes and trains methods of transportation. Real estate agent Dawn Bramlette, 37, told Moneyish that her family of four, including 3-year-old twins, has decided to embark on their first ever RV trip this summer. “We’re going to Montana for a family reunion, so it was either a tent or a camper, and a camper is roughing it enough for me,” she said. She said an RV much cheaper compared to a hotel, and it’s a fun experience for her kids.
But that’s not all. Some people are running businesses out of kitschy airstream trailers or old Volkswagen vans, like Spencer Falls, the 29-year-old behind The Unlikely Florist, a mobile pop-up flower shop with more than 20,000 Instagram followers. Falls attributes most of his success to his refurbished 1980 VW van. “Not only do my customers love everything about the van, but when you’re starting a business … you’re essentially finding a spot that you think is in an area that’s going to blow up, or you settle on a place because that’s where the business is,” he said. “But with a mobile business you can say, ‘I think it’s happening here today,’ and if it doesn’t work or you don’t sell out of flowers, you can go to a different location tomorrow, and it’s no skin off your nose.’”
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