Fill ’er up? RVing going strong among inflation-weary summer travelers
Many vacationers prefer an RV over the rising costs of airfare and hotels, despite the record-high gas prices of late.
As inflation continues to climb, more people are turning to RVs as a way to save money to and from their vacation destinations.
After two grueling years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are ready to hit the road again, escaping for summer vacations. Experts warn the Fourth of July holiday weekend will likely be the busiest travel weekend of the year so far, despite record-high gas prices.
However, as inflation continues to drive up the prices for just about everything, including air travel and hotels, many Americans are turning to RVs to save money on their summer trips.
Adobe Analytics reports that the price for domestic plane tickets has risen nearly 50% since the beginning of the year. And, according to a report from NPR, the fuel-price hikes, airline staffing shortages and bad weather combined are poised to create chaos at many airports across the country this summer.
RV camper by the coast. (Outdoorsy)
"Travel is really tricky in general this summer," Claire Walsh, director of brand marketing at Outdoorsy, an RV rental marketplace, told AccuWeather National Reporter Emmy Victor in an interview. "We're seeing flights that are canceled. We're seeing hotels that are skyrocketing [in price]."
In an effort to avoid the headache of flying and the overpriced hotels, many people are turning to "near-cations," or a vacation to a destination relatively close to one's home, Jennifer Young, the co-founder of Outdoorsy, told CNN Business.
"We've really only seen a five-dollar increase on our platform from last year to this year. That's less than 1% inflation," Walsh explained, "where hotels and flights are seeing 20, 40 percent, things like that."
On these near-cations, families are staying in their RVs, which can provide transportation and sleeping quarters as well as a kitchen for families to use while on their trip. This helps many families manage their summer vacation costs.
According to Southeast Financial, the average gas-fueled RV is equipped with an 80-gallon fuel tank, which can accrue a hefty bill at the pump. But even with the national average for a gallon of gas topping at $4.86 as of June 30 -- over a dollar more than last year's national average of $3.09 at this time -- families who opt to take a vacation or near-cation with an RV will still save money in the long run, experts noted.
Trucks and cars drive by a Pilot Travel Center sign displaying fuel prices in Bath, New York, on June 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
"An RV vacation is still pretty affordable. We're seeing that for a family of four, seven-day vacation all in with food costs, RV rental, add-on and activities and more -- you're still looking at about $2,400," said Walsh. "Where if you were going to Disney or an all-inclusive vacation, that would be about eight or nine thousand dollars, having to pay for all those meals and activities."
According to a 2018 comprehensive study conducted by CBRE Hotel Advisory Group, gas prices would have to increase to more than $13 per gallon for an RV vacation to lose its economic advantage over vacations requiring other modes of transportation.
Also, unlike air travel, where inclement weather can cause cancellations and delays, the weather is less of an issue for RV travel. Armed with instant weather information from apps like AccuWeather or others, RVers can now easily plan ahead or pull over as needed if road conditions take a turn for the worse.
Campervan on a tree-lined road. (Outdoorsy)
While operating such a large vehicle can be intimidating to some, Walsh said that RVs are easy to drive and only require a standard driver's license to operate.
"There are a lot of misconceptions about driving an RV. Truly, they are actually easy to drive," Walsh said. "If you've ever driven a U-Haul or even a larger van, that's what you're going to be seeing with a lot of RVs on our platform."
Since the start of the pandemic, RV popularity has boomed because it provided a safe way for people to travel while social distancing. With the continued demand, production of RVs in North America hit an all-time high in 2021, according to the RV Industry Association, and 2022 is expected to come in second.
Additional reporting by National Reporter Emmy Victor.
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