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RV rentals ride high as alternative to costly airplane tickets

Category: UNSPECIFIED
Source: The Frederick News-Post
Publish Date: Monday, July 14, 2008
Summary: Fuel prices and sky-high airfares have made Americans think twice about summer vacations, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. Many are moving from cramped seats in coach class into the driver's seats of RVs, said Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

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Ike Wilson

Jul. 11, 2008 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex) -- Ernest Tilmes has been RVing for 35 years and he's not about to change course.

"You have your own bed, your own toilet. It's like your house on wheels and you don't have to lug stuff in and out of hotels," said Tilmes, a Harford County resident having his RV serviced Wednesday at Endless Summer RV's in Frederick.

Tilmes and his wife, Bernice, were getting ready for a month-long vacation to Indiana.

Fuel prices and sky-high airfares have made Americans think twice about summer vacations, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. Many are moving from cramped seats in coach class into the driver's seats of RVs, said Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

Despite record-breaking fuel prices, typical RV trips remain the least expensive type of vacation, according to a new study comparing vacation costs.

The 2008 study by PKF Consulting, an international consulting firm with expertise in travel and tourism, found that typical family vacations are on average 27 to 61 percent less expensive than other vacations. Even factoring in RV ownership and fuel costs, the study showed that RV family vacations tend to be significantly less expensive than other types of vacations. The result is a spike in RV rentals, said Tom Beckley, owner of Endless Summer RV's in Frederick.

So many people are hitting the road in a home-on-wheels that the RV rental market is seeing double-digit increases in reservations, Beckley said.

"I think we've seen a gradual increase every year but this year we were booked up early in the year," Beckley said. "A lot of people are staying closer to home but they are still traveling."

Beckley said renting an RV for nine or 10 people is more economical than buying nine or 10 airplane tickets and paying for hotel and meals. The RV serves as lodgings, restaurant and transportation -- and for the kids, a fort-on-wheels, he said.

According to the RV association, families can expect to pay about $1,500 a week to rent an RV. In addition, based on a 700 mile trip -- the average for an RV rental -- at about 10 miles per gallon, fuel costs about $315, based on $4.50 a gallon. On average, a campground reservation for six nights will cost about $195.

RVs offer other draws, Coon said.

"When you figure in the airline hassle factor, including long security lines, delayed flights and lost luggage, it's easy to see why RV rentals are on the rise," Coon said.

Point of Rocks residents Rich and Lori Bartholomew are on their way to their annual Ocean City trip with their five kids but this time the couple will not be camping in a tent. They will be using their new trailer hooked to their van.

The family once paid $300 a night in a hotel during one vacation and Lori doesn't want her family subjected to hotel bed bugs -- factors that made camping a better deal, she said.

Rich said he hopes the investment in a trailer will pay off in the long run.

Another RV benefit is the ability to plan things along the way, Beckley said.

"After a couple of days at Disney World, for example, it's the same thing, even though Disney World is a nice place," he said.

RVs allow vacationers to set their own schedules and itineraries. If it's raining, RVers just turn the key and move to a sunnier spot. RVers can also enjoy the journey by pulling off at a scenic overlook to relax and have lunch, getting off the interstate to explore a forgotten byway and seeing an America that can't be experienced at 30,000 feet or from the sterility of a hotel room, Beckley said.

Beckley said it is unfortunate that many people think they can't afford an RV.

"It's sad that too many people think it's way too expensive but a pop-up can cost $100 a month, and you can buy tons of stuff under $10,000," Beckley said.

In addition, in some cases the government considers RVs a second home so interest on payments can be deducted from your taxes, Beckley said.

Today's RVs offer all the comforts of home: full bathrooms, complete kitchens, master bedroom suites, home-entertainment centers, basements and walls that slide out at the touch of a button to increase living space.

Campgrounds, with bookings up 5 percent from last summer, have kept up with the times, too. Beckley said travelers will still find trees, hiking trails, fishing ponds and ice cream socials. But people will also find Wi-Fi, gourmet coffee, cable TV and Internet-based reservation systems.

Newstex ID: KRTB-0064-26645701


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