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Gas and Jokes Aside, RV Travel is 'A Bargain'

Category: RV News
Source: USA Today
Publish Date: Thursday, May 4, 2006
Summary: Robin Williams stars in "RV," which puts RVs back in the spotlight and reminds consumers that they're a cost effective vacation alternative.

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By Laura Bly, USA TODAY One of the biggest laugh lines in RV, Hollywood's new comedy about a family bonding trip in a rented recreational vehicle, comes after Robin Williams' unimpressed teenage daughter spots Dad's gas-guzzling behemoth and announces: "Why don't we just stay home and set fire to an oil field?" It’s a gas: Cheryl Hines and RobinWilliams go off-road in the No. 1 film RV. By Joe Lederer, Columbia Pictures It's not quite the message the booming RV industry — which hopes RV will do for motor homes what Sideways did for California wine and tourism — wants to hear. Not to worry, the industry says: Though near-record fuel prices might prompt some RVers to hang up the keys this spring and summer, most still will be hitting the road. But in contrast to RV's scenario of a fast-paced trek between Southern California and Colorado, trips probably will be closer to home, with longer stays at each campground. "Most people think that as gas prices go up, RV use goes down," says Richard Coon, head of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. "We haven't seen that happen. Owners and renters "change their habits, but they don't stop going." In the association's April survey of 702 RV owners, two-thirds said they intended to use their RV more this summer than last, and nearly one-third planned to use it the same amount. What's more, 37% said the cost of fuel — a typical Class A motor home gets about 10 miles a gallon, and takes 100 gallons to fill up — would not affect their plans. With airfares and hotel bills increasing, RV travel is "still a bargain," says Bob Calderone of Cruise America, a Mesa, Ariz.-based RV rental company. For a typical family of four traveling 150 miles a day, higher RV gas costs amount to "the difference between hamburgers and cheeseburgers at McDonald's," he says. Advance reservations for the company are on par with last summer, which set a record for U.S. bookings. Bargain or no, a few clouds are beginning to gather at the Tuckaleechee Campground in Townsend, Tenn., just west of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Desk clerk Sharon Foster says the campground has fielded several cancellations from RV customers who are leery of gas prices. And though reservations for last year's Memorial Day weekend had been snapped up by early May, this time around, about one-third of holiday spaces are still available. But on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park at the Ennis RV Village in Ennis, Mont., owner Steve Kack remains cautiously optimistic. "Right now, my bookings are the same as they were last year, which was great," says Kack, who nearly doubled his campground's capacity this year to 90 spaces. "People are telling me, 'No matter what gas prices do, we're not going to let that thing sit in the driveway all summer.' We may have fewer people driving in, but hopefully those who come will stay longer."

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