One of the most exciting trends in RV ownership over the past few years has been the increase in families with young children. According to the recent Go RVing RV Owner Demographic Profile, these owners are under 45 years old and have children living at home who are, in many cases, driving their parents’ vacation schedules, transportation modes, and destinations.
RVing among young families is not new, of course; 57% of current owners in this demographic grew up with RVs. But the increase the industry is seeing now – 27% of all current owners are young families – seems likely to be driven by changes in technology that allow these primarily college-educated, affluent, and full-time employees to work remote. The closure of primary and secondary schools due to COVID-19 also made remote education a possibility for their children over the past year.
What motivates them to adopt the RV life is more timeless, according to the study. Working parents of young children lead busy lives and “family time” is often limited to quick conversations in the car on the way to soccer practices and orthodontist appointments. Unwinding and relaxing in areas of natural beauty, where they can spend “quality time” with their families, is one of their top reasons for purchasing RVs.
“Getting away in our RV provides us all with time to connect and be together without rushing around like we do at home in the ‘real world,’” says Lance Jeffery, the head of a Los Angeles production company, husband of a jewelry entrepreneur and father of two girls, age seven and eleven. “We love to drive up the coast to northern California and to see friends along the way. But we also enjoy RVing locally in the Malibu area. We’ll just go on a weekend and have a sleepover. It’s like a mini vacation.”
“Quantity time” with the family is a little harder to come by, and that can pose a problem when planning vacations. Summer, when school is out, is by far, the most popular time for them to travel, although many plan spring break vacations, as well. The median number of days they spend travelling in their RVs is 19 per year, three days less than other owners.
“Finding time to get away around the kids' busy schedules is a challenge,” said Diana Hansen, a mother of three, who writes a camping blog called Let's Camp S'more. “Not being able to plan ahead makes finding a weekend site during the summer more difficult. We have also faced difficulty finding spots in popular places, like national parks, even with trying to find an opening when the reservation system opens up.”
National parks, state parks, recreation areas, and private campgrounds are where young families, like all RV consumers, tend to gather (although young families are drawn to festivals more often). Also, like other market segments, they like to stay on the move, driving from site to site throughout their vacations.
“My kids love going to new places every few days so we can explore a new area,” said Jeffery. “They also love the RV parks, as most of them cater to kids these days and have extra special pools and even water parks.”
Adventure is one of the biggest allures of RV travel for young families and, not surprisingly, they are found to enjoy physical activities more than other demographics, like mountain/rock climbing, motorsports (ATV, dirt bikes, motorcycles), water activities, hiking, and mountain biking. This explains why they are more likely to bring bikes, ATVs, boats, and kayaks along on their trips. As devotees of West Coast beaches, the Jeffery family packs beach chairs, surfboards, and scooters for riding around the RV parks.
“Our main motivation is to have a ‘relaxing adventure’ together as a family,” he said.
“We also travel primarily for adventure and activity,” echoed Hansen. “We are very active people, and we often hike and bike while camping, so we find ourselves falling into bed exhausted each night. We are so glad to have our own RV so our beds are the same each night.”
“We also find peace in watching sunsets, relaxing in a hammock, or being next to a body of water,” she added. “We are able to achieve both in our RV travels.
But outdoorsy and active doesn’t mean that they’ve left their technical devices at home. More than other demographics, young families report traveling with laptops, iPads and tablets, video game consoles, home hubs and smart phones, and streaming devices. The amount of time spent on any of them – by parents or children – is often dictated by the quality of Wi-Fi services at the RV campgrounds.
While personal technical devices are something young families are comfortable with, they seem to find the tasks and technology involved in RV ownership to be more challenging than older demographics reported.
“We had rented an RV a few times and that was an important stepping stone as we learned how to use the electronics and generators, and how to deal with the water/sewage tanks,” said Jeffrey. “It can all be a little overwhelming, so I am happy we had the prior experience renting.”
Jeffery and his wife purchased and fixed up a used RV, unlike 73% of other young family owners who purchased new units. The most popular types among this demographic are fifth wheels, conventional travel trailers (like the Jefferys’ Airstream), and expandable travel trailers (like the Hansens’ pop-up).
Both families, like most of their RVing peers, are committed to the RVing lifestyle. In fact, a whopping 87% of current young family owners indicate that they plan to purchase another RV. Most have and will purchase their RVs in cash, while the rest have and will borrow from private or dealership-arranged financial institutions. 45% plan to purchase from an RV dealership, while private sellers and manufactures will each be the source for 23% of the buyers.
The Consumer Demographic Profile study suggests the industry is looking at a long runway of RV sales and ownership among today’s young families. These are backed up by the sentiments of current young family owners:
“We always loved camping and the outdoors,” said Jeffery. “We want our girls to have the same fun and memorable experiences.”