With nearly 25 million Americans hitting the road in recreational vehicles in 2019, it is no wonder that RV sales are the highest ever. As young people and diverse populations change their minds about how they go about vacationing, an industry has bloomed in massive proportions. Another 41% percent say they are considering buying another recreational vehicle within the next year.

Recreational vehicles are designed just like turtles. Imagine a transportable home right behind you, combining an all-in-one unit for transportation and living quarters. We have spent over 25 years traveling with our turtle, utilizing every type of recreational vehicle there is except a folding camping trailer called a “pop-up.” I just attended my second RV show this past weekend as we are once again upgrading, as over 50% of RV owners do. Dealers try to get you to buy or order from the showcase floor, so it makes more room for the next years’ models on their lots. I do not recommend purchasing an RV this way, but apparently, that is what most are doing these days.

What did not surprise me was the higher prices of the rigs than years before, but was the number of families with young children choosing to purchase the turtle-style of living. They state it is a much more cost-effective way to travel (79%), and (53%) of those users report that they can spend more time with their family. Is this the turn around that our society so desperately needs to bring about a renewed focus on the family?

Over half of the enthusiasts agree that this turtle-style of adventure costs them less even when fuel prices are higher and gives them more flexibility to take mini-vacations. Those same users say that it is an opportunity to spend more time with family. Of those users, 47% state they embark on these trips to escape the stress and pressure of everyday living.

There are two main categories of RVs: motorhomes, either a Class A, B, or C, and “towables” or what residents in the South call pull-behinds. The letters denote the design type of the vehicle and the price range. The large units you see cruising down the road resembling a greyhound bus can cost anywhere from $150,000 to $600,000. Approximately ten million households now own an RV. The typical RV owner is 48 years of age. Then there is the consideration of what type of sojourner you are or want to be: part-time or full-time. That is different now too. Back in the day, transitory recreation was only for the wealthy and the retired.

As our last child prepares for graduation, we have started shopping for an updated recreational vehicle. RVs were functional and simplistic “back in the day,” making the selection now much more complicated. The only option for sleeping then was to pull out a couch bed or climb a ladder into the top bunk. We used a small faucet to get water into our camper by pushing a throttle like device back and forth, pumping the liquid gold into our trailer. Lighting the gas stove required only a match, no buttons. There was no refrigerator, just a box to place your block of ice in, and sometimes no toilet. Simplistic living at a campground, back in the day, did not include hydraulic jacks, electric awnings, outdoor kitchens, automatic levelers, and an outside television. Whatever happened to the camp stove and lanterns? Now RVs are more accessible than ever in pricing, design and abundance.

Our decision to upgrade is difficult. We have narrowed it down to two options. There are many pros and cons to both the fifth-wheel idea and the motorhome. Our biggest concern is that RVs are much broader and longer now accommodating the extra rooms, fireplaces, pantry closets, and washer/dryer hook-ups. Campsites are not built for such enormous equipment, therefore prohibiting overnight stays in some places. RV parks owners and federal campgrounds have not upgraded camping pads to keep up with the technology of this age of vacationists.

We do need some quiet and separate space from our son since we will be on our journey for quite a while. This space, hard to find in shorter units, is critical if I am to remain sane. Shopping for RV’s has become very complicated as manufacturers change the designs and the letters which denote the floorplan for each year. Looking for advertisements selling used fifth-wheels is easy. But try and find the one you want without those same letters and numbers of the older years, it is almost impossible. You must open each floorplan from the manufacturer’s website and then go back into RV Trader again. I am sure RV dealerships do this on purpose. That strategy should send more buyers to their lots. The RV industry is big business.

We resemble our “terrapin,” friends in many ways. We are migratory in our getaways, continually moving forward up steep terrain, sometimes crossing the Rockies over seven times, with our hard shelled-home attached. We also have a place to hide from our boisterous son at the end of the day, often sounding more like local wildlife. We purchased a cab-over camper immediately upon our return from the honeymoon; adding a remembrance plate to our rig, naming it “our turtle.” It was transported over thousands of miles, but somehow mysteriously disappeared somewhere in North Dakota.

So for many reasons, I associate our journeys with a turtle. When you consider the purchase of your holidaymaker, think about how traveling with your turtle could change everything in your life for the better. Oh, and good luck with keeping up with all the new RV designs, letters, numbers, and features; you’ll need a binder and probably a file cabinet!

Roman Betty Schaaf is a volunteer, a writer, a sojourner and a self-described wellness addict. Betty Schaaf’s email is bettyannschaaf@gmail.com.

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