You’re yearning to get away for spring break this year, but you’re not ready to hop on a plane. You need a change of scenery, as long as the scenery isn’t full of other people. And you’d like to travel in a COVID-responsible manner. Sound familiar?
If that’s you, consider booking an RV vacation this spring break.
It won’t take you further than driving distance, yet it can lead you to a part of the country you maybe haven’t explored before. You’ll inhale fresh air, and you’ll feast on campfire popcorn and barbecue.
Sure, spring break 2021 won’t entail partying with 1,000 of your closest friends, but it doesn’t have to be gone completely. Here are eight reasons why an RV is your new spring break BFF:
1. Packing for a trip is more manageable
If you haven’t traveled in a year, then there’s a good chance you’ve lost the muscle memory of filling your suitcase — folding clothes tightly, remembering all the random toiletries, and accepting that you don’t need to pack those extra shoes that you might wear but that will certainly take up space.
Maybe the past year at home has gotten you addicted to your own coffee, or you can’t possibly fall asleep without your weighted blanket anymore. With an RV, you can pack things that you would never even think to take on a plane.
2. You can bring your furry best friend along
If you adopted a pet during the pandemic, you reaped many benefits while also introducing one conundrum: How do you travel if you don’t want to leave Bella in dog boarding?
“We’ve all seen the headlines of people adopting COVID dogs and cats, and now new pet owners are actively seeking travel options that allow them to take their pets along with them,” says Joel Holland, CEO of Harvest Hosts, which is a network of nontraditional RV campsites, such as at wineries and farms.
Throw in the fact that airlines have cracked down on emotional support animals, and an RV is increasingly becoming the best way to travel with your furry best friend. Holland said 90% of Harvest Hosts locations are pet-friendly (the site has a filter to search for them).
If you own your RV, here’s an idea that’s really the cat’s meow: built-in pet modifications. Holland said he’s seen pet crates built under seats and in corners, litter boxes hidden away in shelves, and food bowls built into walls.
3. You’ll get to spend time in nature
There’s a good chance that your 2020 entailed more screen time and less vitamin D time.
“Getting outside is more important than ever because it is a great source of healing, both physically and mentally,” says Alyssa Ravasio, CEO of Hipcamp, a site that allows you to book RV space at traditional campgrounds and unique spaces like blueberry farms. “Remote locations allow people to have time to themselves to clear their minds, create adventurous experiences and reconnect with the outdoors.”
Since RV’s don’t exactly have a lot of room to stretch out, you’ll likely not spend a ton of time in the RV itself. Instead, you might dine at picnic tables amidst the trees and spend time roaming beaches and hiking trails.
4. You can explore more remote places
Not only will you be in nature — but you’ll have access to more remote places. With an RV, you can likely explore far-off places inaccessible by airplane, and you’re not limited by hotel availability.
That national park you’ve been eying might be several hours from the nearest airport or only have a few (and often booked up) hotels nearby. With an RV, you don’t need a hotel or airport to enjoy your spring break getaway.
5. RVs can often be cheaper than traditional travel
Given so many variables like gas prices, the class of hotel, whether you need one hotel room or multiple, the type of entertainment (for example, expensive events versus hiking), and what you’ll eat, it’s impossible to say whether an RV is always cheaper than more traditional travel.
But Gigi Stetler, CEO of Florida-based RV Sales of Broward, says the net costs typically work out to be slightly lower with an RV vacation.
“Renting an RV and paying for a campsite often turns out to be the same cost as mid-price hotels,” Stetler says. “But, you save on plane fares and rental cars, and you can cook in your RV rather than dining out.”
6. There are fewer reservations and cancellation policies to worry about
Cruise line cancellation policies are incredibly rough sailing, and while airline cancellation policies have improved, they’re not ideal as your money often gets tied up in travel credits. Travelers are increasingly finding mandatory reservations at restaurants and theme parks.
Yet, 75% of travelers said they want flexible booking options, and 72% plan to book last-minute, according to data collected by STR, a research firm, and RVshare, a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace.
Sure, you’ll still need to reserve an RV in advance if you don’t own one, and you may also need to book campground space. Still, you’re generally looking at less commitment than traditional travel.
RVshare has filters for RVs that are instantly bookable or that have less-strict cancellation policies. RVshare CEO Jon Gray says that the average reservation is made about 30 days in advance of the trip.
Like most vacation rental cancellation policies, RVshare policies are set by the owner. But even with the strictest policies, customers are typically entitled to a full refund for cancellations made at least 30 days before the rental start date. Plus, RV trips are unlikely to warrant paying for additional travel insurance policies.
7. A more flexible travel schedule is possible
RV campground program Harvest Hosts doesn’t have a reservations system. Since the membership program connects RV campers with nontraditional campsites like wineries, campers simply need permission to arrive, and day-of requests are encouraged. Harvest Hosts recommends not calling hosts any more than two weeks in advance.
In general, RVs provide flexibility to move on your own terms. You can depart as soon as that last video call is over, and you’re not tied to a flight departure time. You can stay however long you want since you control your transportation and sleeping arrangements.
Jen Young, co-founder and CMO of RV rental site Outdoorsy, said she’s increasingly seeing customers book longer trips — and extending ones they’re already on.
“It’s usually when they discover amazing stops they want to spend more time at or didn’t get to visit,” she says.
Assuming the RV hasn’t already been rented out, Young said it’s fairly easy to extend trips booked on Outdoorsy, which operates as a type of Airbnb for RVs.
“If a trip extension or curtail comes up, we recommend travelers reach out and message the owner,” she says. “If the RV hasn’t been booked already for another trip and it’s available for extra nights, the vehicle owner can help get the reservation dates extended.”
8. You can cook your own food
Stovetop s’mores just aren’t the same as the real deal. But the benefits of RV dining extend beyond that smoky s’more flavor you only get from that ever-so-slightly charred marshmallow.
Perhaps restaurants are still closed in the area, or you’re not comfortable dining out. RV camping is a great opportunity to fire up the campground barbecue or pack the multicooker and make your own food. It’s likely healthier and cheaper than dining out anyway, and probably a more pandemic-friendly choice, too. And it still leaves open the option of ordering takeout food as you travel through various cities.
The bottom line
An RV can certainly be your best friend this spring break, but you’re not the only one trying to cozy up to the cool new kid on the block. RVshare said it has already experienced a 114% increase in bookings for spring break this year versus last — and it expects that number to continue to grow as spring break gets closer.
There are oodles of reasons why RVs have become the perfect socially distant vacation idea — but you’ll want to book now to experience it for spring break 2021.
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Sally French writes for NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @SAFmedia.