For some, there’s just nothing better than setting out in search of adventure in the great outdoors. That’s why approximately 8.9 million households in the U.S. have some sort of recreational vehicle, one that combines transportation and temporary living quarters for travel, recreation and camping. Some of those vehicles are motorhomes and others are towable trailers, but they all evoke an image of family fun, affordable vacationing and connecting with nature. The RV bug has bitten these Ankeny families, and they’re happy to take their adventure-mobiles wherever the wind blows.
Tim Petersen grew up going camping, but it was a new experience for his wife, Stephanie. She admits she wasn’t sure about roughing it. Last summer the family, along with their three children — Hannah, 7, Ava, 5, and T.J., 3 — spent some time camping with a pop-up camper Stephanie decided they needed to upgrade for this season, so they ended up buying a fifth-wheel, and now it’s love for all members of the family.
“I really enjoy it because there’s less work involved getting everything ready,” she says. “Now there’s a microwave and stove and fridge, and it’s sort of like a little condo. You don’t have to worry about the weather as much. It’s not roughing it by any means at all.”
Their camper has a master suite, plus a bunkroom for the kids. There is a kitchen area, plus a living room and two restrooms. There’s even an outdoor kitchen, which makes preparing meals while enjoying nature a snap.
It also allows for more family time for the Petersens. Because Tim has to travel frequently for work, it has allowed them to go on more of his work trips and stay in the camper in whatever city he’s working in during that time. Sometimes Stephanie drives the mini-van, too, so she has transportation and can take the kids places during the day.
“One of the first trips we went to, we did Nebraska, so the kids and I did the zoo and children’s museum, and the campgrounds have beaches and playgrounds,” she says. “We stayed at Mahoney State Park. It’s like a resort, but it’s a campground. I envisioned sitting around in tents and making food over a fire and roughing it. This is definitely glamping, and that’s how Tim always did it.”
Recently the family spent a week in northeast Iowa at Yellow River State Forest, and they all loved it. They’ve been to Pike’s Peak State Park and have spent a week in Okoboji. Since that’s the area of the state where Tim grew up, he’s already booked four weeks there for next summer.
Stephanie has been pleasantly surprised by how fun it has been to have the set-up they do. After the expense of the actual camper itself, camping is an inexpensive vacation and a nice alternative to constant hotel room stays. A full hook-up at most state parks is $17-$19 a day, so a family vacation can be done for a week inexpensively.
The Petersens are looking forward to upcoming adventures, including some late summer trips. For spring break, they already know they’ll head down to a state park near Panama City, Florida for some fun at the beach. Stephanie says Tim would live in the camper if he could.
“He’d love to sell the house and live in the camper,” she says. “I’m not quite ready for something like that. But his parents did that. In February they sold their house and went on the road, and they just bought a small house in July. So they traveled for months and just stopped where they wanted.”
Her advice for anyone thinking about purchasing a camper or RV — don’t settle. Of course you have to stick to your budget, but hold out for something that is going to fit your needs and provide the experience that you want.
Hollie Smith and her husband, Jason, are also somewhat new to the world of camping. Hollie grew up going camping as a kid, but her husband didn’t. Neither did much camping as adults until they started visiting Hollie’s brother and his family during their time camping. They soon decided they wanted to give it a try.
The couple bought a motorhome last spring. It’s a 1986 Winnebago, which Hollie affectionately refers to as vintage. For the kids — Chloe, 6, and Cooper, 3 — it was love at first sight.
“They love it,” Hollie says. “We have so much fun. The kids love the campgrounds that have all sorts of activities and things to do. We just went to Twin Acres, which was a unique and fun place in Colo. They have some long-term campers there that can rent by the month or year, and there are seasonal campers, too. There’s a water slide into the lake, a petting zoo, and arts and crafts for the kids. They loved it.”
The Smiths have stuck close to home for now. Some places they’ve visited include Lake Anita, Timberline in Waukee and Walnut Woods. The kids especially loved Timberline, since it has a pool. They plan to hit Jester Park soon as well.
“When the kids get older, we’ll start traveling further but right now there’s so much to do right around here it’s hard to decide if we want to spend our time traveling or camping,” Hollie says. “Right now we’ll stick to Iowa. In the future it will be fun to go see some of the big landmarks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.”
Smith says she and her family love camping because it’s a great way to bond with each other, and it’s a great way to relax, unwind and get away.
“I like living in town, but it’s so easy and refreshing to go out in the country and unplug and relax and keep it easy and simple for the weekend,” Hollie says. “It goes back to a simpler time before all the electronics and noise, and you forget how good quiet can feel. It’s a great family activity.”
RV fun facts
There’s an RV for every taste and budget. Prices for new RVs are typically $5,000-$22,000 for folding camping trailers; $6,000-$55,000 for truck campers; $8,000-$95,000 for conventional travel trailers; $43,000-$200,000 for Type C motorhomes and $60,000-$500,000 for Type A motorhomes.
RVs are made by American companies employing American workers that are located in America. In fact, more than 60 percent of recreation vehicles are made in Elkhart Country, Indiana.
Today’s typical RV owner is 48 years old and married, with an annual household income of $62,000 — higher than the median for all households. RV owners are likely to own their homes and spend disposable income on traveling — an average of three weeks annually, RVIA research shows.
RV vacations are more affordable than travel by personal car, commercial airline or cruise ship, according to vacation cost-comparison studies by PKF Consulting. Even factoring in RV ownership costs, and considering resulting tax benefits, a family of four can spend up to 59 percent less when traveling by RV.
With more than 16,000 public and privately owned campgrounds nationwide, RVers are free to roam America’s roads for a weekend — or months at a time.
RV demand remains robust and the potential for future sales is bright, according to a University of Michigan study. Among U.S. households that have never owned an RV, more than one in seven expressed interest in purchasing an RV in the future.
Both parents and empty-nesters are strong potential RV buyers, and promising future prospects are emerging among younger, ethnically diverse consumers, reveals a Harris Interactive study commissioned by the Go RVing Coalition. Generation Xers exhibit interests in outdoor activities that are highly compatible with RVing, the study found.
Information courtesy the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association