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Taking the Kids: Tips for the first time RVers this fall

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Rebecca Dunavant has never been a big camping fan, but that was before COVID-19. The Denver mom of three active boys aged 12, 8, and 5 and her husband, Chad, figured there was no better time to embark on an epic road trip — nine weeks and 10,000 miles in a gargantuan 30-foot RV they bought to explore the country and visit family — from Denver to Seattle to Ohio and Maine, working remotely.

Certainly, Dunavant says to those considering an RV trip for the first time, there was a big learning curve. For one thing, “it’s like driving a truck,” she said.

And there were plenty of missteps — like the time early in the trip when the floor flooded, they ran into bad weather and endured too-long drives. “It’s 75 percent awesome and 25 percent yelling at everyone,” she said laughing when I met the family hiking in Glacier National Park.

The boys, she acknowledged, as adorable as they are, “can drive me nuts.” But now looking back, Dunavant says, “It was a really great trip and having the RV made the camping delightful … unplugging for the most part, being together and seeing things we wouldn’t normally see.”

For these reasons, plus the desire to get outside safely with your own bathroom and kitchen, many Americans are turning to RVing. Forty-six million Americans will go RV camping this year, up from 22 million in 2018, reports the RV Industry Association, including a growing number of young families.

The RV rental site Outdoorsy reports rentals are up 300 percent while a third of leisure travelers who have never camped want to try RVing, a Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Covid-19 survey reported.

 

Now, with more than half of the country’s children starting school remotely and parents continuing to work from home, families are looking to take RV trips this fall — a time traditionally when seniors and empty-nesters took to the road. The Dunavants, for their part, are considering a fall trip, perhaps to Yellowstone.

RVshare, the first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, predicts high demand for RVs through the fall as a result. Three out of four surveyed (74 percent) said they want to avoid public restrooms and 62 percent want to avoid restaurants when traveling, while more than half said they even would consider renting an RV to spend time close to their family while social distancing.

We met many first-time RVers on our 2,800-mile road trip through four western states earlier this summer and on an RV trip last fall. One of the families drove their rental RV from the East Coast to Montana and parked it for a week while they stayed at Flathead Lake Ranch with friends.

The kids we met certainly were fans. “Almost every night we would eat s’mores with peanut butter cups as the chocolate part!,” said Nate Dunavant, 12.

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