The travel industry as a whole has taken a major hit due to the COVID-19 crisis. To limit the spread of the coronavirus, the pandemic prompted almost every country across the globe to introduce restrictions on travel. The World Tourism Organization revealed in an April 2020 research report that the COVID-19 outbreak has caused the most severe international travel restrictions in modern history. The International Air Transport Association also reported in April that passenger revenue was estimated to plunge by $314 billion, or 55 percent as compared to 2019.
Suddenly in March 2020, the idea of crowded airports and planes jam-packed with passengers, the risk of catching the coronavirus and mandated travel bans, made vacationing impossible for many travelers. With the stay-at-home mandates and even campground reservations put on hold, heading out on an RV road trip was put on hold for many Americans.
But after months spent at home indoors, many Americans are now traveling domestically (and to some international destinations) – and RVs have become one of the top methods to visit various destinations in the United States.
Quick Stats: Travel Industry Hit by COVID-19
- The world’s tourism sector could lose at least $1.2 trillion due to the pandemic
- Airline passenger revenue was estimated to plunge 55 percent as compared to 2019
- Research by Ipso found that 46 million Americans are planning an RV trip in the next 12 months
Just before the official start of summer in June, the New York Times noted that RV rental companies were reporting “huge increases in summer bookings,” after the industry virtually shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions. In May, the popular retro trailer brand Airstream saw an 11 percent increase in sales over 2019, while the RV sharing site RVshare told the publication that the number of days booked via its site had more than doubled year-to-date. Its chief executive, Jon Gray noted that’s because when renting an RV, you get the hotel, rental car, direct access to your destinations, and often a private bathroom too, making it an ideal option for travel while social distancing during the pandemic. That sentiment was echoed by North Carolina resident John Lewton who told his local ABC news station his family chose an RV for their road trip as they wouldn’t have to utilize public bathrooms or go out to eat, and that it provides “kind of a safe space.”
While it may feel like it at times, the coronavirus pandemic won’t last forever. And for the sake of our mental health and well-being, we all need to look forward to a brighter future. The full rush back to airports may take some more time, but many will be turning to RV travel in order to escape into nature, spending time outdoors in a way that’s easy to social distance and avoid large groups.
If you’re thinking about planning your own summer or fall RV road trip, these tips will help ensure that it’s a success.
Determine the Type of RV You Need
Before looking into rentals, you’ll want to know more about the types available to determine which RV is best for your particular situation, including the destination(s) you plan to travel to and your family size. Class A motor homes are the largest kind of recreational vehicle, weighing up to 30,000 pounds and ranging from 30 to 40 feet in length. They can usually sleep up to eight and include everything you need, but getting such a large, heavy vehicle means that you’ll pay a lot more for fuel and you may have difficulty maneuvering it. Usually a Class B RV will be just fine, combining the comforts of one of those bigger RVs into a more compact, fuel-efficient and easier-to-drive vehicle. If you only need room for four, you’ll be able save on fuel costs and enjoy better maneuverability.
Compare RV Rental Centers
Once you know the type of RV you need, begin comparing RV rental companies. There are many different options, with some of the most popular being Cruise America and Go RVing, which will connect you to rental centers across North America that offer a range of vehicle sizes. There are also peer-to-peer booking sites like Outdoorsy and RVshare, which offer everything from popup trailers to large motor homes.
Most rental companies charge by the day. Go RV Rentals conducted a recent study that found the average daily rate was $165 for a camper or RV, with the daily average rate for the largest, a Class A motorhome at $252. Some charge an additional fee for every mile traveled. In addition to the daily rate you’ll pay, when considering your budget, it’s also important to take into account other factors like food, campground fees, the cost of fuel and insurance There are extra amenities you may want too, which are all charged a separate fee, such as propane, a generator, kitchen items and linens. It’s usually cheaper to get those items when renting your RV (or bringing your own) than to wait and buy them at an RV park or campground store. Also, an RV that has a bathroom is an even more important feature during the pandemic to avoid having to use public facilities. You’ll also want to be sure that the entire vehicle has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before you take possession of it.
Do a Test Drive
If you’ve never driven an RV before, don’t sign that dotted line until you feel comfortable driving it. You can test drive RVs at a dealership, and many RV rental locations will allow you to do that as well. The rental companies will typically show you the ins and outs of the vehicle with a quick RV training session too.
RV Travel Insurance
When renting an RV, the company will almost always provide some kind of liability insurance along with roadside assistance in case you break down, but you’ll still need RV rental insurance coverage by either purchasing it through the rental company, through a third party or a temporary binder via your current provider. Something many renters don’t think about however, is travel insurance. You’ll want this coverage that can be found by comparison options on sites like TravelInsurance.com, for pre-paid and non-refundable trip costs like the RV rental itself, campground fees and more.
RV travel insurance can protect you from costly financial losses that result from trip interruption or an unexpected trip cancellation – and these days, with everything changing at a moment’s notice due to the pandemic, that’s more important than ever. If you have to cancel due to a covered reason, your policy will pay 100 percent of the prepaid, non-refundable costs. You’ll get assurance that if you have a medical emergency, you and your travel companions will be able to get proper care. It will also relieve the financial pain of losing any prepaid investments for your trip if someone becomes ill or injured out on the road, or if something happens before your trip. For example, your spouse gets the flu or starts to develop coronavirus symptoms right before you’re supposed to leave, your RV rental was prepaid and campground reservations are non-refundable, you can get that money back, provided you have RV travel insurance that offers that as a covered reason.
Although there are multiple options for RV travel insurance, Cancel for Any Reason protection is the most comprehensive, allowing you to cancel your trip at least two days prior to the departure date for literally any reason, with some conditions. No matter which policy you purchase, be sure to read the fine print so that you know what will be covered and what won’t.