Given that gasoline pump prices have climbed over a buck higher per gallon since this time last year, when I left Houston for a trip last month with a travel trailer I had expectations of a much more expensive vacation.
My wife, Janis, and I planned to spend about $1,000 – or about twice as much for a trip which would take us some 1,500 miles on a huge loop from Houston into the canyon’s region of Texas’ high plains where we hoped to witness a full moon’s rise and a meteor shower in pristine, wilderness settings.
After spending an average of $3.75 a gallon for gasoline, we were surprised upon returning home to learn we beat our budget by about 50 percent. We tallied up expenses several times for confirmation, and without deducting for our normal weekly fuel consumption at home it was true -- we spent slightly more than $500 for five nights and six days of travel from one end of Texas to the other and back.
The experience has convinced me that RV travel remains the most economical and exciting way to vacation – especially during uncertain and stressful economic times. In addition to saving money, my experience confirms that RVs provide vacationers with freedom to stay in the best places, flexibility to do more, and the comfort of their own, familiar living space.
For the record: During our RV adventure, I pulled a 20-foot-long travel trailer weighing about 2,800 pounds with a half-ton rated pickup truck. Winds were much stronger than usual on the open, flat landscape and our average fuel efficiency was about 13.5 miles per gallon for the entire trip. We camped in public parks owned and operated by the State of Texas with camping and access fees averaging less than $25 for each 24-hour period combined. Water and electricity were provided at each campsite.
We prepared most of our meals inside the camper, preferring not to eat at restaurants in nearby towns or cities. There was no cost for meals above and beyond what we normally would have spent at home while not on vacation. There were no additional costs for our leisure activities, which included hiking, fishing and kayaking, all within the state parks boundaries.
I feel very lucky to be an established RV dealer right now, despite the current threat of very high gasoline prices during this summer season. As America recovers from the great recession and begins to relax, people will need recreation. They will have it in some form. Many will confirm for themselves the huge financial benefit of traveling with an RV as they hit the road, even when the national average for gas prices approaches $4 a gallon.
Given the cyclical nature of gas prices, I think it is safe to assume fuel will not stay near $4 a gallon. Even if fuel prices stabilize at much higher rate per gallon than in the recent past, I think many more people will discover the great benefits of RV travel at relatively low cost compared to flying or staying in hotel rooms and eating meals at greater cost than normal in expensive restaurants.
The past public relations efforts of our industry’s trade associations, including those of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and the RV Dealers Association have been commendable for promoting the cost-efficient benefits of RV travel.
But as many more RVers like me get out this summer for much-needed recreation, our repeated messages to others we know combined with those of our trade associations will reach the general public – RVing is the most fun and the cheapest option for vacation travel, especially when gas prices are rising!
I firmly believe that our industry will thrive over the long haul because traveling and vacationing with RVs are always the best bargains available – and you just can’t keep such good deals secret.