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Gr8LakesCamper: Gas prices are putting a serious dent in summer plans

March 13, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 559 Comments 

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UPDATE: I recently came across this excellent article by Marianne Lavelle for National Geographic News. Lavelle does a good job of explaining the history of gas gouging, and the reasons for it. In a nutshell, the lack of U.S. refineries means a handful of people/businesses can control the prices. I encourage you to read this article.

87690211 The cost of gas at stations near my home are typically about 15-25 cents cheaper per gallon than those around my in-laws. So, of course, every time I fill up I call my father-in-law to gloat.

But the price of gasoline is getting crazy, even around me. This morning it topped $3.50 per gallon. I realize it’s more expensive in other areas, but – as they say – it’s all relative. What’s worse, “experts” say the cost will only climb higher as the summer driving season approaches, turmoil in oil-producing countries escalates and any number of other reasons these people usually roll out at times like these.

Regardless of the reasons why they’re on the way up, the price of gas is serious business for RVers. For most of us, this can’t help but affect our travel plans this summer.

As for my family, we’ll either be heading out to campgrounds closer to home, or not camping as much as we’d like, or a combination of the both. Other circumstances will factor in for us – two kids are going to camp for a week or two, and the third will likely be playing baseball well into July – but the fact remains gas prices will be putting a serious dent into our RVing plans.

In January of this year, when gas was $3.10 per gallon, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) issued a press release putting a positive spin on how the cost of gas affects RVing. Excerpts of that release follow:

• RV travel is a great value. The PKF Vacation Cost comparison study showed that a family of four can save 26-to-71 percent on vacation costs depending on the type of trip and type of RV used. More than 80 percent of RV owners say their RV vacations cost less than other forms of vacation.

• While fuel prices remain well below their pre-recession high, prices are 36 cents per gallon higher than they were a year ago. When fuel prices rise, RVers adjust by traveling to destinations closer to home or driving fewer miles, according to surveys of RV owners conducted by RVIA and CVENT, a leading provider of online surveys and research technology.

• More than 80% of RVers say their RV vacations cost less than other forms of vacation, even when fuel prices rise.

• To save on fuel, RVers typically spend more time enjoying the campground experience and less time on the road. More than 16,000 campgrounds nationwide give RVers the flexibility to save fuel and cut costs by staying closer to home. Whether they travel five miles or 500, they can still enjoy a great outdoor experience.

• Fuel prices would need to more than triple from their current level to make RVing more expensive for a family of four than other forms of travel, according to PKF Consulting. PKF’s spring 2008 vacation cost comparison study shows that RV trips remain the most affordable way for a family to travel because of the significant savings on air, hotel and restaurant costs, which continue to rise.

• Fluctuating fuel prices affect the cost of all modes of travel and transportation. Airfares and hotel rates rise rapidly when fuel costs increase.

• Many RV owners surveyed take additional measures to reduce fuel consumption through simple steps like driving 55 instead of 65 miles per hour, packing lighter to reduce weight in the RV, and turning off home utilities to save energy when traveling. RVers travel at a leisurely pace with no tight schedules for flights, hotels or restaurants.

It’s hard to argue with several of those points, especially that the high price of gas also affects all other modes of transportation. Airlines are raising their ticket prices nearly everyday, and tacking on fees – carry-on baggage, really? – at a ridiculous rate.

About the only thing that isn’t going up is my salary, and that’s why our camping this summer will be less than what we had hoped. I suspect I am not alone. Sure, there’s going to be a certain segment of RVers who will continue on as they always have, but for the majority of us camping is one line item that gets cut when it comes time to balance the family budget.

How is the cost of gas affecting your plans this summer?

From the companion blog: Ohio recently improved its online travel site, making it easier to use and the search results better as well. Similarly, Indiana Department of Natural Resources also improved its online campground reservation system. I also have a number of other posts about events, festivals and other information about travel destinations.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Detroit Camper & RV Show reports huge attendance

March 7, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 17 Comments 

Thought I might pass along this bit of good news.

The 45th Annual Detroit Camper & RV Show experienced its best show in 10 years. The show, which ran from Feb. 16-20 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, recorded 18,400 attendees — a 12 percent increase from the 2010 show. The show was sponsored by the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC).

Saturday alone saw over 9,000 attendees, making it the busiest day in MARVAC RV show history. According to Bill Sheffer, director of MARVAC, show visitors lined up on Saturday before the show opened, with strong ticket sales continuing all day.

I was able to attend the show on its opening day – more later on why I wasn’t able to go other days – and personally saw a ton of people going in and out of the 280 RVs on display. I was also able to talk to several of the RV dealers both that day and more recently, after the show was over and they had time to recuperate. Many reported customers looking for smaller, lightweight and more fuel-efficient RVs.

“Buyers are back,” said Victoria Rokas of Vicars Trailer Sales in Taylor. “Customers were upbeat, positive and confident about purchasing an RV as they look for more value for their dollar.”

“Overwhelming” was the word used by another dealer, Tim O’Brien of Circle ‘K’ RV in Lapeer. “All our salespeople were so busy.”

O’Brien said the record number of people attending the show – and willing to do more than just kick the tires – is a sure sign that the economy is improving. And that’s saying something, because southeast Michigan has been one of the hardest hit regions in the entire country during this past (current?) recession.

“I call it ‘frugal fatigue’,” O’Brien said. “People have been frugal for so long that they’re tired of it. They’re ready to get out and start looking at things, and – I know I’m biased here – but RVing is one of the most affordable ways to travel and spend recreation time. Dollar for dollar, RVs offer the most bang for your buck.”

RaptorRP365LEV_Garage_BtoFLarry See, of A&S RV Center in Auburn Hills, said he, too, was very busy during the show. That opening day I tried talking with him at length, but he understandably was needing to excuse himself as people constantly wanted him to talk about the Keystone Raptor Velocity 5th Wheel and its “rear porch” feature (which is pictured at left).

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, RVs are now attracting young buyers between the ages of 18 and 34. In fact, the fastest growing group of RV buyers falls in this age demographic, although buyers between the ages of 35 and 54 remain the largest segment of RV owners.

MARVAC’s Sheffer noted the same trend at the Detroit Camper & RV Show, saying “show attendees varied in age, but large numbers of families with young children were prevalent throughout the day.”

As I said, I was able to attend the first day of the show, and Sheffer told me then that a banking official had casually mentioned his bank was offering nearly $100 million in financing to RV buyers, nearly double from the previous year. Sheffer added that within several minutes of the show’s opening, one dealer was already closing on sales to a handful of customers.

My thoughts on the show? It was bittersweet. It was great, but I was only able to go for a few hours of the first day. I had planned on going every day, but life got in the way.

If you want to read more about my experiences at the show, you can read the post from my companion blog here. In it, I talk more about the Raptor Velocity as well as the Fleetwood Terra and its Hide-A-Loft feature and the brand new Holiday Rambler Trip motor home.

From the companion blog: It’s been a while since I’ve posted at RV.net, so I must have about 30-40 posts on my companion blog. Most of them are about great specials and events at popular travel destinations, including St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago and in Saugatuck, Michigan, Newsbits from the Illinois DNR, and the Ohio DNR offering big discounts at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Top 10 Reasons I’d Rather Drive an RV than Fly in a Airplane

December 1, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 14 Comments 

As if we RVers needed any more fuel for our pro-RV fire, here’s a “Top 1087756063 Reasons I’d Rather RV than Fly” list. (With my comments thrown in here and there.)

Note: I came across this great list – slightly modified for RVers – from Dave Hunter, author of “Along Interstate-75,” an award-winning book which helps people enjoy driving this major freeway between the Midwest and the Georgia/Florida border.

1. Before you get into your RV, you don’t have to wait in long lines or wait for your seat row to be called for boarding. (Although I’m tempted to try this with the family next time we go camping.)

2. No embarrassing X-ray or pat down. (Tempted to try this, too.)

3. Your luggage always arrives at the same time you do and never costs extra. (Luggage? What’s luggage?)

4. No need to arrive at your RV two hours ahead of departure time – it will wait for you.

5. You can bring as many bottles of water into the RV as you wish.

6. The bathroom in your RV, or the restrooms at roadside rest areas, do not have line-ups in the aisle.

7. The air you breath is “family” — you know how healthy they are. (Granted, this may or may not be a positive.)

8. No need to surrender your favorite knitting needles or other sharp objects.

9. Stiff legs? No need to wait until you arrive — you are 2 feet off the ground and can stop for exercise whenever you want.

10. And there’s no need to rent a car when you arrive – you are already sitting in the vehicle of your choice, with no insurance waivers to sign!

A quick side note: My parents are about to fly to New York City to visit my brother and his family. When pricing airfare, ticket prices were $2,500 each (not including taxes, fees and luggage). They switched their schedule from Wednesday-Sunday to Sunday-Wednesday and the prices dropped to less than $500 each.

Obligatory “About the Author” information:
Since 1992, Dave Hunter (and his wife and travel partner, Kathy) have acquired hundreds of friends and travel industry contacts along the I-75 corridor, who share their “local knowledge” of roadside secrets, local restaurants and ways to save money. “Along Interstate-75″ is published by Mile Oak Publishing, Inc. and is available in bookstores, at AAA in OH, by phone at 800-431-1579, online and at www.i75online.com.

From the personal blog: I recently posted some great information for traveling to southern Indiana for the holidays, and I continue to add many more regional travel ideas as I come across them.

UPDATE: I have also posted on my personal blog about our recent trip to New York City, where we saw the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (cross that one off the bucket list) as well as my brother’s Broadway debut! (We drove there, by the way.) Click here to read all about it.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Michigan touting new Recreation Passport via whirlwind RV tour

August 28, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 7 Comments 

The State of Michigan is betting the future of its state parks on the willingness of its residents to fork out $10 a year. The $10 will buy each resident a Recreation Passport, and the program is Michigan’s solution for funding our favorite recreation destinations. It begins October 1, 2010.

Instead of spending $24 for an annual motor vehicle permit or boating access permit, Michigan residents will now be asked to support the Recreation Passport with an optional $10 fee when renewing their vehicle registration with the Secretary of State. The license plate renewal sticker received from the Secretary of State will have a designation that indicates the Recreation Passport payment. If an individual purchases their Recreation Passport fee at the park, the park will provide an identifying sticker.

Camping fees will remain the same. Also, out-of-state visitors will still pay the $8 daily, or $29 annual fee for park and/or boating access site entrance. Michigan residents entering a park without the Recreation Passport designation could face a $100 fine.

The current system brings in $11 million. But state officials estimate that if just 25 percent of state residents pay the $10 Recreation Passport, $18 million is generated. If there’s 50 percent participation, $36 million is generated; $55 million for 75 percent participation and $72 million if every resident motorist buys the Recreation Passport.

But, for the plan to work, people have to choose to pay the $10. So the state is about to embark on a whirlwind tour – in an RV no less – to convince its residents the $10 is money well spent.

This will not be an easy thing to do. Not the RV tour, that’s easy. Also easy will be getting us campers to fork out the $10. I’d much rather pay the $10 annual fee than the $24 annual permit.

The hard part will be getting the people who never use the parks and recreation areas to pay the $10. Convincing people to dig deeper into their wallets will be a tough sell. State officials are hoping these people will be willing to support their parks, even if they don’t use them. I hope they will, but I’m very skeptical. How many local millages were successful this past election? Not many.

Regardless, the state can’t afford for the Recreation Passport to fail. That’s why the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) is launching the “Road to Recreation” RV tour, a three-month tour of Michigan’s festivals, concerts and best destinations.

Road_to_Recreation_RV_2_331079_7At the heart of the tour is a 32-foot recreational vehicle completely wrapped with inspiring images of wildlife, beaches, outdoor activities and smiling faces, thanks to the financial support of Merrell, a Michigan-based shoe and apparel company, and General RV, a Michigan-based dealer of recreational vehicles. The RV will make stops along the tour to share information about the Recreation Passport.

Anyone meeting the RV can try their hand at bean bag toss and ladder golf, as well as enter to win one of three prime camping sites being given away for the July 4, 2011, weekend: Ludington State Park, Tahquamenon Falls State Park or P.H. Hoeft State Park. Plus, freebies from Merrell and General RV will be given to anyone who stops by.

Husband-and-wife team of 43 years, Eliot and Naomi Haycock – residents of Chassell in the Upper Peninsula – volunteered to drive the RV. A retired state employee, Eliot and his wife, Naomi, said they are up for the adventure. Both are longtime park enthusiasts, having camped in many state and national parks over the last 30 years.

“I think it’s been 30 years,” said Eliot. “We’ve been (camping) so long, we’ve kind of lost track.” The two have been campground hosts for the past five years at Fort Wilkins State Park in the Keweenaw Peninsula.

“We love Michigan and, as campground hosts, have been able to help share our love for camping” said Eliot. “We love to travel and we love Michigan state parks, and we thought this would be fun to try something different for the summer.”

The Haycocks are responsible for getting the RV to each event during the three-month tour. Once on site, it will be staffed by local DNRE employees who will be on hand to explain the Recreation Passport and how it will benefit Michigan in many different ways.

I sincerely hope the Haycocks and this campaign are successful. As much, I hope every Michigander who enjoys our state parks, campgrounds and recreation areas will get behind this new program. But I’m preaching to the choir here; we need to enlist our families and friends to support the Recreation Passport as well.

To find out where the Road to Recreation tour is headed, visit the DNRE Facebook page at www.facebook.com/midnr. For more information about the Recreation Passport, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Casting Call for RV Show on HGTV

July 15, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 3 Comments 

HGTV_LOGO_1I’m posting the following release as a “public service announcement” for all RVers who entertain dreams of being a Hollywood celebrity…

Nancy Glass Productions, a television production company in Philadelphia, is seeking couples and families to appear in an HGTV Special being shot at the Pennsylvania RV Show in Hershey, September 16th-18th 2010.

Those chosen will be followed around the show as they “shop” for RVs. Each family will be filmed over the course of a single day as they look at vehicles, try out new features, and talk to the camera about their experiences. The idea is to give viewers a consumer perspective on the RVs rather than just one of a salesperson

We are looking for three families of all shapes and sizes to feature. They need not have children. A fun and outgoing personality is the most important trait, however, having an interest in and a little knowledge of the RV world doesn’t hurt either. Also, we are looking for one more “expert” family or couple who does really have experience in the RV world. An important side note, the folks we feature don’t actually have to be in the market to buy, just act like they are.

Interested parties should email photos and a brief description of themselves and their family to bmakatche@nancyglassproductions.com

You can check out HGTV’s 2010 RV show from earlier this year by clicking here. Click here to go to the Facebook page that announced the casting call for the 2011 show. Click here to go to the Nancy Glass Productions website page for more information on the 2010 RV show. Sidenote: Unless I’m mistaken, one of the families on HGTV’s 2010 RV show is none other than Mark and Dawn Polk of “RV Education 101″ fame.

From the Personal Blog: Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, the Milford, Ohio-based campground chain, is the first in the country to join Leave No Trace, a non-profit organization that develops educational programs to help children become better stewards of the environment. Click here to read more.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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The Lug_Nut RV Whacky Glossary. The Real Meanings

March 22, 2010 by Lug_Nut · 49 Comments 

Ever wondered the real meaning of some of the common RV phrases and lingo? If so, you need to read the Lug_Nut Whacky Glossary for Recreational Vehicles.  It isn’t quite the “RV Language for Dummies”, but should help you in understanding the real meanings of some of the more common words and phases associated with RVing.

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