No one in the RV industry saw 2020 coming. But what about the 2021 camping season? We have the predictions from 24 RV industry experts:
No one in the RV industry saw 2020 coming. But what about the 2021 camping season? We have the predictions from 24 RV industry experts:
- 1.1 Marc and Tricia Leach, Keep Your Daydream and E3 Camping Association
- 1.2 Peter Knize and John Sullivan, co- hosts of The RVers
- 1.3 Cherie & Chris, Technomadia.com & MobileInternetInfo.com
- 1.4 Mark and Julie Bennett, RV Love
- 1.5 Jen Young, Outdoorsy
- 1.6 Joel Holland, Harvest Hosts
- 1.7 Bob Zagami, New England RV Dealers Association
- 1.8 Mark Koep, CampgroundViews.com and OutdoorBusinessPros.com
- 1.9 Heath Padgett, The RV Entrepreneur Podcast
- 1.10 Rae and Jason Miller, the Getaway Couple
- 1.11 Jeff and Deb Spencer, RollingRecess.com
- 1.12 Matt Foxcroft, Matt’s RV Reviews
- 1.13 Jim O’Briant, OvernightRVParking.com
- 1.14 Jamie Larounis, UpgradedPoints.com
- 1.15 Paul Bender, American Adventure Insurance
- 1.16 Lindsey Maxwell, WhereYouMakeIt.com
- 1.17 Tyler Bech, Guzzleh2o.com
- 1.18 Tony Barthel, StressLessCamping.com
- 1.19 Ravi Parikh, RoverPass Campground Management Software,
- 1.20 Chris Emery, Outdoorsocal.com
- 1.21 Bastian Graf, Travellers Autobarn
- 1.22 Dan Yates, Pitchup.com
- 1.23 James Upham, MyRVBroker.com
- 1.24 Mike and Jennifer Wendland, RV Lifestyle
- 1.25 Here are 10 of our predictions for 2021 that haven’t been touched on above:
- 1.26 Get more RV travel ideas, tips, news, and perks!
- 1.27 Want to REALLY connect to the RV Lifestyle?
In getting these 2021 camping season predictions, we reached out to a large circle of RV influencers and industry experts. The good news is most see less uncertainty and turmoil, a return to RV shows, and a slight easing in campground overbooking.
But in predicting the 2021 Camping Season, there are a lot of wildcards still in play and the turmoil of 2020 will still be a part of the 2021 camping season.
There’s a lot of meaty insight, RV industry statistics, and wisdom in their predictions.
In their own words, here are the 2021 Camping Season Predictions from 24 RV Industry experts who know through experience what they are talking about.
Marc and Tricia Leach, Keep Your Daydream and E3 Camping Association
Marc and Tricia are the hosts of the hugely popular YouTube Channel, Keep Your Daydream, which has nearly 350,000 subscribers. They have recently launched a membership site called the E3 Camping Association that empowers, educates and entertains those interested in RV community
Our 2021 Camping Season Predictions
Lots of used RVs in 2021
The fact is, they’re busy every year. If you can’t make reservations 6 months in advance, try again with 6 hours’ notice. We’re often able to get into places with high-demand on the same day due to cancellations. If you can’t get into the RV park or campground you want, 2021 might be the year to experiment with dry camping.
Peter Knize and John Sullivan, co- hosts of The RVers
Peter Knize and John Sullivan are known worldwide for their popular television show The RVers on Discovery, PBS and multiple streaming platforms. Their website is TheRVgeeks.com and their YouTube Channel can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/rvgeeks
2020 has been a year unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. We were RVing in New Zealand when the pandemic hit, and some of the unexpected twists and turns since then have been difficult to anticipate.
People WANT to travel!
The biggest surprise for us was just how strong the desire for travel obviously is for so many people. With planes, cruises and hotels generally requiring shared spaces and close interactions with strangers, a concern for personal safety has led more people than ever to RVing. Those new to the lifestyle are now discovering what we’ve known all along: RVs are ideal isolation transport pods that allow the utmost personal space while on the go.
We’ve always appreciated having our own private living area, bed, kitchen and bathroom no matter where we are. But until the coronavirus came along, it of course never occurred to us what an awesome anti-pandemic machine we were living in.
Now that 2020 is coming to a close, is there anything we might predict about what 2021 will hold for RVers and the industry? Since we’ve always been big advocates of RVing, we think it’s likely that a sizable percentage of those who discovered it for the first time this year have now realized what they’ve been missing out on.
RV Travel is now on the Map
While we expect that air, cruise and hotel travel will gradually work their way back toward normal over time, we can’t imagine that many of those who tried RVing for the first time in 2020 haven’t fallen in love with it. They’ve now had a taste of what we’ve experienced over our 17+ years of full-timing — there’s a whole lot to see and do in North America, and bringing safe, comfortable, private living quarters with you wherever you go is an awesome way to travel!
We’ve all seen the negative effects of the pandemic on our general feeling of safety and security, and that will likely take quite some time to diminish. We don’t expect the increased interest in RVing to go away the moment a vaccine becomes widely available. Many people who had never RVed before may now choose it as their primary form of vacationing.
Rather than a sudden return to business as usual, we expect a continuation of busy campgrounds, a gradual re-introduction of some RV shows, ongoing larger crowds and demand at the most popular destinations, and some challenges with parts and supplies. We hope we’re wrong about the potential worst effects, but we’re optimistic that the boom in the RV industry will hang in there for a long time.
Cherie & Chris, Technomadia.com & MobileInternetInfo.com
RVs will still be in short supply in 2021
Some will abandon the RV Lifestyle
Mark and Julie Bennett, RV Love
Mark and Julie Bennett are authors of the bestselling book Living the RV Life – Your Ultimate Guide to Life on the Road, and co-creators of the RVLove blog and RV Success School and Hit the Road RV Summit
2020 was full of surprises and the year certainly shaped up differently to how we expected when it started. How 2021 will shake out is anyone’s guess, but here are some of our thoughts:
The 2021 Camping Season will be huge!
RV Shows – Quartzsite, AZ is going ahead in January, so is Florida, it seems. The California RV Show was permanently canceled. We do see RV shows happening around the country, regionally and locally, but don’t expect the attendance levels of years gone by. RVer buying practices have had to adapt, and online research and shopping still will be preferred. But people want to see RVs in person, which they may prefer do at local dealerships rather than big, crowded shows. We see more virtual events becoming accepted and ‘the norm’, in the future.
Campgrounds –. These have been overcrowded in many parts of the country, due to the influx of new RVers and increased preference for RV camping in general. Prices are going up which may deter some RVers and drive them to invest in off-grid systems with solar and batteries to avoid or reduce camping costs. We also predict some developers who previously focused on residential and commercial property will pivot to invest in building or improving more camping resorts around the country based on the demand.
RV Sales – Sales will continue steadily in 2021 but soften compared to 2020. We do see an increase in used RVs hitting the market by the fall for two reasons. One – as the pandemic concerns settle down and other forms of travel open up. And Two – many of those who jumped into RVing quickly without doing the proper research will come to realize they don’t want to deal with the hassles that come with RV ownership. The ongoing need for repairs and maintenance, plus the challenges of finding campground bookings and affordable storage, will be too much for some, and we see a glut of used RVs hitting the market within a year from now.
RV Rentals – Demand will remain very strong for the foreseeable future and be a big area of growth, especially as more used RVs come up for sale. More dealers will offer the option to rent. Many RVers will rent their RV to offset their costs, or even buy additional RVs, to get into the RV rental business, similar to how many homeowners got into the AirBnb business and bought more properties to capitalize on that trend.
RV Parts – With supply chain shortages being an issue across the board, the RV industry is feeling it too. We see the shortage of parts being an ongoing concern for RV manufacturers, RV repair shops, and RV owners alike until the supply chain catches up. This will cause additional frustrations for customers (especially newbies not used to this) who may experience extended delays while waiting for replacement parts. This may be the catalyst that sees more used RVs on the market as owners try to offload them.
RV Remote Workers – With more companies now seeing the benefits of a remote workforce, we believe many people will see an RV as an ideal way to travel while working full time, as we have done since 2014. There will be greater demands for RVs with a workspace or flex space, and people renovating RVs to suit their needs. RV manufacturers will (hopefully) recognize the need to create new floor plans and improved layouts to cater to this fast-growing market segment. Campgrounds may also seize the opportunity to upgrade their internet connectivity and even create a co-working room or hotspot style space for guests to work from during their stays.
Jen Young, Outdoorsy
Jen is the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Outdoorsy, the largest community-driven RV marketplace for renting RVs directly from local RV owners. Outdoorsy just surpassed 2.9M booked days on Outdoorsy.com since the company was founded in 2015. Of those days, 1.25M booked days were recorded in 2020 alone (almost half of 2.9M) and we’re on track to celebrate 3M booked days this fall. Outdoorsy saw 350% year over year growth in bookings for the month of September. 90% of September bookings were made by first-time renters
Outdoorsy’s 6 predictions for the 2021 Camping Season:
- More working-from-the-road RV use
There will be more working on the road and RV use than ever before. This is certainly believable, considering that work can be found wherever you open your laptop.
- Campgrounds will be booked out by February 2021
Due to overall new demand for outdoor recreational travel and activities we’ll see campgrounds booked earlier this year. Typically happens around March/April for popular spots we are predicting Feb this year –so book now!
- More families will take to private lands, boondocking and dry camping
Americans will take to the rustic locations and broad landscapes have captivated the American population and we know that once consumers learn they can have more, they’ll never settle for less.
- Visitors to our state and national parks will skyrocket
State and national parks will see more visitors and campers than traditional campgrounds and RV parks. This is due to an increase in awareness for America’s beautiful parks and an overall desire to see and experience more during one’s vacations
- RV and campervan rentals become the new side American side hustle!
Due to an increase in RV sales and ownership, coupled with financial constraints and economic conditions, Americans will look to renting their vehicles as a steady source of secondary income.
- Baby Boomers will spend more of their travel wallet on Class B and campervan trips over international hotel/air travel
Campervan listings on Outdoorsy increased by 227% in the past year and Class B listings on Outdoorsy increased by 230% in the past year.
Joel Holland, Harvest Hosts
Joel Holland is owner and CEO of Harvest Hosts, a membership program that provides access to a network of some 1,700 wineries, farms, breweries, museums and other unique attractions that invite self-contained RVers to visit and stay overnight.
Six years ago, my wife and I purchased an RV and road-tripped through all of the Lower 48 states. Over the years, we saw that people young and old alike were opting for experiences over goods, which lent itself to a growing interest in RVing. Then COVID hit, and interest exploded to levels I’ve never seen before.
They say old is new, and I think we are going to see interest in road travel continue to grow as retirees AND millennials are seeking the nostalgic (and safe!) throwback to the Great American Road Trip.
Like breathing, eating and sleeping, it seems that travel is a basic human necessity.
Expect more growth in the 2021 Camping Season
Through every economic downturn–and now pandemic–I’ve seen travel surge back because people need it to feel human. I believe there could be lingering issues from COVID through 2021, which will push an even higher number of people towards RVing. Unless there is a strong economic downturn, I think we could see continuing record sales of RVs and the resulting overcrowding of campgrounds and outdoor attractions.
Unfortunately, we expect the coming months to be difficult for a lot of small businesses that make a living from traditional travelers. Because of this, we are doubling down on our efforts to recruit more small businesses (Hosts) to our current network of 1,700 locations. We have doubled our Host Recruiting team in the past two months, and will continue to focus on this front.
We have many Hosts in our program that have reported up to 25% of their revenue currently coming from our members, which is fantastic. We will also continue our ad campaigns promoting road travel as a safe and scenic way to get out and explore.
In 2021, I believe people will continue opting for the safety of road trips, leading to a boom in backyard exploration. The good news: People are starting to realize that there are amazing things to see and experience within a few hour’s drive from anywhere in the United States. I believe road-based travel will continue to be the predominant form of travel through at least 2021. In the longer term, we believe RVing will maintain a higher than normal level of interest as people continue to realize how wonderful road travel can be.
As humans, we love to travel and escape. What we’re realizing is that you don’t have to travel halfway around the world scratch this itch.
Bob Zagami, New England RV Dealers Association
Bob Zagami has been writing, speaking and consulting in the RV industry since 1996. He is a frequent contributor to trade and consumer RV publications and frequently speaks at industry conferences and trade shows. He has served as Executive Director of the New England RV Dealers Association since 2013 and their sponsorship of the Boston RV & Camping Expo. Bob is also the principal consultant at RV Insights, a marketing, media and consulting company serving the RV and Outdoor Hospitality industries.
If ever there were industries that could benefit from an unexpected pandemic and the consequences it brought to our country, it is the RV and Outdoor Hospitality industries.
Had you asked anyone on April 1 in those industries – in any industry – what they expected for the balance of the year you would not have found one person willing to forecast that we were about to see the most incredulous turn around in less than 30 days that would put us on a path to incredible successes in light of devastation all around them and an on ramp to an even better year in 2021.
You couldn’t write a script like that because nobody would believe it.
More RV Shows will be in person in 2021
I’m hopeful that we can get back to live in-person consumer RV shows. The dealers want them, the consumers look forward to them, and it is the best place to see a large selection of product, meet the dealers and speak with manufacturer’s representatives. The virtual shows are nice, the improved website was long overdue, but people like to see, feel, touch and dream as they walk around the show floor.
Dealers are overwhelmed with the increased demand for RVs and are dealing with an amazing number of first-time buyers. This phenomenon also means less trade-ins and depleted inventories because OEMs cannot keep up with the demand because suppliers can’t keep up with the demand. For every challenge there is an opportunity, and we have the unique challenge to meet the needs of today’s new buyers.
The campgrounds are now challenged with these same first-time buyers, who just happen to be first time campers. Did they get adequate training on their new investment before hitting the road? Do they expect to learn all about camping from an overworked staff trying to deal with newcomers that have no idea what campground etiquette is? When something goes wrong with their new RV, the first person they are going to ask is the campground owner, and then the people camping on either side of them.
The challenge in 2021 is to keep the new buyers
Our challenge, though daunting, is to make sure these first-time buyers are not one-time buyers. We must increase the education of the consumer at every level of our industries – whether it is the initial walkthrough, service and technical support, learning all about RVs and the RV lifestyle or enjoying the experience of a campground with family and friends.
Our products and accommodations offer safety, cleanliness, social distancing, healthy living and enjoyment of the great outdoors for exercise and family time together with Mother Nature.
2021 will challenge us to exceed the expectations of newcomers to our industry. If we manage the expectations of our first-time buyers, we can turn them into dedicated RV enthusiasts who will stay in our industry for decades and buy a lot of RVs.
RV Sales will lighten up a bit but still be strong in 2021
Recent forecasts for 2021 show sales topping the 500,000 mark – not seen since 2017. If we make sure there are plenty of options to buy or rent an RV, make sure we let them know how important it is to make reservations early, educate them on boondocking, rental cabins, peer-to-peer rental opportunities, non-RV accommodations in campgrounds and alternative overnight programs such as Harvest Hosts and others.
If we do this right, fasten your seat belts because it is going to one hell of a ride. If we do it wrong, we will have missed an opportunity to build upon the success we have enjoyed since the last recession and we cannot allow that to happen. Manage expectations and make sure they are happy campers in their new RV.
Mark Koep, CampgroundViews.com and OutdoorBusinessPros.com
Mark Koep and his family are full time RVers and have spent the last 11 years living the lifestyle. He has personally visited over 5000 RV parks and campgrounds and runs an organization that engages with over 3500 active and interested park owners and operators. Mark’s mission is to “Make Camping Amazing” by getting the right camper in the proper campground during the correct time and in the perfect equipment.
The 2021 camping season will be very different
2021 will be an inflection point for people who have traditionally loved and enjoyed camping and RVing. If you, like us, have camped for decades the future of camping will look significantly different from what we have experienced before. This difference will be most obvious in the places you camp and the folks you camp around.
The primary driver of this change is the fact that in 2020 we added 20% new campers to the total number of campers. That is about 8M new campers, with new camping equipment and a want to use them immediately.
As I type this in early October 2020 park owners are still reporting near sold-out conditions on weekends and holidays. At the same time, their mid-week occupancy is also up significantly. The guests in their parks are new campers and folks who are no longer chained to an office or school schedule. While some of those folks will return to their previous ways many have now discovered how amazing RVing and camping is.
New campers damaged public land in 2020 – Must do better in 2021
These new campers most prominently impacted public campgrounds and dispersed camping areas. The impact on these public facilities was so significant, and in most cases damaging to resources, that already we are seeing fee implementations and complete closures of dispersed camping options. As the financial impact of state shutdowns hits the public agency budgets I would expect to see a more pronounced impact on accessibility and services at state/ regionally operated public camping locations. The combined impact will be a reduction in available public site inventory = less places to camp.
On the private side of the business, there are a massive number of new campgrounds being built and existing parks being upgraded and added on to = more places to camp.
Many of the displaced campers from public parks will find that private parks will step up their game and provide a suitable environment for enjoyable camping. Already we are seeing massive resorts come online with openings in all of the major destination locations. Professional capital and financing has recognized the profitability of our industry and is aggressively investing into the places we all stay.
Canadian RVers are not coming back till late in 2021
While the above covers a macro environment on the micro and regional side there will be differences to this overall outlook. For example if you head south for the winter there are amazing opportunities right now to stay in parks that are traditionally full of snowbirds from Canada.
The Canadians are not coming in the winter 2020/ 2021 and as a result many of the parks that normally cater to them are aggressively courting more local business. This drop in snowbird traffic also will impact parks and places where they normally stay during the migration south or back north in the fall and spring. Campers can take advantage of this to stay in some great places that are normally filled up.
Heath Padgett, The RV Entrepreneur Podcast
Heath and his wife, Alyssa, are RV entrepreneurs whose podcast, blog, videos, and in-person events have helped thousands of RVers earn a living on the road. He is also the founder of a rapidly growing campground booking service called CampgroundBooking.com and the producer of an on-the-road documentary called Hourly America
How does one predict the 2021 camping season after the year we’ve had?
After the year we’ve had, I feel that trying to place any kind of prediction for what could happen in 2021 is pretty bold. That being said, I’d be happy to layer in some of my thoughts on what I feel could be relevant next year in the RV industry.
In-person RV Shows: Obviously, most of these were cancelled this year. However, I follow Alliance RV (RV manufacturer startup) and I noticed they had a decent sized gathering in late summertime and it went fairly well. My prediction will be that more RV events will be hosted next year than this year (but with quite a bit of red tape). As someone who has hosted a ~350 person conference, I am personally not planning a large event for next year with all of the unknowns. I’d love to host some smaller gatherings, but feel with all the uncertainty that I personally would not voluntarily opt to host a large event in 2021 (at least in spring).
Campground overcrowding: I looked in our Campground Booking database of roughly 100 parks and this year our campgrounds were up 137% from last year in total revenue and bookings. That being said, I’m not sure how much I buy that this is a serious problem. Are campgrounds crowded during peak season in particularly nice areas to travel to? Sure. Have they been for the past few years? Yes. This summer during July it was particularly challenging to find a good campsite in Colorado. However, as a full-time RVer we were never actually without a site (there was always a place to park). My prediction for 2021 is that like the past few years, a lot of people will stay in campgrounds (it’s probably a good time to invest in buying one if you have the money).
The RV industry as a whole: This year the RV industry went from “wow the world is falling apart” to “wow things are better than ever” and the past few months all I’ve seen on social media is various mainstream articles about how the industry is better than it’s ever been. While there is truth to this, I’ve also had several conversations with leaders of major companies in the RV space and underneath the glittery headlines, I believe there is a nervousness of what is to come. Several companies faced large layoffs in the spring and we felt a hint of a world where travel was mostly shut down. My prediction is that many companies in the RV industry will do their best to capitalize on the current surge, but also be keeping a decent amount of cash on hand in case we need to weather any kind of restrictions in travel in the coming months.
Future unknowns aside, I still believe that the RV industry will continue to grow long term and weather whatever comes our way.
Rae and Jason Miller, the Getaway Couple
RV Travel Content Creators Rae and Jason Miller have been fulltime RVers since July of 2017. They like to share their adventures with their readers and to inspire folks to take the plunge into full-time travel as well.
The RV industry exploded in 2020, and we’ve noticed campgrounds, manufacturers, and dealerships have had a hard time keeping up. With record-breaking RV sales in 2020, it has made finding your perfect RV difficult, unless you order directly from the manufacturer. Even then, you’re faced with 3-6 month waiting times.
The RV Industry will still struggle to keep up in 2021
We visited the RV capital of the world (Elkhart, IN) this summer and saw firsthand the industry’s struggle to keep up with demand. Not only that, the massive spike in RV sales means a massive spike in RVers on the road, in campgrounds, and boondocking. We’ve already noticed that these places feel crowded and make last-minute reservations difficult.
The big question is, will this continue into 2021? Yes and no. On the one hand, we believe RV shows scheduled for early 2021 will occur; however, we predict the shows for mid and late 2021 will be canceled.
Expect a glut in almost new RVs in 2021
Additionally, we believe there will be an increase in one-year-old RVs for sale next year. Many families and couples who never had RVed purchased an RV to get out of quarantine or travel safely this year. With some restrictions lifted, these folks won’t require their RV anymore. Or some people might release this wasn’t as glamorous as they thought it would be and not pursue RVing.
We predict many new RVs being put on the used market next year because of these unique scenarios. So if you have the time, it might be worth waiting to purchase an RV gently used instead of shelling out the cost for new. We also imagine that the new RVers for 2021 will be the ones who planned to do so, meaning retirees and dreamers, and not so much the folks who were forced into this world because they wanted a vacation.
Lastly, we hope that the manufacturers and suppliers will be able to get caught up on backorders. This will be a challenge for the industry, but we have faith it can be done.
Jeff and Deb Spencer, RollingRecess.com
Jeff and Deb Spencer are full-time RVers and consultants to the RV industry. When they are not at RV shows you will find them on some epic two-legged adventure crossing the Grand Canyon, competing in ultra-trail runs, or eating cookies by a campfire with their dog Sam.
Some might say that the 2021 RV market forecast is Bullish. We like to say it is S’morish!
As the RV market continues to be on fire, there is no end in sight to the sweet sales reports for 2021 (see what we did there?).
2020 has been an odd and remarkable year, especially in the RV space. As people have been quarantining in place, working remotely and homeschooling, for some, it has opened their eyes to the possibilities of living a life outside of the confines of four walls.
Remote workers will embrace the 2021 camping season
Additionally, employers are realizing that remote workers can remain productive, and possibly be more productive than originally thought. So much so, some companies are offering employees to remain remote workers indefinitely.
With all this sudden togetherness people are looking for ways to relieve pent-up pandemic energy while keeping themselves and their families safe. Buying or renting an RV seems to be a natural alternative to Airline travel and hotel stays that allows families to be adventurous and active while offering adequate social distancing.
With this sudden influx of COVID campers, the demand for RVs has skyrocketed. However, due to C19, manufacturers of RVs and RV components had to shut down non-essential factories, creating a supplier lag in the eventual hyperbolic production demand.
The challenge now is finding places to camp. RV parks and campgrounds are full. With places of employment and schools going remote, campgrounds that usually hit their fall and winter slow down are overrun by campers that are no longer limited to a summer camping season.
After speaking with a volunteer ranger at the South Rim of The Grand Canyon, we heard that their visit count at the park remains at summer highs despite it being October.
The Great Outdoors Act will benefit all RVers in the 2021 camping season
We are encouraged to see the passing of The Great American Outdoors Act which will create an influx of funds into our National Parks that are in desperate need of infrastructure upgrades.
This plus low-interest rates for RV purchases and low fuel prices, the desire for camping will not likely slow down any time soon.
For 2021 we see RV shows slowly coming back. With the compliance regulations being different in each state and potential record crowds seeking RV information, show promoters have an additional layer of responsibility for public safety.
Overland Expo and the National Hardware Show have both gone to a virtual show format, which may open a new avenue for how shows are done going forward. Or at least until the C19 threat is over. Right now, RV Shows are expected to resume in 2021. However, modifications or last-minute cancellations are anticipated.
Like every aspect of our lives, 2021 remains a sticky proposition.
Matt Foxcroft, Matt’s RV Reviews
Matt’s goal is to review every RV sold in North America. His videos give three things I love about the Motorhomes and three things he dislikes about it.
Jim O’Briant, OvernightRVParking.com
Jim is the CEO/Administrator of this membership organization that helps RVers find overnight places to stay in their RV from a database of almost 15,000 RV Parking locations in the USA and Canada.
Poor behavior by some RVers will result in fewer places to stay
In 2020, some State and Federal lands have been closed to camping, because irresponsible campers have left trash and garbage behind and have improperly disposed of human waste. As with so many other things, we RVers are our own worst enemy. Getting the message across that responsible wilderness camping includes “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints,” we will continue to lose access to more of these places.
When it comes to Overnight RV Parking in non-wilderness places (i.e., “blacktop boondocking” in places where it’s allowed), COVID-19 itself has not affected the availability of many of these places.
For example, we know of only a handful of Walmarts and Cracker Barrels that have stopped allowing Overnight RV Parking due to COVID-19. There are some, but not many. Whether they will again allow it is unknown.
One thing that we’re observing is a marked increase in the kinds of retail stores and restaurants that are allowing Overnight RV Parking. Some of these are the businesses that have moved into buildings that formerly housed Walmart or K-Mart stores. Others are simply aware of the difficulty of finding RV Campground spaces and are willing to help out for one night. We now list hundreds of these places in our www.OvernightRVParking.com database.
The future availability of all of these locations depends more on RVers and our behavior than anything else. Over the past 14 years of developing and maintaining the www.OvernightRVParking.com website and database, one thing is perfectly clear:
While there are other reasons that places stop allowing Overnight RV Parking, the principal reason is RVer abuse of the Overnight RV Parking privilege.
Until we ALL understand that parking overnight in commercial parking lots is a privilege and not a right, and that we should treat their property as we would want a guest in our homes to treat our property, more and more of these retail, restaurant, truck stop and other locations will continue banning Overnight RV Parking.
Rules for staying in free overnight locations
Every RVer who wants to park overnight at a Walmart or other similar location needs to remember and follow these guidelines:
- Always get permission from the business. NO EXCEPTIONS. Speak with the Customer Service department or the Manager, or someone else at the business who is authorized to state store policy to the public, and to grant or deny permission for Overnight RV Parking. If you will arrive after the business closes, obtain this permission by telephone, before closing time.
- Park only where they tell you to park.
- Park without obstructing traffic lanes in any way.
- Stay one night only unless you have specific permission from the business to stay longer. Arriving late and leaving early is best.
- DO NOT set any “camping” type items outside your RV, including:
- No lawn chairs
- No BBQ grills
- No awnings extended
- Do not extend slideouts unless your RV cannot be used without them. In these cases, extend them ONLY over an area that will have no vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
- If you must use leveling jacks so that your RV is close to level (this is important if you have a venturi-type RV refrigerator), then use protective blocks or pads under your levelers to protect the surface of the parking lot. RV levelers can leave permanent impressions in the surface; these collect water in the summer and ice in the winter, and speed the deterioration of the paving material.
- NEVER leave any trash or garbage in the parking lot. Place it in proper trash receptacles, or carry it out with you.
- NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES empty gray or black water tanks in a parking lot or a storm drain. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Jamie Larounis, UpgradedPoints.com
Jamie is a Travel Industry Analyst at UpgradedPoints.com , one of the leaders in the travel industry focusing on providing insight to travelers through analysis, trends, data, reviews and in-depth guides. He is regularly called upon to provide expert opinion in Travel & Leisure, Business Insider, Forbes, CNBC, FOX News, USA Today and the New York Times, among many professional publications.
How the 2021 Camping season will look
RV shows will resume, but only in the latter half of 2021. There are safety concerns with cleaning the RVs, and the obvious issues of crowding, so we are unlikely to see these mass shows into a mass-produced vaccine is available.
You asked about campground overcrowding — and we’re really only likely to see this in the major national parks and campgrounds as domestic tourism to outdoor parks peaks. As we move into the winter, this demand will subside, but we’re likely to see some resurgence in the Spring. As we move into 2021, demand for RVs will start to slow as traditional tourism (planes and hotels) starts to resume.
Campground overcrowding is unlikely to be an issue outside of major campgrounds near national parks, and while we’ll see some issues to new demand for RVs, this will balance out as consumers move to more traditional travel with planes, hotels and rental cars.
We will start to see a market for used RV sales and folks experimenting with working remotely.
RV rentals will increase. Folks won’t want to necessarily purchase an RV on their own with the cash outlay required, but rentals are a perfect way to try one and return it.
Paul Bender, American Adventure Insurance
Paul specializes in insurance for RVs and is licensed in all 50 states. They sell 1,500 policies each month by researching many companies to find the best coverage and price.
Expect a continuation of the trend of more younger RVers during the 2021 camping season
Suggestions for the 2021 camping season
Lindsey Maxwell, WhereYouMakeIt.com
Lindsey is the Co-Founder of Where You Make It. In 2018 she converted a Sprinter into her full-time living space and has been traveling ever since.
I think that 2021 will be an interesting year for RV travel. Because of COVID most people haven’t been able to fly, and more and more people seem to be staying inside the US and traveling by car or RV. That being said I think that we could start to see campground overcrowding in 2021 if COVID continues to halt international travel.
Parts will become more available in 2021
With respect to parts, I don’t think that there will be too many issues with lack of parts because most RVs are built here in the US with US parts. Most manufacturers have been slowly ramping up production to cope with the increase in demand for their vehicles.
I would expect RV shows to resume by mid-year though that’ll be up to states to decide how they feel about large gatherings of people. There have been a ton of states that have relaxed their COVID guidelines and moving into next year we could definitely see in-person shows making a comeback.
Because there are likely to be more people on the road next year there could definitely be some challenges in terms of traveling and camping. Campgrounds will probably be fuller, and that could drive people to not camp in designated spaces which could cause some environmental issues and make life more difficult for those of us who live on the road.
Tyler Bech, Guzzleh2o.com
Tyler’s company supplies drinking water systems to people who enjoy a wide range of off-grid and mobile living lifestyles, including RV, Overlanding, and Vanlife,
Air travel will not improve rapidly in 2021
Overall, I think RV travel is going to see continued increased popularity and activity as families are carrying over newly-acquired equipment from 2020. I don’t see families rapidly returning to air travel, or theme resort travel, and I think they got a taste over the summer season of how much fun RV travel can be, and they are going to hit the spring travel season with enthusiasm.
The 2021 camping season will again be crowded
Campgrounds are going to continue to be crowded, and municipalities near recreation areas are becoming wise to on-street camping. So dispersed camping is going to be increasingly popular. RV platforms of all kinds need to be more self sufficient, meaning they don’t require services at campgrounds. Rigs are going to rely more on solar charging, water purification from natural sources, and off-road capabilities. Things that help travelers stay out for longer between re-supply stops, like refrigeration, power generation, and water treatment and storage.
I think people are going to leverage the remote nature of school and work with better internet connectivity, and learn to work on the road. I think this is going to put a premium on creature comforts that you would take for granted at home like showers, and toilets.
Finally I think there is going to be a decent percentage of people who get to the end of next summer and decide that RVing and living off-grid is not for them, and that is going to contribute to a glut of used RVs!
Tony Barthel, StressLessCamping.com
Also known as the RV Gadget Geek, Tony and his wife are former industry insiders who now publish tips and tricks for RV newbies and long-time travelers.
RV sales may be strong but watch out for the rest of the economy
I think the first half of 2021 is going to remain strong for the RV industry but, at some point, you’re going to see a dramatic shift. I do believe parts shortages will start to work themselves out as production ramps up. However, I also feel “the other shoe” will drop in the economy and that will mean a few things.
Some folks are going to simply dislike RVing and want to sell their rigs as other options become more available. Others will have to sell them just because of economic realities. And, with so many people having bought RVs sight-unseen a third wave of folks likely bought the wrong RV and will want to trade in/up/down.
Unfortunately with so many people adopting this form of seeing this beautiful country a lot of them haven’t learned the etiquette and some have been truly misbehaving in campgrounds and forests. This could leave a strong distaste with a lot of people for the RV lifestyle who have witnessed this bad behavior and would rather vacation where it doesn’t exist.
While long-time RVers know that this is truly the best way to enjoy traveling in this land, some newcomers to the lifestyle will be turned off by those who don’t have respect for others or the places we’ve come to love.
Used RVs will be for sale everywhere in 2021
I do believe that, about mid-year, there will be a glut of used RVs on the market and that those who can wait may be rewarded with some pretty respectable deals. For those who have learned how great this lifestyle is, they may be able to trade up/down and find plenty of choices in gently-used RVs along with a nice number of choices in new rigs.
Furthermore, additional resources for alternative campgrounds such as Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, BLM lands and other choices will open up some doors left closed by campgrounds that have seen capacity-level guest counts even outside the normal RVing season.
Lastly, I also see a number of people who have been forced into alternative work and educational lifestyles who are probably going to remain in that space. I think that traveling while working and also educating one’s children on the road opens up doors that might not have been available. With companies and schools realizing the potential of distance learning and working,
I am predicting that RV companies will start to incorporate this into designs. The biggest challenge for these people will remain the spotty Internet coverage but with Starlink and the other pending technologies, this challenge could go the way of cruise ships and group tours.
Ravi Parikh, RoverPass Campground Management Software,
Ravi is CEO of RoverPass Campground Management Software, a leading provider of campground management software. His company helps campground and RV park owners book, track, and interact with campers from all over the world!
I believe the RV industry will continue to see growth in 2021. The travel industry as a whole is struggling this year, especially international travel. Some subsets of this may never fully recover and some may go under entirely.
I read an article yesterday about cruise ships potentially being a thing of the past, for example.
RVs are unique in that they offer a mix of intimate family gatherings and travel in the great outdoors. As more camps and parks lift restrictions, I think we’ll see people flocking to the most popular sites.
This could cause overcrowding and could put a slowdown on booking, so campers may need to book far further in advance. What I hope is that this will have a spill-over effect so that smaller venues will get more visitors.
Chris Emery, Outdoorsocal.com
Since 2011, Chris has been publisher of an outdoor adventure publication that specializes in camping, hiking and outdoor adventures in Southern California.
2021 Camping season reservations are filling up fast
I’ve been keeping an eye on campground reservations in the San Diego/Los Angeles area (both for my readership and my personal outings) and I can tell you that RV campsites are booking up remarkably fast — as are general camping sites in the state campgrounds that are open.
Given the many closures of campgrounds in federal parks and lands due to both COVID-19 and the extreme fire danger, I think we’re in for a real crunch in terms of finding campsites over the next year or two (until there’s a vaccine). In the western states with fire danger, this may be the new norm.
That said, people are also renting RVs a lot more, and generally, there is a boom in interest in the outdoors — since there are a limited number of things people can do now in their spare time. I think we’ll see a lot more boondocking in dispersed camping areas. (I’m planning a trip in November to Anza-Borrego with a camper trailer and plan to camp in the backcountry for a few days and at a campsite for a couple of days.
It will be interesting to see how parks and other public lands agencies deal with the demand for backcountry camping. Some, like Joshua Tree, have already seen a lot of damage due to people running amuck during shut-downs. They may have to change their enforcement/guidance of newbie campers.
Bastian Graf, Travellers Autobarn
Travellers Autobarn is a campervan rental company and caters to backpackers & budget travelers who are planning their self-drive road trips around USA, Australia & NewZealand. With 12 locations – and operating since 1993 – it offers a wide range of Campervans & station wagon/minivans suiting all age groups.
In a forecast made prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the RV market was predicted to grow by 7% in the 5 years to 2024, whether it can achieve that is dependent on upward and downward pressures resulting from COVID-19.
There is likely to be significant upward pressure on demand because of the collapse of international travel due to COVID-19 which will see many of the 37 million Americans who went abroad in 2019 seeking alternatives at home and it’s inevitable a proportion of them will consider the RV lifestyle..
The need to social distance is also driving domestic travelers away from city vacations, and the inherent risks that carries. For example London, the most popular city abroad for American tourists, has seen visitor numbers drop by78%.
Instead, they will seek outdoor experiences at home. Especially where the travelers can maintain their own bubble – prepare their own food, be assured their sleeping quarters are clean and minimise contact with strangers.
In addition, due to the significant economic impact of COVID-19 on household income, we expect a surge in people looking for a budget-conscious break and what better way than to re-embrace the good old American road trip…. Without being bundled into the backseat of the family station wagon and sacrificing all the comforts of home.
The RV industry will face downward pressure in 2021 despite a strong 2021 camping season
Downwards pressure includes:
The national fleet size, can the industry keep up with the demand for RVs, either for purchase or for hire? Travellers Autobarn plans to reopen its campervan manufacturing factory in early 2021 again to keep up with demand as well as launching new campervan models to cater more for the family market with younger kids!
The economic hardship being faced by many Americans, and the restrictions on travel caused by the first wave of COVID-19 have affected demand for rental RVs, and market prices have dropped by nearly 50%. Clearly this impacts the profitability of then rental industry. How long that last depends on how soon the previously mentioned upward pressures kick in. That is dependent on the availability of a vaccine OR the willingness of Americans to adapt and live with coronavirus.
Demand for RVs may also be tempered by the availability of places to park them. Based on our market experience 80% of local holiday makers book just 2 to 6 weeks in advance, but famous national parks like Yosemite,Yellowstone and Zion were already facing overcrowding pre-COVID resulting in the requirement to prebook your campsite 3 to 6 month in advance. Increased demand will exacerbate the problem. We expect to see more national parks introduce a quota system and limit access at peak times. A perception that the“parks are full” may be another downward pressure on demand..
RV shows have already started in October 2020 and we expect these to continue in 2021. The shows are a great opportunity for the public to investigate and research their options, and a brilliant showcase for the industry, but they will need to have COVID safe practices in place if the organizers are to gain the trust of the public to attend.
Dan Yates, Pitchup.com
Dan is managing director of Pitchup.com, the world’s largest outdoor accommodation (RV parks, campgrounds, etc.) booking website. https://www.pitchup.com/en-us/. If you need any additional info, please let me know.
RV shows will resume depending on local lockdown rules, but since the demand for RVs is so high right now, the shows will be doing everything they can to make sure they can resume safely. RV dealers around the U.S. reported record sales according to the Concord Monitor when their showrooms reopened and it’s likely that as soon as shows are able to open without any risk to visitors, the dealers taking part will experience a similar uplift.
There will be more off-peak time camping in 2021
The main summer season will always be busy and, with this year’s dramatic increase in RV vacationers, this was certainly true this summer. Pitchup.com, however, is seeing more people experimenting with off-peak trips to steer clear of the crowds, with October through December arrivals at our RV parks up 100% compared to last year. RVs are perfect for colder weather stays since you can bring all of your home comforts, making a later trip perfect for those who are looking for extra space.
As traditional resorts sell out, farms, estates and fairgrounds have opened up their spare land to RVs and campers for the first time this year. These new parks have the acreage to social-distance away from residential and congested areas, providing outdoor accommodation for thousands who wouldn’t otherwise get a much-needed vacation. I anticipate this trend to only gain momentum into next year.
Hundreds of thousands of people who would have never considered camping or RVing before have gone on an outdoor vacation this year and many more are planning to take their first camping adventure in 2021 (Pitchup.com’s advance bookings for next year are already up 337% on this point last year).
This influx of first-time RV users does mean that more people will need help maneuvering vehicles into sites, connecting services and erecting tents. Campers and RV owners are, however, a very friendly community in my experience and I’m sure the seasoned pros on site will be keen to lend a hand, as long as they are ready for the influx of novices.
James Upham, MyRVBroker.com
As a former RV manufacturing representative and currently serving as a RV Broker, James is an expert in helping people find the right RV for them, at the right price.
I suggest that the RV boom will continue through show season, which primarily occurs from January through April, if (and this a big if) the RV shows do in fact go on as planned.
It appears that some of the larger RV shows, such as the Tampa Super Show for instance, are tentatively going on as planned, but with far less capacity allowances.
RV dealers won’t have enough inventory for the 2021 camping season
The most pressing issue with regard to upcoming RV shows though is that most dealers don’t have enough inventory to take to the shows in order to justify their participation. All this combined with previous RV plant shutdowns, lack of chassis availability, and the supply chain disruption should only contribute further to longer build times and backlogs.
However, if RV dealers are allowed to participate in RV shows and do in fact have enough inventory to sell at the shows, then I see the influx of new buyers continuing into and possibly through the summer of 2021. I believe many of the RV shows will end up being virtual or at least present the option.
Mike and Jennifer Wendland, RV Lifestyle
Here are 10 of our predictions for 2021 that haven’t been touched on above:
- More RV influencers will be coming off the road. Decision fatigue, a “been there, done that” attitude from some, campground overcrowding, competition from an ever-increasing number of new “influencers,” less support from manufactuers who find they don’t need influencers as much as they did before the sales boom, and an overabundance of RV blogs, tweets, posts, photos, and video channels will cause many on the road in 2020 to stop or slow down in 2021.
- Federal and state lands open to dispersed camping will decrease in 2021 because so many newie boondockers totally trashed parts of the wilderness in 2020. Seriously, we were appalled by what we saw in many places. The disrespect so many people showed nature this year was very disheartening.
- Civil unrest will cause lots of RVers to either stay closer to home in the 2021 camping season or plan long circuitous routes around big cities. Sadly, we see this continuing in 2021, regardless of how the Presidential election goes,
- Lithium batteries will be more embraced by RV manufacturers, relacing the must less efficient AGM lead-acid batteries as their standard power source. Because of the increased demand and the resulting competition, lithium batteries will moderate in price.
- 5G Cellular service will be more available in more places but, alas, not most of the places RVers go. 2022 will be a better year for 5G.
- The Starlink satellite internet constellation being constructed by SpaceX to provide satellite Internet access will be promising but not ready for prime RV time in 2021. Maybe 2022, more likely 2023. But when it does go online in a major way, it will be a game-changer for remote workers who also happen to be RVers.
- Because of COVID-19, the US/Canadian border will remain closed to nonessential travel (RVing) into January, perhaps even until spring, thereby all but eliminating the 2021 winter snowbird season for Canadians seeking warmer weather in Florida or the Southwest U.S.
- There will be considerable pushback by communities and health officials over large, in-person RV Shows until spring. That said, The Florida RV Supershow in Tampa in January and the Quartzsite, AZ annual RV gatherings are expected to go on. But expect lots of concessions to health and social distancing regulations. They will both be very different than in years past.
- RV Dealerships will struggle for new, on the lot inventory until the second quarter at least, with top dollars being paid for used RVs dealers can then detail and flip to meet the demand
- A bunch of new campgrounds and RV resorts will be announced and constructed across North America by land developers who see a hungry demand from all those new RVers. Similarly, we will be more own-your-own-campsite developments spring up. There’s mont to be made n this RV boom!
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