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Economies of Scale

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

As the final final days of spring make way for the transition into the summer travel season, it’s time to bust out the campground directories, peruse the Internet and, in many cases, consult with motor­homing friends to make plans for our next trips. Once again our plans may be impacted by financial considerations as fuel prices head in the wrong direction. At press time, it seemed like the busiest people in this country were fuel station workers who physically change the numbers on the price signs. Add the hysteria perpetuated by the media, and many motorhome owners will likely alter travel plans for this summer.

Granted, fuel costs are going to be higher this summer and the cost of vacationing will increase, but as a motorhoming friend said the other day as we commiserated over fuel costs, “I’m not going to cancel my trip this summer for a couple hundred bucks.” With respect for owners with financial concerns, I agree wholeheartedly.

The good news is that if fuel prices are indeed rising in response to consumer demand and other related factors, the economy is probably heating up a little. Although no one wants to pay more for fuel, I’ll be glad to swap the extra cost to power our rigs – within reason, of course – for the return to happier economic times.

There are ways to ease the additional financial burden without giving up things we love about the motorhome lifestyle. We might be less tempted to just point our motorhomes in a general direction and explore what’s around the next bend. Moving around certainly satisfies our need to wander, but rolling up the miles can be expensive. Pinpointing a destination and staying in an RV park for longer periods of time is much more cost effective. From there, it’s easy to take in the local sights and attractions using our dinghy vehicles. 

Fortunately, many of the vehicles we’re towing behind our motorhomes are fuel-efficient. And most of these cars and SUVs are also enjoyable to drive. I hated to give back the Fiat 500 we tested for this month’s cover story. As author Chris Hemer spells out in his evaluation, the diminutive Fiat is not just small, it’s a car that’s really fun to drive. And I can second that. Combine spirited performance and easy maneuverability with terrific gas mileage, and the Fiat is surely a winner for use in dinghy service – and as a daily commuter.

But it’s not always about parking our motorhome in a campground and spending the days away from our sites. The trend is moving toward full-service RV parks that have plenty to offer their temporary residents. It’s the formula Europeans have been using for many years and we’re seeing many more RV parks in the United States transforming their facilities into resorts packed with activities and features.

Attractions are usually custom tailored to the demographics of the parks’ guests. Planned activities in the Sunbelt, where snowbirds hang out for months, keep residents occupied and fit, often employing professional activities directors. Parks designed for families have pools and game rooms to keep the youngsters busy. We visit a park every year during the summer that offers movies projected on a huge screen adjacent to the pool – “really cool” has a double meaning here.

I predict that RV parks of the future will adopt many of the all-inclusive features found in popular hotel resort destinations. Don’t feel like cooking? Visit the restaurant on premises. Looking for a glass of wine? Hang out at the club near space 235. Want to be entertained? Stroll over to the amphitheater for a concert under the stars.

If resort camping is not your thing, it’s just as easy to stay put in a beautiful national or state park and partake in outdoor activities. In either case, the economies of scale will work in our favor. 

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