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Putting the RV in Travel

Find the comforts of home—on wheels 

By Steve Adams 

As summer’s arrival coincides with rising vaccination numbers and loosening health and safety restrictions, countless headlines are predicting an “unprecedented” national travel boom. In fact, “revenge travel” is now an official thing—just give it a Google if you’re curious. It just might be the phrase of 2021, just as “unprecedented” was clearly the adjective of 2020. 

And while there are endless options for where to go and how to get there, along with countless ad campaigns and discounts offered to entice travelers, there’s one travel trend that was growing in popularity well before the pandemic, surged during air travel restrictions, and is showing no signs of stopping: RVing. 

You’re probably at least somewhat aware of vacationing via recreational vehicle, whether you’ve experienced it yourself, have family or friends who do it. You may have read about A-list celebs such as Matthew McConaughey and Shailene Woodley, chilling in a pimped-out Airstream or traveling in a motorhome. You have certainly seen RVs heading up and down Solomons Island Road on Friday afternoons, or overnighting in Walmart or Costco parking lots.  

It’s a #Lifestyle 

RVing is serious stuff. There are plenty of full-time RV influencers out there, spending 365 days a year on the road, working and schooling remotely (sound familiar?) while promoting properties, products, and a lifestyle on social media (#RVlife). And RVing no longer means roughing it like Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, driving from one dumpy destination to another. Rather, today’s roomy RVs are basically homes, or even hotels, and most RV campgrounds, or “glamp-grounds,” boast resort-level amenities such as free, reliableWi-Fi, cable TV hookups, and pools. 

Given this, it’s no surprise that RV owners are attracted to this type of travel. According to the latest GO RVing/Cvent survey from May 2019 (well before we’d ever heard of COVID), some of the top aspects include:  

  • Affordability, with 87 percent agreeing that RVing is a cost-effective way to travel, regardless of fluctuating fuel prices, and 81 percent saying that it can save 25 percent over other travel. 
  • Flexibility, with 69 percent touting the ability to take more mini-vacations and 68 percent reporting that they’re able to bring their pet along.  
  • Outdoor accessibility, with 61 percent naming the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities such as visiting state or national parks (73 percent), grilling/cooking out (72 percent), visiting historic sites, hiking, fishing and swimming with their friends and family. 

“RV travel gives people the chance to explore where they want, when they want, and at the pace they want,” says Saskia Boogman, director of public relations for Kampgrounds of America (KOA). “It offers a level of independence not found in other forms of travel.” 

Consider Boogman’s description of RVs as “self-contained units with a high degree of both real and perceived safety and inherent social distancing [that] allow people to escape urban areas and connect to natural spaces easily,” and it’s obvious why RVing had the potential to boom in the COVID era.  

Made for This 

And boom, it has… 

Here’s the evidence: 

  • RoadSigns reported that shipments of RVs for 2020 were up 6 percent over 2019 despite a nearly two-month production shutdown; Boogman says there are approximately 13 million RV households in the U.S., up from 9.6 million in 2020 and 7 million in 2019. 
  • Outdoorsy, an RV rental company reports a dramatic 4,600 percent growth in RV trips booked from April 2020 to October 2020. And it’s not appearing to slow down: RVshare, the world’s largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, says 84 percent of travelers who rented an RV in 2020 are planning to rent again in 2021. 

Todd Burbage, CEO of Berlin, Md.-based outdoor hospitality developer Blue Water Development, says that RV travel in and around the Chesapeake reflects the national trend. 

“RV camping has always been popular because it gives travelers a fun, affordable, and unique way to go where you want, when you want,” Burbage says. “Plus, today’s camping resorts are true vacation destinations in their own right, appealing to those looking for a place to not only make memories with their family but also socialize with an active and friendly community. So, when many people were looking for an escape after months of lockdown and anxiety, it’s not surprising that we saw many travelers, whether veteran campers or first-timers, turn to campgrounds as the right choice at the right time.”  

Road Trips, Anyone? 

Industry leaders are bullish on the future.   

“Even with other forms of travel returning, the desire to use an RV to get outdoors and experience an active outdoor lifestyle is stronger than ever,” said RV Industry Association President & CEO Craig Kirby. “RVing has been cemented as a mainstream travel option that is here to stay. We know people plan to go RVing because of their interest in exploring the great outdoors, their newfound flexibility to work or attend school remotely, and their desire to spend time with family. These are not short-term, pandemic-related reasons but rather speak to the long-term appeal of RVs.” 

Burbage thinks the Chesapeake Bay area will remain a particularly popular destination.  

“As many of the license plates at our resorts prove, the Chesapeake region is seen as a convenient getaway not only for people from Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and D.C., but also many from Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and other states up and down the East Coast,” says Burbage. “The Delmarva Peninsula offers a unique combination of cool, historic beach towns, from Rehoboth down to Cape Charles, and unique places to see diverse geography and reconnect with nature, and we love that so many guests from both near and far love it as much as we do.”   

Map Your Summer Now

If you want to explore Chesapeake Country by renting an RV, borrowing one, or simply staying in a “rental RV” at a campground (yes, that’s a thing, too!)—or other camping/glamping accommodation, the good news is there are plenty of great places to stay. Each offers something unique in terms of not only their geography but also their adult-, kid-, and pet-friendly amenities and activities, from poolside bars, playgrounds and dog beaches to hiking, biking, fishing and boating – plus the opportunity to make (if I may…) “unprecedented” memories. 

Breezy Point Beach & Campground – Chesapeake Beach, Md. 

On the Western Shore, Breezy Point has been operated by Calvert County Parks and Recreation since it was acquired by the county in 1995. The half-mile long public beach is perfect for sunbathing, sand castle building, and searching for shark teeth, along with jellyfish-free swimming in a netted area and fishing or crabbing off the 200-foot long pier. There’s also a playground, bath houses, grills, and shaded picnic areas. Admission fees for beach. 

The campground offers seasonal and daily camping for tents, pop-ups, RVs, and trailers through Oct. 1. Learn more at www.calvertcountymd.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/Breezy-Point-Beach-and-Campground-15  

Point Lookout State Park – Scotland, Md. 

Farther south, Point Lookout is nestled on a peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. Once the location of a camp that imprisoned over 52,000 Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, the park includes a museum, periodic Living History weekends, and the currently-under-renovation Point Lookout Lighthouse. It also offers public beaches, hiking trails, a boat launch and canoe rentals, and a 710-foot fishing pier.  

The campground has 143 wooded campsites, with 26 full hook-up sites available year-round for self-contained campers and all other sites available through Nov. 1. Learn more at dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/southern/pointlookout.aspx  

BayShore Campground – Rock Hall, Md. 

Over the Bay Bridge and up the Bay, BayShore sits directly on the Chesapeake’s Eastern Shore, just a few miles from the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge and the historic towns of Rock Hall and Chestertown. A nature lover’s paradise, the wooded campground offers swimming, fishing and crabbing, boating, hiking, and bird watching, along with two ponds, a playground, and a basketball and volleyball court.  

BayShore offers over 150 campsites during its summer and winter seasons, May 1 to Nov. 1 and Nov. 1 to April 15. Learn more at bayshorecamping.com/  

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Delaware Beaches – Lincoln, Del. 

Located within minutes of Dewey, Rehoboth, and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Jellystone is likely the most family-friendly campground in Delaware. Under new ownership for 2021, it offers endless sources of entertainment including a pool with waterslides, an upgraded playground and camp store, sports courts, and a batting cage, plus daily activities such as movie nights, hayrides, visits from Yogi, Boo Boo and Cindy, and themed events from Easter through Halloween. “We’ve enhanced and accentuated all of the things that make Jellystone Delaware an exceptional family vacation destination, and we’re thrilled to be able to help our guests have fun after such a tough year,” says General Manager Bryan Fykes.  

Jellystone features more than 265 sites, including two dozen cabin rentals for non-RVing glampers, and is open through Oct. 31. Learn more at www.delawarejellystone.com/  

The Resort at Massey’s Landing – Millsboro, Del. 

Right on Rehoboth Bay, Massey’s offers what General Manager Abby Beard describes as “luxury camping and glamping at its finest.” Guests can enjoy a private beach for both humans and dogs, canoeing, kayaking or paddleboarding, fishing and crabbing, and Beard’s favorite amenity, a pool with the area’s only swim-up pool bar. Massey’s also offers a waterfront restaurant, bike and golf cart rentals, and complimentary shuttle service to local attractions—plus themed activities and events throughout the season, from Superhero to Dino week. 

Open through Nov. 7, Massey’s not only offers hundreds of RV sites but also beach cottages, safari tents, and RV rentals (fully-stocked travel trailers that allow you to “Try It Before You Buy It”). Learn more at www.masseyslanding.com  

Frontier Town RV Resort – Berlin, Md. 

Perhaps the most family-friendly campground in Maryland, Frontier Town has been the base camp for family campers converging on Ocean City and Assateague for more than a decade. Themed in the American Old West, the resort offers its famed Western Experience horse show three times per day, a very photo-friendly Wild West town, and amenities including a water park, miniature golf, pontoon boat rentals, a fishing/crabbing pier, and plenty of nature trails. “We let you take a historic trip back to the Old West, but with all the all the benefits of a beach vacation,” explains General Manager Ben Elliot. 

Frontier Town offers more than 680 total RV, RV rental, tent, and cabin sites and is open through Nov. 28. Learn more at campground.frontiertown.com/  

Chincoteague Island KOA Resort – Chincoteague, Va. 

Moving down the Eastern Shore and into Virginia, Chincoteague Island KOA sits on 200 wooded acres near Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore. Along with viewing horses and exploring the seashore, guests can visit NASA’s Wallops Island facility and enjoy amenities including a pool, huge jump pillow, and activities on the water. However the most eye-catching amenity is Maui Jack’s Waterpark, a full-fledged waterpark featuring a 620-foot long Lazy River, two open-air speed slides and three enclosed slides, and a huge pool playground. “There’s never a dull moment and nobody gets bored at Chincoteague,” says General Manager Connie Davis. 

Chincoteague Island KOA offers RV, RV rental, tent, and cabin sites and is open through Nov. 30. Learn more at www.koa.com/campgrounds/chincoteague.  

Cape Charles/Chesapeake Bay KOA Resort – Cape Charles, Va. 

Located on the southernmost point of the Eastern Shore, Chesapeake Bay KOA offers endless opportunities to experience both the Bay and wildlife. General Manager Nic Palmer says the resort’s private beach is the perfect setting for enjoying watersports and “amazing sunsets that never get old,” while the 1,700-acre wildlife refuge that surrounds it is great for hiking, birdwatching, and biking. Cape Charles also includes its own waterfront restaurant, The Jackspot, two pools, a private dog beach and park, and events and live music throughout the season. 

Cape Charles/Chesapeake Bay KOA offers RV, tent, and cabin sites and is open through November 30. Learn more at www.koa.com/campgrounds/chesapeake-bay