Hannah sizes up the RV

We’re OFF!  A 32-foot RV stocked with food from Costco, toys, movies, two kids aged five and eight, two  parents and me.

The family is my cousins the SItzmans, who live in Denver.  We’re off on a weeklong RV trip across Southwestern Colorado in a home away from home from Winnebago (www.winnebagoind.com) that comes equipped with flat screen TV, bunks for the kids complete with individual DVD layers, stove, fridge, bedroom for the parents, sleeper sofa for me, bathroom and more cabinet space than my first NYC apartment.

“The most awesome day of my life,” declares 7 year old Ethan, who pronounces the RV “so much funner” than riding in the car. That gets boring, he says. Here, though he is still buckled in a seatbelt, he can alternatively play games (Operation Shrek this morning), play video games or watch a movie on his iPod when we sit around a table. When he’s hungry, his mom gets him yoghurt from the fridge. The best part he declares, he doesn’t have to wait for his dad to stop if he has to go to the bathroom.

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Five your old Hannah is happily coloring—deeming the bumps a challenge to her picture. Not that hard to drive, their dad Mike Sitzman declares.  Just different than a car.

Not exactly an old fashioned camping trip but an adventure just the same.  The RV industry is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a season that’s seemed an uptick in sales as well as interest from renters likely because it is an economical way to travel.  With the advent of cars and improved roads, Americans began to explore their country and the RV industry was born. Today one in 10 vehicle-owning households aged 50 to 64 own an RV but the fasted growing group of RV growers is young.

A PKF study shows that a family of four can save 21 to 67 percent on travel costs by using an RV. Even with higher fuel costs and factoring in RV ownerships, more than 80 per cent of RV owners say their vacations cost less than other vacations. One reason may be that they save on fuel costs by opting for campgrounds closer to home. RV rentals were up 12 percent last summer, according to the Recreation Vehical Rental Association (www.gorving.com). For 2010, Kampgrounds of America (www.koa.com ) is projecting a 15 per cent increase in booking—this at the time when hotels continue to struggle to attract families wary of spending on vacation.

Our RV, of course, is lodging, restaurant and transportation as well as entertainment–many campgrounds around the country courting families with pools and activities (tie dying anyone?). Figure on spending about $1500 a week to rent an RV. A typical 700 mile trip costs about $315 for fuel and $200 for campground fees.  So you can get away for a week for $2000—not bad these days.

So I’m sitting at the table between the two kids who very quickly have made the space their own with their blankies, stuffed animals Moosey and Treddy, pillows,  crayons and more. No whining…no “are we there yet!”