As national parks, campgrounds, and RV parks across the country slowly start to reopen, more people than ever are booking recreational vehicles—whether they’re traditional RVs, pop-top camper vans, or tricked-out adventure vehicles—and getting out on the road.
After an initial drop off of bookings at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, peer-to-peer RV rental companies Outdoorsy and RVshare are both reporting sharp upticks in bookings. Outdoorsy’s average daily bookings have increased 450 percent since April 1; RVshare has seen a 650 percent rise in rental bookings since early April as well.
These trends are more than simple rebounds. RVshare reported the highest recorded booking numbers in its history; the past record was set last year during the company’s peak travel season in June. More first-time visitors checked out the Outdoorsy platform in the first two weeks of May than did in the same time frame last year, and the company has seen more visitors overall in the past few weeks than it did during the same period last year.
For many, RVs are looking like the safest way to travel right now and into summer, reports the Wall Street Journal. A late-April survey by MMGY Global for the U.S. Travel Association found that fewer than 15 percent of travelers feel safe taking a domestic flight, and just 17 percent feel safe at a hotel or resort. Self-contained RVs provide transportation, accommodation, and a place to prepare meals all in one.
And it’s not just that more people are booking RVs: Their travel habits and plans have changed as well in the wake of COVID-19. Both Outdoorsy and RVshare noted a particular increase in last-minute inquiries, with more customers booking an RV a few days before they plan to travel in it rather than a few months in the future. About 50 percent of recent trips booked through Outdoorsy have departed in the same week.
And people are booking longer trips than usual too, whether because they missed their spring trips, they’re not working, or they are now able to work from the road. In March and April, Outdoorsy customers were booking trips that lasted between 5 and 12 days; last year during the same period, the average trip length was between 4 and 6 days. While trip lengths returned to normal for May compared to previous years, the company is already seeing the trend of longer-than-usual trips continuing in June with trips lasting an average of 8 days or more. In a recent survey of its users, RVshare found that 77 percent of respondents are looking to make travel plans within the next three months, and close to half of respondents plan to travel for a week to more than 10 days.
Typically, most of Outdoorsy’s bookings come from western states during this time of the year. However, while the majority of its customers are still in the West, the company noticed that weekly bookings in the southern states—where things are beginning to open back up–were growing at a rapid rate of 42 percent in the past few weeks, compared to about 16 percent in the West. This is starting to even back out.
But those considering renting an RV for some social distance–friendly travel should know they’re not alone. RVshare reports that traveling to avoid crowded places has become 70 percent more important to its users since the pandemic started. The overwhelming majority of respondents to its survey—93 percent—want to avoid crowds, and many are looking at national parks and lake destinations to do so.