Want an RV or Campsite This Summer? You Might Have a Problem

After a tumultuous year of lockdowns and closures due to pandemic restrictions, Americans are eager to get back to a sense of normalcy. Now, more than ever, people are hitching campers and piling into RVs, searching for the next great adventure. 

In fact, a recent survey shows RV sales are at an all-time high, resulting in limited campground availability. National Parks are expecting a substantial increase in visitors this summer. And some major attractions have implemented online reservation systems.

RV travel is a great way to make memories, but remember to plan ahead to avoid disappointment.

Record-breaking RV sales

According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), more than 430,000 RVs sold in 2020. As record-breaking sales continue, the first quarter of 2021 is experiencing never-before-seen numbers.

In April 2021, RV manufacturers shipped 51,813 units, representing a 619.9 percent increase over last year’s RV sales for the same month. RVIA explains, “It is important to note that the RV industry shut down production in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in April of 2020.”

The increased demand has created a backlog on dealers’ lots, left with limited inventory as they await new arrivals. CBS News spoke with a Texas RV dealer who said he only had 50 RVs left on the lot, where he usually has hundreds. Typical of the industry as a whole, buyers are forced to wait eight to 16 weeks to take ownership of a new model. 

Because the summer camping season will be over at that point, many consumers are choosing to take what’s available on the lot and forgo the pre-ordering process. The average consumer is a first-time buyer in their 30s or 40s, CBS News reported. Eager to get cruising, they’re booking campsites and buying RVs, making it difficult for the industry to keep up.

The astronomical demand is outpacing production, with an anticipated 523,000 additional units sold this year. With this comes a scarcity of campground availability that makes getting reservations difficult, if not impossible.

Campsites will be scarce this summer

A recent RVIA survey revealed that 56 million Americans plan to RV this summer, with 65 million planning to take a trip in the next year. Also, more than 30 percent of leisure travelers plan on renting an RV. With so many travelers on the roads, it will be harder than ever to find a campsite.

National Parks Traveler reported that RVIA president and CEO Craig Kirby said, “Interestingly, a full 10 percent of current non-RVers plan to travel in an RV this summer.” He noted that a quarter of these travelers might consider purchasing an RV in the next few months: “That’s great news for the RV industry as it strives to meet the record-breaking demands for RVs.”

Kirby added, “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. RVing has been cemented as a mainstream travel option that is here to stay.”

Why are so many people RVing?

The RVIA survey asked respondents about their motivation for traveling. The most common answer was the ability to explore the great outdoors.

The newfound flexibility to work and attend school via a mobile connection was also a factor. Many also said their desire for travel stemmed from wanting to spend more time with their children and other family members while experiencing new places.

The least popular response was people’s unwillingness to take other kinds of trips. An astounding 91 percent of current RV owners plan to continue traveling over the next six months.

So if you are planning to join the millions of campers hitting the road this summer, take heed and prepare for crowds and limited resources as Americans strive to return to normal.

RELATED: 5 Uncrowded National Parks for a Peaceful Road Trip