Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

The recreational vehicle (RV) industry took off during the COVID-19 pandemic. RVs offered a way to take your pod (aka ‘family)’ out of lockdown to the great outdoors while maintaining isolation.

RV sales and rentals continue to rise now that COVID is ‘over,’ although this year’s fuel cost increases may have kept RV users closer to home. Surprisingly, RVshare, an RV rental industry leader, claims that the cost of an average RV trip went up just $35 per trip compared to last year. RVshare, which likes to call itself the ‘Airbnb for RVs,” has more than 100,000 RV owners on its platform.

By renting on RVshare, families can experience a camping vacation without buying an RV—or even driving one. With RVshare’s delivery option, you can get an RV delivered to your campground of choice.

“Since 2018, RVshare has grown 10 times its size, mainly due to the RV boom in 2020 and the ongoing shift in perspective around RV travel,” says RVshare CEO Jon Gray. “RV travelers are skewing younger, and families are seeing the benefits of traveling in an RV.”

For owners, the value proposition is simple. What if, instead of staring at the RV in your driveway, you could put it to work? There are 11.2 million RV-owning U.S. households, but RVshare estimates that recreational vehicles go unused 90% of the time.

The company says owners can make from $10,000 to $40,000 a year in extra income by renting RVs on its platform. The similarities to Airbnb are unmistakable, like this page for owners on how to “Set Up your RV Listing for Success: Photography, Staging, Props & More!” RVshare takes a 15-25% commission from the RV owner. Owners are also responsible for providing regular maintenance.

We recently spent two nights in an RVshare recreational vehicle, and it opened our eyes to the RV lifestyle. Neither of us had ever stayed in an RV.

We drove up to the Ocean Mesa RV Resort on the California coast, north of Santa Barbara. But we didn’t get the thrill of towing a big trailer up the narrow coast highway. In fact, we literally couldn’t drive it. The wheels of our RV were removed, and it was up on jacks on its concrete pad.

But we certainly enjoyed the RV version of “glamping”—glamour camping. The RV had its own toilet with a shower compartment. It had a queen-sized bed at one end of the trailer, and two nooks one on top of the other, like covered bunk beds, for kids or visitors. The couch could double as a fifth bed.

The kitchen included a four-burner stove with an oven. There was a microwave, a kitchen sink, and a drying rack for dishes. The kitchen had a decent-sized refrigerator with a freezer, and the cabinets were thoughtfully stocked with plates, silverware, spices, pots and pans and cleaning materials.

We enjoyed eating on the picnic table outside. The site also had a charcoal grill and a wood fire pit, neither of which we used because it was hot. Our RV even came with a pair of electric rotating marshmallow forks, plus chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows for making ‘smores.

As for creature comforts, the RV also had air-conditioning, Wi-Fi/internet access, a television and even a working gas fireplace. Did I mention it had its own toilet?

Bodhi, our 13-year-old Labrador mix, was welcome both in the RV and the surrounding park, unlike in most hotels. More than 48 million Americans have dogs, but most hotels either ban them completely, permit only smaller dogs, or charge an additional pet fee. (LA’s fabled Century Plaza, which has a Labrador serving as “canine ambassador,” is an outstanding exception.)

Bodhi enjoyed his trip to the great outdoors. While he had some trouble climbing the metal steps up to the RV, once inside he was comfortable sleeping on the couch.

The Ocean Mesa RV Resort is a beautifully landscaped private park just across the freeway from the Pacific. You could take a 15-minute walk from the RV park to El Capitán State Beach and spend the day in the sand or surf. The Goleta area is known for its beaches and activities like horseback riding, hiking, birding, bicycling, and golf.

We wandered Ocean Mesa with and without Bodhi, hiking up into the coast hills behind the park’s tent area. Our RV had a pair of bicycles which we took for a spin around the campsite. The park was a friendly place, where parents felt comfortable enough to let their children ride bikes up and down.

There were also plenty of activities to keep families occupied. There was a big swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a game area, and a store selling snacks and supplies. Ocean Mesa also had laundry facilities and lockable bathrooms and showers. We didn’t use the latter much; did I mention we had our own bathroom?

Except for dinner in Goleta, we spent most of our time in the campground or RV. I cooked a cheese omelet for brunch, and we figured out how to use the small shower without scalding or freezing ourselves. We were spared the hard work of setting up the RV and plugging in its hookups. But we did have to figure out how to get the streaming-only TV working, downloading Hulu to watch “Only Murders in the Building.”

We left the campsite to venture out on a three-hour kayaking trip run by Santa Barbara Adventure Company. Attentive guide Sean gave us a paddling refresher before we set out on the Coastline Beach Kayak.

The self-powered tour took us through the calm waters off Haskell’s Beach. Sean taught us about the pelicans, the geology, and local history, from native Californians to oil drilling, as we paddled or drifted. The ocean brought us sight of a harbor seal, some dolphins, and many sea birds.

We thought we had the kayaking thing down, until a local paddleboarder warned “good luck getting in” as the waves broke on shore. She was proven correct as we wiped out trying to land. We didn’t mind, as our phones were in waterproof bags. We simply ended up walking the last 100 yards through the Pacific.

How much is an RVshare rental? It depends on where you’re going, what size (and age) RV, when you’re traveling, whether you want it delivered or not, etc. Motorhomes are more expensive than trailers.

For September, we found seven four-night RV rentals within 10 miles of Goleta, CA. They ranged from a 2021 Forest River Rockwood Ultra Lite 2606WS trailer that slept five for $229 per night, to a 2006 Fleet wood Sea Pine that slept six for $95 a night., plus $85 roundtrip for delivery for the first 30 miles.

RVshare said a trailer like ours would cost between $100-$200 per night, plus $100-$120 for delivery. These prices do not include taxes and fees, which can add another 25% for insurance, campsite liability, service fees and state and local taxes.

You’ll also need a campsite. The Ocean Mesa says RV sites start at $77 USD per night. To make sure you can get an RV delivered to the private, state or National Park you’ve chosen, RVshare recommends researching or calling the park directly.

We heard French, German and other languages being spoken by campers RV-ing their way across the USA. Will we join them? We just might.

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