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The Mature Traveler

RVs: Hitting a Comfort Zone on the Winding Road

May 31, 1987|HANK KOVELL | Kovell is a veteran journalist in seniors' interests.

It appears that a large number of mature travelers are joining millions of other Americans who are hitting the road, in ever-increasing numbers, in recreational vehicles.

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Assn. states that 9 million Americans age 50 or over owned or rented an RV last year, and it predicts that 1987's total will be even greater.

Experts quote several reasons for this growth. The weak U.S. dollar abroad has made some foreign vacations prohibitively expensive, particularly for families and those on limited incomes. Also, gasoline prices are comparatively cheaper in the United States, and there is no shortage of fuel supplies.

Almost all RV travelers mention their love of the outdoors and the scenic beauty of our country as a primary reason for choosing the RV life style. There is also the flexibility of stopping where and when you feel like it, getting off the beaten track and avoiding crowds. And it permits family vacations with the opportunity to enjoy campground activities together. It is, as one senior couple put it, an adventure.

Increasing Trend

There is an increasing trend toward RV rentals rather than purchase. Renting has become especially popular because RVs may now be picked up in your home city, driven cross-country and turned in at a destination elsewhere, permitting you to return home by air, thus avoiding the long drive home.

The American Assn. of Retired Persons (AARP) has just published a book, "On the Road in an RV," written by Richard Dunlop, an expert on outdoor and RV travel. The book is full of useful information for those who are considering the purchase or rental of an RV, or for those who may already own one. It provides guidance on choosing your vehicle, financing and insurance, the pros and cons of renting, planning a trip, choosing a campground, cooking in an RV and chapters of other invaluable information.

Dunlop shows that travel by RV costs 50% less than a comparable trip by car and hotel/motel, and 75% less than a combined air/hotel/motel trip. An AARP executive says that all age groups visit much the same areas, but older Americans are likely to spend almost twice as much time away from home.

The bewildering variety of RVs may range in sale price from a few thousand dollars for a folding camp trailer to half a million dollars for a custom-designed coach with two levels, compact kitchen with appliances, trash compactor, clothes washer/dryer and spa.

Whether considering rental or purchase, it is wise to view RVs at a dealership or at one of the several RV shows held in Southern California each year where you can inspect the interiors and ask all the questions you want from experts in the industry.

Next, consider a short-term rental, perhaps for just a few days, to visit a nearby campground or RV park and to familiarize yourself with the handling of the vehicle and the life style aboard an RV. It's also the best way to find the type of vehicle that suits your particular needs.

At these campgrounds you will also discover the warmth and friendship that is typical of RV motorists, and you will be sated with cups of coffee and learn of experiences--good and bad--having to do with the world of RV living and travel.

In the selection of your type of vehicle you will also be influenced by where you plan to go, whether into the back country far away from civilization, near the beauty of our national parks, to friendly campgrounds along the way or to modern urban RV parks with all the amenities of home.

There are many sources for obtaining information on RVs and camping. If you cannot find "On the Road in an RV" in a bookstore, it can be bought for $8.95, plus $1.75 for postage and handling (total: $10.70) from AARP Books, 1865 Miner St., Des Plaines, Ill. 60016. (AARP members pay $6.50 plus $1.75. Total: $8.25.)

Information on RV rentals is covered in a brochure, "Rent a Rolling Holiday," available free by writing to Cruise America, Dept. KV, 5959 Blue Lagoon Drive, Miami, Fla. 33126. Or you can call them toll-free at (800) 327-7778. Information on renting is also available from U-Haul RV Rentals, 2727 N. Central, Phoenix, Ariz. 85036; (800) 821-2712.

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Assn. will send an information packet on RVs and camping as well as information on other helpful RV publications, which may be bought at modest cost. For free RV brochures write to RVIA, P.O. Box 2999, Reston, Va. 22090.

Western RV Show

Almost every type of RV will be on display next month when the Western Recreation Vehicles Show takes place at the Long Beach Convention Center June 10-14. For hours and ticket information, call (818) 784-3036.

Every major bookstore features displays of Rand McNally books on travel, and several new editions have been released. Their massive and very comprehensive volume, "RV Park and Campground Directory 1987," lists 19,000 public and private campgrounds, with complete listings of what's available at each camping location. It's priced at $12.95, but regional editions are available at $7.95.

Rand McNally also publishes "Camp for $10 a Day," with separate editions covering the Western and Eastern United States as well as Canada. Each is priced at $5.95.

Another new Rand McNally book is "Great National Park Vacations 1987." In addition to campground, motel, restaurant and local-attraction information, the book also contains a calendar of events for all major national parks.

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