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RV Travel Surges, Accelerated By COVID Pandemic Bubble-Living

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Some 56 million Americans are planning on traveling in a recreational vehicle this summer, more than double than what we saw before the COVID-19 pandemic.

For their first big vacation since the pandemic, Bay Area residents Pete and Gina Danford and their daughter, Sam, loaded up their recreational vehicle for a cross-country trip.

"With family and health issues, we decided to get something that was self-contained, so we could be in our own little bubble, we could travel safely," Pete Danford said.

The Danfords are far from the only ones thinking that. The RV Industry Association says the soaring demand for RVs is driving a record year in production.

"We're actually seeing more people heading out RVing this summer than last summer," said spokeswoman Monika Geraci.

A third more RVs will be manufactured this year compared to last year. Currently, more than 11 million American households own an RV, up 26% over the last decade and 62% more than 20 years ago.

The pandemic has helped accelerate a national vacation trend.

"People have rediscovered the great outdoors," said Geraci. "And at the same time, people are discovering RVing for the first time." Geraci explained.

Santa Rosa RV General Manager Razi Hyder said he has never been this busy at his 30-year-old, family-run business.

"It has been just nuts," he said.

Normally, there are up to 125 recreational vehicles filling his lot, but on Monday there were only about 20 in stock. Hyder said waiting lists run three to four months long and buyers are putting down deposits on vehicles, sight unseen.

How long do they stay in his lot?

"In some cases, hours," he said. "In other cases, a few days."

When Danford did his research, he concluded RV rental prices were too expensive for his family's trip, and buying a new motor home was out of their budget, so they looked for a used RV. But they weren't prepared for the rough ride in a hot market.

"No idea," Danford said. "It was shocking."

Their four-month search took them to five sellers, from Sacramento to Monterey, and long lines of buyers.

"We would contact somebody for a used one, we'd go see it, they'd tell us, 'Well, you're second on the list, third on the list, fourth on the list,'" he recalled.

The Danfords finally made a deal for their home on wheels, and now they're ready to roll.

"We're really looking forward to it," he said.

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