Through my Google Alerts, I was just notified of a story on the Nebraska based Journal Star site where the State of Nebraska will start allowing extended campground stays of up to 90 days, starting in January. The reason? Campers are complaining about the high price of fuel used to drag their campers home every two weeks. You can bet there will be others to follow in this trend.
I monitor stories about RV’s, campers, campgrounds, minivans, and many other keywords that allow Google to send me these news reports. I get everything from news of proposed campgrounds in Florida to complaints about park model RV’s going into campgrounds in New England. I also get posts and comments from blogs, forums and discussion groups about any of these topics, not just here, but from any English speaking country or site in the world.
On top of that, I get several RV trade magazines and many newsletters from special interest sites within the RV and camping topic, as well as vehicle and product specific sites.
Everything that I read spells out two things: (1) This recession is not going away any time soon (although I believe it’s slowly getting better, if Congress doesn’t do something to screw up the progress), and (2) regardless of how some RV’ers say it isn’t going to change their traveling habits, the majority of them say it already has. And the more expensive the rig they travel in, the more they are cutting back somewhere.
The biggest money saver for RV owners is the most obvious… they aren’t using it near as much, unless they are full timing and have no choice. When they have no choice, they are staying longer in one place to save fuel.
Even the ones who are still using their RV’s for part time use, such as long weekends and vacations, are staying closer to home when they do go out, and some have already downsized to something more fuel efficient. Oh sure, some will argue that they are still doing what they want to do and going where they want to go, but they are in the minority. Every statistic I have read, from every source I get, says that most people are cutting back on their RV travel in some way or another.
What I think is most wasteful is people buying a big RV to travel in, and then staying at a motel or other destination lodging when they get there! Of course, they have a right to do it, but I see it as foolish! This country has enough fuel problems without people being wasteful just because they have the right!
If I had a choice, I would be out there full-timing right now, myself. It was the most enjoyable time of my life (except for having to work at creating site maps while doing it) (I hate sales!). But what I really love is the travel and adventure. Out of all the traveling we have done, the times I enjoyed it the most were when I didn’t have to worry about payments, didn’t have to worry about fuel costs, didn’t have to worry about where to turn around, or whether I was going to get stuck!
A minivan is more or less a “smooth road” vehicle, and that’s fine for normal highway and travel use. If I wanted to go back-roading, I would be just as happy with a high-ground-clearance four-wheel drive pick-up with a camper on it. But both are easy to “go” with… to go anytime, to go more often, and to go places where other vehicles can’t. Smaller is better for a lot more reasons than people think bigger is better.
If I had to sit in one place for months on end in “a box” (as my wife puts it), it would be as bad as staying in one place with a home and land to have to work on. Even when you have space, it gets boring after a while, not to mention the constant upkeep of a piece of property. OK, granted, that can be offset by the appreciation in value of that kind of property, but you have to work to earn it, in both labor and cost. If you’re lucky, you might come out ahead. But many properties have gone “backwards” during this recession. The money and time still has to be spent to maintain the property, even when the “value” is also becoming an expense.
At least with a RV, you have less maintenance, and you know going into it that it is going to depreciate, so there’s no surprises. Plus, you can travel with the seasons and see something different nearly every day, too. I can live with that.
But for those who aren’t making more in retirement than they did working, and don’t like sitting in one spot for months on end, living in a “box”, the alternative is to find something less expensive to travel with, so that you can afford the fuel, cut your other expenses, and still get out and see some different country every week. I’m not saying that a minivan camper is right for everybody. As we get older, we tend to like our luxuries more and more. At some point those nicely groomed parks with the shuffleboard courts are going to look better and better… but I’m not there yet. My body is trying to tell me that I should be thinking about another Class A, but my brain is still out backpacking! Somewhere is a spot in the middle that can satisfy both needs.
In my book, I show how that “happy medium” can be a minivan camper, “as long” as it has all the luxuries of home… one way or the other. And I have showed how it can.
I was trying design it so as to not make any holes or modifications on the van, but I know that the time is going to come when I will want that pop-up roof from GTRV.com, so that I can have standing room when getting out of bed and getting dressed without having to resort to an external tent. But I won’t do it on an older van. I’ll either buy a used one that has the pop-up already installed, or I’ll find a nearly new one with low mileage and then have it installed, so that we can enjoy it for a few years. But for now, an external rear tent will give us what we need. And with the standing room comes a shower. Even a tent can have air-conditioning with a free-standing air-conditoner made for the purpose, as long as you have power to run it. Everything else is extremely easy to create.
I know that when we can get out there and travel full time again (or nearly full time), that we will eventually want something with more room. But I also know that the days of buying 5-MPG Class A’s are over. I don’t know what we will get, but it will have to be very fuel efficient, and I am still thinking of something above 18 MPG. In the meantime, doing our short trips with our minivan camper at 24 MPG (while we’re still physically able to do it) will allow us to save so that we can afford whatever we decide on later. If we don’t start to save now, while we are still physically able to, it won’t happen later. Our dreams are too important to make mistakes with at this stage of our lives.
My free 94-page book on how to “create” (not build) your own minivan camper is available as a pdf download from the main site, for those who have found this blog first. We are still progressing on finishing the site, with adding more content, more photos, more videos, more books, useful links to help save you money and keep you safe, as well as providing products that you might need in creating your minivan camper or in any other camping or traveling you do.
While we have this heat wave going on in the Midwest I won’t even attempt to go out and work in this heat and humidity. I’m retired… I don’t have to! As soon as it starts to cool down, I will be at work on the physical stuff, making videos of the progress, getting accurate measurements for the reclining couch/bed unit and the storage cabinet, and completing the paid verson of the book with complete plans in it for the only two simple pieces of removable furniture to be used in the van.
Yes, I said removable. If you haven’t read the book yet, everything that I show you how to do is forever yours… except for the van itself. You can trade the van, remove your entire camping setup and put it right back in another minivan without ever losing your investment! And you can do it without tools!
So it isn’t just fuel efficency that I am going after. I’m tired of losing everything I have ever spent money on in buying or creating a camper, only to have it lost in depreciation, or watching all my work go to someone else when trading! With this setup, you can keep all the work and equipment you put into it, and only trade the vehicle itself! You never lose your investment in the “camping” part of the package!
I just wanted to assure you, there is a very definite reason I am doing this project, and the news I am receiving from many sources is still telling me that people need this information. Fuel efficient campers are becoming a very “hot”, in-demand product right now. Hanging onto investments is also a very “hot” topic right now! I am showing you how to gain on both fronts!
The entire RV industry in general is finally thinking of getting back to simpler RV’s that are more fuel efficient and easier to maneuver. Other countries are way ahead of us on producing small RVs. A simple exploration of YouTube will show you all kinds of videos of both home-built RV’s and minivans, as well as factory-built units.
Yes, some people will still want the big ones. Good luck with that idea.
Meanwhile, I have two other projects in the works for fuel efficient campers… one for a pick-up truck, and the other for a small trailer that can even be towed with a Prius. Like the minivan, both will have full standing room, showers, and all the luxuries of home! And you will be able to build them at home, with simple tools. Both projects can be built complete with components for less than $2000 apiece (not including the truck). Those books should be available next year. The details are currently being sketched out as I work on finalizing this first one.
Anyone interested? Stick around! Let me know your thoughts!