Young parents Jen and Sean Fitzgerald fell in love with family camping two years ago, piling into a tent with their three daughters at night and waking up in the morning to a double rainbow arching over a lake.
But after a rainy hike last summer that left everyone soaked and trying to get warm, the Fitzgeralds this week wandered the halls of the Denver convention center to explore a new option: a small recreational vehicle.
“It would be nice to have something that’s one step up from a tent,” said Jen Fitzgerald, 40. “We’re tent campers and we really like tenting, but we’re looking at options.”
As reported by USA Today, the two are considering what’s known as a hybrid RV, a small trailer they could tow with an SUV, but with pop-out beds for their three little “divas,” she said.
“It’s nicer than our house, and we have a nice house,” Fitzgerald laughed.
With prices ranging from $15,000 to just shy of $1 million, Americans and international tourists alike have more options than ever when it comes to hitting the open road with a bed in tow. Or, for that matter, with dual sinks in the master bathroom of a 46,000-pound RV built on a behemoth bus chassis. The Newmar King Aire also has Sleep Number beds, four flat-screen televisions and a tablet to remotely manage the climate controls. Oh, and it also has a carbon-fiber steering wheel, and the driver sits in a captain’s chair with a built-in massager.
While the King Aire is particularly extravagant, Bob Livingston, publisher of Trailer Life and Motorhome magazines, says buyers are demanding the same kinds of countertops and finishes they’re accustomed to having in their homes. Many RVs at the show, for instance, have memory foam beds, laminate floors and Corian countertops.
Those amenities are driving massive growth in what has been a sagging industry hit hard by a lousy economy and sky-high gas prices. Last year RV dealers sold about 350,000 vehicles and trailers, and they expect to see even stronger growth this year, Livingston said. That’s a return to pre-recession levels not seen in nearly a decade.
“The whole industry is on fire,” said Livingston. “We are back, strong.”
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