COVID-19 has changed the way most people travel or didn't travel last year and experts say nothing proves that more than the RV industry.
Sales and rentals are hitting new records and RV parks are booked out months in advance this summer as Americans look for ways to stay out of airplanes and hotels. Even still, it is not stopping first-time RVers from giving it a try and hitting the open road in style.
In his 16 years of renting RVs, Walt Williams has never seen customers come through the doors at Suncoast RV like they have in the past year.
"A lot of people want to try it before they buy it. We've got a lot more first-timers. People are coming in trying RVing for the first time because they don't want to fly. They don't want to stay in hotels and they really want to see the United States," says Williams.
Suncoast RV in Hillsborough County specializes in RV rentals. It's the way many folks go before they make the second largest purchase of their lives which can range from $60,000 all the way up to a $1 million.
Williams says rentals are up 180% year to year.
"Some people who are thinking about doing RVing on a more permanent basis like buying one we've had people come in and start with a 23 (foot RV) then move to a 28 and they might rent 4 or 5 of them until they decide this is the one that fits me the best," adds Williams.
"We are actually thinking of purchasing one so we thought we better see how it feels to get the feel to find the appropriate vehicle for our needs," says Clunie, who drove up from Fort Myers to come to Suncoast RV.
ABC Action News Anchor Jamison Uhler stopped by General RV just off of I-4 and discovered RV sales are on pace for a record year all across the country.
A quick check and a few phone calls will tell you it may take some luck finding an RV campground site. Many are now selling out months in advance.
"A lot of people are using this as when people don't want to stay in hotels and they want the comfort of sleeping in their own bed and using their own bathroom this is a really safe way to be able to do that," says Nicole Akers at General RV.
RV specialists say there are some things you should do before going all-in on the RV craze like try renting first. Even after that maybe consider buying a used RV until you decide RVing is your new way of travel.
Also know that repairs, filling up for gas and RV storage can get expensive, and realize there is a learning curve.
For the inexperienced and uninitiated RVer, places like Suncoast RV say they make sure no one leaves the lot until they feel comfortable behind the wheel and how to hook up to their campsite.
"We'll do a full orientation for them which takes usually 45 minutes to an hour so that they understand how everything works," says Williams.
If you do decide to hit the open road this summer in an RV and because campsite space is in high demand, experts say plot out your trip beforehand and make sure there is a spot for you to stop along the way.
A little-known insider tip if you can't find a spot, many Walmarts, Cracker Barrels and Lowes will let you post up in their back parking lots for an overnight stay.