If the trend of recent years holds true, more and more people will be joining the RV community in 2022. The lure of the outdoors, combined with the freedom an RV provides, is something many are embracing as a great way to enjoy time with their families. So as people begin planning those camping trips for spring and summer, putting a new RV in the driveway quickly moves up the priority list!
When it comes to finding that new RV, the options range from casual online searching to going to your local dealer and taking a walk around the lot. But by far the best way to start your search is by attending an RV show. That’s where you’re going to get the most out of your time spent in terms of determining the best RV for your needs. RV shows can range from local, dealer-supported shows, to massive events spanning multiple buildings and many acres of land. These super shows specialize in showcasing all the latest and greatest that the national brands and dealers have to offer.
When we began the search for our RV, we had little knowledge of any of them. The only things we knew were anecdotes shared from family that own travel trailers and go out 4-5 times a year. But we were looking for a motorhome and would be living it full time. Suffice it to say, we were jumping in blind! We decided to attend an RV show to get a better idea of what kind of motorhome would work best for us. I remember walking into the first building and wondering what the heck we had gotten ourselves into! It was definitely a bit overwhelming. Despite that, we eventually decided to get our Holiday Rambler Vacationer based on a lot of the knowledge we gained from that experience. So, in this article we’re going to help you prepare for your first RV show. We’ll share tips, thoughts, and simple ideas to help you get the most out of the show without getting frustrated or overwhelmed. After all, the RV life is about reducing stress, not increasing it!
Setting Expectations To begin, let’s get a few things out in the open to set your expectations correctly. These shows are typically enormous, so be prepared to put some miles on your fitness tracker. You will see small trailers barely big enough for one person, all the way up to what are basically rolling mansions. The respective range of price tags will be equally as eye-opening! The sheer number of brands, sizes, floor plans, and options WILL blow your mind, so be ready. You will also find that there are an endless number of accessories and supplies for your rolling vacation home. But most importantly, you’ll find that the RV community is amazing in that it is extremely welcoming and supportive!
Put Your List Together Before you head to the show, it is a great idea to put together a list of things you want to see. Once you’re there, getting sidetracked by all the cool shiny objects is all too easy. Having a “must-see” list will help keep you on task and ensure you don’t miss anything that’s important to you. Most likely you’ll have already done some basic research and have a general idea of what you’re looking for. What are your must-haves in your future RV floor plan? (Bunk beds were at the top of our list). What type and size do you want to focus on? What brands are you most interested in? What is your price range? Answering these questions and having them in mind as you walk the show will make it easier to spend more time looking at potential RVs and less time on those that don’t fit your criteria. Its pretty easy to spend too much time looking at a really cool outdoor kitchen setup on an RV that is too short, over-budget, and lacks your needed storage space. Ask me how I know…
Another thing that was very helpful for us was buying the multi-day ticket. Even though we had an idea of what we wanted to see, we didn’t think we could do it all in one day. And boy were we right! So, we took a 2 day approach. Day 1 was pretty casual and all about getting the lay of the land, making notes along the way of where we wanted to spend more time. Really just taking in the whole spectacle. Then on Day 2, we went back to the areas we had noted to spend more time and talk to more people.
Walking the Show There are 3 types of attendees when it comes to RV shows. You have your Tire Kickers, those who are mildly interested in getting an RV in the next few years, but are mostly just looking. Then there’s your Walk In, Drive Out people who are there on a mission to buy their first or next RV. Keep in mind, you can find really good deals at many of these shows! And then there’s the Die Hards who aren’t looking to buy, but just love RVing and want to stay up on all the innovation and newness in the industry. If you fall into either of the first 2 categories, it’s time to put together your game plan for walking the show. It’s fun to wander and try to see everything, but as big as these shows can be, knowing where to go will save you a ton of time. Typically, the event website will have a show map on it that you can download. This map will give you the location of the booths of the brands and dealers you’ll want to stop by. Depending on how the show is setup, they may have each type of RV in a different area as well. For example, one building may be dedicated to Class A motorhomes, while others will have Class C’s, Fifth Wheels, and Travel Trailers respectively.
I would highly recommend that if both are present, make sure you talk with a brand representative and a dealer representative for the RV that you are looking to get. One of the best parts about these shows is being able to speak directly to a brand rep you might not otherwise have access to. For example, if you were interested in a Holiday Rambler Endeavor, stop by the Holiday Rambler booth and speak with the brand reps and see what floor plans they have to show. You’ll get the most accurate information about the coaches directly from the manufacturer and be able to ask specific questions to narrow down your search. You’ll also want to speak with your local dealer rep as well to get updated information on availability and pricing of the coach that you are interested in.
Once you’ve seen the things on your priority list, leave some time to check out the other booths as well. You will find all sorts of products and accessories to that you need (and want!) once you bring home your new RV. Everything from outdoor mats and chairs for setting up camp, to towing accessories and internet options can be found at the show. If nothing else, it just gives you an idea of the options that are out there to fit with how you will use your RV.
Who to Talk To As I have outlined above, RV shows are an excellent way to hone in on what RV you want to get for your family. The amount of information all in one place is really incredible. And it goes without saying, that if you’re looking to buy one, speaking with the reps from dealers and brands is the best way to make that decision. But if you really want the scoop, the good stuff, the un-filtered stories from the road, you need to talk to the Die Hards and those looking to upgrade their RV. You won’t have to look far; in fact, they may find you. But strike up a conversation with someone you pass while touring a unit that you like. Introduce yourself to the people talking about how the current model is different than the same model they have from several years prior. RVers love to share stories about their RVs and the experiences they have had in them. They will tell you what you want to know, and sometimes things you don’t. But not only will you get useful tidbits of information from them, you will get a sense of what it will be like to be in a campground on your first camping trip. Because I can guarantee you that your neighbor will come help if you need it! And your other neighbor will lend you their spare hose if you forgot yours. The RV community, while growing quickly, is a tight-knit group and they look out for each other. So, chat them up and see what you learn! Who knows, you may even see them out on the road, in an owners club meet-up, or at another show!
RV shows are amazing, overwhelming, and informative all the same time. But with a little bit of prep, you can make your show-going experience one that you really enjoy! And if you can find that one RV that’s you just can’t leave without, even better! So put your plan together, lace up your walking shoes, and have a blast!