IN YOUR PRIME: RVs, hotels offer different perks for older travelers

Marty and Donnie Vaughn have bought 8 different campers in 22 years. They are planning to camp at every state park in Ohio. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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Marty and Donnie Vaughn have bought 8 different campers in 22 years. They are planning to camp at every state park in Ohio. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Travelers increase, decide where to stay as they explore.

When Marty and Donnie Vaughn go out of town, they skip the hotels and turn to their RV.

“There’s no comparison,” said Marty, 64, who enjoys meeting new people in their travels, as well as the convenience of having their own items close at hand.

Her husband, 73, agrees.

“It’s just like a mini house you’re towing behind you,” he said.

But Aletha Dillinger, the director of sales and marketing at Fairfield Inn & Suites Dayton, prefers the comfort and convenience of hotels. Instead of thinking about water and electricity hook ups and waste disposal, hotel visitors can have “a true vacation away from everything,” she said.

“When you’re in a hotel, you don’t have all of that,” Dillinger said. “You get to relax and enjoy yourself and have fun.”

As more travelers are venturing out more than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, many are deciding where they want to stay as they explore. While hotels are seeing a bounce back in visitors, RVs, too, are gaining in popularity.

Domestic leisure travel plans are up 8 percentage points this year in the United States compared to 2019, according to a survey by Ipsos MORI for Tripadvisor. What’s more, RV ownership rose 62 percent in the two decades before a recent study by GO RVing, with 11.2 million households owning an RV in 2021. About half of those households are over the age of 55.

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Interest in RVs “exploded” with the pandemic, said Travis Gray, a senior sales associate at D&D RV in West Alexandria. For older adults, comfort, maneuverability and livability are some of the most important considerations when choosing an RV, and the options come in a wide range of sizes and prices, he said.

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Marty and Donnie Vaughn show-off their second camper home. The couple travel camp 100 days out of the year. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Marty and Donnie Vaughn show-off their second camper home. The couple travel camp 100 days out of the year.  JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Combined ShapeCaption
Marty and Donnie Vaughn show-off their second camper home. The couple travel camp 100 days out of the year. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

A single axle bunkhouse travel trailer that can sleep four comfortably can cost about $16,000, while a luxury travel trailer might run around $40,000, Gray said. Prices can go up from there based on size and amenities. With the choices in layouts and options, potential buyers really should see them in person.

“You have to sit on the toilet, lay in the bed, stand in the shower,” Gray said.

D&D RV, a family-owned dealership that also services RVs, sells about 300 units annually, and there isn’t much of an off season, Gray said. Among customers who are ages 55 and older, he sees both first-time buyers and those who are longtime campers.

Interest in RV rentals also has gone up at D&D since the pandemic began. And if travelers then decide RVing is for them? Rental costs at the dealership can be applied to RV purchases within 90 days of the rental, he said.

“If you’ve never camped before and you’re wondering if this is for us, it’s definitely the way to go,” he said.

But for others, like Dillinger, it is hotels that offer true relaxation.

“There are so many conveniences that a hotel offers,” she said.

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Hotels have fresh towels and linens, she said. Toiletries are provided, and often a complimentary hot breakfast as well. Visitors have access to Wi-Fi, a wide range of television channels and usually a business center if they need to print documents.

Many hotels also offer pools and hot tubs, not to mention big, comfortable beds, coffee makers and mini refrigerators – “just the little things that you don’t always think of until you’re in the middle of it and enjoying it,” she said.

Hotels have become even more aware of cleanliness since the beginning of the pandemic, Dillinger said. As more travelers are visiting hotels, they are seeing the high standards for themselves.

“I think it did give them that comfort, that we as a hotel industry were on top of it and really paying attention to it,” she said.

Safety also is an important issue for older travelers, and hotels often have some kind of security as well as sprinklers and alarms, Dillinger said. Travelers also enjoy the ease of having a front desk to ask for directions or recommendations.

For example, the Fairfield is located downtown at 305 E. Monument Ave., within a few blocks of a number of restaurants and a short drive from many other destinations in the area, she said. Hotel employees can give suggestions of unique things to do that travelers may not have come across online.

Marty Vaughn acknowledges that hotel rooms are more cost-effective for travelers who wouldn’t use an RV often, but that isn’t a problem for the Vaughns. They spend more than 100 nights a year on the road on average, traveling around Ohio and to places like West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida and their favorite – Myrtle Beach.

The Arcanum couple have purchased multiple units from D&D RV over the years, the most recent being a 2021 Passport travel trailer that is about 250 square feet and includes a queen-size bed, kitchen, bathroom, air conditioning and other amenities. Their Siamese cat travels with them.

“We’ll be doing this ‘til the end of our time,” Donnie said.

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