Transportation & Logistics

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Youth Sports Parents Turn to RVs to Keep Travel Expenses Down

29 Jun, 2016

By: Tracey Schelmetic

Straddling the line between camping and hotel use, RV rentals are on the uptick among parents of youth on travel teams. And as more kids are able to travel with friends to keep the expenses down, count on this trend to grow.

Travis Dorsch, an assistant professor and researcher at Utah State University, told the New York Times last year that spending on sports has gone up significantly, and that it’s not unusual for parents to spend over 10 percent of their annual income on equipment, dues and fees and travel expenses. Increasingly, however, parents are looking for cheaper alternatives for children who engage in club sports travel, which leads to the renewed popularity of the RV.

The Minnesota Star Tribune recently highlighted a trend among parents to forego flying and hotels in favor of old-fashioned caravanning. The story was focused on youth hockey players.

“In the fiercely competitive world of league hockey, it’s not unusual for parents to pack the kids in the minivan and spend weekends crisscrossing the state for tournaments,” wrote the Star Tribune’s Kevyn Burger. “However, a small but growing number of families with young athletes are forgoing hotels and opting for RVs instead. By setting up makeshift campgrounds — often in parking lots right next to the rinks — parents say they’re saving money, relieving players’ boredom between games and strengthening their ice-based communities.”

RVs, of course, aren’t cheap: depending on the model, they can run between $12,000 and $30,000. For a family shelling out over $10,000 a year for a single child in a club sport that requires travel, however, the investment may make sense. Some parents also report that caravanning in RVs helps them retain something of a social life for themselves – it’s not unusual to see adults socializing around a grill while children play -- and is conducive to family togetherness.

Data from the RV industry appears to show rising interest among Americans. Shipments in 2015 were expected to reach approximately 365,000 units: the highest total since 2006. In 2014, RV shipments rose to 356,735 units, a gain of 11.1 percent over the previous year, according to data supplied by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). While the growth is in part due to Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, there is evidence that RVs are becoming popular again with families who travel for youth sports. According to another study by the RVIA, buyers aged 35 to 54 posted the largest gains in ownership rates of recreational vehicles.

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