Rental RVs become popular summer travel alternative amid COVID-19

DURHAM (WTVD) -- So, it's time for your summer vacation but the original plan of staying in a hotel around a lot of other people isn't so attractive now.

That happened to John Lewton and his family.

"We weren't comfortable doing certain things with a lot of people there. So after brainstorming we came up with the RV," Lewton, of Raleigh, told ABC11.

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John Lewton said he, his wife and two daughters realized months ago their planned vacation to Colombia, South America was not going to happen.

The alternatives were not attractive to them but they knew they didn't want to stay home so taking an RV or recreational vehicle vacation soon became the number one choice.

"If you're going to go on a road trip during a pandemic, an RV is the best way to do it because you don't have to utilize any public bathrooms. You can use the bathroom on the RV. You don't have to go out to eat. You bring all the food with you," he said adding, "You kind of, you kind of have a safe space so you don't have to expose yourself."

To make sure it's safe before you even pick it up, RV rental dealers are sanitizing everything.

Monday, cleaning crews at Cruise America RV Rentals franchise in Durham were even pouring bleach water on the running boards of one RV.

The cost of extra sanitizing is well worth the extra traffic the pandemic is bringing to this franchise.

Especially since early on it appeared their business might be another casualty.

Once campgrounds reopened, Cruise America in Durham realized it might actually be well positioned for the pandemic.

"This makes perfect sense," said company representative Brooke Thomas.

"You can still social distance and vacation and get out and enjoy your freedom. And I think at that point I was like, 'This is going to take off,'" said Thomas.

Inventories of RVs available to rent are dwindling nationwide.

Renters are using the RVs in many different ways, not just multi-state odysseys.

"Maybe it's just for the weekend to get away and go to the beach and they feel more comfortable staying in North Carolina. And we have people that want to fly in from across the country and drive them back. So we get a broad range of usage for the RVs right now," said Thomas who added that some people are even parking them in their driveways to accommodate visitors who want to quarantine.

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The Lewton family went less than 300 miles to an RV park at Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks. And even though the park's pool, tennis courts and putt-putt course were open, the Lewtons steered clear of others.

"We tended to stick to our RV and we went to the beach. And we also drove a Jeep on the beach," John Lewton said.

In addition to renting the Jeep to drive in the sand for a day, they also rented a golf cart to get around the area.

It may not have been the best vacation ever, but it will always be one of the most memorable.

"Some things were not as you expect but you can go back and look at it with fond memories. Some of it was a lot better than we expected," he said.

And even if you want to wander with no set plans, the great thing about RVs is that they also have generators that make their own electricity.

So if necessary, there's a lot of places you can pull over and spend the night for free.

If you think an RV trip is for you, start calling dealers now because they're renting fast.
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