We are living in a time in which the landscape for living and travel is changing. Because Outdoorsy’s goal is to help you navigate this new normal with ease and care, we decided to host a live panel full of travel experts willing to answer questions and offer insight into the road ahead.
Getting outside and spending time with loved ones is something we, since the start of Outdoorsy, have been passionate about. This panel covers topics that will help you do so safely in a post-COVID world.
Topics covered include:
- Popular destinations for RV travel once restrictions are lifted
- New safety measures parks and campgrounds should take to protect travelers and how travelers can protect national and state parks
- Tips for renters when evaluating destinations
- Travel trends and what they mean for RV owners
The future isn’t as bleak as one might think. Outdoorsy is here to provide information that will give you confidence in that.
- Jen Young, Co-founder and CMO of Outdoorsy
- Theresa Pierno, President & CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association
- Toby O’Rourke, CEO of KOA Campgrounds
- Justin Housman, Travel Editor for the Adventure Journal
Sad you missed out on the panel? Don’t worry, we recorded it.
Popular Destinations for RV Travel
With summer just around the corner and travel restrictions slowly being lifted, people are itching to get back out there, into the world, and out of their house. In fact, the stories receiving the highest traffic according to Justin Houseman has been webcams of national parks and of animals. So where will they be flocking?
National and State Parks
Some of the most popular destinations, according to Theresa Pierno, will be some of the iconic parks, from Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon. Already, these parks are seeing more out of state license plates as more people are willing to make the drive. She points out, “National parks, certainly state parks are going to be really popular destinations, given some of the concerns that people have with general, you know, airplane travel and just travel at large.”
As bans are lifted, people will be seeking out less crowded destinations to get their outdoor travel fix. In a survey about the maximum distance travelers would be willing to venture this summer, KOA found that 70% of people felt that they would be camping closer to home than previously had been, the majority not traveling more than 200 miles. Theresa recommends visiting smaller parks in your area, like Sequoia National Park or Kings Canyon, as these allow for safer social distancing practice and serenity. Find a local spot using NPCA’s park tracker.
Safety & Protective Measures
With different state rules and opening requirements, the protective measures employed by parks and campgrounds will vary. It is important to do your research before traveling to parks, especially those out of state. Because there isn’t really one person in charge, guidance, and direction on the matter are not uniform across the country. Despite differing degrees of requirements, there are still some general measures many state and national parks may be taking.
Safety For Parks
Limiting Visitor Access
“Right after Yellowstone opened, we saw crowds forming around old faithful. They’re not wearing masks, not six feet apart and, you know, really just there in mass. And so, if those things continue to happen, we may see changes in individual parks where they start closing off areas or even restricting access further,” Theresa says. Because of this the issue of access will be constant and changing.
To control visitor traffic and reduce park visitation, parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park, may be implementing a timed-entry system and requiring reservations. This would require reserving a time slot for visiting. Other approaches have been taken to limit park visitors, from closing vehicle access after all parking spots are filled to prohibiting overnight access.
Closing Public Areas
Some parks may be leaving their visitor center doors closed despite park reopening. Other public areas may also be restricted or closed off completely to avoid the gathering of masses and promote social distancing. Even popular trailheads may experience closure to avoid crowds.
Limiting Park Activities
Large group activities, like rafting, may not occur at this time.
Hiring More Staff
Seasonal rangers play an important role during this season, especially now when regulating social distancing practices and other safety precautions are essential. Unfortunately, many larger parks may have a hard time hiring the necessary staff as they have not been able to go through the interview process that would bring those numbers in.
Safety For Campgrounds
Lowering Campground Capacity
Though campgrounds will be open, they may be limiting access, with some only allowing half their normal capacity of campers.
Campgrounds will be modifying their check-in procedures to be as contactless as possible. Toby says they will be eliminating having to come inside to register and will instead have someone meet campers outside.
Pools, playgrounds, and even bathrooms may be closed. If they’re open, increased cleaning and social distancing requirements will be employed.
Travel Trends: What do they mean for RV owners?
More Outdoor Activity
People are more interested in outdoor activity than they were in the past and it’s not just because they’re bored. As Justin mentions, we’re seeing a lot of the same faces on the trails, so what may have started out as boredom is now an important resource in people’s lives.
One of Adventure Journal’s most popular stories is “What are the best campers van and RV rentals in North America?” People, now more than ever, are leaning towards this form of travel. With closures and restrictions, there is a shining spotlight on RV travel.
As Jen Young points out, “With a recreational vehicle, you’ve got your bathroom, an outdoor shower if you need it, a kitchen to keep your food. I mean, it’s such a self-contained awesome vehicle to have for any of the travel, because you don’t have to worry about being so reliant on the amenities in the parks, whether it’s the national ones or the private ones.”
This is important for RV owners because renters are seeking you out. That said, it may be a good time to dust off your trail and destination recommendations and post that content on your listing page or dashboard.
Greater Travel Site Readership
80% of Adventure Journal’s readership as of recently has been new readers. Because outdoor travel and activity may be new to many, readers will be seeking out more how-to and where-to articles to offer guidance for them and their new outdoor lifestyle.
Ask the Experts
You had questions. With vast experience in the world of travel and parks, our panelists had answers.
“Are there ways that we can still visit Zion and, you know, do it responsibly?”
Zion is a very beautiful and popular park, definitely a must-see; however, because of this enjoying it fully and safely under the circumstances of this year is next to impossible. Save it for next year. Where to go instead? BLM land around Colorado, Utah, and Arizona is free, open, and far less crowded.
“What does it look like for renters looking to take RVs across the Canada-US border?”
Only three provinces in Canada have fully opened up campgrounds — Alberta, Manitoba, and New Brunswick. Completely closed for camping are Newfoundland, Labrador, PEI, and Saskatchewan. This will change as June approaches as borders are set to open at the end of June or whenever it is determined safe to do so. Jen, who was born in Canada, says “When they make that decision, and they are reopening it, I feel like it’s a very solid mark of confidence that your renters or yourself, for the people joining the call, will be free and confident to be able to travel.”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not comfortable at all and 10 being super comfortable, how comfortable would you feel flying right now or staying in a hotel?”
On that scale, Justin is at an 8 while taking the proper safety precautions, like wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer. His main concern in traveling at this time would be affecting small communities, especially those lacking a more advanced healthcare system. As Theresa points out, “If you have people coming there and potentially impacting the health of that community and they don’t have the services, it’s a really serious situation.”
The good news, if you’re not as high on the scale as Justin, is that you can take your hotel with you with an RV.
“What is the single greatest challenge right now that the national park service is up against as the parks are slowly starting to reopen?”
Lack of resources proves to be a significant challenge. Theresa discusses the severity of this saying, “They’ve lost significant resources as well and funding and staffing, and then inundated with potentially large crowds coming from all over the country to some of these iconic parks without the resources and the staffing in place just really sets them up for a bad situation to happen at this time of social distancing and this virus that is just unknown what it’s going to react and how it’s going to react.”
“I had some success investing my rental earnings into my own marketing; when do you think it’s a good time to do this again?”
At this time, it is best to focus marketing efforts on local recommendations and travel recommendations. You can build out content just by going back into your memory bank of fond memories and writing about it. This type of content will drive organic and free traffic, which will help renters find you on their Google search.
Get more expert insights by re-watching Mapping the Road Ahead: Post Pandemic Travel Destinations or checking out the recap from April’s live panel event.
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