FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — June is National Great Outdoors month and across the country, and the RV industry is booming. It's been kick-started by the pandemic, as Americans looked for ways to travel creatively and safely.
But with more people getting outdoors its created a unique problem, one amplified as many of our forests shut down due to wildfires. There are, however, some things being done to make the great outdoors more accessible to all.
Paul Fiarkoski and his wife are trying to navigate the quickly-filling reservations outdoors, after buying their own travel trailer and hitting the road during the pandemic.
The couple enjoys the freedom to get up and go, but also finds it tough to lock down a parking spot in Arizona.
"What we've been actually finding is that the campgrounds, pretty much every place we try to book are completely full," Fiarkoski said.
And they ran into those challenges before wildfires shut down campgrounds across Arizona. Now, it's even harder to find a place to park that RV.
But something exciting is happening to fix that problem.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds predicts more than 53,000 new RV sites will be built all over the U.S. this year.
"The RV industry, the sales just went through the roof," Jo Anne Mickelson, Executive Director of the Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, said.
Mickelson said the association has grown by about 20 members in the last year. She's also owned Flagstaff's J & H RV park for decades with her husband.
Mickelson said she's seeing more parks pop up in Arizona too.
"We've had quite a few," she said. "There's three in the works in Flagstaff right now."
It’s not just new campgrounds breaking ground. Owners are also investing in revamping their properties.
“We have one here in Flagstaff that was completely rehabilitated, called Woody Mountain," Mickelson said. "That park has been in existence for probably, 45 years.”
Mickelson added current park trends include free WiFi, mobile reservations, contactless payment, work leisure travel and an uptick in locals exploring their own states.
“People want somewhere to go quickly and in Phoenix, you want to get out of the heat," she said.
Mickelson’s top tips for anyone still thinking about exploring the outdoors with an RV are, getting lessons on operating the camper and avoiding buying something that’s too big right out of the gate.
And as we wait for more RV sites to open, Fiarkoski relies on an old saying to find campsites.
"'Hit 'em where they ain't,' you try to find places or times there's not going to be a lot of demand for," he said.
So if you can, go for the road less traveled.
To check openings at campgrounds across Arizona, click here.
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