Camping offers a chance to enjoy great outdoors

Staying away from the beach this year in fear of COVID-19? Has your dream trip to Italy that you have been planning for a while been cancelled? Afraid to go away and stay in a hotel?

For those reasons and many others, Americans are changing their vacation plans to enjoy the great outdoors.

According to the 2020 North American Camping Special Report sponsored by Kampgrounds of America (KOA), which looks at the effects of COVID-19 on camping, campers plan to take their planned camping trip this year, and non-campers say they are now interested in camping due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The full report is available at koa.com.

But just like those “no vacancy” signs you see lighting up the windows of many motels, the same is holding true for some campgrounds as well.

“We’ve had many calls from people who want to use or campground this year, but space is limited since we can only operate at half capacity because of the pandemic,” said Meg Twarowski, co-owner with husband of Village Green Family Campground in Brimfield.

Additional findings in the report include:

  • Leisure travelers – including both campers and non-campers – ranked camping as the safest form of travel to resume once restrictions are lifted.
  • Camping, glamping and road trips may replace other types of planned trips in 2020.
  • COVID-19 concerns have impacted how campers camp in the short term, including smaller group sizes, camping closer to home and accommodation choices.
  • Interest in RV camping among both campers and non-campers can be attributed to concerns of cleanliness at other accommodations like hotels or resorts, as well as interest in avoiding communal facilities.

Another reason for the interest in camping as an alternative this summer is the word “family” as in Village Green Family Campground.

“Camping is a family-oriented thing to do. It’s less expensive for families once you get beyond the cost of a rig or a secondhand pop-up camper, and some even sleep in tents. Some of the advantages of camping are that you have your own food, you’re not cooped up in a hotel room, and many campgrounds offer plenty of things for you to do. Most campgrounds cost an average of $35 to $50 dollars a night,” said Dale Benard of the Pioneer Valley Chapter 8 of the North American Family Campers Association.

However, there are still challenges for some who want to enjoy the full benefits of camping. According to Benard, depending upon the state you live in, the size of your group may be limited, and common areas such as pools, game rooms and bathrooms may be closed.

“That’s when you have to get creative and sit around and enjoy the outdoors, as well as to find things to do such as playing cards or other games,” Benard said.

At Village Green Family Campground, they do have their pond and playground open and are doing extensive sanitizing. But they don’t have their store open yet or the pavilion.

“We have many events throughout the year, and with social distancing we’ve gotten creative in order to continue some of them. We’ve made a float to bring around to different areas of the camp that we decorate depending on what we’re doing. We have an ice cream truck painted background that goes around to sell ice cream. For Christmas in July we painted a sleigh that Santa drove to different sites to deliver presents. And we have also decorated the float to accommodate a mobile DJ,” Twarowski said.

Yet another indication that camping is on the increase in the new world of COVID-19 is the fact that sales are on the increase, said Jessica Drouin, general manager at Gander RV of West Hatfield.

“It’s been different in a good way. Obviously, it is something we never could prepare for. The good news is that with the RV industry as big as it is, there are so many opportunities to affordably spend time with family in these uncertain times. Many campgrounds have good isolation practices set up for safety, and you can escape from the everyday monotony of life, being among large groups while vacationing, and not having to stay in hotels, which makes some people apprehensive among COVID-19. This lifestyle has definitely become big this summer for those who have never experienced it before,” she said about the great outdoors,” she said.

With many RV types available from the basic to more expensive and luxurious models – those with such amenities as electric window shades, heated floors, king bed, slide-out rooms, full kitchens with quartz countertops, wine chillers, washer and dryer, solar packages and powerful sound systems – there is a model for everyone.

“For now I would say that the most affordable, lightweight, easily maneuverable models for first timers, especially for those who don’t have huge trucks to pull them, are what’s going out our doors right now,” Drouin said

The Pioneer Valley Chapter 8 is a group of 200 families who have joined together as a club to promote and enjoy the world of camping, including those who travel by any means, including tents, tent trailers, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and any type of motor home. PV8 organizes at least four camping and outdoor functions each year that include games for adults and kids, as well as themed entertainment. Active all year long, the group offers many off-season activities for members held at their hall in Granby.

For more information, visit pv8.com.