RV shows can be massive, with thousands of RVs on display, miles of exhibits showcasing RV gadgets of every kind and food and beverages galore. It’s like a trade show combined with a county fair. It can be overwhelming, particularly if you don’t plan in advance. Rather than spend days trying to see everything on display and ending up tired and irritated, plan your trip in advance to maximize the benefits and minimize wasted time. We’ve put together some thoughtful tips to help make your next visit to an RV show a success.
Tip #1: Know Why You’re Going to the RV Show
A vague answer like, “I’m going to look at all the RVs,” doesn’t cut it. There simply isn’t enough time. Consider what you really want to get out of your visit. Are you really looking for some innovative ways to upgrade your current recreational vehicle or add some useful gadgets? Or are you shopping for your first RV? Are you considering in your current vehicle for a different style or size? Make a list of your goals and try to keep it to just two or three. If your priority is looking for a Class A to replace your current Class C, plan on only looking at Class A’s.
Don’t waste hours looking at RVs you have no intention of buying. That’s time that could be better spent talking to knowledgeable Class A dealers. If you’re more focused on finding a better generator and some solar power panels, plan on visiting the section with RV equipment first and get as much information as you can before treating yourself to looking at some of the new RV models.
Tip #2: Map It Out
The larger RV shows can cover as much as area as multiple football fields, so saving steps is critical. Most shows will publish a map online in advance of the event. Be sure to download one and find the areas of most interest to you, then map out a strategy for seeing those areas without wading through a lot of places that aren’t of interest. If you‘re interested in particular vendors, highlight them on your map so you can quickly find and engage with them. Try to find the shortest route that allows you to see every manufacturer or vendor you’re interested in without having to backtrack or loop around the floor more than once.
Tip #3: Dress Appropriately
This sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed by how many people go to an RV show in high heels or skin-tight clothes, neither of which are conducive to going up and down RV steps or trudging over miles of pavement. Dress in the clothes you’ll usually wear when you’re traveling – comfortable, loose clothes and comfy, flat shoes or sneakers.
Tip #4: Stay Hydrated
Some RV shows are outside or partially outside to accommodate all the trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes. Temperatures soar on concrete and blacktop, so stay hydrated. Each of you should bring at least one bottle of water so you don’t have to go looking for it and pay $7 a bottle for it. Larger flasks with a strap for slinging over your shoulder are even better, particularly if you can add some ice with the water.
Tip #5: Take Meals Into Consideration
It’s easy to show up at a show thinking you’ll eat whenever you get hungry, but it isn’t efficient or comfortable. Most of these events offer lots of fair-style foods that are fried, sweet, heavy, salty or simply unhealthy. Look at the list of food vendors ahead of time and choose a relatively healthy food vendor and stick with them so you don’t waste time trying to decide what to eat. A bonus is not overloading on foods that will make you feel sluggish. If you won’t be attending until the afternoon, you can save even more time and money by eating at home.
Tip #6: Try to Go on a Weekday
Saturdays are the worst time to visit an RV show. More people have the day off and time to talk in detail about RVs with the dealers. There are also more “looky-loos” (people who don’t plan on buying, but love looking at RVs). The best day is usually opening day, when crowds are thinner, and Sunday afternoons, when the show is winding up. Some vendors may leave early, however, so take this into consideration if the gadget and accessory vendors are important to you.
Tip #7: Visit Indoor Exhibits During the Hottest Part of the Day
In most cases, the accessory vendors are indoors. Save these for the afternoon when the sun is hot overhead. Hit any outside RVs you want to tour early in the day before temperatures soar. You can find everything from RV park memberships to kitchen tools you must have at these vendors.
Tip #8: Keep Your Budget and Needs in Mind
Looking at RVs in the $200,000 range when you have a budget of $80,000 will be an exercise in futility. It will make any RVs in your budget look cheap or small by comparison. Start looking at the lower end of your budget or just below, then work your way up. This way you’ll appreciate each added feature you can afford to buy rather than pining for something you can’t have. Some RVs at a show will have the floor plan clearly displayed in front of the vehicle, so you may be able to bypass RVs with a plan you know won’t work for you.
Will you occasionally walk through a dream RV that you’ll never be able to buy? Certainly! That’s part of the fun, but don’t waste so much time looking at the dream vehicles that you don’t have time to find the one you really want and can actually afford.
Tip #9: Ask the Right Questions
Before you visit the RV show, consider how you’ll be using your next RV. Will you be parking at an RV park for a month at a time? Boondocking in remote areas? How many miles do you plan to cover in a year’s time? From there, put together a list of your five most crucial concerns, such as gas mileage, exterior storage space, maximum sleep capacity, interior options, etc. and write them down. Ask these questions first every time you see an RV you’re really interested in. If you have more questions, you can swing back buy for an in-depth discussion with the dealer later in the day when they have more time and crowds have thinned.
Tip #10: Take Lots of Photos
After visiting a dozen or so really great recreational vehicles you love, they can start to run together in your mind. Take lots of photos of the interior and exterior of each one. Take a picture of the sign indicating the make and model at the beginning of each new set of photos so you’ll know which features belong to which RVs. At the end of the day, go back through the pictures and take notes on what you did or didn’t like about each model to make your decision easier if you decide to buy.
Regardless of why you’re visiting an RV show, you’ll love looking at the latest features and amenities being offered. Keep your needs in mind, but be open to new floor plans, alternative storage options and other innovations that could impact your final purchase decision.