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As COVID-19 spreads, RV vacations soar

As families rethink summer vacation plans that include air travel and hotel stays, they are turning to RV's as the option, with first-time renters now at 90 percent.

ATLANTA — The continuing spread of COVID-19 has stopped many families in their tracks for summer vacations. But there is a way around it - and a way to keep those vacation plans alive.

Whether you pull it or drive it, for thousands, the RV is taking over - in an explosive way - as the vacation of choice.

With RV rentals almost fully booked through August and inventories limited on what's left to buy, a survey by a leading worldwide RV rental company Outdoorsy.com said since March, first-time RV rentals in Metro Atlanta and across Georgia are up almost 90 percent.

For Steve Lewis, owner of Lightnin RV Rentals in Lawrenceville, it's been an explosion of business.

"As soon as the first of May hit, its been a tsunami of business. We can't even answer all of our phone calls," he explained. "We stay eight-deep on the cue of calls to return, and 20 deep for emails to return, and its really a good problem to have - but its crazy." 

Faced with continued worries about COVID-19, an RV vacation cuts the anxieties associated with air travel, staying in hotels, and eating out in restaurants.

Renters are "mostly families taking trips together, not willing to fly. They want to go, social distance themselves in the woods, get their own food, their own beds, own their own towels and things to cook with," Lewis listed.

For Buford resident Scott Mawdesley, his wife Natalie and their two children, it was something they always wanted to do and COVID-19 pushed them over the edge.

"We were ready to go, and a lot of planes you could not get on anyway. We were a little concerned around that, so we decided, lets all jump in an RV," Mawdesley said.

We had been quarantined together, and we thought the idea of quarantining in a tiny space might be a little crazy, but we wanted to try it," Natalie Mawdesley said. "A change of scenery, and I was ready to go."

Lewis said that because of COVID-19, this has been one of the most extraordinary rental season ever.

"We initiated this as the season of 'RV101' because every phone call starts off like, 'hey, we've never driven anything like this before, but we were thinking of taking a trip in an RV'," Lewis said, adding, "it could be their trip to Italy that got cancelled, so they are going to Yellowstone National Park for two to three weeks."

So next time you pass an RV on the road, it could be a first-timer - slow down and give a smile. It's all part of the new normal in summer vacations.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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