As I was sitting in the Las Vegas airport earlier this week, waiting through yet another flight delay, I remembered exactly why I bought an RV two years ago.
Up until about seven years ago, I was a Delta Gold frequent flier. That means I flew between 50,000 and 75,000 miles, or 50 flight segments, every year. It was that experience that taught me DELTA really stands for “delays every landing, take off and arrival.” My last year of flying with them, the airline delayed 21 of 25 flight segments.
From 2010 to 2013, I traveled everywhere by car and spent up to 85 nights in hotels until I realized there is a better way to travel. Now, I only fly once or twice a year, and nothing much has changed other than it is more expensive and more crowded than I recall.
The flight from Orlando to Las Vegas was delayed by 45 minutes. Fortunately, Southwest offered free TV on the flight using ultra high-speed Internet to stream the game to my iPad. That allowed me to watch the Denver Broncos wrangle my beloved Green Bay Packers, which I admit helped set a negative tone for the trip.
The flight from Las Vegas back to Orlando was delayed by about 90 minutes. In fact, as I walked from security to the gate, I saw the take off time change seven times in 20 minutes.
First, a guy with a gun was spotted in an apartment near the San Diego airport, which caused that airport to shut down, which delayed flights all over the nation. As soon as the flight finally arrived at the gate in Las Vegas, a thunderstorm arrived with it, shutting down all outside airport operations. Once that cleared up and the passengers were boarded, a delay in getting supplies to the plane postponed the take off for another 20 minutes.
Once in the air, a toddler somewhere in the middle of the plane could only communicate in a Morse code type of short, high-pitched screams.
Let’s not even talk about the $18 per day to park a car at the Orlando airport, and the insanity of waiting nearly an hour as thousands of people remove their belts, shoes, jackets and sweaters, and take their laptops out of their carry on bags, then throw away any liquids over 2 ounces (about a quarter of a cup) — and surrender tweezers and nail clippers — before basically being X-rayed to look for things a German shepherd can be trained to sniff out as you walk by.
I had to fly to Las Vegas for an industry convention. I was there about 72 hours, which is really 71.75 hours too long to be in that city. The event took place at Bally’s “resort” on the strip. It’s a resort because the company says it is.
The special convention room rate was $158 per night. The online market rate that week was $425 per night for a bed, toilet, TV and a shower. I guess the room had a desk and a small sofa, too. By comparison, the most I have ever paid for an RV park was $85 per night to camp on the ocean in Maine in the middle of the summer season.
Fortunately, because we were part of the convention, the hotel waived its notorious “resort fee.” That’s a fee every Las Vegas hotel on the strip now steals from customers by adding $35 to each nightly rate. What does a resort fee cover? These items — and nothing else:
- Free local calls, because nobody would ever think to go to Las Vegas without their cell phone.
- Free Wi-Fi at speeds so slow that people using campground Wi-Fi would think they hit the jackpot. Plus, it only covers one device, and can only be used in the hotel room, not the convention floor or casino restaurants, which requires a separate charge.
- A free shuttle to another casino, so you can spend more money at a sister property.
- Access to the pool and fitness center, which is only open during convention hours.
I took my staff out to breakfast, and the buffet was $15 per person. The 8-ounce orange juice or a cup of coffee was another $4.95. Later, we went to Johnny Rocket’s for a burger, fries and a drink, which was $19 per person. Earlier this year, three steak dinners in Las Vegas cost $150 each, and the quality was no different than the $24.95 prime rib dinner at Texas Roadhouse.
Yes, even with delays, I got from Orlando to Las Vegas in about 6 hours each way, when it would have taken 4.5 days to drive there. So, I shouldn’t be so whiny. But, RV travel is so much more convenient:
- I can leave when I want to leave.
- I can take whatever route I want, whether the scenic route or the fast route.
- When I am hungry, I can pull over and make a sandwich or heat something in the microwave.
- I have unlimited beverage options in unlimited quantities — not just a 6-ounce cup.
- I can sleep in my own bed, with my own pillow and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the sheets are clean.
- I can use my own Internet connection at speeds that allow me to do pretty much anything I need to do.
- I can talk on the phone without having 30 people listen in on the conversation.
- I’ve never been woken up in the middle of the night by an amorous couple in the RV site next to me. I can’t say the same for a Las Vegas hotel room.
- Nobody has to climb over me to sit 2.5 inches away.
- I can use the restroom whenever I need to without waiting in an aisle half-way down a plane so as not to congregate near the pilot’s door.
- I don’t need to wait in line to be groped before being allowed to pull out of an RV park. But, I wonder what a campground manager would do if I politely asked them to do so?
There has been a definite increase in the number of people buying and using RVs over the past few years, and an increase in the number of people staying in RV parks as well. All it really takes is one family vacation by air to convince people that RVs are a better way to travel.