Florida RV SuperShow: The Biggest RV Show in the CountryJanuary 17, 2011 No Comments
The Florida RV SuperShow is held each January at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. Sponsored by the Florida RV Trade Association, the show is the largest anywhere in the United States. This year was the 25th anniversary of the show, and the dates were January 12 through January 16. This was our second year attending.
Facts and Figures
The sheer scope of the show is mind-boggling. Over 1100 RVs were on display this year, from tiny trailers barely large enough for two to luxury million dollar motorhomes. In addition, more than 350 vendors were crowded into two buildings, hawking everything from cookware to cleaning supplies to RV insurance. If you are in the market for a new RV, several lenders are always on hand to process loan applications.
The daily schedule is filled with seminars on topics ranging from investment to full-time RV living. A kids’ center provides activities and entertainment all day Saturday and Sunday. Clowns and other strolling entertainers are everywhere. Raffles and drawings are offered for prizes ranging from weeklong stays in various RV resorts to a brand new RV. Food booths of every description sell fair foods including hamburgers and hot dogs, funnel cakes and fried Oreo cookies. A free shuttle is available for those who prefer not to walk the immense complex.
With so much to see and do, it is impossible to get everything in during just one visit. All tickets sold are two-day passes. In 2011, adult tickets cost $10. Wednesday was Senior Citizen Day, when seniors got $1 off. Children under 16 are free. Parking is $5.
Getting Our Bearings
We stayed five minutes down the road at Lazy Days. This full-service RV center provides RV sales, a full service department, an onsite Camping World, a Cracker Barrel restaurant and a luxury RV resort with breakfast and lunch provided. We are members of SMART, the Special Military Active Retired Travel club, which holds a rally at Lazy Days each year to coincide with the RV SuperShow.
We arrived around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 12. Dad has a disabled parking placard, so we were able to get a great spot in the second row. If you are not disabled and do not arrive very early, expect a long hike. Parking fills up quite quickly.
As we entered the main building, our senses were literally overwhelmed. To our right, there were nearly a dozen Airstream trailers. To the left, a collection of luxury motor coaches. In the center was a set of tables where everyone seemed to be stopping. We were handed a large yellow shopping bag, which turned out to be a good thing. You will collect a mind-boggling number of brochures, business cards and door prizes, so be sure to get your bag. On the table were free SuperShow guides and entry forms to win a small travel trailer. Take the free guide, or you will wander around lost all day.
Shopping for RVs
We happen to be in the market for an upgrade, so we decided to spend our first day walking through various RVs. Even if you are not an RVer, it’s a lot of fun to just walk through and see what is available. One thing we noticed this year was an upward trend in the number of two-bedroom models. When we started RVing six years ago, the vast majority of RVers were retired couples. Today, more and more families are choosing a full-time RV lifestyle, and the new floor plans reflect this trend.
All but the very tiniest models now sleep three or four people. There are bunkhouse models in every style, from travel trailers to motorhomes, and in every price range, that sleep as many as eight to ten people. We learned how to tell from the outside if a particular unit is a bunkhouse model. Just look for two windows stacked one above the other.
We have a Ford Expedition tow vehicle that will handle approximately 10,000 pounds. Although many traditional travel trailers meet this requirement, we are particularly interested in ultra-light models. The newer ultra-lights are made entirely of composite materials, making them more eco-friendly, significantly lighter weight and impervious to water damage. By the end of the first day, we had pretty much settled on an Evergreen Everlite travel trailer, but we did not like the terms that the dealer offered. We don’t have any real need to purchase yet, so we decided to simply wait.
Fun with Vendors
We weren’t able to get back to the show until approximately 2 p.m. on Friday, January 14. As the show closes for the evening at 6 p.m. we knew we wouldn’t be able to do much. Instead, we decided to spend the afternoon visiting the vendor booths.
We went slowly up and down each aisle, chatting with the various representatives. In the process, we entered all sorts of drawings, won a few door prizes and received coupons for free or heavily discounted stays at RV parks around the country.
Dad finally had to drag me away from the waterless cookware demonstration. The guy plied us with a fantastic free salad, and then cooked a chicken and roast potato meal in just a few minutes. The demo was super-interesting, the food was wonderful, and I was completely sucked in. I do still think the cookware is worth every penny, but Dad convinced me that dropping $1700 on cookware was not a good spur of the moment decision!
So What Should We Buy?
We really didn’t plan to look at RVs again, but on our way out of the show a particular fifth wheel really caught our eye. Fifth wheels are trailers that securely attach to the bed of a truck. They’re bigger, heavier and more elaborate than travel trailers, but are not stand-alone vehicles like motorhomes. We had ruled out fifth wheels several months ago when we opted to buy a Ford Expedition SUV. But this particular fifth wheel just called to us.
Known as the Dutchman Voltage, the fifth wheel was a toy hauler. Toy haulers have a garage area that can carry such toys as motorcycles and ATVs. When you park the RV, you can pull out the toys and use the garage for additional living space. This particular toy hauler has an attached back porch, complete with the most comfortable recliners you could imagine!
Naturally we had to look inside. From the kitchen island to the oversized bedroom closet, every single aspect of this fifth wheel was impressive. And the price was shockingly low, about half of what we would have expected! It’s one of the only RVs we’re still seriously discussing several days after the show.
We sadly left the fifth wheel behind and started to leave. Then we ran across Galileo. The company makes futuristic-looking travel trailers from composite materials. We had loved their product at last year’s show, but at the time they only had a 21-foot model in production. That was too small for our needs, but this year the company had big signs showing off the floor plans for their brand new 29-foot, two-bedroom model! We got some information and can’t wait till we can see the model in person.
We made it back to the main building shortly after 6 p.m. Most vendors had closed up shop, but with the crowd out of the way we noticed something we hadn’t seen before–a different futuristic travel trailer known as Earthbound. The units were still open, and there was a small crowd gathered, so we headed over to take a look. We kept looking around for the Jetsons, from the old cartoon! These trailers were so futuristic, so functional, and so much fun!
Who knows what we’ll end up with at this point! We now have it narrowed down to Evergreen, Earthbound or Galileo travel trailers, or a Voltage fifth wheel. There’s another RV show in Ocala, Florida at the end of the month, and we’re hoping to narrow things down a bit more then.
Tips for Parents
If you happen to be in the Tampa area in January, the RV SuperShow is a lot of fun for little cost, even if you’re not in the market for an RV. Fun foods, entertainers and a dedicated kids’ area give the show a decided carnival atmosphere. However, the sheer size and scope of the show can be overwhelming.
Since tickets provide two days’ admission, consider dividing the fairgrounds in half, visiting just one portion each day. Bring a stroller if your kids are little, but choose the smallest stroller that you have. Oversized or double strollers would be a big challenge to push through the crowded walkways.
Even if you are seriously hunting for a new RV, resist the temptation to take the kids through too many models. Walking through hundreds of RVs is a daunting task for adults, and it can seriously frustrate the most even-tempered child. Do some research in advance to narrow down your options, and then walk through a few different models as a family. If two or more adults are present, consider splitting up after the first hour or two. One adult can further narrow down choices while the other takes the kids to burn off energy. Everyone can then walk through the ones you like best, giving the kids a bit of input in the final decision.
Take your time, take plenty of rest breaks, and don’t forget to stay hydrated. Bottled water and sodas are readily available, but it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the show. Drink more than you think you need, since you will be walking more than you might have imagined.