In the battle of RV Show vs RV Expo, our kid wins!

Sometimes, life has a way of helping us make an easy decision.

While we were parked in San Antonio for our biannual visit last month, there were two popular RV shows going on in Texas, but unlike last year when we were able to attend each one, both the Houston RV Show and the Austin RV Expo were scheduled for the same weekend in 2017.

The former: 200-mile drive, heavy traffic, overnight stay required. Houston? We have a problem.

The latter: 90-mile drive, heavy traffic, day-trip distance. But… our younger son, a second-year University of Texas Longhorn, lives there and as you might expect, he happily allows us to take him out for shopping and dinner. Austin? We have a winner!

For those who might need a different set of parameters before making a decision in time for the February 2018 shows:

The Houston RV Show is big. As in, TEXAS BIG. In fact, according to the event’s web site, this is the largest RV expo in Texas, with 9 dealerships offering more than 600 recreational vehicles, plus RV-industry related vendors and campground representatives, and daily educational seminars.

In 2017, the show ran from Wednesday through Sunday, with admission prices of $12.00 for adults, $5.00 for children ages 6-12, and free for those under age 6. It is held in the NRG Center, which is adjacent to NRG Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans. I’m telling you: big.

When we attended this RV show in 2016, we ended up spreading our visit out over two days in order to take looks and second looks at everything we wanted to see, and by the end of Day 2, I literally resorted to drastic measures (grabbed another man, then faked death) to get out of there.

By contrast, the Austin RV Expo is petite. There were only 6 dealerships and a single row of RV-industry related vendors in the Austin Convention Center, which stretches over six city blocks in a highly congested downtown area. I was unable to find an estimate on the number of recreational vehicles offered, but this preview of “just some” shows 95.

Now there’s a familiar name.
Just look how clean and shiny it is!

In 2017, the show ran from Thursday through Sunday, with admission prices of $8.00 for adults, $6.00 for seniors and children ages 7-12, and free for those under age 7. In 2016, we spent several hours there, as we were intentionally shopping for a new RV at the time. Since then, we’ve decided to keep and upgrade our 2008 Bighorn, so this year we made it in and out in a record 90 minutes!

Know before you go to Austin

Tip 1: City traffic is notoriously heavy, and the convention center is surrounded by narrow, crowded, one-way streets, half of which always seem to be under construction. If you want to score a surface lot or street parking, arrive early. We ended up getting a late start, arriving after noon, and had no choice but to park in the garage at 2nd and Brazos, two blocks away. Although we made it in and out safely with our 1-ton dually, it was a white-knuckle experience watching the top of our cab just barely clear the concrete ceiling beams, and we will not repeat it.

Source: austinrvexpo.com

Tip 2: Visit the event web site for $2/off general admission coupons, or try what worked for us in 2016. On our way to Austin, we stopped at an RV dealership to take a look inside a few models on the lot. When we mentioned to the salesman that we were heading to the expo next, he handed us a pair of complimentary tickets from a stash in his desk drawer, as thanks for visiting his business!

Tip 3: The convention center concessions are overpriced and unpalatable. Pack a lunch, or leave the building to dine in one of many nearby downtown restaurants. Just remember to get your hand stamped if you plan to return!

Tip 4: That said, there’s a bar. Inside the expo. You can walk around the exhibit hall with beer in hand, if that’s what it takes to get you through.

No lines, no waiting.
I can fix that.

Tip 5: Austin is full of places to have An Experience, whether you’re into food, microbrews, indie book stores, live music, athletic/outdoor endeavors, museums, people watching, shopping, or any number of interests and activities. Open your favorite internet travel resource, search “Austin,” and then take or make time to explore more than just the RV Expo while you’re there. You won’t regret it. After all, friends do let friends get weird in Austin.

Go with it.
Let it happen.

(Author’s note:  a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.)

Comparatively speaking, this RV does not weigh a heck of a lot more than I do

Not the RV I’m sitting in. Our big booger weighs about 12,000 pounds when it’s empty.

I’m talking about this little red myPod, which we saw yesterday at the Austin RV Expo. It weighs 500 pounds! I most certainly do not, but I could still probably pull this cutie my own self.

Not sure I could lift it, but I'm rather confident it would fit in the bed of the BFT.

Not sure I could lift it, but I’m rather confident it would fit in the bed of the BFT.

When we hit the convention center floor in Austin, two things made it different from last week’s show in Houston (wrote about that one here and here):

  1. To save time, we were prepared with a list of only three units we wanted to see and learn more about. A fourth got thrown in at the last minute, which means that somewhere in Austin, a Winnebago factory rep probably woke up with one helluva hangover this morning. Have I mentioned that Tim asks a lot of pointed and technical questions?
  2. It’s Austin, not Houston. And by that I mean ATX has its own vibe, and it was palpable even at something as mainstream as an RV show.
    Not just garbage cans, but bins for compost and recycling too. And a man wearing a kilt. And two rows of adorable little Airstream bubbles, as opposed to the two units in Houston. Never change, ATX. Never change.

    Not just garbage cans, but bins for compost and recycling too. And a man wearing a kilt at not-the-highland-games-festival. And two rows of adorable little Airstream bubbles, as opposed to the two units in Houston.
    Never change, ATX. Never change.

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    I was amused by this. It’s a staging area for staging items. And apparently no RV kitchen is complete without a basket of fake fruit on the table, you know, to tempt other people into buying it. Us? Not so much. “Yes, that plastic banana looks lovely, but do tell me, does this rig have a 6-point leveling system? And what’s the R-rating on the insulation? OK, now how’s the frame constructed?”

    Found some swag I liked, but did not buy. Photos are enough. Own less, and all that.

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    Tim, as mentioned, is the data head at the RV show. I wear socks that fit my attitude.

    Tim, as mentioned, is the data head at the RV show.
    I wear socks that fit my attitude.

    The attendant at the door stamped our hands to make sure we could come and go. It occurred to me that last time I was in Austin with a stamped hand, I was the Longhorn in the family. (And the stamp definitely did not come from an RV show.)

    The attendant at the door stamped our hands to make sure we could come and go. It occurred to me that last time I was in Austin sporting a hand stamp, I was the Longhorn in the family. (And the stamp definitely did not come from an RV show.)

    And speaking of Longhorns, that's ours in the center. We treated him and his ol' buddies -- friends since freshman year of HS, and now all freshmen at UT -- to dinner.

    And speaking of Longhorns, that’s ours in the center. We treated him and his buddies — friends since freshman year of HS, and now all freshmen at UT — to dinner. They uh… they can put down a lot of barbecue, it turns out.

    Not just my reflection in an RV, but a lesson. If you visit an RV dealership on your way to the RV show, and happen to mention that's where you're headed, the sales dude just might hand you a couple of complimentary tickets. That little excursion saved us 12 bucks!

    Not just my reflection in an RV, but a lesson. If you visit an RV dealership on your way to an RV show, and just happen to mention that’s where you’re headed, the sales dude just might hand you a couple of complimentary tickets. That little excursion saved us 12 bucks!

    Until next time, ATX!

    Until next time, ATX!