Puglisi family touts benefits of camping

The creators of RV Family Travel Atlas (RVFTA) website/blog and hosts of the RV Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts, Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi, recently have written their second book on the RV lifestyle. Available by pre-order on Amazon.com now and in bookstores nationwide on March 5, 2020, “See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors” is written for families looking to create lasting memories while RVing.

The Puglisis, who have three young sons including a set of twins, have filled their book with how-to tips and advice to help newbies and seasoned RVers alike. They’ve also allowed their personal lives to creep into the book here and there, just enough for their fans to better appreciate two of the more popular RVing celebrities on social media today.

“This particular book is really trying to accomplish two things and kind of weave them both together,” Jeremy Puglisi told RVBUSINESS.com. “We’re telling our own family story; the story of our marriage and our children and how we got into camping and RVing — because neither of us did a whole lot of that beforehand. It was kind of a whole new world to us when we got married and then had our twins, and we got into RVing at a really pivotal time. It was a year after our twin boys had been born and, frankly, we were struggling quite a lot. Even our marriage was struggling. It’s difficult to have twins.

“And, as we write about in the book, we had this crazy idea to get a popup camper — and it was wonderful,” he continued. “I mean, it changed our lives. It strengthened our marriage; made us fall in love all over again. And it was just the perfect thing for our kids, too, at that time. Stephanie has always said the kids are going to be difficult whether you’re at home or on top of a mountain, so you might as well be on top of a mountain.”

Jeremy said the second reason why they wrote “See You at the Campground” — their signature closing line for their podcasts — was to provide “all of the practical tips and tricks that somebody might need to get into RVing themselves. So, if you’re a first-time RV owner or someone who’s just kind of flirting with this lifestyle, this would be the perfect book to kind of just break down this world and explain this world to you.”

New Jersey residents, the Puglisis — who have since graduated from the popup they bought a decade ago, and recently took delivery of a Jayco White Hawk travel trailer — are both are teachers by trade. And while Jeremy continues to teach middle school English and technology, Stephanie left her job as an elementary school teacher some time ago to concentrate fully on their growing RVFTA business.

That operation includes the RVFTA website and blog and related social media accounts, the RV Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts — which have more than 3 million downloads — engaging with consumers at dozens of speaking engagements, writing for various RV magazines including “Trailer Life” and “Motorhome Magazine,” as well as having written the “Idiot’s Guides: RV Vacations” and “See You at the Campground” books. In addition, Stephanie Puglisi was recently named director of content with Roadtrippers, an online trip-planning service and content repository that is part of the Togo Group.

It’s worth noting that the Puglisis have partnered with an impressive list of businesses in the RV and outdoor industries including Cabela’s/Bass Pro Shops, Thetford, Go RVing, Jayco Inc., Kampgrounds of America (KOA), Jellystone Park-Resorts, Florida RV Trade Association, Outdoorsy, RV Trader, Camper’s Inn RV, and Good Sam Roadside Assistance.

With Stephanie off on a speaking engagement, Jeremy Puglisi recently spent some time with RVBUSINESS.com, sister publication to WOODALLSCM.com, to discuss the book, their podcast and other RVing topics. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.

RVB: First of all, congratulations on the new book. It’s a fun read and I can picture it on the shelves at RV dealerships and campground stores.

Puglisi: Thank you very much! Like I said, we made all the mistakes, we had to learn all this stuff on our own and we put it all in the book so other people have an easier time doing it themselves.

RVB: So, your story is 10 years ago you decide to buy a popup to help a struggling marriage with newborn twins. We’re curious why you thought an RV could help?

Jeremy: When the twins were born, we were just so desperate to go do something fun and not just be stuck in the house. So, we actually went and stayed at CoCo Key Water Resort. We were very excited and had high hopes that it would be a fun family weekend, but it was miserable. It was just not a good place to have little kids. One of the main things we realized was that when you’re staying in a hotel, once you put the kids to bed, you’re stuck in the hotel room with them. I mean, we were literally sitting there watching a movie on Stephanie’s laptop in the bathroom. That wasn’t fun for us.

But then we saw a Go RVing commercial and, like all the Go RVing commercials, it was this magical adventure, this multigenerational family trip in a popup camper. That inspired us to take a look.

Stephanie’s family used to borrow a popup camper when they were kids. They never owned one, but she had some fond associations with it.

But when we saw that Go RVing commercial the idea just popped into both of our heads. ‘Why don’t we give this a try? Why don’t we do this on the weekends and we can go out and get into the great outdoors with our kids and we can put them to bed at night and we can step outside of the RV and be sitting around the campfire together?’

That specific aspect of it was really, really magical for us. The kids could be cozied up and nestled up asleep in the camper and, unlike the hotel room, we could step outside and spend some time together around the campfire — and maybe even socialize with other people at the campground.

I guess the ironic thing is 10 years later we were the family in the Go RVing television commercial.

RVB: So, let’s talk about your media empire that you two are building. As you said, it started with the blog to chronicle your family’s RVing adventures. Can you put your arms around how much it’s grown?

Jeremy: Not hardly. Initially we started thinking we’d be writing for family and friends, like a family blog. But over the course of a couple of years we realized we actually had a readership. From there, since we both loved listening to podcasts, it was a natural organic leap for us. We had talked about doing a podcast for probably a year or two, and then I remember Stephanie finally saying, ‘We are sitting down tonight and recording our first podcast.’ And we did. And we have done the podcast every week since that night, for over five years now without pause.

We just, we fell in love with doing it. That first episode kind of makes me cringe to listen to now, but I think we got good pretty fast and it was just kind of a natural extension of what we do as writers. It’s just another way to reach people.

RVB: Your podcast is pretty popular, as you well know.

Jeremy: It’s in the top 5% of podcasts. Most podcasts end after five episodes; we’re five years in and still going strong.

I’ll say this, too: we wanted to do this professionally. We wanted this to be more than just a hobby. We were hoping and discovered along the way. It’s very difficult to monetize a blog, but monetizing a podcast would be something we could do if the content was really good. That is, in fact, the direction we went in terms of signing on sponsors. We’ve been very lucky to have some really iconic names in the RV and camping space come on as sponsors and stay with us over the long haul.

RVB: Did the podcast take off right away, or did it grow over time?

Jeremy: We promised ourselves that we would do it for a year before even really thinking about trying to sell advertising. We wanted to get it down, we wanted to be good at it, we wanted to be able to show people that this was something that we could do over the long haul and sustain it. We didn’t approach anybody until about a year in and, when we did, we had a lot of content to show people. They liked it and people were willing to hop on board. Actually, I believe Go RVing was the first sponsor for the show all of those five years ago, and we continue to work with them quite a lot.

RVB: Last question — from your perspective, what are your thoughts on the RV and campground industries?

Jeremy: I think that the camping industry is in a really, really interesting and transitional position right now. As you know, there’s been an explosion of RV sales over the last decade and it’s normalized at this point. But, generally speaking, over the last 10 years, you have many, many new RV owners, so now the campground industry is finding itself in a place where they’re running out of sites for people. People are having a real difficulty finding sites, reserving sites, and figuring out where they’re going to camp.

I’m really watching closely to see how the campground industry responds to that. It’s different in different parts of the country. But, certainly, in our part of the country in the Northeast, state parks, county parks and private campgrounds are really, really booked up.

And then, simultaneously over the last decade, a lot of campgrounds have been investing their resources into alternative accommodations like cabins and glamping tents. I certainly don’t blame them for that. If I was a campground owner, I would also be doing that. But that also puts more pressure on the limited number of RV sites.

So, the big question for the camping industry is how are they going to create more inventory for all these RV owners and who is going to be creating that inventory?

In the Northeast, what we’re seeing is that there’s actually a lot of hotel companies moving into the camping space and either buying and renovating campgrounds or building them from scratch. These are wonderful campgrounds. But the one issue I see, and maybe it is a bit of a point of concern, is that they tend to be more the luxury RV resort kind of campground. So they’re at higher price points — $100 a night, $120 a night, $150 a night.

Again, this is in the Northeast and our part of the country. But I do have some concern for a family on a modest budget that as new campgrounds get added into this mix there might not be a place for them that they can afford. That’s a concern that we’re keeping our eyes on. As these big players coming into the camping space and seeing that there’s lots of money to be made, are you also going to have brand new mom and pop campgrounds that come in at $40 or $50 a night?

RVB: And your thoughts on the RV industry, then?

Jeremy: So, the RV industry has done an amazing job at building something at every size and every price point for every possible type of camper. There are just so many options for people that I actually think it’s become overwhelming for the consumer — which can be a good problem to have.

But if you’re fifth-wheel shopping, you’re looking at hundreds and hundreds of options. Again, that can be a good thing, but I wonder if the companies will eventually streamline their offerings a little bit more now that things have normalized.

A lot of people disagree with me about this, but I also think a lot of consumers have purchased 40-, 42-, 44-foot fifth-wheels and toy haulers over the last decade. I personally think that as a lot of those consumers go out to use them, they might end up wanting smaller, more maneuverable rigs. I’m wondering if there’ll be a swing back to focusing on some slightly smaller RVs in the future.

And then the other trend we’re seeing that I’m really liking is as things have normalized and sales are not exploding, it seems like some of the manufacturers are really putting some focus on quality. That, of course, is an incredibly welcome thing to see and I hope they really keep pushing forward in that direction.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dealerships and campgrounds interested in retailing “See You at the Campground” can contact the Puglisis’ publisher, Tim Golden, at tim.golden#sourcebooks.com.