Comparison of RV Shows, Events & Rallies – Which is Best for You?
What to expect at each and why it is great to attend in person!

By: Kenny & Sabrina Phillips

Have you ever been to an RV show or event? Other than actually RVing, going to an RV event is one of my favorite things to do. You really get a sense of community, which may be because you are with a group of like-minded people that are also interested in traveling the open road. 

I feel an instant bond with the other attendees. When I am at these shows/events and see someone wearing a Winnebago hat or shirt, I enjoy introducing myself and asking them about their Winnebago and where they have been with it.

The other great thing about having so many RV events/shows to choose from is that there is likely one happening near you at some point throughout the year. See this list of RV shows/events Winnebago will be attending this year, plus check out this list of owner-organized rallies and meetups.

In this article, I am going to talk about some of the different types of RV shows, rallies, and events that I have been to and how they vary from each other. 

RV Rallies

Highlights of RV Rallies: Very community focused, many opportunities for continued education, fun and games, and there are often chances to connect with vendors and manufacturers in the RV space to ask questions and provide feedback.

RV rallies are probably my favorite kind of RV show/event, I believe these offer the best of both worlds. There are multiple RV rallies each year, and many are put on by owners (like this Compact Coach meetup). 

However, our favorite RV rally so far is Winnebago’s Grand National Rally. Sabrina and I have been going to GNR since 2017 and enjoy them so much that we haven’t missed one yet. These rallies always have a fun theme – my favorite so far was the Hawaiian theme. 

This is where I feel more community than anywhere else. Especially now that we have been to so many of them. When we return each year, we have more and more friends to meet back up with that we only see in person at this event. 

If you have a Winnebago, you are welcome to register to attend the event where there will be food, live music, seminars and RV display models. Sabrina and I do so much laughing at these events that it is always worth the drive out to Forest City, IA, for us to attend. 

Winnebago really goes all out on entertainment, from country legends to local bands.  There are also happy hours and ice cream socials. And we highly recommend being there to experience the end of row party night where each state row decorates their area and offers some of their favorite local foods and drinks. There is even a mobile Polka band on a platform that keeps the dancing and party going for hours. It really is a blast! 

GNR is also a great time to check out the new Winnebago models with very little sales pressure. But there are models there for sale as well, and this is why I say the RV rallies really are the best of both worlds. You have community, shopping, and partying all in one place.

While on a much smaller scale compared to Winnebago’s GNR, you can also experience a lot of opportunities to connect and have fun at the other owner rallies in the Winnebago community. If you are interested in possibly even hosting your own RV rally, here are some tips to keep in mind!

RV Events

Highlights of RV Events: Still a great community vibe with fun ways to connect, but RV events are often more focused on education and showcasing RV-related products. 

There are many different RV events with focuses ranging from general RV enthusiasts to specific RV groups, as well as those focused on distinct RV travel styles. One popular annual RV event that I’ve enjoyed is Overland Expo.

There are actually four Overland Expos that take place in different areas of the country: West, East, Pacific Northwest, and Mountain West. I have been to all four of these events and they were all great. An Overland show differs from an RV show in the fact that everything at the Overland show is geared towards travelers in motion.

You are not going to find much as far as sewer hookups, surge protectors, or anything that gives the impression: “I am staying at a campground tonight.” The Overland crowd is typically a younger active group, and the products at these shows certainly reflect that with what the venders and RV manufacturers bring. 

This show is where you are going to find RVs like Winnebago’s Hike 100 or Revel, these two RVs both have off-grid camping and boondocking in mind. You will probably see many roof-top campers since Jeeps and Toyota Tacomas are very popular with the Overlanding crowd. You will also see a lot of motorcycle campers at this event as they do motorcycle demos where you can test out different bikes on a dirt track. They even have an area of camping set up just for them. 

On top of the vendors and manufacturers at Overland, you will find several seminars about living off-grid, how to travel by roadways around the world, how to set up satellite coms for communication, and more. 

Last year, I attended a seminar called “Van Life: More than a Hashtag,” which was hosted by Peter Holcomb. It was very interesting and branched out into driving your RV into Mexico. This is a subject that Sabrina and I keep trying to learn more about as we plan to drive our Vista into Mexico this year. 

The other cool thing about this event is that you camp right on property practically in the middle of the event, this is something that is popular with rallies, but I rarely see it at RV shows. Each day of the Expo ends with happy hour and live music, this of course is a great time to unwind from the day and meet new people or head back to the camp area and chill out with some friends and discuss the day.

RV Shows

Highlights of RV Shows: More focused on showcasing a variety of motorhomes and travel trailers with the option for attendees to make a purchase on-site. The direct comparison is helpful for those looking for a new RV, but there may be some sales pressure.

Just like the Overland events, you are going to be able to check out different RVs and find several vendors selling products at RV shows. There will be even more styles of RVs and one thing that is very different at the RV shows is that you can purchase an RV.  

At other RV events, like Overland Expo, they usually only have dealers on location to provide information so that you can come to their dealership at a later time. This can be viewed as a good or bad thing.  
At the RV shows, it is nice to be able to make a purchase right there and then but sometimes that comes with some sales pressure.  Whereas at most RV events and rallies, there’s typically very little sales pressure for the RVs and it’s more of a look and learn experience.
If you are in the market to purchase a new RV, an RV show is where you want to be. You will have the ability to compare several different models and floorplans all in one place - especially at shows like the annual ones in Hershey, PA, and Tampa, FL, which are two of the largest RV shows in the USA. 
When Sabrina and I were shopping for our RV, we found these shows to be extremely helpful because we were able to walk into one RV and then run to another one for comparison while it was still fresh in our minds. 

Fun fact: the Hershey show of 2016 is where we first stepped into a Winnebago Vista 27N. We didn’t buy it right there and then, but we did buy one in January of 2017 after going home and doing more research on Winnebago (including a factory tour in Forest City, IA). 

That being said, if you are ready to buy a new motorhome or travel trailer, RV shows typically offer the best prices possible, with salespeople ready to make a deal.

The large RV shows also offer educational seminars and are a great place to learn the ropes of RVing, whether that be about finding campsites, how to use certain products (like a convection oven, for example), or the benefits of using lithium battery technology. It really is not all about the sale at these shows, you can definitely learn a lot.

Why Attend RV Events in Person?

While there are a lot of online learning options and community groups that add a lot of value to RV life, being at these shows in person is always my ideal. It is a fun way to learn about RVing, traveling, and enjoying the outdoors, but on top of that I really enjoy going to these shows and chatting with the vendors about their products. 
RV shows and events will often have the owners of the companies right there in the booth and you get answers to your questions right from the person who has a heavy hand in the development of that product. 
It’s also a great way to get a hands-on experience with products and the actual RVs. Watching a tour video of an RV online is one thing, but walking through one and getting the sense of space and how you will use it is totally worth the trip in itself. Also, at these shows, you will be able to talk with owners of the products and get their opinion.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and that it has enticed you to venture out to a show to see it first-hand. Sabrina and I will be at the Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, AZ, in May, and we will also be at Winnebago’s Grand National Rally in Forest City, IA, in July. We would love to see you there!

Take care all, and safe travels!


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