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Park Models as Rental Units

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Ozzie Martinez has nothing against hotels. But he's found a better way to travel with his family. He stays in campgrounds with recreational park trailers or "park models."

"A park model is like a cottage equipped with everything," said the 33-year-old Miami resident after spending a long weekend with his family at Tropical Palms Resort in Kissimmee. "You've got a kitchen, a barbecue. And my kids really like the loft."

Martinez is one of a growing number of travelers who stay in park model rentals when they travel.

These 400 square foot units, which resemble small cottages, typically come in one- and two-bedroom models, complete with a living room, bathroom and kitchen with full-size appliances. Some units have lofts, which are popular with the kids. And most have front porches, enabling travelers to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.

At Tropical Palms Resort, which has 115 park model rentals, the units are clustered in groups of four, which give visitors a sense of privacy and a chance to meet their neighbors without the feeling of being in a crowded setting.

And because park models are technically classified as recreational vehicles, they can be placed in campgrounds and RV resorts, offering travelers a scenic vacation setting with more activities than they could typically find at a hotel or motel.

Martinez said staying in a park model in a campground or RV park setting is hard to beat. "It's like being out in nature with activities for the kids. We've got a volleyball court, a pond where you can fish. And you can ride bikes here, too," he said.

And the price, he said, is less than one would pay to stay at a hotel. At Tropical Palms Resort, park models rent for about $100 a night, while popular chain hotels in the Kissimmee area typically charge $150 or more, said Jim Gran, Tropical Palms' general manager. "It's a great value," he said, adding that currently offering packages, which include local attraction tickets to Disney World, Sea World, Universal Orlando and Old Town.

While many campgrounds and RV resorts across the nation offer park model rentals, you have to do a little research to find them.

"That's because most people simply buy these units and use them as weekend cottages or vacation homes," said Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), the Newnan, Ga.-based trade group that represents nearly 50 park model manufacturers across the country.

Indeed, roughly 3,900 of the nation's private campgrounds and RV parks have developed a side business leasing their campsites to park model owners on an annual basis, including Tropical Palms, which currently has 125 sites available to park model owners.

To obtain photos, statistics, consumer and campground contacts or other information regarding the growth of the recreational park trailer industry, please contract William Garpow at (770) 251-2672 or visit the RPTIA association's website