Be charmed by the variety of learning opportunities scheduled during FMCA’s 97th International Convention and RV Expo.
So, you’re new to RVing and have a lot to learn. Or maybe you’re a seasoned traveler, already having enjoyed oodles of adventures in your rolling home. Perhaps you’re somewhere in between. Regardless, FMCA’s upcoming international convention in Perry, Georgia, will include some seminar sessions you may conclude were designed especially for you.
The “Southern Charm” convention — March 15 through 18, 2018, at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry — promises a diverse lineup of seminars ranging from the technical to the sublime. And just prior to the event, RV experts will provide in-depth instruction to those who sign up for “RV Basics,” an additional 2½-day course from the FMCA Academy (go to FMCA.com for more RV Basics information).
The following convention seminars were scheduled at press time. Look for even more sessions by the time the “Southern Charm” gathering gets under way.
23rd Psalm Bracelet
ARTitude Adjustment Painting Class
Charmed Bracelet NEW
Chunky Bead Necklace NEW
Hot Air Balloon Decoration NEW
Shamrock Silver Memory Wire Bracelet
Think Spring Necklace NEW
FMCA Roadside Rescue
Member Benefits And FMCAssist
Understanding Your RV Insurance Policy
What’s Happening In FMCA
FMCA Chapter Secretary’s Roundtable
FMCA Chapter Treasurer’s Roundtable
Bean Bag Toss Tournament
Byron Police Department K-9 Demonstration
Daily Trivia Game
DOGZ On Tour
Early Morning Exercise — Yoga Stretch
Golf Cart Rodeo
Ice Cream Social
Square Dance Fun
Satellite TV & Sound
RVs, TVs, And Satellite
Satellites And RVs
Understanding TV In Your RV
RF Mogul Satellite Systems For The RV — Purchasing Seminar (A Product-Specific Seminar)
Google Photos: What To Do With All Of Those Photos
Maximizing Mobile Connectivity — WiFi Ranger (A Product-Specific Seminar)
Smartphone Photography Workshop — Requires On-Site Registration
Technology To Tell Your Stories: Making A Blog
Technology For Travelers: Internet, Maps, And Apps
What Does This Button Do?
Coach Interior Upkeep
What You Need To Renovate Your RV
Insider Cleaning Tips For Your Home On Wheels
RV Storage Solutions
Microwave-Convection Cooking For The Beginner
Microwave-Convection Cooking On The Go
An Irish Wake — Audience Participation NEW
Breaking Through Your Genealogical Brick Walls
Genealogy Research Using Military Records NEW
Genealogy: Getting The Most From The Census
Just for Fun — Wild And Wacky RVs
Reading And Storytelling To Kids: Great, Grand, And Others NEW
The Evolution Of Motorized RVs — 1910 To Today
The Evolution Of The Species — RV Evolution
Buying RV Real Estate
Choosing A Home Base
Personal Finance & Health
Look 10 Years Younger In 10 Minutes (A Product-Specific Seminar)
Low-Carb, High-Fat, Adequate-Protein Lifestyle
Orthopedic Rehabilitation Principles And Applications NEW
Human Trafficking Awareness For RVers NEW
Canada’s Eastern Atlantic Provinces
Experience Alaska By RV
Great Polar Bear Migration
Mississippi River Road Caravan (A Product-Specific Seminar)
RV Rallies And Great Destinations
RVing Australia And New Zealand (A Product-Specific Seminar)
South Africa RV Safari (A Product-Specific Seminar)
Western Canada By Land And Sea FMCA Tour (A Product-Specific Seminar)
Driving, Towing, & Parking
Driving — What Every RV Driver Needs To Know
Safe-T-Plus: Handling And Manageability Of Your Coach (A Product-Specific Seminar)
Supplemental Towed Car Braking
White Knuckles & Windstorms
Foggy Window? Cracked Windshield? We Can Help! (A Product-Specific Seminar)
Never Get On Your Roof Again! (A Product-Specific Seminar)
Detailing The Outside Of Your Coach In Less Than 1 Hour
Safe One-Step Wash, Wax, Protect — No Ladder
Cummins Onan Generator Operation & Maintenance (Featured Technical Presentation)
Photovoltaics (Solar Energy) And Motorhomes (Featured Technical Presentation)
Insurance & Warranties
Pros And Cons Of RV Extended Warranties
Maintenance & Operation
Ask The Experts (Featured Technical Presentation)
Correct RV Waste Management Practices (Featured Technical Presentation)
Five Must-Have Questions To Ask When Buying LED Lights
LED Education — Answers For User Problems
The RV Doctor’s Top 10 RV Facts Of Life (Featured Technical Presentation)
Tips And Tricks: Outside-The-Box Maintenance Methods
RV Fire Safety
RV Safe Driving Program, Sessions 1 & 2 (Featured Technical Presentation) — Requires Preconvention Registration
Powertrain & Chassis
Cummins Engine Maintenance (Featured Technical Presentation)
Diesel Engine Or Gas Engine?
Freightliner Custom Chassis Fireside Chat (Featured Technical Presentation)
Spartan Motors Motorhome Chassis (Featured Technical Presentation)
Suspensions — Coach Ride And Handling (Featured Technical Presentation)
Advanced Tire Knowledge
Questions Answered About Tire Monitoring (TPMS): An Interactive Seminar
RV Weight Safety & Tire Safety (Featured Technical Presentation)
Tire Knowledge For The RV Owner
Understanding Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS)
FMCA convention seminars often open new windows of knowledge for attendees. Take the presentations by Fantasy RV Tours, for example. For more than two decades, company founder Nel Filliger and her crew have painted vivid pictures to help seminar attendees visualize what they might expect on a guided RV caravan.
“The part I love the most is talking about these tours and seeing the members’ faces light up in the seminars when I do them. I see them on the edge of their seats, nudging each other, and I make jokes with people in the front row: ‘I see you’re ready to go; your pupils are dilated!’ I love seeing people excited about getting out and using their RVs,” Nel said.
Approximately 50 to 60 percent of the folks in the company’s seminars are attending their first FMCA convention, she said.
Fantasy RV representatives began presenting seminars to FMCA members in 1992 during the Western Area Rally. Seminars at FMCA’s international conventions followed several years later.
Nel noted that the goal of a Fantasy RV seminar is to inform attendees what their travel options are while featuring some of the most sought-after, iconic travel destinations. Presenters highlight those places and discuss the benefits of traveling with an organized group. That includes RVing with fellow FMCA members and experiencing the must-see sites and attractions included in the tour.
Time is left at the end of each seminar for a question-and-answer session, which can be lengthy, Nel says. Sometimes the conversation continues at Fantasy’s exhibit booth.
“We have so many people who say they went to Alaska last summer (on their own) and did all these great things. Then they look at our itinerary and see what they missed,” she said. “An RV tour is just a convenient way to have everything included so you don’t finish your trip of a lifetime and then say, ‘I wish we would have done thus and so.’”
Fantasy RV has escorted more than 60,000 RVers on the “trip of a lifetime” during its 27 years of existence. Current itineraries explore much of the continental United States, Canada, Alaska, and even sites overseas.
Such commercial success doesn’t come overnight. As with many things, it’s a multiyear journey. Nel remembers camping with her grandparents, who had a small motorhome. Her parents, Paul and Doris Seifert, F38502, purchased their first coach in the late 1960s. Nel said that her dad “was a big fan” of FMCA and loved going to the conventions and seminars. She owns a motorhome also and is the proud bearer of FMCA number F38502D (the D stands for “daughter”).
Nel first learned of the RV tour concept when her parents began taking RV caravans to Mexico with a commercial tour company. They would return home and tell stories about their trips to the Copper Canyon of Mexico and other places. “It was the highlight of their lives at the time,” she recalled.
In the late 1980s, with their children off to college, Nel and her husband bought an RV. In 1990, they sold their house, put everything in storage, and became full-timers. Both possessed marketing backgrounds and dreamed of starting an RV tour company and leading trips to Mexico. So, off they went for a year of research in Mexico.
Fantasy RV’s first professionally led caravan occurred in 1992. Nel’s father served as “tail gunner” on that inaugural journey. The following year, the itinerary expanded to eight tours, and other experienced wagon masters were brought on board. By 1996, Fantasy was the largest caravan company leading tours into Mexico, Nel said.
By that time, Fantasy also offered excursions to Alaska, which filled quickly, and in Canada. In ensuing years, the caravan schedule expanded to include popular rally destinations, such as the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and the Pasadena Rose Parade. In 1997 Fantasy began leading RV excursions to Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
What are FMCA members’ favorite tours? Nel said Alaska is the most popular first-time caravan for FMCAers. “Many have taken a cruise to Alaska, and that has given them a taste. Being RVers, most have a desire to return,” she said. But year after year, the rally at the top of RVers’ bucket list remains the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, she added.
Other quick sell-outs include an FMCA member-only tour along the Mississippi River Road, which starts in northern Minnesota and follows the Great River Road to New Orleans, Louisiana. Another tour explores sites along the five Great Lakes.
Each year, Fantasy RV schedules about 15 to 20 FMCA member-only tours, as well as other non-FMCA-specific caravans. All wagon masters and tail gunners are former customers who undergo extensive training. Each tour includes a maximum of 22 RVs. And, contrary to what many assume, Nel said, RVers do not drive in bumper-to-bumper fashion, like a convoy. While traveling, a two- to three-hour lapse might exist between the first and last RVs. Travel days average 175 miles, more or less, depending on route and location.
Which Fantasy tour is Nel’s personal favorite? The Mexico Baja whale-watching tour, which includes a boat trip to see and touch gray whales up close. “It’s an unbelievable experience,” she said. The area is strictly controlled by the Mexican government to protect the whales, she added, and fewer boats are allowed in the waters than in past years.
In fact, Nel advises seminar attendees to act on their travel bucket lists. “I urge them to get out and do it today. We don’t know how much longer these things will be available.” And as individuals, “We don’t know how much longer we will be available.”
— Robbin Gould, Editor