Charlie and George Lesko had long considered traveling in a recreational vehicle before setting out for Myrtle Beach, S.C. — with son Caiden lounging in the back of their rented motor home.

RV travel, the first-time renters reasoned, would cost less than airfare and a beachfront hotel for three.

And, despite the obvious drawbacks of wallet-draining gas prices and a too-small bathroom, the Pickaway County family returned the motor home happy with the choice.

“It’s a pretty laid-back, relaxing way to go, and that’s something we really enjoy,” said Mrs. Lesko, 36, of Williamsport.

The Leskos so enjoyed their weeklong beach trip early this summer that they have welcomed neighbors on board for their next excursion — a jaunt to Shawnee State Park near Portsmouth before the children start school again.

They are among a growing number of vacationers choosing to rent RVs for their transportation and lodging, according to a national survey of businesses that rent them.

Almost 80 percent of survey respondents reported increased rental profits in 2013, and more than half said they planned to increase the size of their rental fleets this year.

Many central Ohio rental operations have also experienced growth, saying their rentals are a hot commodity this summer.

“We had thought that (market growth) had been pent-up frustration, of people not being able to travel the way they used to, but it’s obviously a part of the economy coming back,” said Mike Harlan, general manager of Haydocy Airstream & RV in Columbus.

The market is expanding, too, because renters are considering RVs for a variety of vacations — not just the cross-country treks to Yellowstone National Park commonly associated with motor-home travel. (Think Robin Williams in the 2006 movie RV.)

They’re also using RVs closer to home — setting up camp at state parks, fairs, concerts and conventions, said Scott Krenek, chairman of the Recreational Vehicle Rental Association, which conducted the survey.

Vacations by Haydocy customers have mirrored the survey results: trips that average about a week in length, Harlan said.

Last month, Rich and Patricia Becherer drove from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Columbus to pick up an RV before heading north to Michigan. They opted for the luxurious choice, seeking Haydocy because of its silver Mercedes-Benz 24-footer — a model they weren’t able to rent closer to their home.

“It is a world-class traveling vehicle,” Mr. Becherer, 68, said of the easy-to-maneuver $400-a-day rental.

They drove it through the heart of Michigan over seven days last month, making their way to their vacation home in Harbor Springs and indulging on perch, whitefish and Detroit’s famous coney dogs along the way.

Heather and Larry Mackey of Canal Winchester opted in July for a less lavish trip to southwestern Ohio. Together with their two young girls, they packed their camping gear and swimwear into a modest travel trailer rented from Specialty RV Rentals in Lancaster.

The Mackeys’ rental choice, a trailer towed by the family pickup truck, represents a growing rental market, said Jeff Kurowski, industryrelations director for the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association.

An increasing number of travelers are choosing to rent trailers they can pull behind their pickups or sport-utility vehicles for shorter vacations, said Kurowski, who also worked on the survey.

In some cases, rental operations will even deliver the vehicles to campgrounds or festival sites.

With two bunks, a full-size bed and areas for lounging (plus air conditioning and a flat-screen television), the rental cost is $520 for four nights — an attractive alternative to the larger motor home rented by the Mackeys six years ago for a Jimmy Buffett concert, they said.

Mr. Mackey, 39, said that being able to unhitch their pickup from the trailer made day trips easy, compared with the challenge of driving (and finding a place to park) a full-size RV.

“We have two daughters, and one daughter wanted to go camping, and the other daughter wanted to go to Kings Island,” said his wife, 36. “We decided to do both.”

RVs offer vacationers the chance to travel in comfort and the flexibility to choose where they stay and for how long.

Both appealed to the Leskos, who liked not having a strict schedule.

“You get to go someplace different, and you don’t necessarily have to stay in the mainstream traffic,” Mrs. Lesko said.

Gas, she said, proved to be the family’s biggest expense on their vacation. Their beachfront campground cost $75 a night, and the family spent $250 on groceries.

They, like other renters, had to provide driver’s licenses and insurance information before getting on the road.

RV renting, Mrs. Lesko said, simplifies things.

“In our hectic life, we enjoy that.”

@Jimryan015 ___

Tags: RVs, vacations
Photo Credit: Wes's RV at Redrock Canyon State Park in Cantil, California. David O / Flickr