As a longtime RVer and retired traveling journalist, I have a balanced perspective on RV vs. hotel stays. Here’s why an RV wins…
As a longtime RVer and RV blogger, you may think I’m unfairly biased toward staying in an RV vs. a hotel. But, before you decide to devalue my opinion, let me share with you that I am also a retired journalist.
Deemed “one of America’s most well-traveled reporters,” I spent four decades hopping planes and staying in hotels. So, believe me, I’m well-acquainted with both travel options.
In my experienced opinion, staying in an RV wins (almost) every time. I will tell you the top reasons why and the exceptions when hotels win…
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10 Reasons Why an RV is Better Than a Hotel Stay
This topic was also recently brought up in our RV Lifestyle Facebook group. A member posted:
“…Has anybody in here compared the cost between taking your camper on a long road trip vs. staying in a hotel? outside of the cost of the camper/rv…”
The post garnered over 300 comments with many of the points that we make below. Some commentators also shared their real numbers and budgets.
As the comments show, RVing is often cheaper, easier, and more comfortable than staying in a hotel. There are always exceptions, of course, which we’ll discuss at the end.
But first, let’s jump into the benefits of RV vs. hotel stay.
1. Campgrounds Are Cheaper
Campgrounds (especially at state and national parks) tend to be significantly cheaper than hotel rooms. A night at a state or national park usually runs $30-$50, whereas a nearby hotel to such natural attractions usually runs $150-$250.
Even private campgrounds are usually significantly cheaper than hotels. This is especially true near major attractions, like theme parks or other busy destinations.
Granted, some RV parks and RV resorts with high-end amenities can be the same price or more. But campgrounds are cheaper than hotels for the most part.
2. Boondocking Is Even Cheaper (& Often Free!)
Jennifer and I are avid boondockers. Boondocking is a self-contained camping style that doesn’t require hookups. So, you can camp anywhere you’re allowed to park.
When boondocking, you have many more cheap or free rv camping options available to you.
Plus, you get to explore more secluded areas and be away from the sometimes noisy campgrounds.
Check this out to learn more…
Beginners Guide to Boondocking (one of our most popular ebooks) and one of our newest ebooks, The Ultimate Guide to Free and Cheap RV Camping!
ebook #1: Beginners Guide to Boondocking
We created a 65+-page downloadable digital guide to help you understand the nuances that come with boondocking, the most common boondocking problems, and what you need to do to get your rig “boondocking-ready.”
ebook #2: The Ultimate Guide to Free and Cheap RV Camping
Buckle up because here is everything you need to know on how to find cheap or free RV camping sites in the 33-page EBOOK.
3. No Living Out of a Suitcase
I lived much of my adult life out of a suitcase. So, believe me you, this is a big PRO for RVs. Not having to unpack, repack, and lug suitcases around is a big plus.
When you stay in an RV, you can neatly organize and KEEP your stuff in drawers and closet space. You don’t even have to repack for every road trip within the same season.
To optimize your space, check out these 5 Space-Saving Tips for RV Closets & Drawers.
4. More Pet-Friendly
Taking our dog, Bo, with us RVing is a huge plus for Jennifer and me. It’s hard to find pet-friendly vacation rentals and hotels, which made us a lot less interested in hotel stays.
This advantage of RVs over hotels is particularly beneficial to cat owners. While some hotels and vacation rentals do allow dogs, most do not allow cats! In an RV, you can get these purrrfect cat travel accessories and bring your kitty along for the trip.
5. Sleep In Your Own Bed
Every new hotel you stay at has different bedding and pillows. There’s no guarantee of their quality nor the quality of sleep you’ll get.
When you RV, you take your bed and all your favorite linens wherever you go. We’ve found the 3 Best RV Bedding Solutions that help promise a good night’s sleep wherever we go.
6. Save Money with Your Own Kitchen
One of the biggest expenses of staying in a hotel is not the cost of the hotel itself. Rather, it’s having to eat out for every meal.
Traveling with a stocked kitchen in your RV saves a lot of money. Your travel budget will stretch farther and you’ll get to travel longer.
As many Facebook commentators pointed out, you're essentially eating the same as you would at home. So, you don't have to figure food costs into your travel budget other than special restaurant stops and any excess beyond your home food budget.
(PSST! For easy meal planning, check out our sister website, CampingFoodRecipes.com.)
7. More Travel Flexibility
Jennifer and I are big fans of “Serendipity Travel.” That’s when we hit the road with only a loose itinerary, leaving room for the road to lead us to our next adventure.
When we travel this way, we end up having unexpected experiences we could never have planned in advance. Traveling in our RV, gives us the most flexibility to travel like this.
Furthermore, as boondockers, we often have much more flexible check-in and check-out times (often no set times at all!). Many campgrounds have more generous check-in and check-out times than hotels as well.
8. No Bed Bugs
Many people mentioned bed bugs as a bug turn-off from staying at hotels. There's been a lot of chatter about bed bugs in recent years, and it's more than just social media gossip.
Bed bugs have been on the rise globally for the past decade. They are now found in every U.S. state, with Washington DC, Baltimore, Chicago, and Los Angeles being the most plagued.
With an RV, you don't have to worry about other people bringing bed bugs into your sleeping space. You can maintain a high standard of cleanliness and more easily avoid a bed bug infestation.
This is something to consider, as well, if deciding whether or not to rent out your RV.
9. Better Entertainment
Many RVers point out how staying in an RV is more enjoyable than a hotel. For one, you get to take your favorite entertainment with you without being limited to a suitcase.
So, instead of flipping through channels on a hotel TV or paying exorbitant fees for pay-per-view movies, you have your own TV, DVDs, etc. Shoot, you can even have your own portable outdoor movie theater.
You can also easily bring varied entertainment with you, like board games, camping hobbies, travel crafts, and more. And, you don't have to fret over which books to lug around. There's more room for your favorite books to read while camping!
And let's not forget about sitting around the campfire or putting your stargazing kit to use! Both those activities sure beat sitting in a hotel room at night.
10. You Meet More People (Or Avoid Them Entirely)
I know some people might consider being around more people a con rather than a pro. But meeting other travelers and learning about where they're from and where they're headed can add to your travel experience.
You don't have to meet other people while camping, but if want to, then you easily can. Campers are, by and large, a friendly lot. You'll have plenty of opportunities to make friends while camping if you so desire.
HOWEVER! The opposite can be true, too. If you DO NOT like being around other people, then RVing is still the better option over a hotel. If you boondock like us, you can stay in remote locations where there are NO people.
Just you and nature. You can't get that at a hotel.
The Exceptions (When Hotels Are Better Than RVs)
There are, of course, exceptions to RVing being better than staying in an RV. In some cases, it is better to stay in a hotel than in an RV.
Let's take a look at a few of those cases…
1. You're On a Short Timeline
It may be better to stay in a hotel if you’re traveling to a destination that’s far away for a short duration. Driving to a distant destination takes longer than flying, of course.
So, if you live in Montana and want to go to Disneyworld on your 1-week vacation from work, you better fly. Otherwise, you'll have to wave at Mickey as you turn around and head back home.
2. Your Destination is Far
If traveling far, gasoline often costs more than airfare. The national average price for a gallon of gas is currently hovering between $3.50-$4.00. If your RV gets 15mpg (which is generous for many RVs) and you drive 300 miles in one day, that's up to $80 a day.
The average domestic flight from a major airport is only around $300. Depending on how many plane tickets you'd have to buy, flying may very well be cheaper. (Although, don't forget to account for local transportation costs like Ubers or rental cars.)
Now, keep in mind, that the journey is usually as important to RVers as the destination. But if you drive straight through without enjoying sites along the way, then flying is probably better, especially if you don't plan to stay long.
3. You Don't Want to Clean
Another exception is when you don’t feel up to doing cleaning and maintenance. Having maid service is certainly a big mark in favor of hotels.
Sometimes, you can get really great deals on all-inclusive hotel resorts. This type of full-service can be comparable cost-wise to RV resorts with similar amenities.
4. You Don't Want to Risk Breaking Down
RVs run the risk of breaking down in the middle of your vacation. Granted, if you do preventative maintenance and check your tire pressure every travel day, you're far less likely to encounter problems.
But RVs are vehicles, and vehicles break down. It's a risk you have to be willing to take on a vacation. A risk you can weigh based on the age of your RV, the age of your RV's tires, and how well it's maintained.
5. You Don't Want to Setup Camp
RVers have to setup and tear down camp, which can be more work than people are willing to do. Experienced RVers get it down to a science and can quickly do both.
But, if you're new to RVing, it can take a couple of hours to set up and tear down. It can really eat into your fun time until you get the hang of it.
There are other exceptions, of course, but the above tend to be the main reasons people opt for hotels over RVs. If you’re an avid hotel fan, let us know if you have other reasons why in the comments below.
Explore Florida's Gulf Coast with our RV Adventure Guide
We RVers may wander far and wide, but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.
Stretching from the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola to the west and going all the way up along to Clearwater, Naples, and beyond – this is an area of contrasts.
There are more upscale shopping centers, fine restaurants, and busy little chic boutiques along the Gulf Coast than you will find just about anywhere else.
But just off those main drags and highways are quiet, tranquil places and the most glorious sugar-sand beaches we’ve found anywhere in America.
And, of course, the ocean water. Crystal-clear, turquoise, and emerald-colored. In some places, it looks like you are in the Caribbean.
We’re confident you’ll find a little slice of paradise here to call your own.
This guide is a seven-day guided exploration of Florida’s Gulf Coast!
Official RV Lifestyle QUICK Links to ALL our eBooks
You can see ALL our eBooks here, or use the following Quick Links to go straight to what you need!
And MANY of these are BUNDLED together:
New England Bundle
Coastal Maine, Adirondacks
Ultimate Michigan and Great Lakes Bundle – 3 ebooks –
Upper Peninsula, Lower Peninsula, and the Great Lakes Tour
Upper Peninsula, Lower Peninsula
The Great Lakes Adventure Guide Bundle
The Great Lake Shoreline Tour & JUST the Upper Peninsula Guide
Florida Adventure Guide Bundle
Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, Keys
Southwest Adventure Guide Bundle
Arizona, Colorado, Southern Utah)
Ultimate 7-Day RV Adventure Guide Bundle
Collection 1- our first 10 ebooks (does NOT contain Great Lakes Shoreline or Natchez Trace)
We also have a nice collection of ebooks that will help you navigate the RV Lifestyle.
The Beginner’s Guide to Boondocking ebook and Ultimate Guide to Free Camping Sites
And ONE PRINT book 🙂 and yes, before you ask, we have plans for MANY more print books.
The Complete Guide to Boondocking – PRINT VERSION
This is the same as the ebook titled The Beginner's Guide to Boondocking but in print.
And while you are exploring all our ebooks – check out the hoodies, T-shirts, Stickers, and mugs in our MERCH Store! You can get to it directly by just going here – SHOP!