Are you ready for a vacation and wonder if going to a hotel or taking an RV is the better choice?
There is more to travel than the bottom-line cost, including the stress of reaching your destination, accessibility to attractions, privacy, ability to take along pets, and ease of changing locations.
To help you make the correct travel decision, all the details about the pros and cons of hotel stays versus RV are down below.
Knowing the differences can be enlightening for those new to RVing, so let’s dive right in!
RV vs. Hotel
RV owners remain owners, because they find RV vacations to be much more practical, budget-friendly, and enjoyable than hotel stays.
The allure of hotel amenities calls much more strongly to other travelers because they enjoy the feeling of being pampered.
Let’s start with the great things that make hotels better than RVs and the negative aspects that make them worse.
8 Hotel Benefits
Hotels are a great vacation option over RV travel due to the amenities. The higher star-rating of the hotel, the more reasons you have to love them.
1. Many people fly or drive to their hotel destination, which isn’t as stressful as driving an RV for hundreds of miles. Once you check into your hotel, you only need to unpack your suitcase and relax.
2. Hotels usually have comfy beds and wide-screen TVs with cable. The bathrooms feature glorious flushing toilets that whisk away waste to the central sewer system.
3. Hotels deliver endless hot water for long, luxurious showers or baths.
4. Someone else will come in to clean, change the sheets, and even deliver room-service food or launder your clothes.
5. Many hotels offer onsite pools, beaches, spas, restaurants, fitness centers, shops, and bars that are a short walk from your room.
6. Most hotel locations cater to tourists, so you can expect a variety of local attractions near your hotel to enjoy as well.
7. A hotel is a solid structure that provides security during inclement weather.
8. There are hotels for every lifestyle and budget. You can select a remote, resort-style hotel in the mountains for relaxing solitude or a high-energy, moderate-cost hotel in a town like Orlando that puts you in the heart of your choice of amusement parks.
Hotel stays do have their downside.
The average hotel nightly rate as of 2020 is a few cents under $100, which is a huge 24.9-percent drop over the previous year. The current drop is a direct result of the current Covid health crisis.
Even with a drastic price drop, the cost of current hotel rooms is much more than the $33 nightly average cost of an RV campsite with full hookups.
Along with the room’s cost is the additional expense of airfare, gas, and maybe even car rental charges to get to your destination.
Food can also get expensive, as you’ll need to eat most of your meals out.
Hotel rooms are impersonal, and most people pack only a small portion of their favorite things for a trip, which can lower your comfort level.
You may love your thick, warm bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, but don’t want to waste space in your luggage to bring them. Same with your family pictures or favorite coffee mug.
Packing and unpacking can also be a hassle, especially if you are traveling with kids and are stopping overnight in several destinations.
You also must worry about the damage you could accidentally cause.
Spilled red wine all over the beige carpet or broke a lamp? Expect an extra charge from the hotel to cover the cost of repair.
In a hotel room, you must rely on the housekeeping staff to clean the room properly.
The bathtub may look clean, but are you sure there aren’t invisible germs lurking?
You have no idea if your toilet, sink, coffee maker, pillow, sheets, remote control, and even carpet is disinfected to health and safety standards without bringing along testing equipment.
In the days of social distancing to avoid a virus, the “unknown” of hotel room cleanliness can be unsettling.
Speaking of housekeeping, don’t you love how they wake you from a dead sleep at 8 AM to service your room even though you hung the Do Not Disturb sign?
I’m sure they are snickering as they apologize and walk away.
Most hotels do not allow pets. The few that do often restrict the pet to dogs under 20 pounds only and will add an upcharge to your room’s price to cover the cost of extra cleaning.
Even if a hotel allows pets, leaving them alone in the room can lead to potty accidents, barking that disturbs other guests, undue stress from exposure to new smells and furniture, and lack of space for real exercise.
Leaving your pet at home will require setting up and paying for boarding or a sitter, which increases your vacation’s overall cost.
Getting from your hotel room to the lobby or outside can be a time-consuming obstacle course. Long hallways, infrequent elevators, and vast parking garages can get tiresome quickly.
Hungry at 3 AM? If your room is devoid of snacks, you’ll have to ignore your hunger pangs till breakfast or get dressed and drag yourself downstairs, searching for an open store or restaurant.
The most significant benefit of an RV over a hotel is the convenience. All the things that make a hotel stay negative are just the opposite in an RV.
RV nightly rates at private campgrounds average around $40 a night, while public campgrounds in state and national parks are lower.
Toss in discounts for both types of parks for military members, seniors, or RV travel memberships, and the price goes even lower.
With current low fuel costs, adding in the price of gas to your trip will often still average out to be lower than a nightly hotel rate.
Eating out is a choice. You can pack supplies and cook all your meals right from your camper, which saves on transport costs to and from a restaurant, upcharges on food products, and tipping waitstaff.
Warning: RV costs per night are only cheaper than a hotel if you own the RV or borrow one from a friend or relative.
RV rental costs can be steep, and most will require an additional fee for insurance and roadside assistance – unless you think you’re able to change a tire on a large motorhome by yourself.
Factoring all the charges together, RV rental vacations will cost more per night than a hotel room.
The beauty of RVs is that they move.
If you get to any destination and find you don’t like your campsite or the area, you just leave and find a more suitable location.
Fees for canceling reservations at campgrounds are never high enough to force you into staying, which is rarely the case when you book a hotel.
RVs are a smaller version of your home, put on wheels. There is nothing nicer than seeing and touching all your favorite things while on vacation.
That thick, warm bathrobe and fuzzy slippers you love can be in your RV closet for you to enjoy any time you like.
Hang family pictures and artwork, paint the walls your favorite color, reupholster the furniture, change the curtains, it’s all okay in an RV.
Pour coffee into your favorite mug and sit down and relax on your comfortable couch.
Not only can you bring along a more extensive wardrobe, you only need to pack your RV once for the entire trip, and unpack only certain items, like dirty laundry, when you finish.
Most RV supplies stay in the camper, so you don’t have to store them in your home.
You have complete control over the cleanliness of your RV. Even if you are renting or borrowing a camper, you can still give it the once-over to attain a clean level that makes you comfortable.
You have control over who enters your RV so you can limit the transfer of germs.
No strangers will be using your RV bathroom. And 100-percent nobody will be banging on your door while you’re sleeping to offer housekeeping services.
RV travel is ideal for pets. Campgrounds allow and cater to the furry family members in RVs, as long as you abide by their general safety rules.
You no longer need to pay for and leave your animals behind with a sitter or at a boarder.
You don’t have to worry about how well they are doing in your absence. You can bring them along and enjoy their love and companionship!
Getting from your RV to the great outdoors is as simple as opening the door. Step out onto your campsite patio, which is often within a natural setting full of trees and wildlife.
Want fresh air? Open the windows! Want to work out? Take a run around the park, hike trails in state or national campgrounds, or visit the RV park fitness room or pool.
When you’re hungry, there’s also no need to rush because the restaurant closes at 9 PM, or you’ll miss breakfast after 11 AM. You can eat what, where, and when you are ready in your pajamas, swimsuit, or birthday suit if that is what you wish.
Cooking meals yourself also allows you to control the flavor and food portions and keep your family members who have food allergens safe from cross-contamination.
The best part of an RV over a hotel is the like-minded community these travelers bring to the table.
You don’t sit in the lobby of a hotel and wave to and greet other guests. You don’t invite them over to your room for a drink.
Well, you can, but expect people to look at you like you’re crazy.
People who embrace the RV lifestyle are easy-going. RVers appreciate getting all the insider information on campgrounds and places the others visit. They invite you to their patio for a drink to ask questions, and listen to your answers.
RV life does allow all the solitude you desire, but when you need help, it’s incredible the generosity and effort other RVers provide.
5 RV Negatives
The downside of an RV in comparison to a hotel include:
1. The workload of vacationing in an RV is much higher. First, you must clean and pack the RV. Planning food and clothing and logistics for a long trip can get daunting.
Once you get to your destination, you need to set up camp. Even RVers with years of experience find this the worst part of the trip.
You are tired from the journey, but first, you need to:
- Get the RV backed perfectly into the campsite
- Level the RV and set the jacks
- Attach water, sewer, and electric lines
- Bring out patio furniture and gear
- Open and secure the awning
- Open RV slides and arrange interior items
After that, you still have to cook and clean. Many people find all this work doesn’t qualify as a “vacation” at all.
When it’s time to go, you must clean the RV, store items securely, and reverse the camp setup process.
2. Driving an RV can be stressful. Filling up a large gas tank gets pricey, and it hurts when your RV only gets 8 miles per gallon.
Moving a large recreational vehicle means you must pay vigilant attention every second you are on the road, stopping for gas, and parking at shopping centers or your campsite.
One blown tire or engine problems can ruin your trip before it even starts. Unfamiliar roadways may be unpassable in an RV, such as due to a low underpass, which means trying to turn around and find a better route.
3. The location of public and private campgrounds puts you off the beaten path in many instances. Visiting local attractions, you may require a long drive to get there.
Depending on your RV type and whether or not you have a toad, you may need to close up camp and drive the motorhome every time you want to go out.
Campgrounds in or near top tourist areas can cost just as much as a hotel’s nightly rate.
4. Hot water is at a premium in an RV without an on-demand system. Taking short showers becomes tedious, and running out of hot water while doing the dishes stinks.
Bathtubs, if your RV has one, are tiny so you can forget about stretching out to relax in a hot bath.
Sewer and water waste go into tanks, that you must monitor and dump.
5. Inclement weather inside an RV can be scary and even dangerous. While made to handle heavy rain, strong winds or falling debris are RV enemies.
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The Decision is Yours
The decision of which is better, an RV or hotel, comes down to personal vacationing preference. Both provide wonderful benefits, and both have their downsides.
The fundamental difference is RVs offer freedom, while hotels offer comfort.
What is most important is up to you!
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide