RV vs hotels

RV vs. Hotel: What Smart Travelers Choose

Updated on February 4th, 2024

You might wonder if staying in a hotel or a recreational vehicle is better when traveling. Both options can offer a budget to luxury-level experience for guests, but only one provides a wide range of benefits.

So, what is the RV vs. hotel winner, and why?

I’ve spent decades enjoying travel destinations in hotels worldwide and the last 12 years as a full-time RVer. If anyone knows the benefits and disadvantages of staying in a hotel versus an RV, it’s me, and the overall winner is, hands-down, the RV.

Here are ten reasons to choose an RV over a hotel for your next vacation, and see for yourself why the RVing community is growing daily!

1. Lower Rates For Lodging

A parked camper in an RV Park

RV park nightly rates are almost always less expensive than even a budget hotel, especially if you’re vacationing in a popular tourist destination where hotels charge $200 or more a night. You can save further when campgrounds offer a weekly or monthly discount.

Even if you choose a luxury RV resort full of amenities and activities for your stay, it will still run slightly less than the cost of a nearby hotel.

If you really want to lower your lodging costs, you can RV camp at state or national parks that typically charge less than $30 nightly.

Lastly, you can camp for free by boondocking on BLM or other public and private lands. You can find listings of free campsites by visiting boondockerswelcome.com or the Bureau of Land Management website.

2. You Can Travel With More Belongings

RVing with a lot of belongings.

Most people like to travel light, as it’s a hassle dragging luggage through airports and from your car into hotels. Cluttering up your hotel room with personal belongings only adds to the stress.

Not having access to all the clothing, accessories, toiletries, and even sports equipment you wish to use during your trip can be frustrating or lead you to purchase items you already have at home.

This aspect of travel is a huge reason why choosing an RV is best. You can pack everything you need (or think you may need!) into your camper and access it whenever you wish.

I can’t express how wonderful it is to grab a coat if the weather turns unexpectedly cold or pull out the swimsuit if the opportunity to take a dip arises. The same goes for other things you may like for relaxation, like extra books, your gaming system, or even craft supplies you’d never try to bring in your suitcase for a hotel stay.

Better yet, all your items will have a storage space, so they aren’t in your way during your trip. For people who RV often, it’s common to leave the camper packed for the season, which reduces the need to pack and unpack for each journey.

3. You Know the Bed is Comfortable

A minimalist interior design in the RV

A comfortable hotel bed is hit or miss, and nothing will ruin a vacation faster than not getting a good night’s rest.

When you outfit your RV, you can install the coziest mattress and bedding so every night is restful no matter where you travel. You can also be sure that the sheets, pillows, and blankets are fresh and clean.

4. You Can Make Meals

Part of hotel travel costs includes eating out unless you choose accommodations with a kitchenette. While many hotel chains offer a complimentary breakfast, the hours may not fit your daily schedule or have menu options that work with your diet.

According to ValuePenguin, the average daily per-person cost for vacation meals and drinks is $33 to $45. Food expenses for a family trip can quickly add up, leaving less money for entertainment and souvenirs.

An RV allows you to pack food and prepare meals on the road, saving you hundreds of dollars. In addition, many recreational vehicles have full kitchens or room to store a grill, crock pot, or other cooking equipment so you can enjoy low-cost meals that work with everyone’s dietary needs.

5. You Can Bring Your Pets

Camp with a dog

Finding a sitter or paying for boarding to care for your pets when you travel is a hassle, not to mention missing your fur babies when you’re gone. Some hotels do allow dogs for an extra fee, but most do not allow cats or other pets.

When you RV, you’re free to travel with all your pets, so there is no worry about boarding expenses or separation anxiety.

Campgrounds and RV parks are very pet-friendly, and many offer dog parks, walking paths, and other outdoor spaces so your pets can get fresh air and exercise daily.

6. You Can Control Your Environment

While some campgrounds park RVs tightly, it isn’t the same as having a hotel neighbor only one thin wall away from you. Hearing the TV, voices, or other noises from the room next door can be unsettling and disrupt your peace.

When you RV, you can opt for a campsite miles from any other person or a cozy campground with plenty of amenities. The options are endless and allow you to control your privacy level.

Another aspect of how an RV is better than a hotel is how you can control the cleanliness level.

You have no idea when the last time the hotel floors, blankets, or toilet got a proper wash. Unfortunately, even fancy hotels have bad housekeepers who will skip disinfecting the counters or remote control if it “looks” good enough.

Lastly, you can set up your RV and not worry about anyone coming in to clean or mess with your belongings. Theft of laptops, wallets, jewelry, or other valuables isn’t uncommon in a hotel but is rare in RV campgrounds.

7. You Can Bring Sports or Outdoor Gear

RVing provides benefits by bringing along your kayak

This RVing benefit may seem silly, but it’s cool to bring along your kayaks, SUPs, ATVs, frisbees, golf clubs, soccer balls, fishing poles, climbing gear, or any other outdoor sports equipment on every trip.

Having your gear means you don’t have to locate and rent equipment during your trip and have time constraints on usage. Instead, you can enjoy impromptu activities along your route and partake in all the outdoor fun your final destination offers.

8. You Can Enjoy Spur-of-the-Moment Decisions

RV travel doesn’t need to be on a strict schedule. Instead, you can alter plans as you go, allowing you to stop and enjoy points of interest.

When you drive or fly to your destination and stay in a hotel, you have less freedom to explore places that catch your eye.

Direct routes on main highways are rarely the most picturesque journeys but are the fastest way to reach a hotel or airport. When you RV, you can choose the more laid-back alternate routes that are more scenic and offer those quirky local attractions that make the trip more memorable.

Even when you reach your RV destination, you can quickly alter plans if you don’t like the location, your camping neighbors, or camp management. It’s much costlier to change hotels at the last minute.

It’s also much easier to book an extra day or two at a local campground if you want to stick around versus paying top dollar to extend a hotel stay if rooms are available.

9. Journeying Out of an RV is Faster

Journeying out of an RV

When you stay at a hotel, you’ll have to do the constant gauntlet of getting your items from your car, waiting in the lobby to check in, waiting for the elevator to take you to your floor, and then you may get the bonus of a long walk to reach your room.

Every time you want to see the sights or go out to grab a bite to eat, you’ll need to go through this routine over and over again throughout your trip.

In an RV, you can drive up to the check-in and often get your paperwork and campsite assignment without getting out of your vehicle. Then, once you park and unhook your fifth wheel or travel trailer, you only need to walk a few steps to your car or truck to go sightseeing or start your motorhome and drive to your destination.

Even the simple desire to go for a walk can be problematic when staying in a hotel, as many are in congested areas with a lot of traffic. However, a campground always has a place to walk, whether along the camp roads and nature paths in private RV parks or the miles of trails in state and national campgrounds.

10. RV Life Comes With Instant Friends

An RV group

When was the last time you shared more than basic niceties with your hotel room neighbors or found you had things in common with someone on the elevator? Are you comfortable knocking on a random hotel room door looking for help?

When you RV, you become an instant member of a vast community of welcoming, fun, generous, and engaging people who respect each other’s camping styles and are always willing to help fellow campers in need.

If you prefer to keep to yourself, you’ll be left alone. However, if you love socializing, there will always be a happy hour you can join or find like-minded campers to share your time.

If you have questions or require assistance with an RV issue, you can ask campground staff or other RVers for answers or help without it being uncomfortable.

When a Hotel Is Best

Young couple standing at hotel corridor upon arrival

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Any RV vs. hotel guide is only complete with pointing out a few reasons why a hotel can be the better choice when you travel. Here are my top three reasons I go with a hotel instead of taking my recreational vehicle on a trip.

1. Ease

Some trips are short, far away, or in a location without a nearby RV park. In these instances, it’s often just easier to book a hotel room to attend a weekend wedding celebration or to fly across the country instead of putting excessive wear and tear and 2,500 extra miles on your camper.

Prepping, packing, and maintaining your RV for trips takes time and effort. However, tossing some items into a suitcase and letting a hotel provide the amenities and entertainment can reduce vacation stress.

2. Weather

Some travel destinations may put you in the middle of a brutal summer heat wave, dangerous storms, or a winter freeze. Unfortunately, none of these conditions are ideal for an RV trip and often lead to mechanical failures in appliances, plumbing, or other components.

Driving and parking a camper in horrible weather conditions is not safe or smart and can ruin the best-laid vacation plans. A hotel provides better temperature control for hot and cold weather extremes, and the structure can withstand harsh weather conditions like high winds and heavy snowfall.

3. Unlimited Hot Water and a Bathtub

My favorite hotel activity is enjoying a long, nice, hot bath. When you only have the opportunity for an RV shower running off a 6-gallon water heater, the ability to soak in unlimited hot water is a pure delight.

When you travel with a partner or family, unlimited hotel hot water is convenient because you don’t have to stagger showers waiting for the water heater to warm the tank.

In Summary

When you choose to stay in an RV instead of a hotel, you’ll enjoy the feeling of having a home away from home, more freedom, more belongings, and all the perks of having a clean and private space to call your own.

The reasons why the RV beats out a hotel most of the time can help you rethink the way you travel and help you save money on all your future vacation plans. Consider giving RV travel a shot, and see the benefits for yourself!

RV Travel vs. Hotel Travel. What We’ve Learned!

Related Questions

1. What are some cost-related benefits of choosing an RV over a hotel stay during a vacation?

Cost is a significant advantage of choosing an RV over a hotel. RV park nightly rates are almost always less expensive than a budget hotel, especially in popular tourist destinations. In addition, campgrounds often offer weekly or monthly discounts, and some state or national parks charge less than $30 per night. Even luxury RV resorts with amenities and activities are typically cheaper than equivalent hotels. For those who wish to further reduce costs, there are options for free camping or “boondocking” on certain public and private lands.

2. How can traveling with an RV enhance the experience of the vacation in terms of belongings?

Traveling with an RV gives you the convenience of carrying more personal belongings than you could with a hotel stay. You can pack everything you need into your camper and access it whenever you wish. This flexibility can significantly enhance your travel experience, as you can quickly adapt to unexpected weather changes, participate in impromptu activities, or simply have all your favorite items with you. The added benefit is that these belongings don’t clutter up a limited hotel space but are stored efficiently within your RV.

3. How does the food experience differ when staying in an RV compared to a hotel?

An RV allows you to pack food and prepare your meals, which can significantly cut down on vacation expenses. Hotels usually don’t provide full kitchen facilities, leading to increased costs due to eating out. Moreover, the complimentary breakfasts at hotels may not always align with your schedule or dietary preferences. With an RV, you have the freedom to prepare meals that suit your dietary needs at a time that works for you and can save hundreds of dollars.

4. What are some benefits of traveling with an RV in terms of environment and cleanliness?

When traveling with an RV, you have more control over your environment and cleanliness. You’re not subject to potentially disruptive noises from neighboring hotel rooms. You also have the flexibility to choose a campsite that aligns with your privacy needs. In terms of cleanliness, you don’t have to worry about the unknown hygiene practices of hotel housekeeping; you’re in control of cleaning your own space. Additionally, there’s less risk of theft as compared to hotel rooms, as theft is quite rare in RV campgrounds.

5. Are there any circumstances when choosing a hotel over an RV would be more beneficial?

Yes, there are some circumstances where a hotel might be a better choice. For short trips, those in distant locations, or areas without nearby RV parks, booking a hotel can often be simpler and more convenient. Hotels may also offer advantages in extreme weather conditions, as they provide better temperature control and can withstand harsh weather better than an RV. Moreover, the luxury of unlimited hot water and bathtubs that hotels provide could be seen as a plus for some travelers.

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide

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