RV Road Trip or Hotel Stay: Which is Better?

Here’s why an RV wins (almost) every time

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 have also traveled to to numerous foreign vacation spots including Barbados and St. Lucia, Mexico and Peru, Tokyo and Hong Kong, United Kingdom and Portugal, London and Paris. I’ve also stayed in hotels at Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

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.

Camping at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10 reasons why an RV is better than a hotel stay

RVing is often cheaper, easier, and more comfortable than staying in a hotel. There are always exceptions, of course, which I’ll discuss at the end.

But first, let’s jump into the benefits of RV vs. a hotel stay.

1. Campgrounds and RV parks 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 or more. 

Even private RV parks 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 about the same price. But campgrounds and RV parks are cheaper than hotels for the most part.

Boondocking along Utah Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Boondocking is even cheaper (and often free)

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 numerous cheap or free camping options available to you.

Plus, you get to explore more secluded areas and be away from the sometimes noisy campgrounds and RV parks.

3. No living out of a suitcase

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 spaces. You don’t even have to repack for every road trip within the same season.

Camping with your dog © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. More pet-friendly

Taking your dog is a huge plus for many RVers. It’s hard to find pet-friendly hotels and vacation rentals which make pet lovers less interested in hotel stays.

You can stock your RV with dog camping accessories and enjoy all the perks of traveling with a dog.

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 and cleaniness or the quality of sleep you’ll get. When you RV, you take your bed and all your favorite linens wherever you go.

Eating at Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 the cost of eating at restaurants.

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.

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.

Driving and hiking the Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. More travel flexibility

RVers have the unique opportunity of adopting their own travel pace.

I like to think most travelers fall into one of three categories: the wanderers, the explorers, the bucket-listers.

First, we have wanderers. They’re slow-moving and thorough in the experience of a place, state, or region. When we’re not rushed for time, I find that my travel style naturally falls into this category. Wanderers enjoy spending anywhere from several days to multiple weeks in one spot (and even call the same locale home for a month or more). They’re generally intentional about building flexibility into their travel plans.

Next, we have explorers. Explorers are the travelers who aren’t on hard and fast timelines but also don’t stick around long enough for folks to start asking if they’re locals to the area. Explorers are either on the move (or planning to be) at least once a week. These travelers are driven by adventure and are firm believers in sticking to an itinerary and often have seasonal interests (such as leaf peeping) or hobbies like hiking or birding that help shape their travel schedules. They also tend to leave room in the schedule for the potential of sticking around for an extra day or even another week.

The last category of travelers is what I call bucket-listers. These are the folks who have a mission and a plan and rarely deviate from it. These folks may stay in one spot for a week or so at a time but not often. They’ve got a bunch of places to be and a whole lot of motivation to get there.

Camping at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona/Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. No bed bugs

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.

Las Cruces (New Mexico) Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Better entertainment

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. 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. You can even have your own outdoor movie theater.

You can also easily bring varied entertainment with you such as board games, hobbies, and arts and crafts. 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 many RV parks offer a book exchange.

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 and helpful lot. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to make friends while camping if you so desire.

Check this out to learn more: 11 Ways RVing Beats Flying

However, the opposite can also be true. If you don’t want to be around other people then RVing is still the better option over a hotel. If you boondock, you can stay in remote locations where there are NO people. Just you and nature! You can’t get that at a hotel.

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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’ve 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 Idaho and want to go to Boston or San Antonio on your one-week vacation from work, you better fly.

Fly or RV to Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Your destination is far

If traveling far, fuel may cost more than airfare. At time of writing the national average price for a gallon of gas was $3.57 and diesel was $3.85 per gallon ($4.81 in California). If you drive a diesel pusher and get 10 mpg (which is generous) and you drive 300 miles in one day, that’s up to $144 a day.

The average domestic flight from a major airport is around $300. Depending on the number of plane tickets you need to buy, flying may be cheaper. Although, don’t forget to account for local transportation costs and additional fees.

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. 

Fly or RV to Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. You don’t want to risk breaking down

RVs run the risk of breaking down in the middle of a road trip. 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 do break down. It’s a risk you have to be willing to take, a risk you can weigh based on the age of your RV, the age of your RV tires, and how well it’s been maintained.

5. You don’t want to set up camp

RVers have to setup and tear down camp which can be more work than some 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. Here are 11 tips for getting started.

It helps to use a departure and setup checklist.

There are other exceptions, of course, but the above tend to be the main reasons people opt for hotels over RVs. And some are hesitant to to make the leap into the unknown, a new and different lifestyle.

Worth Pondering…

No matter where we go in our motorhome, that sense of independence is satisfying. We have our own facilities, from comfortable bed to a fridge full of our favorite foods. We set the thermostat the way we like it and go to bed and get up in our usual routine.