Is camping a viable alterantive to hotels when traveling?

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Embark With Mark

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Over the holidays my wife and I drove to CA in order to visit some family. On the way we decided to skip hotels and camp out, this turned out to be a great decision because we ended up finding an amazing hot spring in Nevada. Needless to say we ran behind schedule because we just had to test the water. Do you think camping instead of hotels when traveling is a viable option?

Here is a video of the hot spring we found by accident.


 

Alanymarce

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mmm... yes.

A lot of people camp exclusively. On our last "big trip" (10 months), setting aside staying in homes of friends and family, we camped 153 nights in 224 – 68% of the time. This was for several reasons:

- economically, we could not have afforded the trip without doing so, hotels are expensive (which is true in much of the world, although you can stay in good cheap hotels in Central & South America, much of Asia, and a lot of Africa).
- camping, as you note, does give you access to natural areas remote from infrastructure. There are some hotels/lodges in these areas (Serengeti, NW Namibia, Uluru, etc., however they are somewhere between very expensive and ridiculously expensive.
- camping connects you to nature far better than a hotel - sleeping under the stars is less enjoyable when there's a roof between you and the stars.
 

Alanymarce

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Its either:
Hotels due to work or other family obligation
Camping with an odd hotel or hostel stop for a shower and proper bed
All camping
More or less, yes, however on our first "big trip" (11 months around South America) we didn't fit any of these. We camped for a week on a walk up Monte Roraima, otherwise we stayed in posadas/small hotels in rural areas, and in big cities we stayed in "good" hotels to have a break, have a good internet connection, and generally take advantage of the facilities. This was principally because in the rural areas you can find good clean hotels for USD 25-30 a night, and it made economic sense to take advantage of this. In Australia hotels are USD 100-200 in rural areas, whereas campsites are USD 25-35 (OK - you can, and we did, "wild camp", but it's not feasible a lot of the time).

So, in terms of these categories:

1) Hotels due to work or other family obligation - yes, we use hotels when travelling on business, however also for short (up to a couple of weeks) trips when we're travelling somewhere we can't reach in our own vehicle, at least on a short trip (e.g., trips in the last while to Patagonia, South Korea, Vietnam, Algeria...).
2) Camping with an odd hotel or hostel stop for a shower and proper bed - haven't yet reached this point on "big trips", although I guess we have occasionally on short trips of a few days.
3) All camping - not for many years.


On our "big trips" we are in what I'll call category 3A - category 3 with more than an "odd hotel or hostel stop" - South America was 2% camping, Africa was 33% camping, Australia was 68% camping.
 

BCMoto

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It all depends on whos in the group and where we are at, if the wife said lets stay in a hotel then its that
 
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Tony R

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Camping can be great alternative with the rite gear for the weather you mite encounter. Also where your going and where you plan on spending time is the most important question. I love overland type travel in most of my plans because I want to be in the wilderness/rural/camping areas. However, when I’m going to Denver or LA, I’m not camping, there’s nowhere to camp in most cities unless your traveling in/out of downtown to some rural areas . I have found some KOA’s close to town and I’ve stayed in sketchy campgrounds near metros and survived. Finding dispersed camping while traveling through unknown places can be stressful, unless ,of course , fellow OB members have some saved on the map in the area your in . Make a good plan with some research and you can do it ! Hope that helps.
 

Trail_pilot

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Absolutely! camping is a great alternative to hotels. now I don't typically do super long trips but a lot of shorter trips throughout the year ( almost every weekend, a 2 week vacation and a few extra days added to weekends here and there) as its all I can take the time off of work for. I tend to camp in the woods and not in campgrounds and on average I spend about 35-45 nights in the woods a year. i wish it were more but for some reason work work doesn't like it when I don't show up lol.
 
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Anak

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Is this actually a question?

This is how my family has always operated. Both my family when I was a kid and my family now that I am a parent.

If for no other reason than the fact that it is cheaper.

In my mind the only real reason to use hotels is for the sake of buying time. Setting up and breaking down camp takes longer than checking in/out of a hotel, and some days the drive has to be a long one in order to fit in the most important goals of the trip. If it is the price of making the timing work then a hotel is a reasonable solution.

In the mind of The Bride a hotel is necessary every 3 or 4 days for the sake of a decent shower. But she doesn't go on any of the Jeep trips. The Varmints and I can go for over a week and not care about the quality of the facilities. The rest of the world may not appreciate us, but no one has thrown us out of an establishment yet.
 

Tundracamper

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I think it depends on what you mean by “camping.” When we had a fully outfitted RV, I’d take the camper and family anytime I could for a work trip - it costs the company less. If you need to cover lots of ground, like 7,200 miles and several cities in 15 days, hotels are probably more efficient as you can get around big cities easier. I think it really depends on how you plan to travel - quick or slow.
 
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Trail_pilot

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Is this actually a question?

This is how my family has always operated. Both my family when I was a kid and my family now that I am a parent.

If for no other reason than the fact that it is cheaper.

In my mind the only real reason to use hotels is for the sake of buying time. Setting up and breaking down camp takes longer than checking in/out of a hotel, and some days the drive has to be a long one in order to fit in the most important goals of the trip. If it is the price of making the timing work then a hotel is a reasonable solution.

In the mind of The Bride a hotel is necessary every 3 or 4 days for the sake of a decent shower. But she doesn't go on any of the Jeep trips. The Varmints and I can go for over a week and not care about the quality of the facilities. The rest of the world may not appreciate us, but no one has thrown us out of an establishment yet.
^^ this lol. my wife and I have spent a week out in the woods and came back out and we were able to smell soap on absolutely everyone nearby. that was a 100 km hiking trip ( 5 days hiking 2 days driving). I am sure everyone else buying iced cream could smell us too, but we didn't care lol.
 
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Alanymarce

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...In my mind the only real reason to use hotels is for the sake of buying time. Setting up and breaking down camp takes longer than checking in/out of a hotel, ...
Hmm - I think it depends on your camping set up. We take about 3 minutes to set up to camp if we're just stopping for the night; if we set up the camp chairs and table that's another 5 minutes; if we put out one or both awnings that adds about 5 minutes. So, a maximum of 13 minutes or so to set up. Most of the campgrounds we use have either a registration box at which it takes a minute to sign and drop the card or a camp office where it takes a couple of minutes to sign in (or if you're "wild camping" no time at all). So, a total time between 1 and 15 minutes from arrival to complete setting up.

At hotels, it usually takes at least 20 minutes, by the time you register and take your stuff to the room, in my experience. Even at motels it takes about the same.
 

Anak

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Hmm - I think it depends on your camping set up. We take about 3 minutes to set up to camp if we're just stopping for the night; if we set up the camp chairs and table that's another 5 minutes; if we put out one or both awnings that adds about 5 minutes. So, a maximum of 13 minutes or so to set up. Most of the campgrounds we use have either a registration box at which it takes a minute to sign and drop the card or a camp office where it takes a couple of minutes to sign in (or if you're "wild camping" no time at all). So, a total time between 1 and 15 minutes from arrival to complete setting up.

At hotels, it usually takes at least 20 minutes, by the time you register and take your stuff to the room, in my experience. Even at motels it takes about the same.
You're right.

And I bet your equipment is of a higher grade than mine.

Remember, my priority is "cheap". We are a family of 5 on one income. Substantially different from dual income, no kids.

We will spend more than 3 minutes just clearing rocks to set up the tent.
 

ThundahBeagle

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I would say camping is a viable alternative, depending on the destination and why you are going.

My nephew lives in Montana. I'm in New England. He is getting married this spring and I've never traveled west of the Mississippi River. We both enjoy the outdoors...

SO...you can bet your ass I am taking my two weeks vacation and driving out through the Badlands and high plains, camping along the way, visiting Yellowstone and the Tetons along with them. Maybe hit some lodging while we are out there for a couple, few days surrounding the wedding itself. That way we are nice and fresh for the big day. After that, back to camping and seeing the sites like Devil's Tower and some other stuff.

Theres a mention of it in another thread. It was supposed to happen last October but everything went sideways due to COVID concerns.
 

ThundahBeagle

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Over the holidays my wife and I drove to CA in order to visit some family. On the way we decided to skip hotels and camp out, this turned out to be a great decision because we ended up finding an amazing hot spring in Nevada. Needless to say we ran behind schedule because we just had to test the water. Do you think camping instead of hotels when traveling is a viable option?

Here is a video of the hot spring we found by accident.


Great video. Great find. Just FYI, my lady said the exact same thing your wife said, right before your wife said it in the video. I just shook my head.
 

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100% it’s a viable option. My wife and I did a three week trip through Utah, Arizona and New Mexico for our honeymoon. We camped about two thirds of the trip. We used a hotel only in places it was hard to camp, or when we needed a spot to recoup while we did laundry.

We have so many memories from camping at Zion and Arches. The hotel at the Grand Canyon? It was meh in comparison.

Obviously it’s different for everyone but I think if you enjoy camping and have a comfortable setup, it can even be better than a hotel in some cases.
 
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I have travelled extensively for work. I almost always camp, and it has always been viable for me to do so (the only times I didn't camp is when I didn't drive, which is when my time was limited like being flown into a city for a 1-day seminar).

Wild camping or at the very least a rural campground is often an option in North America within 30-40 minutes of most places -- either a state or provincial park is often nearby, but not always. If I'm stuck with no wild places to camp, I'm no stranger to Walmart carparks in a pinch. Even knocking on a door and asking nicely can get you a spot in a front yard. The concern in my travels has never been a lack of place to camp, and always "how willing are you to camp there". When I'm on my own, I'm always willing to spend a night nearly anywhere I find myself. WIth my family I'm a bit more cautious, so I recognize the answer to this question is very individual and might not be the same for all of us.

Many folks who Overland seem to really miss out on RV parks when visiting urban areas for either work or play. Every major centre tends to have some kind of RV park "near enough" to the interesting stuff. Often, you can even leave your rig set up for the duration of your stay so you don't have the daily setup/tear down, and you can rely on public transit or Uber to see the urban sights if you want. I've also never stayed at an RV park that didn't allow in-and-out privileges for typical Overland rigs, so if you have a quick setup vehicle you then have your own transportation too. To give you an example, I attended a professional conference at Disney in California with my wife and dog; there was an RV park less than a mile from the theme park hotel hosting the conference. They had modern facilities including a pool, a great view of the nightly fireworks, and it was about $20/night. The conference rate at the hotel -- which is usually a good discount -- was $210/night. It was nice for both of us -- my wife got to spend the day doing touristy stuff in Anaheim, while I attended my work obligations, and at night we were comfy and cozy in our own bed with our snoring dog at our feet. I wouldn't trade that for the nicest hotel room in the world.

The key thing for me is to get my "comfort" systems organized. It really comes down to how you set up the vehicle, I think. We are not really "Weekend campers" -- we do go for weekends, but we focus on going for longer periods, and have set up our vehicles accordingly, so it's not "Let's rough it for a weekend", it's "Let's live out of our vehicles for a month or two". That definitely changes what I'm willing to spend or save on in terms of my rig, but that means I am more comfortable 'camping' in my rig than I am in most hotel rooms, because I have it set up just the way I like it. This is a good investment of time and resources in my books because it doesn't take too many $200 hotel nights to pay for a properly comfortable Roof Tent or a decent hot water shower system, especially if you're on the road for weeks or months.

Another part of my reasoning: has anyone had to pay for a bedbug treatment? You can make a rig VERY comfortable for living in for the price of a pest treatment for bedbugs -- It's not cheap to truly get rid of those vermin, and it doesn't matter if you stay at a Super 8 or a Four Seasons, any hotel is a risk of bringing along a bedbug hitchhiker. This is a problem that has been getting worse and worse every year, and so I'm quite happy to pass on hotels entirely. I really don't like bed bugs!