Camping vs. Hotels: A Comprehensive Comparison For Travelers

Travel can be an important tool for managing mental health and maintaining a fresh outlook on life, but it can also be expensive. When comparing camping vs. hotels, you will find camping is a much cheaper way to travel. Still, both options offer distinct advantages and drawbacks.

It’s important to honestly consider your individual preferences and budgets, as well as those of your traveling companions. When choosing between camping and hotels, the best choice will depend on your priorities, the destinations, and available amenities and accommodations along the way.

Key Differences Comparing Camping vs. Hotels

While cost considerations are the obvious difference when comparing camping vs. hotels, there are other key differences. The available activities, amenities, comforts, and privacy will all vary greatly between the two options. And still, hotels are much more expensive than campsites.

My experience suggests that there is a time for both. I like overnight trips to go hiking, but I prefer a hot shower and a soft bed when traveling for extended periods of time. Still, money certainly plays a big factor, so let’s dive in.

Hotel vs. camping. Which is better?

Cost Considerations: Is Camping Really Cheaper Than Staying In Hotels?

Camping can be significantly more affordable than staying in a hotel, but camping won’t be free. The first thing to keep in mind is that you need proper camping equipment. Camping will be considerably cheaper than hoteling if you already have the proper equipment.

Still, the equation changes considerably if you need to buy camping equipment. Traveling by campsite will be more affordable in the long term, but in the short term, your investment in equipment evens the scales.

Comparing The Cost of Lodging: Camping vs. Hotels

For now, let’s assume you already have camping equipment. Campsites often start at around $20 per night, while the cheapest hotel rooms run $100 per night or more. For you math fans, that means that staying in a hotel is often 500% more expensive than the price of a campsite.

And let’s be honest, the average hotel room costs much more than $100. The average price of a hotel room dropped below $200 during the pandemic but is much higher now. So let’s complete a little thought exercise:

  • Camping: $20 a night (assuming you already have equipment)
  • Hotel: $100+ a night (and potentially much more)

For a 7-night stay, you can expect to spend $140-200 at a campsite, but the same 7-night stay in a hotel would cost $700+. If you are taking a long road trip, these costs start to add up quickly.

Comparing The Cost of Food: Camping vs. Hotels

It’s easy to overlook how your decision might impact the cost of food, but that should be a real consideration. While some extended-stay hotels have a small kitchenette, most hotel rooms do not.

As a result, you are likely to eat out for most of your meals when you stay in a hotel. In contrast, part of the allure of camping is preparing your own food over an open fire. Of course, cooking your food over a fire also requires significant preparation, so there are pros and cons to both scenarios.

Even so, the cost of food can be staggering over the period of a week. It cost about $13 per meal to eat out, and that price seems to go up by the day. By contrast, you can prepare your own meal for around $4, resulting in savings of $9 per person per meal. So let’s see how this plays out:

  • At two meals per day, that is a difference of $18 per day
  • If you travel with four people, that is a difference of $72 per day
  • If you travel for seven days, that is a difference of $504

It adds up quickly, right? Even if you still choose to eat out once a day while camping, you still would save more than $250. Suffice it to say, when you decide between camping or hotels, you have to consider the cost of food.

Comfort and Amenities – How Do You Feel About Roughing It?

The next key difference is that staying in a hotel is often more comfortable than camping. Owning the best campsite equipment may even the scale a little bit, but that also makes camping much more expensive.

Still, guests at a hotel can expect basic amenities like a bed, a shower, and some privacy. And naturally, some hotels offer a range of nicer amenities. Pools and fitness rooms are common at mid-tier hotels, while spas and other luxurious services are available at the most expensive hotels.

Camping offers a much more varied experience. Some campgrounds have shower facilities, while other campsites are much more rustic. Plus, some tents are small, bordering on claustrophobic, while other tents might be large enough for 10 or 12 people and camping chairs.

So, here is your big consideration in comparing hotels vs. camping:

  • Hotel: Guaranteed bed, shower, and privacy
  • Camping: Amenities depend on the campsite and your equipment

Activities and Experiences: Big Differences Between Camping vs. Hotels

Your destination and preferences matter when deciding whether camping or hotels offer better access to new adventures.

Camping puts you much closer to nature and often provides easier access to outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and boating. Plus, camping provides the unique opportunity to unplug from the daily ground and appreciate the natural environment around you.

On the other hand, hotels may put you much closer to local attractions, places to eat, and urban experiences. Some people prefer to explore a big city more than a remote hiking trail, and that is ok. It’s a simple truth that hotels will provide you with more direct access to modern comfort and amenities. That’s also ok. No judgment here.

  • Camping: More outdoor activities, close to nature
  • Hotel: Close to nearby attractions and restaurants, more modern amenities

Privacy and Social Interaction: Do You Prefer A Locked Door?

Camping may certainly provide some level of privacy depending on the size of your tent, the location of your campsite, and how many people you are traveling alongside. Still, campgrounds are often more social environments.

This provides a nice opportunity to meet and interact with other campers. It also provides a unique opportunity for bonding with your family and friends. After all, you won’t find any TVs or pay-per-view at your campsite, so you might have to think of things to talk about. 😉

Hotels naturally offer a higher degree of privacy and a locked door. You will still find common areas, such as lobbies, pools, and fitness rooms. But there is a distinct advantage to taking a private shower behind closed doors and within a few feet of your clothes, toiletries, and bed.

  • Camping: Varying levels of privacy and more social interaction.
  • Hotel: Greater privacy but shared common areas.

Pros and Cons of Camping

While the pros likely outweigh the cons for camping, we understand both need to be considered. Camping gives you a chance to connect with nature, rejuvenate your mental health, and deepen personal connections. On the downside, it can be uncomfortable, cooking food can be difficult, and you have to deal with insects.

The reality is that whether you choose camping or hotels, you will find unique advantages and disadvantages. So let’s further dive into the pros and cons for camping.

Connection With Nature

One of the biggest benefits of camping is the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature. Life is hard. There are no two ways about it. Camping allows you to escape the distractions of everyday life. This is even more true if you turn the electronics off or leave them behind.

Experience breathtaking views, listen to the sounds of wildlife, and take in the serenity of the great outdoors. And activities like hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, and fishing provide an even deeper connection to the nature surrounding you.

Spending time outdoors is a fantastic way to reset and provide much more tranquility than busier locations like hotels. When comparing camping vs. hotels, this has to be a major factor.

Health Benefits

There are even health benefits from spending time outdoors. Outdoor activities such as hiking or kayaking are great for your physical fitness. And most of us spend too much time indoors, which means we don’t get enough exposure to Vitamin D. Did you know that Vitamin D helps to develop strong bones? Pretty important.

There are also mental health benefits from spending time in the great outdoors. Get away from the daily grind, and come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Family Bonding

Camping is also great for creating lasting family memories. There is just something about a campfire and s’mores that brings people together. Campfires are great for telling stories, reminiscing, and forging genuine connections.

One reason that we love road trips is they offer so many opportunities for bonding, and camping can be an essential component of a successful road trip. When you put the technology away, you might find that you even learn something about yourself, which enables your bonding to go even deeper.

Potential Drawbacks in Comparing Camping vs. Hotels

Despite its many advantages, camping does have some potential drawbacks:

  • Showers aren’t the only amenity you might start to miss. Most campsites don’t have electricity or Wi-Fi either. Sure, you can charge your phone for a while in your car, but we recommend saving the charge in case of an emergency.
  • The limited amenities also mean that personal hygiene becomes a challenge. Washing your teeth, caring for your contacts, and using the restroom are all challenging at the campsite.
  • Cooking over a campfire is a romantic idea and theory, but it can also be a pain. You must deal with inclement weather, limited prep space, open-fire cooking, and limited menu options.
  • Speaking of inclement weather, I once had to pack up a tent in the middle of a rainstorm because the tent wasn’t waterproof in the least.
  • You should also remember there will be insects and maybe even wildlife. Be careful, and don’t approach any animals. It’s always important to follow guidelines provided by authorities and take appropriate precautions.

Camping offers plenty of benefits, but there are some potential drawbacks too. In comparing camping vs. hotel, the drawbacks have to be considered.

Pros and Cons Of Hotel Stays

The benefits of hotel stays include convenience and comfort, a wide range of amenities, and proximity to your restaurants and attractions. The drawbacks include the expensive cost, limited meal prep options, and preset check-in and check-out times.

In comparing hotels vs. camping, camping also offers a much more adventurous experience. On the other hand, hotels often put you right in the center of the action. Let’s further consider the pros and cons of hoteling.

Convenience and Comfort

One of the main advantages of staying in a hotel is that it is a much more comfortable experience. Hotels generally offer clean sheets and towels, a soft bed, and a warm shower. Plus, don’t forget about modern conveniences like an air conditioner and a television in every room.

Some people aren’t made for roughing it, and compared to camping, staying in a hotel is a much more pleasant experience. And with sites like Expedia and Priceline, it is easy to book your travel.

Wide Range of Amenities

I like to go for runs when I travel, and so I like to stay in hotels with decent fitness centers. Hotels offer a wide range of amenities, including fitness centers and more. Nicer hotels might even include a spa. Here are additional amenities to consider:

  • On-site restaurants and bars
  • Pools, fitness centers, and spas for relaxation and exercise
  • Business centers for those needing to work during their stay
  • Room service and concierge services to make your stay easier

And most hotels are connected to sites like Expedia or Travelocity so that you can easily tell what amenities each hotel offers.

Proximity to Restaurants and Attractions

One of the main benefits of camping is to get away from modern life and enjoy the great outdoors. But we recognize some people don’t want to do this. Some prefer restaurant food to beans and weenies, and we get that.

Staying in a hotel often provides you with many more options when you are looking for restaurants or local attractions. In fact, hotels offer a restaurant and/or room service on-site.

The other thing is that when you go camping, the campsite is often your end destination. In contrast, when you stay in a hotel, you are likely headed to a nearby destination or attraction. Whether you are visiting family or going to a theme park, a hotel will likely make it much easier to get where you are going.

Potential Drawbacks in Comparing Hotels vs. Camping

Despite their many benefits, hotel stays can have some drawbacks:

  • Hotels often come with a higher price tag compared to a campsite
  • Some people long for the more rustic experience that pitching your tent and making your own food provides
  • At a hotel, you won’t be able to make a campfire and look at the stars while enjoying the nature around you
  • You will have to abide by the check-in and check-out times

Hotels offer many benefits that camping can’t provide. Hotels are comfortable and clean, offer amenities including a hot shower and soft bed, and many even have fitness and business centers. Still, there are downsides to staying in a hotel, such as the higher cost, limited interaction with nature, and a much more tame experience.

The Verdict: Camping vs. Hotels – Which is Better?

When considering camping vs. hotels for your future travel, there are a few unique considerations. The clear difference is that camping is much cheaper than staying in a hotel, while hotels are much more comfortable. Still, there are a few other considerations worth noting.

Camping is more budget-friendly, but it also offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature. Maybe more importantly, camping offers the unique opportunity to disconnect from your daily routine and the pressures of the modern world.

On the other hand, it is hard to ignore a hot shower and a soft bed. Hotels offer amenities that you can’t find at a campsite. In addition to the basics, most hotels offer fitness centers and WiFi. Hotels are also generally closer to restaurants and attractions.

To choose between camping and hotels, travelers should consider the following:

  • Budget: Camping can be more cost-effective, but additional expenses like gear and campsite fees should be accounted for.
  • Comfort: Hotels offer more amenities and creature comforts, while camping provides a more rustic experience.
  • Pet-friendliness: Camping is generally more welcoming to pets than hotels.
  • Activities: Camping allows for more outdoor activities and nature exploration, while hotels serve as a convenient base for urban exploration or theme park visits.
  • Group size: Larger groups may find RV travel or camping more cost-effective than booking multiple hotel rooms.

The choice between camping and hotels likely comes down to individual preference. For those on an aggressively tight budget, we recommend camping. We also recommend camping for bonding experiences.

On the other hand, we recommend hotels for those that prefer a refined experience and have the money to spend.

Either way, traveling is an important means of disconnecting from your daily routine and connecting with yourself and your loved ones. By considering the factors noted above, you can make an informed decision that sets up a memorable experience.

Jeremiah moved to the Charlotte area with his wife, Erin, back in 2013. The family has grown over the years, and they now call the Carolinas home. They enjoy hiking and adventures, road trips, backyard fire pits, and pizza night. Jeremiah loves to explore, and looks forward to sharing tips, tricks, and resources for your next trip.