Camping Vs Staying in a Hotel – Which is better?

hotel vs camping

Camping is fun but so is staying in a hotel.  For some people, the question over whether or not to stay in a hotel versus a campground is an easy one.  For others, the decision is a bit harder.  Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each so you can easily decide for yourself.

Camping Vs. Staying in a Hotel

Both camping and hotels come with many advantages and disadvantages.  Each of these stays provides you with a much different experience and if you’ve never done either, I’d suggest you try both.  This being said, there are times when it is better to stay in a hotel and there are times when it is better to go camping.  I’ll go over each of these times so you’ll know what to do and when.

Let’s start by taking a look at the advantages of staying in a hotel as well as the advantages of camping instead of staying in a hotel.

Advantages of Camping Instead of a Hotel

  • Cost
  • Proximity to Nature
  • Proximity to Tourist Attractions
  • Health
  • Activities
  • Campfires
  • Pets
  • Check-in and Check-out Times

The Cost of Camping Vs. Staying in a Hotel

Camping in the wild or on BLM land is usually free.  In fact, most national forests and even some state parks will let you stay on their land for up to 14 days and the only step you’ll need to take is to get a free pass from a ranger station.

Even state and national parks don’t cost much to stay in.  Some parks are as little as $15.00 a night while others only cost $35.00 and you get access to both water and electricity right at your campsite.

According to Business Travel News, the average cost of a hotel room in the United States is $180.00 a night.  This can be as inexpensive as $50.00 in some parts of the country and as expensive as $400.00 in others but one thing we know for sure is that either way it is much more expensive than staying in a state park or free campsite.

Not only this, but you’ll probably spend more on food when you’re staying in hotels.  Breakfast at a hotel will cost you around $10.00 to $20.00 while lunch and dinner can cost you anywhere from $20.00 to $50.00.

camping money

Here is a general breakdown of the cost of a weekend trip as well as a weeklong trip spent camping vs staying in a hotel.

Weekend Trip:


Campground fee per night: $25.00

Food: Free from home kitchen.  Cooked over an open fire.

Total cost over the weekend: $50.00


Nightly room rental: $180.00

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day for one: $75.00

Total cost over the weekend: $510.00

The total cost saving of camping vs staying in a hotel: $460.00

Over a 7 day period, the savings of camping vs staying in a hotel go even higher.  If you camp you’ll spend $175.00.  If you opt to stay in a hotel instead, you’ll spend $1,785.00.  Camping will end up saving you a total of $1,610.00.  For the cost of a week-long vacation in a hotel, you could go on 10 vacations.

Proximity to Nature and Tourist Attractions While Camping

When you’re camping you’ll be able to spend time in nature which can often be a vacation in and of itself.  You’ll get to explore local lakes and hiking trails that you might not otherwise get to experience while staying in a hotel.

Also, if the point of the vacation is to see a state or national park, then you won’t ever have to do any traveling while you’re on vacation.  If you’d stayed in a hotel you’d need to commute back and forth each day and you’d probably have to pay a fee to enter each day as well.

nature photo

Camping is Better for Your Health

There are many health advantages to camping.  Camping has been proven to improve mental, physical, and even emotional health.

When you’re camping, you’ll be more physically active which improves physical health.  You’ll also get more fresh air and more sunlight which have both been proven to improve physical well-being.

Being out in nature and away from your computer, television, and phone screens will help improve your emotional health and you’ll end up coming back from your trip less stressed, less anxious, and less depressed.

Want to know the reasons why camping is so good for your health?  Visit my post titled, “Why is Camping Good For You“.

Activities are Free and Plentiful When Camping

Hiking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, tubing, and fishing are all fun activities that you can do while camping.  The best part is, you won’t even have to drive anywhere to do them.  Many state parks have lakes with lifeguards so you can feel safe knowing there is help available if you need it.

Nature lovers also have the chance to view wildlife and take pictures while camping.  Wildlife and landscape photography creates memories that you can take home and keep with you after your vacation is over.


We spend all year gazing at our television and computer screens.  Why not change things up a bit and spend a weekend staring at a campfire?  Campfires are great for cooking food, telling stories, and bonding with friends and family members.

These are things that are much harder to accomplish in a cramped hotel room.  Besides, in a hotel room, there is always the temptation to just sit back and watch television all weekend which is something you can do any time of the year.

campfire image


Many campsites are pet-friendly and walking the dog is easy when all you have to do is open up your tent.  Hotels on the other hand often do not allow pets.  Even if the hotel does allow pets they’ll probably charge extra money for them and they may even have size and breed restrictions.

Walking a dog out of a large hotel and over to a pet-friendly are might be a 20-minute ordeal and you may never find green space for you and your dog to enjoy.  This is especially true in areas with lots of hotels.

Checking-in and Checking-out

State parks, national parks, and campgrounds do have check-in and check-out times.  Free camping spots do not have these restrictions and you can show up at whatever time you like.

Don’t like the weather or the location?  You can leave anytime you like as well.  In fact, since you’re staying at a free site, you can pick up and move to another location that suits you better at any time you like.  Want to stay an extra day, go ahead it’s free.

With a hotel, you’ll need to check-in and check-out at the time that is assigned to you.  If you decide to stay another day, you’ll have to shell out another $180.00.  This is of course if your room isn’t already booked.  If your room is booked, you’ll end up having to leave whether you like it or not.

Advantages of Staying in a Hotel Over Camping

  • Plumbing
  • Climate Control
  • Less Planning
  • No Gear Needed
  • Proximity to Tourist Attractions


Two of the most popular camping questions are, where do you go to the bathroom when camping, and how do you shower when camping?  These questions differ depending on the type of camping you’re doing but one thing for sure is that you don’t have to worry about this when you’re staying in a hotel.

A hotel is going to offer you a nice hot shower and a bathroom with everything you need.  Not only this, but you don’t have to worry about cleaning the bathroom as this is included in the price of your stay.

Climate Control

Whenever I talk to non-campers about camping, they always want to know about air conditioning and television.  At this point, I always wonder if they actually know what camping is.  In most cases, you aren’t going to have the ability to control your climate while camping.

With a hotel, you’ll have heating and air conditioning.  This might not be a big deal for everyone but it can be especially important to people with health conditions.  For example, many elderly people simply might not be able to camp out in the heat of the desert or the cold winter weather of the northern states.

climate control

Less Planning and Gear

When you stay in a hotel, you don’t even have to worry about bringing your toothbrush.  Forget a small basic item and the hotel will probably give you one for free.

Camping, on the other hand, requires a lot of planning and at least some gear.  In most cases, you’ll need a tent, a sleeping bag, cooking equipment, food, and water.  All of these items can be bought on a budget but they still do cost money.

Also, forget to pack something and your trip could end up being a disaster.  For example, imagine you hike 10 miles to a wild camping spot only to discover that you’ve forgotten your sleeping bag.  You’ll either have to hike 10 miles back to get it or do without it.

Proximity to Tourist Attractions

Some attractions don’t have any spots to camp nearby.  For example, you won’t find any places to camp near the statue of liberty or the white house.  These places are most definitely in urban areas and visiting them from a campsite might take more time than it is worth.

Vacations only last so long and if you have to drive a few hours each day just to see the attractions you want to visit, you might be better off paying the extra money to stay in a hotel.

tourist location

Related Questions

Is Staying In An RV Cheaper Than a Hotel

Renting an RV as well as a campsite often costs as much as it does to stay in a hotel.  This is especially true for short weekend trips.

What is The Cost of Camping

The cost of camping in a state or national park averages out to about $25.00 a day.  This varies depending on the type of campsite you’ve chosen as well as the time of year and the day of the week you’ve chosen to go camping on.

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Christopher Schopf

Christopher Schopf like to write about hiking, camping, snowshoeing, kayaking, and anything else that gets him outside.

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