Tent Camping vs Hotels: why camping is the best way to save money

Tent Camping vs Hotels: why camping is the best way to save money

After extensive research in the field, I’ve compiled a list of reasons that camping is preferable to staying at a hotel when traveling. Saving money is always of the utmost importance to us, but it’s far from the only reason we love camping. Here’s my list:

1. The cost

Campgrounds range anywhere from $10 to $40 (the most expensive we’ve come across). I’m not even sure how much an actual hotel is since we haven’t stayed in one in years, but I can guarantee you won’t find a respectable one cheaper than that!

A good rule of thumb when it comes to camping cost is that the more primitive and less amenities offered, the less you’ll be charged to pitch your tent. Campgrounds that feature swimming pools, clubhouses, snack bars, gift shops, and excursions will always run you more. Decide ahead of time what you want and pay accordingly.

We like our camping to be more rustic, although for long trips it can be nice to have showers provided, although we’ve gone without! Reviews, taken with a grain of salt, can be helpful when determining cleanliness, customer service, and attractions in the area. To get really cost effective, you don’t always need to bunker down at a campground. Many of our friend’s camp wherever they see fit to pitch a tent. As long as you aren’t disobeying any laws about doing so in that particular area, you’ll be fine.

Another camping picture from our twelve days in Michigan

2. You can cook dinner and breakfast right outside your tent door

Cooking over the campfire is one of our favorite things to do ever. I swear everything tastes better over a campfire.

We plan our meals and shop ahead of time, and pack what fits into our cooler. At night, once we’ve set up camp, we get to work on dinner in our cast-iron. It’s not hard to find what to make for dinner. Think of things you can prepare ahead of time, or that require little prep work over the picnic table. Chances are, a lot of the meals you cook at home can be cooked just as easily over an open fire. No need for new recipes or adventurous culinary feats. There are several ways to prepare food over the fire, we’ve employed the cast iron, grate cooking, or throwing a meal wrapped in foil over the coals.

Last week  on our trip to Louisville, we made cheeseburgers with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle. The beef patties sizzled in the cast iron while a can of baked beans boiled on the flames. For breakfast we cracked a few eggs with sausage patties in the cast iron. We enjoyed that with a side of bananas I had thrown in our packs. 

For coffee we take a baggie of ground beans, our Aeropress, and a pan to boil water.

Staying at a hotel, since most are not equipped with a kitchen, will require you to dine out for both dinner and breakfast. This will add cost to your hotel bill. Sometimes we dine local if we’re camping for long periods of time, but when we really want to spend conservatively, we grocery shop and pack up the cooler. 

3. You’re sleeping in your own bed

Protestors of camping usually do so because of the dirt and bugs factor. As for getting dirty, wouldn’t these same folks see sleeping in the same bed as a thousand other people pretty gross? Especially since hotels usually wash the sheets but not the comforter? Camping allows you to bring your own bedding that only you’ve touched! No chance of bed bugs here!

I’ll admit mosquitos can be a pest, but we utilize bug spray and citronella candles at our site. We also make sure to not enter and exit our tent after it’s set up, keeping it tightly zipped against skeeters of the night.

4. The Night Life

Doesn’t staying at a hotel usually involve coming back from dinner and drinks, flipping on the television and crashing into bed? Just like you do at home? Not so with camping.

After our bellies are full, we work to tidy up our camp spot and pack everything back into the cooler. We toss more kindling on the fire and settle into our chairs for the evening. This is where, organically, our best conversations happen. Usually we start off talking about nothing important at all, like the honking goose that sounds like it’s being strangled down by the lake, but eventually we sort of sink into these wonderfully deep musings that I swear only happen out there in nature. It’s something about the darkness wrapped around us and the comforting firelight that makes us feel closer to each other. Neither of us are plugged in, and we’re listening to what the other is saying. Yeah, in most places we could still have Wi-Fi, but checking social media seems unnatural here, faraway and unimportant. 

After some time, a bag of marshmallows might be produced, or a beer cracked. If we’re staying at a campground, we always take an evening walk with Ranger to explore the grounds and enjoy the setup of other campers. It’s like taking a stroll through your neighborhood in the evening and admiring your neighbor’s homes.  

Roasting mallows at dusk in the Blue Ridge Mountains

5. Star – gazing.

Although I can appreciate the stars in most settings, star-gazing is best achieved in a place with no light pollution. This usually means being very far from a city. In the Blueridge Mountains we stayed at The Mile High Campground, a spot that is literally a mile drive up a mountain, and nestled comfortably at the peak. We were basically sitting amongst the stars.  I’ve never seen such an astounding sight. The way one might sit at the beach content to do nothing but gaze out at the crashing waves for hours, so we sat that night in our folding chairs looking upward. We doused the fire and sat with our heads back, drinking in the night sky saturated with twinkling lights, planets, moons, and the milky way. The harder you looked the deeper the sky became, and the longer you looked the more you seemed to discover something new you hadn’t yet seen. If you haven’t seen the stars, really seen them, plan a trip to a location with no artificial light. It’s something that stays with you.

A Departure from the Norm

Now that I’ve written my five points, I think it’s obvious we prefer camping because it’s absolutely nothing like our home life. Cooking over fire, sleeping sans bed, roasting marshmallows, shutting out the daily noise, experiencing natural beauty… It’s all such a departure from our routine as we know it. And while we prefer to spend our evenings at the campground and explore our surroundings by day, I’ve noticed quite a few campers set up shop and never leave the campsite. It’s easy to see why, camping is so enjoyable that sometimes it can be the star of the show, no need to do much else, feels like a vacation all by itself!

One thing Steve and I are both in agreement on, is that you don’t need to save up thousands of dollars for an Instagram-worthy trip to Europe or Iceland or Japan. Just slip away from your normal routine for a weekend, breathe some adventure into your life.

Do you prefer camping over hotels? What’s your favorite camping spot? Where was your last trip to?

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