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  1. Default Best way to save money is Tent camping

    Hi everyone,

    I am new to the forum and was surprised not to find tent camping as an obvious answer for saving money. After the initial cost of a tent and other supplies, it is far cheaper than hotels and other options. Let me know if you agree or disagree?

    Best,
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  2. #2
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    Default No arguments here

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Marshall View Post
    I am new to the forum and was surprised not to find tent camping as an obvious answer for saving money.
    Many of the active road trip enthusiasts on this forum are avid campers. Here are some of the posts on this subject. And Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum!

    Cheap lodging ideas
    Introduction tips for newbie campers
    The Art of the Cheap RoadTrip.

    Mark

  3. #3
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    Default its there

    I'm a little surprised you haven't found the many posts where camping is talked about as a great option. Its come up many times, especially in threads that focus on making a bargain basement cheap trip. The vast majority of my trips are done via tent camping, and moderator Judy has written many many posts about using the tent to save money.

    Of course, it is one option of many. Not everyone wants to deal with the little extra work of finding a campground and pitching a tent, so you'll also find many discussions of other ways to save money, including hostels, finding cheap hotels, or even sleeping inside the car.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 05-17-2008 at 10:19 AM. Reason: added a missing "s"

  4. #4
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    Default Use the "Search Cloud"

    There are many, many ways to find information on this forum. Here are a couple for you to try:

    If you click on the word "search" in the green navigation bar, you will see an option for "Tag Search". When you click on "Tag Search" a "Tag Cloud" will open with about 70 of the most used tags. (Tags are 1-2 word descriptions about what is found in a thread). If you click on the word "Camping" you will find a whole bunch of threads that have been "tagged" this way.

    You can also use the tag keyword search:
    If put in a keyword like "camping" or "tent camping" you will be taken to a similar list of threads tagged with that search term.

    We have only been using tags for about three weeks and so there are thousands of threads "un-tagged" but eventually we will get more of the site indexed with these tags.

    You can also click on the "tags" found on the bottom of this post.

    You can also find posts about camping by scrolling your mouse over the light-blue tag symbol found on the title page for each section of the forum. For instance, look at Planning Summer RoadTrips here by scrolling your mouse over the tag found under the Rating column you will see all of the descriptive words that some dear member has added to that thread.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 05-17-2008 at 10:24 AM. Reason: more information

  5. Default

    I disagree. We love camping and already have all the camping equipment we'd need . . . but it doesn't really mesh with the type of road trip we intend to take, for which the main purpose is to see things across America and expose the children to a variety of things that we can't see near home.

    Reasons camping isn't really such a great value for a road trip:

    1. The equipment takes up space, and that costs money (to transport). For my family, taking along a tent, four sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and pillows, as well as lanterns and other necessities -- in addition to our clothes, of course -- would mean we'd have to leave our Honda Civic at home and drive our Ford Explorer. That means trading a 40 mpg vehicle for a 19-ish mpg vehicle. With 6000 miles of driving planned, the extra fuel costs will easily make up the difference between a campsite and an inexpensive hotel room.

    2. Time is money. Even with our family of four working in ideal conditions and without any fusses, breaking camp takes time -- no less than 30 minutes, usually closer to an hour by the time we convince the kids to roll up their sleeping bags, etc. That's time that we aren't spending moving down the highway towards our destination. While this might be acceptable for the person who plans to go to three destinations and stay at each for several evenings, it isn't really realistic for our plans, which include staying only 1-2 nights at each stop.

    Additionally, campsites are usually located outside the city limits --and that means more driving back and forth when you intend to see museums, etc. That's time and gas, which both add up to expenses.

    3. Camping isn't free. It's tempting to think, "Once I have the tent, the rest is all gravy!", but that isn't really true. The least expensive campsites in my area run $12-15/night -- in touristy areas they're 3-4 times that much! Then you need propane for your stove and ice for your cooler.

    4. Comfort is worth something. Our road trip is planned for July. We're from the deep South, so we know hot -- and we appreciate air conditioning, especially after a day of driving, hiking, or other roadtrip activities. Walking to the bath house isn't much of a chore when you're camping for the weekend or even a week -- but for a month-long trip like we're planning, it gets old. Then there's rain; I don't mind it so much when my next day's activities involve sleeping in, then hiking or swimming . . . but if my next day's plans involve getting up and out quickly, then seeing local culture, museums, etc., then rain is a real bummer.

    5. Hotels offer frequent-visitor programs; campsites do not. My husband's been saving up all his business stays (and he's been planning them carefully so as to get the "right type of points" that'll be best for our trip). We expect to get almost half our hotel stays for free -- that's my favorite price!

    6. If you don't have hotel points to spend, there are other ways to get low-low prices on hotels: Priceline is always a winner. Recently we stayed at a 4-star full-service Marriott resort with a great pool, workout room, and free drinks for $60/night -- and that was during Spring Break! I've never been disappointed in a Priceline hotel, and I almost always get the room for a song!

    7. Another way to get free hotel rooms is to apply for their credit card to get a free night. Of course, you should know your own finances and be sure that you're making a good choice, but that's an entirely different topic.

    8. Hotels often have amenities that my family enjoys: swimming pools, work out rooms, free breakfasts, fruit or candy available in the lobby, internet service, and laundry rooms. While a few campsites have pools and laundry rooms, I've never seen the rest of these in campsites -- but they have financial value for my family!

  6. #6
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    Default reinventing the wheel

    We've already debated this pretty extensively before, but there are a few things I really have to question.

    The least expensive campsites in my area run $12-15/night -- in touristy areas they're 3-4 times that much!
    There are some areas where you can camp for free, but yes most of the time you'll be looking at spending $10-20, However I can't think of anyplace (touristy or not) I've ever been that's required the $45-60 you're talking about. That is unless of course you are talking about a camping resort that will have pools, waterslides, game rooms, etc - which clearly aren't about saving money.
    5. Hotels offer frequent-visitor programs; campsites do not.
    But to take advantage of those programs, you have to stay at one particular chain - which unless you are a frequent business traveler - means staying at motels that might not be the cheapest in every town, or not using programs like priceline where you can get a better price.

    Even with our family of four working in ideal conditions and without any fusses, breaking camp takes time -- no less than 30 minutes, usually closer to an hour by the time we convince the kids to roll up their sleeping bags, etc. That's time that we aren't spending moving down the highway towards our destination.
    On the flip side, I usually find that in a motel room, I might sleep in a little bit longer, and linger a bit more - especially since there is a TV that can usually capture the kids attention. I rarely stay at any one location for more than 2 days, and while camping may take a couple extra minutes, I've never found that time to be all that significant.

    Hotels often have amenities that my family enjoys: swimming pools, work out rooms, free breakfasts, fruit or candy available in the lobby, internet service, and laundry rooms.
    All of those things are nice, but if you're looking for a budget trip, they're often not worth the extra money. They also have some hidden costs. Sure, you can get a free breakfast of stale donuts and coffee at a hotel, but you'll probably have to eat at a restaurant if you want a hot meal. If you are camping you can easily cook a hot breakfast and dinner too for the cost of groceries, that's a pretty major savings.



    I'm not saying that camping is the only way to save money on a trip, and there are times where I've found staying in motels is just as good of a deal, but by and large if lowest price is your biggest concern camping will always be cheaper. Of course, as you've pointed out, being the cheapest doesn't always mean its the best value, but if dollars are more important than amentities like swimming pools and workout rooms, its really hard for motels to compete with camping.

  7. #7
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    Default Should I dip my toe into this?

    Camping vs. Hotels is definitely a personal choice. Having done numerous road trips - some all camping with a different campground each night, some all hotels, and some a combination of both - I can say that I always save scads of cash when doing it all camping and I can take-down/set-up camp in about 10 minutes or so, so time is not an issue, imho. Of course, the gear you have and how you pack (and how accessible you make your gear in your vehicle) makes a big difference.

    Rigs needed and cost of fuel? This can vary a lot. Sometimes you might spend more in gas if you need a bigger rig to haul gear but still save enough by camping to come out cheaper. You really have to run the numbers for each trip to figure out what works best for your particular trip. All of our tents/sleeping gear fits in a duffle-bag that we tie to a luggage rack on our trunk. This makes no noticeable difference with our fuel consumption. Some people might need to get a cartop carrier for their gear. Even if you add a cartop carrier to a car and buy a tad more gas because the drag reduces your gas mileage, you will probalby still come out cheaper. But, then again, you have to run the numbers to be sure.

    Comfort? I find my sleeping pad, bag and tent far more comfortable than most any hotel bed. YMMV.

    Amenities? You can usually find hot tubs, pools, etc. in a nicer campground but will still usually only pay about $20-30 for the privilage vs. $60 or more for a hotel. So if you seek these things, it's still cheaper to get them in a camping resort-style place. At least in my personal experience. Maybe it's different in the eastern half of the country where I've travelled very little?

    Free breakfasts? I've experienced very few hotels with free breakfasts worth "the money". Yes, some are surprisingly good with excellent variety but most seem to be heavy on the carbs...something that I just can't do. So these hold little appeal to me. I'd rather whip up a quick, healthy breakfast at the campsite while packing up, and make up a quick sandwich and/or salad for later in the day to boot, but, again, this is a personal choice and YMMV, as those of you with different tastes and nutritional needs may disagree with me on that. And that's cool.

    Frequent visitor programs? Even when my husband travelled a bit for his work, we never racked up enough points for free nights. (Same problem with frequent flier programs.) So if you have no access to earning these free nights, and I believe that applies to most of us, this is a non-issue.

    Outside city limits? Not always. But for those of us who tend to avoid cities, or only pass through them to hit the highlights and then move on quickly, this is not an issue. However, there are some cities worth the extra time. When I've travelled through a city that I want to explore further, this might be a time when getting a hotel is worth it. But, then again, hotels close in the city tend to be on the higher-priced side and I tend to find cheaper hotels on the outskirts of cities more to my budget anyway. Sometimes, campgrounds are quite near these outskirt-located hotels. Sometimes not. It really depends on the city. So whether I camp or hotel it near cities depends on what I find at each location. You can't necessarily make a blanket statement here.

    I would never try to talk a person who hates camping into camping on their roadtrip. Likewise, I see no point in trying to convince those who enjoy camping that their choice is wrong. This is definitely a "different strokes for different folks" thing and each person needs to make their own decision on what works best for them. There is no right or wrong on this issue, just personal preference.
    Last edited by PNW Judy; 05-20-2008 at 10:49 AM. Reason: toe, not two

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    There are some areas where you can camp for free, but yes most of the time you'll be looking at spending $10-20, However I can't think of anyplace (touristy or not) I've ever been that's required the $45-60 you're talking about. That is unless of course you are talking about a camping resort that will have pools, waterslides, game rooms, etc - which clearly aren't about saving money.
    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    Amenities? You can usually find hot tubs, pools, etc. in a nicer campground but will still usually only pay about $20-30 for the privilage vs. $60 or more for a hotel. So if you seek these things, it's still cheaper to get them in a camping resort-style place. At least in my personal experience. Maybe it's different in the eastern half of the country where I've travelled very little?
    Yes, I agree that the $15-20 is AVERAGE, but I have paid considerably more -- yes, some of those places do have extra amenities. If you want to camp in my area on a race weekend, you're going to pay $50-75 (depending upon how close you are to the track) for just a tiny spot of dirt, no trees, and access to a bathhouse. I've considered offering up my yard -- two families could camp in the front yard, and four could easily share the back. For that kind of money, they can use my bathroom. Of course, I'm joking about taking in campers in my own yard, but the money they pay is outrageous!

    For our upcoming month-long roadtrip, our lodging will be the least expensive of our major expenses. Food and gas will be considerably more expensive!
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    But to take advantage of those programs, you have to stay at one particular chain - which unless you are a frequent business traveler - means staying at motels that might not be the cheapest in every town, or not using programs like priceline where you can get a better price.
    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    Frequent visitor programs? Even when my husband travelled a bit for his work, we never racked up enough points for free nights. (Same problem with frequent flier programs.) So if you have no access to earning these free nights, and I believe that applies to most of us, this is a non-issue.
    Yes, you have to stay with the same chain multiple times to build up free nights, but there are two big reasons this works for my family: 1) My husband tends to visit the same nuclear plants (or sometimes the same vendors) over and over; thus, he has no problem staying with the same chain over and over. For example, last fall he went to Atlanta once a week for MONTHS, and every single time he stayed in the same Country Inns & Suites. 2) It's the company's money that he's spending, so those rewards are literally FREE to us.

    His group sponsors two major conferences every year -- one in December, one in June -- so that's two weeks, usually at a five-star Marriot, which adds up to lots of rewards points and not a penny out of our pocket.

    Of course, everyone doesn't travel for work -- however, I threw out a couple other options for getting nice hotels CHEAPLY. I just helped my mother get a Hampton Inn (for an out-of-town wedding) for $30/night on Priceline, which is my most reliable method of getting a low-priced hotel room.
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    All of those things are nice, but if you're looking for a budget trip, they're often not worth the extra money. They also have some hidden costs. Sure, you can get a free breakfast of stale donuts and coffee at a hotel, but you'll probably have to eat at a restaurant if you want a hot meal. If you are camping you can easily cook a hot breakfast and dinner too for the cost of groceries, that's a pretty major savings.
    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    Free breakfasts? I've experienced very few hotels with free breakfasts worth "the money". Yes, some are surprisingly good with excellent variety but most seem to be heavy on the carbs...something that I just can't do. So these hold little appeal to me.
    When did you last stay at a mid-priced hotel that offers breakfast? I've not had anything but a hot breakfast at one recently. Most of our stays are at Residence Inn or Hampton Inn, and they definitely offer more than stale doughnuts or cheap-o carbs. Both of these places always have scrambled eggs and either bacon or sausage in addition to an assortment of breads. Fruit, granola bars, yogurt, and other healthy choices are always available. My youngest is always thrilled with Holiday Inn Express because they put out boiled eggs. Hampton likes to put out sausage gravy/biscuits. Country Inns & Suites uses Jimmy Dean frozen sausage biscuits; you warm them up yourself. My kids, of course, are always happiest when they have the choice of make-your-own waffles. It's always all-you-can eat, and I don't have to cook it or wash the dishes. Given that we're a family of four, the breakfast is a big money-saver for us and it really tips the scales in favor of hotels.
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Of course, as you've pointed out, being the cheapest doesn't always mean its the best value,
    Yes, you've hit my theme here: Lowest initial price doesn't always equate to the best value. Once you've transported your equipment, bought propane or batteries for your lantern, firewood, convenience foods that're quick to cook over the fire, you've spent more than the campsite fee.
    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    I can take-down/set-up camp in about 10 minutes or so, so time is not an issue, imho. Of course, the gear you have and how you pack (and how accessible you make your gear in your vehicle) makes a big difference.
    I'm guessing you're not sharing the trip with children -- even older kids like mine add to the workload at camp.
    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    Some people might need to get a cartop carrier for their gear. Even if you add a cartop carrier to a car and buy a tad more gas because the drag reduces your gas mileage, you will probalby still come out cheaper. But, then again, you have to run the numbers to be sure.
    We did run the numbers; initially we assumed we'd rent an RV, but WOW were we surprised at the cost! That plan went by the wayside quickly. My engineer husband says NO to cartop carriers; he's concerned about making the car top heavy and unbalanced -- I'm taking his word for it. For someone who's going to drive a van anyway, the equipment might not be an issue -- for my family, it is!
    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    Comfort? I find my sleeping pad, bag and tent far more comfortable than most any hotel bed. YMMV.
    I have a GREAT self-inflating sleeping pad, but although I love that thing, it isn't as comfortable as a real bed in an air conditioned room (maybe you're not from the south, but it was 86 degrees here today) with a hot shower nearby.
    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    But, then again, hotels close in the city tend to be on the higher-priced side . . . You can't necessarily make a blanket statement here.
    Of course, things vary, but I've usually found that the competition in cities leads to lower priced hotels. And, of course, big city hotels sometimes come with surprise costs like parking fees. The "wide spots in the road" that have only one hotel -- those are the ones who charge outrageous prices for piddly little hotels!
    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    I would never try to talk a person who hates camping into camping on their roadtrip. Likewise, I see no point in trying to convince those who enjoy camping that their choice is wrong. This is definitely a "different strokes for different folks" thing and each person needs to make their own decision on what works best for them. There is no right or wrong on this issue, just personal preference.
    I don't hate camping -- not at all! We're going camping next weekend. I just don't think it's particularly compatible with roadtrips IF your goal is to travel lots of miles and see lots of things. We love to camp when we simply have a couple days to fish by the lake or be by the beach -- when schedules aren't important and leisure is the goal. I think it's a mistake to make a blanket statement that camping is always the best value (reference the thread's title); when you take everything into consideration, it very well may not be the best choice. Each person should do the math for himself, but that math should include the WHOLE COST of each option.

  9. #9
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    Default Excellent Ideas!

    You are really getting the knack of using those in-line quotes -- and an excellent post full of good information!

    Mark

  10. #10
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    Default value or price

    If you want to camp in my area on a race weekend, you're going to pay $50-75 (depending upon how close you are to the track) for just a tiny spot of dirt, no trees, and access to a bathhouse.
    I'm also going to guess that if a plot of dirt to camp costs $50-75, you're not going to find a $30 motel room on priceline or anywhere else. If you're talking about the weekend of a special event, there can be times were the cheapest hotel room in an average town will be close to $200.

    When did you last stay at a mid-priced hotel that offers breakfast? I've not had anything but a hot breakfast at one recently.
    If you are looking at staying at mid-priced hotels, then you probably aren't looking for the least expensive room. While you can occationally find deals, Mid-priced hotels generally don't equate to budget trip. And again, I can make a pretty cheap breakfast at a campsite, along with a pretty cheap dinner and lunch. That's a huge savings compared to getting a "free" breakfast and then eating dinner at a family restaurant. Not having to do dishes might be worth the extra money to you, and make it a good value for what you are looking for, but that's not the same as keeping costs to a minimum.

    Once you've transported your equipment, bought propane or batteries for your lantern, firewood, convenience foods that're quick to cook over the fire, you've spent more than the campsite fee.
    Sure, I'll spend $5 a night for firewood, a couple bucks for bug spray, and maybe $10 for a summer's worth of propane, but that adds about $10 to the cost of a campsite for the night. Room/Sales/"we needed that new stadium" Taxes seem to always add at least $10 to even the cheapest motel room.

    I'm not sure what convience foods you are using, but I can cook fresh meat, like burgers, steaks, chicken, and some canned veggies for far less than what I could get a comparably filing meal at a restaurant.

    I'm guessing you're not sharing the trip with children -- even older kids like mine add to the workload at camp.
    Judy has plenty of experience camping with kids, and I've got an 8 year old at home. She usually helps out, but even in the worst case sincerio, we'll let her go run around at the campground playground before we get in the car while we pack. She gets to burn off energy before getting in a car, certainly a big plus compared to watching TV, when you're going to be back on the road for several hours.
    We did run the numbers; initially we assumed we'd rent an RV, but WOW were we surprised at the cost!
    I don't think anyone here as ever said that RV travel is cheap, or a great option for a budget trip. RVs are almost always more expensive than motel travel.
    I think it's a mistake to make a blanket statement that camping is always the best value (reference the thread's title);
    Value is certainly in the eye of the beholder, and clearly for your trip's enjoyment, the money you could save by camping isn't worth the extra hassles/time/work involved with camping. To others, camping only add to the enjoyment of a roadtrip. There is certainly nothing wrong with either, an both are options that everyone should consider as a part of their overall enjoyment of their roadtrip.

    However, if simply saving money is more important than sleeping on a matress, having someone make your meals, or the few extra minutes you'll spend setting up and tearing down camp, its pretty rare when using hotels will cost fewer actual dollars than setting up camp.

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