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  1. #11
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    12,994

    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.

  2. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    that my tent is the best, cheapest, and, probably most important, the most enjoyable way for me to travel, I realize that it doesn't work for everybody . . . The main thing is that we all enjoy our travels.
    That is, indeed, the bottom line. You have to make your decisions based upon your family's needs and resources -- BUT you need to be sure that you're making your choices on realistic information. If you're thinking that a hotel breakfast is just a doughnut, then you're basing your decision on incorrect information.
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    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.
    If you're comparing a campsite to the hotel's rack room price, then you're right. If you know how to find the best prices, then the total cost is not bad. An oddity about the travel industry: You'll never get a deal on the least-expensive hotel room (just as you'll never get a discount on a subcompact rental car) because the people who just look at the easiest-to-find price will scoop them up and the company doesn't NEED to offer lower prices. There are ways, though, to stay in a mid-priced hotel for the cost of a Motel 6 -- and once our family of four adds in breakfast, we're definitely in the good value country.
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    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..
    Yep, all choices have "hidden costs" -- that's one of my points -- be sure you're comparing the real bottom line.
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    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..
    Yeah, in theory kids run around the campground burning off energy; in reality, they want to hit the playground, which is not in sight of your campsite . . . then you end up getting up multiple times each evening to walk them to the bathhouse . . . don't forget that they get dirtier playing outside, which does matter if you want them to be presentable the next day . . . and this is really all fun UNLESS you're trying to stick to a schedule the next day. As I said earlier, we're going camping this weekend, BUT our only appointment is with a bunch of fish who are currently residing in the lake!
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    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..
    Right -- but our initial idea was that the RV would be a money saver; when we investigated the real costs, we learned in a hurry that wasn't true. For someone else who could borrow or barter the RV, the numbers might fall out differently. The same is true for camping: each family needs to compare what it'll cost and not assume that it's going to be super-cheap.
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    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.
    Absolutely! Camping would not add to our enjoyment for the trip we have planned -- relaxing evenings around the campfire are not our goal, and our girls would "burn out" on camping for more than 4-5 days. In the meantime, the money we'd save would be very small (and if gas keeps going up, driving the SUV that'll hold our camping gear might even cost more).
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    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.
    Nope, not for our family. Since we can get about half our nights for free, and we'll have rock-bottom prices on the others . . . and since staying in hotels means we can drive my 40 mpg car, we'll be spending about the SAME AMOUNT in ACTUAL DOLLARS as we would camping. I'm the daughter of a CPA, and he taught me to count my beans carefully. I am one of the cheapest people I know, and my friends are sometimes surprised at what we'll do to save a dollar.

    FOR MY FAMILY, hotels are not more expensive. Someone else's beans might stack up differently -- for example, a larger family who'd need two rooms would find that their costs would be considerably higher than mine; or a family who was going to drive a big van anyway might not have any trouble packing in everyone's sleeping gear; or a family might choose to camp so that they can take their dogs along on the trip. But everyone should check before assuming that camping is automatically cheaper.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    12,994

    Default what works for you

    I'm glad you've found what works for you. Nothing when it comes to budgeting is absolute. If you are able to get half of your hotel stays for free because your husband takes frequent business travel, then certainly that is going to swing the pendulum in favor of hotel travel for you and your family. However, I think its also fair to say that the vast majority of fellow travelers looking at ways to keep their costs to a minimum are not in a similar situation.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Interesting

    Quote Originally Posted by MrsPete View Post
    That is, indeed, the bottom line. You have to make your decisions based upon your family's needs and resources -- BUT you need to be sure that you're making your choices on realistic information.
    If you're thinking that a hotel breakfast is just a doughnut, then you're basing your decision on incorrect information.
    I just spent the last hour going through hotel websites and searching for free breakfast offerings. The pickings are few. And most that do offer them only seem to offer continental ones. Yes, there are exceptions but I would hardly call them budget-priced. Holiday Inn Express seems to be one of the hotels with the best rates that offers full-service meals but I would hardly consider them a budget hotel.

    For example, you stated that you're staying in Country Inn & Suites (and for half your trip they are free). I just checked a Country Inn & Suites for rates. The closest one is in Bothell, WA (near Seattle). It is $156 per night! Yikes. They would have to give me free breaklast, lunch and dinner for this to pan out budget-wise. Same with the cheaper Holiday Inn Express at $108/night. I could stay at the Seattle KOA for $38.95/night (and this is a very high-priced KOA!) and still have enough to make myself a gourmet crab omelet for breakfast, fresh grilled salmon for lunch, and filet mignon for dinner and have money left over!

    If you're comparing a campsite to the hotel's rack room price, then you're right.
    Why, yes I am. I do not want to actually book a room so I can't go through Priceline to find out if they might get me a room there for a cheaper price. And I do not have access to any of the other ways to save hotel costs except for AAA-discounts and this hotel doesn't offer one, or going through some of the other internet-sites that usually offer cheaper rates.

    If you know how to find the best prices, then the total cost is not bad. An oddity about the travel industry: You'll never get a deal on the least-expensive hotel room (just as you'll never get a discount on a subcompact rental car) because the people who just look at the easiest-to-find price will scoop them up and the company doesn't NEED to offer lower prices. There are ways, though, to stay in a mid-priced hotel for the cost of a Motel 6 -- and once our family of four adds in breakfast, we're definitely in the good value country.
    But one of the issues here for me is that you would need to make reservations ahead of time to get most of these best deals, right? Since I hate to be tied to an itinerary and only, rarely, make reservations prior to traveling, how would I just walk up to the hotel desk and get these amazing rates without ruining my trip by being tied into reservations made ahead of time?

    If you have any tips besides Priceline, I'm open to hearing them as I'm always willing to hear about ways to save a buck. But Priceline only works for when you plan ahead and I don't like to do that unless I'm going to a specific place and staying there for a few days like Disneyland or something like that. So, please share your secrets so the rest of us can take advantage when it works out for us.

    Yep, all choices have "hidden costs" -- that's one of my points -- be sure you're comparing the real bottom line.Yeah, in theory kids run around the campground burning off energy; in reality, they want to hit the playground, which is not in sight of your campsite . . . then you end up getting up multiple times each evening to walk them to the bathhouse . . . don't forget that they get dirtier playing outside, which does matter if you want them to be presentable the next day . . . and this is really all fun UNLESS you're trying to stick to a schedule the next day.
    Letting my kids play and get dirty is one of the funnest things I did when my kids were little. They wash. And the next morning you put clean clothes on them. And the clothes wash, too. I just don't find this an issue. To me, this is part of the fun. Why on earth would I wash them up "multiple times each evening"? Isn't once, right before bed, enough?

    As I said earlier, we're going camping this weekend, BUT our only appointment is with a bunch of fish who are currently residing in the lake!Right -- but our initial idea was that the RV would be a money saver; when we investigated the real costs, we learned in a hurry that wasn't true. For someone else who could borrow or barter the RV, the numbers might fall out differently. The same is true for camping: each family needs to compare what it'll cost and not assume that it's going to be super-cheap.
    I think even borrowing or bartering an RV is still an expensive option. The extra fuel cost is never worth it if you are planning on really putting on some miles, imho. And, to me, they're just not fun to drive. The only time I can see an RV being worth it is if you're a full-timer or dang close to it.

    Absolutely! Camping would not add to our enjoyment for the trip we have planned -- relaxing evenings around the campfire are not our goal, and our girls would "burn out" on camping for more than 4-5 days.
    When on a roadtrip, I never bother with a campfire as I tend to get into camp just in time to put up my tent, enjoy the pool and/or hot-tub, grab a bite to eat, take a walk around the campground, and crawl into bed. Relaxing around the campfire is reserved for real camping trips....a totally different experience.

    My kids never got burned out on camping. When they were little, before things like summer baseball and other activities like that made this impossible for a good part of the summer, we used to go out to a place on a river that was free and spend the better part of the summer there. We had a small group of friends who did the same. Some had trailers. Some just had tents. At the time we had a small truck camper. The wives would be out there for 4, 7, 9 days or more at a stretch (it varied) while the husbands just came out when they were off work in the evening. Different families would come-and-go. After the kids got older, we would often only have a short part of the end of July/beginning of August without them having activities and a few times we were out there two weeks at a stretch without coming into town. We all loved it. Never got tired of it. I really think I could live out there. But then we'd get in trouble. 14 days at a stretch is the max allowed.

    I so much prefer camping to being in a hotel room that I would camp even if hotel costs were the same, by the way. There's something very dreary about being in a hotel for me. Again, only if it's really cold and/or wet would I choose a hotel over camping.

    In the meantime, the money we'd save would be very small (and if gas keeps going up, driving the SUV that'll hold our camping gear might even cost more).Nope, not for our family.
    When my kids were still at home, if we were going farther than just a couple hundred miles we wouldn't take the truck/camper because of the expense. We took our Mercury Sable (sometimes with an extra kid as well in addition to our two children) and put our camping gear on a roof-rack. We never had problems with the car being top-heavy. I've tracked every tank of gas for fuel mileage in every car I've ever owned and never noticed that the extra wind-drag on the car caused more than a few tenths of a mile less in gas mileage. Yup, worked just fine for our family.

    Since we can get about half our nights for free, and we'll have rock-bottom prices on the others . . . and since staying in hotels means we can drive my 40 mpg car, we'll be spending about the SAME AMOUNT in ACTUAL DOLLARS as we would camping. I'm the daughter of a CPA, and he taught me to count my beans carefully. I am one of the cheapest people I know, and my friends are sometimes surprised at what we'll do to save a dollar.
    I'm pretty dang tight myself. We are planning a trip of about 4000 miles this summer, about three weeks in duration, and gas will be our biggest expense even though my car gets a decent 32mpg (wish it got your 40). I expect our campground fees to run about $400. That's for 20 nights! Even if we were able to average $60/night in a hotel, we would have gone over that $400 in six nights when taxes are included. We can buy a lot of eggs and bacon to cook in camp for the extra $1000 that hotels would cost us for this trip. (Gosh, that's at least 2 months worth of groceries for us!)

    I really don't even budget for food as we will pack a bunch from our pantry and then replenish from grocery stores along the way. And since we would be eating the same at home, it doesn't really cost us much, if any, more to eat on the road. So, really, the food budget is a transfer from our home food budget to our travel food budget, not an addition. Virtually nothing will be convenience foods unless we decide to get something like pre-made hashbrown patties. The best way to see how we eat on the road is to read my tips on eating out of your cooler.

    However, I do budget a few restaurant meals into our entertainment budget as it is nice to eat out a couple of times a week when traveling. I would rather spend the money on finding good, localized cuisine that reflects the area I'm traveling through than a generic breakfast. The setting is important to me as well. I really don't like sitting inside a restaurant on nice day so I often look for someplace with nice, outside seating, for example.

    Since most of our fun is going to be spent hiking and other relatively-free activities like that, our entertainment budget averages about $20/day and it's likely we won't even spend that. I expect we will do this entire trip, for 3 weeks, for about $1500 and have a hoot doing that. If we were to stay in hotels, we would spend that amount just on hotels alone.

    FOR MY FAMILY, hotels are not more expensive.
    For my family, hotels are more expensive. This included when the kids were still at home and traveling with us, as well as now when we travel as a couple or solo.

    Someone else's beans might stack up differently
    Mine do.

    -- for example, a larger family who'd need two rooms would find that their costs would be considerably higher than mine; or a family who was going to drive a big van anyway might not have any trouble packing in everyone's sleeping gear; or a family might choose to camp so that they can take their dogs along on the trip.
    Or a family who prefers the comfort of a tent, the fun of a campground or other natural setting, not being tied into itineraries in order to get the cheapest hotel prices, can fit all their camping gear in a mid-size or smaller car with decent fuel consumption, and enjoys getting dirty.

    But everyone should check before assuming that camping is automatically cheaper.
    Nobody should ever assume that something is cheaper without checking it out first. But nobody should assume that another person's way of traveling is wrong. We each have our own style. As I already noted, I just don't care for hotels. I find them depressing and liken them to a fancy prison cell. I don't want to check in until bedtime and I want to get out ASAP in the morning. It's almost more like an escape! To be honest, I think I would camp even if it did pencil out to cost the same....which it doesn't. Camping saves me, on average, about $360/week over an average hotel room. Again, this buys a LOT of groceries for breakfast.

    I'm very glad that you've found a travel style that works for you and your family, and for your budget. But it wouldn't work for mine and it wouldn't be cheaper for me and my family. Que sera sera, I guess.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 05-20-2008 at 10:03 PM. Reason: Good Neighbor policy

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,053

    Default RV's are just one more good option out there

    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    I think even borrowing or bartering an RV is still an expensive option. The extra fuel cost is never worth it if you are planning on really putting on some miles, imho. And, to me, they're just not fun to drive. The only time I can see an RV being worth it is if you're a full-timer or dang close to it.
    A RV is a fun way to travel and given the right parameters, I think it is a better alternative to tent camping as long as the #1 criteria is not one of being more economical.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 05-20-2008 at 11:04 PM.

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