Travel is expensive, period. Unless you plan to bike or walk and sleep along the side of the road it costs money to see the sights in this large, beautiful country. Travel that to me is well worth the cost. This is not a discussion on whether buying a travel trailer is a good idea, we will have that sometime, but about relative costs now that we own one. At first glance it seems pretty cheap as decent, moderate hotels are well over $125 a night most places often lots more and camping is a quarter of that. But as in most things there is more. We pay personal property tax, insurance and storage fees for our trailer. They are equal to about 10-12 days in hotels. So with the mileage penalty from towing you basically break even for a two week trip. This year we are traveling for three weeks and about 3000 miles. We will save about $1500 on lodging for the trip figuring all ownership expenses. Of course, this is our fourth excursion this year and the two were lots fewer miles, so we are really ahead before we leave. But just considering this trip it is a savings but not as significant as first assumed.
We also think we have both tangible and intangible value as well. For example, we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in house unless we wish to eat out. And when we do eat out we often have lunch or another dinner from the restaurant meal leftovers. This is ultimately healthier for long trips and you get to be more selective about restaurants. Coffee (lots of coffee) and other drinks and snacks are much less expensive when you get them from your fridge. We sleep in our own bed, shower in our own bathroom and live in our own environment - clean or less clean it is our mess. I like that aspect. To set up or hitch up the Oliver is easy and quick, so that is a non-issue unless it is raining hard or backing in a slot is tight. It really takes not more or much more time than unloading luggage and making a second trip to the car for what I forgot. I like the easy access to clothes, shoes, equipment etc from closets in the trailer. We have a nice entertainment system- use it little but it is there and if we have WIFI, connect to lots more. It is comfortable to read, work on photos, plan the next day or write.
Camping is often in nice places, not always, sort of on a par to hotel choices. You don’t know for sure what kind of space you will get anymore than you know how loud the folks are in the adjacent room in the hotel. It is hard to put a financial value on a beautiful park campground with a great view. And to stay in National Parks, like Acadia where we will spend six nights for $90 and walk across the road to the ocean, wow.
Finally the longer the time traveling, even factoring in distance, the more savings. When we travel to Alaska next summer for four months even with the mileage costs we will save thousands. In fact we would not be able to take that kind of trip without the RV. So we deal with the fixed expenses, occasional repairs and service, and the mileage penalty while seeing sights we could otherwise not easily afford. And that is a hard to measure value until you are up early - already in a beautiful National Park seeing sunrise over the mountains, the ocean or a lake, mist rising everywhere, with beautiful light and then you know the experience is priceless.