June 19, 2012

Where Did We Stay, What Did It Cost?

People have asked us about where we stayed each night, the types of campgrounds we favored and the typical costs involved.  Here’s a breakdown and a few notes about our overall lodging experience.
·        We spent 278 nights on the road, including the twenty nights on the road before Tim joined me in Maine.

·        We spent 247 nights in the RV in a wide variety of public and private campgrounds, family and friends’ driveways (or homes), and a few miscellaneous locations.  These include the following:

o     16 nights in federal campgrounds, including National Park, National Forest and Corps of Engineers campgrounds

o      33 nights in state campgrounds (we were not in the RV for 2 of those nights when both Tim and I were in Fort Morgan for Tim’s mother’s funeral)

o      14 nights in city/county campgrounds

o      160 nights in private campgrounds (32 of those nights were in KOA campgrounds)

o      19 nights in family or friends’ homes or driveways

o      3 nights in Wal-Mart parking lots

o      2 nights in repair shops

o      2 nights in boondock sites

National Park Campground in Maine
State Campground in New York

County Campground in Georgia
Private Campground in Rhode Island

·        We spent 31 nights in hotels.  This included two nights in Fort Morgan during Tim’s mother’s funeral when we also paid campground fees for the RV. 

o      After staying at an assortment of chain hotels the first two months, we discovered Drury Inns, which welcome pets.  On the west coast where there are no Drury Inns, we stayed at a newly remodeled La Quinta Inn.

o      We stayed at the Miami River Inn, which my friend Jane manages, while we were in Miami.

o      We splurged on two-night stays at two different hotels, The Inn at Middleton Place in Charleston, South Carolina, and Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park, Washington, for Christmas and my birthday.

o      Nine of our hotel nights were prompted by a need to escape severe weather. 

·        We spent a total of $10,622.41 on lodging, including $6,767.28 on campgrounds and $3,855.13 on hotels.  We had anticipated that we would stay in hotels twice a week, and had budgeted $5,349 for campgrounds and $9,800 for hotels.  We soon discovered that we rarely needed a break from the RV and did not need to spend nearly as many nights in hotels.  Had it not been for so many instances of severe weather, we likely would have stayed even fewer nights in hotels.  Thus, we ended up spending more on campgrounds, but much less on hotels.  We came in under budget for lodging by a whopping $4,527.

o      Our most expensive campground was the French Quarter RV Resort in New Orleans, Louisiana, at $73.23 per night for two nights.  Being in walking distance of the French Quarter made this rate bearable.

o      Our least expensive campground was the Lincoln Park Campground in Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming, at $5.00 per night.  We used my newly-acquired Senior Pass which knocked 50 percent off the campground fee.

o      If we had waited one year to begin our trip, we would have saved 50 percent on most of our 16 nights in federal campgrounds using my Senior Pass.  I’m glad we decided not to wait, however.

o      Our average rate per night for lodging was $38.  Our average rate per night for camping was $27, and the average for hotels was $124.  We had budgeted $25 per night for campgrounds.  Thanks to the generosity of family and friends, and a few free camping spots, we were able to come close to that figure.  We had actually budgeted $125 per night for hotels.

o      Although I didn’t qualify for a Senior Pass until the last month of the trip (I was able to use it to save $35 over three nights), we did have several memberships that provided considerable savings.  Our favorite was Passport America, a membership that costs $44 per year but offers a 50 percent discount at over 1,800 campgrounds, although with certain restrictions.  We saved approximately $650 in 31 nights over the course of our trip.  That was a great deal.  AAA and Good Sam Club, a membership that costs $19 per year, were widely accepted at many private campgrounds, saving us 10 percent on numerous occasions.  Membership in KOA, at $24 per year, saved us 10 percent at all KOA campgrounds and offered points toward future discounts, which we were able to use.

Membership Programs Are a Great Way to Save Money on Campgrounds

·        We had anticipated spending the majority of nights in federal, state or county campgrounds, as opposed to private campgrounds, but that didn’t happen.  The public campgrounds where we did stay were some of our favorites, especially the ones that provided hookups.  Public campgrounds are typically in a much more natural setting and have greater space between RVs.  However, we ended up staying in more private campgrounds since most public campgrounds do not provide hookups.  Although some private campgrounds resemble parking lots, we did find quite a few in beautiful settings.  We wrote about our growing need for hookups and our evolving campground preferences here.

o      Much of our trip took place in late fall, winter and spring, so evenings were chilly, and we found that we needed heat most nights.  Our little electric heater turned out to be our best heat source, but that required electrical hookups.  Although we could have used our propane heater without hookups, it was a bit noisy and would virtually drain our batteries with just one night of use as we found out a few times.  We did love the propane heater for heating the RV in the mornings, however, since we could turn it on with a remote control without getting out of bed.  We did not stop using the heater until the first of June. 

o      We also needed electrical hookups to charge our considerable assortment of electronics each night.  Although we could have turned on our generator for this purpose, we rarely used it because of the noise, vibration and exhaust fumes.  Many public campgrounds also prohibit or restrict generator use.

o      We stayed in more KOA campgrounds than we ever anticipated.  Generally these were nice, convenient campgrounds and had all of the amenities we needed, especially clean laundry facilities.  I’m not sure we would like KOAs during the summer, however, because they cater to families with children.  In fact, we would likely try to avoid any campground with pools and other child-friendly facilities in the summer months.  Our experience in the off-season was much more peaceful.

Many KOA Campgrounds Have Nice Settings
All in all we were pleased with the campgrounds that we found.  Most were nice, and some were extremely nice.  The rest were ok for just one night.  We were lucky that circumstances forced us to stay in really awful campgrounds only a handful of times.  Occasionally there were just no options in the area, and in those cases we just used the campground as a place to park and hook up.  Note that I never bothered to photograph the less-than-desirable campgrounds.

If we had made more of an effort, we could have saved more money on campgrounds by seeking out ones affiliated with Passport America or looking for less expensive campgrounds.  However, at the end of a long day of touring, we found that convenience was sometimes more important than the few extra dollars we might spend.

From time to time, we did enjoy staying in hotels, particularly on special occasions and after many days of very dusty campgrounds in the southwest.  We found that it was not worth the effort to stay just one night in a hotel, however.  Hauling all of our things, and Kitty’s, into a hotel was much more of an effort than simply pulling into a campground and hooking up.

We Enjoyed Staying in Hotels on Special Occasions


  1. Again very interesting. It would be interesting to know about food. I love all of your numbers. Sounds like you probably came in under budget for the trip. Love A

    1. A, I'll be analyzing our food costs on tomorrow's post. That should be an interesting, and expensive, item! Early indications are that we did come in under budget. We wanted to be conservative in developing our budget to make sure we wouldn't get a nasty surprise during the trip. Sarah

  2. Yes, I see you don't have a picture of my driveway... ha ha I was thinking the repair shop overnighters were probably your most expensive stays. This is a lot of good info you've compiled! LV

    1. LV, I realized when I was looking through photos yesterday that I never photographed any of our "driveway" campsites. We loved staying in your driveway, especially being greated by your dog! You do have a point about repair shop overnighters. Now that I think about it, those two nights were our most expensive stays of the trip! Ouch! Sarah