My husband and I each have fond childhood memories of traveling the east coast with our individual families. My family always stayed in motels or with friends, and his family traveled with a truck camper. He may or may not have stories of laying on the overhead bed, looking out the front window while riding down the road at 55 miles per hour…. From the time I met him, he has talked about camper camping being the best way to travel.
We traveled sporadically before we had kids, but once my father passed away, we suddenly realized how short life is. We made enjoying life together a priority. At the time, our son was allergic to eggs (an allergy he thankfully has since outgrown), and I have multiple food allergies making eating in restaurants dangerously impossible. We knew a camper was our best solution for traveling, so in March 2012, we made the purchase we call our best one ever. It has allowed us to travel to 30 states and 3 Canadian provinces so far, and our goal is to visit all 48 conterminous states together as a family.
Why is camper camping the best way to travel?
YOUR FOOD IS WITH YOU
Number one for us was health-related in the form of food safety. Having a camper with a kitchen means we can bring with us all the foods I can safely eat, and we can cook them without worrying about cross-contamination. My family does visit local restaurants occasionally while we’re traveling, but usually we get their food and fresh produce at grocery stores or markets wherever we are. The convenience of waking up and cooking eggs, bacon, and coffee or getting your favorite yogurt and juice from the refrigerator can’t be beat. Additionally, while traveling, we just stop and make sandwiches for lunch and continue on, even if we’re nowhere near restaurants.
YOUR BATHROOM IS WITH YOU
Speaking of convenience, the bathroom is also always with you. Our littlest one has a bladder the size of a pea, which can be quite frustrating. But all we have to do is pull over and let her in to go, instead of continually searching for a disgusting restroom or port-a-potty on the side of the road.
THERE ARE NO OUTSIDE GERMS
Lack of germs is another huge benefit in my eyes. Staying in a hotel with small kids was a nightmare for me. They touch everything and put things in their mouths and who knows who or what has been there before you. In the camper, the bathroom has only been used by us, we get to sleep in our beds (which we’ve made very comfortable), and we use our own blankets, pillows, dishes, utensils, and toiletries. We don’t have to worry about picking up bed bugs, roaches, or germs of any kind.
YOUR SCHEDULE IS FLEXIBLE
Flexibility is important whether you have kids or not. The plane or bus won’t wait for you if you are running late, but when you are traveling with a camper, you set the schedule. You can also set the route or change the route if you would like. You can stop anywhere, any time you want.
“HALF THE FUN IS GETTING THERE.”
You’ve heard that before and flying somewhere you may not say that, but driving – we totally agree! We always try to take the scenic route, see the countryside, and enjoy the drive. The kids have new scenery to see so they don’t complain too much. We stop to check out anything interesting we see along the way, and we have stumbled upon so many cool places on our adventures!
VACATIONS ARE CHEAPER
Campground stays can range in price from $25 – $100 (in our experience), with beautiful campsites with full hookups usually around $65 per night. You don’t need to eat out so your food cost is dramatically down. The cost of gas is higher, but you aren’t paying for a plane or any other form of transportation. Our vehicle usually gets about 17 miles per gallon while towing. Obviously you will also pay for any fun visits to parks, museums, historical sites, amusement parks, gardens, etc. But because campgrounds usually include pools, hayrides, scheduled games, trampolines, miniature golf, outdoor movies, not to mention fire pits which are a highlight in my family, you may spend a lot of time vacationing right at the campground! We’ve been to amusement parks, but no one in our family likes roller coasters all that much. Mostly we stick to historical sites, natural parks, gardens, animal preserves, tours, etc. We drove from Delaware to Florida and spent 15 days there over a Christmas vacation. We visited the Gulf Coast, Legoland area, and then St. Augustine. We did an activity outside the campgrounds 12 days we were there, including seeing the mermaids at Weeki Wachee, the manatees at Homosassa Springs, 2 days at Legoland, a tour of Bok Tower gardens, seeing how orange juice is made, seeing the dinosaurs at Dinosaur World, the dolphins at Marineland, visiting Castillo de San Marcos fort, 3 boat tours, etc. and, including souvenirs, we spent less than $2500. I can’t imagine you could spend 15 days in Florida for that little without camping, and it was quite a happy, relaxing, and entertaining vacation!
You may be saying, “that’s great, but you still had the cost of the camper.” This is true; but if you use it, it’s worth it. According to my calculations, in the six years we’ve owned our camper, it has cost us not quite $100 per day that we’ve camped in it. If you add that to the cost of the campgrounds, you are still well under $200 per night. When you consider the views, the space, and the amenities we’ve enjoyed with it, it definitely beats any other travel housing costs. On top of that, it is still in fantastic shape with very little maintenance. If all goes according to our plans, this time next year we expect to be down to $70 per camping day!
TRAVELING WITH PETS IS EASIER
Have pets? Hate to leave them? Bring them with you in a camper! Having your own camper makes traveling with pets so much easier. They are more relaxed because they’re with you, and you can stop whenever they’ve got to do their business. Campgrounds welcome pets if they’re well behaved. We have never brought our pets with us, especially the hens! Our dog, Buddy, is the guard dog for our hens and farm, and he hates being in a vehicle. My mother-in-law lives on our property and keeps an eye on him while we’re gone. We enjoy other people’s pets while staying in the campgrounds!
FUN, FUN, FUN
As I mentioned earlier, campgrounds are fun. I would go out on a limb and say they are more fun than hotels as a general rule. In addition to the typical amenities mentioned above, we’ve also stayed at campgrounds with outdoor hot tubs, gyms, arcades, game rooms, dance halls, beaches, petting zoos, paddle boats, laser tag, canoe rides, and so much more. They all have quaint camp stores with camping necessities and toys, trinkets, and souvenirs. Almost all of them offer scheduled activities on weekends such as music nights, ice cream socials, pancake breakfasts, craft times, scavenger hunts, etc. (Our girls and I were the happy winners of a scavenger hunt on Prince Edward Island last summer! We got free slushies for our family as well as American pride.) Campgrounds are usually centrally located to sites of interest and often have free shuttles to popular local destinations.
CAMPING IS A GREAT WAY TO MEET PEOPLE
This goes along with the fun. Campground activities encourage people to get to know each other, and campers are typically friendly people. It’s a great way to meet people from all over who love to travel. My kids have gotten to know other kids their age from different parts of the country, and they all play together. In Maine, we were coming back to our campsite from a day-long excursion and saw our camper heading down the road! Thankfully, it turned out to be a family from New York with the exact same camper as ours pulling in across from us. Neither of us had ever encountered a camper just like ours before, and we wound up spending Independence Day with them, complete with s’mores and sparklers. Of course, campsites are usually big enough that you can have privacy if you want it.
YOU CAN FINANCE A CAMPER LIKE A HOUSE
Loans are available to purchase campers. Additionally, a camper or Recreational Vehicle (RV) meets the IRS definition of a second home if it contains sleeping, bathroom, and kitchen facilities. Interest paid on a loan for the purchase of a recreational vehicle is therefore tax deductible as valid home interest on a second home. Check with your tax advisor for specifics before your purchase. You don’t have to purchase a new camper either. Look in the classified section for lots of barely used campers at a fraction of the cost of new.
IT’S A GREAT EXTRA SPACE WHEN YOU’RE HOME
When not on the road, a camper makes a great extra bedroom or two! Park it somewhere convenient to the house, plug it in, and let your guests sleep in comfort and privacy. We haven’t had any guests stay in ours but we have stayed in it in the driveways of out-of-state family! It also makes a fun hideout for kids looking to get away, with or without their friends, from younger siblings. I confess Tom and I have used the camper as an adults-only meeting room when the house was particularly noisy and children were particularly nosy!
No matter how you use it, a camper is a great escape! My advice is to do your research about what’s out there and get on the road!
Do you travel with a camper? Let us know how you travel and some of your best destinations. If you have any other benefits of camper/RV camping, let us know that as well!