RV vs Hotel: The Pros and Cons of Each Travel Style

Updated: Sep 21

There’s a fast-growing trend hitting the travel industry these days. More and more people are choosing to hit the road and explore by campervan or RV. Vanlife posts are flooding social feeds, but it’s not just millennials that are leading the charge. From groups of friends to young families and retirees, van fever is gripping multiple generations of travelers.

When choosing between RV rental and hotel vacation, there are several different factors at play. You may be asking yourself–what are the pros and cons of these different travel styles?

In this article, we’ll be delving into the details and weighing up the options. From costs and convenience to access and places to see, we’ll explore the big question of "RV vs hotel".

RV vs Hotel comparison

What are the benefits of RV vs hotel?

As mentioned, there are various factors to consider here. One of the biggest is cost and travel budget. Others are your particular travel style and expectations for the trip. Do you want a city break, or are you looking to escape into the countryside? The answer to these questions will undoubtedly impact your choice; let’s look at them in some more detail.

RV accommodation is a money saver

One of the big factors when planning a holiday of any kind is budget. Most of us don’t have unlimited funds, but we do have vastly varied budgets. An RV rental is almost always going to be more budget-friendly than a hotel stay.

The savings with an RV vs hotel can be very significant indeed. For example, a family of five staying in a hotel will almost certainly need to book at least two rooms each night. However, if the same family chooses to rent a large RV, they will have plenty of room for everyone on board. Albeit quite a snug fit.

The majority of campsites charge per vehicle or tent rather than per person. So as long as you have a five-berth motorhome then you’ll all have a bed for the night. This will make a significant difference to your overall holiday expenses, especially if you are planning to stay for a longer period of time. After all, an RV stay could mean the difference between a one-week trip and a three-week adventure.

RV vs Hotel: accommodation

Eating and drinking in an RV are on the cheaper side

Food and drink are another holiday cost that can be significantly reduced by hiring an RV for your trip. A huge difference between RVs and hotels is that all RVs come with dedicated kitchens, dining, and living areas. This means you automatically have somewhere to cook, eat and hang out. Again, this makes a huge difference to both your budget and your overall holiday experience.

Eating out all the time is costly and may not always be what you feel like doing. On the other hand, cooking and eating in your RV or outdoors is often a lot more fun. Fresh air and beautiful views are appetite-enhancing. And for those that enjoy cooking, this can be a relaxing way to spend your holiday time. Kids will often enjoy helping out too. Perhaps cooking over an open fire and then watching the stars come out before bed.

The budget-saving credentials are very significant here. Heading to the supermarket for a big food shop is a lot more economical than eating out. This is true in nearly all situations and destinations. Being able to pull over and put together a quick sandwich or snack is a lifesaver sometimes. Additionally, the ability to brew a fresh cup of morning coffee before leaving your van in the morning is a game-changer.

Then, when it comes to feeding lots of hungry mouths at suppertime, you’ll save a packet. A quick meal of pasta, pesto and salad is often all you need. But if you try and go to a restaurant, the price could quite easily treble. By saving money on most meals, you’ll be able to enjoy the odd splurge on an evening out instead.

RV vs Hotel: Food

The flexibility of a RV travel

The other factor that has a significant bearing on your choice of RV vs hotel is the area you are visiting. If you’re headed for a city break, then there will be plenty of hotels for you to choose from and fewer convenient camping sites. If you want to explore the great outdoors and spend time in nature, then an RV wins in most situations.

Travel in Iceland is very much about being out in nature and experiencing its many natural wonders; this is a country well set up for camping and outdoor activities. As such, there are many campsite options in Iceland with great facilities. These campsites are often in or very close to Iceland’s national parks, too.

So, by hiring an RV in Iceland you can easily get close to the places you want to be. You will also pay significantly less to stay in these beautiful places. In fact, in many of the campsite locations, there are no options for hotel stays anyway. Therefore, you’ll actually be missing out on some wonderful experiences by sticking to car hire and hotel stays.

The Cons of RV vs Hotel

It is very true that nothing in life comes in a perfect package, there are always downsides to each option, and it's up to you to weigh the pros and cons. Let’s have a look at the not-so-shiny side of RV vs hotel stays.

RVs are not always beneficial for the digital nomad lifestyle

So, for digital nomads looking to explore, what is the deal with full-time RV living vs. full-time hotel living? This very much depends on the country you choose to travel in. For example, if you’re looking to live and work on the road in Europe or the US, you’re likely better off in an RV. On the other hand, in much of Asia, long-term hotel or apartment rental could be your best bet.

Working from a hotel vs RV

In Iceland, it’s debatable, really. As for internet coverage in Iceland, much of the more remote countryside might not be the best for Internet users. So, if you need to be reliably online to work, then you’d be better off in a town or city. The weather is also a little wild at times, so RV living full-time can be a challenge.

If you’re a digital nomad considering a stint in Iceland, you would likely be better off renting an apartment. You should be able to find a decent midterm rental apartment in Reykjavík or another town and then head out on weekends to explore.

RVs are not optimal in challenging weather

We all wish for beautiful sunny weather while vacationing, but the truth is, that’s not always possible. Especially when traveling within the colder months of the year. It is true though that weather does affect every type of travel, regardless of your chosen accommodation, and a hotel stay is not an exception.

However, driving a large vehicle under such conditions does come with far more complications. You must keep yourself updated on the most current weather as much as possible to avoid surprises and prepare yourself for any circumstance: blizzard, gusts, snow, etc. that may be on its way. When it comes to this topic on the RV vs hotel battle, the decision leans towards the latter.

Rv driving in winter

RV vs hotel in Iceland in a nutshell

Hotel pros in Iceland

  • Best for city breaks

  • Good at challenging weather

  • Luxury experiences with spas

Hotel cons in Iceland

  • Can be expensive

  • You’ll spend more on meals out

  • You won’t be so close to the great outdoors

  • Limited location availability across much of Iceland

RV pros in Iceland

  • Budget-friendly option

  • You’ll be closer to nature

  • You can stay in national parks

  • In winter, you could see the Northern Lights from your bunk

  • You’ll save more money on eating and drinking

RV cons in Iceland

  • Can be problematic in harsh weather conditions

  • Not optimal for full-time living digital nomads.

RV vs Hotel in Iceland

RV rental vs hotel vacation final thoughts

When it comes to traveling RV vs hotel, an RV yields plenty more money-saving benefits. Sure, you will need to fuel up your vehicle and the longer the journey is, the more it will cost. But this is money that you would be spending anyway on fueling up a rental car or paying for private or group transfers.

Having your own vehicle on hand to explore as you please is a huge advantage. It really enhances the feeling of freedom you enjoy on a trip. You get to decide exactly when and where to travel and you can act on the spur of the moment.

For more tips and advice about vanlife and traveling by motorhome in Iceland, visit these related articles.