Author Topic: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel  (Read 13295 times)

I'm a red panda

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What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« on: January 07, 2016, 11:36:54 AM »
I'm going on a 16 day roadtrip vacation this summer. For the vast majority of it, we will be camping. We are going to a really popular destination (Canadian Rockies) during peak season, and no way I'm paying for a hotel at those rates... we have a dog with us so Air BNB is out.

Anyhow- on the drive there I have some camping planned, when stopping in a destination for more than a day.  My question is for the 1 day stops. When is it worth it to deal with putting up a tent vs. just getting a hotel for one night.

Specific case right now: Great Falls, Montana.
I couldn't find a state park nearby, and Lewis and Clark National Forest does not have reservable campgrounds. Because we will not  get in until 8 or 9 at night, during high vacation season, I want reservations. So I found a KOA. I've never used them before, but a single night at a tent site is $50.  Which seems ridiculous to me.

It looks like I can get a hotel, including pet fee for $80-$100.

So is it worth the hassle of setting up and taking down the tent to save $30-$50?  Should I not camp at a freaking $50 a night campsite for the principal of the matter?

What would you do? Or do you have other suggestions for where I should stay when passing through Great Falls? (I don't want to detour more than about an hour, because this stop makes the driving times for each day reasonable, including time to get through the border crossing the next day and make it to Lake Louise to set up camp at a reasonable hour.)

And I guess while I'm on it- any suggestions of campsites very near Fargo, ND?  The ones I've found either don't allow tents or don't take reservations.

therethere

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2016, 11:56:40 AM »
Have you looked into dispersed camping? Free camping a certain distance off the road in National Forests in Colorado (most of them anyway) must be the same in other midwest states.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2016, 12:02:46 PM »
Have you looked into dispersed camping? Free camping a certain distance off the road in National Forests in Colorado (most of them anyway) must be the same in other midwest states.

Just like the reasoning of not wanting to stay in Lewis and Clark National Forest campgrounds (which are not expensive), dispersed camping doesn't really work for this stop-over. We won't be arriving until late at night due to a long drive day.  I would like to have a location I know will have a spot available and I don't have to find one.

onlykelsey

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2016, 12:04:00 PM »

So is it worth the hassle of setting up and taking down the tent to save $30-$50?  Should I not camp at a freaking $50 a night campsite for the principal of the matter?

If you can get it for $80, I think the occasional indoor shower/easy place to dry clothing and use internet is worth the 30 bucks.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2016, 12:06:37 PM »
I might be able to help with your specific example. My answer: I would alter my trip to avoid spending the night in Great Falls since it isn't the best camping destination. Which direction are you coming in from? Where are you headed? The late arrival time seems to indicate a long drive which could mean that a slight alteration would end you in a better spot.

We could continue the discussion in a PM with more details on timing/dates/locales that might be more productive.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2016, 12:11:33 PM »
I've often used Airbnb when traveling with my dog. You can filter for pet friendly accommodations - just as another option.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2016, 12:13:08 PM »
Whenever we do extended (car) camping trips, every once in awhile a hotel is nice for the warm private shower and fluffy bed. It's nice to get warm and relax. You're already saving a sh*t ton of money by camping most of the way, enjoy yourself and get a shower with a door that you don't have to feed quarters into.

lbmustache

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2016, 12:18:50 PM »
I'm going on a 16 day roadtrip vacation this summer. For the vast majority of it, we will be camping. We are going to a really popular destination (Canadian Rockies) during peak season, and no way I'm paying for a hotel at those rates... we have a dog with us so Air BNB is out.


There is an option on AirBnB to select pet friendly locations...

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2016, 12:19:43 PM »
I might be able to help with your specific example. My answer: I would alter my trip to avoid spending the night in Great Falls since it isn't the best camping destination. Which direction are you coming in from? Where are you headed? The late arrival time seems to indicate a long drive which could mean that a slight alteration would end you in a better spot.

We could continue the discussion in a PM with more details on timing/dates/locales that might be more productive.
I PMed you.

I'm a red panda

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2016, 12:20:27 PM »


There is an option on AirBnB to select pet friendly locations...

None were less than a hotel. Though I haven't checked Fargo. I should do that.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2016, 12:22:35 PM by iowajes »

Cassie

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2016, 12:21:31 PM »
We took a 2 week camping trip and spent a few nights in a motel. It was nice to alternate some and motivated me to keep camping. Putting up the tent everyday is a drag so we saved the tent for when we stayed at least 2 nights.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2016, 12:23:08 PM »
We took a 2 week camping trip and spent a few nights in a motel. It was nice to alternate some and motivated me to keep camping. Putting up the tent everyday is a drag so we saved the tent for when we stayed at least 2 nights.

Thanks for the input. That was kind of what I was thinking... that it isn't worth it for 1 night.  But the cheap-ass in me thinks that half the cost is...

mm1970

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2016, 12:29:56 PM »
I'm going on a 16 day roadtrip vacation this summer. For the vast majority of it, we will be camping. We are going to a really popular destination (Canadian Rockies) during peak season, and no way I'm paying for a hotel at those rates... we have a dog with us so Air BNB is out.

Anyhow- on the drive there I have some camping planned, when stopping in a destination for more than a day.  My question is for the 1 day stops. When is it worth it to deal with putting up a tent vs. just getting a hotel for one night.

Specific case right now: Great Falls, Montana.
I couldn't find a state park nearby, and Lewis and Clark National Forest does not have reservable campgrounds. Because we will not  get in until 8 or 9 at night, during high vacation season, I want reservations. So I found a KOA. I've never used them before, but a single night at a tent site is $50.  Which seems ridiculous to me.

It looks like I can get a hotel, including pet fee for $80-$100.

So is it worth the hassle of setting up and taking down the tent to save $30-$50?  Should I not camp at a freaking $50 a night campsite for the principal of the matter?

What would you do? Or do you have other suggestions for where I should stay when passing through Great Falls? (I don't want to detour more than about an hour, because this stop makes the driving times for each day reasonable, including time to get through the border crossing the next day and make it to Lake Louise to set up camp at a reasonable hour.)

And I guess while I'm on it- any suggestions of campsites very near Fargo, ND?  The ones I've found either don't allow tents or don't take reservations.
I would get a hotel.

I am a planner and a tent-camper.  During longer road trips, I plan everything in advance, and we always mix up camping with hotels or staying with friends. I enjoy camping but I also enjoy showering and sleeping in a bed. It would stress me out to no end to not know where I was staying.

KOA's might be nice, but for a $30 difference I would totally pay for a hotel.

argonaut_astronaut

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2016, 01:16:06 PM »
I might be able to help with your specific example. My answer: I would alter my trip to avoid spending the night in Great Falls since it isn't the best camping destination. Which direction are you coming in from? Where are you headed? The late arrival time seems to indicate a long drive which could mean that a slight alteration would end you in a better spot.

We could continue the discussion in a PM with more details on timing/dates/locales that might be more productive.
I PMed you.

Responded.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2016, 11:48:51 AM »
Rest Stop is where I would turn to first.

I am not sure about Montana rest stops (it is not a State we drive through), nor what type of vehicle you will be driving. We use rest stops for those late night stops, sleep our 8 hours and are on the road again. We did this in a full size truck that had room for us to both lay flat in the cab. That was years ago and I cannot recall if we put up something to block passers by from seeing us, but I do remember that we parked on the Truck side to sleep.

These days we tow a trailer which makes rest stop "camping" easy.

I personally would not pay either price. I would look harder for a cheaper solution.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2016, 11:56:03 AM »
Rest Stop is where I would turn to first.

I am not sure about Montana rest stops (it is not a State we drive through), nor what type of vehicle you will be driving. We use rest stops for those late night stops, sleep our 8 hours and are on the road again. We did this in a full size truck that had room for us to both lay flat in the cab. That was years ago and I cannot recall if we put up something to block passers by from seeing us, but I do remember that we parked on the Truck side to sleep.

These days we tow a trailer which makes rest stop "camping" easy.

I personally would not pay either price. I would look harder for a cheaper solution.

We will be in a compact car, with our dog.
I am not at all interested in sleeping in my car.  I'm frugal, but I'm not that cheap.  This is a vacation; I have no interest in being uncomfortable during it.


I'm also not sure I would feel safe sleeping overnight at a rest stop; and the cursory search I did would lead me to believe it is illegal in most states, including Montana. (Although Montana does list 'sleeping' as a rest stop activity, but the rest stop site doesn't say something about overnight, and most RV sites list it as not allowed.)

I think I'm leaning towards camping, as the $50 price difference isn't much, but it is like 700 miles worth of gas...  I still feel like it's the principal of the matter as that price is way too much for camping.  A few MMMers have recommended different cities to stop at, on a longer more scenic route; but I still need to see if I can convince husband to do it. He really prefers the shorter route to not have such a long driving day; because we don't want another overnight stop before our destination.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 11:59:40 AM by iowajes »

elaine amj

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2016, 01:28:40 PM »
Can you travel hack to get a cheaper hotel?

In April/May the US Travel Association runs a Daily Getaways program. I love using it to stock up on Choice hotel points. These are Comfort Inn/Quality Inn/Sleep Inns/Rodeway Inns. They are often pet friendly with cheaper pet fees (some hotels don't even charge for pets). I get my rooms (especially in small towns) for about $30-$40/night. The only caveat is I find they use more like $80 worth of points in high demand tourist zones. Alternatively, getting the Choice credit card usually gives you enough points for 2-3 free nights.

Or any La Quinta Inns? (they don't charge pet fees)

What about Priceline? (Don't know if it works with pets)

I haven't been able to stomach paying a pet fee at any hotel yet. I know it would drive DH batty to pay $25-75+ for the dog when we pay $0-$30/night.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2016, 01:32:55 PM »


In April/May the US Travel Association runs a Daily Getaways program.

I'll look into the Daily Getaways thing- thanks.

I'm currently working on airline miles on CCs, so can't go for hotel points. (Sadly? we just do not spend enough to do too much of the CC points.)
The LaQuinta was one of the higher priced "low price" chains I found, so some of the places charging pet fees actually end up slightly lower.  I think Hampton Inn also doesn't do a pet fee; but again, they cost more than some of the other places.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2016, 02:03:18 PM »
You could also search for other RV parks (other than KOA) that have tent sites.  They typically have clean bathrooms with showers -- clean, because many of the RV crowd won't use "those nasty public toilets" and they prefer to wizz in their Winnebagos.

I call this "travel camping."  It's not real camping.  But it's a lot cheaper than hotel-ing.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2016, 02:06:25 PM »
You could also search for other RV parks (other than KOA) that have tent sites.  They typically have clean bathrooms with showers -- clean, because many of the RV crowd won't use "those nasty public toilets" and they prefer to wizz in their Winnebagos.

I call this "travel camping."  It's not real camping.  But it's a lot cheaper than hotel-ing.

I think this might be what I end up doing if I go to another city; I haven't been able to find that in Great Falls.  I've noticed a lot of RV parks are "no tents allowed" though.  I think they want more long term stays and less over nights.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2016, 02:11:18 PM »
Quick google search:

$20ish per night for tent site:
http://dicksrvpark.com/

Tent area looks OK for a 1-night stay:
http://dicksrvpark.com/index.php?p=gallery&level=picture&id=13

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2016, 02:18:26 PM »
Quick google search:

$20ish per night for tent site:
http://dicksrvpark.com/

Tent area looks OK for a 1-night stay:
http://dicksrvpark.com/index.php?p=gallery&level=picture&id=13

Thanks. I had seen their site on another website and it said no tents.

Can't believe they charge extra per person though.  $25 is pretty reasonable. Will have to check with them about pets. Website doesn't say, and I've run across a few places that say no pets in tents.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 02:20:39 PM by iowajes »

mm1970

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #22 on: January 08, 2016, 02:23:52 PM »
You could also search for other RV parks (other than KOA) that have tent sites.  They typically have clean bathrooms with showers -- clean, because many of the RV crowd won't use "those nasty public toilets" and they prefer to wizz in their Winnebagos.

I call this "travel camping."  It's not real camping.  But it's a lot cheaper than hotel-ing.

I think this might be what I end up doing if I go to another city; I haven't been able to find that in Great Falls.  I've noticed a lot of RV parks are "no tents allowed" though.  I think they want more long term stays and less over nights.
I honestly am not a fan of tent camping in an RV park, or one without many tents.  It's noisy.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #23 on: January 08, 2016, 04:26:22 PM »
Nothing like a hot shower and a free cup of coffee to make the next days drive pleasant, in my opinion.  If the hotel saves you time, I'd do it.  Good opportunity to hang up the sleeping bags and tent if they are omitting any unpleasant odors.

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #24 on: January 08, 2016, 05:37:19 PM »
Thanks so much. I hadn't seen black sandy.

This is only day 4. Were going to do hotels the two nights going home. I think we'll be over sleeping on the ground by then

Retire-Canada

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2016, 07:46:21 PM »
I'm also not sure I would feel safe sleeping overnight at a rest stop; and the cursory search I did would lead me to believe it is illegal in most states, including Montana. (Although Montana does list 'sleeping' as a rest stop activity, but the rest stop site doesn't say something about overnight, and most RV sites list it as not allowed.)

I just did a trip through WA, OR, CA, AZ, ID and MT. Slept in my truck at rest stops 4 nights. I had no issues and lots of other people were doing it.

Not 100% comfortable, but when I considered the $$ spent on a hotel as the alternative it was an easy choice.

I also free camped on some BLM land 3 nights in a tent.

On the drive home it was -18 deg C in ID so we spent $70 on a hotel. That sucked, but freezing to death seemed less fun. ;)

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #26 on: January 09, 2016, 07:26:03 AM »

Not 100% comfortable

Seems like a truck is going to be a hell of a lot more comfortable than a stuffed Elantra with another person and a dog.

Stasher

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #27 on: January 09, 2016, 01:27:17 PM »
I just did a 14 day road trip and only used a hotel for one night the whole trip but basically only to get a good hot shower after a long day hiking and being in a big city . I really like that others are suggesting the same, not worrying about hitting specific reservation spots gives you a great freedom (that to me is a vacation and not roughing it) to just let the places and distances occur at whatever pace you feel like on any given day. I too suggest looking for BLM land as it is free to camp anywhere and I believe same goes for National Forest land is some places I think.

Here is my entire trip report
https://stasher306.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/going-for-it-a-solo-adventure/

Rest Stops, side roads, Walmarts and where ever looked safe is where I slept for the night in my vehicle other then tenting one night in the National Park. I felt safe and confident on my choices everywhere I went and many others were doing the same as me. It was easy as I was solo and had a nice fold down back seat in my SUV that I could fully stretch out in and sleep on my yoga mat as well as my comfy down sleeping bags.

You list Canadian Rockies ? how much of your stay is there. I climb and hike there regularly and you are in for such a treat of beauty. In Banff National Park and similar area you will run into trouble here though, Park Rangers watch the area extremely closely and the campgrounds are your only choice and they book up fast so start researching. Unfortunately Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore are massive tourist centers and in summer hotels are not cheap...get on researching deals and they book up fast.

God Luck
« Last Edit: January 09, 2016, 01:32:23 PM by Stasher »

susaninsd

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #28 on: January 09, 2016, 01:52:20 PM »
Have you checked sites like allstays, campendium, and harvest hosts? 

Allstays says it has info on, "Over 29,000 Campgrounds: Independent, KOA, National/State Forest, State Parks, Public Lands, Army Corps, National Park, Military, County and City Parks, casinos."


Retire-Canada

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #29 on: January 09, 2016, 07:56:06 PM »
Seems like a truck is going to be a hell of a lot more comfortable than a stuffed Elantra with another person and a dog.

I've slept in many packed cars/trucks on trips alone and with other people.

If you are looking for comfort you won't find it, but if you'd rather not spend the cost of a hotel it can totally be done and it's not horrible.

Ultimately if you start out thinking it's going to be awful it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You either won't do it or you'll start out with such a negative mindset there is no hope for success.

If you can't cope with the idea find a hotel or campground pay your money and be satisfied there was no other alternative that would work for you.

SeanMC

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #30 on: January 10, 2016, 11:23:35 AM »
I've done this or similar route nearby for vacation and also on trips to make time. My experience is that I wind up using the "cheap" hotel more than camping because it gives me better, longer driving days.

The goals of long driving days and getting in late/starting out early the next day are often not compatible with setting up camp/breaking camp, prepping food, etc. in a cheap and easy place. This is especially true when I've traveled with my dogs, who have extra needs and stuff and don't help with the work part. :)

Also, be careful about finding tent sites online and then showing up late expecting it to be what you thought it was. There can be cheap or dispersed camping - but sometimes you need to check with the local park office to know if the storm last week downed the branch on the one road with access or if the water was shut off for maintenance. None of this works well when you're first getting in late & it's an area you don't actually know.

For people who have RVs, vans, trucks or trailers (or even cars you can sleep in), the "back up" plan can be a wallmart or just the side of the road. Since you know it can't for you, I'd be a lot more skeptical of tent camping outside of the 'expensive' known sites in major parks.

Traveling with a dog in regions that may not have many hotels at all that cheaply allow dogs, I think you should trust your instincts about wanting reservation at the cheapest one that works for you.
 

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #31 on: January 10, 2016, 07:00:10 PM »

Not 100% comfortable

Seems like a truck is going to be a hell of a lot more comfortable than a stuffed Elantra with another person and a dog.

Ha ha ha!

We camped for Easter one year with our friends in Joshua Tree NP.  We got there too late to get a site, and ended up in a private park.  That was mostly an RV park, a big parking lot really.

It was really REALLY windy.  Our tent almost blew down. We moved our car and their campervan to try and block the wind.  Did not work.  So...We packed up our tent.  They crammed the five of them (2 adults, and kids 4, 2, and 5 months) into the pop top.  My hubby and 4 year old slept in their "downstairs" bed/ bench seat.

I slept in the Matrix, which is at least a hatchback, curled up next to cooler.  Good thing I'm only 5'2".

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #32 on: January 10, 2016, 07:33:01 PM »
When we did a driving trip among the Western national parks, we ended up doing hotels for the following reasons:

- Packing a tent, four sleeping bags, four sleeping pads, four pillows, and bath towels -- not to mention cooking equipment -- would've meant driving a bigger, less fuel-efficient car.
- Much of our trip revolved around the national parks and nature-oriented activities, but we also went to museums and historical /cultural locations across the west.  Most of these weren't located near campgrounds, so camping would've meant more time on the road. 
- Pitching a tent and rolling out sleeping bags is time consuming, and we didn't have unlimited time for our trip. 
- Hotels often provide complementary breakfast, which is a pretty good value if you're talking about four people sharing the room -- and it makes for an easy morning, if breakfast is ready for you right there in the hotel.
- And our teens were more enthusiastic about staying in hotels.  After long hours in the car and long hikes, they wanted to be able to stretch out on a comfortable bed in the air conditioning -- after taking a good, hot shower, of course.

We knew we were going to take this trip several years in advance -- we wanted our kids to be teens, old enough to endure hours of driving, not yet old enough to be tied up with summer jobs -- so my husband saved all his business trip hotel points, and that gave us a bunch of low-price hotels.  We bid for most of the others through Priceline. 

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #33 on: January 11, 2016, 06:53:34 AM »
Since you know it can't for you, I'd be a lot more skeptical of tent camping outside of the 'expensive' known sites in major parks.


All of our camping, except this night- will be in major parks with reservable sites. That's why I'm trying to figure out what to do for Great Falls.  I think I am going with a hotel. Though possibly not in Great Falls, as some people have suggested more scenic routes.

The sites I've found in state and national parks are $20-$30, which seems reasonable to me- especially because reviews say they have hot showers, and some have cook shelters.  The camp ground that started this post was $50, which seems insane.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2016, 06:55:36 AM by iowajes »

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #34 on: January 11, 2016, 06:57:30 AM »

You list Canadian Rockies ? how much of your stay is there. I climb and hike there regularly and you are in for such a treat of beauty. In Banff National Park and similar area you will run into trouble here though, Park Rangers watch the area extremely closely and the campgrounds are your only choice and they book up fast so start researching. Unfortunately Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore are massive tourist centers and in summer hotels are not cheap...get on researching deals and they book up fast.


All but the driving part is in the Rockies.  We are planning 5 days Lake Louise, 3 days Jasper, and 2 days Kootenay.  Parks Canada has not yet opened reservations for the summer campsites. I have it on my calendar to book as soon as they do.  If I can't get sites, we will not do this vacation. They have a TON of non-reservable sites, but I'd like to know where we are staying before going.  I don't "wing it" on vacations with my dog.

elaine amj

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Re: What would you do? Camping vs. Hotel
« Reply #35 on: January 13, 2016, 08:56:08 PM »
I am used to paying $40/night for rustic tent sites in Ontario. I usually pay $30-$40 (or free) for hotels. I still camp because I love being outdoors - and save money a lot of money cooking instead of eating out. Still, for your trip, I'd also consider a hotel if the cost differences are not too bad.


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