Travel in Australia: Motorhome versus Hotel

As you travel around Australia in your motorhome – we know that yes, a luxury 5-star hotel comes with its perks (fluffy bathrobes and room service are NICE!) but which holiday accommodation option wins out in terms of convenience and a good night’s sleep? Motorhome or a hotel room? We pick apart the ups and downs of both for those choosing to travel around Australia in a motorhome versus booking into a hotel.

A good night’s sleep

My number 1 fear when camping in a motorhome?  That a group of Holden Commodore revving, stereo banging, beer-can-drinking, yelling P platers will rock up and decide to have a party next to our quiet little set-up.  To be honest though, this happens very rarely.  It’s true that camping means WAY more extraneous factors that could pop up at any time and completely ruin your night, and this is risk is definitely magnified with free camping.  Parking in public, you can’t control who’ll drive past/park near you/what time the rubbish bin nearby is emptied.  Having said all of this, you only need to do a little bit of research to suss out your spot for the night and up your chances of a quiet sleep.  Head to the following blogs for more information for finding the perfect camping spot for your motorhome:

https://achtungcamper.com.au/what-to-avoid-when-looking-for-the-perfect-camping-spot/

https://achtungcamper.com.au/hot-to-get-the-best-camping-spot-in-a-paid-campground/

And in a hotel room?  Who hasn’t been up all night with noise from the TV/people talking/music playing in the room next door?  Although at least most of the time in this situation you have someone to complain to and who will rectify the situation.

Bedding – How many good night’s sleeps have been lost to too hard/soft/lumpy pillows or bad mattresses?  At least in your van you can bring your favourite pillow with you!

Winner: The Hotel just pips the Motorhome as a safer option noise-wise at night (although it is nice to have our own doona and pillow on hand!).

Checking In

In the time of COVID, it seems that checking into a caravan park now takes just as long as checking into a hotel.  Although free camping takes the cake, with virtually no down-time/form filling/ID checking.

Winner: In the time of COVID we’ll have to say this one’s a tie (unless you are free camping, which is the clear winner!).  Hopefully things go back to normal eventually and it doesn’t take half an hour of travel related questions and being asked to write out your 2 weeks of previous accommodation options just to park your van for the night.

Unpacking

One of the best things about having accommodation on wheels, no lugging suitcases around, no packing and unpacking in each new location.

Winner: Motorhome. Clearly, it’s your home on wheels.

Food

Let’s say you’ve got an apartment for a week WITH a full kitchen.  Awesome! …until the day you leave and have to work out what to do with all of that half-eaten cheese, yoghurt and the rest of the food you don’t want to throw out but can’t take home on the aeroplane/won’t keep on the drive to the next apartment in your hot car.

Winner: Motorhome!

Location

Just because I love camping doesn’t mean I hate cities.  The fact is, I love wine bars, pubs, boutique shopping, arthouse cinemas…the list goes on.  I LOVE cities (albeit a little less now with child in tow!).  Unfortunately, the one thing you usually won’t find in a city is a nice, central caravan park.  Although there are the exceptions, camping in the city usually means a 30-minute convoluted bus trip from the ‘actual CBD’, not ideal if you want to have a few late nights out.  If we want to really see a city, we’ll plan ahead to organise central accommodation in a hotel or Airbnb (and make sure it’s got on-site free parking).

What is Van Life if not the beauty of being able to park your bed/kitchen/dining room table in the middle of the Daintree, on the edge of a cliff with crashing surf beneath, alone in the mountains with only the wildlife as company.  You can stay in some beautiful hotels but you sleep immersed in nature when your bed is essentially a car!

Winner: That depends, travelling to a city – stay central in a hotel, travelling to a pristine beach – in your motorhome, you won’t get your bed any closer to that cliff than in your own van.

Price

The Motorhome is by far a larger outlay initially.  But let’s look at it from a longer-term point of view:

  • Let’s say you are a couple and spend 4 weeks a year on holidays domestically and you split this over 2, 2 week trips.
  • Spending $350 a night on hotel accommodation and $2000 in total per year on 2 separate flights (for 2 people) in Australia (including taxis/ubers to/from the airport). This totals to $12,000 per year (and I haven’t included any cost for rental cars at your destinations).
  • 5 years and you’ve spent $60,000. 10 years and you’ve spent $120,000.  If you’d have put this towards the cost of your motorhome (let’s say it cost you $140,000).
  • If you are driving your motorhome as your every-day car, which you sold before purchase and put towards the cost of the purchase (let’s say you got $20,000 for your every-day car!).
  • You’re out of pocket $120,000 from day one, $60,000 after 5 years, and the motorhome is paid off after 10 years.
  • Keeping this in mind – if you sell your motorhome after 5 years it won’t have depreciated by $60,000! And it’s definitely not worth ‘nothing’ after 10 years.

Winner: Motorhome!

SUMMARY:

  • The hotel wins over the motorhome for a good night’s sleep, but just. It’s also the better option if you want to explore the city.
  • The motorhome wins over the hotel in terms of convenience, price and if you want to get up close and personal with our beautiful outdoors.

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