RV Travel vs. Traditional Vacations

Owning an RV can be an expensive investment, but when you consider the costs of what most of us spend on traditional vacations, is it that big of a difference? We’ll take a look at what the average family spends on vacations per year and compare it to the costs of owning an RV and traveling with your RV. Don’t miss this breakdown of the costs and benefits of RV travel.


Costs of Traditional Vacations

According to an article by Business Insider, in 2019, the average person will spend $1,979 on vacations a year. This means that a family of four can expect to pay around $7,916 per year on travel and vacation expenses. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of these expenses.

Travel Expenses – $280-$800

Whether you plan to drive or fly, you’ll have to budget for travel expenses. Below, we’ll evaluate the costs of a family of four traveling from Chicago, IL, to Orlando, FL. We’ll compare the prices of driving vs. flying.


The drive from Chicago, IL, to Orlando, FL, is approximately 1,160 miles without stops or detours. This drive will take around 17 hours to complete but should be taken in increments. If you drive about eight hours a day, you’ll make it to Florida in 2.5 days. Let’s assume your car gets 25 miles to the gallon and gas is $3.00 a gallon. You’ll spend a total of $140 both ways or $280 on fuel roundtrip.


Flying to your destination is a faster and, in many ways, easier way to travel. However, it comes at a price. The average cost of a flight from Chicago to Orlando is around $200 per person roundtrip, which means you’d spend $800 to fly.


Food – $1,120 – $1,680+

Food and dining out while on vacation is one of the major expenses that families will have to budget for during their time away. If you were going only to eat fast food, you could probably budget $40 a day per person for food; this would come to around $1,120 for a week of meals for a family of four. However, if you plan to eat at any dine-in or up-scale restaurants, you should calculate the expenses at something more like $60 per person per day, which comes to $1,680. 

Lodgings – $1,500

When it comes to hotels, you can choose from a wide range of prices and quality of stay. If you want to stay in a condo or a reasonably nice hotel in Orlando, you should budget $250 a night for six nights. You’ll spend at least $1,500 on lodging before taxes, cleaning expenses, and other hotel fees.


Entertainment – $3000

Generally, you won’t travel just to spend time in your hotel room, so you’ll need to budget for your family outings. If you’re in Orlando, you may be planning a visit to Walt Disney World or Universal Studios. Ticket prices for these theme parks range from $100 – $160 per person. For one day at the parks, you’ll spend no less than $400. If you plan to visit the beach or a water park, there are parking expenses, and some beaches require passes; you can prepare for these expenses to be around $30 a day, if not more. Booking a sunset cruise for your family or a day out on some jet skis will cost anywhere from $30 per person to $120 an hour for rentals. Let’s assume you spend three days at Disney with a Park Hopper pass so that you can go to any of the parks, one day at the beach, and 4 hours renting two jet skis for your family. Additionally, let’s say you book a sunset cruise one evening. Altogether, you’re looking at $3,000 on entertainment.

Other Expenses – $200

Whether it’s car trouble on the road, souvenirs purchases at a gift shop, or groceries to stock up your condo’s kitchen, there are bound to be some unexpected expenses during your stay. We’ll budget $200 in unexpected costs, which is on the low end of what a family of four can expect. 

Total cost of a traditional vacation for a family of four from Chicago, IL, to Orlando, FL: $6,100 to $7,180 for one week-long vacation. 

Costs of Owning an RV/RV Camping

Next, we’ll take a look at the costs of owning an RV and RV travel for a family of four from Chicago, IL, traveling to Orlando, FL, for vacation.

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Travel – $464

Towing an RV all the way from Chicago, IL, to Orlando, FL, will increase your fuel expenses by anywhere from 3-35% depending on the weight of your RV, according to the article How To Calculate Gas Mileage When Towing a Trailer on ItStillRuns.com. Using this, we can assume you will get around 15 miles per gallon. If gas is $3.00 per gallon, you’ll spend $432 both ways to drive the 1,160 miles there and back. The total will come to $464 to drive.

Food – $200-$960

When driving an RV, it’s easier and more practical to keep food for the road in the pantry of your trailer or motorhome. This encourages you to use eat out less and opt for sandwiches or other meals that you can make at a rest stop so that you don’t have to try to find a parking place at a fast-food restaurant. You can budget around $20-$60 per day for food, depending on how often you plan to eat out during your stay and if you want to have an up-scale meal or two with the family. You can expect to spend around $960 on food if you choose to eat out. The more you eat around the campfire, the lower the cost of food per person will be; you may even be able to feed your whole family for the week on just $200 if you eat at the campground for every meal.

smores fire

Lodgings -$360

This is where a lot of your savings will come into play. Unlike hotels, resorts, and condos, campgrounds are much less expensive per night. Often, you can unlock even more savings by booking multiple nights in a row or traveling in the off-season. Most campgrounds around Orlando will have sites available for around $30-$60 a night. For six nights, you’ll spend a maximum of $360 on lodgings for a private site with a pool, playground, hiking, and more without even leaving the campground.

Entertainment – $430

Many RVing love the freedom that comes with RV travel because it encourages you and your family to get out in nature instead of spending a day at a shopping mall. RV camping opens the door for activities like biking, hiking, swimming in the campground pool, or playing games around the picnic table with your family. Additionally, if you choose a toy-hauler RV, you can bring along your own jet skis, kayaks, mountain bikes, ATVs, and more for cost-free adventures. Ultimately, even if you choose to go out for a day or two, you can save by spending time at the campground. Let’s assume you’ll spend one day at a theme park and one at the beach; you’ll spend around $430.

family hiking

Expenses of Owning an RV – $1,454

You’ll also need to calculate how much it costs you per year to maintain your RV and, of course, the price of the RV. For a $40,000 RV, you can expect your monthly payments to be around $300. Throughout the year, you’ll pay about $3,600 on the loan and $500 for maintenance. These expenses come to approximately $4,100 a year to own the RV. If we combine those expenses with the totals from the vacation, you get $1,454 for the vacation and $4,100 for yearly expenses or $5,554. An RV also helps you to take weekend vacations to local campgrounds or mini-vacations during fall break or spring break for less than it would be simply to fly your entire crew to a destination. 


According to our calculations, it will cost approximately $6,100 to $7,180 for a family of four to take a trip from Chicago to Orlando for a week of fun. In contrast, owning an RV and taking a single week-long vacation from Chicago to Orlando in an RV costs only $5,554.

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