Okay I have talked about flights and car hire and of course I need to talk about where to put your head down. Now these thoughts are my own and have been honed over the many visits to different areas in multiple states.
I could talk for hours about different hotels and brands but it will be huge task. So I will explain why I choose the mid to lower range of accommodation when I visit America.
City or Suburbs, near attractions or near enough not be too busy. The choice is vast and almost limitless. Over the years we have stayed in apartments, Florida homes near Disney and even done house exchanges. We have been in great hotels, really poor hotels and on a couple of occasions cancelled on the spot and checked in somewhere else.
Before the internet existed our holidays were booked via a Travel Agent or Tour Operator and we chose from a small selection between the glossy pages of a brochure. There were often supplements to pay because even though we were a party of 4 we were 2 adults and 2 children and thus incurred under occupancy fees which completely changed the cost of a family holiday. Even travelling with parents and in laws and looking at a Disney area house (that description can cover a huge circumference) with 3 bedrooms we would still be under occupancy because of the children. When the ability to research for yourself then Road Trips became a reality. You were free to decide for yourself and compare rates and distances and ask the hotels direct questions.
A question that I always want to ask is what do you want from your accommodation. Do you want a full service hotel so that you are in one place all the time? Or are you an adventurer and need to up and out discovering your surroundings? Perhaps you just need a bed for the night and where you are staying isn’t important in the scheme of things. Some like cities and being really in the centre of town and others like to be in the suburbs.
Personally, I don’t like staying in the city because the cost is usually prohibitive and often the extras like breakfast and WiFi are expensive. You are lucky if there is a bottle of complimentary water in the room and if there is it is accompanied by the cost of additional bottles. The convenience of a mini bar is just a money making exercise for the hotel. Parking charges are crazy and then the dilemma to tip the valet or not. Weekends in the city are quiet and many of the quick eateries are closed. Sundays though you can park on the street in most cities which can save the cost of a daily parking charge.
So consider this! Staying in the suburbs a little distance from the city will save you money and nearly always the room rate includes free parking, free WiFi and breakfast. Add all those costs up and you are in front already.
If you are honest with yourself how much time do you stay in your hotel room? Do you need a restaurant on site? Is the pool an essential feature of your stay? You have a hire car right? So go out an discover your surroundings.
American hotel rooms nearly always are a room cost not a per person cost. There doesn’t seem to such a room as a single room as the configuration is often 2 beds either double, king or queen. A lot of rooms have microwaves and fridges in them which is very convenient if you don’t want to go out to eat. The WiFi is more often than not reliable and is available in your rooms and not just the lobby. Quest 35690 Dual Voltage Travel Kettle, 0.5 Litre, 600 W, Black Nearly all rooms have a coffee pot with a choice of regular or decaffeinated coffee to brew. You could always bring a travel kettle along with you…if you have the space.
I start by searching on one brand’s website for hotels near the airport that I am arriving in and then by the city. I eliminate city hotels and work my way outwards guided by price and then by amenities. I then look for what is nearby and if there is something of interest a little bit further out I will research hotels near that point of interest.
After the initial research I will have picked out a couple of possible hotels and then I go to another brand to compare prices to see if there is anything that seems better value. Today though I only use Hotel.com because the rates are the same as the individual brand websites and when you get to 10 nights you get a free night to use. This is better than joining individual brand’s loyalty schemes because you can stay across different brands and get a free night.
I keep meaning to research Air BnB but what puts me off is that if you find accommodation you have to prepay it and who knows what is going to happen between now and then. Actually that gets me onto a different thread about the rates that are available. Not too long ago you could reserve your room with a credit card and pay on departure. The card would guarantee and hold the room until 18.00 on the arrival day. This arrangement still exists but it is offered at a more expensive rate. Now you see rooms advertised as rates from only $@.@@ per room per night. When you select the room the best rate is shown against another rate. The better rate will be a pay now, non refundable rate and no changes allowed. This is where I become indecisive because if you do pay now are you going to regret doing so because of the exchange rate or what if your plans change.
Tip: Reserve your chosen hotel at the cancellation free rate and when you have finalised your plans book the same hotel at the pay now rate and then cancel the original reservation. The savings can be significant.
My criteria has to include Shopping Malls. I like to be near a Mall and close to transport links or if there is a complimentary shuttle to the local area or to the airport to pick up light rail services into the city.
For example this year I was in Seattle and we stayed in motel branded hotel alongside SeaTac Airport. There was a hotel shuttle to the airport and you could take the light rail right into the city. We then discovered that if we drove a mile in the other direction there was a station with a multi level parking facility which was free. This meant that we didn’t have to time our return to fall in with the hotel’s shuttle times.
Other essentials for me are that breakfast is included, WiFi is available in the room and that parking is free. By about day 4 or so I will be thinking about doing laundry and I either find a local launderette or choose hotels that have a guest laundry. Most places have a pool of some sort but don’t expect the outdoor pool to be open outside of the summer months. Indoor pools are very uncomfortable in the summer months. Some of the hotel/motels have outside corridors where you park right outside your room (or close by). I am always on alert when booking into these sort of hotels just to be extra aware of your surroundings. Finally there has to be restaurants or diners in close proximity.
Most branded hotels belong to another group and can be researched in one place. Examples being:
Choice Hotels who represent Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion, Sleep Inn, Rodeway, Econolodge, Mainstay Suites and Suburban. Choice Hotels website is really easy to use and the maps are useful.
Wyndham’s group feature; Wyndham, Days Inn, Howard Johnson’s, Travelodge, Microtel, Ramada and Super 8.
Hilton offer; Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Embassy Suites, Garden Inn, Doubletree, Hampton Inn, Conrad and Homewood Suites.
All of the above can be found on Hotels.com so the comparisons are at your fingertips. One final thing that I always do is leave a review on both Hotels.com and Trip Advisor.
What I don’t do is trawl through Trip Advisor about each hotel because I think you are automatically drawn to the negative comments and some of the complaints are extremely picky.
In conclusion the choice is yours to make but do your research and then you can be confident in having made the right choices.