Wander the Modern Lodging Landscape
you travel, do you stay in a hotel or a motel?
Sorry, that's the wrong answer.
fairness, that's a trick question because it has been years since
you've had so simple a choice. The days of two clearly defined lodging
options -- the traditional, full-service big-city hotel or the suburban
roadside motel -- are long gone.
travelers must sift through a myriad of lodging choices. This so-called
"segmentation" of the lodging landscape requires you to pay a lot
more attention before booking a room. That's because there are services
you can't have in exchange for every desirable special amenity offered
by a property in a particular lodging segment.
what to look for as you wander the modern lodging landscape.
SUITE HOTELS such as Embassy Suites offer a well-appointed
two-room suite, a free breakfast and evening cocktails for about
the same price traditional hotels charge for a standard guest room.
But you sacrifice room service, on-site restaurants and bars, and
banquet and meeting space. All-suites are best to book when you're
spending several consecutive nights in a hotel and want more space
and comfort than traditional hotel guest rooms offer. Women traveling
alone on business also like all-suite hotels because they can have
friends and clients up to the room without having to work or entertain
on the bed.
HOTELS such as Residence Inn are an extension of the all-suite
concept. They offer fully equipped apartments with kitchens, often
in the style of a suburban townhouse development. But you sacrifice
on-site restaurants and bars, most hotel amenities, and a traditional
hotel lobby. Extended-stay properties are best to book for longer
stays in one city when you'd like to live as close to a "normal"
life as possible. They are also great when you have kids in tow.
Condo rentals, a staple of resort destinations, are essentially
a type of extended-stay hotel.
LIMITED-SERVICE HOTELS such as Courtyard by Marriott
or Four Points by Sheraton offer simply furnished guest rooms with
large work desks and other business-related perks. They are priced
at about a third below traditional hotel rates, but you sacrifice
around-the-clock attention from the front desk, bellmen, fancy dining
facilities and elegant public rooms and meeting space. The limited-service
segment is growing fast and that means many of the properties are
newly built and in tip-top physical shape. There are also many new
ideas bubbling up in the limited-service area. Hilton Garden Inn
hotels, for example, offer guest rooms outfitted with coffee makers,
microwave ovens and small refrigerators. And their lobby area shares
space with a small convenience shop that sells microwavable meals
and an array of beverages and snacks.
ECONOMY HOTELS such as Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn
Express offer good beds, pleasant enough surroundings, and often
a free continental breakfast. The cost is about half the price of
the nightly rate at a traditional hotel. What you sacrifice is all
the special services and amenities of a full-service hotel. Economy
properties are best to book on an overnight stay when all you need
is a comfortable place to sleep, a shower the next morning and a
quick bite before moving on.
BUDGET HOTELS like Motel 6 offer a place to sleep
and free local calls at rock-bottom rates, but you sacrifice everything
else. They almost always are motel-style accommodations, which means
the room corridors are on the outside of the building, which is
a safety concern in isolated or dangerous neighborhoods. They're
worth booking only when it's stay on the cheap or cancel the trip.
The upgrade to an economy hotel is usually only a few dollars more.
& BREAKFASTS are the modern-day equivalent of the roadside
inns and taverns that once dotted the nation's mostly rural highways
and byways. These days, a B&B can be anything from a lovingly restored
Victorian mansion or a meticulously maintained country inn to a
few guest bedrooms in a big-city apartment complex or a converted
rumpus room over some suburbanite's garage. There are no standards
and no B&B chains, so an individual property's quality, amenities
and room rates are completely dependent on the owner's whims.
of which brings us back to traditional, full-service hotels like
Sheraton, Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt. For all their drawbacks --
high prices for smallish guest rooms -- they still have their place
in the segmented lodging firmament. After all, full-service hotels
are still the only places where you can order a club sandwich from
room service at 2 a.m., get a pair of slacks pressed in 20 minutes,
or plan a rubber-chicken awards banquet for 500 guests.
last caveat: The more complicated the lodging scene has become,
the more fudging and hair-splitting on the part of the hotel companies.
It isn't beyond the imagination of some hotel marketers to "convert"
their traditional hotel into an "all-suite" property by putting
up a screen between the bed and the desk. And there is nothing so
meaningless in the hotel world as the term "boutique." No one on
the planet can define the word as it applies to lodging, yet literally
hundreds of pricey "boutique hotels"-- and even several chains of
boutique hotels -- have sprung up in recent years.
do yourself a favor: Ask a lot of questions before booking any accommodation.
Want a suite? Ask to make sure the hotel's concept of a suite is
the same as yours. Want round-the-clock room service? Ask to make
sure the hotel's clock has the same number of hours as yours. Want
a room with a high-speed Internet access work desk? Ask to make
sure the hotel doesn't consider a fold-away bridge table a desk.
hotel or motel not only isn't the right question any more, it's
just the first of dozens of queries you need to answer. Deal
is the price that logically balances a reasonable expenditure of
your money and your time.