Wednesday, June 2, 2021

How to Find the Best Hotel for You

We recently returned from visiting family.  Because there was no room in their small one bedroom apartment, we decided to stay in a hotel.  This particular hotel was close by, had a good breakfast, and we got a great deal on it.  While staying there, I thought I would share some things I have learned in choosing the right hotel.  

1.  Cost:  What is your budget?  Make a trip budget and figure out just how much money you have to spend on hotels, food, activities, etc.  Ask yourself if you would rather stay in a nicer hotel and cut back on food, or eat good food and stay in a very inexpensive hotel.  I personally have stayed loyal to the Hilton chain of hotels because I know I will always have a comfortable bed.  I stayed in a Super 8 before that had ants crawling on my pillow and a Motel 6 with Horseflies in the room.  These experiences influenced my decision.  I figure out my budget for a trip and then decide how I can maximize my money to get the best hotel and food for my budget.  Figure out if food, hotels, or activities are the most important thing to you and have that influence the decisions you make.  

Compare:  When we traveled with 5 small kids, we stayed in Hampton Hotels and Homewood Suites.  They are both part of the Hilton chain, of which I am most familiar with.  If a Hampton cost $75 and a Super 8 cost $60, we asked ourselves if we could feed a family of seven for the $15 difference.  The Homewood offers a dinner from Monday through Thursday, or at least they used to before Covid.  We would use the same comparison in how much it was worth to us in convenience and cost between the two hotels.  If you are trying to decide between hotels, see what amenities they offer, check the price of parking if they do charge, and write down what you find out.  Compare your lists.  Look at pictures of the hotels online to get an idea of what they offer.

Inquire:  Call the hotels you have considered and see if they have any in-house specials or better rates.  Calling the same hotel at different times can make a difference.  Some front desk agents will be helpful and some won't budge.  I call the morning of the day I plan to stay in a hotel.  I ask if they have any free upgrades and if I can get one.  It doesn't hurt to ask.  If you are a loyalty member of a hotel chain, they are more likely to upgrade you if they see that you frequent their hotels.  I once was making a comparison between two hotels, and one hotel offered breakfast and one did not.  I called the hotel that didn't offer breakfast and asked if they would include it.  They did that as well as put us in a Vice Presidential suite.  Our kids remember that as being a great experience.  Frankly, I was surprised they did so much to get us to come to their hotel instead of the other.  When we went to Disneyland with the kids, we saw that one hotel charged for parking and another didn't.  I asked the front desk person if they would waive the parking charge.  They said they couldn't, but instead they put us in a really nice suite overlooking the fireworks.  Once again, you never know what someone will do, so it doesn't hurt to ask.  Don't be demanding, just inquire.  You may get lucky.

What are the different hotels in the hotel chain?

Tru is one of the cheapest hotels that Hampton has.  The rooms are small, so you may be less likely to go there with a large family.  The beds, rooms, and breakfast are great.  If you just want an inexpensive, good quality hotel that you can spend the night in, this is a good choice.  There is no couch, and not a lot of space, but it works if that is what you are looking for.

Embassy offers two room suites in many cases.  This is great if you have a child who doesn't sleep through the night, so you can close the door so they won't wake up everyone else.  There is more space and they also offer a manager's reception, pre-Covid.  It isn't a meal, but there are drinks, chips and dips, and lots of vegetables.  We would substitute this for our dinner when we went, because typically we don't eat a big breakfast like we do when we stay in hotels, so eating a light dinner of veggies is just fine for us.  There are two televisions, so people can watch different things if they want.  There is also the pull out couch if you have more than 4 people.  

Homewood Suites offers an evening meal part of the week, as does the Residence Inn by Marriott.  I have found that if I can get a good price on one of these, it is really convenient to have the food right where you stay, especially if you have a large family.  If kids are hungry, there is a lot of food to eat and dinner can really add up if you are buying out at a restaurant on your trip.  This really is a great place for a family.  They have some limited cooking facilities and dishes and a large fridge which is nice if you are bringing a cooler with you.  If the difference in cost is too high, consider buying tortillas, beans and cheese and have quesadillas that you warm up in a microwave.  

Doubletree offers cookies for everyone when they come.  They do taste good!  But, they don't have a free breakfast if that is what you are looking for.  If you get a great price at a Doubletree, just grab a muffin or bagel somewhere and you are set to go.  These hotels aren't as family friendly as the Hampton, Homewood and Home 2 Suites, but don't let that stop you.  

Hilton hotels have smaller rooms and typically nickel and dime you for services.  But, if you are careful, you can do ok.  If they have a waterslide or are close to a place we want to visit, we will stay in one if there is a good price.  Many charge for parking as well as resort fees, so be aware of that.  

I have shared about a few hotels, just to give you an idea of what is out there.  Figure out what you can afford, what is available, and if you can get a better hotel for the same price by calling and asking.  If a large breakfast is not your thing, or if you don't really care about how nice a hotel is but just want a place to crash for a night, find the hotel that suites you and your family best.  

If you travel a fair amount, look into loyalty programs.  You can get points for free nights and can get free upgrades and meals this way.  One of the other Spendwise Moms is traveling across the United States this summer and got all of her hotels for free using points.  It can be done.  It may take a little bit of time, but if I spend 5 minutes on a call and save myself $10, the call was definitely worth it for me.  

There are also other sites on the web that offer discounts on your hotel stays, but be aware that hotels are not likely to work with you if there is a problem where you need to change plans if you book from another website.  

If nothing else, this post should get the wheels turning as you try to figure out what it important to you and how you can maximize your money to get the best stay you can for the least amount of money.

If you have any questions or comments, leave them below.  We want you to get the best hotel you can for the price you have.