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Cheap Hotels Buying Guide
As you travel the byways and highways of our fair land, do you worry that a good cheap hotel is impossible to find? Budget travel sometimes seems harder than it is, with the fear of staying somewhere uncomfortable or unclean leading many to pay up for short-term lodging. But Cheapism found that the best cheap hotel chains offer more than adequate comfort and service with double rooms priced well south of $100 a night.
We researched many of the nation's best-known economy-priced hotel chains, and while all have their ups and downs, Days Inn (double room starting at about $70 a night) and Microtel (double room starting at about $80 a night) stand out as the best options.
In many spots around the country you'll find several budget hotels situated right across the street from one another, and if the prices are the same, it can be hard to choose where to lay your head. This guide to cheap hotel chains offers tips on what to look for when perusing reviews posted by previous guests and the benefits and amenities that even frugal travelers can expect in the better-performing chains.
Although much of what makes a hotel acceptable is service and comfort, several other factors are worth considering when making travel arrangements. If you're a smartphone user and/or always carry a laptop, look for places with free Wi-Fi; if you're a frequent traveler, a loyalty program might earn you free nights or even miles to trade for airline tickets. Some sustenance at the start of the day may be high on your list of priorities; ditto for a location near downtown, the airport, a beach, but far from neighborhoods that seem sketchy.
At the end of the day, though, if you're just looking for a place to rest, most locations belonging to the best of the cheap hotel chains will meet your standards. The room will be clean (that goes for the bathroom, too) and contain a comfortable bed; check-in will be simple and speedy; and employees will be friendly and helpful. Our research indicates that business travelers often care more about friendly service and a relaxing room while leisure travelers seem more interested in amenities, like breakfast and a pool, especially when traveling with children.
It is important to note that within all price categories, budget and otherwise, there is lots of variation in room rates, physical facilities, amenities, and service. Price differences typically reflect location. If you're in a metropolitan area like New York City or Chicago, say, hotel prices across the board are higher, although the chains on our list likely will be among the cheapest. The day of the week and time of year also affect rates. Weekdays tend to be more expensive than weekends, for example, and holidays and in-seasons (e.g., leaf-peeping in October in New England) usually correlate with higher prices.
Additionally, many national hotel chains are operated as franchises, and those we researched follow this model. This means that despite the best efforts of corporate headquarters, there's only so much uniformity in facilities, features, and service. Some mass surveys, by J.D. Power and Consumer Reports for example, compile meta data that refer to the chains as a whole. Guest reviews posted online of specific locations, meanwhile, may deviate wildly from the survey norms. So when choosing a cheap hotel chain for your next trip, use our assessment of performance and features as a starting point but make sure to check out the particular properties you'll be visiting.
Best Cheap Hotel Chains
Microtel is only slightly more expensive than some of the hotels on this list but garners the most consistently positive reviews and provides a solid pack of free features, including Internet, long-distance calling, and breakfast.Read more »
Good Cheap Hotel Chains
Red Roof Inn
Red Roof Inn earns positive reviews from guests, especially for the breakfast (when it's offered), but maintains fewer locations than some other hotel chains. Guests often report that the company deals well with customer feedback.Read more »
Knights Inn Review
Red Roof Inn Review
Motel 6 Review
Microtel Inn Review
Days Inn Review
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