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Cheap Hotel Reviews, Best Discount Hotel Chains
- Cheap Hotel Reviews, Best Discount Hotel Chains
- Discount Hotels Features Comparison Table
Cheap Hotels Buying Guide
Thrifty travelers have always had to scour to find cheap, clean, and safe lodging. There are, however, plenty of choices out there for the budget traveler.
First, though, a very important caveat: there is little uniformity within a given budget hotel chain in terms of features, performance, or price. A variety of variables affect the quality of a night's stay at a hotel, including the market in which it is located. While a double room at a Days Inn might be $40/night in one market and offer HBO, a double in another might cost $70/night and have a swimming pool. Not surprisingly, each chain receives both stellar marks and horrible marks from guests who post comments online; assessments often depend on the particular property at which the guest stayed. So, when choosing a cheap hotel for your next trip, use the posted reviews of hotel chains as a guide -- but make sure you check out the particular properties in the area you'll be visiting.
You will recognize many of the names mentioned here from the illuminated signs that pepper the nation's highways. After all, part of the appeal of these low-cost chains is in their ubiquity--no matter where you go, you can pretty much count on one of them being nearby. Motel 6 and Super 8 are the largest of these budget chains in terms of locations, but other recognizable names such as Red Roof Inn, Days Inn, Knights Inn, Econolodge, and Travelodge are very common as well. Some of the best economical options out there are less widespread -- Candlewood Suites and Microtel receive good marks from those who stay there, but these smaller and cheap hotel chains are not yet household names. Given that they all ostensibly offer the same thing--a cheap room for the night--how can shrewd travelers choose the best inexpensive hotel chain?
In order to make your choice easier, we've created a list of common features found at discount hotel chains, as well as our take on their performance in these areas.
Hotel Chains Features
Budget Hotels Cleanliness.This is one of the most basic requirements regarding budget hotels and subject of the most commonly voiced complaints. People can deal with some inconveniences in the name of frugality, but no one wants to sleep in a filthy place. The appearance of the lobby and parking lot are certainly of interest, but in most cases it is the cleanliness of the room that is most important to guests. A random sampling of guest comments on hotel reviews sites like Tripadvisor.com, Expedia.com, and Yelp.com finds this a hot topic; remarks about cleanliness (or lack of) in general, or in terms of the mattress, linens, bathroom, and carpeting, appear in the vast majority of posts.
Cheap Hotels Comfort.In the budget category, people understand they should not expect lavish accommodations. The tradeoff for cheap hotel prices is no frills, and like many guests at economy hotels, those posting on Expedia.com about their mostly satisfactory experience at a Microtel in Auburn, CA willingly accept the deal. Travelers do, however, need a basic, comfortable room where they can get a good night's rest. Most markets have at least one inexpensive hotel option that offers comfortable rooms. And for guests who experience an unexpected level of comfort--the pillows are extra fluffy, say, or the water pressure in the shower feels like Niagara Falls--this is reason to seek out the chain or its corporate siblings whenever and wherever you travel.
Inexpensive Hotels Consistency.Because these are hotel chains, many of whose locations are franchised, there are bound to be some discrepancies in certain elements of the physical property or service. And the truth is that one bad experience can ruin a discount hotel chain's standing with value-minded customers no matter how impeccable other locations might be. So consistency is essential--that is, the degree to which a guest can know what to expect when s/he walks through the door.
Budget Hotels Helpful & Conscientious Staff.Having a competent and pleasant staff can make up for many other deficiencies when it comes to cheap hotels. This can be a key--and in many cases, the key--differentiator among hotels, regardless of price. Users generally arrive at a discount hotel with limited expectations. Service, however, is one area where those expectations can not only be met, but exceeded.
Lower-priced Hotels Amenities & Extra Touches.Amenities are limited at most inexpensive hotels, but competition forces these budget hotel chains to offer some added value. For example, many provide TV service that includes premium channels like HBO and Showtime. Some, such as Microtel, offer free long-distance phone calls and Wi-Fi internet access. Many also have a fitness center and/or pool, as well as a free continental breakfast. In addition, cheap hotels are usually the most pet-friendly, which is a nice feature if you happen to be traveling with an animal; some websites (e.g., Petswelcome.com) showcase properties that are pet-friendly.
Value Hotels Number of Locations.A cheap hotel is only as good as its availability. No matter which budget hotel you prefer, if you are in a town where the chain doesn't have a location, it does you no good. For hotel chains, brand loyalty is heavily dependent on having properties in as many places as possible; for travelers, there is value in knowing that a familiar economical hotel is always nearby. Many low-priced chains are owned by one company--Econolodge, Rodeway Inn, Sleep Inn, and Comfort Inn all come under the Choice Hotels umbrella, for example--helping to ensure that members of the hotel family are found in as many places as possible.
Budget Hotels Loyalty Programs.Many discount hotel chains offer loyalty programs in order to garner repeat business--and because many of these chains are part of a larger hotel group, loyalty points can be used at multiple hotel brands. The Wyndham Group, for example, offers Wyndham Rewards, a program that awards points for stays at Wyndham Hotels; at a certain point level, program members can redeem them for a free night, gift cards, airline tickets, or other rewards. Because Wyndham owns several value-priced hotel chains, including Days Inn and Super 8, the program becomes a compelling reason to stay at these hotels.
Hotel Chains Performance
Cleanliness.Frugal travelers understand the old adage "you get what you pay for," but they also know there is no reason to tolerate a dirty hotel. People generally look for certain markers of cleanliness. First on the list is the outside appearance of the property: Are the grounds overrun with weeds? Is the parking lot in disrepair? The second concerns the lobby and common areas: Do these spaces look shabby? Have the floors been vacuumed recently? Finally, and most importantly, is the guest room. For example, one hotel Super 8 in Langley, BC (Canada) earned the highest grade possible for room cleanliness from five out of five guest reviews on Expedia.com, where three of the five specifically mentioned clean rooms in the open comments section. A dirty room, on the other hand, can turn guests off more than almost anything else. Most of the 13 guest reviews of the Knights Inn in Lake City, FL posted on Travelpost.com are filled with details about the sorry state of the rooms, noting such unpleasantness as bugs, mattress stains, cob webs, and someone else's hair in the bathroom. As is often said, there is never a second chance to make a first impression, and the most important first impression a low-cost hotel makes is the cleanliness of the property.
Moderately-priced Hotels Comfort.In the budget hotel category, guests expect the accommodations will be basic and practical. They do, however, want a minimum level of comfort and a space where they can relax. Posting on Orbitz, several guests who stayed at Candlewood Suites at the Miami Airport single out the comfort of the bed and the room in general as a key reason for their positive review. A frequent business traveler who stopped at the Microtel in Kingsland, GA likewise comments on Travelpost.com about the quality of the mattress and also notes the effective air conditioning and charming window seat. And sometimes, the room is OK for a quick stop but not for a longer visit, comments one guest on Travel-library.com about the Ramada Inn near Boston Harbor.
Discount Hotels Consistency.Consistency is often difficult to impose on chain operations with far-flung, franchised locations. For example, one guest at a Motel 6 in North Ridgeville, Ohio writes on TravelPost.com that he had expected a chain to maintain certain standards although this particular property clearly didn't. Fortunately for Motel 6, this guest's experience is not the norm. Inconsistency among Ramada Inns, however, is more common and pronounced. The Ramada in Indianapolis received some scathing user reviews, specifically about the lack of cleanliness and the abrasive staff, whereas the Ramada at the San Francisco Airport received generally positive reviews on igougo.com, particularly for cleanliness and service. These examples are reminders of an important truth: the more consistent a value hotel's reviews across several markets, the more likely you are to have a good experience there.
Inexpensive Hotels Helpful & Conscientious Staff.Even at budget hotels, the staff plays an invaluable role in the quality of your stay. Guests at a Days Inn in Wasau, WI comment favorably on Hotels.com about the overall level of service, with several singling out the friendliness and helpfulness of the front desk staff; this hotel garnered an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 and a 100% recommendation from the 14 guest reviewers. At the other extreme, an unhelpful or unfriendly staff generally ruins the trip for travelers (if it wasn't already spoiled by other factors). Several guests of a Super 8 in York, PA write on MyTravelGuide.com about their unsatisfactory experiences, including staff talking on the phone or watching TV rather than registering them in a timely manner.
Cheap Hotels Loyalty Programs.According to the New York Times, hotels may treat travelers who have signed up for their rewards program better than those who haven't; some guests report they were treated one way when they didn't show their membership card (receiving downgraded rooms, for example), and quite another when the card was presented. Loyalty programs are designed to encourage repeat visits and motivate guests to positively talk up the chain to family, friends, and colleagues. These programs do indeed have their advantages, such as express check-in, dedicated hotlines, and sometimes free faxes. So signing on for the loyalty program of your favorite value hotel chain or two is probably a smart move for budget travelers. Points add up and you may find yourself earning a free stay in that resort town you always wanted to visit.
Best Cheap Hotel Chains
Microtel InnRated highest for guest satisfaction by J.D. Power & Associates for the past seven years in the budget hotel category, Microtel is a growing chain with a strong corporate culture; the chain builds new hotels rather than buying old ones and offers freebies like long-distance phone and Wi-Fi.
Good Discount Hotel Chains
Days InnSome properties perform well above average while others perform well below; if you find one of the better properties it may be a great choice.
Think Twice Cheap Hotel Chains
This is a basic motel that receives low to modest approval from guests at most of its nearly 275 locations; complaints range from cleanliness to safety.
Ramada Inn Review
Days Inn Review
Super 8 Review
Microtel Inn Review
Motel 6 Review
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