I stay in budget hotels. With kids. And, you know, it’s more feasible than you might think.
It’s much more common to see reviews for expensive resorts and luxury properties in travel magazines and on travel blogs than to see reviews for budget hotels. Sometimes I wonder who really has money to pay $250+ per night just for a room to sleep in on a family vacation. It’s not that I never stay at more expensive properties, I do, but for my family, that’s the exception rather than the rule – and that’s one of the reasons why we’re able to travel frequently.
Choosing budget accommodation for a family trip requires you think about your accommodation choice in a different way than if say, you were looking at staying at a four-star hotel on a beach somewhere. If we’re going to hit the beach to relax and reconnect and plan to laze about a pool or beach (i.e. stay around our accommodation) for most of the day, then a dingy hotel or condo would spoil the whole trip. If, however, we’re road-tripping, making one-night stops along the way, or staying somewhere for a long weekend which will be filled with outdoor activities during the day I always consider the budget option.
A budget hotel is cheap, that’s the benefit of the proposition. By saving money on accommodation, you can spend more on activities or maybe just travel more often. The potential down-side is that you may sleep on a sagging mattress, share your room with colonies of creatures you’d rather not ever see anywhere near your toes – not to mention crawling across them – and the cleanliness of the bathroom facilities may be questionable. Oh, and you may hear more of the conversations and nocturnal activities of the guests in the rooms around you than you ever really wanted.
But not all budget hotels are bad. In fact, most of them aren’t. Here’s three things I do when choosing a cheapie hotel to try to make sure we get a good room at a decent property:
Learn As Much As You Can About The Property In Advance
I read prior guest reviews on TripAdvisor; I ask friends who are familiar with the area; I Google the hotel name for information which may be on personal blogs; I review every detail on the hotel’s website – particularly the pictures. It was because of this that I discovered that the Budget Inn in Walla Walla (where we stayed this past weekend) had been recently remodeled. Our room was scrupulously clean with new beds, new carpet and a new flat-screen TV.
Make Sure You Have A Backup Plan
This maybe something as simple as taking the time before the trip to call a more expensive property in the area and verifying that there is availability on the night in question. Or checking out hotels in the surrounding area online before you travel. The point is to have spent even a little time thinking about what you’ll do if you arrive at your chosen hotel and discover it’s an absolute dump and that staying their might actually endanger your childrens health. Which also means that realistically you can’t plan to show up at 11:30pm at night.
Drive Away If Necessary
This happened to us this past summer. We were driving from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara and since we’d taken a fairly long stop during the day, we decided not to push on for Santa Barbara that night. We thought we’d be fine with a budget motel in one of the coastal towns just for the night but when we drove up the place was a disaster. We didn’t even bother getting out of the car but instead drove across the street to a Marriott for a pricier, but more secure night’s sleep.
If you’ve got any other ideas or suggestions for families looking to make their travel dollars stretch further this year by saving a little on accommodation, do leave a comment below.
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Family Weekend Getaways: Walla Walla