So, I am reading my morning news, and I see an article about the best hotel chains for every type of budget. If you stop to think about it, your hotel costs are one of your major expenditures, after airfare. In the US, travelers spend 26% of their trip budget on hotels, yet only 20% on international trips.
Why is that? For one, airfare is usually a bigger part of the budget when traveling overseas. But perhaps more importantly, our mind set for choosing a hotel overseas is decidedly different, meaning we (in particular, me) are more open minded.
When I look for a hotel overseas, most of you know I opt for location first. In a foreign country, and based in the inner city, hotel location and proximity (walking distance) to interesting places are paramount. But I also accept older hotels, sometimes quaint, and less glamorous than when I pick a hotel here in the states.
So, faced with choosing hotel chains, accumulating loyalty points, and still trying to have a great vacation, how do I choose a chain? BTW, I try to focus on just two or three loyalty programs: Marriott, Holiday Inn, and a little bit of Hilton. When those are not available, I use hotels.com, since 10 stays results in a “free” night.
First, a great hotel of any size or shape is preferable to a chain when it just knocks my socks off. I have always wanted to stay at one of the Peninsula Hotels, having heard it was the best chain in the world. So, yes, we tried the Peninsula Bangkok, and it was definitely memorable.
But on most average trips, like San Diego, Chicago, Seattle, or Boston, I tend to opt for my “go to” chain, Marriott. Since we also have a Marriott timeshare in Maui, it helps us increase our point totals and options. Plus, I have a Marriott Visa card, which nets me an extra two nights (free) a year at any Marriott hotel, and various promos and bonuses.
Yet, there are times when this “middle of the road” chain is a little too pricey. So, on our last road trip to Vegas, Arizona, and Palm Springs, we dropped down a few notches, both to save money, and to accommodate our little Lexi, since we needed a pet friendly hotel.
My budget hotel chain usually varies, with Best Western, La Quinta, and America’s Best Value my choices. But be warned! The quality varies across the board, whereby the one in Sedona might be superb, and the one in Vegas might be a dump. Choose carefully!
Marriott is my middle of the road chain for reasons I mentioned above. Even within the chain, they offer several options, from Residence Inn (with small kitchens and suites), to Courtyards for a more basic stay. And when you join their Marriott Rewards program, you will get slightly better rates, and more freebies, room upgrades, and points.
Once in a while, we go upscale*, perhaps for a special event, like a birthday, anniversary, or to host a party. While not a true chain, the “Leading Hotels of the World” and “Small Luxury Hotels” offer premium experiences in most major cities. So, when we are in Seattle, we choose Hotel Andra, since we get a suite upgrade to host a party with our Seattle friends. For an upcoming trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, we are staying at Viroth’s Hotel, the number one rated hotel on Trip Advisor. It is rated 5.0 in every category, and it is reasonably priced!
Another thing! Never underestimate the value of a great travel agent or well-traveled friend. Our go to guy in SoCal finds us the best hotels, at the best prices, when we most need it. That would be times when we are totally unfamiliar with a city, like Jakarta, Indonesia. He found us a 5 star hotel for a great price. Alternatively, our dear friends in Malaysia found superior hotels for us, in the best locations, again, for reasonable prices.
So, now you know our secrets, which are really not so secret. I think they are common sense, and based on a reasonable budget. A big thank you goes to our travel agent guru and friend Ric, since he has been all over the world. Ric can be found under Tuscandream.com or ricbrowde.com. He has helped numerous friends, from “over the top” trips, to vacations more like ours.
Never underestimate the value of a good travel agent! Did I say that again?
= our version of upscale is not a penthouse suite, but a hotel that might be on the ocean, with great amenities, and a great city or resort location.