Once upon a time in a land far away called Pennsylvania my parents and I were sleeping somewhat soundly at the only motel we could find with available rooms, when SUDDENLY we were torn from our slumber by screaming and banging on our door. Upon further inspection we found a woman, lightly clad, screaming at a man and trying to get into our room…See, back in the good ol’ days, if you went on vacation you got a hotel or motel that you found along the way, wherever you were stopping for the night. You didn’t generally make reservations ahead of time or have the luxury of knowing the reviews. You just rolled into town and started searching for a place to sleep for the night. My Dad “slept” with a clothes rod by the bed the rest of the night in case the lock didn’t hold. You see, our room had no telephone, that would’ve cost extra and my parents could not imagine what we would need one for… I imagine calling 9-1-1 was a good reason although we did not know it at the time. These are great stories looking back, having survived, but not the awesome vacation stories we hope for.
Today, you are expected to have a reservation and prepay for at least half of the room cost and there are a million hidden fees tacked on. A room advertising for $82 a night ends up being $127 a night because of the pillow fee and the indoor plumbing tax- not to mention the hold they put on your card for quadruple the price of the room for “incidentals”. Don’t worry, in the midst of your vacation only 5 hotels will have a hold going at one time and you’ll have your money released back to you in 12- 24 business days. Of course, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but the foundation of it is truth. Always be aware of hidden fees and holds they are going to place so a chunk of your vacation fund isn’t unavailable to you. You should be especially careful when using 3rd party booking sites because you often don’t see all of the extra fees or required holds until after you’ve booked the room and many don’t allow full reimbursement cancellations. It can be tricky, but with diligence you may be able to get the room you want, at the hotel you want, for the price you want.
While I love a nice hotel, especially one that is unique in some way, I don’t love the extra fees or the fact that you never really know what to expect because you often end up in a completely different type of room than you originally booked. Be firm at check- in that you expect to get what you asked for, the type of room you actually booked.
Another great opportunity these days are vacation rentals. These range from single rooms in a house, to condos, to whole, giant houses. These are an amazing option, especially if you are staying for a week or more. These are generally a really cost- effective way to stay. If you’re staying in a house or condo, you have a full kitchen and don’t have to spend as much eating out for every meal. You can even bring food with you so you don’t have to purchase it at an unknown out- of- town store. Most have a washer/ dryer as well so you don’t have to pack as much and have more room in your vehicle. There is usually a lot more privacy with this choice too. It’s fun to rent a place that feels like the destination. For instance, if you’re staying in the mountains, rent a cabin, if you’re staying near the beach, rent a bungalow, staying in the city? Rent a loft.
Because there is such a market for vacation rentals and there are so many available, they tend to be well run and well cared for so they can stay in business. They also tend to be well- priced for that same reason. You can find all kinds of amazing abodes on several fantastic sites like AirBnb, HomeAway and VRBO to name a few. It’s a bit of a change from those corporate run hotels that don’t really need your business in particular.
On our family vacation to Maine, we rented a house for a week. It was a 3 bedroom home, back in the woods, away from the hustle and bustle. It was great to have that private space to unwind each evening and just be together. I would get up in the morning, have breakfast on the porch watching the squirrels and birds, just enjoying the peace, quiet and nature before heading out to be a tourist. We could have dinner back at “home” each night if we wanted to. It saved us a ton of money. We also had plenty of space and time to relax each night. We weren’t on top of each other, all squished into one room. There was time each evening to do a load of laundry if we needed to. One of the biggest benefits to having a whole house to ourselves was the privacy. No loud kids running up and down the halls, no television blaring on the other side of the paper thin wall as you try to sleep, and no one knocking on your door in the morning yelling, “housekeeping!” Believe it or not, on two separate occasions, my husband and I had housekeeping walk into our room without any warning… That’ll put you on edge!
I suggest taking your time choosing your lodging on your vacation. You may not find suitable vacation rentals along the way, many require multiple night stays. If you decide to go the route of hotels or inns, do your due diligence when deciding and booking. Check reviews and watch for all of the fees, don’t get surprised by your bill at check out. To make the most of your trip, find unique hotels and inns, make your overnight a fun story. Not all hotels are created equal, look for the best quality vs. cost that you can find.
I challenge you to really take time to consider your accommodation choices. They can make or break your getaway.
Time to hit the road. Adventure awaits!