Saturday, November 28, 2009

Budget for Your Vacation--Pt. 4 (Lodging-Hotels: Locals vs. Chains)

So, let me start by recapping my series on Budgeting for Your Vacation.

In Budgeting for Your Vacation--Pt. 1, we talked about saving for your vacation and I provided you all with some great links that can help you learn to budget your finances with your dream vacation in mind.

In Part 2 of my Budgeting for Your Vacation series, I recommended some good websites to help you start tracking flight costs and we talked about some easy ways to help you start putting aside some money for your vacation.

Part 3 of my Budgeting for Your Vacation series talked about figuring out what type of traveler you are. Figuring out the type of traveler you are will help you to start to budget and will ultimately help you learn how it will impact your overall budget. I also provided you with some fun links to quizzes that might help you figure out your "travel type".

Budgeting for Your Vacation--Part 4 is focused on all the different options for lodging that you will be encountering as you plan your vacation. We've discussed Hostels, Bed & Breakfasts, and in this post I'll be discussing Hotels and the advantages and disadvantages to booking a local hotel versus a chain hotel.

Let's talk about chain hotels first. Most of us have a favorite chain hotel. If you do a lot of local travel for work or are a long getaway weekend person, you probably already stay at one particular chain over the others. You already have an idea of how that hotel chain operates and have had some good experience in the past with that particular chain. If you don't have a favorite chain, you might be more inclined to book according to your budget and you take what you can get unless it's completely unsatisfactory.

At this point, let me just say that if you're booking according to budget and you don't work with a particular chain, you might be doing yourself a disservice. Chain hotels are no longer exclusive to one particular hotel. Each chain is comprised of many different hotels with many different budget ranges and finding something in your budget within that chain is easier than you think. The reason, I say you might be doing yourself a disservice is that when you stick with a particular chain and you sign yourself up with their rewards program, your stays can accumulate points for you and can get you some nice freebies in the long run.

For example, I try to stay in any hotel within the Hilton chain. Hilton's program lets you earn points for your stay, miles for your mileage reward program, or a combination of the two. It's a great program and each individual hotel has its own little set of freebies associated with your level. Admittedly, it's not much at the beginning but a free newspaper, free in-room wi-fi, or a couple of free bottles of water are free and can save you a few dollars a day and that works just fine for me!

In addition to the loyalty programs with larger chain hotels, chain hotel locations are usually excellent, and you are all but guaranteed English speaking staff and some sort of overall familiarity. The downside of staying at a chain hotel is that you might not get a sense of the local ambiance, you'll probably be paying more than at a local hotel, and customer service, although good, might not be of a local flavor.

Locally owned hotels can be large, small, fancy, exclusive, earthy, and bare bones. Do some research before you choose a local hotel. I did quite a bit of research before choosing my local hotels. I've mentioned this website before but JourneyWoman is a GREAT resource for women traveling anywhere in the world. Before I went to England, I read through JourneyWoman's website and found The Cherry Court Hotel. I chose this hotel because other women traveling solo had chosen it as well. There was CCTV at the entrance and lobby area which made me feel safe. It had an awesome location about 1-2 blocks from Victoria Station. It had free wi-fi and provided a simple fruit basket for breakfast every morning. It's been in business for 25 years and other women travelers said they felt safe in the neighborhood and liked the owners. The nice part for me was also price. When I went to London, the British Pound was 2:1 so to be able to stay in central London for less than $100.00 a night was a bargain! Chain hotels would not have been able to match that rate in London.

Another great resource to find local hotels are your guidebooks. I talked about guidebooks in one of my Weekend Words to the Wise posts. Most guidebooks will make recommendations on lodging for all types of budgets. You will RARELY find a chain hotel mentioned in a guidebook. And that is because you aren't traveling to any of these places to remind yourself of're going to experience the country you are visiting!

In Madrid, Spain, I found the hotel we stayed at mentioned in several different guidebooks with excellent reviews anywhere I searched for customer reviews. Hotel Europa in Madrid is centrally located on Plaza del Sol. It is an easy walk to the subway, it has a cafe downstairs with good food for any meal. Wi-fi is available in the lobby and in your room for an extra fee. The staff are friendly and knowedgable. Best of all, it's less than $100.00 a night for an excellent location with clean rooms.

Don't get me wrong. I think there's a place for chain hotels in our travels and in my next Weekend Word to the Wise, I'm going to talk about how to use locals and chains to make your trip an awesome experience.

Just remember that in your travels, whether in the U.S. or Internationally, local hotels can be a safe and economical part of your travels that you shouldn't discount.


Mizzsharon said...

Hey this is really really useful. I am really into the "Traveling around the world on a budget" thingy as well. Thanks for sharing =)

p/s: I am following u on networkedblogs. please do follow mine too. cheers.

GlobeDiva said...

Hi Sharon,

Thanks for commenting. I'm glad you found the post useful.

Thanks for following me and I'll look for you on networkedblogs.

Take care,