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Hotel, Motel and All Those Other Lodging Styles
January 1, 1994 -- Do you prefer to stay in a hotel or a motel? Sorry, that's the wrong answer.
In fairness, it's a trick question because it's been years since travelers had so stark and simple a choice. The days when there were just two clearly defined lodging options--the traditional, full-service hotel or the humble roadside motel--are long gone.
Travelers nowadays have a myriad of choices: all-suite and extended-stay hotels, limited-service and economy lodgings and, of course, familiar full-service hotels. Each type of accommodation offers a different roster of services and amenities. Each has distinct advantages and pronounced weaknesses.
This so-called "segmentation" of the hotel industry requires enlightened travelers to pay a little more attention before booking a room. That's because each type of hotel is best suited for a particular kind of travel and each option involves trade-offs in price, services and amenities.
Here's a snapshot of some of the major lodging categories, what each routinely offers and what you're likely to sacrifice when compared to a room at a traditional full-service hotel.
All-suite hotels offer well-appointed suites for about the same price that full-service hotels charge for standard-sized guest rooms. Some all-suites even offer a free breakfast as part of the room rate.
But what you gain in space you lose in services. All-suite hotels usually don't offer room service and few have on-site restaurants and bars. Most don't have concierges, elaborate lobbies or other features available at full-service hotels.
The best known all-suite hotel chains are Embassy Suites and Guest Quarters. They're best to book when you plan to spend three or four nights in one place and desire more elbow room than a standard full-service hotel room can offer.
Extended-stay hotels usually feature fully equipped apartments--including kitchens and dining areas--in townhouse-style developments. Prices are about one-third below the nightly rate of full-service hotels. Most frequently located in suburban areas, extended-stay properties often have on-site pools, washers and dryers, barbeques, tennis and basketball courts and other comforts of home. Some offer full complimentary breakfasts and even evening cocktail hours.
But homey extended-stay hotels expect you to sacrifice many special touches you expect from a full-service hotel. Extended-stay properties rarely have on-site restaurants and bars, room service, concierges or bellhops. Most don't even have a traditional hotel lobby.
The best known extended-stay chains are Residence Inn and Summerfield Suites. They're suited for long stays in one destination when you'd like to live as close to a "normal" life as possible. They are also good for families, since most extended-stay apartments comfortably accommodate four or more travelers.
Limited-service hotels offer nicely appointed guest rooms and many other standard hotel amenities at prices one-third to one-half less than traditional full-service hotels.
The trade-off is scope. Limited-service properties offer less of everything: less elaborate lobbies and fewer public rooms and casual cafes instead of three or four fancy restaurants and bars. The best-known limited-service chain, Courtyard by Marriott, doesn't even offer room service. Instead, Courtyard's in-house restaurant will deliver food in styrofoam containers during dinner hours.
Limited-service hotels are good to book when you want many of the amenities of a full-service hotel, but need to stick to a tight budget.
Economy hotels come in several varieties ranging from the no-frills, budget-priced lodgings at Motel 6 and Super 8 to the cozy, relatively lavish surroundings at chains like Hampton Inn and Red Roof Inns.
Economy hotels stress the basics: a bed, a clean bathroom, a television with free cable and often free local telephone calls. Some chains, including Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn and Budgetel, also include a free continental breakfast in their nightly room rate.
But to offer low rates, economy properties eliminate almost all the amenities available in full-service hotels. Economy hotels are best booked when every last penny counts or when you're only spending a night or two in the hotel.
All of which lead to traditional, full-service hotels operated by chains such as Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott and luxury hoteliers such as Ritz Carlton. Full-service hotels have their drawbacks--much higher prices for smallish guest rooms--but they occupy an important place in the segmented hotel firmament.
After all, full-service hotels are still the only places where you can order an omelet from room service at 2 a.m. or get a pair of slacks pressed in 20 minutes They're also the hotels with the convivial lobbies, a spread of bars and restaurants and concierges who cater to your every whim.
Is one type of hotel better to book than another? Of course not. It's up to you to decide what you want from a hotel on a particular trip--and how much you're willing to pay for it.
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