10.12.2010

Travel Tip Tuesday Kickoff

Ready for your very first travel tip from Long-Distance Love? I know I am!

This week's travel tip is one for risk-takers, so buckle your seat belts.

Have you ever noticed that, while chain hotels (i.e. Hilton, Fairfield, Comfort Suites, etc.) are super convenient and have all the typical amenities, the prices are never quite as low as you'd like them to be? That's something I've always resented about chain hotels. They're comfortable, most often safe, and have the pool, fitness room, and hairdryer, but I don't want to spend $110 a night to stay there. So how can we save money and still have those amenities?

LOCAL HOTELS! Yes, I know a few (or maybe a lot) local hotels that give others a bad name, but when you do your research you can get a great deal and the amenities! Sounds awesome, right? That's because it is awesome. But how do you know if these local gems are safe, clean, and have the services you're looking for without trying out the actual hotel first?

A great way to get a feel for what a local hotel (or any hotel for that matter) offers and for a great rate comparison, check out Expedia. It allows you to enter what you're looking for (flight, hotel, car, activities), the dates you're traveling, how many rooms you need, and what city you'd like to stay in. Once you enter this information, the search will automatically grab the results and sort them according to "Expedia's Picks." This often does not give you the best rates, but shows you hotels based on their ratings. To search for hotels based on their nightly rates, simply click the tab that says "Sort by Price."

Now comes the tricky part. You see the low rates (woohoo!), but what can you tell about the quality of the hotel? Good question! Click on the listing and you'll be taken to a description of the hotel. On the left hand side of the screen there's a tab that says "Photos." Click that tab to see pictures of the rooms or the lobby. Also on the left hand side is a tab that says "Traveler Opinions." Now, be wary of some of these reviews. The hotel may have low "star-value", but that doesn't mean it's not actually a great find. Many travelers that write negative opinions are either people who set their expectations high or who like to be picky. If this is you, stay away from local hotels because you will be disappointed. If this is not you, if you're looking for a great deal and don't care that the rooms might be a bit dated, then you'll be just fine.

Another idea to consider would be to stay away from major cities. I live right outside of Chicago and The Boyfriend lives right outside of Washington D.C., so prices tend to be pretty high for hotels. However, if you'll have a car or are comfortable navigating public transportation, checking in to a hotel in the surrounding areas would be a great way to save some dough. For example, the first time I traveled to D.C. to see The Boyfriend I spent the weekend in a hotel right in the heart of downtown. Not so great for the wallet. But the next time I came in town I decided to stay in Fairfax, which is about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown. Just by adding a little time to the commute I saved over $80 and that was with adding in the cost of public transportation!

Now that I've shared my very first travel tip with you, I'd like to hear about your experiences with local hotels. 

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