I think the lowest standard rate for a hotel room I've ever seen on any of the hotel reservation websites is $38; however, I have seen advertised room rates of as low as $22 when actually on the road. From a financial standpoint, is it a better idea to use these websites to make reservations in advance, call a hotel, or wait until I'm on the road and find a hotel room when I pull into town?
One thing I've noticed about these websites is that they almost never show rates for local, non-chain motels. Are these worth staying at, and are they generally more or less expensive than chain motels?
A lot of hot and cold opinions about this!
I wrote a "Getting Out There" column that addresses some of these issues. <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/GettingOutThere/Road-Trip-Reservations.htm">Click here!</a>
Actually, there are thousands of web sites for non-chain motels on the web. For a bunch of opinions on this subject use the grey search button at the top of this page and use motel as the key word! The word motel will generate over 200 threads about this topic. Have fun!
Well, I was just a little bit concerned because I have been through many towns and cities with no hotel rooms available on a given night. This includes many little towns off the main lines of transportation, and with nothing special going on in town and no obvious reason for every hotel room in the town to be booked (Clayton, New Mexico, and Craig, Colorado, immediately spring to mind from a long trip we took a couple of summers ago... although those were the only two I remember, as many days we would get to the place we were going around 4 in the afternoon.) So that's my real concern with hotel reservations.
We used to live by the AAA Tourbook & make reservations in advance. In general AAA discount is the same as a AARP discount or most other discounts & you can't get all. Only 1 discount. It does depend on the area you are in. If you are in an industrial area with alot of businesses you can generally get a good rate on the weekends because they do most of their business during the week rather than the weekends. If you are going to the shore on any weekend or holiday time, you had best have your reservation. Been there & done that. There are sometimes no rooms at all left in large radius. We use the AAA Tourbook in advance to get ideas on rates but we don't always stay there. Sometimes the setting is more important.
One time traveling for long weekend (leaving after work Fri on Rt 95 thru Conn & did not find room until 1AM. And then the 3 of us climbed into king bed somewhere around Providence RI.
I would say if you know your destination & know how long you will be there, you can make a reservation. But sometimes after you've been there you find something nicer.
Sometimes it not just about the rate. Some have conveniences like breakfast which offsets the rate. Maybe free parking in a city. And sometimes being free of little pests in your room that you didn't invite in.
I rarely make reservations when I'm not sure where I'll end up and have rarely had a problem finding a room. I also gear toward mom-and-pop style motels because I usually enjoy the ambiance and friendliness these establishments often have. However, you could be in a bad place, too. Sometimes it's hard to tell. One night we stayed in a place that didn't seem bad, and the price was cheap, but apparently it was a druggie-haven with lots of known druggies living there on weekly rentals. But I'm also a AAA member as someone else mentioned...and their rates are pretty good and I will also look for those places. I've often just gone in and gotten the AAA rate.
When I do have to make reservations ahead of time due to having a certain destination, I will often find cheaper rates on the internet called "internet special". I've saved considerable amounts with those.
This is definitely one of those things where you can go either way and as long as you avoid holidays and/or conventions and festivals that may fill up hotels, you'll probably be OK whichever way you choose.
It's my opinion
That making reservations is contrary to the spirit of a road trip. The less planned one's trip, the better.