I’m not a stickler for hotels. I’ve stayed in dives that were dirty, seedy, and smelled bad. But I’ve stayed in Motel 6s that were worse. I rescued a girl I met in Athens, Georgia from a horrible room at a Scottish Inn, with wood-paneled walls and a puke-orange carpet. I’ve stayed in posh rooms in Hiltons, Marriotts, and Sheratons that cost several hundred dollars a night. They were all uniformly luxurious and comfortable, but I always felt out of place.

I don’t ask much from a hotel: a clean, comfortable room where I can sleep. I’m most comfortable in small, quiet rooms in little inns, bed and breakfasts, or Latin American hostales, maybe off a garden or courtyard. I like old buildings in town centers and funky neighborhoods, attic rooms out of the way. These places feel more like home than most places I’ve lived.

A hotel shouldn’t be the highlight of your trip. You don’t live there. You shouldn’t expect it to be nicer than your own home. Americans seem to expect such luxury. They want to be kings and queens for their vacations. It’s probably why they can only afford short trips. Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel says she would never stay at a budget hotel. Justine Shapiro on Globe Trekker takes great pride in them, the quirkier the better as long as they have some kind of view.

The only time Americans want to stay in motels is when they’re on a driving vacation with their children. In that case, all that matters is that there’s a pool for the kids and a Shoney’s nearby, hopefully a free breakfast in the morning, or at least a McDonald’s or Waffle House on the way to the freeway. You should see the ratty motels people stay in when they go to Disney World. You’d faint if you knew how expensive they were.

The important things about a hotel is that it is safe and clean.My point is those people in the budget motels have it right. The room is just a place to stay the night. If you’re limited on money, don’t spend it on your room. Spend it on the experience. Rick Steves says so, too. You should do what he says.

The important things about a hotel is that it is safe and clean, that it is located in a convenient location, and that the manager and staff are helpful. Breakfast is a good perk; so is a ride to and from the airport.

A single room with a bathroom and shower is fine for the solo traveler. In some hotels a single room comprises a narrow bed like you had when you were a child, maybe with a desk or a little table. In bad hotels they can feel like a coffin. In most of the world you won’t have to pay extra for a single, like you would in the U.S. A communal bathroom is okay if the room itself is nice and the bathroom is clean and well-ventilated. Just make sure you at least get an in-room sink for quick washes, shaves, and brushing your teeth, or you’ll be waiting on everyone else. I can deal with a communal bathroom for a couple days here and there, but it gets old after a while. A single may be okay for a young couple if the bed is a little bigger, but they probably will want a double.

As for hostels, I’m over them now, but if you’re young and broke and don’t need much sleep they come in handy. You’ll meet more fellow travelers that way. Just keep in mind that you’re staying in a dorm.

When making your plans, consult your guidebook or search online for recommendations in your price range. Ask for a room in the back, away from the main street. And never take the word of a taxi driver.


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