Why you’re missing out if you stick with 5 star hotels only

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 There are so many reasons a five star hotel may be more desirable, even dismissing the obvious aspect of luxury.  For instance, Drew and I love that five star hotels tend to land us right in the middle of where we want to be.  Downtown.

But there are a lot of lesser brands that I have really come to appreciate.   In fact, if I want to be somewhere homey, there’s often a non-five-star brand that will provide that feeling best.

For example…

Extended stay suites

Since Drew and I are constantly on the road, we absolutely love hotels that are designed to feel homey.  For instance, hotels that have laundry facilities, kitchenettes, loads of desk space, and believe it or not, less frequent cleaning schedules.

A few examples include, Candlewood Suites, (an IHG mid-range brand), Staybridge Suites, (also an IHG mid to upper range brand), Mainstay Suites, (a Choice mid-range brand), Homewood Suites, (a Hilton upper-mid-range brand around 30,000 points.)

An example from our experience: Drew and I just stayed in the Candlewood Suites Denver West Federal Ctr and we really liked it.  The location was not very pedestrian friendly, but that is pretty much a consistent draw back of these extended stay hotels.  Otherwise, there was a laundry room, and a “grocery store” of sorts.  Also our room was great with an enormous desk and a kitchenette.  Felt very homey and comfortable, as these places often do.  AND, I always feel like these suites are more spacious for the price than any of the five-star hotels we stay at.  Or at least, we get lots of space in a standard room rather than hoping for an upgrade for a spacious room.

 

Hotels with free breakfast and free wifi, regardless of status

There’s sort of a bell curve when it comes to amenities and the fanciness of a hotel.  If you are paying next to nothing for a hotel, it’s probably going to be one of those hotels that has some kind of continental breakfast (however good or bad it may be,) and free wifi in, at the very least, the lobby or sometimes in your room.  But then…once you get to the middle of the road hotels, suddenly you can’t get those things unless you pay.  Then, if the hotel is fancy enough or rather if your status is fancy enough and you are “important enough”, you start getting those amenities for free again 

A few examples include many of the cheaper end hotels of a chain.  For instance Comfort Suites (a low-range Choice hotel) and Hampton Inn (a low-range Hilton hotel), etc.  Both of these offer free wifi and free breakfast and this will be similar with other chains’ cheapest brands.

Also, some Holiday Inn Expresses (an IHG mid-range hotel).  This isn’t a given, but we’ve had good luck with at least free breakfast at Holiday Inn Expresses.

An example from our experience: The Holiday Inn Express Vegas South is actually not a bad location at all, sitting behind the Mandalay Bay and with shuttle services there every half hour from 7 am (I think) to 1 am.  AND it has a nice free breakfast for everyone until 9:30/10 ish in the morning.  I thought it was great.  We got free wifi because of our status, but there was free wifi for everyone in the lobby.

 

Airbnb

Oh man.  We have only done Airbnb once but it was awesome and now we’re constantly surfing the Airbnb site for places we can bunker down for a month.

I know we’re always talking about the value of spending with a chain that provides benefits for your loyalty and all that, but Airbnb is just…hard to beet for any stay longer than like…5 days.  (Unless you find a place you want to be that’s on PointBreaks of course.)

I mean, just as we feel at home in the extended stay suites, this is even more true with Airbnb.  Because most of the time you’re in an actual house.  Often times all to yourself!  Wifi, spaciousness, a homey feeling.  It’s great.

An example from our experience: We had an Airbnb stay in Durango Colorado in an adorable little cabin-styled house.  There were six of us splitting the price and we each got our own room of course.  It was great.

 

Couchsurfing

This doesn’t really fit into the theme of homey feeling, or especially convenient for long stays or anything, but I’m including it because it has some undeniably perks that you just will not ever find in a five-star hotel.

You can read my post about our amazing couchsurfing experience, but the gist is you are staying with a real person, many times a local, in their guest bedroom, on their couch, or whatever.  And the reason that is such a perk is because the couchsurfing culture is definitely one of enthusiasm for hosting.  So in many cases, you’re kind of getting a tour guide AND a host.

This has been true for us when we’ve couch surfed, and hopefully those we’ve hosted via couchsurfing felt we took the time to introduce Charlottesville either in conversation or in various outings.  (We were working a lot at the time, but we did try to take our couchsurfers out to eat, or introduce them to our friends or whatever.)

An example from our experience: I encourage you to read the post linked to above, but I’ll provide another example too.  When we couchsurfed in Saipan, we stayed with the U.S. Martial who was stationed there.    He and his wife, son and daughter in law were so incredibly generous and went out of their way to show us around the scenic spots in Saipan.

Couchsurfing is kind of about making friends too.  I really really like that.

The only downside is that the hosting set-up is not very independent, so it’s not a great strategy for long-term stays.  Or at least for us, if we stay more than 3 or 4 days we start to feel like we’re bumming off of our hosts.  Especially since it’s free.

 

Conclusion

We’ve had so many neat experiences and so many nice stays that were not “luxurious” per say.  But luxury is not why I travel.  It’s fun, but it’s a treat.  After 365 days of this stuff, you kind of just want to feel at home or want to feel like you have friends.  The above experiences are more likely to help that happen.

10 Comments on “Why you’re missing out if you stick with 5 star hotels only

  1. My husband and I have been using Airbnb since it’s start and love it. We’ve found it to be a wonderful way to travel, particularly for long term stays. Most recently, we stayed for a month in an Airbnb loft in Sicily, and it was both a wonderful vacation and an inspiring place to work remotely.

    • That sounds perfect! We would like to do an Airbnb stay in Croatia like Extra Pack of Peanuts’ trip. Sicily would be great too!

  2. While you and Drew are in the states, we invite you to San Diego. We could house and feed you, and there is a ton to do. Even after growing up here, there’s still lots of things I haven’t done yet. You could have a tour guide, or do your own thing. My wife, Lucinda, and I would have our world view expanded, and might learn a few tricks. There is a FT community here too, that I am just starting to plug into, and they tipped me on to your blogs. Serious offer, but even if you don’t come west, we wish you a great time in the states. We have a middle class home in the burbs, surrounded by a wildlife preserve.

    • Richard that is so kind of you! We love visiting friends, readers, fellow FTers, anyone! If our SouthWesting takes us to Southern California, I will certainly let you know.
      Thanks so much for the offer and I will keep you updated as to if we head that way!

  3. Hey- So my epic Japan-Oceania Pacific Hopper seems to be running into a fail. I am thinking to do Micronesia etc instead. Would you be willing to pass on your CS host’s info? Are they still on CS?

    • OH man I definitely would if they still lived there but sadly they moved elsewhere. I can put you in touch with the friend we ended up staying with in Guam however! He was just as good as any CSer, but we just sort of happened to meet him. He’s the guy referenced in this post: http://freakinflyers.com/guam/

  4. I also love Airbnb. I think it can be beat for a “local” experience (rather than the touristy thing which I don’t care for).

    I’m wondering, what were some of your favorite quirkier/unique hotel stays? I saw a post Drew did about over-water bungalows that take points which sounded amazing but the Hoky Homestay place that you guys stayed at for just $141.53 at for 16 nights in Bali looked amazing also and probably left a lot more $$ for fun having!

    • Yes Hoky Homestay is one of those places that will always be special to us! So that would definitely make it on the quirky/unique list. Also on that list would be the couch-surfing host we had in Zakynthos Greece who hosted us in the apartment above his delicious, traditional restaurant. This restaurant was the pride of all the locals. And the host was so delightful. Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon has to make it on my list as well, because being in the bottom of the Grand Canyon is just phenomenal. As far as accommodations, it’s little more than camping, but you just can’t beat being so isolated from technology like that. It’s incredible.

      Lastly, (starting to think I should turn this into a full-out post!) camping on Easter Island for just $5 was amazing. That was the sturdiest, most weather-proof tent I’ve ever experienced.

      To be honest…the quirkier the better. 🙂 The luxury hotels are great places to get work done but not as great places to feel like you’re having an experience or adventure.

      • I actually asked because I was searching for a post like that but didn’t find one! I saw Drew’s list of favorite hotels (he seems to love skyscrapers) and the one about your favorite no-star experiences (which I loved). Also I actually really appreciate the tone and perspective of your posts and how you try to make it more about the personal part of the travel lifestyle mixed in with the technical aspect.

        • So glad to hear! Thank you very much! It’s the only way I know how to write, really.

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