Whether you prefer to drive or fly, you still have to have a place to bunk for the night. My tastes have steadily increased over the years – in part because on business we often comped at posh casino resorts so I’m starting to see the benefits of luxury – but when it’s my dime on the line, I’m looking for something solid, not fancy.
My preferred loyalty partner now is Holiday Inn. I’ve become smitten with the Holiday Inn Express brand because the hotels are all recently built, the hot breakfast in the morning is more than a waffle iron and the rooms are consistently comfortable for sleeping and working. And the Holiday Inn family is huge, so when I search for an Express, I sometimes find that a Staybridge Suites or a Crowne Plaza is actually cheaper than an Express, especially on weekends. Further, that means I can use my loyalty points for a wide range of experiences. I can be a road warrior with Express, and then cash my points in for an InterContinental when traveling for fun.
I previously used LaQuinta as my preferred loyalty partner, but outgrew them. The chain still does a good job for people on a tighter budget than I am now, but inconsistency in accommodations is what finally drove me to Holiday Inn.
I am now in love with AirBnB! Like most, I initially dismissed it as a “couch surfer’s paradise.” But as the company grew, so did its listings. You can still find a pretty cheap couch on the site if price is your only consideration, but I’ve always booked full apartments or private full rooms with private bathrooms when I’ve used AirBnB. And always cheaper than any comparable hotel in town for my stay, and almost always with a story to tell. In Macon, Ga., we stayed in a mansion that had an honest-to-goodness bomb shelter that we got to tour. You can also rent yachts or boats or treehouses and more on AirBnB, so if you’re looking for quirky accommodations, you’ll find it here.
Laura has been a ninja with this over the past few years, and travelers who are staying somewhere for long weekend or more really should visit a site like Vacation Rentals By Owner to see what’s available. You might be surprised at what you can get. We’ve rented a beach house in Panama City for our anniversary, a mountain-top retreat in Phoenix for New Year’s Eve and a beach house in Madeira Beach for our annual college-friends-get-together. In every case, it was cheaper than hotel rooms and much larger, with great amenities that you can’t get in hotels, like private pools and hot tubs. And sometimes these sites offer one-night rentals, like AirBnB, so it’s worth a look if you are striking out everywhere else.
If you’re going to the Caribbean, you have to at least consider an all-inclusive resort. One price includes your room (usually a large, luxurious one), food at several nice restaurants, alcohol and activities. Often the price is less than a hotel only in the same country. My favorite is Hard Rock Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic – a wildly inexpensive tropical country – and I always search using CheapCaribbean.Com. It’s a fantastic search engine that quickly and accurately combines airfare so you don’t have to search on two sites at the same time.