In the ten months we’ve been traveling full-time, we’ve learned a LOT about living in hotels. There have been plenty of incredible experiences and quite a few that challenged our sanity. Regardless of which end of the spectrum we’ve been on, the decision to forego an RV or travel trailer is without any regrets. When we see those highly stressed out “big rig” drivers battling the high winds or winding roads, a smile of happiness comes across our faces knowing we don’t have to deal with that unpleasantness!
There definitely are pros and cons to hotel living! It’s certainly not for everyone, and as more people start to travel again, we thought our advice could be beneficial. So here we go …
The Pros of Living in Hotels
By far the biggest aspect of choosing a hotel over an RV is that it’s usually just so easy. We choose our destination, drive the truck to the place we want to stay, and unload our gear. 98% of the time there’s no hassle and we’re set up to chillax in 15 minutes. When you drive an RV there are a LOT more challenges to deal with.
When we stay in a hotel we also don’t have to do any maintenance. We have easy access to amenities like free coffee, free breakfast, free toilet paper, and free WiFi. Sometimes our hotels also include games, billiards, hot tubs, swimming pools, and a workout room. And when we’re able to stay in Diamond Resorts with our new membership, we save a lot of money for amazing places — often better than high end, one bedroom apartments!
Another part of hotel living that I like is the ability to connect with other travelers or locals. I’ve met some great people along the way and it’s always fun to swap stories or recommendations.
For the most part, we’ve had few challenges. But this doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near perfect.
The Cons of Living in Hotels
People who stay in hotels can be incredibly stupid and have zero concern for any other humans around them. Screaming children, clogging neighbors, door slammers, and inconsiderate smokers are frustrating as hell. There have been nights when all I wanted to do is go out and throat punch people repeatedly.
There are hotels whose WiFi sucks and make work or binge watching TV impossible. Not all hotel chains offer the same amenities, like breakfast, due to Covid. And sometimes you end up in a place where it’s dirty or just feels stressful.
Price increases have also been an issue recently. Some of the simpler hotels like Comfort Inn and Suites, Sleep Inn, Quality Inn, or Holiday Inn Express charge $100 per night in podunk towns that should be a lot cheaper. No offense if you live in a podunk town .. some are very lovely and wonderful. But you’d expect these rates for larger cities.
Of course there are stories of bed bugs and other horrific encounters, but we’ve been fortunate to always be in livable and safe spaces.
What advice do we have for hotel living?
If you’re considering traveling full-time and feel living in hotels is a better option than RVs, fifth wheels, or simply camping out, we do have some useful tips for having the best experience possible.
1) Choose upstairs rooms if you’re able. You won’t have to listen to obnoxious people jumping around and there always seems to be fewer problems than lower floors (smokers and families generally get placed on Level 1 or 2).
2) Avoid rooms by the elevator. These areas are one of the noisiest places in the hotel and it can be constantly busy.
3) Get a hotel with a kitchen if possible. While these can be harder to find and sometimes more expensive, it’s healthier and cheaper to cook your own meals than frequenting restaurants.
4) Book your rooms during the week. Weekends are always more expensive, but if you book your stay Monday through Thursday, the daily average comes out better even if you stay through the weekend.
5) Ask for a room with the best view. If you live in a hotel you will get tired of looking at walls or air conditioning units. Having a nice view and plenty of sunlight will be great for your psyche.
6) Bring an Amazon Firestick, Roku, or Chromecast. Most cable programming sucks and there are times when you want to binge watch TV instead of other activities.
7) Purchase a WiFi hotspot. While most hotels have free and consistent internet, there are places where WiFi absolutely sucks – like Sedona. And even then, sometimes you are SOL.
8) Treat staff members with respect. Kindness goes a LONG way and it helps when you ask for upgrades like a room with a view. Besides, some of these people work really hard for little money. Being nice doesn’t take much effort and makes their day.
9) Negotiate on pricing. When we first started out, I got incredible discounts by staying longer, writing reviews, or by flirting with the desk person (man or woman) to get better rates. This isn’t as easy now due to online booking options, but still worth trying.
10) Decorate your room with personalized items. When we stay in a hotel or resort for a week or more, we’ll decorate with a few items we keep in a storage bucket. It makes your room feel a little more like home.
11) Check behind the dressers and under the beds. This has less to do with finding monsters and more about finding money or other items. Sometimes you get lucky!
12) Sign up for rewards programs. While most hotels offer shitty rewards programs, some places do give you good points or perks for being a member. IHG screwed us out of points while Choice Hotels has provided us with free rooms for our stays.
Of course we could also include – bring your own pillows and favorite soap, purchase extra charging stations or cords, pack light in case there’s no elevator, or completely avoid motels in the middle of a cornfield, but these twelve are probably the best tidbits of advice right now.
What are some of our favorite hotels?
This is difficult because what we love isn’t always within our budget. If money were no object and we didn’t care about having a kitchen, Embassy Suites would get our vote for best place to stay.
Since our main goals are keeping our daily rate at $79 or less AND having a kitchen, we recommend Staybridge Suites or My Place Hotels. For the most part, these brands have been great for hotel living. A few times these places were even nicer than Embassy Suites!!! Plus many of them have had grills, fire pits, and other cool amenities.
When we’re booking short stays between Diamond International Resorts and extended stay properties, we usually stop at Comfort Inn and Suites or Sleep Inn. The rates are usually better than other hotels and probably 85% of our rooms have been very nice and comfortable. There have been a few Comfort Inn and Suite properties we stayed at recently that reeked of pot smoke*, cigarette smoke, and body odor.
*Contact high not optional.
Free stays with time-share presentations.
Before you roll your eyes and think we’re incredibly stupid for even suggesting such a despicable idea, please hear me out because if you play your cards right, you can benefit greatly from this arrangement. We’ve attended four presentations in the past 10 months. Here is what we earned:
- Two weeks of free rooms at various high end resorts (Sedona Summit, Bell Rock Sedona, Villa Mirage Scottsdale)
- $600 Polaris Razr excursion rental for $150
- $400 worth of entertainment tickets in Branson for $120
- $1200 wine tasting and Hawaiian Lua for free
All of this for perhaps 6-8 hours of total time. The free stays at the resorts would have been a few thousand dollars alone. Sure it can be a frustrating experience depending on the salesperson, but if you go into it with a “game” mindset and walk away at the end of 90 minutes, you could be saving some big bucks.
Now if you value your time more than money, this probably isn’t the best option for you. But if you have more time than money, you can walk away with some fantastic deals — especially if you negotiate for more perks BEFORE attending the presentation.
Now for the real kicker.
We said we’d never, ever purchase a time-share or vacation club type package. So many people have been screwed over and taken advantage of with these programs. Yet we did purchase a small package with Diamond Resorts International. Here’s why we did it.
Most people only travel a couple times a year so these programs aren’t beneficial at all and they pay more for these options. However, we travel full-time so we actually win with our deal. Our DRI membership allows us to save 50%-75% on rooms at resorts because we book less than 30 days out AND stay longer. We’ve paid $55 per night for a one bedroom suite on a PGA golf course in Scottsdale. This is on top of the points and other perks we get.
The DRI membership isn’t perfect and we’ve had some frustrations, but long term it will save us a lot of money that we can use for naked skydiving or underwater basket weaving classes.
Is hotel living the way of the future?
As we explore the United States, we’ve seen a HUGE increase in people traveling and living from RVs or transit vans. While I absolutely love the idea of a transit van converted to my tactical liking, the cost alone would require me to sell my body at truck stops to pay for it all. So crashing hotels or resorts is our best option for now.
Long term, I believe the hotel living concept will catch on.
There are already people who don’t travel, taking up residence in extended stay properties, due to low costs and benefits. Perhaps people who want to travel full-time will take a note from their book. And with so many hotels being built around the country, the industry will be highly competitive. This could open up possibilities for people to stay longer at a location while paying less.
While it’s rare for us to find anyone who lives in a hotel right now (though we met Kathy who has lived in the same hotel for five years), this trend could take off as Covid restrictions are lifted. Maybe one day, Donetta and I will even be trend-setters. LOL
Living in hotels is a great option. We hope you consider it and we’re here to help you if you’re ever interested.