Best Budget Hotel Chains in US and Europe

renou (sxc.hu)

renou (sxc.hu)

A Nice Hotel Room for Only How Much?!

The trouble with truly budget hotel chains is that travelers don’t always know what they’re getting. Hotels in low-cost chains tend to be individually owned franchises that might not even have been initially constructed to be part of the chain. Thus hotel quality, upkeep, amenities and service can vary dramatically. But a few hotel chains can be counted on to provide a nice room at a reasonable price…

MICROTEL INNS & SUITES

Microtel has ranked number one in guest satisfaction among economy and budget hotel chains for 10 consecutive years, according to surveys by J.D. Power and Associates. All Microtel locations are built specifically for this chain, so they are very consistent from one to the next. It’s a relatively new chain, too—most locations are less than 15 years old—so the Microtels almost never seem rundown and dingy, a common complaint in the budget-hotel category. Rooms run as low as $49 a night (and are of average size, despite the hotel name).

Microtel hotels also offer perks not common in the budget-hotel category, such as free continental breakfast, free wireless Internet, free local phone calls and even free long-distance calls in the continental US. (800-337-0050, www.MicrotelInn.com)

FOUR POINTS BY SHERATON

This budget line of Sheraton hotels offers a level of service and style usually associated with considerably more expensive hotels. This is not a bargain-priced chain like Microtel, but it is quite affordable—the basic “rack rate” tends to start at just $115 or so, though rates vary considerably depending on location and time of year.

Four Points’ staff is friendly and well-trained, and the décor is attractive. Most Four Points hotels have been recently renovated, and many feature fitness centers. All provide free Internet and bottled water. (800-368-7764, www.StarwoodHotels.com/fourpoints)

TRAVELODGE (UK)

Travelodge (UK) is a wonderful lodging bargain for those visiting Britain, Ireland or Spain. (Europe’s Travelodge has no affiliation with the American chain of the same name.)

Deals available through Travelodge’s Web site can cut the cost of rooms to as little as 19 pounds (about $30) a night if you book at least three weeks ahead. That’s less than one-third of what you would otherwise pay for rooms of this quality.

A good percentage of Travelodge rooms include pullout couches, allowing families of four to stay for the price of a double room. That’s an unusual perk in Europe, where quad rooms usually go for significantly more money.

Frequent travelers should sign up online to receive special e-mail offers. (Onwww.Travelodge.co.uk, click “News and Offers,” then look for the blue box labeled “Don’t Miss Out.”)

Travelodge does cut a few corners to keep prices low—expect fewer towels and toiletries, for example. A few of the chain’s London locations seem a bit older and worn, too, though these are the exception. Overall, it’s hard to find a better lodging bargain in Europe. (www.Travelodge.co.uk)

LANDING THE LOWEST PRICES

These days the lowest hotel room rates often are offered through hotel chains’ own Web sites. But it’s worth checking a few rate-search travel Web sites…

HotelsCombined.com and Trivago.com search a wide range of other travel Web sites to find the best deals.

Hipmunk.com not only searches other Web sites for low hotel rates, it searchesAirBnB.com for houses, apartments and rooms in private homes that are available as short-term rentals.

Tingo.com, a new travel Web site, will refund the difference on certain rooms if the offered rate drops after you book your stay.

Source: Pauline Frommer, editor of the Frommer Guidebooks (Wiley) and cohost of The Travel Show, a nationally syndicated radio show. She is a two-time winner of the North American Travel Journalists Association’s Guidebook of the Year award.  www.Frommers.com/pauline

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