This past year I spent 200 nights in a hotel. Not the same hotel, and not all at once, but over the course of the year I spent more nights in a hotel room than I did at home.
Spending that many nights in a hotel, you’re bound to learn some things along the way. So, whether you’re planning a one-night trip or 200 nights like me this year, here are 7 things to keep in mind:
1. Sign up for the rewards programs
Even if you only plan to stay for a short time, it is worth it to sign up for the hotel rewards programs. Pretty much every hotel chain has a rewards program.
Even if you sign up for a hotel rewards program that you don’t intend to stay at very often, you can choose to put the points towards something else besides a future hotel stay, such as airline programs, or gift cards.
After a flight cancellation I stayed at a Comfort Suites that was right near the airport. I signed up for their Choice Privileges program and had my points go towards my Delta Frequent Flyer program. Now when I’m in a bind and can’t stay at my regular Hilton or Marriott hotels, I will stay at one of the many Choice hotels and continue to earn rewards.
2. Bring your own shampoo
For the entire year, I used the hotel-provided shampoo samples in all the hotels I stayed in. Because I was jumping around from La Quinta Hotels (when traveling with the dogs), to Hilton or Marriott hotels, it was never the same shampoo brand. Then I went to the hairdresser and discovered that I was damaging my hair.
My hairdresser told me for the first time that my hair looked damaged. Before this year I always had good reports. I’ve never been picky about the type of shampoo I use, but she said that most of the hotel samples have sulfates in them that can cause a lot of damage.
Now, I bring my own shampoo and only use it when I travel. I invested in some damage-correcting shampoo from Aveda and can tell a big difference in my hair already.
3. All hotel beds are not equal
My favorite beds are the ones with the pillow top mattress and soft sheets. The first time I stayed in a Residence Inn Marriott hotel I thought it was the best it would get. Then I stayed in a brand new Home2Suites Hilton Hotel and I was in heaven! The bed was so comfortable!
The sheets and pillows in the Home2Suites are my absolute favorite. They’re super soft! I liked them so much that I even looked up how to purchase them for myself. Obviously there is not a Home2Suites in every town I go to, but I will make a point to stay there when I can…because the bed is amazing!
4. Brand loyalty reaps big rewards
Sometimes I don’t have a choice where I stay, such as when my company books everyone in one hotel for a conference, or when the hotel of my choice is sold out. But in the majority of cases when I am traveling alone, I get to stay wherever I want.
It really helps to pick a brand and stick with hotels under that brand umbrella. When I first started traveling I stayed at Hilton Hotels. I’ve now got hundreds of thousands of points to use for free night stays. I am planning on using one night in Beijing in March when my husband and I make a stop there on our way to Thailand. I plan on using the rest of the points for future vacations.
As a Diamond Hilton Honors Member I get discounts, late checkout, free premium internet, free bottled water, free upgrades, and more.
After several months of staying in Hilton Hotels exclusively, I stayed at a Residence Inn by Marriott and really liked it. They have mini studio suites with full kitchens, which really helps when you’re trying to stay healthy on the road. Plus, as I mentioned before…their beds are really comfortable.
I went ahead and signed up for the Marriott rewards program and am having my points applied to my Delta Frequent Flyer program miles. I’ve already gotten enough points for a free Delta flight to Florida just from my Marriott Rewards Program.
As a Platinum Marriott Rewards Member I get 48-hour guaranteed availability, late check-out, free premium internet access, free breakfast, free upgrades, and more.
I recommend that if you don’t stay in hotels as much as I do, pick one brand and stay there as often as you can.
It didn’t take me long to get to diamond and platinum status, and you’d be surprised how much you get as only a member. Once when I had to checkout a day early at a Marriott hotel I notified the front desk at 2pm and they still let me cancel the extra night at no charge because I was a rewards member.
I am also a member of the Choice Privileges, Best Western Rewards, and a Platinum La Quinta Returns member, but I usually only stay at a La Quinta when I am traveling with the dogs.
5. Download the apps
I have saved so much time just by downloading and using the hotel apps. All the hotel chains have a designated app that you can use to make reservations. Some also have additional features, such as digital check-in, digital key, view hotel favorites, pictures, amenities, etc.
6. Hotel fitness centers can be good
Staying consistent with a workout routine can be hard while traveling, but if you can find a hotel with a good fitness center then you’re more likely to get in some exercise. I am not a cardio fan, so a fitness center with just a couple treadmills isn’t going to cut it.
I started picking my hotels based on the fitness center and whether it had some dumbbells and/or strength machines available. There is not a standard across all hotel brands as to what the fitness center will include, but in general the Hilton and Marriott hotels seem to be the best. The smaller chains and brands usually aren’t as good, unless you’re staying in a boutique hotel with a spa.
7. Location, Location, Location
Just like when purchasing a home, the location of the hotel almost always wins out over amenities. If I find a hotel with a great view, like the Doubletree in downtown Spokane, or a hotel that’s near my favorite restaurants, then I will always stay there.
It is helpful to look at a map when you’re choosing a new hotel for the first time to see what area of town it’s in. In general, the hotels by the airports don’t have the best views or restaurant nearby. Hotels in downtown are usually a better option.
My 3 Favorite Hotels
Based on all the information I look at, including the location, comfort of the bed, cleanliness, kitchen amenities, and fitness center, my 3 favorite hotel brands are:
Note: Doubletree hotels give you a warm chocolate chip cookie at check-in. Score!
What are your favorite hotel brands?
Where do you plan to go next?