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Monday, November 4, 2013

Hotel brands for personal travel

Besides the hotel nights I do for my job, I sleep in hotels for other reasons -- visiting family, vacationing, or taking short trips of personal interest. After at least a hundred room-nights for such travel, I've formed two strong preferences for brands: Hampton and Fairfield.

Hampton was founded by Holiday Inn rebels who had better ideas. It's a classic case of success obtained by cannibalizing the parent company's business. The rebels eliminated on-site restaurants and bars in favor of a simple, fast continental breakfast and directions to local restaurants for lunch or dinner. The rooms were nicer, with a decent bed, an iron and ironing board (yes, guys do press their shirts), and a hair-dryer (although it's been a while since I needed one of those). Just a few years into expansion, Hampton abandoned the traditional motel of rooms that open to the outside and built only hotels whose rooms open to an inside corridor. Prices were a little higher than the older Holidays, Howard Johnsons, and Ramadas that Hampton competed with, but the formula was a whopping success. Marriott followed quickly with Fairfield, which at first was slightly more spartan than Hampton but has since been made equivalent.

On Monday through Thursday nights when discounts are rarely available at hotels that target the business traveler, you can almost always find me at a Hampton or a Fairfield. In response to competition from Holiday Inn Express, hot breakfast items were added.

If I cannot find a Hampton or Fairfield, I am willing to book into a Holiday Inn Express or a LaQuinta without prior experience at the property in question. They aren't as predictable as Hampton or Fairfield, but they are usually ok.

There's a large number of brands that I will book into only if I know that the specific property is decent: Amerihost, Baymont, Best Western, Choice, Comfort, Days, Holiday, Microtel, Motel 6, Quality, Ramada, Red Roof, Sleep, and Super 8. I have had unsatisfactory experiences with all of those. Life is too short for a repeat.

And then there are the "under no circumstances" brands: Americas Best Value, EconoLodge, Knights, Rodeway, and Travelodge.

Do you agree? Here is a J. D. Power report that basically confirms my experiences.