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Booking Strategy

Chain Gang: The Lure of the Mass-Market Hotel

As a traveler, I’m bewitched by B&B’s. Entranced by independent inns. Lured to local lodging like pensiones in Italy or ryokans in Japan. If it’s quirky, charming, intimate or unique, I want to stay there. I like getting a taste of local color, and putting my vacation dollars toward independently owned businesses instead of big international hotel corporations.

And yet, even though it goes against my independent traveler ethos, sometimes I just can’t resist staying in a chain hotel.

This happened most recently on a trip to Los Angeles, which I was attempting to explore without a car. If I didn’t want to spend a fortune on taxis, I had to find a hotel within walking distance of the Metro — preferably one that was clean and had positive reviews from previous travelers. And, naturally, I didn’t want to break the budget either.

I had to pass up a few intriguing B&B’s and boutique hotels because of inconvenient locations or high rates. But I finally struck gold at the Holiday Inn Express – Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was just a few blocks from the Metro and offered free Wi-Fi and hot breakfast. It wasn’t the most interesting place I’ve ever stayed, but the room was clean, the Internet was fast and the price was right ($160/night for a location near Hollywood’s most popular sights).

Chain hotels often have other benefits as well, like loyalty programs, fitness centers and the simple security of knowing what to expect when you arrive (which can be reassuring when you’re thrown into a wholly unfamiliar place).

Which type of lodging do you prefer?

[st_related]What Not to Do at a Hotel[/st_related]

By Sarah Schlichter

Deputy Executive Editor Sarah Schlichter's idea of a perfect trip includes spotting exotic animals, hiking through pristine landscapes, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, and soaking up as much art as she can. She often attempts to recreate recipes from her international travels after she gets home (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires—no humans or animals were harmed).

Sarah joined the SmarterTravel team in 2017 after more than a decade at the helm of IndependentTraveler.com. Sarah's practical travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Budget Travel, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A journal. Even years later, reading my notes from a trip can bring back incredibly vivid memories."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Road tripping and hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia."

Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya Stark"

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle. I get restless on long flights and like to be able to move around without disturbing anyone else."

Email Sarah at sschlichter@smartertravel.com.

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