5 Essentials Travelers Should Expect in a Budget Hotel

  • 01 of 05

    Essentials for a Budget Hotel: A Safe Neighborhood

    Woman in swimming pool at budget hotel
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    At least five essentials should be found in any budget hotel booking. The first, and most important, is safety.

    No hotel booking is a bargain if it requires sacrificing safety. A budget hotel in an iffy neighborhood is out. At the very least, you are looking for a setting where there is proper lighting and a security presence. But neither of those variables might matter if the surrounding blocks are unsafe.

    Hotels that offer inside hallways and no exterior entry provide better security than those with entrances opening to the outside world. That's just one of many safety characteristics found in secure hotels. Others include elevators that don't go from a parking area to hallways with guest rooms, and electronic locks on doors that can be reprogrammed immediately.

    It's also good to have surveillance cameras in common areas, 24-hour security and a front desk that is staffed at all times.  Properties that have invested in such amenities deserve more consideration, even if their room rates are a bit higher.

    Hotels that offer high fencing and parking lot security officers might make a budget traveler feel secure, but it's important to ask why those precautions are necessary. Have break-ins been a chronic problem? In such a place, you might find yourself confined to the hotel property and its overpriced dining options, unable to venture out into what might be an unsafe neighborhood. 

    It's possible to research an area's crime rate, but some of this is instinct. If a place feels unsafe or makes you uncomfortable, find another location for the night.

    Next, another key essential that must be found in any budget hotel.


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  • 02 of 05

    Essentials for a Budget Hotel: Clean Rooms

    Budget hotel room
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    It's only natural to expect fewer creature comforts in a budget room. You're paying for a place to sleep and clean up, not for luxury hot tubs, balconies with sweeping views, or chic furniture.

    These concessions aside, no one should ever sacrifice cleanliness for a better price. A room might be inexpensive, but that doesn't mean it should be dirty, smelly, or moldy.

    Health concerns that proceed from filthy conditions again raise the safety question. Are you willing to risk illness to save a few dollars on a room?

    Some will raise the issue of bed bugs, but remember that cleanliness is not a factor in that discussion. Bed bugs are found at all quality levels within the hotel industry.

    The good news is that filth does not necessarily correlate with low prices. Many budget operations are small, family-owned properties, where cleanliness is a high priority. In fact, one study concluded luxury hotels actually are more germ-ridden than budget rooms.

    Unfortunately, there will also be places where, to cut corners, room cleaning is far from thorough and even seriously lacking. 

    Hotel reviews at TripAdvisor.com and similar message boards should tip you off to problems in this area. Look for patterns. One report of a filthy room might not mean much. But a wide expression of that opinion indicates trouble. Steer clear of places with inadequate cleaning standards.

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  • 03 of 05

    Essentials for a Budget Hotel: Easy Access to Cheap Ground Transportation

    Budget hotels should have convenient access to public transportation.
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    What constitutes a budget-priced room?

    If your answer is the room rate, you're only partially correct.

    A cheaply priced room that is 20 miles from the geographic focus of your trip is more expensive than than a slightly higher-priced stay in a convenient location. The cheap room will require expenditures of both time and money for transportation that eat into the room-rate savings.

    It's a relative bargain to spend an additional $15/night for a room that is a short walk from a public transportation stop or train station. The same might apply to hotels that offer free parking. In some cities, parking easily accounts for $100 or more in the course of a three-day stay. But sometimes, that parking charge is simply added to the room rate. Therefore it pays to compare costs after the parking charges are added. 

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  • 04 of 05

    Essentials for a Budget Hotel: Freebies Such as Breakfast and Internet Access

    Breakfast buffet at a hotel
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    Cost overruns for dining frequently damage a well-intended travel budget, sometimes beyond repair. Dining out is expensive and costs are difficult to estimate with accuracy.

    If your travel party can partake in a breakfast that is already paid for in the daily room rate, it's possible to economize on lunch and save meal money for a nicer dinner. Some budget travelers prefer splurging on a large, late lunch before eating a light dinner.

    Either way, the free breakfast is a budget booster that should receive primary consideration in the booking decisions for a budget trip.

    Another cost that mounts quickly connects you with Internet access. Oddly, many first-class hotels charge $20/day or more for such connections, while many budget hotels offer wireless access at no charge. Although the free access is sometimes weak and unreliable, it will save money. 

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  • 05 of 05

    Essentials for a Budget Hotel: Updated Mattresses and Carpeting

    close-up of hotel bed
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    One variety of budget hotel offers impressive common areas and free amenities, but scrimps on less visible essentials such as a quality mattress or updated carpeting.

    That mattress is quite important to the success of your stay. But short of conducting a formal inspection of the room prior to check-in, how can a budget traveler know such things?

    Luxury chains often take pride in the quality of mattress offered in their rooms, to the point that it becomes a branding issue. They'll point out that they offer a certain brand of mattress or their linens maintain a certain thread-count. But such claims from budget hotel operations are rather rare.

    Again, TripAdvisor.com and other websites offer customer reviews of most places you'll consider booking. Sometimes the reviews are sparse, and frequently they are filled with misinformation. If a number of travelers complain about how uncomfortable beds ruined their rest, it's worth asking if there is a problem.

    Many of these reviews come with traveler photos, which again should be viewed with a skeptical eye. In almost any location, one can find fault and take a tight photograph to make a small problem seem major. But thread-bare carpeting that is heavily stained and old is a sign that the place has not been maintained in a diligent manner. Even budget hotels should have clean, relatively new carpeting and updated mattresses under those clean sheets.