Money at 30: Why Budget Hotels May Save You More Than You Think

When it comes to travel accommodations, I’m typically of two dueling mindsets. On the one hand, I don’t feel a need to stay at the most luxurious properties in many cases — especially if I don’t plan on staying in the room for all that long. Yet, I’ve often turned up my nose at traditional budget-friendly hotel and motel brands while on the road for one reason or another. However, having just returned from a trip that saw us staying at a number of more affordable locations, I realize now that these options have even greater money-saving potential than I’d given them credit for in the past.

How Budget Hotels Can Save You Big Money

“All inclusive”: Budget airlines vs. budget hotels/motels

It occurs to me that, broadly speaking, budget airlines and budget hotels largely operate in opposite ways. Let me explain.

With airlines like Spirit, Allegiant, and Frontier, the super-low base fares are the result of the airlines unbundling the traditional airline experience. So, in addition to that fare, you may then pay to select a seat, carry on or check a bag, or even print a boarding pass. Once on board, you’ll also need to hand over cash (or, more accurately, a card) to purchase a drink. In other words, while the flight itself may be cheap, the periphery amenities will continue to add to the cost.

Meanwhile, as my latest travels have shown me, it’s quite a different story with budget hotels. In fact, while most properties these days will charge for things such as parking or the always fun and vague “resort fee,” it’s actually the less expensive options that largely do away with those expenses. Ironically, in these cases, the “fancier” hotels end up nickel and diming you for more cash while the lower-tier options prove to have an “all inclusive” rate. Because of this, as my headline states, these budget-friendly locations may save you even more than you’d initially think.

My budget motel experience

This past week, my wife and I hit the road as we made our way from Springfield, Missouri to Anaheim, California — with our new dog in tow. Seeing as we only added Rigby to our family a few weeks ago, we didn’t want to leave her with strangers just as she was getting used to her new home and routine.

Of course, her presence meant some changes to our travel plans, including the fact that we’d be driving instead of flying, spreading the drive out over multiple days (we usually do it straight through), and staying in hotels/motels we likely wouldn’t have chosen otherwise. This included opting for five nights at the Anaheim Motel 6 and forgoing our initial plan to stay at the nearby Hilton, which we learned did not allow pets.

After learning that our Hilton plan was a no-go, we did look for other comparable hotels in the area that might make for a good option. Among them, we considered the JW Marriott where we could add a pet for a fee of $100 (this was per stay, not per night). However, in addition to a rate that already totaled more than $1,000 over what we’d end up paying at Motel 6, we would have had to also pay for parking — with mixed messaging making it unclear whether we’d pay around $30 for self-parking or be forced to do valet for nearly double that. The story was similar at a couple of other properties in the area, all of which charged extra for parking, pets, etc.

Meanwhile, at the Motel 6, parking was not only completely free but was surprisingly plentiful! Plus, the location was a shorter walk from the convention center than those pricier picks. We also didn’t have to pay anything extra to have Rigby stay with us. Ultimately, this ended up saving us tons of money and, quite honestly, likely provided a better situation for our dog as she was able to quickly access the outside without having to navigate hallways, elevators, and lobbies.

Obviously our room at Motel 6 wasn’t nearly as nice as we were sure to find elsewhere and it lacked a couple of amenities — such as not providing toiletries in the room beyond a couple of bars of soap. However, given the difference in price, it was definitely the right pick for us on this particular trip. Moreover, given our experience, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the true saving potential of these types of properties in the future.

Counterintuitively, unlike budget airlines that are infamous for tacking on extra fees, my experience showed me that budget hotels and motels actually included more in their base rates than their more expensive counterparts. Because of this, we were able to save even more than the initial travel site quote would even let on. So, while they might not be the right option for everyone or every type of trip, these budget properties may be worth a closer look if you’re looking to cut your costs.

Also published on Medium.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at

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