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Hotel...or Hostel?

Hilton...or Hostel?
by Rudy Maxa for Marketplace

Hotels, motels and resorts can be like clubs -- we all want to be in one where we feel comfortable. But when you're going to a new place, how do you choose a place to stay that suits your personality and style?

The problem is usually too many choices. Once, when there was just the hotel by a town's train station, finding accommodations was easy. Now even an interstate exit can feature four places to lay your head. And contrary to what you might think, not even budget-priced, chain motels are the same. I can show you a Comfort Inn near Baltimore-Washington International Airport that has service to rival a big-city hotel that would be four times as expensive. More about that in a moment.

The most reliable way of finding a place to stay is by word of mouth -- a friend whose judgment you respect recommends a particular hotel or resort. Failing that, go to a bookstore with a decent section on travel. The two main bibles for travelers are the AAA and Mobil guides that rate places with stars or diamonds -- the more the better. Each describes amenities, prices, and other details in a short paragraph.

America's Best Bed & Breakfasts: Over 2,000 Delightful Places to Stay in All 50 States

But that's just the beginning. There are hundreds of specialized volumes. My office bookshelf holds a book by my friends Larry and Barbara Fox called Romantic Island Getaways that details hotels and restaurants in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. There's another called the All-Suite Hotel Guide. St. Martin's publishes a series called America's Wonderful Little Hotels and Inns for different regions in the U.S. Fodor's offers America's Best Bed & Breakfasts: 1,600 Cozy Places to Stay in the 50 States. Click on specialhotels.com and you'll find more than 170 honeymoon resort recommendations. The options are many and varied.

All-Suite Hotel Guide

A couple of tips: Ignore guides -- and there are many of them -- that charge hotels, resorts, or bed and breakfasts to be listed. You can spot them because the description of every place is perky and positive. And, secondly, don't be shy about calling a hotel ahead of time and asking if there's street noise. Can you hear your neighbor's T.V. through the walls? Are there rooms with better views than others, and can you reserve them? If there are amenities you must have, like a connection for your computer modem or non-smoking rooms, ask.

As I said, not even motels in a national chain are the same. That Comfort Inn I mentioned outside of Baltimore is a winner of the chain's "Gold Award" for ten years running and, in 1997, was named Comfort's "Inn of the Year." Only a handful of Comfort Inns receive those awards. For $109 a night, you'll receive friendly, personal service and spotless accommodations. How do you find the outstanding places if you happen to be a budget traveler? The Comfort Inn directory names the award winners.

Whether you're a traveling salesperson looking for a bed by an airport or a honeymooner looking for the most romantic spot in the world, do your homework and you'll sleep a whole lot better.

The Savvy Traveler on Marketplace

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