Budget hotel chains now offer more free perks than ever (chart)

November 30, 2012
Fares from Washington DC:

     Do you really need to stay in a five-star hotel that charges for every little thing? Parking, internet, resort fees? These budget-minded chains have upped their game and now provide surprising levels of comfort and value. Here's a rundown of what's offered. And when booking, be sure to do so on our sister site, Tingo.com. If the rate goes down between the time you book and just before arrival, you'll get a refund of the difference to your credit card. Unlike with other money-back booking options, another consumer doesn't have to book your exact dates of travel in order for a refund to apply.

    Fairfield Inn

    Hampton Inn

    Aloft

    Holiday Inn Express

    Country Inn & Suites

    Hyatt Place

    Wingate by Wyndham

    Breakfast

    Free, includes some hot items. Tends to be very similar across the board; won’t win any major awards. Still, what’s wrong with yogurt and a banana?

    Free, includes some hot items like biscuits and gravy; some properties really go all out and make it a pleasant experience, while others tend to stick with the brand minimum. 

    Not free. Disco-like lobby design tends to not be a great place to spend mornings, anyway. Grab-and-go and some hot items are offered for sale; there’s a charge for coffee, even! 

    Free; generally good. Some hot items. The chain’s cinnamon rolls are so popular with some guests, they are now offered for sale online.

    Free. Used to be pretty utilitarian, but they’ve been making improvements, rotating more hot items in and offering eco-savvy touches like swapping in real cutlery and plates and getting rid of the Styrofoam.    

    While this sleek chain is known for its 24/7 snack bar service, they do also offer a very decent free breakfast, one that’s been known to convert a skeptic or two.  

    Free, and generally quite decent, always with hot items like waffles, which guests love.

    Beds

    The new brand standard is 9” foam mattresses – these seem to be rolled out pretty much everywhere now. Very comfortable, good balance of firm/ soft.

    Hampton Bed by Serta. They even sell them, starting at $1,250. (Too much.) This is a plush-top set-up; it can be a little soft for some people’s tastes. 

    These are not the famous “Heavenly Beds” you’ll find at other Starwood chains, but rather fairly firm, platform-style beds. Some love, others hate.   

    Not standard, but the bedding – from their “Simply Smart” collection – is.

    They’re not really known for their beds – when we’ve tried them, they’re pretty much what you used to expect at a budget property.

    Hyatt Grand Bed – same as at Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. In other words, you can expect to sleep quite well.

    Their newer bedding package – pillow-top mattresses, nicer linens – is very decent; this brand is late to the game, but they’re making a valiant effort to catch up.

    Parking

    Nearly always free – we even found a location in New York City (well, in Queens) with free parking!

    Free, except at some city center properties, but often at a much lower rate than high-end brands in the same neighborhood, oddly enough.  

    Free, except at some city center properties. Features preferred parking spaces for eco-friendly vehicles.

    Generally free at North America locations; check with each property.

    Very rarely is there a charge – mostly, these tend to be outside of city center areas.  

    Free, even in some city center locations like San Antonio, we’ve found.

    Generally free at North America locations; check with each property.

    Internet

    Free

    Free

    Free

    Free

    Free

    Free

    Free

    Fitness Center

    Brand standard, available at most properties, some better than others.

    Brand standard, available at most properties – usually pretty simple.

    Yes – their “re:charge” gyms are among the best at this price point.

    Brand standard in North America, but can vary widely by location.

    Varies by location; they aren’t known for their fitness centers, really.

    Their 24-hour, “StayFit” gyms are up there with aloft’s for quality.

    Yes, this is brand standard – make sure to check before booking. 

    Pool

    Brand standard, available at many properties

    Brand standard, available at many properties

    Yes, nearly always. And they’re often spectacular.

    Varies – double check with each property.

    Varies widely – sometimes nothing, then in other cases, they’ll even have an indoor waterpark! 

    Available at most locations.

    Yes, this is brand standard – make sure to check before booking. 

    Smoke free

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    No

    Yes

    Yes

    Rate check (San Diego, January 7, through property web sites)

    $129 (Fairfield Inn & Suites, Old Town)

    $93 (Hampton Inn, Sea World)

    No properties in area

    $94 (Holiday Inn Express, Downtown)

    $135 (Country Inn & Suites, San Diego North)

    $104 (Hyatt Place San Diego Carlsbad/Vista)

    No properties in area

    Browser’s review!

    Cool! Offers everything the typical traveler needs in a hotel (and looks good doing it), often at a fraction of the price of full-service hotel brands. Tends to have some of the strongest continuity of any brand here.  

    Solid. Very much the same deal as Fairfield, except that Hilton brands allow smoking, and some properties aren’t good at cleaning. Also, the look and feel is a little more dated.  Many prefer the slightly homier feel, though. 

    Meh. Unless the room rate is below, say, $125 a night, staying at an aloft property can feel like a bit of a rip-off. Rooms are quite basic, and the lack of breakfast seems, well, cheap. Good looking properties, though!

    Okay. There’s nothing wrong with them, but it feels like they’re just a quick copy of the Fairfield Inn concept. Also unpredictable  – too often, these are housed in rebranded, older properties. 

    Depends. Some of the properties are amazing. Others aren’t. As with HI Express, take each property on its own merit. If you want dependability, stick with Hampton or Fairfield.  

    Awesome! Surprisingly consistent.  This brand is truly the one to beat; it looks good, feels good, it’s efficient and functional. Also they have Starbucks coffee. Pity they aren’t at every freeway exit!

    Not too shabby. We’re not running here; Wingate has a “me too” feel to the experience. If you happen upon one with a good rate, the new / freshened-up properties are quite nice, though.

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