Showing posts with label Lodging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lodging. Show all posts

Southern Utah - Lodging

Lodging is one of the biggest expenses you will encounter when planning a vacation. As I planned our Southern Utah vacation I selected the places we wanted to visit and then began the search for lodging. We planned to visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.  If there was time, we would also try to make it to Grand Staircase and Cedar Breaks National Monument. Where would we stay?

Disneyland Lodging

One of the most expensive parts of a vacation is lodging. When you visit Disneyland you have many choices from which to choose. You can stay in a Disneyland hotel or you can choose from any number of chain and locally owned hotels in the area.

Disney World On A Budget - Lodging

You have decided your family will spend your hard earned money to go to Disney World. Now for the BIG question - Do you stay in the park or out of the park?  As a budget conscious mom, this decision is very difficult.  We have stayed on Disney property and off Disney property. Listed below are the pros and cons for each choice:

Staying at a Disney World Resort Hotel: Disney offers accommodations from value to luxury in price. Since I am a budget conscious mom, I have only stayed at the value resorts and moderate resorts. For the summer of 2015 the non-discounted value resorts are priced in the $140-$150 a night price range. The moderate resorts are priced at the non-discounted rate of $220 per night. If you want to save money, plan your trip months in advance and book it when Disney first offers a sale.  Sign up for Disney Insider so you can get the latest information about sales. Keep checking the Disney World website for sales. Sign up to receive a FREE vacation packet mailed to you from Disney World. This will get you unadvertised sales mailed to your home as well as your FREE packet.  If you plan to travel to Disney in the month of June, Disney typically starts a sale around January 1st.  If you plan to visit Disney during July or August this sale is typically announced around the end of February. You need to book early so the discounted rooms don't sell out. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of staying at a Disney World hotel?
  • Advantages:
    1. You don't lose the "magic". I know it sounds kind of silly but when you leave the parks and head to the Holiday, Hampton, or whatever Inn you come back to the real world with real world problems like, traffic...
    2. Disney transportation. Disney World has a fantastic bus/boat/monorail system that does a great job moving guests from the parks to their hotel and back. This is included in the cost of your hotel.  You are picked up at a location at your hotel and you are delivered to the entrance of the park you are visiting for the day. You do not have to worry about paying for parking or trying to remember where you parked the car.  You just get on the bus/boat, or monorail and let Disney get you there.  See my blog on Disney World On A Budget - Transportation for more information about how to utilize this system.
    3. Extra Magic Hours - Every day one (or more) Disney theme parks offer Extra Magic morning OR evening hours to all Disney resort guests.  Basically if you are a guest at a Disney World resort hotel then you get entrance to the parks either an hour early or stay up to 2 hours later than non-Disney resort guests.
    4. Fastpass + Selection First - Disney resort guests get to make their Fastpass + reservations 30 days before non-Disney resort guests. 
    5. Complimentary airport shuttle service via the Disney Magic Express.  If you are flying into Orlando, Disney will pick you and your luggage up from the airport and transport you to your Disney hotel for FREE. You just check your luggage at your home airport and then the next time you see the luggage it is in your room.  
    6. Complimentary parking at Disney hotels and theme parks for Disney resort guests.
    7. Access to the Disney MagicBands.  The MagicBands serve as your room key, ticket to the theme park, as well as you can charge purchases to your room to the band. 
    8. Access to the Disney dining plans.  If you stay at a Disney hotel you can choose to purchase a dining plan for your vacation.  See my blog Disney World on a Budget - Dining Plans for more information about this option. 
    9. Resort hotel is Disney themed. The Disney hotel also has many activities planned throughout the day and evening for your family to enjoy time at the resort away from the theme parks. 
  • Disadvantages:
    1. Disney hotels cost more than neighboring non-Disney hotels around Disney World. 
    2. There is no "kids eat free" or complimentary breakfast at the Disney hotel.
    3. The restaurants in the Disney hotels tend to be expensive.
Staying Outside of Disney World: In the Disney World area you have hundreds of hotels to choose from in a wide range of prices.  For the budget conscious family the money you could potentially save may make it worth the hassle of staying off property. Listed below are the advantages and disadvantages of staying outside of Disney World. You can search for outside of Disney hotels at many sites including Expedia,, or Priceline. Personally I use Google Hotels to find hotels in the area and then I usually book the hotel from the hotel site.  I have read too many blogs about how online travel agencies did not book the room or the reservation was dropped or the price ended up being more than expected.
  • Advantages:
    1. Price per night - On average, it costs less money per night to stay at a non-Disney hotel. 
    2. Shuttle service to Disney World.  Many hotels offer FREE shuttle service to the theme parks, but only at specified times. 
    3. You don't have to eat every meal at Disney World thereby saving money.  Many hotels offer free breakfast or kids eat/stay free to draw guests. 
    4. If you have a car you can visit other Orlando attractions in addition to Disney World.
    5. You can get a room that sleeps more people.  Most Disney hotels sleep up to 4 guests.
  • Disadvantages:
    1. Traffic - The traffic around Disney World is a nightmare! It once took us no less than 10 minutes to turn left on International Drive. 
    2. When you stay at the Holiday, Hampton, or Whatever Inn you lose the Disney magic.  Your hotel room will look just like the hotel you stayed in on vacation last year in Topeka or was it Chicago?
    3. If you fly to Orlando, you will have to rent a car, get an Uber, or taxi to get around Orlando if your hotel does not have shuttle service from the airport. 
    4. If you plan to use the hotel shuttle service to Disney World you are limited on drop off and pickup times for the hotel. 
    5. If you drive yourself to Disney you will have to pay parking each day.  As of April 2015 parking costs $17 per day.  This is good for a full day at any Disney theme park. 
My recommendation:
After staying both off site and on Disney property our choice is to stay on property.  As for which Disney hotel is best, that depends on your family.  As I mentioned I am very budget conscious.  While I would like to stay at the Grand Floridian, I am not willing to pay the price for such accommodations. I have stayed at the All-Star Music value resort and the Port of Orleans French Quarter and Port of Orleans Riverside moderate resorts on our previous trips to Disney.  I can say hands down the moderate resorts are worth the extra money.

Disney All Star Music Resort
The All-Star Music resort seemed to have a Motel 6 feel to it.  The rooms were smaller and noisier than Port of Orleans.  The grounds at the All Star Music hotel looked trampled instead of well manicured like the Port of Orleans. The All Star resorts (Sports, Music, & Movies) all share the same bus to and from the theme parks. Port of Orleans has a dedicated bus most of the time.  The only time the bus is shared is on occasion with the sister property French Quarter. There is only one bus depot at All Star Music while there are 4 bus stops at Port of Orleans Riverside.  Both Port of Orleans Riverside and French Quarter have boat service to Downtown Disney. This is a fun, informative trip up the river with knowledgeable captains. The All Star resorts do not offer boat service.  Of the two Port of Orleans resorts we prefer the French Quarter because of its size. We prefer the smaller sized property over the massive Riverside.  An added benefit is it is a short (beautiful) walk to Port of Orleans Riverside and you can use all the amenities at that resort because it is the sister resort to French Quarter.  However, Disney does not usually run sales at the French Quarter resort so we usually end up staying at Riverside.  See my blog called Disney World On A Budget - Tips for information about requesting a room near the main building. Our room the last time we stayed at Riverside was a good 15 minute walk to the main building because I did not request a room close to the main building.
Disney's Port of Orleans Riverside Resort

Great Smoky Mountain - Lodging

Where should you stay when visiting the Great Smoky Mountain National Park? Below I have accommodation options:

  • Vacation Rental Homes - If you seek to have a vacation in a setting that feels like home, you have many options in the Great Smoky Mountain area.  Check out websites such as Airbnb, Homeaway, Vacation Rentals By Owner, & Flipkey among others. Vacation homes are great for the large family on a budget because you can get a home that will come with a full kitchen (save money by cooking meals in the crock pot during the day) as well as plenty of room for everyone.  

  • Hotel/Motel Options - When my family traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains, we opted to stay in a motel.  My family consists of myself, my husband, and our 9 year old son. A single hotel/motel room with 2 queen beds meet our needs nicely as we spend most of our days outside the room and use it only for showering and sleeping. There are hundreds of hotels/motels from which to choose in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  My family was on a budget so we needed a CLEAN & well priced hotel/motel for our 4 night stay. We chose Jack Huff's Motor Lodge in Gatlinburg, TN. What can I say about Jack Huff's? 
    • Let me begin by stating I have stayed at mid-range chain hotels across the nation and have never had an experience like Jack Huff's Motor Lodge. Most of the mid-range hotels have paper thin walls and staff who could care less about you and your accommodations. Jack Huff's is a family owned business that takes pride in their property and customer service. The hotel itself is not new. Believe it or not that is actually to the guest's advantage. You see when this building was built the walls were made so that you could not hear every movement of your neighbor. This makes for a pleasant sleeping experience. Jack Huff's is not full of frills. 
    • You will not find down comforters and pillows on the beds. The furniture I am certain must be at least 20 years old. However you could not tell that by looking at it because it is exceptionally clean. Cleanliness is my TOP priority when staying at a hotel. Jack Huff's does not disappoint. I did not even find a speck of dust in the room. 
    • I really liked that the room had a microwave and fridge. This saves us lots as we were able to eat breakfast in our room. 
    • I also enjoyed the balcony. It was nice to sit out on in the evenings and watch the people go by. 
    • Finally I liked that the hotel was off the main Parkway. We tried to avoid the Parkway at all costs as it did not appeal to us. We came here to hike in Great Smoky Mtn National Forest and found the Parkway to be WAAAAAY too commercialized to the point of ridiculousness.
    • The staff at Jack Huff's were very accommodating as well. They were friendly and made me feel like I mattered. 
    • The rates for our summertime visit was an affordable $75/night for a spacious room with a balcony.  Great option for a family on a budget!
    • Jack Huff's
      204 Cherokee Orchard Road
      Post Office Box 865
      Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • If I am ever back in this area I will certainly stay here again. Thanks Jack Huff Motor Lodge for providing me such an accommodating place to stay!

New England On A Budget - Lodging

On our recent trip to New England, lodging was by far the most expensive aspect of the trip. While I am very budget conscious I am even more a germ-o-fob. I will not stay in hotels that are below my standard of cleanliness which is a pretty high standard.  That being said, I scoured the Internet and Trip Advisor to read reviews of hotels all over New England.  I chose hotels based on the knowledge I gained from these sources.

Note about booking hotels: I always book my hotels with easy cancellation policies instead of the somewhat lower priced no cancellation booking. I usually book 3-6 months before my arrival date.  USUALLY if you keep checking back to the hotel's website it will run a sale and you can cancel one reservation and make a new one at the better rate. Join every hotel club you can - it is FREE.  You are going to spend money on hotel rooms when you travel, you might as well earn something in return. Every trip I have gone on in the past decade at least one night has been FREE because of the points I have accumulated.  

  • Night 1 Dallas, Texas - Since we do not live close enough to Dallas to drive ourselves to the airport we had to rely on my husband's family to take us to the airport.  The only problem with that is our check-in time at DFW Airport was 4:45 A.M.  We did not want to impose on family to take us to the airport that early in the morning.  Therefore we used some of our Club Carlson points we had acquired from previous travels and stayed near the airport at a hotel with free shuttle service. We stayed at the Country Inn & Suites DFW Airport South Irving.  The rooms were clean and quiet.  Since we did not have a car after family dropped us off at the hotel we had to walk to eating establishments.  We ate at a Jack in the Box next to the hotel. Hotel Cost: Free (with points) Recommend This Hotel: Yes

  • Night 2 Boston, Massachusetts - In 2014 Boston was ranked the most expensive city for lodging in the entire United States. Needless to say I struggled finding even somewhat affordable accommodations that met my standards of cleanliness.  Since our plane landed before lunch, we decided we would do the Freedom Trail and see some of the sites of Boston the day our plane landed and then finish touring Boston at the end of our trip.  With that plan, we could drive north out of the city toward Maine and find a cheaper hotel for the first night.  The plan worked well! In Boston a Fairfield Inn & Suites would cost $299 per night plus parking for our rental car ($25-35 per night).  I found a very nice Fairfield Inn & Suites in Amesbury, Massachusetts for $144 per night.  Amesbury is 1 hour north of Boston on I-95.The hotel was quite nice and clean.  The lady at the front desk was super nice.  The breakfast was good and FREE.  It was located off the main highway making for a quiet night sleep. Hotel Cost: $144/night Recommend This Hotel: Yes

  • Night 3 Rockport, Maine - We meandered up the coast of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, & Maine from Amesbury, Massachusetts. We needed lodging near our ferry departure in Rockland the next day. Lodging in Rockland was more expensive than Rockport so being budget conscious I chose Rockport, ME. We discovered a true gem of an inn! The inn was family owned and operated and you could tell they knew a thing or two about hospitality. The name of the inn was Ledges By The Bay - Rockport, Maine - we stayed in room 34 & this inn was prime real estate.  We had an awesome view of the bay from our 2nd story private balcony. The grounds were impeccably kept. The rooms were exceptionally clean. We slept with our sliding door open that night.  The sun rose at 4 A.M.  At 4:15 A.M. a flock of seagulls awoke me - that was a first! The breakfast was good & even had homemade blueberry muffins.The cost for the room was $122 per night. Book this place early as they fill up during travel season. I wish we had stayed 2 nights in this location.Hotel Cost: $122/night Recommend This Hotel: Yes.

  • Night 4 Bar Harbor, Maine - Bar Harbor is a tourist town due to cruise ships docking there as well as Acadia National Park being footsteps from the town. When you have a tourist town, you can expect prices to be high. There are very few chain hotels. Most of the hotels are locally owned establishments that were built in the motor lodge era. After researching Trip Advisor (who never let me down before) I opted to stay 3 nights at the Edenbrook Motel so that we could spend the day in Acadia National Park and come back to the motel to sleep. I was not looking for accommodations that offered spa services or room service. I wanted a clean affordable motel where I could rest after a day of hiking. The Edenbrook Motel was by far the WORST place I have ever stayed in my life. The 50 reviews I read on Trip Advisor who ranked it decently must not have stayed in the room I stayed in. The room was not clean and wreaked of mildew. Don't even get me started on how uncomfortable the beds were. Thankfully the motel had free WiFi. I was able to use my tablet to research another hotel for the remainder of our stay in Bar Harbor. That hotel is listed below. Hotel Cost: $70/night Recommend This Hotel: NO WAY!! I would sleep in my car before I would stay here.
  • Nights 4-6 Ellsworth, Maine - It is MUCH less expensive to stay in Ellsworth than Bar Harbor. Ellsworth is a short drive to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor.  We were there 1-2 weeks before tourist season started. We found the drive to Acadia from Ellsworth to be a pleasant 20 minutes.  However, from reviews I have read it sounds as though during peak tourist season (July & August) the highway is much more congested. Based on my experience I would choose to stay in Ellsworth when I return again. During my awful night at the previous hotel, Edenbrook Motel, I used the WiFi to research other lodging options for my family.  We were truly blessed to find the Hampton Inn & Suites in Ellsworth, Maine. The hotel was extremely clean, had free WiFi, an indoor pool and hot tub, and a FREE breakfast was included in the nightly rate.  After hiking in Acadia each day we were thankful to have the hot tub to relax our tired muscles. The Hampton Inn was near several dining locations. The staff was above par. After the nightmare from the previous night we thought we had landed in Heaven when we got this one! Hotel Cost: $150/night Recommend This Hotel: Yes!!

  • Nights 7-8 North Conway, New Hampshire - After spending 4 days at Acadia National Park, Maine we traveled to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.  In North Conway there are many hotel options to choose from.  This town is a tourist town so there is much to do and see. My son loves water parks! A couple of hotels in North Conway offer indoor water parks. I opted to stay at the Hampton Inn North Conway, NH. The water park was small but at that time was not very crowded. My son and I had a blast playing at the hotel water park after a day of touring the White Mountain National Forest. The hotel was clean and quiet considering the number of kids staying there. I really like staying at Hampton Inn because I have found this chain to be reliably clean with comfortable beds. FREE breakfast is an added bonus as well. I will say the breakfast at this Hampton Inn was not as good as other Hampton Inn's I have stayed. Hotel Cost: $163/night Recommend This Hotel: Yes.
  • Nights 9-10 Boston, Massachusetts - Our trip was almost over and we had to return the rental car. We knew we would not need the car in Boston, so when I booked my car rental reservations I planned to return it 2 days before we were scheduled to fly out of Boston.  Remember I am budget conscious and that is hard to be when trying to book a room in Boston!  I searched for months to find an affordable (by Boston standards) & clean hotel. The problem was I needed a hotel that was near the T train (subway). You pay a premium for those accommodations. Another problem was my plane was departing Boston early in the morning so I needed a hotel near the airport. Otherwise I was going to have to pay taxi or Uber fares to get me and my luggage to the airport in time. The mid-priced hotels I was accustomed to staying in on other trips for $120-$150 per night cost $300-$500 per night in Boston. A Courtyard by Marriott was $450 per night. The hotels were so expensive that I even entertained the idea of sleeping in the Logan Airport the night before I was scheduled to fly out. BTW there are websites that tell you the best places to sleep in an airport. Since I would be dragging my then 10 year old son into this, I chose the Embassy Suites Logan Airport instead of sleeping in the airport. I think I made the right choice. The Embassy Suites Logan Airport was my choice because it is owned by Hilton and I had already racked up a bunch of points on this trip. Another reason I chose this hotel is they offered FREE breakfast and FREE evening social with sodas and appetizers and the other hotels I was considering did not. (Hilton Airport & Courtyard Airport) Note: In Boston hotels are not permitted to offer free alcoholic beverages.  I say this because most Embassy Suites offer wine and beer at their evening social.The hotel was clean, quiet, and nicely appointed. There was even an indoor pool. All of the rooms were suites which gave us more room than any previous hotel on our trip. I originally booked a King room with a sleeper sofa at a rate of $299 per night.  But because I booked it with easy cancellation I was able to save some money.  Two weeks before my check-in I was able to cancel my original reservation and book a room with 2 queen beds for a total of $569 saving me $31 and my son did not have to sleep on the sleeper sofa. We got a better room for less money! Another benefit of the Embassy Suites was the proximity to the T station (subway). We were able to walk across a public park and catch the subway into Boston.  The walk was safe during the day but I don't think I would want to do it at night.  The Embassy Suites Airport is near Logan Airport which is not known to be the best neighborhood in Boston. However, it was not a terrible neighborhood either.  If you are looking to stay in the best area in Boston, get ready to shell out plenty of money to do so.  I guess if you were that person, you probably would not be reading my blog... Hotel Cost: $285/night Recommend This Hotel: Yes.