It used to be that in the olden (read: pre-internet) days if you were headed cross-country, and didn’t know exactly where you’d be stopping for the night, finding a place to stay was an iffy proposition. Sometimes all you needed was a cheap place to grab a shower and a few hours of sleep before hitting the road again at dawn – nothing fancy. There was no need to stay in a big traditional hotel.
We all knew the inexpensive motels: Motel 6, Days Inn, etc. But the chances of finding one at exactly the point where you wanted to stop driving were slim. Not to mention that the low price you paid for that cheap motel came with some…uhh, additions. Most of the time the motel was located right next to the Interstate, or a railroad, or close to a truckstop. Or maybe it was in a not-so-nice area. Maybe all of the above.
I digress: The word “motel” itself is what they call a portmanteau. It is derived from “motor hotel.” Back in the 1920’s, some guy in California couldn’t fit, “motor hotel” onto his sign so he made it into a contraction. Voila! - an industry was born. (I wonder if “IHOP” would qualify as a portmanteau?) Anyway, it’s interesting to punch up “motel” on Wikipedia and read about the origins and evolution of the concept.
Sometimes motels would put their nightly rate up on a billboard along the highway, alerting you to what was available up the road. And that was good. Or maybe they just had a big neon sign at the exit. If you saw something you liked (or were just desperate), you’d stop and hope they actually had a room at that rate. “Ohhhh, that’s the rate for a single,” you’d be told. And the rate for two people would be considerably higher.
Fast-forward to today and our indispensible smartphones. Now we have the internet and a website called Hotels.com. You can find a hotel or motel anywhere along your route. Most (but not all) of them are listed. You can see their amenities and rates, read reviews of the place, and of course book and pay for a room. You can even pull up a satellite image of the property in order to decide in advance if it’s someplace you’d rather not stay. I’ve done that a time or two.
Hotels.com makes traveling sooooo easy. On our trip from Washington State back to Florida, Jacob and I used it for every stop. At some point in the afternoon we’d decide where we wanted to shut it down for the night, and then start looking for hotels in that area. We wanted a half-way decent place with an indoor pool, a hot tub, and breakfast for under $100 per night. Bingo! No problemo. Lots of times were able to snag rooms for around $55/night. Decent rooms too, surprisingly. not fleabag dumps.
And while we’re on the subject of breakfast… Apparently, Americans assume that every dinky motel in the country should provide a full hot breakfast with the price of the room. And we seem to be obsessed with waffles! Every damn motel now has a waffle maker, as well as a steam table with cooked eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy…I mean… Some of the spreads these motels put out are really extensive! What started off being a “Continental Breakfast” has morphed into a serious buffet! (I don’t think Americans ever really grasped the concept of “Continental Breakfast” anyway.)
Me, I’m not picky. I’m happy with a cup of coffee, some juice and a bowl of cereal…maybe a muffin of some kind. I don’t want to spend a lot of daylight eating. I’d rather be on the road, and I’d rather not have to poop halfway between here and wherever we’re headed.
Anyway, I’m sold on Hotels.com when I travel. It’s pretty cool.