I Like Chain Hotels and Other Dirty Little Secrets

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There’s a certain amount of exaggeration inherent in most travel stories.  That hike was the hardest climb ever.  I’m an “expert” on New York bagels.  I naturally look this good after sweating in a Guatemalan jungle.

You’ve all met that friend and heard that story.  We all know that sometimes people squeeze in McDonald’s french fries even if their breakfast was at a local hole-in-the-wall.  It’s understood someone may have taken three shots before getting the perfect Instagram photo.  So let’s be real for a minute: I have some travel confessions and I bet you do, too.  Maybe it’s time to be honest about it.

#1 – I Like Chain Hotels


Hilton, I’m looking at you.  Thank you for your king-size beds, your in-room coffeemakers, and your online booking system.  Thanks for the rewards points which mean I don’t have to shell out $300/night in Tokyo.  And most of all, thank you for offering enough consistency that I can check-in (jetlagged and sleep-deprived) in a country where I don’t speak the language.

I love independent properties and the personality that comes with them, but on my arrival day, there’s nothing I want more than the bland, boring, predictable hotel.

#2 – There are Some Places I Just Don’t Want to Go


My travel wishlist is so long that I’ll never get to the bottom (and that’s assuming I never repeat a destination I love).  The world has so much to offer and I’m the type of traveler who would rather spend longer at fewer places.  So forgive me when I admit that there are some places I’ll probably never go to.

Five years ago, I may have taken your advice to visit Destination X even if I wasn’t hugely inspired by it.  Now I’ve traveled enough to listen to those inner voices, telling me to spend my hard-earned time and money in places that truly call out to me.

#3 – I Only Want to Travel With You if That Was the Plan in the First Place


Selfish, I know.

Once I start planning a trip — not daydreaming, but the real, actual, I bought a ticket planning — then I already have an idea of what I want.  I start to picture myself somewhere and that’s the image I expect.  I probably chose the destination and the timing based on who I’m going with and no matter how much I like you, I may have done things differently if I knew you wanted to tag along.

If I ordered vanilla ice cream, don’t give me strawberry, even if that’s ordinarily my favorite.

#4 – I Don’t Want to Travel on a Shoestring Budget


All due respect to budget backpackers out there, but overnight buses are not for me and I gave up hostels 3 years ago.  I’ve come to a point where I want to be comfortable enough that I can actually take in the experience of what’s going on around me — not nursing a terrible backache or suffering through exhaustion.

I’m not a luxury traveler either.  I save money where I can so I can travel a little more often.  But if I have to go to absolute extremes, count me out.  I’ll forego that trip in favor of the next one.

#5 – There’s Nothing Wrong With Cruises or Resorts (As Long As You’re Honest About It)


To everyone who says that cruising doesn’t count as real travel, I don’t think you’re trying hard enough.

Of course, visiting somewhere by cruise or all-inclusive will never be as authentic as staying in a local home overnight, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a glimpse of local culture.  An port stop is long enough for a half-day of sightDOING, a local lunch, and a wander around town.  In my opinion, this is 100% a real visit, it just happens to be a short one.

And even if, for one week of your life, you want to sit by the pool with a margarita in your hand and never leave the hotel, that’s okay.  Just be honest and call it what it is.

#6 – I’m Envious of People Who Sleep on Planes


I don’t know what my problem is, but I have trouble sleeping on planes, trains, and automobiles.  It doesn’t matter how tired I am or how nice of a seat I have (even first class flights and train sleeping compartments)…if we’re moving, I’m awake.  That obviously means I’m dragging once I arrive at my final destination.

I’ve learned how to work around this — a nap on arrival and an easy day planned — but wouldn’t it be nice to have gotten a nap on your 14 hour flight instead of pulling an all nighter?  Maybe someday I’ll figure it out, but until then, I’ll be the one checking into my chain hotel in a stupor and crawling immediately into bed.

So: what are your dirty little travel secrets?

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5 thoughts on “I Like Chain Hotels and Other Dirty Little Secrets”

  1. Hi Becky,

    I hear you! My husband and I have been traveling together for over 30 years now, and things have changed for us, especially after getting more serious about miles and points, and just getting more experienced (wiser, and older!).

    I’m more of a traveler than my husband, so for many years we would take one trip to Europe and another to the beach or a cruise. To me, cruising wasn’t travel, it was a vacation – I think you understand the difference. He still likes to cruise, so I have to take that into consideration when planning our travels.

    Now, however, since we are recently retired and as we now have the means to take other types of cruises, for some places, the right ship and itinerary can still provide a good travel experience. Yes, more expensive than a Caribbean cruise – that is definitely the case, but miles and points help save on airfare, and pre- and post-hotel stays. I look for unique itineraries with these things in mind: do they go to places where I would be comfortable visiting for 1 day? Do they go places that are more convenient to get to by ship than driving? Do they have extended port stays?
    Some examples:
    We just did a cruise that went from Amsterdam to Lisbon, along the north and west coast of France and north coast of Spain. With some long port days and an overnight in Bordeaux, it let us visit some places we had not been on a previous trip to Normandy and Porto, Portugal, as well as getting to a part of Spain we had not visited before.
    We are doing a Baltics cruise that starts in Copenhagen where we will add 3 days, spends 3 days in St. Petersburg, an overnight in Gdansk and ends in Stockholm where we will add 3 more days.

    So, while I still prefer independent land travel, I’m learning how to make cruising work better for us.
    Oh, and I’ve gotten to like staying in some chain hotels, too, now that I have the points to do so. Hotel Indigo St. George saved us a bundle for 4 nights in Rome!!!

    1. @Marilyn, I think you hit the nail on the head. There are several Norwegian fjords cruises that I think would be an excellent way to see the region (in some ways, maybe better than traditional hotel stays). Your Baltics cruise sounds great too, with extended stays and overnights. Happy travels as always, and good job balancing you and your husband’s preferences.

  2. I agree with so many of these! I first got into the points & miles game about 6-7 years ago to prepare for a 2-week trip for a milestone birthday. After that I was addicted and have traveled better and farther than I ever could have dreamed. But using points for hotel stays almost always requires chain hotels. As you point out, when you’re dog-tired from traveling you want some consistency and chains can provide that. Yes, I realize some would say that’s not an “authentic” experience but if “authentic” means staying in someone’s home whose idea of cleanliness may not match mine, I’m OK with that. I like my room very cold at night so I don’t want to complain to someone who has no air conditioning. I’m only slightly adventurous with what I eat so I’d rather be in a restaurant than offend someone who’s made a home-cooked meal for me that I don’t like.

    I can’t lie; I like my creature comforts! I hope to retire in the next 7-8 years and at this point in my life I have no trouble paying for (with cash or points) either first/business class seats or good hotels.

  3. I’ve been known to take entire minutes to fall asleep on a plane. My record was falling asleep on an American flight to Phoenix from Denver before economy had started boarding. Slept through boarding, takeoff, and awakened an hour later in time to get a drink and then doze for the rest of the flight. Oddly, I have trouble in lie-flat beds on 11-hour flights, for some reason. Usually temperature.

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