Accomodations in small US city
May 13, 2012 4:07 AM   Subscribe

As many europeans travellers in the US I first visited NYC and SF. This time I want to try something different, a trip through various states as Colorado,Nebraska etc.. but where are the budget accommodations ( More details) ?

The price of a car rental is easy to find and are extremely cheap by europeans standard, the food is also cheaper than in europe but it seems very difficult to find accomodations less than 60 USD a night, and also to find them in small town ? Give me your experiences
posted by luis huiton to Travel & Transportation around Colorado (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you tried using Priceline?
posted by Pantalaimon at 4:17 AM on May 13, 2012

Small hotel/motels are your best bet for really cheap accommodations in the middle of the country. Sixty bucks a night sounds about right for the weekdays- friday/saterday/sunday often are at least 100$. I assume you are talking about 60 bucks-per-person, or that you are traveling alone? More people mean more money.

Often, the really cheap places won't be on the deal websites- they are not that sophisticated. When traveling, stop in at rest stops and truck stops. They often have advertizement pamphlets for the local area including very cheap accommodations.

When traveling back and forth from Minnesota to New York- that's how we found most of our motels. On weekdays they were from sixty to eighty dollars a night- weekends ninety to one hundred-fifteen.

If you are really really interested in saving money- you may want to consider getting a cheap tent and camping. The middle of the country has tons of camp grounds and renting a space there is very very reasonable.
posted by Blisterlips at 4:23 AM on May 13, 2012

I have had nothing but great experiences with AirBNB. It's a site where people rent out their spare bedrooms to travelers. The prices are very reasonable and you get to meet interesting people who know the area like only a local can and, because you're paying them, it has none of the awkwardness of couchsurfing.

It really is great. I even recommended it to my 60 year old mother and, though she was skeptical, she gave it a shot and had a fantastic time.
posted by 256 at 4:58 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing Blisterlips, there are a lot of small, clean-but-unglamorous hotels all along the interstate highways throughout the U.S.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 5:09 AM on May 13, 2012

It's still possible to find motels in the $40-50 range outside the major cities (in fact, that's the only place you'll find them!)--there will be more options along the major interstate highways, but even on the smaller highways you may find a motel or two. However, there's a size of "small" below which there's a good chance you won't find lodging, especially if there's nothing else in the town to draw tourists/travelers.

One place to start would be Priceline and Hotwire. The problem there is that you pay in advance, and if you're planning a long roadtrip through unfamiliar territory, it's very possible that you may find yourself off your itinerary for some reason.

Here are some random examples for non-interstate Nebraska (there are more options directly on the Interstate): Alliance, NE, which is a smallish town of about 9,000 people that is not located on a major interstate highway but is kind of the only reasonable sized town in the middle of a big chunk of "middle of nowhere". It's actually got several motels, and a couple are $50 and under on Expedia.

Now, if you move down in size to a place like Burwell, NE, which is only 1200 people, you won't find anything on Expedia. But this town is located near some decent outdoor recreation lands and if you just do a general google search for "Burwell motel" you will turn up a couple of options, including the "Pump-n-Pantry Motel". No rate is stated, but for a non-chain, small-town "1-star" motel of this nature in the Midwest, $40-60 is the typical price range.

The regional advertising flyers Blisterlips mentions are also a good source of info if you don't want to make reservations too far in advance.

What you should know about accommodations at this price point is that they will be pretty basic and often not well-maintained. They may or may not meet your standards of cleanliness, they may smell like stale cigarettes or mildew, the mattresses may be old and lumpy, etc. However, some of these non-chain properties date back to the "pre-interstate" days (1950s and earlier) and some people find a certain nostalgic charm in that.

If you're not firm in your choice of Colorado, Nebraska, etc., one classic American road trip route that is well established and well-documented but will still give you ample tastes of small-town Americana would be the Route 66 route, which runs from Los Angeles through the Southwest and Midwest to Chicago. There are lots of Route 66 guidebooks that will help you plan a worthwhile and memorable itinerary.
posted by drlith at 5:37 AM on May 13, 2012

I have driven across the USA many times. You can cheap hotels, $35-$50, along any major Highway. Look for 18wheeler trucks. Trucker hotels are cheap.

They are also not the cleaniest. I always brought a sleeping bag, and slept in my bag on the bed, on top of the hotel blankers and sheets.

Also, another great cheap thing is cabins or other accomodations at National parks and such. I know that the Grand Canyon, YellowStone, and Shenandoah are three national parks that have nice cabins you rent, and they are cheap, like $50 per night. You have to book them way in advance though.

The Cabins on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon are fabulous, for example. Tiny bedroom, basic bathroom, clean, and right on the edge of the canyon. The Grand Canyon cabins need to be booked exactly one year in advance. (They do not hold reservations for more than a year, and the cabin rentals at the Grand Canyon are booked exactly one year out, because the sell out as soon as the day is available.)

You should check the National Parks where you are going. Some parks have lodges too, like hotels. Those are a little more expensive, like $75 per night, but they are also very nice hotel rooms. If you are driving across the USA, I highly recommend staying in the National Parks as much as possible.
posted by Flood at 6:19 AM on May 13, 2012

I have driven across the country several times and have had excellent luck with Priceline's Name Your Own Price. The first time I had my laptop, so we had to decide in the morning where we were stopping that night and put a bid in before we left. The next summer I had my smart phone, so could find a place to stay while on the road. We stayed at pretty nice hotels for $50-$60 a night, when normally they would be about twice that. They were always clean, new, and with breakfast in the morning, which you can't usually say about a $50 motel room.
posted by apricot at 7:21 AM on May 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

There are tons of very cheap campgrounds in the rural US, (prices $10-20/night) if you're planning a seasonally camping-appropriate trip. You can rent tents and sleeping bags at REI or other outdoor gear stores.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:37 AM on May 13, 2012

When I travel cross country I either look for bill boards for cheap motels (40 dollars to 25 dollars). Or, in places larger than say, Cheyenne or Rawlins Wyoming, I will priceline with my bidding price of 35 dollars (this has worked well in places like Salt Lake City, or Pueblo Colorado). I have never made reservations to this. I've only once or twice had the problem of not being able to find one that was open between 9-12 and was forced to sleep in my car (in South-Western Kansas) over the course of traveling cross country maybe... 12-18 times?

If your planning ahead most medium sized cities like Denver, Salt Lake, Omaha have hostels for the 12-20 dollar a person range. This become a bad deal if you have three or more people (arguably even when you have two people, I'd rather split a 35 dollar hotel room than buy two 17 dollar beds in a larger shared dormitory style hostel) but they can be fun... lots of like minded travelers, good info on the area, a large shared cooking space, usually free internet. However, Hostels in America, compared to Europe, are dirtier. Actually I've never had a problem at any trucker motel, never had to sleep in my sleeping bag due to any sheets, but a couple hostels have given me the creeps.

Also, if you decide you're open to camping (an awesome option in my opinion) note that, in the inter-mountain west especially (Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregan, etc) there are commercial camp sites that are in urban areas, crowded, expensive but usually have showers. And there are campsites in parks or BLM land* that might have fewer amenities, but will at least have toliets, and can be as low as 6-8 dollars a night. Many state park sites have more amenities randomly, and they are more likely to have running water or, gasp, even showers! if they are in very popular local parks that have very good water supply (so if you're in a desert area like Moab and really want running water, camping in parks might be out of the option). In the west there are usually National Park Service visitor centers or Ranger Offices that are used to talking to tourist and providing very good information about the best places to camp.

This is just my two cents. When I travel cross country I usually budget 30 dollars a less per night for lodging, but I'm a male in his 20s, so my standards may be different than other people here. Everyone else has also given good advice. Also, be sure to visit southern Utah, or you have made a mistake.

*BLM land is land under the jurisdiction of the federal Bureau of Land Management, which is basically a clearing house of unused, low value land.
posted by midmarch snowman at 8:39 AM on May 13, 2012

Forget about the internet, and advance reservations.

Once you're in country and on the road, go to convenience stores and chain restaurants at freeway exits, and look around the door and the entry vestibule, where you'll find stacks of a couple competing coupon brochures -- one's green, the other's yellow. They're full of ads for motels in various areas, most with discount coupons (which are usually valid only between Monday and Thursday ie non-weekend nights). You'll find prices as low as $29. You'll also spot motels with signs indicating similar prices, during your journey.

You can also get a discount with a AAA card. When the motel desk-person asks if you have one, try bluffing, saying you forgot, it's out in the car -- this sometimes works.

Good luck!
posted by Rash at 8:54 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are many good budget travel brands in the US. Motel 6, Super 8, Holiday Inn Express and Best Western. You'll find that they're a bit more economical in the suburbs rather than the cities. You do have to be aware of your surroundings, some can be in awesome locations, others will be in grotty and unsafe areas. Some may provide breakfast, others, nothing.

There are "wide spots in the road" where there are nothing but budget-friendly motels, Button Willow, CA, Valdosta, GA are two such places.

I recommend looking at Trip Advisor (they have a free mobile app) upon approaching one of these places for the best option, in your price range.

Although they look like a chain, motels may be franchised, so one might be great and another 2 states away will be a disaster, hence, you NEED Trip Advisor.

I'd risk not making reservations, but just meandering around as you travel, enjoying backroads America.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:07 AM on May 13, 2012

I'm going to disagree with 256. I think Couchsurfing is your best bet. The people who do it are wonderful and very kind and tend to be very generous as well. And it's free! You can't beat that. Because you're not paying there is a standard though for politeness, perhaps bringing a small gift or taking them out for a drink, and for being an excellent houseguest. Couchsurfing is great in other countries too. You'd be surprised how there are registered Couchsurfers in so many small towns across the USA, and many of them have real beds for you to use, not couches.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:44 AM on May 13, 2012

Back in my road tripping days, I learned to stop at every state's welcome center (assuming you are traveling the interstates) to check out the coupons for lodging. Once in Louisiana I found one for a hotel in the French Quarter that was really nice, normally $179/night for $69! Also, those coupon books that Rash mentions are helpful because they usually have a rudimentary map that lets you know vaguely where things are, which exit they are located, etc. I would recommend getting a good old fashioned map for this trip too. GPS is great if you have a destination but less helpful if you are just going.

If you do wind up sleeping in the car, lots of truck stops have showers for a small fee. Maybe I got lucky but in my experience they were all very clean and not skeevy at all.
posted by karlos at 3:29 PM on May 13, 2012

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