The Good and Bad About Hotels

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Everyone has their own opinion on hotels especially when it comes to booking them and how much you are willing to spend per night. The general consensus among many less frequently traveled folks is that if you spend more, you will get a better hotel! Unfortunately this is far from the truth. From our experiences we have noticed that generally speaking, the more you spend per night, the more additional expenses are expected from you. E.g. Parking, Internet, Breakfast etc.

In the last few years, we have spent many nights in a variety of hotel chains, some leading brands and others local hotels that probably get less advertisement than they deserve. Let’s look at some of our favorite experiences and a few of those that we would prefer to forget but at least gives travelers an idea on where not to stay (again, please note that these are just our opinions!).

Embassy Suites Chain – GOOD

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Without doubt our favorite US hotel chain is the Embassy Suites. They are reasonably priced and have so many positive aspects that makes travelers want to return there. One of the key advantages of staying in an Embassy Suites location are the Manager’s Special that runs from 5:00PM – 7:00PM daily and offers free alcohol, soft drinks and hors d’ouevres. This is such a great attraction for travelers because many will check-in around 4:30PM, drop their bags inside their suite and then have a couple of drinks/snacks before heading back out for dinner.

The breakfast buffet is delectable with a variety of hot and cold options. The rooms are impeccable and offer plenty of space with a home like feel. We have stayed in several different locations including Little Rock, Nashville, Destin and St. Louis and all are of the highest caliber.

Sofitel Downtown Brisbane (Australia) – GOOD

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Our trip to Australia in December 2012 saw us stay in central Brisbane in close proximity to Central Station at the Sofitel Downtown hotel. Whenever you walk in to check in you are greeted by everyone saying ‘Bonjour’ and you are immediately made to feel welcome in this French inspired hotel chain. The architecture and style throughout the lobby is particularly impressive.

I was impressed by the Veuve Clicquot champagne bottles stacked around the perimeter to show the inspiration behind the infrastructure throughout the hotel. The rooms are impressive and very well maintained. The walk-in shower is a great asset to any hotel room and the bed was one of the more comfortable that we have slept in. The hotel is in a perfect location for navigating around Brisbane’s CBD area. You are minutes from the bustling Queen Street and not far at all from the South Bank by the Brisbane River.

Novotel Brisbane Airport (Australia) – BAD

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Ok, so from the beautiful hotel that we stayed at in Brisbane’s central district at the Sofitel, to probably our worst night’s experience at the Novotel Brisbane Airport. With a 18 hour flight to look forward to back to the States at the end of our amazing trip, we made the decision to take our rental car back the night before we departed and stay at the hotel by the airport so that we would be ready to leave early in the morning. This turned out to be a big mistake but of course hindsight is a wonderful thing! We checked in around 7:00PM on Saturday evening and after informing the front desk we had to return our rental vehicle, we were told that a shuttle was taking travelers back and forward to the Novotel every 20-30 minutes. This was our first issue!

We returned our rental car and were informed to go outside the main terminal and wait for the shuttle to arrive, in bay C/D. After 30 minutes of waiting, Heather went inside the terminal and asked them for their opinion on where the Novotel shuttle was located – again we were told the same thing! Another 15 minutes passed and by now it was 8:15PM, two shuttles should have been passed by this time and we had seen no sign of any!

Eventually with other folks we were told that we had been misinformed and it was actually another bay that the shuttle was waiting. The shuttle was a black van with no markings to indicate it was taking people to the Novotel aside from a hand written sheet of paper in the windshield! Given that it was dark, let’s be honest how many people could actually see that?

To make matters worse with this hotel, the bed was unbelievably uncomfortable! I suffered on the flight back to Dallas the whole time with neck issues simply because the bed and lack of pillows were disgraceful. Our experience here was awful. I am sure there are others out there that saw the benefits of staying here but paying over $230 for a night, you expect a lot more than what we got for our money!

I could write about more hotel chains and individual hotels all night and everyone would probably have differing opinions.

What are your favorite hotel stays and why? 

Would you recommend people to stay in chain-branded hotels or local hotels?

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Chris Boothman is the co-founder of A Brit and A Southerner. Born near Manchester, England, Chris moved to USA in 2006 where he soon after met his wife and travel partner in crime, Heather. They have since embarked on an amazing journey of travel as they challenge others to follow in their paths of working full-time but also being able to travel frequently! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Chris at [email protected]

34 COMMENTS

  1. Great write up!

    I have to put Embassy Suites in the so-so category – I ended up stepping on someone else’s toenail clipping which drew blood from my foot when I stayed at one a few years ago. I was there for at least two nights and housekeeping never came in once.

  2. I have stayed at Embassy Suites in the past and had a wonderful experience. Since most of my travels recently have been in Asia, I usually read people’s comments about their experiences at the hotel to aid in my selection. With the internet these days, everything is at your fingertips so making a decision about which hotel to stay at has become a little more easy given the information available!

    • Thanks for the comments Constance! Yes, like I said our experiences at Embassy have always been positive! As you can see from the other comment though everyone can have very different experiences which is only natural.

      As you stated, it is much easier nowadays to get more accurate reviews on hotels. It is also interesting that even though I categorized these hotels by hotel chain, you can have very different experiences from the same chain.

  3. Ohhh yes my husband has stayed at the Novotel Brisbane Airport a few times, and complained about the pillows as well! Pillows seems to be a personal thing, but flat lifeless pillows are nobody’s favourite. And it sucks it put you in a bad spot for a long haul flight, instead of a well rested onem 🙁

    • It certainly wasn’t the ideal preparation heading back to DFW in the States but that’s life right and we will know for future reference not to head back there. The worst aspect was the price we paid. It was equivalent to the Sofitel in downtown Brisbane and there was no comparison whatsoever between the two hotels – yet they are both part of the same Accor hotel chain!!

  4. With Novotel and Sofitel being the same hotel chain, though differently positioned, at least you would expect that they had basic standards covered (e.g. comfortable bed). I would hate to have a terrible night sleep prior to 18 hours flight. Love Embassy Suites Manager’s Special!

    • Exactly what I would think regarding Novotel and Sofitel. We stayed at the Sofitel in Brisbane and then decided to book the Novotel primarily because our experience in the Brisbane CBD was so positive. But how wrong could we be!!! It literally took days after we arrived back in the States following that long haul flight to recover from the neck pain that Chris was in after the poor quality pillows and bed inside the Novotel Brisbane Airport hotel.

      We all love the Embassy Suites Managers Special right!!! Best incentive of any hotel chain that I know of for sure.

  5. We had a similar experience with an airport hotel just last month – we thought we would stay in one and return the car the night before to save time. The shuttle came to pick up my husband and then actually drove off before he could hop in as they didn’t believe he was going to their hotel!! He spent 50 minutes waiting for this, so ended up catching a cab back as it was dinner time and he knew the kids would be screaming for dinner while we waited for him. The cab cost a ridiculous $20. We were not happy, although they did actually end up refunding us when I complained later (they didn’t care at the actual hotel).

    I spend so long looking at reviews before I pick a hotel to get the best deal, but that is getting harder now that tripadvisor is filling up with fake reviews.

    • We have been fortunate for the most part that our stays in airport hotels have been positive. Our most recent was at the Westin O’Hare in Chicago, IL and this was amazing. After using Priceline to pay for the hotel, we only paid $80 for the night which in comparison to the standard $170 per night was a great deal for us.

      You are so right Sharon about reviews though. It is becoming increasingly difficult to know what resources are reliable and you almost have to either go by the chain/brand or just suck it up and experience it for yourself.

      We are about to start a new feature on our site about Hotel Reviews because I think this would be something others would be interested in reading before spending big bucks on a hotel room!

  6. I love the Embassy Suites I have stayed in. I also really like the Sofitel, but have not had good experiences with Novotel and will likely never stay with them again. What frustrates me with Sofitel and Novotel is their equivalent to frequent flyer program (A-club, maybe?) just doesn’t have any real incentive for me to want to stay at their properties. I like staying at Hiltons (which Embassy Suites is part of) in Europe because the Hilton Honors program has legit benefits. For the US the Honors program isn’t that great. I have good and bad experiences with more local hotels, but overall (again in Europe) like to book under the Best Western name. They’re local hotels that just happen to be BW, but are not like the BW motels in the US. So they have all of the charm (if you book a charming hotel), but then they’ve kind of been vetted by someone else.

    • We just stayed at the Best Western Le Tour Notre Dame in Paris and actually were pretty impressed by this! For the location and price, it was perfect. Yes, it was very small but that’s just stereotypical of Parisian accommodation unless you are willing to spend crazy amounts each night.

      It’s interesting you should say that the European versions of BW are very different to the US chain. I completely agree with you because here in the States they have a bad reputation, almost economy (maybe just above the bottom tier of hotel chains) but in Europe they are much more luxurious yet still very affordable.

    • This week’s Sunday Traveler for us was about hotel reviews but honestly you could share anything you wanted. It’s nice that our minds thought alike though and that folks can have a couple of posts to read that are similar on hotel experiences. I mentioned to Sharon in another comment that we are about to start a new feature on our site called Hotel Reviews to put down all of our experiences, both positive and negative at specific hotels around the world so that folks can check them out if they are visiting the area.

      Of course, everyone is different and every hotel have varying levels of quality – even if they are within the same hotel chain! We have had different experiences, though the majority are very positive, at Embassy’s around the States.

  7. Thanks for this – I really want to plan a road trip to the US so will definitely look up Embassy Suites – we often stay at rentals when we’re in the US but for a night or two need some good alternatives so thank you for sharing…the Manager’s Special in particular sounds great!

    • The Manager’s Special is a HUGE incentive but you have to make sure you make plans to be there because on several occasions we have been out and about exploring the local area and completely forgot to check-in and take advantage of the special. If you do, you won’t be disappointed! Who can turn their nose up at free alcohol and snacks. Each Embassy Suites is different but from our experiences they all have a great Manager’s Special along with breakfast buffet etc.

      We would highly recommend you checking them out along your travels!

  8. I completely agree with your Embassy Suites assessment. I’ve used them frequently in the past and always felt like we had good luck with them. We even stayed in one in Toledo, OH recently, and were continually surprised at how good it was, even for the Embassy chain in general.

    Found you through the #SundayTraveler link up, and I’ll be checking more of your site. =)

    • Thank you so much for checking out our site and joining up through the #SundayTraveler linky!! It’s great to meet new folks.

      We can’t say anything but good things about the Embassy Suites and for the most part it seems like the majority of other people have positive experiences there. I like how the Embassy chain is part of the Hilton group so I can also earn HHonors points during our stays. Given the luxury and space of the suites you would think that Embassy would be more expensive than they are, in fact they are much cheaper than a standard Hilton hotel yet they have twice the space and many more incentives for guests.

  9. I’ve stayed at each of these chains in various places and all the experiences have somewhat melded into one. I’m very utilitarian when it comes to hotels; when it’s on my dime –and it increasingly will be once again, unfortunately 🙂 — I prefer locally-run accommodations, and the cheaper the better. Besides general cleanliness and a private bathroom, I’m not very picky.

    • We tend to be the same Bob in terms of not being all that picky. I think Heather is more picky but I put that down to the female genes! My thought process is that I will only be spending a few hours in the hotel room to sleep and shower and the majority of time will be spent exploring the region.

      Locally run accommodations can be very rewarding in terms of their hospitality and cleanliness being far superior to the chains who take it for granted that they will house guests all year round.

  10. This is why I never stay in hotels with more than one star unless I can get them for under 50 bucks on Priceline. Seriously, Priceline is awesome but nobody seems to know about it! (Maybe I should write a post?) You plug in what area you want to stay, what level of hotel (2-star, 3-star, etc.) and then bid your price.

    • Love Priceline A LOT!! We use Priceline frequently whenever we are just going on a weekend trip.

      I think a lot of folks here in the States know about the infamous ‘Priceline Negotiator’ due to the commercials etc. but because of the unknown element when you are bidding some people are put off by that. However, when you are able to select your star rating you know what you are going to get and the savings can be HUGE!! Whenever we use that we frequently save at least 50% on hotel prices which is a great saving.

  11. We’ve never done much in terms of hotel chains. Stayed once at the Sheraton in Indianapolis, and we couldn’t stop giggling at the immensity of it all. We’re more familiar with locally run b&b’s, small hotels or hostels. Great read though, and will try my best not to stay at the Novotel Brisbane 🙂 Good luck and safe travels!

    • Thanks so much for your comments! We tend to stay in ‘chains’ here in the States but whenever we are in England it’s more of the B&B type places and camp sites in Summer that we stay at.

      Looking forward to continuing to follow you guys on your travels in 2014!

  12. Badly marked transportation options are a pet peeve of mine – there’s nothing worse then having to wait another 40 minutes because you were in the wrong spot when the shuttle came by.

    I never knew about Embassy Suite’s Manager’s Special – that makes the idea of checking in after a long trip sound a bit less stressful!

  13. I haven’t stayed at any of these, we mostly stay in local hotels because the big chain ones are fairly expensive here in Costa Rica. Good review for when I do consider one of them in the future however!

    • Thanks for the kind remarks Samantha! It’s difficult here in the States to avoid the chain hotels but I agree with you that local establishments are generally the way to go if you can do that.

  14. My family use to be loyal customers of Embassy Suites! I’m not sure why we stopped staying in them. Maybe the cost? Now we use even cheaper options: Econolodge and the like. When I’m on my own I’m usually in a hostel or I go with AirBnB. I hate sleeping in hotels because of the bad pillows. I always wake up with a sore neck. Not fun, especially right before a long flight as in your case!

  15. Oh, the stories we could tell you about hotels! We love the Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Orient-Express brands (who doesn’t?). But we’ve also had good luck with some small places for under $100. One airport hotel at JFK (can’t remember the name unfortunately) did a good job for under $100 with free and efficient airport shuttle, clean sheets and room, free WiFi and helpful front desk staff. So price, as you say, isn’t necessarily indicative of comfort and quality.

    • It’s so true that price doesn’t always reflect the quality of hotel you get! Many of our most pleasant hotel experiences have been at lesser renowned hotel chains but I think that just shows what stereotypes do and how they can drive or reduce prices which unfortunately is today’s society in a nutshell.

  16. Hey Chris
    While most hotel chains have a great name i thin its hard to say the whole chain is good – some properties might be lazy and useless and come might be fantastic – we have experience this several times!

    However you do have some good points – the Novotel airport hotel isnt fantastic! – most people just stay there overnight and therefore the hotel doesnt care much about anything – they will make money no matter what

  17. Great list – I love knowing the best deals with the best customer experience – cheap isn’t always the way to go, but spending money can be the wrong way to go as well. It’s great to know others experiences to help with these tough traveling decisions – thanks for sharing!

  18. Nice list. I´m curious what you think of one of the Starwood Hotels. The one in Amsterdam (Hotel Pulitzer) is am-a-zing! It consists of 25 canal houses in the middle of Amsterdam – so lovely! Maybe for a next trip? 😉

  19. Ok, so the fact that we are currently planning a trip to Australia this post does come in handy. I have now noted which hotel to stay away from at all costs, I am far too ratty if I have a bad night’s sleep to pay that much money, and which one is the one to keep an eye out for. I have also made a mental note to keep an eye out for deals to embassy suite hotels after hearing about that amazing two hour hotel offer. 🙂

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