At a recent speaking engagement, I was asked "do you really spend 30 weeks traveling per year?" My answer was "yes." As you may know I love to travel, both to host "Beyond Your Backyard," make short form travel videos and for personal vacations. The weeks add up per year and I love it. I stay in a variety of accommodations but, primarily I stay in large chain hotels or resorts. I believe Airbnb has made staying in someone else's home "cool" and convenient for both the visitor and the owner. I also believe it is an excellent option for some travelers, especially seasoned globetrotters. But as you know, this is not a unique concept. Sometimes staying in a vacation rental is just more economical especially when vacationing with larger groups of people in your party.
But for the most part, I prefer staying in large properties for a myriad of key reasons. I do stay at other types of properties such as cute, little cozy inns, vacation rentals, and bed-and-breakfasts. But, a larger property (preferably part of a chain) is my preference. Here are a few other reasons why:
I like earning points with hotel loyalty programs or earning extra miles (or points) when booking with a hotel or airline credit card. The three programs I use the most are Marriott, Hilton and IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group). While I do use online travel companies (Expedia, Priceline, or Hotels.com) where I can read hotel reviews, I actually prefer to book directly with the property or chain. Sometimes by booking directly with larger properties, I can get a better deal booking unsold inventory. This is a major hotel tip: Hotels like to be full and fill every vacant room. A larger property is likely to sell that inventory at a discounted rate, rather than let the rooms go empty.
With larger properties, I have options when booking a room type that best suites my specific needs. King bed, two queens, a one bedroom suite, balcony, square footage bathtub, a gorgeous view, location relative to the elevators, stairs, and/or parking are also considerations.
Websites like Airbnb and HomeAway have really made it easy to communicate with the property owner or manager, but not all owners are as responsive as I might like. Keep in mind that each booking is a little different based on factors like key location, security codes, front gate codes, parking passes, parking locations, and local laws.
Transportation and Favorable Location
Larger properties are easy to get to (and return to) with different transportation options. They may have an airport shuttle for instance. Taxi drivers and Uber drivers don't always have to rely on GPS because they are aware of a larger property's location. And in some cases a larger property is located in a locations city-center.
I also prefer staying in commercial neighborhoods rather than a residential neighborhood. More restaurants, convenience stores and other businesses are more-likely to be closer when a hotel is situated in a commercial neighborhood (think downtown or a busy suburb).
Service and Amenities
Honestly, I'm pretty low maintenance when I'm traveling, but I like knowing (and sometimes) utilize the services and amenities of a lager property like a fitness center, swimming pool, sun deck, business center, lounge, bar, meeting rooms etc. Room service is sometimes helpful when I want a quick bite or breakfast in my room before I start my day. Valet parking is also sometimes a welcome addition to my hotel bill.
The check-in process is seamless with the use of a larger property's app. In some cases I can open my guest room door with my phone. I also can communicate (via the app) with my property in advance of my arrival with last-minute changes and/or requests. This way, the property is ready for my arrival, therefore making the process as smooth as possible.
And when something's just not right, larger properties are sometimes able to make a change quickly without hassle.
The Room Itself
One of the biggest reasons I stay in larger properties is the ability to control the temperature in my hotel room. A larger property is more-likely to have an HVAC system in good working order.
Cleanliness standards are also a big consideration for me. Large properties have cleaning protocols in place with oversight standards. They aren't always perfect, but at least they are in place.
I also think a little less about whether or some creepy homeowner's son has placed a hidden camera in the smoke detector in the bedroom. of course, this is an extreme circumstance, but it does happen.
Security of the grounds and physical structure(s) of major properties provides a little more peace of mind as well.
Again, these are just a few of the considerations I think about when I travel. I can't stress enough that i stay in all types of accommodation options, but hopefully this gives a little insight as to why I tend to gravitate towards large properties in just about every location I visit.
If you have hotel tips or thoughts to help other vacation thrill seekers, then please feel free to comment below.
Erik the Travel Guy is a respected travel industry expert and host of the Emmy-nominated, nationally syndicated PBS travel television series “Beyond Your Backyard.” He spends, on average, 25 weeks traveling around the world, hosting his show(s), making short-form travel videos and speaking at events and conferences. He lives in New York City and most enjoys spending time with his two daughters.
P.S. For more accommodation tips and stories explore:
Air B&Bs - A Cautionary Tale
Travelocity - A Quick Read
Discover the Basics of OTAs (Online Travel Landscapes)
Stop what you’re doing and book a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona. I returned to this famous destination in December of 2018 and I am so glad I did. There’s just something about this iconic place that is special to me, and frankly, the reasons are too innumerable to mention- but I’ll try.
First of all, flying into Sky Harbor International Airport is where the transformation began. I was there to host an episode of Beyond Your Backyard. My mind was squarely focused on creating the best television episode I could. I stared out the airplane window and saw the vast brown openness of this part of the country. Like you, I carry my own luggage, so after a brief stint at baggage claim, I was off to the rental car center to punch in the coordinates of the hotel. As I try to do on my travels, I arrived during the day before rush hour, so getting to the resort took about 20 minutes. The valet greeted me and the check-in to Mountain Shadows Resort was effortless. The saguaro cactus reminded me that the vibe here is unique. The dry heat was a refreshing change from NYC in December, and I was reminded once again that this trip was an excellent idea.
On this trip we stayed at Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, which is a sister resort to the urban chic and very retro Valley Ho in downtown. This property has a very historic past, originally built below Camelback Mountain in 1959 but after a $100-million-dollar complete rebuild, re-opened with great fanfare in 2017. My room was spacious, and the bedding was very luxurious. But I’m not here to give a Trip Advisor review, I’m here to remind you that your lodging choice is just as important as the destination itself. I instantly felt this property embodied the free spirit of the West and the staff was as friendly as can be.
I first visited Scottsdale in 2007 and have been holding a slow burn candle ever since. My first day was an early start as we were whisked away for a hot air balloon voyage that was out of this world. The company we chose was Hot Air Expeditions and our Captain was fantastic. There is a reason this pastime is a popular one with both visitors and locals alike. After an eventful landing, a champagne toast was had by all in the desert and it was an excellent way to start the shoot. Also, on this journey we toured the Museum of the West and WOW, just WOW. We strolled along the downtown streets and dropped in on the art galleries. Old Town Scottsdale boasts world class art, especially along main street in the heart of the Arts District. We drove about 30 minutes from the town center and took a nature hike in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, where there are 30 acres of recreation and conservation area and miles of prime hiking and biking trails. Again, the sky was big, the vistas were gorgeous, and the work was simply easier and more fun because of the natural beauty. We had an excellent guide from McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Stewards and the Scottsdale official tourism bureau. We didn't have time to go horseback riding, off-road driving or play a round of golf. All of which win awards for exceptional experiences. Perhaps next time!
With more than 900 restaurants in Scottsdale frankly, I’m not sure where to start with the local cuisine. Every meal we had was bursting with flavor. The Mission was one of my new favorites. We also spent time with chef/owner Brett Vibber at Cartwright’s Modern Cuisine in Cave Creek. His passion for the destination runs as deep as the menu choices. Oh, and for breakfast, make a stop at The Hash Kitchen & Bar for eggs benedict made with a giant soft pretzel topped with thick cut bacon, two poached eggs, fried onions and a beer cheese hollandaise sauce.
Again, I cannot quite put my finger on WHY I am a huge fan of Scottsdale, I just am, and you will be too after your first visit. So, stop what you’re doing and book a vacation to Scottsdale.
If you are so inclined, watch the video to see how amazing it truly is! And PLEASE share your thoughts and questions about Scottsdale in the comment section below.
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the Emmy award- winning, nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!