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|| News Item: Posted 2000-05-30

Road Warrior: How to Find a Good & Cheap Motel
By Mongo

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Ok, I'm back, after being slightly detained by the Game & Fish wardens. (No thanks to that nitwit Capt. Ron and his worthless Canadian fishing permits)

(2 of a 2 part series)

Last month we commiserated about hotels, (Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton,) with accommodations running around $100.00 to $250.00 per night! (Yeooow, that's a bucket-load of money for a place to sleep) There really is no good reason to pay that kind of money for a place to rest, cause if you're really doing your job, there's no time to spend enjoying the amenities of a full service hotel.

If you're a freelancer, working for those cheapskates at the AP or you're doing a job on spec, every dollar you save help the bottom-line (which means more money for YOU).

Now I'm a pretty simple person and am quite content with the simple pleasures that motels afford, like:

Ground floor rooms - Your typical full service hotel usually has a palatial lobby with a bank of elevators hidden off in the middle of East Nowhere-ville. Once you get to the elevators depending on the time of day, there could be a wait just to get on the elevator. When you get to your floor, inevitably your room is at the farthest end of the hall. I hate schlepping my gear up and down hallways and if you are really paranoid about your gear, you're gonna be hauling that camera case in and out of your car each night. With a motel, you just back right up to the door and unload.

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FREE parking - Now there's another advantage. Those megabuck hotels charge $10.00 to $20.00 a night for valet parking and to add insult to injury they make you wait for 10 to 15 minutes to get your damn car! Not for me thank you. Being able to park right in front of your room is the cat's ass. Spend that $20.00 on a lap dance and contribute to the local economy instead!

FREE local phone calls - Major chains like Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton have the gall to charge .50 to $1.00 per call and in the never ending pursuit of greed and money some properties actually are now charging by the MINUTE! That's right kids, if you are transmitting from your hotel room or you're surfing the Internet into the wee hours of the morning, be prepared to bend over and spread 'em. Motels on the other hand, offer FREE local calls. This can mean substantial savings!

Late night cigars by the pool - There are few pleasures in life to compare to that victory smoke after kicking the competitions butt. The problem is that by the time you get finished transmitting pictures, drive back to your overpriced hotel, the damn pool is closed. This never happens at most motels. (You can always just hop the fence)

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Around the clock dinning (not to be confused with 24 hour room service) - Hey, know what La Quinta means in Spanish? "Next to Denny's" ha, ha, (you have to travel a lot to get that one). Why pay OUTRAGOUS amounts for mediocre room service food? When you stay at a motel, there are always late night dining options available. In the East, WAFFLE HOUSE reigns supreme, ummm... pecan waffles and hash browns with onions and ham (that's smothered and chunked for you regulars). Out West, it's Denny's and the Super Slam Breakfast. These restaurants run 24 / 7 so that means that even after staying out at the Naked bars till 03:00 you and your buddies from the Denver Post can get Orange juice (but not fresh squeezed)

FREE Porno - If you are staying at a really old property they may not have digital cable tuning boxes. This is a good thing, because with the old style boxes, you can usually tune in the local X-rated channels. No more having to try to "beat the preview"

FREE Movies - Some motels have the early keypad addressable SpectraVision boxes, and with the correct keystrokes, you can reprogram the box with a different room number (like your reporter's). Watch all the movies you want and they get billed to a different room!

This happened to a buddy of ours who worked at the Portland Oregonian. His name will remain anonymous, but we'll call him "Paul". We're at the US Olympic Sports Festival andpoor "Paul", being a Road Warrior FUNUGY (friggin' new guy) fell for the old "what room are you in, we'll call you for breakfast trick". Now normally we would just go eat in the hotel's restaurant and charge it to his room. But we wanted to do something unique, and spectacular, so we taught ALL of the students at the Sports Workshop how to hot wire the SpectraVision box. For training purposes we gave them a random (hee, hee) room number. When Paul checked out, his in room movie bill was $500.00! Jeez was his boss pissed off about that one!


Photo by Mongo

Photo by Mongo
One of the qualifiers for the Motel MONGO seal of approval is that a property should fall within the following price structure.

Single - $25.00 to $75.00 per night
Double - $35.00 to $85.00 per night

Like their full service brethren, motels have a "rack" rate and a myriad of discount rates. Here are a couple of the most popular.

AAA discounts, usually good for 10% to 20% off the rack rate. If you travel more than 5 days a year, then it's well worth the money to join AAA. The money you save will more than pay for the membership. Plus you get access to their travel services desk. Free state and city maps, and the state "Tour" books they publish are the BEST resource for finding affordable lodging ANYWHERE! They are well organized with capsule reviews of each property, rates and directions on how to get there.

AARP discount, 20% to 40% off the rack rate. Another advantage of old age and wisdom is that people want to reward you for all your years of hard work and artistic ability. God forbid that you should be old enough to actually qualify for one of these cards and still be traveling on the road. If you're not old enough to get one of these cards, just ask Bob Deutsch for a copy of his.

If you want to SAVE money, don't waste your time calling the 800 number of any national chain! You can usually get a better rate by calling the property DIRECT to get a rate quote. For example I recently had a project in Colorado Springs, CO. and during the drive down from Denver, I called the Marriott 800 line to book a room. Marriott 800 quoted me $99.00 per night at the Fairfield. Now I thought that was a little bit on the steep side for Colorado Springs, so I called hotel direct and got me a rate of $72.00!


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Well, hotels figured out a long time ago that having a room filled with somebody paying a discounted rate was better than NOT having somebody in the room. After 6:00pm most hotel / motels are willing to offer a discount to somebody calling in and asking for a "walk in rate" The person working the desk is empowered to offer these discounts in order to fill the property for the night. Do NOT underestimate the power that these lowly desk jockeys wield. (Hint, the later in the day you call, the better the discount!)


You get to town and the hotel / motel you wanted to stay at is SOLD OUT! Trust me, there is NO such thing as sold out. Most of these places have suites or family units that nobody ever asks about. Well you ought to ask about them! Yes they may be a bit more money, but at least you got a room!

If the property is near the airport, chances are they have a block of rooms reserved for flight crews. Just beg the front desk person to give you an "airline room". If it's late enough at night most crews have already checked in, making it more likely that you can score a place to crash.


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Days Inn, Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn - All part of the same chain of properties. Moderately priced and well-kept rooms. Sometimes you can get really good deals by calling the property direct or looking up ads in the local tourist rag for specials. If the property is near a resort area, there's a good chance they have a deal worked out with a local outfitter for discounted rates.

Motel 6 - $25.00 to $40.00 Really clean and really cheap! Many of the properties have undergone renovations and now feature remote control TV's and direct dial phones. You can spot the newer or recently remodeled locations by looking for the gigantic digital rate displays built into their signs. The rates change depending on time of day and occupancy level. It's just another way to maximize profits with yield management.

Super 8 - Older buildings, almost always located next to the freeway (noisy rooms) and as a general rule not a great value for your dollar. You usually find Super 8's where there aren't any Motel 6's.

La Quinta - Always next to a Denny's. Prices are right in the middle of the pack. What makes this chain a standout is that many rooms come equipped with a LAZY-BOY recliner and refrigerators. If MONGO could only stay at one brand of motel forever, this would be the place.

Holiday Inn EXPRESS - Low price version of the medium priced Holiday Inn. Most of the time these are much newer properties than traditional Holiday Inn's, BUT once in a while you end up with an older rundown Holiday Inn that's just re-badged.

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Fairfield Inn (Marriott) Low price version of the obscenely overpriced full service Marriott's. No ball rooms, banquet rooms, or room service, BUT they do offer a breakfast featuring cereals, fruits, and pastries. Best of all you still get Marriott points for your stays and each night's stay counts toward GOLD and PLATIUM status.


Get two (2).
For many years I always booked rooms with a King sized bed. It was just a little luxury I would reward myself with because I normally sleep on a full size bed when I'm home. One morning when I woke up, it dawned upon me that I would always sleep on one side of the bed! The other half of the bed was untouched.

Now I'm one of those people that hate to UN pack, you know hang shirts up and fold pants and put them in the dresser? When I get into a room, I prefer to spread stuff around, like on the bed. Problem was that if you do that on a king size bed, the maid has a fit trying to make up the bed. If you get a room with (2) beds it's no problem. It's also handy if you plan on having company (wet bed, dry bed).

Another reason to get (2) bed is that most motel rooms have tables that are way to small to work on. By the time you layout your computer, and scanner, there's NO room for your printer, power supply, and phone. With (2) beds you just use the other bed as a workspace!


Now I've stayed at some pretty scary places in the past, you know, places so disgusting that you're scared to take off your shoes 'cause the carpet is so scummy. For those occasions I like to use a sleeping bag liner (Coleman $10.00) or for you Yuppie PIB's, a silk sleeping sack from Travelsmith ($69.00).

Some of these accommodations may lack the traditional clock radio. Big deal you say, I'll just get a wake up call instead. HA! Think of the number of times a full service hotel botched your wake up call and you were late getting to your assignment! What makes you think an economy motel is going to be any better?

Motel MONGO carries a small AA battery operated, Porsche designed Grundig World Traveler clock radio ($149.00) from the Sharper Image. It features a stereo headphone jack, so you can also use it at the game to keep track of stats to scribble on your caption envelopes.

(Mongo Johnson, formerly the Managing Editor of "Meat Eaters Aficionado Magazine" currently is a travel consultant based in Southern California.)

Contents copyright 2018, Do not republish without permission.
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