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Where to Stay: Hotel vs. Motel

Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn. Before you book accommodations for your trip, it’s essential to understand the difference between a hotel and motel. By being clear on a hotel vs. motel, you can ensure you make the right choice for your unique budget, needs, and preferences.

What is the difference between a hotel and a motel?

In addition to lodging, a hotel offers a number of other services or amenities to tourists. If you stay at a hotel, you’ll get more than just a room or suite to sleep in. You may also benefit from a restaurant, swimming pool, fitness center, and spa. A motel, on the other hand, doesn’t typically offer amenities. It is solely designed to give you a place to sleep and free of “extras.”

In addition, a hotel is usually a large building with hundreds of rooms across different floors while a motel has one or two floors and is located near a road or highway. While you may have to go through the lobby and take an elevator to get to your hotel room, you’ll likely be able to access your motel room from where you park your car and won’t have to pass through a lobby

All About Motels

Where did the word motel come from?

When the automobile became the prevalent mode of road transport in the early 20th century and freeway networks expanded, motels started to pop up. The word motel combines the words “motor” and hotel.” Here are a few facts about motels:

  • Motels tend to be confined to locations close to roads and highways, often outwith cities but along popular tourist routes.
  • Motels are typically designed for short stays while hotels can be booked for longer-term trips.
  • Motels typically offer quick, basic breakfasts with foods like hard boiled eggs, fruit, oatmeal, and sausages.
  • Motels can be the cheapest places to stay near popular locations.
Book a motel on the road
Motels originated as basic & self-service hotels conveniently located along highway routes, like Route 66 which is a popular cross-country route with many historic and unique motels.  

When should I book a motel instead of a hotel?

There are a number of situations where it makes more sense to a motel than a hotel. Here are a few of them.

  • If you’re looking for the best value and don’t care about property amenities, motels can be cheaper. They are unlikely to provide services such as room service, laundry, a gym or spa.
  • If you’re on a road trip, motels are a convenient option because they can give you a cheap place to get some shut eye after a long day of driving

When should I book a hotel instead of a motel?

Although motels are cheaper than hotels, you may want to spend the extra money and stay at a hotel in these situations.

  • If you’re looking for property amenities and a comfortable vacation, hotels feature more luxurious accommodations, room service, fitness centers, spas and more. 
  • If you’re traveling to an area you are not familiar with, hotels tend to have more staff like receptionists and concierges who can assist you in planning activities or provide local information. 
  • If you’re hoping to be in the middle or popular attractions, hotels are usually found in desirable downtown locations.
  • If you’re visiting a conference, hotels commonly feature sit down restaurant service for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can have a hassle-free schedule. 

Hotel vs. Motel: Main Differences


Hotel Motels
Size 
expansive buildings with hundreds of rooms across different floors traditionally have one or two floors
Common areas  reception or lobby area with concierge, bell man and other hotel staff often rooms are directly accessible from the parking lot without having to pass through a lobby 
Property amenities  restaurant and bar facilities, conference rooms and public spaces, gym, spa sometimes feature free early morning breakfasts, laundry machines
Room amenities  room service, mini fridge, safe stick to the basics, providing a secure, clean place to sleep

While both styles of accommodations are widely seen in the United States and Canada, they can also be found when you travel to other countries around the world.

Motel6 is one of the most popular motel chains in America.

Price Difference Between Motels and Hotels

The average motel costs anywhere between $45 and $100 a night. It all depends on location and demand. While hotel costs vary widely and are based on amenities as well as location and demand, the average cost of a hotel is $180 a night. Of course, you can expect to pay more if you stay at the Ritz-Carlton than if you opt for the Holiday Inn.

What are the most popular hotel and motel brands?

Popular hotel brands:

  • Holiday Inn
  • Best Western
  • Marriott
  • Comfort Inn
  • Sheraton
  • Four Seasons
  • Hyatt
  • Radisson

Popular motel brands:

  • America’s Best Value Inn
  • Econo Lodge
  • Knights Inn
  • Motel 6
  • Super 8

When you find the right place to stay, it is quick and easy to book your room online using the Skyscanner Hotel Finder tool.