Book the hotels before or after arriving at the location on Route 66?
It depends on when you’re traveling on Route 66. During the season I recommend booking hotels in advance so you can get a better price. This isn’t necessary during the off-season; you can book hotels at a great price right on the spot. However, it may happen that in smaller cities, such as Chelsea, your iconic motel of choice on Route 66 might be fully booked.
We have also noticed that traditional historic motels on Route 66 maintain the same price not only during the season but during various cultural events (such as the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque).
If you ride a motorcycle, try to imagine it. You’ll get up early every day and reach your destination late at night. You will be tired, sunburned, sticky from sunscreen and sweat. You’ll often be hungry. Will you feel like searching for a hotel in such a condition?
On our first trip, we stuck closely to the itinerary and decided to pre-select the towns where we would sleep and booked accommodation.
Booking.com, Expedia.com and others
Whether you book your hotels in advance or directly based on where you choose to spend the night, you can compare the prices using the most popular services, such as Booking.com, Expedia.com, and others.
Be careful: the prices are always listed without local taxes and various service fees. When booking, be highly cautious – some services guarantee the final transparent price while paying, others allow the hotel to charge additional fees on the spot. Also, always check the actual final price before paying. Fees or their composition may vary significantly from place to place. If you’re not cautious, you might lose dozens of dollars. Cancellation is almost always non-refundable, even if you make a mistake when entering a date or other data.
Sometimes you can also encounter a scam – large intermediary accommodation servers will declare that they offer the best price, but you can get a better one at the motel. We realized this when we were mistakenly charged for accommodation that had already been paid through one of these servers. Be careful when checking in – most motels ask for your credit card as a deposit, but make sure they don’t charge you for a room you’ve already paid for. Your money will then be refunded within one to three weeks, or in the worse case, you won’t even notice the double payment.
US motel franchises
We slept in chain motels and even in iconic historical motels. The characteristics of US motel franchises is that although they should provide the same standard across the board, this is not the case. It often happens that the motel is well furnished in one city, but in another one the motel from the same chain has a lower standard.
Iconic motels on Route 66 mostly tend to fight for the customer with the quality of services – and during our first two trips we never found accommodation with which we would have been very dissatisfied. Our luck had left us on the third trip – in Pontiac we wanted to try out the historic Fiesta motel, but it was a mistake. The room had a strange smell, it was full of flies and we found insects in the shower. The quality didn’t match the price at all.
The Boots Court motel in Carthage made it up to us. It would be a sin to pass such a beautifully restored 1940s-style motel without stopping, also because meeting its operator, Debbie Dee, is one of the most enjoyable encounters we have experienced on Route 66.
Search for motels right on Route 66
When planning, search for motels right on Route 66, especially in larger cities, even if they are more expensive. Why?
The cheapest motels are located near the airport. But airports are on the outskirts of cities and if Route 66 runs along the other end, you have to make evening and morning transfers across city highways. It looks just fine on the map, but in reality it is a time wasted in traffic jams. And the distances look different while traveling with your finger on the map and in real life. The US is simply huge and the term “in the neighborhood” can easily mean 15-20 miles. So whatever you save on accommodation, you’ll spend on driving in traffic jams.
We would recommend looking for hotels near malls (if at all possible). It may happen that after a few days you’ll get sick and tired of all the burgers and sandwiches, dying for a Walmart salad instead. But arriving exhausted at the hotel and then spending another 20 to 30 kilometers searching for a mall and dinner around the city breaks even the toughest of men. You’ll end up with root beer from a gas station and beef jerky.
American breakfast is a big theme
If you book a hotel from the comfort of a European home, the concept of a “continental breakfast” will evoke the image of scrambled eggs, kielbasa, frankfurters, warm buns and croissants. You’ll happily book one motel after another offering a continental breakfast.
And then you’ll realize that the only thing that American continental breakfasts have in common with the European one is the orange juice – see a separate chapter on food in America.
In spite of this scarcity, we recommend booking motels with breakfast – if you have a tight schedule and there is no good restaurant around the motel, this extremely disgusting breakfast before the trip is better than nothing.
HERE ARE A FEW MORE PIECES OF ADVICE:
If possible, order rooms on the ground floor of the motel to avoid dragging your luggage up and down the stairs.
Almost every motel has a public laundromat with a washing machine and dryer. And if you feel like Crocodile Dundee in America when trying to use a washing machine, it is done like this: quarters are inserted in the machine and dryer (they’re placed next to each other and the total amount is written on the devices, which start after the coins are inserted) and the laundry detergent is added. It is usually sold either at reception, in a vending machine by the reception desk, or somewhere close to the washing machine. One wash and drying comes out to about $5 – 6 and it takes about 3 hours. But then… You’ll ride in clean clothes!