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Destination Guide

Budget Motels:

When List Price Is a Good Deal

The American budget motel is arguably the world's best accommodation

value. For under $50 a night, you get a good-sized room, usually with two

queen beds, a desk, a dresser, and a modern bath with a shower; the room

almost always includes at least one phone line (newer motels have two,

to accommodate laptop computers with modems) and a large screen color

TV, usually with cable. The motel typically has, at a minimum, ample

parking and a swimming pool; many include a full or continental break-

fast buffet at no extra charge, and a wide range of other features.


Given the low list prices, it's no surprise that you don't often find

much of a discount at a budget motel. At best, AAA members, seniors, and

corporate travelers might get a modest reduction of 10 percent or so.


All of the big chains have Web sites through which you can locate and

book motels. In most cases, you can also find a detailed description of each

property and can access a map for highway directions.


Although the budget motel idea originated in the United States, it

has recently spread to Europe. The French chains are especially active:

The giant Accor chain includes budget brands Formule 1 and Etap,

plus an economy brand Ibis. And the other big French

chain, Groupe Envergure, includes budget brands

Nuit d'Hotel and Premiere Classe, plus economy brands Balladins and

Climat de France. The majority of both chains' locations are still in France,

but both are expanding into Benelux, Germany, and the United Kingdom.


In the summer of 2000, prices at the bottom-end budget chains

(Formule 1, Nuit d'Hotel, and Premiere Classe) started at under $20 a night

for up to two adults and one child. The United States really has no equiva-

lents of these super-budget motels. However, the rooms are barely 100

square feet, and, at the cheapest prices, toilets and showers are shared

facilities, outside the rooms. Accommodations remind you more of college

dormitories or military quarters than motels as we know them. However,

if you go up to about $30 to $40 a night, brands such as Climat de France,

Ibis, and Citadines provide accommodations quite similar to those you get

for the same price in the United States.


You can locate and book all Groupe Envergure hotels through their

Web site. As of the summer of 2000, most Envergure sites were available

only in French, but the entries were fairly self-explanatory. You couldn't

yet book Accor's budget brands through the Internet, but you could locate

and book Ibis and Accor's more expensive brands.


The British, too, have their budget chains. The largest are Travelodge

and Travel Inns. Rooms in

either are similar to what you'd find in a typical U.S. roadside motel; prices

start at around $65 a night for up to three people. You can locate hotels

and reserve rooms from the sites, which also provide locator maps and

details on each property. Holiday Inn Express is also building budget sites

in the United Kingdom.