Welcome to the first of what will be a (non-successive) series of articles on traveling. To get things kicked off, I'm going to start with the most painfully stupid waste of money while traveling: the hotel. Sure you need a roof over your head, but the prices people pay to stay in these soulless boxes make me want to cry.
I understand that for many out there, you just assume that a hotel is part of the cost of traveling. For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to figure out when a hotel is really worth it, or if you are just being duped by the shininess of the lobby. So therefore, I'm going to prepare the 'Is Your Hotel A Waste of Money?' checklist. When you are evaluating a hotel, go through the following questionnaire, scoring one point for each time your hotel fails.
1. Is your hotel officially called a hotel?If so, get the hell out of there. Almost all the time, the word 'hotel' is just a code-name for 'you are getting ripped off'. While it varies a bit country by country, the words 'hostel', 'motel', 'train station', etc generally mean a place is a better deal. But what justifies the hotel to charge such outrageous prices? Well, first of all, they tend to offer the following useless features.
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2. Does your hotel offer the following perks (one point for each): wake-up call, mini-soaps, daily cleaning? Are you some type of luddite that does not own a watch or cellphone? Do you find it impossible to remember basic toiletries when you travel? Are you used to your personal maid cleaning your house every day? If so, then by all means pay $50 extra dollars a night for a fancy hotel. But for normal people, these bells and whistles are just another excuse to part with your hard-earned money.
3. Do you have your own bathroom attached to your room? What, did you fail kindergarten? Did you grow up in some mansion where each person had their own bathroom? Are you really too lazy to walk three minutes down the hallway to use the bathroom? Having a private bathroom is possibly the most baffling excuse that hotel owners use to drive up prices, and that it works boils my blood.
4. Are you the only one in the room? I know there are some people out there who just hate others, but you really need to get over it. Anyone who is traveling alone needs to find a hostel with shared rooms, because booking your own room in a hotel is akin to burning money. If you're traveling in a group, you can re-create this effect by packing a ton of people in a room. For ultimate savings, I recommend the classic 'sneak 10 people into a double room' approach.
5. Is there a chandelier in the lobby? This was a trick question. Dock yourself two points if your hotel even has a lobby.
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More Than That
Now, let's count up your points:
0: Score! Way to travel like a Tight Fist.
1-2: Not bad, but you really need to steal like 12 of those mini-soaps to make up for it.
3-5: Steal all the mini-soaps and towels you want, you're not going to recoup your investment. You'd better grab the chandelier from the lobby.
6+: Either you are on a corporate expense account, or far too rich to be reading this blog.
All this is pretty standard money-saving advice, but what really irks me about hotels is that a lot of the time, the more you pay the crappier your experience will be. At a quirky hostel you're likely not only to meet interesting people, but get friendly service, free breakfast, free wifi, etc. But fancy hotels are about the most sterile places on earth- completely devoid of personality. And also, the more you pay for your room the more likely you are going to have to pay ridiculous amounts for other services like internet, breakfast, etc. Who the hell would agree to that?
But the real Tight Fist score while traveling is to avoid the hotel charge completely and find a couch to crash on. Just make sure to reciprocate by opening up your living room as well- being Tight Fisted doesn't mean you get to be a jerk.