Increases in motel/hotel/B&B costs over the years - CycleBlaze

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Increases in motel/hotel/B&B costs over the years

Jeff Lee

While I'm never going to be the type of bike tourist who tracks every cent spent while touring, I was inspired by a couple of recent journals whose authors did track all their expenses to, for the first time, actually calculate what I spent on indoor lodging and the (rare) campgrounds on my most recent tour last fall.

It was easy for me to do that, since I pay for virtually everything, whether on tour or not, with a credit card, and have every transaction since 1999 on my computer.

Then, since the fifteenth anniversary of my longest tour ever is coming up, I went back and added up the lodging costs for that one too.

I was a little surprised that the costs had not really increased as much as I would have guessed. In fact, I suspect that I could do a tour of the USA in 2023, and, with a little care, not spend much more per motel than I did 15 years ago.

Of course, I have pretty low standards for lodging while bike touring, and also prefer not to tour in parts of the country where "normal" tourists like to travel. And I avoid the presumably much more expensive urban areas completely.

Does this line up with other peoples' experiences? I've heard that the prices of private commercial campgrounds (RV parks) have increased dramatically, but I've almost never stayed at those places.

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1 year ago
Kelly IniguezTo Jeff Lee

When we first started motel touring, we allowed $100. per night in our budget for lodging. That crept up to $150. by 2020.

In 2020, we rode from Canada to Mexico. We passed through a wide variety of communities, some touristy, some not.   Automobile traffic was very low - it was a good year to be on the road. Lodging seemed normally priced, on the average. We had a couple $50. places and one $400. place. We try and look at the average price.

For 2021, we rode in a completely new area, Wisconsin and Michigan. Lodging prices were so high, we almost abandoned the trip. Locals whom we mentioned prices to were very surprised at the cost. Our theory is that motels were trying to make up lost revenue from the COVID closures. 

In 2022, we toured in Colorado/Utah/New Mexico - almost all tourist areas. Now our average price is $150., and probably closer to $175. 

I have to admit that I have gotten softer over the years. It used to be that I was happy to be inside, as long as it was clean. Now I like a little more space and a sofa to sit on, for my aging back. I choose Best Western over Motel 6 every time.

This coming summer we are making our first touring foray to Spain/Portugal. We've been told that lodging prices are dirt cheap compared to the USA. We aren't to the booking stage yet, but are anticipating rooms in the $50-75. range.

Happily, we both have the same hobby, spending money on touring and bicycles is what we both prefer to do. 

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1 year ago
Jeff LeeTo Kelly Iniguez

I obviously have lower lodging standards than you guys ;)

On my 2008 tour, the average price I paid for a motel room was $66.51.

In the fall of 2022, I paid an average of $81.10. But that was skewed somewhat by one very expensive (for me) $183 B&B. And also by a couple other $100+ "nicer" motels. If I'd done a little more planning than I'm sure that could have been reduced a lot.

Where I've noticed prices going way, way up over the years is food. I'm almost afraid to calculate how much I spend on expensive snacks at convenience stores, and restaurant meals while touring.

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1 year ago
Paul MulveyTo Jeff Lee

I've found they've increased as well. When I tour with my wife, it's 100% hotels so I'm conscious of the cost. My average price is now around $150/night rather than my previous $100/night. Thanks, inflation. 

When going solo, I tent camp as much as I can. When doing the C&O or the Erie trail, there were free campsites along the canal or at the locks, respectively. That brought down the average lodging cost for the trip. I normally look for established campsites so I can get a shower at the end of the day, and usually a picnic table which is convenient for cooking dinner. Even those have gone up. Used to be about $20/night for established campgrounds and now it's more around $40 - $50 for some sites since they are RV parks and have the electric services. Sometimes I've even found campgrounds state "no tents" so they become a no-go.

But yeah, lodging is getting more expensive. I may try some more stealth camping on future tours just for the challenge of it.

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1 year ago
Wayne EstesTo Jeff Lee

My experience is that lodging costs have gone way up in the last 3 years. Last year I topped the $200 threshold for the first time at an unremarkable 3-star Comfort Inn in an ordinary small town. This year I am passing the $300 threshold for the first time because my High Desert Rivers route passes through an extremely expensive resort area-Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park.

Cheap 2-star motels are disappearing in many US states. During last year's tour in Utah I found that 3-star motels are the only option in most towns. Mormons obviously don't like skanky hotels.

I am fortunate that high lodging costs don't prevent me from bike touring. It's either that or don't do bike tours at all. My next tour has four 2-night stays in expensive resort towns. And I stay at two National Park lodges that are even more expensive.

I don't worry about the expense as long as funds are available and as long as it enables me to continue doing bike tours. I seriously doubt that I will ever regret spending money on a bike tour.

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1 year ago
Jeff LeeTo Wayne Estes

I suppose the reason that lodging costs for my own tours haven't really risen that much in the last fifteen years - the increase is actually less than the inflation rate, it appears - is that I mostly tour in places that the vast majority of people don't want to visit: Rural and small town America. Places nowhere near a National Park or other major scenic attractions. 

Places like that appeal to me because I don't like being around a lot of tourists anyway. (The kind of tourists that drive motor vehicles, that is.) And I can always find something to amuse me in even the most stereotypically "dull" places, it seems.

The cheapest motel I stayed in on my last tour was $48.84 including tax, and it was fine. But it was in the middle-of-nowhere in Kansas. 

I paid $64.61 for a very nice, clean, recently renovated lower level of a home with my own bathroom and kitchen. Of course, it was in a small town in Missouri.

Mormons obviously don't like skanky hotels.

After living in the Provo area for three long years, I can confirm that the Mormons are very, very concerned that everything look immaculate on the surface, while they ignore the cultural pathologies just beneath ;)

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1 year ago
James FitchTo Jeff Lee

We've observed lodging and food prices to have been climbing slowly for several years, but it seems very dependent on location. We're planning a trip to the Finger Lakes area for September. It will be by far the most expensive trip we've taken in terms of lodging, averaging around $190 per night. I think much of the increased expense is just because its a touristy area and they charge what the traffic will bear. In a non-touristy area, I'm sure we'd only be spending about half that. We're well familiar with this syndrome, living as we do in the Napa Valley. I'm sure we could reduce this if we had to, but we like to find places near the center of town, where there are likely to be food options. We're willing, grudgingly, to pay the Tax On Tourists to get that. We are fortunate that we can afford to do that.  As we've gotten older (late 60s, early 70s now), we've definitely gotten softer. We no longer camp at all, and we like to have a decent bed, a shower and food options at the end of the day. Since this will be our only vacation this year, we'll grin and bear it.

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1 year ago
Gregory GarceauTo Jeff Lee

I'm kind of an amalgamation of the comments above.  Like you, I have pretty low standards when it comes to motels.  All I require is a TV and a temperature under 90-degrees and over 40-degrees(F).   Also, like you, I tend to stay away from high-cost touristy areas.

Like Kelly, I don't mind splurging once in a while on a little higher quality place.  That's especially true when I'm in big cities. 

 Like Paul, I prefer to camp when possible.  (I don't know why, but I actually sleep better in a tent than in a motel room.)  

Like Wayne, I don't worry too much about the cost of a motel room because it's my vacation.  In one of my rare visits to a tourist town, I went crazy on a $250 room in Ketchum, Idaho.  The room wasn't worth the price, but I had no regrets.  Generally, when I walk into a motel lobby I don't even ask the price. 

Like James, I like to stay near the middle of town.  In my case, it's not for food options, but for walking and people watching.

Anyway, yes, I've noticed the prices are going up, but not exorbitantly so.  I have one little tip though.  No matter where you go, the prices are cheaper (at least in the northern part of the U.S.) between October and May--when the kids are still in school.  

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1 year ago
Jeff LeeTo Gregory Garceau

I'm in agreement with most of you what you say, with this exception: I don't care if the room contains a TV at all, and almost never turn it on anyway. My exception to that rule is to occasionally watch the early morning local news before riding out, mostly to see the weather report.

...And my range of comfortable temperatures is somewhat smaller than yours, too ;)

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1 year ago
George HallTo Jeff Lee

I have noticed prices rising since I began touring in 2015, but it's not a uniform thing.   I think much of small-town Americana has been somewhat isolated from the steeper price increases experienced by the larger hotel chains.  But even then it depends on where you tour.  

For example, I found very cheap rates in numerous small towns across the country on the Transam route.  And the Transam has some 21 hostels where cyclists can stay for free (some ask for a small donation and I'm happy to oblige), so you can stay inside and reduce your average lodging cost on the Transam by using the hostels.   In contrast to that, lodging costs on the Northern Tier are much higher.  From Maine to the point in Ohio where you leave the south shore of Lake Erie, you are riding in "tourist country."  And there are only 3 hostels along the Northern Tier (4 if you count a sort-of unofficial hostel in Oxford Junction, IA).   Fortunately for me, when I rode the Northern Tier in 2021, my brother-in-law came along and so I only had to pay half the cost for the motels.   I rode the Western Express in 2017 - prices along the Western Express route were fairly reasonable, but even though you are traveling through small towns in Nevada and Utah you need to book many months ahead to get a room.  

Traveling by bicycle I sometimes stay in small towns at places I would never stay if I were traveling by car.  Some of these mom-and-pop motels are ok, and some are real dumps.  I'm happy if I have a shower, bed, and wifi; every hotel has these things these days, so I usually look for the cheapest place.   I used to get lots of free rooms due to accumulating points from my business travel, but now that I'm retired I only get a few free nights from credit card usage.  Still, on every trip I get some "free" nights that way.   

On the Transam in western Kansas, myself and 2 guys I met along the way managed to get 2 hotel rooms for $65 total - that catch is that we had to pay cash.  And I later had to pay cash for a room in White Bird, ID on that trip.  So having a bit of cash may help you occasionally get a cheaper room - this won't work at any of the chain hotels, but sometimes the mom-and-pop hotel owners may fancy a bit of cash for whatever reason. 

Sometimes you may be surprised at what you can find if you do a bit of internet sleuthing.   AirBnBs exist in some out-of-the-way places; on my recent Great Rivers South route I managed to find reasonably-priced lodging twice that way.  Many former B and B's have converted to the AirBnB system.  On the Transam route I discovered that some RV parks have inside options - these aren't always published, cause their main business is renting expensive campsites, but if you ask you may get surprised.  I stayed in a "primitive cabin" in Colorado and in Wyoming, both times at an RV park for a cheap price.   Some tourist attractions have unadvertised lodging available - I found a good deal on a cottage that was rented by the "Cajun Village" tourist place in Sorrento, LA from some deep-dive internet searching.  

Sometimes you may get lucky by asking the locals about lodging.  Both of the B and B's and the small hotel in Collinwood, TN were booked the night I needed to stay there, but I asked everyone I talked to on the phone for any other options cause I was getting desperate; a lady who owned one of the Bed and Breakfasts gave me the number for the Town Manager and I called him, and I eventually ended up with a free stay at the local fire station.  I had a bed, hot shower, kitchen, and wifi - all because I asked.  

I camp some on long tours; on both the Transam(2015) and the Northern Tier (2021), I camped for 7 days of the 10-week (Transam) and 12-week (Northern Tier) crossing.   These routes are so long that it's nice to have the flexibility of camping when needed due to schedule uncertainties.  It can be very expensive to camp at commercial sites - you can pay $30-$40 or more for a tent site.  State and federal campsites are much more reasonably priced, but not always available; most states do NOT have a no-turn-away policy for cyclists like many of the western states have.   The point of this is that you sometimes have to pay nearly as much for a tent camping site as for a cheap hotel.   OTOH, some small towns (particularly along the Transam route) allow cyclists to camp for free in the city park - just be sure and ask where to set up so you don't get sprayed by the sprinklers that night! 

One last item; I was told by a hotel manager in Missouri along the Transam route that they loved cyclists.  I asked "why?" and was told that cyclists aren't rowdy (unlike the motorcyclists), and that since cyclists leave early in the mornings their rooms are available for the maids to clean in the morning while they are waiting for others to check out.  So maybe we should all be asking for a "cyclist discount."

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1 year ago