As I attempt to plan several escapes with some newly available funds, I can't escape the fact that my travel style has changed immensely over the years. I've become a Hotel Snob, but I am perfectly okay with that.
I have always been in awe of those who can be at home anywhere. Those who can sleep in an airport, a bus, a brothel; I am very much not like that. I nest wherever I am, and if it doesn't feel like a home away from home, it actually ruins my entire experience. That probably sounds strange to some, but it's true. I have the personality of someone who needs to recharge at the end of every day, and I can't do that just anywhere.
I am not inexperienced in the frugal. When I started traveling heavily a decade ago, my primary goal was the location. I was one of those "Who cares; all I'll do is sleep in it" people. As a result, I slept in my share of smelly, cramped rooms with questionably-safe elevators and stained sheets. I endured sleepless nights from paper-thin walls, broken HVAC systems, mattress springs that have simply given up. I shared rooms with mold and insects. I did traffic noise, elevator noise, party-next-door noise, even noise from a night club right below my bed.
The turning point came when I rented a private apartment in London in 2008, thinking I was getting a better place to stay for comparable cost. And I would have, if the estate agent hadn't turned out to be a scam artist. The rental worked perfectly while we were there, but I never saw my significant security deposit again. Because of the currency exchange rate, I lost thousands of dollars on that single trip. Ironically, it was also a trip with several unexpected hurdles, like late-season snow and the closure of public transportation, making our decision to stay in the suburbs even more difficult and unpleasant. It was somewhere between literally freezing in the snow waiting for a delayed train and the slow realization that I would never see my money again that I decided: the extra money for reputable, accessible accommodations is worth it to me.
It's more relaxing
I used to feel like it was me against the world when I traveled. Did I forget my toothbrush? Was I hungry after restaurants closed? Did I have transportation? How was I going to print my boarding pass? I had to solve these problems on my own. As a result, I was always on, so as not to drop any of the balls I had to juggle the entire time I traveled, and that was exhausting. But nicer hotels? They pride themselves on service. They will provide you with forgotten toothbrushes, print your boarding pass, book your train, confirm your flight, have dinner waiting in your room when you've been stuck in unexpected traffic. When I stay at a nicer hotel, I actually enjoy my time outside the hotel more because of what they have taken off my to-do list.
Escaping your life
I'm not kidding when I say nice hotels are service-oriented. The best ones go to surprising lengths to customize your experience with them, and it can make you feel like a million bucks. I've been upgraded to a junior suite for free in Seattle and Vienna, simply because 1) the upgraded rooms were available, and 2) I asked nicely. A San Francisco hotel had an enormous piece of chocolate cake waiting for me on my birthday. And my favorite so far: an NYC hotel provided me with my own in-room cereal bar. These little things can take a trip from enjoyable to exceptional.
The science of hospitality
Nicer hotels have departments of people who study how interiors affect guests psychologically. The linens, color schemes, lighting, font, temperature, even smells they choose is deliberate. I can imagine those who can sleep anywhere don't really understand why this stuff even matters, but I'm someone who is really sensitive to it. As a result, I feel more at peace in nicer hotels.
Proximity and views
The cheaper hotels I've stayed in were always out of the way. It took a significant chunk of time to get to and from them every day, and I felt very separated from whatever I traveled to experience while I was there. Nicer hotels, however, are typically situated centrally, and the best have views you can partake in from the comfort of your room. You never have to leave the action, making the most of your limited time. Some of my favorite memories were made on a room balcony overlooking Ka'anapali Beach, 5th Avenue in NYC, and hopefully this fall, the Chicago River.
Ease of flights
My snobbery has extended to all aspects of travel, especially flights. I used to go with cheapest I could find, but I've clocked enough miserable hours with lost luggage, screaming children, people that cut in line, burned out TSA agents, and airlines that simply run out of food somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. I only fly direct and nonstop nowadays, and I pay extra to land at a decent hour of the day. I only want to go through security and/or immigration once each way, thank you very much. I'm very much done sprinting through airports, dragging luggage behind me, begging desk agents to please please please let me on the plane because (insert tears here) I JUST WANNA GO HOME!!! Been there, done that, simply not doing it anymore.
I still refuse to overpay; in fact, I've never paid standard rate. I use email lists, sale websites, credit card miles, and loyalty programs to be smart about it. I research, I wait, and then I pounce. Sometimes, I research for months, but it always pays off. Everywhere has a sweet spot between price and indulgence if you're willing to wait for it. Sure, they still cost more than budget options, which therefore limits the total number of trips we can take. I also usually have to book early; last minute travel is my arch nemesis.
But still, as I look back, my evolution as a traveler intrigues me. I used to refuse to pay more than $150/night, even after currency conversions. Now, I'd be highly suspicious of a $150/night room. Two years ago, I paid $529/night, but I promise you: that trip was incredible. Tonight, as I seriously consider cancelling an entire trip this summer so I can afford a $640/night room this fall, I realize I've come to terms with my Travel Snobbery.
They're worth every penny.
I'm a 37-year old Seattle girl who was bitten by the travel bug on my first tour of Europe in 2004. This personal blog follows my attempts to visit as many countries as I can, as often as my budget will allow. Since starting this blog in 2007, I've also worked as a freelance copywriter for an online travel publication. This only served to add even more must-see locations to my already extended list.