The struggle is real, friends. I just hit “confirm” on a 2-night stay at a beach town in Italy in high season and it’s going to cost me…$300!
That’s total, not per night. And I had to really think before clicking my mouse.
You see, the past 20 years of travel have rarely involved a hotel room in excess of $100. And when we have stayed in one, it’s been A Very Big Deal. When we booked our honeymoon hotel in Mauritius, I had to remind myself that This Was A Special Occasion, despite our hotel costing what most of our (dual-employed, upwardly mobile, highly privileged) friends just spend for A Hotel. On a normal trip.
The theory always was that we vacationed for the place, not the lodging, and so long as lodging was clean, air-conditioned, and had locks on the door, we didn’t much care where we slept. This has, for the most part, worked out quite well (except you, Nicaragua, except you). We’ve slept in Paris and Penang, Boulder and Bonaire, Marrakech and Marsa Alam, all for about $100/night.
But it’s possible that the time has come to relax that stricture somewhat. After all, I spend more on a bottle of wine today than I did at 25, perhaps I can also spend more on a hotel. That gorgeous hotel in Mozambique was over $100 and worth every single penny and then some. It’s about $100 more per night now than it was when we stayed and I would still hand over my credit card with a smile on my face.
Over time, I’ve nudged the $100 – because $130 is like $100, right? But I still think of $100 as a magic number: the number a night of rest should cost. And this is a stupid thing.
Stupid because you can’t always shoehorn your ideas into reality. Yes, it is possible to stay in a gorgeous hotel in Penang for less than $80 – it’s the Nam Keng Hotel and I highly recommend it – but it is a lot more difficult to find a nice room, even on Airbnb, in Paris for $100 – trust me, I’ve tried (I stayed in a gorgeous apartment last year for the nudged price of $130). You can find a $100 room, but you’ll be sleeping on a pullout couch in a studio apartment about the size of a prison cell (yes, it’s a prison cell in Paris which counts for something, but if bumping your budget 30% isn’t going to bankrupt you, perhaps it’s worth it to not sleep on a couch).
So why does $150 seem like a fortune when $100 doesn’t?
We used to scrimp and save for vacations. Every dollar felt like it meant something. So over the course of a 10-day trip, that extra $50 became $500, which became most or all of a plane ticket. It was significant. We took wonderful trips on those budgets. Trips I’m proud of, trips I might not even change all that much were we to do them again. And I think the thrift serves us well: we travel a lot (for Americans with jobs) and we can do that because we are mindful of what we spend. I would rather take 2 budget-conscious trips than 1 blowout trip – because we’re legitimately terrible at blowout (the aforementioned hotel in Mauritius was gorgeous and had everything a relaxing honeymooning couple could want – and after 24 hours of luxuriating, we got stir crazy, hopped in our car, and toured the island in search of interesting street food and public beaches). So instead of dreading the $300 I just spent on two nights in Italy, I’m going to look forward to a room that exceeds my expectations of clean, safe, and air-conditioned, and could rise to the level of comfortable, spacious, and attractive.
I’ll be sure to take a picture.
8 thoughts on “I Deserve Nice Things, Don’t I?”
I just booked three nights at our hotel in San Antonio for $400 PER NIGHT!!! I, too, had to remind myself that 20 year wedding anniversaries only come around once (usually). I think how much you spend on a hotel has to do with a lot of factors: how close you want to be to the action, how much privacy you like, how much time you’re going to spend in the hotel, etc. $400 per night is definitely a ridiculous splurge, but it’s going to be GREAT! You deserve it, I deserve it… we all deserve it!!!! (By the way, if obsessing over the cost ends up putting a damper on your vacation, you should seriously consider this petsitting thing. No cost, and you can hold out for the mansions if you want.)
I guess if I was going to really use the hotel (like it was a spa or a ranch or something), it would make a lot of sense to me. But I know myself, and even in the nicest places I’ve ever stayed, I simply went to bed and woke up and that was my hotel interaction. I don’t even bother, for the most part, with the free breakfasts because I’m rushing out the door and I’ll grab an empanada en route.
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Oh, this place definitely has a spa. It better, for those prices. A little Walmart parking lot in the camper here, a little $400/night luxury hotel there, but mostly somewhere in between. I like to experience it all.
I love this blog! As a person who feels the need to get the most out of money spent, I viewed every dollar added to a hotel room’s price as worsening the conflict between needing to spend more time enjoying the room (and justifying the cost of it) and needing to maximize time enjoying the location (and justifying the overall cost of the trip).
I wound up staying somewhere nicer and pricier than I would spend on my work’s dime and, while I’m still pretty frugal, I did get to see how the vividness of the experience could also justify the room cost sometimes.
Thanks so much for reading! When I’ve traveled for work, I’ve had occasion to stay in hotels nicer than the ones I’d book for myself. It’s a mixed bag. The JW Marriott in DC felt worth its price, the only hotel I could find in SF for under $300/night in the location I needed was completely mediocre. I stayed in a huge, luxurious room at the Wynn in Las Vegas, but I would never pay for it myself – as nice as it was to have a flat screen TV in the toilet 😉
Like you, I also prefer to do 2 budget-conscious trips over 1 big blowout trip – travel for experiences and memories as opposed to just pure luxury. I tell myself the best luxury I’ll ever get is sleeping in my own bed lol. You are right, hotels in Penang can be affordable. I visited there once some time ago and it was a very affordable one around the price of $100 per night (can’t remember which one off the top of my head). Enjoy your upcoming time in Italy 🙂
Hi Mabel, thanks for commenting. I have had so many great experiences either in modest hotels or AirBnbs that the idea of tripling that cost (or more) for a swanky hotel, just doesn’t feel like it would add that much to the experience. I’ve stayed in a (very) few super swank hotels in my life and, sure, they were nice, but they didn’t improve the overall trip for me.
Super swank with a super swank bed doesn’t always mean the best sleep or the best accommodation service 😀