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.