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sep 19

Big Chains vs. Mom & Pop Hotels: Which Do You Prefer?

Would you trade the homey décor of a mom & pop hotel for the predictability of a big chain? (Courtesy rileyroxx/Flickr)

If you asked me on any given day whether I prefer to stay at a chain hotel or a mom & pop hotel or bed–and–breakfast, I’d probably answer that of course I’d rather support an independent business, especially a hotel that has lots of local flavor or that reflects the personality of the family that operates it.

But if you’d asked me this past weekend, when I checked my family into an independent resort on the Jersey shore, I probably would have answered, with a touch of snark, just the opposite. In this case, the catalyst was simple: When we arrived at our room, the bathtub was filled with sand. Presumably, this was the same beautiful white sand that adorned the beach just over the dunes, but borne via bathing suit or bare feet, it had lost most (okay, all) of its appeal on its journey from beach to bathroom. I was torn. A little sand never hurt anybody, right? But what ELSE had the staff failed to clean before our arrival? Overreacting just a touch, I ordered my daughters, “Don’t touch anything!” We asked to switch rooms and were accommodated immediately. Well done, in terms of customer service, or at least damage control.

But the minor insult stayed with me. We’ve been visiting this little shore town for about five years now. The beaches are gorgeous, the boardwalk is tidy and super–fun for the kids. The town has no chain hotels and, without exception, every stay has involved some kind of low–level inconvenience or discourtesy at a mom and pop establishment—mix–ups over check–out time, failure to deliver the complimentary breakfast they promised, or just ignoring our requests for extra towels. I found myself tossing aside my buy–local aesthetic and wishing that there was an affordable chain, like DoubleTree or Holiday Inn Express, on the beach. I would have gladly traded the homey décor and friendly staff for a measure of cookie–cutter predictability

In Budget Travel’s annual Readers’ Choice survey, our readers consistently tell us they, too, prefer the big chains. We’d love to hear more. What is it about a big chain hotel that attracts you?

—Robert Firpo–Cappiello

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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