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Old 10-13-2014, 09:25 AM
 
26,590 posts, read 54,601,121 times
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I should tell you some anecdotal stories about what has happened to me when I haven't had a room booked.

I was visiting a customer in Northern Central PA. There aren't many hotels there to begin with, but I'd never had a problem getting a room at the Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express which were within about 30 minutes drive without a reservation. I arrived at the Hampton and it was sold out. I went up the street to the HIE, it was sold out. That's when I learned that there was a Lumberjack Contest in the area, and not a hotel room available within the better part of two hours. I ended up in New York State, two hours away at my cousins house for the night, because the only hotels with rooms were places which I would not have felt safe staying at. Did I mention my meeting was at 8:00 am?

I had a similar experience trying to get a hotel room anyplace between Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA. Almost a month after one of the snowstorms about three years ago, there wasn't a room to be had--they were all occupied by linemen from out of state. Fortunately I was able to stay with my sister.

I had an impossible time finding a room along I-95 in the Carolinas about eight years ago a few nights before Christmas. Between terrible traffic, bad weather, and tons of accidents, I was only at the NC/VA border at about the same time I should have been home. I ended up driving a lot further than I felt comfortable doing before finally getting to my hotel in GA.

I had a similar experience trying to find a hotel along I-95 between NYC and Boston 15 or so years ago. My company at the time expected us to stay in places like Hamptons, Holiday Inn Express, and Courtyards. Perfectly acceptable and reasonably priced. There was NOTHING in that price range or lower to be had other than one place that the company had a policy against us staying at due to one of my co-workers being attacked in the parking lot a year prior. I finally ended up at the very expensive Mystic Hilton. Fortunately my boss was understanding. I didn't make that mistake again and always had a hotel booked in advance when traveling along the NE corridor.

Bottom line, I've had good experiences finding places without a reservation, but the bad ones have taught me to always have a plan, and then change it if possible if I wanted to change my plans on the fly.
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Old 10-13-2014, 10:51 AM
 
168 posts, read 164,635 times
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If you have a smart phone, get the hotels.com app. It will look up hotels in your location, and often times at least one hotel will have a last minute promotion.
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Old 10-13-2014, 11:03 AM
 
667 posts, read 1,049,088 times
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To add to the chorus... yes, we have done this quite recently, for a 1000-mile one-way trip. (Also I have landed in Europe with no reservations even for the first night, but I was young and not averse to staying in hostels.)

My advice, though, (especially if you have any standards for your room) is to make reservations along the way, rather than just stopping at a hotel and hoping for a room. When you get a few hours from stopping driving, look at a map, pick out your desired end point, and then look up hotels and make your reservation. Then you can drive with peace of mind for the next few hours. You also won't find yourself tired, needing to stop, but nowhere near (or a little beyond, so you need to backtrack) a population center with larger hotels and chain restaurants. You'll also have a little flexibility to pick another destination if you can't find anything suitable in the first place you choose.

A few years back this was accomplished with a laptop and pulling into a McDonald's parking lot (where you can typically access their free wi-fi) but with smart phones, you don't necessarily need the laptop or wi-fi, although I still prefer to use my laptop.

One of the nights we arrived at some major chain - Hampton Inn or something - and as we checked in a woman and her daughter arrived and were turned away as there were no rooms left. This was not a holiday or anything, either. Other places were also booked.

I should point out that a reservation can sometimes be too constraining, even if you have no desire to stop along the way to see the attractions. We recently did a similar drive but we had made reservations before leaving home. The best prices were non-refundable. Then, we found ourselves bogged down by a major snowstorm which added several nighttime hours to the drive. We felt we had to keep going and get to our destination, rather than cancelling for no refund and finding something earlier in the drive.
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Old 10-13-2014, 02:36 PM
 
Location: Southwest Minneapolis
493 posts, read 575,502 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowbell76 View Post
To add to the chorus... yes, we have done this quite recently, for a 1000-mile one-way trip. (Also I have landed in Europe with no reservations even for the first night, but I was young and not averse to staying in hostels.)

My advice, though, (especially if you have any standards for your room) is to make reservations along the way, rather than just stopping at a hotel and hoping for a room. When you get a few hours from stopping driving, look at a map, pick out your desired end point, and then look up hotels and make your reservation. Then you can drive with peace of mind for the next few hours. You also won't find yourself tired, needing to stop, but nowhere near (or a little beyond, so you need to backtrack) a population center with larger hotels and chain restaurants. You'll also have a little flexibility to pick another destination if you can't find anything suitable in the first place you choose.

A few years back this was accomplished with a laptop and pulling into a McDonald's parking lot (where you can typically access their free wi-fi) but with smart phones, you don't necessarily need the laptop or wi-fi, although I still prefer to use my laptop.

One of the nights we arrived at some major chain - Hampton Inn or something - and as we checked in a woman and her daughter arrived and were turned away as there were no rooms left. This was not a holiday or anything, either. Other places were also booked.

I should point out that a reservation can sometimes be too constraining, even if you have no desire to stop along the way to see the attractions. We recently did a similar drive but we had made reservations before leaving home. The best prices were non-refundable. Then, we found ourselves bogged down by a major snowstorm which added several nighttime hours to the drive. We felt we had to keep going and get to our destination, rather than cancelling for no refund and finding something earlier in the drive.
I agree with all of the above.

I just did the same thing, driving a trailer will all of my worldly possessions from Massachusetts to Minnesota. Another thing to consider is that you may want to be a little more careful than usual about where you stay. The chances of having a problem while parked overnight at most hotels are probably quite slim. However, it doesn't hurt to make sure that you're staying in generally safe places.
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Old 10-13-2014, 07:55 PM
 
2,563 posts, read 2,791,793 times
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I can't remember a time when I actually made reservations for a road trip. Of course, that doesn't always work out, as others have said. For example, you run into a patch of bad weather and everyone on the road seems to have the same idea. Check into a hotel and wait it out. That happened to me once or twice. It also seems to work out better if you stop early in the evening. Don't wait till midnight to find a room.
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Old 10-14-2014, 06:56 AM
 
Location: Midwest transplant
2,013 posts, read 4,996,265 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by annerk View Post
I book hotels with "Cancel By 6:00 PM" policies in advance and adjust as I go if needed. By 5:00 PM I know approximately where I'll be and can get a room there. If not, then I keep the original room.
This is our strategy as well. Takes an organized person to keep track of where you plan to stay and where you need to cancel, but this works for us. We plan for the first day to drive 400 miles, but book a hotel at about 300 (just in case we stop along the way) and at the 400 mark. For the second day we look at driving another 300, but are booked at 200 and 300 and 400, again, so we can stop along the way if we desire. By the third day we decide where we want to be and if we want to keep our previously made reservations (at 1200 from origin) we either make up the time and drive more, or start over with new accommodations. By not over driving, we find that we are less fatigued and we often have time to stop and smell the roses, visit a roadside stand or antique store, eat in a small town or explore an area we know we that would be a "once and done, cross it off our bucket list".
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