Holiday-poor? You're not alone. On the chance that you're now more receptive than usual to the idea of using a budget hotel or motel on a trip, here's an update on what's out there.
Those familiar names of old -- Motel 6 and Travelodge, for instance -- are still there, but they're outnumbered by Days Inns, Comfort Inns and Super 8s.
There are more budget hotels than ever -- more than 1 million rooms across the country, counting only those that fly flags of the four dozen largest U.S. chains.
The editors at Consumer Reports publications have hailed American budget hotels in general as "the world's best value in accommodations" for their cleanliness, freeway-convenient locations and modest costs.
In an analysis of 54 major budget chains for the November issue of Consumer Reports Travel Letter (available for viewing in libraries, or for $5 by order from CRTL, 101 Truman Ave., Yonkers, N.Y. 10703-1057), those editors chose no particular favorites.
One helpful clue to look for, though, is the American Automobile Association imprimatur, which means the auto club's inspectors have awarded the lodging at least a one-diamond rating. Mobil Travel Guide ratings are similarly useful.
Here are some factors to weigh in choosing a budget lodging:
* If you're determined to spend less than $40 per night: Budget Host Inn, 800-283-4678, has 178 hotels nationwide and an average nightly rate of $31. Knight's Inn, 800-843-5644, has 192 hotels nationwide, daily rates $30 to $35. Masters Economy Inn, 800-633-3434, has 31 hotels in the Southeast, daily rates about $36. Microtel Inn, 888-771-7171, has 52 hotels nationwide, daily rates about $39. Motel 6, 800-466-8356, has 760 hotels nationwide, daily rates averaging $33.50. National 9 Inn, 800-524-9999, has 171 hotels, most in the western United States, averaging $29 to $34. Villager Lodge, 800-328-7829, has 61 hotels nationwide, averaging $25 to $30.
A handful of smaller chains, such as Cross Country Inns, 800-621-1429, and Economy Inns of America, 800-826-0778, have comparable rates.
* If you want a familiar name: Since 1993, the biggest budget hotel chain in the country has been Days Inn of America, 800-329-7466, with more than 1,800 hotels, rates of $43 to $52 and sites in every state.
Comfort Inn & Suites, 800-228-5150, have nearly 1,600 U.S. locations and rates of $45 to $75; and Super 8 Motels, 800-800-8000, with about the same number of locations and rates of $40 to $50.
Next, after a big drop-off, come Econo Lodge, 800-553-2666, 709 hotels; Hampton Inn, 800-426-7866, 700 hotels; Quality Inn Hotels & Suites, 800-228-5151, 657 hotels; Holiday Inn Express, 800-465-4329, 637 hotels; Howard Johnson, 800-446-4656, 600 hotels; and Travelodge, 800-578-7878, 520 hotels.
* If you require a pool: Quality Inn Hotels & Suites; Fairfield Inn by Marriott, 800-228-2800, 317 locations; La Quinta Inns, 800-687-6667, 260 locations; and AmericInn, 800-634-3444, 97 locations in the northern Midwest.
Pub Date: 12/28/97