Motels vs. Hotels: The New Traveler’s Guide

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You see motels and hotels everywhere while on road trips, but have you ever wondered what the actual difference was between the two types of accommodations? Both motels and hotels can be found throughout North America in both the United States and Canada. You can also find these types of accommodations in other countries. Here we will explain the difference between the two types of lodgings and discuss which one may be best for your travels.  


Motel Overview Motel

A motel is generally right off a major road or highway, which make them very convenient to stop for a quick night’s sleep. They are normally meant for a short stay and not an extended stay. The building of a motel is usually a single floor or two floors, with not as many rooms as a hotel. Many times, there is not an elevator and upper floors have to be reached by stairs. All rooms are accessed by the outside either open to the parking lot or an outdoor courtyard.  

Motels usually lack lobbies or sitting areas, and instead have an office located on the side of the building where a clerk will check in guests. 

 Most of the time motels are not going to have the nicer amenities that hotels will offer, like a continental breakfast. They could, however, have a basic breakfast available like hard-boiled eggs, toast, or small box cereals. On a positive, motels are usually far less expensive than hotels running less than $100 a night.  


Motel Amenities 

Motel amenities are usually very basic. As mentioned, motels may sometimes offer a few free breakfast items, but they are not like the hot continental breakfast you could have at a hotel. Sometimes motels will have a self-service laundry room for guest to use, but these washers and dryers will not be free.  

In the hotel room, basic amenities will be provided like common toiletries, bedding, and towels. Toiletries may include a shampoo/conditioner combination and a bar of soap, but nothing fancy.  


When Should I Book a Motel? 

There are a few times when booking a motel may be in your better interest.  

First, motels are going to be a lot cheaper than hotels, so if you are looking for the better value for your money and do not really care much for the fancy amenities, then a motel could be perfect. 

Another time is during a road trip. If you just need a quick stop and somewhere to lay your head, then a motel is convenient and inexpensive. Motels are usually close to major roadways, which make them convenient to get a few hours of sleep before quickly hitting the road again.  


Popular Motel Chains 

Econo Lodge 

Econo Lodge

Motel 6 

Motel 6

Super 8 

Super 8

America’s Best Value Inn America’s Best Value Inn

Hotel Overview hotel

Hotels are normally large with hundreds of rooms on multiple floors. Access to rooms is always from the inside of the hotel and reached by elevator if the room is not on the first floor. The rooms in hotels are normally nicer with better bedding, toiletries, and more spacious.  

Common areas of hotels include a reception area or lobby with 24-hour concierge or hotel staff 

Cost is normally going to be $100 or more.  


Hotel Amenities 

Hotels usually have quite a few more amenities than motels. Most of the time they will have a restaurant or bar onsite, sometimes they may have a conference room to rent out for special events, and many also include a pool and fitness center.  

Rooms of hotels also offer amenities like room service from their onsite restaurant, free toiletries, hair dryer, WiFi, and sometimes a mini fridge, microwave, and safe. The toiletries are usually nicer and more luxurious compared to motel toiletries. Guests usually will find nice shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, and sometimes if you ask, they will have complimentary toothbrushes, toothpaste, and razors at the front desk.  


When Should I Book a Hotel? 

There are many times when a hotel could be a better choice than a motel. 

First, when you are seeking nicer amenities for family vacations and longer stays, a hotel may be the better route to go. Families and businesspeople usually enjoy having the fast WiFi, convenient room service, accessible fitness center, or luxurious pool.  

Another time it is nice to book a hotel is when you are traveling to an area you are unfamiliar with and may want some extra guidance. Hotels usually have more staff that are behind the reception 24 hours a day. Receptionist and concierges are great in helping guests plan their vacations and activities.  

Hotels are usually in nicer locations compared to motels. They are normally near popular attractions and restaurants.  


Popular Hotel Chains 





Sheraton Sheraton



Hilton Hilton


Overview: Difference Between Hotel and Motels 

Hotels and motels serve different purposes and people. The amenities at hotels are made for those that are there for an extended stay, like businesspeople and families that are on vacation. Motels, on the other hand, are meant for those that just need a short stay or a quick night’s sleep. The nicer amenities at hotels, like pools, fitness centers, conference rooms, and nicer toiletries, also mean that hotels will have a bigger price tag. Location is another big difference. Motels can easily be found on the side of highways and roads, while hotels are usually accessed by getting off of highways and entering slightly bigger cities.  


Some Other Options to Stay on Vacation: Inns and Bed & Breakfasts 

There are a few other places that travelers can choose to stay on their adventures, like Inns and Beds & Breakfasts.  

Inns are normally in more rural areas and have limited rooms. They are usually family owned and operated and have very little staff. Many times, the front receptionist will be the only one working at one time, so will act as the housekeeper as well if guests need extra bedding or towels. Inns will be similar to motels in their amenities and may have the basic toiletries and bedding. Many Inns will offer free Wifi, a coffeemaker in room, and possibly a basic breakfast. They are usually decorated by the family that owns the inn, so are sometimes nicer than motels, but maybe not as luxurious as some hotels.  The cost of inns are usually between the cost of a hotel and motel, so about $100 a night.  

Bed & Breakfast are similar to Inns in the fact that they are usually run by a family. They can be found in big cities or in rural areas on small family vineyards. They are usually old houses, with rooms that have been converted into guests’ rooms. Prices of rooms can vary as master rooms with in-suite bathrooms may run more than a guest room that share a hallway bathroom with another guest room. As the name suggest, the host or owner of the Bed & Breakfast will provide a decent size breakfast for all guests. They stay at a Bed & Breakfast is more personable, as you are quite literally like a guest in someone’s house.  

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