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Some Recognizable Names
In the United States, the vast majority of hotels are owned by larger chains, the most famous being the Marriott, Hilton, or the Hyatt. Mid-range hotels include chains such as La Quinta, Best Western, and Holiday Inn, and the more affordable options are Motel 6, Super 8 and Red Roof Inn. It's much easier to find budget hotel chains outside of town or along the interstate, while the higher end chains congregate in larger, more popular cities.
The United States has an impressive national park system and many people choose to camp during part of their trip. You are typically required to bring your own tent and equipment, and it can be difficult, if not impossible to find a place to rent equipment. Camping is a great way to save money and see a unique part of the country. Prices are usually by the campsite, and group campsites are available that may charge a little more.
Finding a Discount
Hotel prices can be quite expensive in the United States. In most major cities you have a wide range of options, anything from luxury hotels to, on occasion, a few hostels.
In the United States, you usually get the best deal on hotels when you book well in advance. Some hotels offer good last minute deals, but this can be a gamble, particularly during peak seasons. If your schedule or location is not at all flexible, definitely plan on making an advanced reservation. If you do have a good amount of flexibility, do some research to find some last minute deals.
You can join some discount programs such as AAA, which may allow you some hotel discounts. Otherwise, hotel chains often have their own rewards programs that are beneficial if you plan to travel a good amount and stay at higher end hotels. These programs are typically most beneficial for business travelers.
Hotels within the city center are often the most expensive. If you stay in the suburbs you may find some better deals, but you'll likely need a car to get around. Public transportation in most areas is lacking. This added expense and inconvenience usually outweighs the cost savings for staying out of town. If you fly late at night, or leave early in the morning, you may be able to save some money by spending the first or last night out by the airport.
Beyond the Chains
There are a range of types of accommodation in the United States. Most hotels are equipped with a television, alarm clock, comfortable furniture, air conditioning, and central heating. Higher end hotels usually offer a restaurant with room service, a spa, and a fitness center and pool.
If you're looking for a more personalized vacation, a Bed and Breakfast may be the way to go. Bed and Breakfasts are often located in a large, beautiful house and often have gardens and rooms that offer a personalized touch. Breakfast is included in the price of the room, and it may be possible to also add on dinner.
In the U.S. you can also find hotels and motels. There are subtle differences between the two. A hotel is usually a little more upscale, with more amenities, and the hotel room's doors often open to the inside. A motel is a more budget conscience option, with few amenities, and doors opening to the outside.
If you're going to be staying in an area for a long period of time you may consider an extended stay hotel. Most major chains have options that cater to long term visitors. The rooms usually come equipped with a small, partial kitchen, a few pots and pans, and separate living and sleeping areas. You pay for these hotels by the week at a discounted rate. They are often located by business parks, as they are most commonly used by business travelers.
San Francisco is on of the most popular cities for international travelers. Many backpackers head to this city for at least a few days during their time in the States. As such, you'll find a good number of hostels around town. Many are concentration in the Union Square area, but some are a little more far flung in the Mission or down by Fisherman's Wharf. It's harder to budget hotels in the city as most hotels are either mid-range or luxury in style. If you find a hotel that seems like a steal, read the reviews. Some of the cheapest hotels are in questionable areas and are significantly lower in quality.
Most tourists stay in either the Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf areas. The nicest and most historic hotels are generally located in the Nob Hill area. The nicer chain hotels can be find in the financial district or in Union Square. Whatever neighborhood you choose, the bus, tram, or cable car will likely be your mode of transportation. While the city is generally pedestrian friendly, the hills can be overwhelming. Many tourists choose to take a bus on at least a few occasions during their visit.
Accommodation in New York City can be shockingly expensive. The quality is highly variable so do some research before you commit to a place, particularly if the deal sounds too good to be true. In Manhattan you'll find most of the rooms to be quite small and cramped. If you go for a budget or even a mid-range option, there will likely be a television, a bed, a bathroom and little else to the room. Generally this is not a problem because who goes to New York to stay in their hotel anyway? If you're on a particularly tight budget you can find some better deals if you stay outside of Manhattan. There are some good options in Long Island, Queens and Staten Island. Also take note that many prices do not include taxes. These can be very high and might add a surprising amount to the price you are quoted.
Public transportation in New York is very good. Whatever neighborhood you choose to stay in, you should not have any real trouble getting around. If you've driven to the city, you can expect to pay highly for parking your car. Some hotels offer parking to guests, but the price can be astronomical. You may also need to reserve the parking space at the time of your room reservation. Generally it is best not to bring a car into the city as it is often more trouble than it's worth.