Lifestyle & Travel

Published on September 26th, 2015 | by Kelly Rose Bradford


Discount hotels – why no frills doesn’t have to mean no thrills

Everyone loves a bit of luxe travel, don’t they? And I’ve had the good fortune to stay in some amazing places over the years, most often for work, but occasionally just for r&r with my son. Trouble is though, with luxe fixtures and fittings comes the constant worry about spilled beakers of Ribena, heads being bumped on gilded side-tables and the wasted opportunities that four poster beds present when travelling with your offspring. If you get my drift. And of course, there’s the luxe price tag, too.

So when going away just for one or two nights with my son, and the trip is all about the destination rather than the accommodation, I most often go for the most budget option I can find. In fact, for a decade, we have chosen a very cheap chain hotel for our yearly trips to France and Belgium, and have even made use of youth hostels for bargain basement over-nighters in central London.

There are pros and cons to this: the pros obv being the low costs involved, the cons, the worry that you might end up in the room next to a stag or hen party intent on shouting the night away, or in a hotel so budget that it’s actually part of a retail park an hour out of whatever town you’re visiting (yes, we’ve had all of those occurrences).

But despite having run the gauntlet of no frills overnighters, until a few days ago, I hadn’t previously used a Travelodge. It wasn’t for any reason or because I had any pre-conceived ideas about them – in fact I knew little of them – but simply because the opportunity had never arose. So when I announced to friends that I was heading down to Ramsgate for the weekend and the ‘where are you staying?’ question came up, I was a bit surprised at the rather sniffy response I got. “A Travelodge?” they queried, noses wrinkled.

My hotel snob chums were, it seemed, unaware that the brand has just undergone a £57m modernisation programme, and if the pics of rooms I’d seen online were accurate, then my stay at Ramsgate Seafront Travelodge was not going to be too shabby at all.  So there.

But to be fair, their scoffing probably wasn’t entirely unreasonable – even Travelodge’s chief exec Peter Gowers recently admitted that before the refurb, their reputation was not great. He told the Telegraph just a few weeks ago that customer expectation had not previously been high, and that the accommodation was just ‘functional institutional-looking rooms’ with beds that were little more than two pillows atop a ‘lousy-looking mattress’.

But in all honesty, when I checked in to my Ramsgate digs, I didn’t really care if it was old style institutional or shiny new refurb – I was only after somewhere central and clean to rest my weary head for two days of exploring the nearby towns of Broadstairs and Margate.

So it was good to actually be pleasantly surprised when I opened the door to my room.  It was functional for sure – but then who doesn’t want functional when travelling with a family? It was in no way institutional though, and obviously Ramsgate was one of the newly done up and freshly decorated locations.  There was a huge bed, lots of floor, surface and hanging space and a fab view of the marina across the road. There was a kettle, tea and coffee, TV and wifi (although the connection was a bit pants and only the first 30 minutes was free… but then we didn’t go away for the weekend to spend it online).  The bathroom was spotlessly clean and spacious, and while a few more towels would have been handy, it was overall all pretty ship-shape and comfortable with everything we needed for two nights away.

Having read up on the Travelodge refurbishment programme, I’d discovered they make much of their new Sleepeezee Dreamer beds, with the promise of a good night’s kip seemingly being at the heart of the whole TL experience.  Their blurb bills the Dreamers as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of beds’ and ‘used predominately by luxury hotels worldwide’.  This had been music to my insomniac ears, and I have to admit I wasn’t disappointed –  I did sleep very well (for me) and comfortably both nights.

So all in all, my first Travelodge experience  was a success, and certainly head and shoulders above a lot of  budget bed and board I’ve had in the past.  The customer service was exemplary from start to finish and those little things like a cheery ‘good morning’ and ‘good evening’ and offers of assistance with bags can make all the difference.  As can a hotel that is clean and well presented throughout despite its bargainous room rate.

I’ll definitely be making use of Travelodge again – with family (and pet) friendly rooms from only £25 a night and branches just about everywhere you could wish to visit, there is absolutely no reason not to.

Top Tip: If you are travelling with youngsters and are worried about noisy guests or other disturbances in low-cost hotels, ask for a quiet room when you book. Most hotels are very obliging and keen to help families get the most from their stay.

Kelly stayed in Ramsgate as a guest of Travelodge

About the Author

Kelly Rose Bradford

is a London-based journalist and broadcaster, writing for the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Sunday Telegraph, and a host of women's magazines. Her robust opinions and feisty debating skills make her in demand as a social commentator, regularly guesting on ITV's This Morning programme, and across many radio stations, including 5 Live and BBC Radio London.

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