I Stayed at an Extended-Stay Hotel for Months. Here Are 16 Things You Should Know
How to do a long stay the right way.
What do you do when you’re traveling somewhere and plan to stay for more than a few days? Where do you make your temporary abode? Staying with family or friends for an extended period can be, well, less than ideal if you want to continue to have healthy relationships. Apartments often come unfurnished and with longer lease requirements than you might be able to commit to. An Airbnb is an option, but others might be a better fit for your location and budget. During the corona craziness of 2020, I found myself traveling from my current home of Budapest, Hungary, to Michigan to spend time with family as we navigated challenging times. I spent four months in an extended-stay hotel room. Here’s what I learned.
An Extended-Stay Type of Hotel Can Be the Most Economical Choice
Airbnb and similar companies are often a great choice but, depending on the location and other variables, there may be better options. While I’m a big fan of Airbnb, I wasn’t interested in sharing a house or apartment, even with a private room, during COVID. Sharing a kitchen and possibly a bathroom with a stranger just didn’t seem like a safe option. It could also wear on your happiness after a few weeks. While you can search “entire homes” to ensure privacy, you might find a better deal with an extended-stay hotel. And while this type of hotel might not provide every amenity you could find in an Airbnb, the price can be significantly lower.
Call for the Best Rates
Though you may get some smokin’ deals when using an online travel site for some hotels, this isn’t necessarily the case for an extended-stay type of hotel. While online travel sites, or even the hotel’s website, offer a nightly rate, it’s often best to pick up the phone and call the hotel to inquire about weekly and monthly rates. Monthly rates can be discounted $10 or more per night (that’s $300 per month!). Note that due to the unique type of hotel, you may not receive reward nights from the hotel chain’s frequent stay program, but you can charge the cost of your room to a rewards credit card.
Say Goodbye to Occupancy Tax
As you probably know from past travels, you might see a quoted rate and be unpleasantly surprised once taxes are added. In most states, should you stay longer than 30 days (requirements may be longer in some states), you’ll receive a “permanent resident exemption” from occupancy tax. What this means for you: cost savings, of course. If, like me, you didn’t plan to stay for more than 30 days (or have a fear of commitment), once you commit to that 31st day, the occupancy tax for your continued stay disappears and you’ll receive a refund of the tax for your previous 30 days. Be sure to ask your hotel front desk for this. If they aren’t aware of the rule, you can do an online search for occupancy tax for long-term hotel stays in the state you’re staying.
Kitchen Equipment Not Included
Just because the photos show a kitchen or kitchenette (a couple of burners, a microwave, a sink) doesn’t mean it comes with pots and pans, dishes, utensils, or even a coffee maker. These can often be rented or purchased from the hotel. Or you can run out to a big-box discount store or resale shop to buy them cheaper. Also, don’t expect an oven in many of these hotels. But, if you’re a cook who enjoys a challenge, search the web for stovetop and microwave recipes and you’ll surprise yourself with the tasty meals you can prepare.
Fluffy Towels Are Unlikely
While they can be a good value, it’s important to keep in mind that these hotels generally don’t provide a luxury experience. This means that the towels provided will most likely be thinner and on the smaller side. My recommendation is that you stop at the store to pick up a larger one (or two) or bring one from home. The towels provided by the hotel might be fine for a night or two but can literally grate on you after a week.
BYOPT and TP
Speaking of towels, bring your own paper towels. And, while you’re at it, BYO toilet paper, too. Are these necessary? No. But, if you’re staying for a while, settle in. If your suite doesn’t come equipped with cookware and dishes, you can bet paper towels aren’t included. While not a necessity, even if you’re doing basic cooking and then, of course, eating, do you really want to use tissues or toilet paper as your napkin? The hotel may or may not provide a sponge and a dish towel, but you’ll want more options. And regarding that toilet paper, sure they’ll supply that but, as you are staying for a while, creature comforts can be oh so nice, so why not help your bottom feel more at home.
Speedy Wi-Fi Might Cost Extra
Many long-stay hotels offer basic Wi-Fi free of charge with the option of purchasing an upgrade. The basic plan can work well depending on the plan and hotel occupancy (how many are sharing it). But, if you’ll be streaming, attending video meetings, Skyping with friends and family, or even just trying to get work done without growing old while waiting for websites and online docs to load, you might want to check out the cost of the upgrade ahead of time. A monthly plan can be pretty budget-friendly. Don’t purchase the plan upon check-in. Spend a day with the basic, no charge Wi-Fi as it might work just fine. If you experience problems, you can always add the upgrade.
Hide Your Luggage and Settle in
Once you arrive in your room, unpack. Seriously, do it right away. And then hide your luggage. Unlike many other hotels which now place beds on a platform to decrease the opportunity for guests to accidentally leave something behind, these hotels often provide higher clearance under the bed to accommodate luggage storage. Unpack and get your luggage under there as soon as possible which will help you feel more settled.
Don’t Expect Daily Housekeeping
Extended-stay hotels aren’t the Four Seasons and generally don’t pretend to be. If you’re lucky, the housekeeper might come by weekly or, as in my case, bi-weekly. The hotel might offer a paid upgrade to receive weekly housekeeping or linen exchange. As these hotels almost always have laundry facilities, laundering your own sheets and towels is an option. Also, tip your housekeeper.
Just Because They Call It a Suite Doesn't Mean It Has a Sofa or Even a Table to Eat At
Okay, I get it, an entire home at an Airbnb would probably have these but, for my location and dates (yes, even in Michigan in the winter during COVID), the hotel price was $400 less per month than the least expensive Airbnb I found in the area, even after negotiating with the owner. Sure, you can eat at the “desk” (really just a lower countertop with a straight-backed chair slid under) but sitting in the accent chair balancing your meal on your lap or nightstand works. Or, just like being spoiled with breakfast in bed, you can spoil yourself with breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed.
Room Location Matters
When you book the room, ask them to reserve one on the top floor at the end of the hallway. You’ll normally find this to offer a quieter experience. Being near the end of the hallway means less foot traffic outside of yours as people make their way to their rooms. And, if you’re lucky enough to snag a room at the very end of the hallway, you’ll only deal with a neighbor on one side instead of two. The top floor means fewer people stomping around on your head (less painful than it implies, but certainly irritating.)
Noisy Neighbors? Move
We’ve all stayed in hotel rooms next to less-than-ideal neighbors; slamming doors and cupboards, yelling, loud TV or music can really irk you. Sometimes you’re forced to call their room to ask them to keep it down, bang on the wall and yell out of frustration, and, as a last-ditch effort, call the front desk and lodge a complaint. In a traditional hotel, peace comes within a night or two when the offender checks out. In a longer-stay hotel, your noisy neighbor will probably be there for more than a few days. While you can ask the front desk for a hint of the neighbor’s departure date, due to privacy rules, they may not be able to share that, so it’s probably best to suck it up, pack your things, and move. While it’s a pain to pack up your clothes and kitchen, it’s so worth it as the noise and frustration that will come from staying put will mean many sleepless nights.
Make Friends With the Staff
The staff at a long-stay hotel can have a significant effect on your life for a few months. Get to know their names. Periodically stop at the front desk on your way in or out and ask how their day is going. Chat with your housekeeper and find out about their life. Not only is this polite and ensures they understand that you see them as human beings, you might also find them more willing to search out extra pillows, towels, and other creature comforts.
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Bring Your Pets
Most pet owners can’t imagine being separated from their furry family members for long, and extended-stay hotels are great for keeping you and Fido or Fifi together. Most of the large, long-stay hotel chains welcome pets, so there are no separation anxiety worries for you or your pet.
Secure Your Valuables
Many longer-stay hotel rooms don’t contain safes. If you’re nervous about keeping your valuables safe, be sure your luggage locks and you can use your luggage as a safe. Even if an in-room safe is included, it’s unlikely it will be large enough to hold your computer, and placing it in your locked luggage will take care of this concern.
Make the Place Feel Like Home
I don’t know about you, but scents can turn a hotel room into somewhat of a home for me. A calming candle, some incense, a plug-in scent dispenser, or even some room spray can make your experience a bit more comfortable. If your room has a bathtub, grab some bubble bath. If you’re in a pinch, use the dish detergent you’ll have purchased as that isn’t included in the room and luxuriate. Make your room your home away from home.