Motel 6’s are nowhere near as bad as some people make them out to be (especially those that tend to write reviews on TripAdvisor and other travel sites). It’s a matter of expectation, I guess. If you’re just looking for a bed, a shower, and a couple cable channels to flip through, then it’s perfectly fine. It’s not a place to put the kids up during a family vacation or a place to go to if you’re expecting an omelette bar for breakfast.
Some Motel 6’s are actually quite nice. In five months of traveling and staying in a buttload of motels, the best place I stayed at was a Motel 6 in Westborough, Massachusetts. More on that in a sec. First, here’s what you get at a typical Motel 6:
- a basic bed with the bedding pattern that I’ve seen so often it is seared into my memory (see below)
- a small Magnavox TV from the olden times of cathode ray tubes, featuring . . .
- about 20 channels, led by The Weather Channel, which is the default channel – every time you turn the TV on, that cathode ray tube will be warming itself up with some Weather Channel. You can also expect at least one HBO, CNN, Headline News, TBS, Cartoon Network, the 4 major networks, and at least 10 different ESPN’s.
- either a walk-in shower or a basic tub, always accompanied with a 2X2 bar of soap that was apparently developed by someone with no sense of smell
- a long piece of institutionalized furniture which serves as a dresser, desk, and TV stand. Comes with a chair which also wouldn’t seem out of place in a prison waiting room or mental hospital.
That’s pretty much it. And, though I’ve made some yucks along the way (I think), I’d like to remind you that all of the above is PERFECTLY FINE when you’re just looking for a place to chill out for a couple hours before nodding off to sleep.
Here’s what the Westborough Motel 6 offerred:
- pillows made from the finest angel wings, laid atop a mattress hand-crafted for maximum comfort by the mattress-making masters of the Nyaheun people in Laos
- a mini-fridge and microwave, the holy grail of the thrifty traveler (I can keep my beer cool in the fridge instead of by filling the bathroom sink with ice!)
- a flat-screen TV, featuring . . .
- the full panoply of cable goodness that media corporations work so hard to offer us. I can watch Archer and American Pickers and South Park and So Many Tasty Testicles With Andrew Zimmern! Wheeee!!!
- pretty much the same bathroom with that same horrendous soap – sorry, it’s not all angel wings and tasty testicles.
- a very nice, black desk, with one of those desk lamps that you can plug stuff into. Comes with a comfy, comfy office chair.
- free, super fast Wi-Fi
That last one is key, and not just because it means you don’t have to sit and wait while your YouPorn video buffers. If you need to book a hotel, and lack-of-finances leads you to the Motel 6 site, go through the list of amenities in their search results. If any of them mention free Wi-Fi (a typical Motel 6 charges $2.99 a night for Wi-Fi), then that’s the one you should book, because it’s going to be much nicer than the other ones.
Why is this? Because those hotels are usually:
- previously independent, mom-and-pop hotels that bought into a franchise
- other hotel brands (Best Western, Days Inn, etc.) that were later converted into Motel 6’s
Rather than expensively remodeling everything so that they look like the regular Motel 6’s, they keep everything the same as before, even though – in almost all cases – you end up with a room that is worth a lot more than you actually end up paying. The only thing that makes their rooms similar to the regular rooms: the soap – you’re still stuck with that goddamn, foul-smelling soap.
Here’s one last thing to remember, especially if you’re a prissy type who thinks any motel is a dirty, icky thing to avoid: every hotel room – EVERY SINGLE ONE that has ever existed, no matter how cheap or expensive, no matter if it’s a hotel or a motel, and no matter how often they change the sheets – is a jizz-stained nightmare. Never bring a blacklight into ANY hotel room – you will end up sleeping in your car.
So if you’re traveling and are looking for an affordable place to lay your head down, ignore what you read online and consider a Motel 6. If you do just a little bit of extra homework, you could find yourself in a much-nicer room than you expected.
Bring your own soap, though.