Flash Says…

Purple, blue or green?

Posted on: 2010-05-03

I’ve been holed up in hotels a lot recently, and I’ve had the opportunity to experience the main budget hotel brands: Premier Inn, Travelodge and Holiday Inn Express. Which should I pick for my next trip?

The competitors are similarly priced: Travelodge, in blue and orange, costs from £45. Premier Inn, purple, realistically costs £60+ – their advertised rooms from £29 are very limited, and I’ve paid £90 for a last minute booking. Holiday Inn Express, in green and blue, costs £70-£90 but staff told me they have the authority to reduce the price, unlike at other hotels.

Holiday Inn Express were different from their rivals in other ways, and it’s clear that they see themselves at the bottom end of the luxury market rather than the higher end of budget. They offer complimentary breakfast and Independent newspaper every day, the door opens with a card rather than a key, and rooms have aircon. They were also the only hotel with a bar, although the others were each next door to a reasonable pub. Otherwise, the facilities they provide are similar to Premier Inn and Travelodge. I stayed in a disabled-access room with a wetroom in all cases.

The blue hotel felt cheap. There was a dusty area running  around the edge of the room, an inch which the hoover hadn’t reached. There was no shower-gel dispenser, nor a telephone (meaning that every time I had a query, I needed to toddle to reception). Toiletries were chargeable, as was late check out or early check in. And to complete the feeling of being in a dodgy motel, the bedside light was an orange strip behind the bed, giving the room a dubious glow. However, the personal touch from the staff did compensate for this; the housekeeper noticed I had a lie-in and returned to make up my room at once when I left in the early afternoon.

Dust? Anybody? Dust? That orange glow
Dust, anybody? Dust? and that orange glow

The green hotel felt more expensive – the pillows had labels saying whether they were firm or soft, a notepad and pen was provided, and the room had aircon. However, the aircon outlet was directly over the bed, meaning that I woke up because a cold or warm blast of air was coming straight at me; I developed a cough overnight. This was also the only hotel without BBC News, which I love to have on during the day. It was good that the room was opened with a card – easier than a key – but the electricity was also only activated by card – no good if I want to charge my laptop while I’m out. I quickly realised that any flat item would work, and put my Pizza Express card to good use!

View a one minute walkthrough showing the features of the disabled-access room at Holiday Inn Express.

The purple hotel fell somewhere in the middle – nothing was free but everything was adequate and the staff were very helpful and friendly, letting me check out at 4pm in one case because there were no earlier buses for me to catch. However, I had to ask for my room to be made up; it seems that if you leave your “Shh!” sign on the door beyond 10am the staff will pass over your room and not return.

The purpose of my visit was to see a relative in hospital, so I needed to take a bus to town every day. The blue hotel had no idea about buses (even though a direct service left from a stop just 3 minutes away), the purple hotel at least knew that there weren’t any nearby (well, this was Somerset after all) and the green hotel not only knew about the bus services but gave me a map to the nearest stop – now that’s good service.

Flash travelling lightEven when travelling light, I always take my laptop and phone charger. This is where the green hotel fell down – it had just one spare socket (shared with the tea and coffee tray), whereas the blue hotel had two spare sockets, both on the desk. At the purple hotel I did find sockets – behind the TV, and under the desk (unplugging a lamp) – neither of which were easy to access, despite the fact that I was staying in a disabled room.

What happens if you’ve forgotten your toothbrush? A replacement will be free at the green hotel, or you can buy a toiletry bag from the purple hotel – which of course means paying for other items that you might not want. At the blue hotel you could buy shower gel from a vending machine, but you’d need to go shopping for other items.

Although there were more extras at the green hotel, and great staff at the blue hotel, somehow I felt most at home in the purple one. So Premier Inn – you’ve won my custom.  After all, it was the only place where staff told me “nuffin’s not too much trouble, me lover” – how can anyone beat that?


4 Responses to "Purple, blue or green?"

We generally aim for ‘budget’ hotels when we need one for the weekend for the family. In our case, we find that the choice is either Travelodge or Premier Inn. We have no complaints at all about Premier Inn – it meets all our needs, and is clean and generally well maintained. If I’m in London on my own, I’ll usually stay in a Travelodge – primarily because it’s conveniently located for where I want to be, but also because it’s cheap (my stay next month in Central-ish London will cost me just £39 for the night). I find that with Travelodge you get what you pay for – it’s cheap, and it’s low quality – but it’s a bed for the night and a shower that works in the morning, and that’s all I need.

Thanks for your comment. I found Travelodge rather too basic unless money really is the only factor. Even the wetroom smelt musty.

Holiday Inn Express is apparently cheapest at the weekend; I stayed on Saturday night which unbeknown to me was their cheapest night (wot no parties staying?)

Would you consider trying them for a weekend stay, based on my comments? Certainly I might try them again if we were on holiday, but I’d turn the aircon off and open a window unless the outlet was somewhere more sensible!

I don’t share your enthusiasm for electronic keycards. At a number of hotels I’ve stayed in they have proved temperamental. I stayed in a Travelodge for about a week recently and the card stopped working nearly every night. Most of the time the receptionist would just reprogram the card upon telling them my room number (not bothering to check ID – I could have told them I was in any room), but one night I got into a 30 minute ‘heated discussion’ at about 2AM because he couldn’t find my booking on the computer before he eventually grasped that I had already checked in several days earlier and merely wanted my key to work again.

Ooh, I disagree! Firstly, at Travelodge where I stayed the key went in, turned – but you had to apply extra force to get it to turn a bit further and open the door. Took me a while to figure out (I assumed it was the wrong key) and it hurt, as I have weak wrists. Someone with arthritic fingers would struggle. Remember this is the disabled room! Cards are easy to handle and don’t need to be turned or operated with any force.

I should add that I haven’t ever had a problem with cards not working, and if you need more than one of them you can generally get them, whereas with a key if there are two of you it gets awkward, e.g. if Mike goes out and takes the key and I want to go somewhere else but might need to get back in before him.

And a key often comes with a big awkward fob. Cards fit in your wallet. And if you go home with a card by mistake, no problem – if you’ve got the key… well, we’ve had to turn round and go back in the past!

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