If you haven’t checked out this new travel trend, the concept is a bit backwards from where the lodging industry has been heading for the last few decades.
Chain hotels and even some motels have been telling us for years that the only way to guarantee consistently high quality, or at least consistent mid-range quality, was to go to places under their brand, which is why just about every large or medium-sized town offers similarly branded locations. This strategy generally works out well for regular travelers who want to know what kind of lodging conditions and experience they will receive, what type of breakfast they’re going to get and those asking, “Can I travel with my driver license?”
At the same time, “independent” hotel or motel owners have been portrayed as a big unknown where you never know whether you’ll have a five-star experience or put your life in your hands.
But the boutique travel experience has changed all this. Now, it’s the independents that are known for providing the highest quality. Rather than a company spending its money over all its properties nationwide, boutique hotel owners can focus his or her energy into one location. That means there are now gourmet restaurants, elegant guest rooms, art-house movie theaters and memorable surroundings, more than ‘the same ol’ thing’ you’ll get in every other town.
These are definitely becoming destinations in their respective regions, but people planning a visit also need to be aware that they’re not always the easiest to reach.
In fact, if your travel plans could include one or more this year, a defensive driving class may be in order ahead of time. Here’s why:
- They’re not easy to find. Travelers are spoiled by knowing that hotels are typically found in a downtown core or at least right off the freeway. But boutique hotels really could be anywhere. They may not necessarily appear on a highway sign of an upcoming destination. Instead, they may only be talked about in travel magazines or travel programs. So, reaching a new one often requires navigating tough traffic, especially in an environment you’re not familiar with. Some of the better-known ones in the U.S. are found in the hearts of Detroit, Seattle, Portland, Ore., or Washington, D.C., which are all notorious for dense traffic.
- They’re remote. While the bulk of these hotels are found in urban areas, others are located outside of towns. They promote the appeal of country living and rural charm on the outskirts of metro communities. This creates a lovely getaway for those craving tranquility and serenity, but may also create new and challenging experience for drivers more comfortable with city traffic conditions. Here, your defensive driving skills may extend to watching out for agricultural equipment, changing speed limits in and out of tiny towns you must go through, and worrying that you missed that poorly-marked country road.
- Other guests may be just as confused as you. Since many of these locations are relatively new, or the hotels are in renovated/converted buildings that were never originally designed as a hotel, such as a factory or schoolhouse, you likely will see other travelers trying to figure their way around. This can lead to some distracted drivers as they try to find correct directions and proper parking. Hotels in downtown areas may also be competing with other venues for limited parking, so defensive driving strategies are also a must.
Overall, boutique hotels can offer travelers one-of-a-kind lodging experiences with elevated levels of attention to detail and luxury. But, depending on the location, getting in and out can be a challenge.