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There are almost too many choices in the hotel market these days and not just between brands. Even within a brand family like Hilton or Marriott, you have several different levels of service from which to choose. Do you prefer a full-service business hotel, a bare-bones clean room with free breakfast or an extended stay option that feels more like an apartment than a hotel room? My selection is typically made by hotel location, brand family and length of the stay.

Location, location, location

Before I consider the advantages and disadvantages of an extended stay versus a full-service hotel, I need to know what hotel options I have within a reasonable distance to the client I am visiting or the event I am attending. It’s also possible that the client or event has a negotiated preferred rate at certain hotels nearby. If that’s the case, I usually make those venues my first choice regardless of brand family or my length of stay. There is nothing worse than a morning traffic jam in a strange city to start your day off on the wrong foot and make you late for a meeting. This is why I choose to stay as close as possible to either my next morning’s appointment or the airport out of which I’m flying.

Brand loyalty matters

In the movie “Up in the Air,” Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) says at one point, “There’s nothing cheap about loyalty.” No truer words have ever been uttered about frequent business travel. We recognize that loyalty to a hotel brand family is seldom the cheapest way to travel throughout the year, but it does make for smoother check in, nice room upgrades and free extras like not paying for wi-fi or breakfast.

The second criteria I use to filter available hotels within my chosen geographic region is hotel brand family; namely Hilton Hotels. However, it could be Marriott, Starwood or a host of other equally good choices depending upon your preferences.

Hotel service level

That brings us to the service level of the hotel you choose for a specific stay. Extended stay properties offer plenty of advantages if you will be staying multiple nights. That’s not to say that an extended stay hotel is a bad choice for a single night stay. It just might not be the best choice. If you visit the same city month after month and for a week at a time you may prefer an extended stay property. You might even stay at the same hotel each month and ask for the same room. This familiarity would allow you to feel more like you are staying in an apartment.

Other advantages include plenty of room to spread out and work as well as a couch and chairs to relax and watch TV from in the evening. It feels like you are in a home, not a single small hotel room. You also have a refrigerator and cooking facilities so you don’t have to eat every meal out for a week straight. Many of the extended stay options also include breakfast seven days a week and dinner 4 or 5 nights a week as well. This can be both a convenience and a money saver on the road.

All the space those multiple rooms in the extended stay property offer can turn into a negative if you are only staying one night. I tend to spread out when I enter a hotel room and if I have multiple rooms my belongings will end up spread between them. While I don’t mind the extra time to police the room in the morning after a several days stay its time wasted for a single night stay.

Not having a restaurant that serves at off hours, say 10 p.m. after late flight arrival, can make finding that first meal in town more of a chore than it should be. On-site hotel restaurants are seldom my first dining choice but often the convenience is worth the tradeoff in quality and originality of the dining experience. When you’ll be staying just a single night and arriving late and leaving early a full-service hotel that serves dinner late and allows you to get breakfast in your room can be worth the price difference.

The right service level is in the eye of the beholder

A full-service Hilton has nicer sheets, pillow, towels, and other amenities than an extended stay Homewood Suites, but that doesn’t mean the Hilton is better for a specific stay. Living out of a single hotel room (however nice it may be) for a week can get old. For a longer stay, having multiple rooms, a couch, chairs and a refrigerator and cooking facilities can outweigh the other niceties of the Hilton over the Homewood Suites.

Understanding how you’ll use your hotel room is the single most important factor in choosing an extended stay property over one that offers full service.