“Motel” Isn’t a Dirty Word – The Next Few I Plan to Visit

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Best US Motels
La Quinta Santa Barbara. Source: Wyndham Hotels.

The Best US Motels I Plan to Visit in 2021 and Beyond

People don’t seem to use the word “motel” anymore.  Perhaps it has to do with the individuals I talk to, or maybe I’m just not talking to enough people.  In our hobby, it seems like most go out of their way to stay in the exact opposite of a motel.  Many justifiably focus on aspirational stays or other high value redemptions.  Motels aren’t often compatible with such goals.  I have a soft spot for motels – I grew up on family road trips where I anxiously awaited neon “Vacancy” signs after stopping for dinner.  And I’ve never shaken the habit – I still periodically enjoy them.  Today, I’m describing the best US motels I plan to visit down the road (pun intended).

Merriam-Webster defines motel as an establishment which provides lodging and parking and in which the rooms are usually accessible from an outdoor parking area.  Depending on one’s background, the definition may vary.  I’ll generally stick to the book definition for this article.  Indeed, parking right outside my room is the most underrated benefit of this property type, in my opinion.

Best US Motels
Source: Best Western.

Best Western Inn & Suites – New Braunfels, TX

Something I haven’t seen often is the hybrid property with both interior and exterior rooms.  The Best Western in New Braunfels is one such motel.  Points rates are very reasonable, as are cash prices, given the fairly updated rooms.  Breakfast is included.  The property has a great location to nearby Schlitterbahn Water Park, the top-rated water park in the nation.  We’ll seek this one out when I take our little ones on their first Schlitterbahn visit.

Rate:  12k Best Western Rewards points per night

Best US Motels
Source: Wyndham Hotels.

Days Inn – Staunton, VA

This unassuming motel is made up of several different buildings just off I-81 close to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley.  The property is a welcome respite from tractor trailer-heavy 81.  Our little ones loved the onsite playground when we stayed here.  Breakfast was basic but substantial enough to hold us over to lunch.  The wife and I particularly enjoyed the sunset and sunrise views from this property.  Rooms were very quiet for a property just off the interstate.  The motel’s large footprint is great for jogging.

Rate:  15k Wyndham Rewards points

Source: Best Western.

Best Western Pioneer Inn – Lahaina, Maui, HI

This is the Holy Grail of domestic Best Western properties – at least for me.  The Pioneer Inn is steeped in history.  Built in 1901, it’s the oldest property of its kind on Maui and the oldest in continuing operation in all of Hawaii.  We’ve loved our meals in the hotel restaurant (think Hawaiian diner) on each of our Maui visits.  Whenever we drop by, we pledge to stay at the property on our next visit.  Some may see it’s central Lahaina town location as both a positive and a negative.  It’s great to be around everything, but parts of the surrounding area are a bit tourist-tacky.  Still, I think it’s an overall net positive.  The challenge is finding availability – looking throughout the next year into August, I can’t find any points rates.  Plus, the property has limited amenities and no viable beach access.

Rate:  Points rates are hard to find.  Room rates generally start in the mid-$200s for basic rooms and shoot up from there.

Source: Maverick Inn.

The Maverick Inn – Alpine, TX

This property describes itself as a “roadhouse for wanderers who celebrate the adventurism, wanderlust, and the spirit of the Southwest.”  I see a distinctive motel with an excellent location.  More specifically, Alpine is the closest good-sized town to Big Bend National Park.  Marfa is nearby, but the masses have covered that area ad nauseum.  The motel has only 21 rooms, and each are thoughtfully decorated.  The motel is pet-friendly and comes equipped with a horseshoe pit, complimentary breakfast, and plenty of coffee.

Rate:  No points rates.  Cash rates are generally $110-160 depending on your chosen room type.  Use your cash back rewards!

Source: Best Western.

Best Western Plus Santee Inn – Santee, SC

This property is located along the I-95 corridor, which can be feast or famine for acceptable points properties.  We’ve stayed here once over our multi-day drive to Walt Disney World and were pleasantly surprised by our stay.  Staff was cheerful and competent, rooms were clean, parking was plentiful, and the full breakfast was higher quality than I expected.  For motel standards, the room was exceptionally appointed.

Rate:  20k Best Western Rewards points per night

Best US Motels
Source: Wyndham Hotels.

La Quinta Inn & Suites – Santa Barbara, CA

If you’ve read even a few of my other MtM articles, you probably won’t be surprised that La Quinta is my favorite hotel brand in the Wyndham chain.  I’m pleased with the consistency and predictability of their properties – particularly the reliable complimentary breakfast and welcome lack of stuffiness.    Their newer properties skew much nicer, surprisingly.  The Santa Barbara property goes the other way, playing up aspects of the motor hotel heyday.  Updated interiors complement the retro exterior.  I can’t wait to stay here.

Rate: 30k Wyndham Rewards points per night


These are just a few of the motels I look forward to visiting in the near future.  I enjoy discovering new possibilities all the time, and I have just as much fun figuring out how to stay at each property for free.  I also can’t possibly cover every domestic region in one article, and I look forward to my next iteration of this article in the future.  What are some of the best US motels from your perspective?  I’m excited to learn from you!

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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  1. Stayed a week at the Chalet Motel in Custer, SD last summer and loved it. Convenience of the property to the Black Hills sites plus the hospitality from the owner and staff more than made up for the relatively sparse accommodations. I’ll search out similar motels on future road trips for sure. Thanks for the tips!


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