My Escape from Hotel Hell

business fireThe other day, Greg and I celebrated seven wonderful years or marriage.  Since we had a few days off work, and since my mom had so nicely offered to watch my kids overnight, I started looking for some fun overnight trip ideas.  Giggity.

I didn’t want to blow our budget, but I didn’t really want to spend the night at home.  It’s just hard to really be romantic and relax at home…because of things like the dishes, and the laundry, and all of the projects that need to be started on.  What I really wanted was a jacuzzi room so that we could turn the bubbles on, watch a movie, and basically relax.  Unfortunately, I quickly found out that these types of rooms were expensive ($250 and up) in the downtown area so I started looking in the surrounding suburbs for something more in our price range.

I soon found a fantasy themed motel that was only about 20 minutes away from where we would be eating dinner.  Each one of its guest rooms featured a giant jacuzzi, television,  mini fridge, and special theme.  I was totally ecstatic to find out it was only $99 per night and I booked a cool “caveman theme” room.  I was so proud of myself.  I had managed to find something fun and different that was also well within our budget.  I couldn’t wait for the day to arrive so that we could get away from the kids and celebrate together.

The Date Begins

Our anniversary date came and we headed to the hotel with a 12 pack of Killian’s in tow.  When we pulled up to the entrance, I was less than impressed.  As I got out of the car, I noticed that we had parked next to an old white minivan with very dark tinted windows. It looked like the exact kind of vehicle that some psychopath would use to abduct small children.  Creepy.  Still, we got out of the car with an open mind and went inside.  The lobby was unimpressive, but we were eager to get to our room and get our fun evening started.  This was going to be awesome, right?

Wrong.  We got our keys and began to wind our way through the unkempt property.  As we walked around the building, I noticed all kinds of kids toys littering the lawn and a giant waterless pool with weeds growing in its bottom.  Yuck.  Also, there were a ton of shady people milling around everywhere.  What were these people doing?  We probably passed at least ten people who were just standing outside.  Some of them were smoking, and others were…well, just standing there.

We got to our “Cave Room” and were completely appalled as we walked inside.  It was terribly dark, so dark that you couldn’t see if there were hidden cameras or people hiding in the corners.  I looked for more lighting to turn on and there simply wasn’t any.  It was a cave room, afterall, so I suppose that the lack of lighting went along with the theme.  But, how could they even go about cleaning the place since it was so incredibly dark?  Greg looked at me in disgust.

“How many hookers do you think have been murdered in this place?”  Funny…but a good question.  Have you ever felt like you were about to be the victim of some sort of crime?  Have you ever seen the movie Vacancy???  I started to get the feeling that I was going to end up on a Dateline Special if we did indeed stay the night there.  It was dark.  It was dirty.  It was tacky.  Splashes of what appeared to be dried DNA were splattered here and there.  Worst of all, it was secluded as our room was located in the farthest building at the very end of the hall. Additionally, there wasn’t anything remotely romantic about the place and the mirrored ceiling was not a nice touch.

Escape from Hotel Hell

My fun anniversary plans were falling apart.  I couldn’t even imagine sitting my purse down on the filthy furniture, let alone sitting on it or…..ummmm……anything else.  This just wasn’t going to work.  Greg opened the door to exit our room and another intimidating person was standing just outside for no apparent reason.  We grabbed our stuff and left.  Luckily, the front desk refunded all but $25 of our rate as a cancellation fee.  That was fine.  By that point I just wanted to leave, refund or not.

All we had wanted was a fun night alone without our children.  We wanted to unwind, spend some quality time together, and be romantic.  Do you want to know what’s not romantic?  Getting robbed.  Getting raped.  Ending up as the star of some hidden camera porno on the internet.  Those are all things that I do not aspire to.

What’s the moral of this story?

Do your research, people!  Had I taken a nanosecond to check TripAdvisor, I would have found a gazillion absolutely terrifying reviews of this place.  I just got so caught up in the fact that it was only $99 that I didn’t bother to look.  Sometimes you get what you pay for.  If something seems to good to be true, it probably is.  I’ll remember this experience the next time I book a hotel room or vacation or any kind.  It is worth the extra money to stay in a better neighborhood..and you know…not get murdered.

Lesson learned.  Have you ever found yourself in a scary situation like this?  Have you ever tried to save money and had it backfire?  Please share by commenting below.

 
About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. That’s too bad you had such a horrible experience, especially on your anniversary. Happy anniversary by the way. I’ve learned from experience that pictures and words can be deceiving so Tripadvisor is my best friend when it comes to hotels.

  2. So sorry to hear about your experience :/ Only once did I go for a super-cheap hotel option and had it actually work out. It was at a well-known chain so that helped, but overall it seems like you get what you pay for in the hotel industry.

  3. Wow, just wow. Happy Anniversary first off. Sorry you got to spend your kid free night like that. I can totally relate to want to take advantage of a kid free night as we get so few of them ourselves.

  4. That sounds really terrifying, I’m so glad you decided not to stay.
    Hopefully your 8th wedding anniversary will be better :)

  5. Wow! Fortunately, most of my leap of faith hotel reservations have ended up ok, nothing as terrifying as your experience. I think you definitely made a good call on bolting that place, sounds terrible!

  6. First office happy anniversary!

    I think I know which hotel you are reffering to and I’m not sure there is enough bleach in the world to disinfect that place.

    I still remember a spring break vacation I took with my parents in high school where we stayed at a cheap motel. Spent the entire night listening to a domestic violence case in the room down the “hall.” Police came and everything. It was just like cops where you could hear the lady crying and then saying “he’s a good man and has never done this before and didn’t mean it.” Needless to say we have since stayed at slightly nicer places!

    • It’s in Greenwood. I’m sure you know which one I’m talking about!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • LeRainDrop says:

        Well that wasn’t hard to google! Crazy rooms — I like the Wild Wild West one, haha!

        • I know! There were also spaceship themed rooms and and other weird stuff. The pictures look completely different online than they do in person! You just really have to see it firsthand to get the entire picture =)

  7. Happy Anniversary! And ah that sounds like a horrible time. That’s good though that you were able to get most of your money back.

  8. Happy anniversary!! So, what did you decide to do after? Did you just go home? Splurge for another hotel? I hope you still were able to make it a fun night

    • We ended up staying at the Quality Inn in our hometown. My mom was watching our kids overnight at our house….so we didn’t want to go home! Yes, we did have fun and it was actually funny after it was all over with =)

  9. Wow, I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience!

    I hope this doesn’t turn you off of good deals though. My friends have drilled into me the importance of review sites and I couldn’t be more thankful. I’ve avoided some really bad places, but also found a few amazingly low-priced gems!

  10. Wow! I’ve never had that happen as a married couple but I did stay at a very shady, cheap motel when I was moving from Kentucky to New Mexico right after school. My dog and I were driving across country and stopped somewhere in Oklahoma. The dog got diarrhea all night and I had to keep taking her out. There was a group of bikers with leather and stuff out in the parking lot having some sort of bruhaha. I’m surprised I was not murdered. Since then ,we only stay in place where you can’t access the room unless you go inside through an lobby. You got a great story though. Happy Anniversary!

    • Thanks, Kim! Yeah, I think my standards have changed since I was younger. I probably wouldn’t have thought a lot about it 15 years ago. Now I was definitely not going to stay there!

  11. That sounds horrid! I’ve never been to a motel THAT bad, but I have nightmares about those types of situations before travelling so I always end up footing the bill for more expensive accommodations. Next time, try a B&B! They generally way better because they are home-owner run and you can meet some interesting people, too. Plus, super inexpensive!

  12. Sorry your anniversary was a bummer! We have had places that we ditched on too. There was a “Best Western” in San Fran that was in a shady party of town and not at all like any other “Best Western I’ve been to that we bailed on but this sounds terrifying!

  13. I’m so sorry to hear about your horrible experience. I learned the hard way that what you see in pictures can be deceiving, except I was in a Venice hotel with a front desk clerk who didn’t speak English! Happy Anniversary!

  14. First off congrats on being married for 7 years. My wife and I will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary this November.

    As for the hotel look at the good side you didn’t get mugged, raped, or robbed and you still had a six pack of Killians to enjoy.

  15. I am sorry that happened and I have stayed at my share of shady places (college road trips). I can’t help but laugh though at the “caveman theme” room.

    • It sounded fun, I swear! It wasn’t though. It was straight up skanky. I literally couldn’t even sit down on the chair or bed or anything. It was so gross.

  16. Although I never quite had that experience, we stayed in a motel in Virginia Beach that had an ocean view. You could not keep the drapes open because there was a walkway in front of the windows. I paid extra and I could not see the ocean. You’re right you should check it out first.

    • Totally agree. We are going out of the country next month and I have been reading the Tripadvisor reviews for months! I love how they post pics, reviews, the good, and the bad. It is really helpful.

  17. Hmmm..nothing as bad as yours. Cheaped out in cancun and paid for it- full of noisy students and disco booming til 2 a.m.!

  18. That is a creepy experience and am glad you got out of there safely.
    If I were in your shoes, I probably would have booked it too without checking reviews since I would have shared the same excitement over finding a great deal.
    Good lesson learned.

  19. I have tried to save money in other ways and have it backfire on me. The worst thing to do that with is any kind of home improvement luckily the contractor did not write an end date on the contract making it invalid and we were able to get out of it. I think you tried to make the best of the situation. Saving money is important but nothing can buy youth! Spend money when you’re young and still save for when you’re old! Maybe next time instead of staying at the Quality Inn in town, consider driving 2 or so hours out of town for $99-ish and experience another city or small village and just get away and have a different fun experience even if it’s a short one. Skimp on material possessions not experiences.
    Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think! (Song lyrics:)

  20. Wow. That is crazy. I will be sure to check Trip Advisor anytime we rent a room now, because I am always price conscious, but I will pay more to not have an experience like that. Thanks for sharing and congrats on celebrating 7 years together!

  21. First off, Happy Anniversary!!! :)

    Second, totally can relate to your story Holly! When my husband and I took a trip up the west coast some years ago, he booked this motel in Oregon that was seriously a hot mess. There were scary people there, it was gross and dirty, and the sliding glass door opened right onto a gas station. I was freaked out the whole time and threatened to cancel the rest of the trip and go home. Luckily, the next night we stayed at a wonderful hotel that my husband booked, to make up for it.

    “giggity”? Family Guy, right? :)

  22. Sometimes, especially in this case, it is better to spend the money. Yes, I understand budgets, but you didn’t put murder in your budget! Glad you guys got out of there without getting a disease, robbed, or becoming the latest internet porn stars.

  23. Sorry you had a bad experience, but that is a really funny story. You’ll find yourselves laughing too, might take a while though. But I just have to give you MAJOR props for even considering a cave man room, that is hilarious. love it. Did it at least come with matching leopard print robes for him and her? Although it sounds like you wouldn’t have wanted to touch them…

  24. I spent three months crossing the US coast to coast last year and have had a fair share of disgusting hotels, although none of them that expensive! I lower my expectations when the price is low…

  25. I’m with Daisy: B&B is the way to go. I really didn’t want to go to one the first time, and Cheryl talked me into it. What a different world. Awesome time.

    Is that the pic of the place or a generic pic at the top?

  26. Wow! I’ve been to that hotel.

    Okay, not really, but those kind of hotels exist in every city of every country. I’ve stayed in a few of them along the way.

    Now? TripAdvisor is a must. I also pay attention to bedbugreport.com, especially if I am staying in ANY hotel in a major city. Bed bugs are not respecters of fancy hotels.

  27. Happy Anniversary.. sorry to hear about the bad experience… but hey i LOVE giggity!!! ;)

  28. Happy Anniversary! I have stayed at many hotels and the first thing I do is my research. Thing is pictures can tell a story but are the pictures what the place currently looks like. It’s all a gamble but sometimes reviews are what I look for, current ones. I’ll tell you if I saw what you both saw I would have turned around as well. No way I’d be staying in a place like that. A $25 lesson for the next time I bet you won’t make… Great post!!! Mr.CBB

  29. Happy Anniversary, but wow I’m so sorry about the hotel. I love tripadvisor…I always check with them first!

  30. Oh man! I am sorry things turned out like that but it sure does make for an entertaining story! I believe you guys were lucky to get out of there while you did. You were in Vacancy!

  31. I had a similar experience in Seattle about ten years ago while I was at a conference. Wanted to save my adviser some money on the hotel, so I got a cheaper one. Man, the place I stayed was a dump. Smoky, and I’m almost posivite I passed a prostitute on the way up to my room.

    Survived but it wasn’t fun at all.

  32. LeRainDrop says:

    Wow, that’s so creepy sounding. Glad you two had the mind to cut your losses and bolt! I hope you were able to salvage the evening with alternative romantic plans — happy anniversary! And yes, TripAdvisor is a fantastic resource for checking out hotels. I’ve used it for US and international travel and have consistently found the reviews to be valuable, as the consenses of many reviewers tends to be spot on.

    • I know! It is awesome. I have been reading reviews for our upcoming vacation for months. Not only are the reviews helpful, but I have also picked up some good tips on what to bring/what not to bring!

  33. Congratulations! I wish you more years of love and togetherness. It is saddening though that the fun evening youa re planning turned out to be a horrible one. But look at the postivie side of the story, you learned some lessons (though it was the hard way). You also have a mom who is nice enough to volunteer in looking after your children so that you can celebrate your special day with your man.

    My husband and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary on the 24th. We may have a simple dinner at home or in our favorite restaurant because we cannot leave the house. Nobody has offered to watch our kids yet. I envy you.

  34. OMG that’s absolutely awful! Glad you guys made it out ok and hopefully salvaged your romantic getaway.

  35. Trip Advisor is definitely the way to go. I read it all the time.

    Sorry you got ripped off and ruined your evening. Good thing you got out as quickly as possible.

  36. eemusings says:

    Ridiculous! Hope you guys celebrated properly someway else?

  37. Yikes. Something similar happened to my wife and I. It was the one time I picked the hotel and well… I’m not allowed to anymore, which is great with me. Checking online for reviews is a great way to avoid these types of places, although sometimes you do get a bad room for other reasons.
    Happy seven years together and good luck next year.

  38. Happy anniversary!

    That story sounds horrifying, but I hope that things turned out well in the end.

  39. When I backpacked around South America, I stayed in hostels which for the most part weren’t that bad. But when I stayed in one in Guatemala for around $5, I was stoked but puzzled about the price… finally figured it out around 2 in the morning with the club playing their music loudly next door, cars speeding and honking around, people talking loudly out on the streets until 4 a.m., and very thin walls with the other hostel rooms. Research definitely helps! Happy Anniversary!

  40. A belated Happy Anniversary! (I’m still catching up on lie LOL) Here’s something I learned along the way: there are certain things you just don’t try to save money on. And an anniversary is one of those. I’d rather scrimp on other things (even more) but life is all about memories. And an anniversary is better done well than cheap. We all try to catch both, but that’s too rare to try. Better to just go for good.

    At least now you have something to laugh about in future. Next time you’re bad, expect to Greg to go, “Hey, careful or I’m taking you to the cave next year!”

    Part of life’s memories is things like these. Thanks for sharing.

  41. Holy cow this is hilarious! It just goes to show you that you really have to read those reviews! The people don’t lie! Listen to them and avoid shady-city!

  42. Wow. Awful. I’m so glad you still stayed the night away from home! Don’t want that 12 pack to go to waste! Happy anniversary.

  43. My spouse and I stumbled over here different page and thought I might check things out.
    I like what I see so i am just following you.
    Look forward to checking out your web page for a second time.

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