Those in need of a place to sleep while traveling have a full range of hotel options. Types of hotels and hotel categories can blur a bit by location and whether the hotel is independent, part of a chain like Marriott or affiliated with a brand such as Associated Luxury Hotels International. Whether you’re traveling for business or leisure, or a combination of the two, hotel classification information can help you make the best hotel choice.
Budget and Value Hotels
Hotel categories in the budget range have the lowest room rates. Most of the major hotel brands have value properties within their portfolios, helping you know what to expect, such as the free breakfast at Comfort Inn. Drawbacks to economy hotels include minimal services and amenities, less desirable locations and poorer building construction, which might mean you’re awoken by noise.
Inns and B&Bs
Smaller independent hotels sometimes call themselves bed & breakfasts or inns. They can be cheap-and-cheerful or upscale, such as Door County, Wisconsin’s Hillside Inn, a historic house overlooking Green Bay, ideal for a wedding.
Mid-Range Hotels and Business Hotels
The meaning of mid-range hotels differs, but they're often preferred by families and by business travelers. Both types of travelers appreciate the cost, convenience, consistency and locations near their interests. The major chains have several options in this category, such as Courtyard by Marriott and Holiday Inn.
Family Hotels and Resorts
Most hotels welcome guests of all ages, but hotels catering to families often have bigger rooms, extra beds and swimming pools. Family resorts affiliated with theme parks like Disney, Universal and Schlitterbahn Waterparks provide extended hours to guests, maximizing the fun. Luxury property Hotel Xcaret Mexico includes free access to six eco-archeological resorts in the Cancun-Playa del Carmen area, so kids never get bored.
Beach and Vacation Resorts
Vacation resorts tend to concentrate around beaches and golf courses. A property that has both is The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort on Panama’s Pacific Coast. A year-round lakeside vacation resort with a “Dirty Dancing” feel, The Osthoff Resort is on Wisconsin’s Elkhart Lake.
Some holiday resorts are all-inclusive. Grand Lucayan Resort on Grand Bahama Island includes watersports, golf, entertainment, drinks, dining at four restaurants, plus gratuities and taxes.
Holiday Condo Resorts
Some vacation properties have individual apartments owned independently but available to rent like a hotel room. Each might be decorated differently, but they’re required to meet specific standards and include hotel services such as housekeeping.
An example is Vivo Resorts, near surf town Puerto Escondido on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Apartments and villas are equipped with full kitchens and in-suite laundry. Guests enjoy the empty beach, several pools, a gym, spa and a farm-to-table restaurant. Turks and Caicos’ Ocean Club Resorts is a condo resort in two locations on one of the world’s prettiest beaches, Grace Bay, with pools, restaurants and sports equipment to borrow.
Boutique Hotel Properties
Boutique hotels tend to be smaller and have unique decor, sometimes historical. Each room may be decorated individually. They come in most price ranges, generally starting at mid-range and going all the way up to luxury. Some are independent, and others are affiliated with brands like Epoque Hotels.
Some boutique hotels have a history, such as Puerto Vallarta's Casa Kimberly, which was once the love nest of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Big brands understand the appeal of the boutique concept too and are opening smaller hotels within hotels. For example, The Hacienda is an adults-only boutique hotel within the larger Hilton Puerto Vallarta.
Some boutique hotels make extra efforts to go green as eco-hotels, such as Cala Luna Boutique Hotel in lush Costa Rica and Palo Verde Sustainable Hotel on the beach in El Salvador.
Luxury and High-End Hotels
In the four- and five-star range, these hotels have higher price tags and deliver design, quality, spaciousness and excellent services with attention to detail. Guests have full services, including 24-hour room service, amenities such as spas, a concierge or even a butler.
Luxury hotels can be in big cities and appeal to both business and leisure travelers, such as the elegant Bristol Panama, in Panama’s capital city, and Cape Town's The Table Bay Hotel. They’re also in smaller historic and artistic towns, such as Mexico’s elegant Live Aqua Urban Resort San Miguel de Allende with its luxury 400-thread-count sheets, an aromatherapy kit and even Jacuzzi tubs on private patios.
The world’s best beaches have luxury resorts too. North of Cancun in Costa Mujeres is five-star all-inclusive TRS Coral Hotel with swim-up pools and canals to float through. To the south in quiet Puerto Morelos is Grand Residences Riviera Cancun with its excellent dining and spa. Both are members of The Leading Hotels of the World.
Hotels on Private Islands
For the ultimate in luxury, vacation in a private island hotel. At the Maldives’ Coco Privé, guests transfer from the airport by private yacht, stay in one of just six villas, and have a private chef and personal spa therapist. Bawah Reserve near Singapore has six private islands to choose from, and rates include spa treatments for the ultimate in relaxation. In the Caribbean, try one of the 29 cottages on lush Young Island in the Grenadines.
Hotels That Float
Cruise ships are floating hotels where you can wake up in a new place every morning without needing to re-pack your bags. Like hotels, they come in several categories and sizes. Princess Cruises travels to 380 destinations on large ships. Windstar Cruises has some of the smallest cruise ships at sea, including three sailing ships for just 148 or 310 guests. Viking Cruises has 60 casually elegant floating hotels complete with Nordic spas that cruise the world’s rivers and oceans in relaxed luxury.