By the time I graduated high school, I had stayed at the Four Seasons Maui, the Biltmore in Scottsdale, the Hamilton Princess in Bermuda and the Breakers in Palm Beach, all courtesy of insurance companies rewarding my father. Settling into the high life, my parents continued the indulgent theme on family vacations. From the Ritz Carlton in Manhattan to the Harbor House on Nantucket, I traveled pretty damn well. But now that I cover my own travel expenses, I approach things a little more conservatively.
In the last year I’ve stayed at a Comfort Inn in Maine and a Four Seasons in Scottsdale. More often than not, my goal isn’t to spend all that much time in the hotel room. Though, if the goal of the vacation is to relax, I’m more likely to splurge. The essential requirements are cleanliness, convenience and safety. Sure, I appreciate upgrades like an infinity pool, turndown service and room service. They just aren’t always necessary.
“I hope we’re staying at a Best Western,” Anders says from the backseat as I drive Leslie and the kids south from Maine.
The trunk is loaded up with suitcases and totes, my biodegradable graduation gown rolled up in a ball and shoved into a crevice.
“I hope not,” Leslie says as she reaches for the 32oz Pepsi we picked up at our last pit-stop.
A few hours later, after platefuls of fried clams, we coast along Route 1 toward our hotel in Guilford, Connecticut. We could’ve driven straight back to Philly but decided instead to stop off and see relatives in Lyme. Plus we could revisit childhood memories. My mom’s family had a three-bedroom cottage in Old Saybrook. Twelve of us regularly crammed into the house, pouring out early in the morning and setting off for a sandy beach covered with poppy seaweed and dead jellyfish. It was heaven.
“Here it is,” I announce as I turn my car into the parking lot of a Comfort Inn.
“It looks brand new,” Leslie says as she cranes her neck to peer out the window.
We spent weeks debating the hotel for this leg of the adventure. The Comfort Inn cost $100 a night. The next step up was The Water’s Edge at $250 a night, a price I also paid a few years back when I stayed there for a wedding. Is The Water’s Edge nice? Sure. But is it worth another $150? Not so sure. Alas, we booked the Comfort Inn and called it a day.
Twenty minutes, one valet cart and three arguments about who gets to push the elevator buttons later, we land in our room.
“There’s a freezer!” Anders exclaims as he runs toward the mini-fridge that curiously doubles as an extra bedside table.
“And a microwave!” Olivia adds as she follows in his wake, the two of them opening and closing both doors.
Leslie and I shift the luggage off the cart and into the room, collapsing on the beds once the task is done. Olivia opens her backpack and pulls out some crayons. Anders wanders by, heads to the bathroom.
“Well, it isn’t the Four Seasons but it’ll do,” I say as I arch my back and stretch my legs.
Seconds later the toilet flushes and Anders bounds out of the bathroom with his pants half done.
“First a freezer, then a microwave and now a coffee maker in the bathroom? This place is awesome!”