Hotel, Motel – What’s the Difference?

We recently looked at hostels, as they relate to backpacking. In doing so we mentioned a hotel near Yellowstone National Park which was also a hostel, but what is a hotel? What is a motel? Is there a difference?

In American English, according to the Macmillan Dictionary, a hotel is defined as “a building where you pay to stay in a room and have meals,” while a motel is defined as “a hotel for people who are traveling by car.” The inference that we see is that a hotel is not necessarily for travelers and offers food and shelter for a fee, while a motel does the same, but is specifically geared for automobile travelers.

There doesn’t seem to be any firm rules as to how a particular facility is named, but we did find an article on this topic over at USA Today. It offers up common differences:

  • Motels tend to be one or two floors with guest room access directly from the parking area, while hotels can be any number of floors with guest room access via interior corridors.
  • Motels tend to run with a minimal staff of desk clerks and housekeepers while hotels tend to have additional staff such as concierges, bellhops, valets, doormen, chefs and even elevator operators.
  • Hotels tend to offer more services and amenities such as room service and spas, though it is popular for motels have swimming pools and offer a complimentary light breakfast.
  • Hotels tend to be priced higher than motels.
  • Hotels are usually designed for longer guest stays.

Our family tends to stay at motels in our travels as we usually go by automobile and don’t usually stay in one place for more than a night. When we have stayed in one place for a longer period, while on a driving trip, we have tended to stay in a cabin or lodge. When we have traveled by air, mostly before there were any FamilyTrivium kids, our destinations tended to be hotels.

Does anyone notice any similar patterns in their lodging habits? Do you have a favorite hotel or motel? Share in the comments.