Spring Weather, Road Trip Travel Tips

I got busy the last couple of weeks so missed posting, time to make up for it. The last couple of weeks have definitely been typical spring weather with unsettled weather. We’ve had light rain, a heat wave, twice and now we seem to be back to more normal spring weather here in the San Diego area. The bunnies are still around although I only see one big one around instead of two. The lizard population has declined, which occurred shortly after seeing  a hawk hanging around our area so I think I know where they went. HOwever, I have seen some smaller lizards around, usually on our driveway as I go in and out so I’m not too worried that the lizard population is going to dip below sustainable levels.

With summer on the way we will probably be busy out in the yard trimming back brush. There is a lot of dead brush and overgrown bushes that need trimming. And I definitely want to get trees trimmed back that are close to the house. This evening I was out trimming a couple of bushes and some pepper trees that were trying to regrow by my flowers. We need to pick up some stuff to put on the stump to kill the pepper trees. They are definitely a weed tree out here, you can trim them back but they quickly try to regrow where you cut. I’m not looking forward to trying to trim a couple of other pepper trees out. At least I got a few beans from the green beans I planted. Not enough to serve up but it was fun to have something to pick. And I was surprised the critters didn’t go right through the flimsy fence I have setup to have a snack of beans. Lots to learn but it’s fun to find out that things will grow out here. The soil definitely seems to be decent, much better than what we had at the old house.

With Memorial day this weekend I was thinking about some travel tips for people driving somewhere. My husband and I ran a motel for a few years and there are some things I can offer based on being behind the desk. These tips apply to traveling on side roads and not on the interstate or in large cities.

  1. When away from franchise and chain hotels look for AAA motels – We had a motel that was AAA rated and for tourists the AAA rating lets you know that the motel has been inspected at least once that year. Based on our experience our motel was not inspected by the state or city the entire time we owned and managed the property. However, in order to keep our AAA rating we had to allow the property to be inspected at least once a year and as a surprise inspection. The AAA inspectors look over the rooms to rate them on how clean they are and what amenities they offer. We had a basic one star motel, which means that the rooms are clean and have some space between the walls and beds. And AAA motels will generally be consistent on their prices even during peak times. This does not mean that other motels or lodging aren’t clean just that you know that someone has inspected the rooms within the last year and that the rooms were in good condition and clean during that inspection.
  2. Find out when the slow seasons are and don’t be afraid to ask for a discount at the desk – During slower seasons with a smaller motel it doesn’t hurt to ask for a discount. In some cases you may be talking to the owner of a family owned motel so they can easily decide to give you a discount. But know when those off seasons are and for what cities. As an example, in northwest Wyoming area, from mid-June to mid-August don’t bother to ask for a discount. From mid-August to mid-October you should be able to get some discount except when hunting season starts, October 15th. After October you can get really steep discounts, depending on where you want to stay. If it’s Jackson Hole during skiing season or at one of the lodges that are close to snowmobiling don’t bother to ask. But in other areas feel free to ask and if you stay for several days you may be able to get a weekly rate. Also, if it’s later in the evening but not too late, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. The room would sit empty so the owner is better off renting out even at a discount. However, if it’s too late and you wake up the owner be prepared to pay full price for the inconvience and grumpiness in getting woke up in the middle of the night. 🙂
  3. If motels are full and it’s late don’t be afraid to ask a small motel owner if you can park on their lot for the evening – When we had our motel there were a couple of times when people would ask to stop and park in our lot for the night. This occurred during early August when the Sturgis motorcycle rally occurred in South Dakota. The motorcyclists would fill up motels around the rally which would push people out to other motels. As a result every motel within a 300 mile radius would fill up by 6:00 pm in the evening for about a week. Normally it’s 10:00 or later for a motel to fill up during the summer months. For people traveling towards South Dakota who didn’t know this they would try to find a room around 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening and not have any luck. We had one car stop during this time, with several older ladies who asked if they could stop and park on our lot. Their car was having problems and it was 8:30 or 9:00 in the evening. We actually opened up our big garage area for them and set up rollaways so they would have someplace a little more comfortable to stay. In the morning, when one of the rooms opened up we offered the room so they could clean up before taking care of their car. If you find out that it’s a busy time and you can’t get a motel room look for a small motel that looks family owned, you might have some luck in at least parking on the lot overnight.
  4. Staying some distance away from the main attraction will save money – Our motel was 120 miles from Yellowstone and about 60 miles away from Cody. Prices for a room in Cody that was equivalent to ours was usually twice as much. I will admit that the rooms were probably bigger and there were chain motels in Cody. However, if you are only going to stay one night in a room is it worth twice as much? If you are looking for things to do and have children then a larger city might be better but if you are watching your budget then staying further away may save you some money. And if you are looking for a quiet night you may have more luck in a motel away from the main tourist spot.
  5. If you’re driving a fancy car you may get gouged at some small motels – I heard some motel owners talk about how they would raise the rates if they saw someone driving a high end luxury car. We normally kept steady rates but there were one or two times we would raise our rates for potential customers based on their car. And we would raise the rates or offer the highest rate for the room because we didn’t like the looks of the person who wanted to rent. For small motel owners they do develop a sense of who can pay and who might be trouble and you may be judged accordingly before getting the room. If your car is pretty beat up, if you look like you haven’t cleaned up for a few days or just seem off then you may get rates boosted or an even more direct there is no vacancy even if the sign outside says there is a vacancy. On the other end, if you have a really nice car, dress a little better than average or have license plates from a state associated with more wealth the rates may be boosted because it’s thought you have more money to spend. This probably occurs more with family owned motels who are managed and operated by the owners.

Just a few things based on our experience some 16 years ago. Some things may have changed but I suspect these tips could still prove helpful. Have a good Memorial Day Weekend with family. And I hope everyone has good memories as they think about their loved ones who are no longer with us.