ALL HANDS: Inside or Outside of the City Center?
Greetings, Fellow Travelers!
BLUF: Balancing price, amenities, and location can be a daunting task. And while no single factor can truly take precedence over another during your travel planning, it’s best to stick to your guns and make the best decision for you and your travel party.
Today’s ALL HANDS offers a glimpse into my decision-making process on where to stay during city and urban travels.
As I write this, I’m finishing up a six-day driving tour in Portugal which started in Porto. Porto is a great town, and you should definitely spend as much time as you can in it and Portugal. Additionally, the trip’s start brought to bear the dilemma of where to stay as it relates to location, loyalty, and price.
In Porto, my preferred hotel chain, Marriott, has two main hotels, the Sheraton Porto and the AC Hotel Porto. Neither is near the historic city center where most of our events would take place, but the Sheraton had a Club Lounge and a free breakfast. The Sheraton is an approx. 15 mins car ride into the Porto city center which, as we suspected, has very bad traffic.
Within Porto’s historic city center, most of the “affordable luxury” hotels we prefer were low on affordable but high on luxury. For example, we could’ve booked a Sheraton room for $210/night. Still, we would not be close to anything we wanted to do, and while we are active travelers, we do like to scurry back to the hotel for a rest during the day not to mention a touch of room service if the mood hits. (Writer’s note: it does hit…and often!)
The only significant chain hotel in the city center is the InterContinental Porto, the city’s most famous five-star hotel. During our dates, rooms were $300/night without breakfast (which itself was $25 per person). While I do like boutique, non-chain hotels, I collect hotel points and nights in all chains, so if not Marriott, I usually opt for a known brand. Plus, our last InterContinental stay was in Wellington, New Zealand, and it was an amazing property with tons of luxury!
Strictly by the math, the room rate difference between the InterContinental and the Sheraton is $90 per night or $180 more for the two nights. If you add two breakfasts for the two mornings, that’s an additional $100 or a $280 difference.
In Porto, we had three specific events schedules: a visit to the amazing Harry Potter-inspiring Livraria Lello bookstore, a Porto dinner-time tapas walking tour, and a city sightseeing bus tour which started at the city center. (In fact, right outside the InterContinental as it turned out.)
For each of these events, from the Sheraton, we would’ve had to either book a taxi or an Uber to get downtown. Given the time and stress of trying to make a meeting or reservation time in city traffic, that additional $280 price tag wasn’t looking so bad. Plus, even with a two-person seasoned travel party, annoyances, bickering, exhaustion, and exasperation do occur.
While everyone likes to be a calm and collected traveler, with enough wrong turns or uphill climbs or changes in temperature, sometimes the best remedy is a strategic pause in the itinerary. For us, this is best handled with a trip back to the hotel for some R&R, and for this trip, a 15-25 minute taxi ride would not have worked.
So, I booked the InterContinental and paid for the convenience of being closer to where we wanted to be and the ability to recover from any travel fatigue. In the long run, the $280 price difference (yes, we ate breakfast, and it was good!) wasn’t too hard on the wallet. Being right in the city center played exactly the way we had hoped: we were mere steps from our activities and enjoyed some good lounging time back at the hotel, which was never too far away.
Now, I grant neither of these “per night” hotel rates are part of a budget-friendly travel itinerary, but as I’ve honestly offered up from the start, I’m not that kind of traveler. I’m far too fussy for 2-star hotels full of backpackers or an AirBnB where I have to stock the place with breakfast foods. 😉
I’m not numb to the pinch of a higher price tag, though. I do, however, try to employ a “no regrets” attitude and try not to fret about travel decisions once made. Or would this be more of a “head in the sand” strategy? Hmmm…
In sum, sometimes price is king, and you have to stay farther outside the city center. And sometimes, understanding the energy level of your travel party negates price. And sometimes, there is no adult in the room, and throwing money at the situation is what “affordable luxury” is all about. HA!
Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler