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What Is A Motel


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Dita Brace



Welcome to the world of motels! Whether you’re planning a road trip, a quick overnight stop, or a budget-friendly vacation, motels can provide a comfortable and convenient accommodation option. In this article, we’ll explore what exactly a motel is, delve into its history, highlight its characteristics, discuss the types of motels available, and even touch on popular motel chains.


Unlike traditional hotels, motels are typically found along highways, major roads, and in suburban areas. They cater to travelers who prioritize affordability and easy access, making them a popular choice for those on the go. Motels offer a range of amenities and services that can meet the needs of various travelers, from families to solo adventurers.


In the next sections, we’ll dive deeper into the world of motels, discussing their definitions, historical significance, distinguishing features, and the pros and cons of staying in one. So, buckle up and get ready to explore the fascinating domain of motels!



Definition of a Motel

A motel, derived from the combination of “motor” and “hotel,” is a type of lodging establishment that caters primarily to travelers on the road. It is designed to provide convenient and accessible accommodations, often featuring rooms arranged in a single-story or low-rise building layout.


One of the key defining characteristics of a motel is its emphasis on offering parking facilities directly outside each room. This design allows guests to park their vehicles conveniently and provides easy access to their accommodations, making it particularly appealing to motorists.


Unlike traditional hotels, which are typically found in city centers or tourist destinations, motels are strategically located along major highways, near rest areas, and in suburban areas close to commercial centers. This prime location makes them an attractive option for travelers seeking a comfortable place to rest during long journeys.


Motels often offer a range of room options to accommodate various group sizes and traveler preferences. These rooms typically include basic amenities such as beds, private bathrooms, televisions, and air conditioning. Some motels may also provide additional features like mini-refrigerators, microwaves, or coffee makers.


It’s important to note that while motels and hotels share similarities, there are distinct differences between the two. Motels are typically smaller, with fewer amenities and services compared to hotels. Additionally, motels generally focus on short-term stays or overnight accommodations, while hotels are better suited for longer stays or luxury experiences.


Overall, the defining characteristics of a motel are its roadside location, easy access to parking, and simple yet comfortable accommodations. These factors, along with its affordability and convenience, make motels an appealing choice for travelers looking for a quick and hassle-free stay.


History of Motels

The history of motels can be traced back to the emergence of the automobile and the increase in road travel during the early 20th century. As more people began to explore the freedom and convenience of traveling by car, the need for roadside accommodations arose, giving birth to the concept of motels.


The first motel, known as the “Motel Inn,” was opened in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1925 by Arthur Heineman. Motel Inn featured a unique design, with individual cabins equipped with parking spaces right in front of each unit. This allowed travelers to park their cars directly outside their rooms for easy access and enhanced security.


The success of Motel Inn paved the way for the rapid development of motels along major highways across the United States. The increasing popularity of road trips and the expansion of the interstate highway system in the 1950s further fueled the growth of motels, as they provided a convenient and affordable option for travelers.


During the mid-20th century, motels became an integral part of American culture and played a significant role in shaping the travel experience. Motels were often themed to reflect the spirit and charm of the areas they were located in, boasting unique architectural designs and eye-catching neon signs.


However, as the hospitality industry evolved, traditional hotels started to emerge, offering a wider range of amenities and services than motels. This shift led to a decline in the popularity of motels, particularly those with outdated facilities and limited offerings.


In recent years, however, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of motels, driven in part by the rise of budget-conscious travelers and the demand for unique travel experiences. Motels with a retro or vintage appeal have undergone renovation and rebranding, attracting a new generation of travelers seeking affordable and nostalgic accommodations.


Today, motels continue to cater to road travelers, providing convenient and accessible lodging options for both short-term stops and longer stays. While the industry has evolved over time, the legacy and historical significance of motels remain an enduring part of travel culture.


Characteristics of Motels

Motels possess several key characteristics that distinguish them from traditional hotels. These features are tailored to meet the needs and preferences of travelers who prioritize convenience, affordability, and easy access.


1. Location: Motels are typically positioned along major highways, close to rest areas, and in suburban areas near commercial centers. This prime location allows travelers to easily find accommodations while on their journey, without venturing too far from their intended route.


2. Parking: A notable characteristic of motels is the provision of parking facilities directly outside each room. This design enables guests to park their vehicles just steps away from their accommodations. This feature is particularly beneficial for travelers who value the convenience and security of having their car close by.


3. Single-Story or Low-Rise Building Layout: Unlike towering hotels, motels are often designed with a single-story or low-rise building structure. This layout enhances accessibility, as guests can conveniently access their rooms without the need for navigating elevators or long hallways.


4. Room Access: Motel rooms typically have external entrances, allowing guests to directly access their rooms from the parking lot. This feature provides a sense of privacy and ease of entry, especially for guests with heavy luggage or those who prefer a no-fuss check-in process.


5. Basic Amenities: While motels may have fewer amenities compared to larger hotels, they still provide essential facilities to ensure a comfortable stay. These often include beds, private bathrooms, televisions, and air conditioning. Some motels may also offer additional features like mini-refrigerators, microwaves, or coffee makers, depending on the level of comfort and convenience desired by the guests.


6. Affordability: Motels are known for their affordability, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious travelers. They often offer lower rates compared to traditional hotels, allowing guests to allocate more of their travel budget towards other experiences or activities.


7. Convenience: One of the primary characteristics of motels is their convenience. These establishments are designed to cater to travelers who are on the move and require easy and quick access to their accommodations. The proximity to major highways, availability of parking, and straightforward room access contribute to a seamless and hassle-free stay.


It’s important to note that while motels may have fewer amenities and services compared to hotels, they still provide a comfortable and suitable lodging option, particularly for those seeking a short-term stopover or a more budget-friendly accommodation choice.


Types of Motels

Motels come in various types, each designed to cater to specific traveler preferences and needs. These different types of motels offer unique features, amenities, and experiences, allowing guests to choose the option that best suits their requirements. Let’s explore some of the most common types of motels:


1. Budget Motels: As the name implies, budget motels are focused on providing affordable accommodations for travelers. These motels often offer basic amenities and services at a lower price point, making them an ideal choice for those looking to minimize their lodging expenses.


2. Retro Motels: Retro motels are a nod to the nostalgia of the mid-20th century, with designs and décor that harken back to a bygone era. These motels are often renovated and refurbished to retain their vintage charm while incorporating modern comforts and conveniences. Retro motels offer a unique, quirky, and nostalgic experience for travelers seeking something out of the ordinary.


3. Luxe Motels: On the other end of the spectrum, luxe motels aim to provide a higher level of luxury and comfort compared to traditional budget motels. These motels often feature upgraded room amenities, stylish decor, and additional services to enhance the overall guest experience. Luxe motels are a great option for those looking for a touch of indulgence without breaking the bank.


4. Resort-Style Motels: Resort-style motels combine the convenience and accessibility of motels with the amenities and recreational facilities typically found in resorts. These motels often have swimming pools, fitness centers, on-site restaurants, and other recreational activities, providing a comprehensive vacation experience for guests.


5. Extended-Stay Motels: Ideal for travelers planning a longer stay, extended-stay motels offer accommodations with a focus on comfort and functionality. These motels usually have larger rooms or suites equipped with kitchenettes or full kitchens, making them suitable for guests who prefer to cook their meals or have an extended visit in one location.


6. Pet-Friendly Motels: For those traveling with furry friends, pet-friendly motels are a popular choice. These motels welcome pets and provide designated areas and amenities to ensure a comfortable stay for both guests and their beloved companions.


7. Boutique Motels: Boutique motels are characterized by their unique and captivating designs, personalized service, and attention to detail. These motels often have a smaller number of rooms and focus on creating a distinct and memorable experience for guests.


It’s important to note that the availability of these types of motels may vary by location and region. When planning a trip, it’s advisable to research and identify the type of motel that aligns with your preferences and travel needs to ensure a satisfying stay.


Amenities and Services Offered in Motels

Motels may offer a range of amenities and services to enhance the comfort and convenience of their guests. While the specific offerings can vary between establishments, here are some common amenities and services that you can expect to find in motels:


1. Free Wi-Fi: Many motels provide complimentary Wi-Fi access to keep guests connected during their stay. This amenity is essential for travelers who rely on the internet for work, communication, or entertainment.


2. Parking: A hallmark of motels is the availability of parking facilities. Most motels offer free or discounted parking directly outside the room, allowing guests to conveniently park their vehicles and easily access their accommodations.


3. Continental Breakfast: In order to provide a convenient dining option for guests, some motels offer a complimentary continental breakfast. These breakfasts typically include items such as cereal, toast, pastries, fruit, and beverages, providing a quick and easy way to start the day.


4. 24-Hour Reception: Many motels have a 24-hour front desk, ensuring that guests can check in or receive assistance at any time, day or night. This round-the-clock service adds to the convenience and peace of mind of staying in a motel.


5. Housekeeping: Motels generally offer housekeeping services to ensure that rooms are kept clean and tidy during a guest’s stay. These services may include fresh towels, making beds, emptying trash, and general room cleaning.


6. Laundry Facilities: Some motels provide access to laundry facilities, including washers and dryers, for guests who may need to do laundry during their travels. This amenity is particularly useful for longer stays or for those who prefer to pack light.


7. Business Center: For guests traveling for business purposes, motels with a business center can offer amenities such as computer and printer access, fax services, and sometimes meeting rooms.


8. Swimming Pool: Resort-style motels often feature a swimming pool, offering a refreshing spot for guests to relax and cool off after a long day of travel or sightseeing.


9. Pet-Friendly Facilities: Many motels are pet-friendly, allowing guests to bring their furry companions along. These motels may offer pet-friendly rooms or designated areas for pets, ensuring a comfortable stay for both guests and their four-legged friends.


10. Additional Amenities: Depending on the size and style of the motel, additional amenities may be available, such as fitness centers, game rooms, on-site restaurants or cafes, and even spa services.


It’s important to note that the range of amenities and services provided by motels can vary, with some offering more extensive options than others. When booking a motel, consider your specific needs and preferences to ensure that the chosen establishment has the amenities and services that will enhance your stay.


Advantages of Staying in a Motel

Staying in a motel offers several advantages that cater to the needs and preferences of different travelers. Whether you’re on a road trip, need a quick stopover, or are looking for a budget-friendly accommodation option, here are some advantages of choosing a motel:


1. Affordability: One of the primary advantages of staying in a motel is the affordability it offers. Motels generally have lower rates compared to traditional hotels, making them an excellent choice for budget-conscious travelers who want to save on lodging expenses.


2. Convenient Location: Motels are strategically located along major highways and in suburban areas, making them easily accessible for travelers. This convenient location allows for quick and easy stops, especially during long journeys, without the need to deviate from planned routes.


3. Parking Accessibility: Motels typically provide parking facilities directly outside each room. This accessibility allows guests to park their vehicles conveniently and provides added security, as they can keep an eye on their car throughout their stay.


4. Ease of Check-in: Motels often have external entrances to the rooms, allowing for a straightforward and hassle-free check-in process. Guests can conveniently access their accommodations without navigating through a large hotel lobby or long hallways.


5. Basic Amenities: While motels may not have the extensive amenities found in larger hotels, they still offer essential amenities such as comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and televisions. Some motels may also provide additional features like mini-refrigerators or coffee makers.


6. Privacy: Motels typically offer a sense of privacy, with the ability to access rooms directly from the parking lot. This setup ensures a more secluded and quiet stay, away from the crowds and noise often present in larger hotels.


7. Flexibility: Motels often offer flexible accommodations, allowing guests to choose a room that meets their specific needs. Whether you’re traveling alone, with a partner, or as a family, motels can provide suitable room options to accommodate different group sizes.


8. Pet-Friendly Options: Many motels are pet-friendly, welcoming guests to bring their furry companions along. This advantage eliminates the stress and expense of finding separate accommodations for pets, ensuring a more enjoyable and inclusive experience for the whole family.


9. Opportunity for Retro Charm: Some motels have embraced their nostalgic heritage and offer a retro or vintage aesthetic. For travelers seeking a unique and memorable experience, staying in a retro motel can add a touch of charm and provide an Instagram-worthy atmosphere.


10. No-Frills Option: For those who prioritize simplicity and practicality, motels offer a no-frills option. If you’re just looking for a comfortable place to rest and recharge before continuing your journey or exploring your destination, staying in a motel can provide a straightforward and uncomplicated experience.


With their affordability, convenience, and range of amenities, motels provide a practical and comfortable lodging option for travelers seeking value and accessibility without sacrificing quality.


Disadvantages of Staying in a Motel

While motels have their advantages, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider when deciding on your accommodation. It’s essential to be aware of these factors to make an informed choice. Here are some disadvantages of staying in a motel:


1. Limited Amenities: Compared to larger hotels, motels often have fewer amenities and services. While they provide the basic necessities, such as beds, a private bathroom, and sometimes a television, other features commonly found in hotels, such as fitness centers, spa facilities, or on-site restaurants, may be lacking or not available.


2. Noise and Accessibility: Due to their roadside location, motels can be susceptible to noise from nearby traffic and other guests. Additionally, the external room entrances may result in less sound insulation compared to hotels with interior corridors. This may impact the quality of sleep and overall tranquility during your stay.


3. Limited Space: Motel rooms are often smaller in size compared to hotel rooms. This limited space may feel cramped, particularly for larger groups or those who require more room to move around comfortably. Many motels also lack common areas or spacious lobbies for relaxation or socializing.


4. Limited On-Site Services: Motels typically have limited on-site staff and services available, especially during late-night hours. This can make it challenging to find immediate assistance or address any concerns or requests that may arise during your stay.


5. Standardization: While there are unique and charming motels out there, some chain or budget motels may lack individuality and character. They may follow a standardized design and offer a similar experience to other properties within the same franchise, leading to a lack of uniqueness or local flavor.


6. Location Constraints: Motels are often located along highways or in suburban areas, which can be inconvenient for travelers who prefer to be in the heart of cities or popular tourist destinations. This may require additional transportation expenses or time spent commuting to and from attractions.


7. Possible Lack of Security: Although motels generally provide parking directly outside rooms, this accessibility can also present a security concern. Some motels may have less stringent security measures compared to larger hotels, potentially posing a risk to the safety of guests and their belongings.


8. Limited Availability: Depending on the location, motels may have limited availability, especially during peak travel seasons. This can make it challenging to secure a reservation, especially if you have specific preferences or requirements.


While these disadvantages should be considered, it’s important to remember that not all motels will have these drawbacks. Higher-end or specialized motels may offer enhanced amenities and services, addressing some of the limitations typically associated with budget motels.


Ultimately, it’s essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages based on your specific needs, preferences, and budget to determine if staying in a motel aligns with your travel goals and expectations.


Popular Motel Chains

When it comes to choosing a motel for your stay, there are several well-known motel chains that have established a reputation for providing consistent quality and service. These popular motel chains are recognized for their affordability, accessibility, and wide presence across different regions. Here are some of the most popular motel chains:


1. Motel 6: Motel 6 is one of the largest and most recognizable motel chains in North America. Known for its iconic red roof and affordable rates, Motel 6 offers basic accommodations with essential amenities like free Wi-Fi, television, and pet-friendly policies. With numerous locations across the United States and Canada, Motel 6 is a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers.


2. Super 8: Super 8 is another well-known motel chain that offers affordable lodging options. With their signature yellow and red logo, Super 8 provides comfortable rooms with amenities such as free breakfast, Wi-Fi, and 24-hour reception. Super 8 motels can be found in various locations worldwide, making it a convenient choice for travelers seeking consistent quality and value.


3. Days Inn: Days Inn is a global motel chain that offers a range of affordable accommodations with modern amenities. With over 1,700 locations worldwide, Days Inn provides comfortable rooms, free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, and 24-hour front desk service. Days Inn is a popular choice for travelers looking for convenience and dependable service.


4. Travelodge: With locations throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, Travelodge is a well-known motel chain offering comfortable and affordable accommodations. Travelodge facilities often include complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi, and on-site parking. Travelodge is recognized for its convenient locations and commitment to providing reliable lodging options for travelers around the world.


5. Comfort Inn: Comfort Inn is a prominent motel chain known for its commitment to providing comfortable and value-driven accommodations. With amenities such as complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi, and fitness centers, Comfort Inn offers a range of services to enhance the guest experience. With numerous locations across North America and beyond, Comfort Inn is a reliable choice for both business and leisure travelers.


6. Red Roof Inn: Red Roof Inn is a popular motel chain that focuses on providing clean and comfortable accommodations at affordable prices. Red Roof Inn offers amenities such as free Wi-Fi, pet-friendly policies, and select locations with upgraded offerings like business centers and swimming pools. With over 500 properties across the United States, Red Roof Inn is a recognizable name in the motel industry.


These popular motel chains have established a strong presence in the hospitality industry, providing travelers with reliable and cost-effective accommodations in various locations. While each chain offers unique features and amenities, they share a common commitment to ensuring a comfortable and affordable stay for their guests.



Motels offer a convenient and affordable lodging option for travelers on the go. With their strategic locations along highways, easy parking access, and straightforward accommodations, motels cater to those seeking a quick stopover, budget-friendly stays, or a comfortable place to rest during their journeys.


In this article, we explored the definition of a motel, its historical significance, distinguishing characteristics, and various types available. We also discussed the amenities and services commonly offered in motels, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of choosing this accommodation option.


One of the primary advantages of staying in a motel is affordability. Motels generally offer lower rates compared to traditional hotels, allowing travelers to allocate their budget towards other experiences or expenses. Motels also provide convenient and accessible accommodations, often with parking right outside each room, ensuring easy access and added security.


However, it’s important to consider the potential limitations when staying in a motel. These can include limited amenities, possible noise, smaller room sizes, and fewer on-site services compared to larger hotels. The availability of motels may also be limited during peak travel seasons.


Despite these drawbacks, motels continue to be a popular choice for many travelers, especially those prioritizing affordability, convenience, and a no-frills approach. With their diverse offerings, ranging from budget motels to retro-themed options and resort-style accommodations, there is a motel to suit various preferences and travel needs.


Whether you’re embarking on a cross-country road trip, planning a short stopover, or looking for cost-effective accommodations, motels can provide a comfortable and practical solution. By understanding the characteristics and considerations associated with motels, you can make an informed decision and enjoy your stay, no matter where your travels take you.