Lessons About Value During Our Vacation

Bed and Breakfast save money Yes, innkeepers get to go on vacation, too.

Lynne and I traveled a couple of years ago to one of our children’s wedding out in Salt Lake City. Rather than fly, we made it a two-week cross-country escapade, with stops in three national parks and other sightseeing spots, including Toronto, the Henry Ford Museum, the world’s largest truck stop, the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and Chicago.

We also got to spend every night at a different bed and breakfast or hotel, and in a couple of instances got to spend two nights in one place. We always enjoy these trips, because we get to see how others in the hospitality business operate, and learn from their successes — and mistakes.

A lot of this is mundane stuff that would bore you: How to you fold pillowcases? Do you serve your guests breakfasts buffet style or plated? But the biggest takeaway we received during our stay is this: We learned we’re giving our guests a great value for their stay.

Sometimes when folks call us, they’re surprised that our rates are more than $150 a night, especially since they can find lower rates at cheap hotels in their own home towns. But on our trip, I started keeping a ledger of what we were spending during our stays, and it was quite eye-opening. When I added things up and compared them to how we do things at the Phineas Swann, I realized that we were giving our guests a great deal, and that may explain why so many of them come back.

Consider comparing my hotel bill for a stay in Cody, Wyoming, against a typical Phineas Swann bill. Here’s how it broke down:

Room: My room rate at this hotel cost me $119. By comparison, the average rate for the Phineas Swann is $169 a night. So it’s $50 cheaper. Good deal, right? Then I started looking at the extras.

Breakfast: Lynne and I had breakfast at the hotel. We’re not big eaters, but our bill ended up being $31.17 when all was done. At the Phineas, of course, it’s included.

WiFi: This was the one that really galled me. I had to get online to take care of a couple of reservations for guests, and thus had to pay the hotel’s $12.75 wifi charge. That was for the slow service. They wanted $19.95 for the faster bandwidth. Our super-high speed internet at the Phineas is free.

Sodas and Snacks: I was glad I had a lot of change for the snack and soda machines when I arrived. Diet Cokes were $1.50 each, and the small back of chips I got out of the machine were $1.25 each.

Bottled Water: I’ve gotten suckered in the rooms taking a bottle of water and finding out later there was a $2 or $3 charge for them. Sure enough, when I looked, it was $2. I grabbed a glass from the bath and assumed Wyoming tap water was good enough.

Parking: You’d think there’s plenty of space to park in the wide-open plains of Wyoming. But parking at the hotel cost me an extra $10.

I guess you get what you pay for. But when it comes to value, sometimes the cheapest price isn’t the best one.


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