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5 Reasons I’ll Go Back to This Small Hotel Instead of Booking Major Brands

How this small, family-owned hotel in a tourist town beat out big-name competitors.

When I checked in at the small, family-owned hotel near Greers Ferry Lake in Rural Arkansas, I didn’t expect much, just a place to sleep for one night. I was there for a funeral and didn’t want to impose on my relatives during a sad time. Plus, I wanted the privacy that a hotel room offers  after spending hours around a large group of people.

I’d searched for other hotels in the area, and the results from hotel and travel websites brought up a handful of well-known brands, including Holiday Inn Express, Best Western, Marriott, Super 8 and Quality Inn. Through a separate search, I found an option closer to the funeral location, a hotel that looked more like a motel, complete with retro metal chairs outside the room doors.

When I called to book, I made the reservation directly with the owner, who was friendly and laid-back. I liked speaking with the owner directly, and it assured me that if I had issues with the room, I could speak with her directly to resolve them. So, I booked a room for the rate of $85, which was a tad higher than one of the budget hotels nearby.

“I haven’t seen one of these in a while,” I mentioned to the owner when she slid the old-school plastic keyholder with the room key toward me after checking in.

“We hear that a lot,” she told me, citing the expense of installing keycard locks on the 20 or so rooms. I didn’t mind, though, since the vintage key reminded me of traveling experiences long ago, before keycard and keyless entry via smartphones became the norm. Even better, a six-month-old puppy came bounding out from behind the desk to welcome me.

The room had basic furnishings and a mattress that wasn’t all that comfortable. But I could tell that the owners tried to add nice touches such as the plush bath and hand towels and washcloths.

I was surprised by the large, soft towels, which exceeded the quality of a few other hotels that I’d stayed at recently, including a Hampton Inn & Suites with a $200 room rate. Amazingly, I slept better on the not-so-great mattress at this small hotel than I did on the high-quality mattress at the much more expensive Hampton Inn & Suites.

I believe my good night’s sleep likely stemmed from more than just being exhausted from the seven-hour drive. I found that the little hotel came with more of a direct human touch than I typically found at larger brands with a bigger staff.

Here are the factors that make this small hotel the one I’ll book next time I travel to that area.

1. No long hold times at a central reservations office.

Booking my room was easy and quick. For one thing, I didn’t have to wait on the phone for several minutes. The owner answered, and she could answer my questions immediately instead of a call center rep putting me on hold to ask a supervisor if the agent didn’t know the answer.

2. Easy parking

Instead of parking in a large garage or having to walk across a large parking lot, I parked directly in front of my room. That’s rarely the case when staying at larger hotels.

3. Pet-friendly policies

Not everyone loves dogs, so the resident puppy may not appeal to all guests. But I love dogs and missed my own, so the little dog, which I encountered often, brought some  joy to my stay.

But I also appreciated this hotel’s pet-friendly policy, with a one-time $25 charge, no matter the length of the stay. Next time I travel to that area, I plan to bring my small dog with me.

4. Local information in the room

This small lake community is swimming with tourists all summer. So, in my room was a helpful book with a listing of nearby restaurants, grocery stores and local attractions. When I asked the owner to recommend restaurants,  she directed me to a nearby dining establishment with great food and moderate prices.

5. Plush towels and washcloths

The fact that my room contained a plentiful supply of plush towels and washcloths was a touch that made the hotel stand out from many other hotels where I’ve stayed. This luxury touch at a budget hotel offset some of the other factors such as the “meh” mattress.

Honestly, I’m not someone who minds staying at small hotels with less to offer than many of the major brands. So, when I come across a good, small hotel I’m usually easy to please. That’s why next time I travel to this area, I’ll skip the hotel search on well-known travel sites.

I’ll call this hotel directly to book and bring my little dog along, too. And when I open my room door with the old-school key, I’ll find a clean and comfortable room at a hotel where the owner is always available to offer that human touch often missing from large brands.