Hotels vs. inns: what you should know before booking a room

While most people use the terms interchangeably, hotels and inns offer vastly different experiences. Here's what you should know before booking a room to make your vacation memorable, not miserable.

Hotels vs. inns: what you should know before booking a room

What are inns all about?

Inns are the oldest form of commercial lodging. Inns were originally built alongside roads in Europe when the Romans were creating faster, safer ways to travel through the countryside.

  • Today, you can still find inns throughout Europe that were built centuries ago.
  • In the past, inns also had stables and food for travelling horsemen.
  • For today's travellers, the appeal of staying at an inn is rooted in this romantic association with history.

Inns are great for road trips

Inns are typically used as quick stopovers for travellers. While not as well known as hotels, chances are good that road trippers will come across many inns while travelling across the country by car.

  • Inns tend to be situated in suburbs and throughout smaller towns, usually not far off a main highway. Travellers will find shopping centres, gas stations and grocery stores within reasonable proximity to the inn.
  • Dining is commonly offered at an inn and it is not uncommon for inns to offer free breakfasts for guests, as well.
  • This important difference between a hotel and an inn can give road travellers everything they need for a quick overnight stay before taking off in the early morning towards their next destination.

How are hotels different?

  • Hotels tend to be closer to city centres or airports. Historically, they were considered a step up from inns, and gained popularity in the 19th Century.
  • Hotels eventually became more diverse, offering luxurious amenities.
  • Hotels generally have a larger number of rooms than inns and, for the most part, are equipped to handle far more extras.
  • That includes dining options, fitness centres, pools, spas, concierge service, shops and more.

Hotels are ideal for urban tourists and business travellers

  • Like inns, hotels usually offer food, whether it’s in the form of vending machines, a restaurant, or room service.
  • City tourists are better off in hotels, as are business travellers who need to be in closer proximity to the business hub of a city.

Watch out for motels disguised by the word inn!

Inns are generally located on the roadside and in rural areas, much like motels. The main difference between an inn and a motel is their affordability and room quality.

  • In general, an inn will be of better quality, at a slightly higher price.
  • Some motels market themselves as inns, perhaps because of implied negative stereotyping of the word "motel".
  • Inns have a far more romanticized association stemming from their quaintness, comfort and warmth.
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