What You Should Know Before Staying In An Extended-Stay Hotel

If you're planning a long-term business trip or family vacation, extended-stay hotels are an ideal lodging option. Guests at these properties can expect better value and more homey features than they would find at conventional hotels. Extended-stay hotels are also becoming increasingly popular in America.

Growth in the extended stay hotel industry means travelers have more options than ever before. As hotel chains compete for guests, they are offering more on-site amenities like fitness facilities and outdoor grills, and even perks like complimentary happy hour events. Travelers can also take advantage of competitive rates, especially when visiting areas near popular tourist attractions and major airports where multiple hotels are vying for guests.

There are some key differences between conventional hotels and those designed for extended-stay guests. Travelers can generally expect a lower per-night rate at extended-stay properties because they are generating guaranteed, relatively longer-term revenue for the property. However, amenities like fine dining restaurants, spas, and valet parking are largely absent from extended-stay hotels and are more likely to be found at conventional hotels.

Many (but not all) will provide a complimentary hot breakfast

While most extended-stay properties won't have on-site restaurants, the best hotels provide a complimentary hot breakfast for guests. Breakfast offerings vary by property, but generally, one can expect a buffet spread that includes hot items like eggs, waffles, toast or pancakes, and breakfast meats. Some even offer eggs made-to-order or omelets. There are usually grab-and-go items like yogurt and pastries, too.

Travelers who prefer to eat healthy or have dietary restrictions would be wise to inquire about the breakfast menu with the hotel staff in advance of booking their reservation. While most breakfast buffets offer lighter fare like fresh fruit, oatmeal, and cereal, the food available may not adequately satisfy protein or fiber requirements for all guests. In this instance, guests may need to prepare their own breakfasts using the kitchen in their suite, search out more suitable options at nearby restaurants, or explore the hotel's convenience store.

Outdoor gathering spaces can be freeing

It's easy to feel cooped up in a hotel, especially during longer stays. Thankfully, extended-stay hotels are increasingly incorporating outdoor gathering spaces. While the exact configuration varies by hotel, travelers can expect to find a patio with amenities like comfortable seating, firepits or fireplaces, and gas grills.

Some properties go the extra mile to enhance the alfresco experience. For example, Marriott's TownePlace Suites brand partners with the premium grill brand, Weber, to provide an elevated grilling option on its patios. These hotels also provide Weber's proprietary seasonings and grilling tools. Guests can obtain recipes from the hotel staff.

Additional amenities may be available at a hotel's patio area to enhance the "home-on-the-road" experience. IHG's Staybridge Suites brand advertises an upscale "Outdoor Living Room" concept featuring gazebos, high-definition televisions, and background music at some of its properties. In the brand's news release announcing the launch of the outdoor gathering area approach, IHG's vice president of Brand Management, noted, "Recently, we launched a gathering table similar to that of a residential kitchen island where guests can comfortably interact during breakfast and evening sundowner receptions. While socializing is popular indoors and beyond, the Outdoor Living Room is another way our guests can socialize and relax in an environment similar to what they expect at home."

Quality extended stays offer fitness facilities

Quality extended-stay hotels feature fitness facilities on par with conventional hotels so travelers can maintain their wellness routines while on the go. The typical fitness studio includes cardio equipment like treadmills and elliptical machines and free weights for strength training. Fitness rooms are generally available 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

In addition to fitness studios, guests can expect to find either an indoor or outdoor swimming pool. Hilton's Home 2 Suites brand of extended stay properties advertises saline pools at all its hotels that are free from chlorine and chemicals. Some properties also offer a hot tub adjacent to the pool area.

While less common than fitness centers and swimming pools, some upscale extended-stay hotels feature on-site sports courts and other fitness opportunities. For example, Marriott's Residence Inn hotel at the Western entrance of Disneyworld includes a basketball court, batting cages, and a soccer field. The Level Hotel in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood offers a basketball court and a rock-climbing wall.

Added convenience can enhance your experience

Extended-stay hotel guests can expect practical amenities and services that make life easier while away from home for a long period. Convenience markets are a common feature at better extended-stay properties and usually offer a variety of beverages, snacks, and toiletries. IHG's Staybridge Suites convenience stores are open 24 hours a day, seven days per week, and offer meal kits that can be easily prepared in a suite's kitchen. Best Western's extended-stay properties provide free coffee and tea in its convenience stores throughout the day.

Other convenience-oriented amenities abound at extended-stay hotels. Travelers can expect to find on-site laundry facilities that are usually available 24 hours a day, seven days per week, and are complimentary for guest use. Because housekeeping services may only be scheduled on a weekly basis for long-term occupancies, guests may choose to launder their bedding and towels (or bring their own) in between cleaning days. Some properties also provide storage areas with lockable units where guests can keep items to avoid clutter in their suites.

Many extended stays promote social activities

Hotel chains strive to differentiate from the competition by offering unique services to enhance the traveler's experience. Premium extended-stay brands are elevating the industry from the basic accommodations typically associated with this type of hotel to make their guests' stay more fun and engaging. Check for unique services and amenities before booking a reservation to take full advantage of what hotels are offering.

Complimentary social hours are a growing trend at extended-stay hotels. In a news release, Marriott noted that its happy hour program was launched to "appeal to next-generation business travelers." Known as the Residence Inn Mix, the hotel chain hosts these events for guests three nights per week. Guests can expect a selection of beer and wine as well as a variety of appetizers, sometimes provided by local food trucks. IHG's Staybridge Suites also feature complimentary social hour events three nights per week with beer, wine, and light appetizers.

The perks don't end with complimentary wine. Marriott's TownePlace Suites feature the Something Borrowed program that allows guests to swing by the front desk and borrow items like kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, grilling tools, and board games. Some hotels, like Marriott Residence Inn properties and certain Uptown Suites hotels, even provide free grocery delivery.

Extended-stay hotels are located almost everywhere

Location is one of the critical factors to consider when choosing accommodations. More robust extended-stay hotel chains offer locations near major airports, along frequently traveled freeways, popular tourist destinations, and in proximity to other desirable communities. Hotel brands that are part of a global umbrella portfolio have properties around the world.

Travelers planning a multi-destination trip can find consistency in services and amenities by booking with the same hotel chain at each of their destinations. The expansion of extended-stay hotel chains provides ample opportunity to stay with the same brand throughout one's itinerary. For example, Marriott offers over 850 Residence Inn hotels and 275 TownePlace Suites properties. Hilton's Homewood Suites properties can be found in over 500 locations, and there are more than 640 of the brand's Home2 Suites by Hilton hotels.

Travelers planning an international trip can explore extended-stay hotel opportunities abroad, too. Hyatt House properties are available at over 125 locations around the globe, and IHG's Staybridge Suites can be found in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, in addition to North America.

Most offer a range of accommodations to suit your needs

One of the benefits of extended-stay hotels is that they offer a broad range of room types, from studio suites to apartments, to suit a variety of needs at lower rates than conventional hotels. Even small studio suites include a kitchen so guests can prepare their own meals. Larger units may include two bedrooms and one or two bathrooms. Some extended-stay accommodations may also feature a small office space. 

When making a reservation at an extended-stay hotel, expect to find multiple rate options as one would expect from a conventional hotel. The prepaid, non-refundable rate is usually the lowest, followed by flexible rates that allow the reservation to be canceled within a specified period according to hotel policy. Additionally, properties belonging to a larger umbrella brand offer member-only rates for travelers enrolled in the brand's loyalty rewards program. Most extended-stay hotels offer nightly and weekly rates, but some properties can provide a monthly rate for guests planning a longer-term stay.

Some extended-stay hotels also offer specials and packages in addition to the standard rate structure. Packages may include free parking in a secured facility or complimentary shuttle transportation to and from the nearest airport. For example, Hilton's Homewood Suites chain offers a package that includes an on-property credit, premium Wi-fi, early check-in, and late check-out.

Kitchens create a home-away-from-home experience

The signature feature of extended-stay hotels is the kitchen built into guest accommodations. The ability to prepare one's own meals is convenient and helps long-term guests save money by not having to rely on restaurant dining. While kitchens are pretty standard among extended stays, guests should expect some variation in the size of the kitchen and equipment provided. If kitchen amenities are an influencing factor in selecting an extended stay property, it's wise to research the hotel chains at the desired destination to determine whether the kitchen will be satisfactory.

Generally, kitchens will include a standard-sized refrigerator (as opposed to the mini refrigerators often found in conventional hotel rooms), sink, dishwasher, counter space, microwave, coffee maker, and stovetop. Notably, ovens are not standard in extended-stay hotel kitchens. Hilton's Home2 Suites kitchens do not have built-in stovetops, but guests may borrow an induction burner cooktop free of charge from the front desk.

Expect some variation in the gadgets, cookware, and dishes provided. While some hotels may provide basic pots, pans, and dishes, others do not. As an example, Woodspring Suites' website notes that most of their guests bring their own kitchen utensils, but the hotels have dishware, cutlery, pots, and pans available for purchase at the front desk.

Extended-stay hotels may be ideal for families

Extended-stay hotels are an optimal choice for family vacations because of the larger room accommodations, eliminating the need to book two adjoining rooms for families of six to eight people. Some chains cater to business travelers, but others are more family-friendly and can be found near tourist attractions and activities for youth. Because playgrounds are rarely found on most extended-stay hotel properties, picking a location close to entertainment options for children is an important consideration for families.

Disneyland is one of the most popular tourist destinations in America for families, and there are plenty of extended-stay hotel options near Disneyland. The Marriott Residence Inn at Anaheim Resort offers a kids' suite with bunk beds, child-scale furnishings, and fun décor. There is also a dedicated children's swimming pool. At the Extended Stay America hotel in Anaheim, guests can even purchase their Disneyland tickets at the front desk.

On the opposite coast, families heading to Disney World can find plenty of extended-stay hotel options near the theme park. The Marriott Residence Inn Orlando Lake Buena Vista offers family suites and is a designated Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotel. Also nearby is IHG's Candlewood Suites, also a designated Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotel. The property is within four miles of all four Disney World parks and within one mile of Disney Springs.

What to expect for your furry friends

Not to be forgotten, pets are another key consideration when planning a long-term hotel stay. Luckily, most extended-stay hotel chains have permissive pet policies, although they do vary by location. Guests should expect to pay an extra fee for having pets in their suites.

IHG Staybridge Suites properties in the Americas are pet-friendly hotels, although the maximum weight and non-refundable pet fee vary by property. Guests are issued a "Pet In Suite" magnet for their room door, and the hotel requires pets to be secured in a carrier when left in the suite unattended. Extended Stay America offers pet-friendly hotels, and a maximum of two pets are allowed in each suite. There is a non-refundable cleaning fee of $25 per day, per pet, for the first six nights, and $10 per day, per pet, for every night thereafter. Pets can be no longer than 36 inches and no taller than 36 inches. Hilton Homewood Suites not only welcomes pets, but partners with Mars Petcare, a pet products and services company, to provide tips on pet care while away from home for an extended period.

Note that the pet policies at extended-stay hotels do not apply across the board to service animals. If traveling with a service animal, it is advised to check with the hotel directly for information on any applicable rules.

Most offer amenities for business travel

Whether traveling for business, it's important to have easy access to amenities for work productivity. While some extended-stay accommodations include an office space, many hotels also provide a business center where guests can accomplish basic computer tasks. Guests can expect to find Internet-connected computers, printers, office furniture, and often basic supplies like writing utensils, staplers, and extra printer paper.

More robust amenities for business purposes are more likely available at extended-stay hotels located in major metropolitan areas where business travel is common. Marriott Residence Inn hotels provide business centers with standard office equipment as well as private meeting spaces that can be reserved for business events. Guests can also have their business attire dry-cleaned. The Level Hotel in Seattle offers meeting spaces where guests can host business functions or have a quiet place to work remotely. The property also features an entertainment suite where guests can host colleagues in a more social atmosphere.

You can earn rewards along the way

Global brands offer hotel rewards programs that allow guests to earn points redeemable for hotel stays and other perks. These programs are typically free to join, and travelers who aren't already enrolled can sign up when booking their reservation. Joining a loyalty program also allows travelers to leverage points across multiple hotel chains under the main umbrella brand.

At a minimum, entry-level members can expect exclusive room rates and complimentary Wi-fi during their stay. Membership benefits are enhanced as travelers rack up nights on their accounts and get promoted to the next tier of the program. Careful research is advised when choosing a rewards program, as they all entail unique benefits and have distinct structures.

Prominent hotel loyalty programs in the United States include IHG's One Rewards, Hilton Honors, and Marriott Bonvoy. At a high level, all these platforms allow guests to book reservations using points, but points may also be used for activities offered at the hotel properties, like spa treatments and dining. Each of these brands also provides opportunities for guests to redeem points with partners for experiences like gourmet restaurant dining, concert tickets, shopping, and gift cards. Members can also earn points through a brand's corporate partnerships with car rental companies or airlines.

You usually won't be limited for choice

Location and cost are typically the primary considerations when booking your hotel. Hotels located in the desired area can be evaluated based on the accommodations and associated rates available for your chosen dates. Many factors can influence the cost of your stay, including the time of year and whether you belong to a rewards program. It's also advisable to research any package deals available at extended-stay hotels at your destination to see if you can save on transportation or parking costs.

From there, review the amenities and services that are most important to help determine the best extended-stay property for your trip. An on-site happy hour is unlikely to be a high priority if you're planning a family trip, and pet-friendly policies aren't useful (and may even be a deterrent) if you're not traveling with a pet.  Other considerations, like the availability of premium cable channels or entertainment streaming services, electric vehicle charging stations, and parking fees, may be important factors to consider as well. There are numerous extended-stay hotel chains in the market, each with unique accommodations and amenities. Whether traveling for business or leisure, the wide variety of extended-stay hotels can ensure you find the right fit.