What makes a hotel “boutique?” If you’ve ever wondered whether you should choose a chain hotel or a boutique hotel on your vacation, you’re not alone. Travelers who haven’t stayed in a boutique hotel before may be unfamiliar with this type of lodging’s charms – and drawbacks. Find out more about the pros and cons of boutique and chain hotels to help you decide which one is right for your next trip.
A boutique hotel is, above all, a smaller hotel that focuses on an intimate setting. Though it’s not as small as a B&B or an inn, you probably won’t find a boutique hotel with more than 100 rooms in it. Boutique properties want to ensure their guests get personal attention and have a unique experience during their stay. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of staying at a boutique hotel.
Pros of Boutique Hotel Chains
- Service: Along with the smaller size, boutique hotels typically pride themselves on personalized service. This is their way of differentiating themselves from the bigger chains which tend to have higher staff turnover and a focus on efficiency rather than intimacy. At some boutique hotels, you can expect to see many of the same faces working at the hotel each day, some of which may get to know your name and hometown during your stay. Rooms may also include more personal touches like fresh cookies or snacks left out for guests.
- Chic décor: Unlike the homey B&B-style lodgings usually associated with smaller properties, boutique hotels take the opposite approach. Most boutique hotels feature modern and chic décor that looks nothing like the bland rooms you often find in chain hotels. Bold colors often accommodate this interior design approach, and the furniture is just as comfortable as it is attractive. Some even have themed décor, local antiques or authentic ethnic artwork. The rooms may not all look alike – some may have themes or different décor.
- Vibe: A boutique hotel often has an atmosphere of vibrant travelers coming and going often. This isn’t just a place to crash along the way – it’s a part of your traveling experience. Most boutique hotels have a fun, energetic vibe that keeps up with the pulse of the city in which they’re located. Expect to see well-dressed guests heading out to trendy restaurants, interesting museum exhibits and other cool events. It’s not just for young people, either. There are plenty of active older folks who love the lively atmosphere of a boutique property.
Cons of Boutique Hotels
- Location: If you’re planning on visiting a town or mid-sized city, you may not be able to find a boutique hotel in the area. Most boutique hotels are located in trendy parts of bigger cities, which goes with their ultra-hip décor and trendy atmosphere.
- Amenities: Though the service at boutique hotels is top-notch, don’t expect to find as many amenities at these types of hotels compared to the bigger chains. Pools, gyms, spas and other on-site services may not be available. In addition, they may not offer room service, free continental breakfasts or express check-out. Be sure to look through the full list of amenities before booking so you know what to expect.
Most travelers are more familiar with chain hotels than boutique hotels simply because these hotels are everywhere. Almost every city has at least of few chain properties, while larger cities may have dozens of them. Chain hotels rely on predictability and creature comforts to woo their guests. It can be a winning combo, but there are some drawbacks to this type of hotel as well.
Pros of Chain Hotels
- Amenities: One thing that just about every hotel chain offers is a wide range of great amenities. It’s not unusual for things like 24-hour room service, free continental breakfasts, free Wi-Fi and other perks to get top-billing when you’re searching for a hotel to book. Chain hotels often have a number of on-site activities as well, whether it’s a swimming pool, a gym, a spa or a playground. Everything is within reach or can be obtained with just a quick phone call to the front desk.
- Predictability: The thing about these hotels is that they really are part of a chain. For example, you can visit several Holiday Inn properties in various cities and much of the service, amenities and décor will likely be similar. The actual room you stay in will likely be set up the same way with much of the same furnishings. This can be a great benefit for those who like to know what to expect before arriving at their destination.
Cons of Chain Hotels
- Service: Not all hotel chains have bad service, but it typically does not reach a personal level like you’ll find at a boutique hotel. You may see dozens of different hotel employees every day, and they most likely won’t go out of their way to improve your experience or get to know you. You may still have a completely satisfactory stay, but don’t expect to feel unique among the hundreds of other guests at your hotel.
- Atmosphere: Chain hotels don’t have the same lively atmosphere that you’ll find at a boutique hotel. Many of these properties host a mix of families with kids and seniors, so there isn’t the same level of hip clientele who are coming and going at all hours. The lobby tends to be quiet and guests don’t interact much.
If you have to choose between these two types of hotels, ask yourself whether you prefer great service over lots of amenities. While a boutique hotel provides a unique, exciting experience, some travelers prefer the predictability and creature comforts of a chain hotel. Either one can be a great place to stay during your trip depending on your preferences.