Don't miss out! Join the thousands of people who subscribe to our once-daily email with all the best travel news

We recently got back from an epic “big heads, trains and bears, oh my!” summer vacation to Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore and much of the western United States.  As part of the trip, we ended up staying in a different hotel every night.  Rather than give separate reviews of EACH hotel (how many Econo Lodge hotel reports do you REALLY need to see :-D), I thought I’d give a summary post ranking the different hotels.

In ranking the hotels, I tend to rank them differently than many, as I do give compensation for the TYPE of hotel that it is.  A more “basic” hotel that really excels at what it’s trying to be is to me more impressive than a 5-star hotel that is sloppy around the edges.  And after all, I did write the post on 3 reasons why “budget” hotels DESTROY “nice” ones.  There’s a reason my first “5-star” hotel review was given to a Hyatt House.

Not including the 2 nights we slept on our Amtrak train, we stayed 9 nights at 8 different hotels encompassing 5 hotel brands across 3 different loyalty programs (Choice, IHG and Hyatt).

So with no further ado, here are the rankings, from #8 to #1

#8: Econo Lodge, Miles City, MT

The Miles City Econo Lodge cost 10,000 Choice Hotels points / night or a cash price of $99.  Even though I ranked it #8 out of the 8 hotels we stayed at, it was still nice and I would definitely stay here again.

The included continental breakfast was pretty weak – the only “hot” thing was sausage gravy.


There was no laundry onsite, though it was literally across the street from a pretty nice laundromat, which ended up working out fine.

(SEE ALSO: 4 laundry hacks when you’re doing long-term travel)

Also “enjoyed” the shower head in one of our rooms.


Thankfully, we also were able to get adjoining rooms at this hotel, which is something our family of 8 is always looking for!  (And it gave us somewhere else to shower!)

#7: Econo Lodge, Belle Fourche, SD

Next is another Econo Lodge.  The one in Belle Fourche, South Dakota had a nice pool that we were excited to hang out in after our trip to the Geographical Center of the United States.  We did not have adjoining rooms here, but we were right next to each other.  Unfortunately, when we don’t have adjoining rooms, it means once the kids go to be at 8 or 9 pm, there isn’t really anywhere for me to stay up since both rooms have kids trying to sleep.

This Econo Lodge didn’t really have a “lobby” other than a few chairs and a table, but after a little cajoling, the front desk lady let me into the breakfast area so I could watch Game 6 of the NBA Finals (the Cavs lost 🙁 )


The breakfast was a little better than the Econo Lodge in Miles City in that it at least had a waffle maker, but it was still pretty weak (no other hot foods).  It was 8,000 Choice points / night, or a cash rate of $93

#6: Quality Inn, Rock Springs, WY

The Quality Inn in Rock Springs, Wyoming cost 12,000 Choice Hotels points a night, or we could have paid a cash rate of $80 / night.  Breakfast was good, with the regular “hot” options of sausage and eggs


The breakfast room was large and featured a nice stuffed deer head on the wall 😀


There were also signs that the Quality Inn offered a complimentary “cocktail hour” in the evening – but we were not able to check that out as this was a long day of driving and we didn’t get in to the hotel until 9pm.

#5: Holiday Inn Express, Torrington, WY

Next on the list is the first of 3 Holiday Inn Express hotels that we stayed at.  This one actually was pretty nice, and had a nice indoor pool.  As an added bonus, they had an evening “social hour” which consisted of free cheese, appetizers, soft drinks (and alcohol)


The big downside with this hotel was the AWFUL wi-fi connections.  For nearly the entire evening, I could not get any kind of connection at all.  I asked about it at the front desk and the lady gave me some sort of technobabble that doesn’t really work with me since I know a bit about that kind of thing.

#4: Hyatt House, Colorado Springs, CO

The Hyatt House in Colorado Springs could have been rated higher, I’ll admit.  Carolyn actually ranked it #1 and it did have a lot going for it.  One negative was that the entire hotel does not have adjoining rooms (which I realize is not an issue for most people).  The laundry took a long time and didn’t dry all the way the first time, and there no indoor pool.

On the other hand, the suites were nice, the beds were comfortable, and the staff was very friendly.  The lady at the front desk when we checked in gave one of my kids a snack because she was clearly dragging after having been delayed for 13 hours on our Amtrak train earlier in the day. Also, the hotel itself is fairly new and very well kept.

The Hyatt House Colorado Springs is a Category 1 Hyatt, which means it’s only 5,000 Hyatt points / night.

#3: Holiday Inn Express, Idaho Falls, ID

The thing that I remember most about this hotel was that the lady working the breakfast room on Sunday morning was SO friendly.  We were trying to hurry and get out the door for church, and she was super pleasant.  Not only that, but she packed us up 8 of the scrumptious Holiday Inn Express cinnamon rolls “to-go”, which we enjoyed later on in the day at Yellowstone.

Here’s a shot of the breakfast area – you can see that I’ve already “won” the fight over the hotel breakfast TV remote 🙂



The Holiday Inn Express Idaho Falls was 20,000 IHG points / night, or a cash price of $197.74 / night

#2: Holiday Inn Express, Perrysburg, OH

The Holiday Inn Express in Perrysburg (Toledo) was the first and last hotel that we stayed at, and the only one that we stayed at twice.  On our first night, the night before leaving on our Amtrak train trip, we took a little bit of time “exploring” the area.  The hotel had a nice indoor pool, though we couldn’t swim in it because we didn’t want to get our suits wet before we left early the next morning



They also had a nice outdoor patio, where we enjoyed playing “Red Light Green Light”


Since we had to be at Toledo’s Amtrak Union Station by 5 a.m. the next morning, the staff hooked us up with some breakfast to go, including cinnamon rolls, fruit and breakfast bars.  They also gave us free laundry soap which we used later on to do laundry.

This hotel was 15,000 IHG points a room, or a cash price of $141.70

#1: Rodeway Inn and Suites, Gardiner, MT

rodeway-inn-logoTopping the list was Rodeway Inn and Suites in Gardiner, Montana (just north of Yellowstone).  Here’s what it had going for it

  • It was only 16,000 Choice Hotels points / night (which, when transferred from Chase through Amtrak is only 5,333 Chase points). Cash price was $290 / night, but that’s why we have points!
  • Most importantly though, it was a 2 BR suite, which meant that we only needed to book one hotel room (listed occupancy “suggestion” for the room was 5 but it was plenty spacious for us 8)
  • It had a full kitchen.  We didn’t take a ton of advantage of this as we had spent a long day at Yellowstone the day before and had to leave fairly early in the morning, but definitely something to keep in mind.
  • Breakfast was good – plenty of hot options, though the seating area was a little cramped


So, which hotel chains are missing?  Well, we were originally going to stay at a Homewood Suites in Toledo for our first night, but they only had a 1 bedroom suite available, so my trick of calling ahead to try and get upgraded to a 2 bedroom suite did not work.  We looked at the Best Western in Gardiner for 28,000 points / night, but they didn’t have any availability.  There were no Marriotts or Starwoods anywhere where we were staying.

I think the thing I most learned is that even these so called “budget” hotels were not bad and I’d definitely stay in all 8 of these again!  For most family travel, there’s really no need to spend a ton (of cash OR points) in order to get a good hotel


Sign up for our once-daily email with the latest tips and tricks on how to travel for free / cheap. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!