La Quinta: Cheap, or Value?

Yesterday I noted that I had never stayed in a La Quinta, but was willing to participate in their points program (for free points).

Eli emails to take issue with my giving the chain short shrift:

Actually, you’re missing out. When we had to cut costs last year, we decided to stick with La Quinta for almost for my center. And I don’t regret it. For business travel, in some ways, it’s BETTER than more upscale. For example, most rooms have six outlets right by the desk rather than the 1 or 2 you typically get at full service hotels. (I had to plug in my cell phone in the bathroom at the Waldorf Astoria.) In room standard amenities are almost an exact match for mid-priced business oriented a minifridge. Breakfast is also included. ..The big “disadvantage” such as it is: a fair number of properties…rooms have to be entered from the outside.

He also argues that suite upgrades are a regular occurrence, the idea of suites accessed via outside corridors sort of makes my head spin.

And here, I think, we have a conflict of visions.

Yesterday I was reading reviews of a hotel in South America that I plan to stay at, it has tremendous views, and of course rooms with premium views come at a price premium (about US$70). Plenty of commenters said “this is such a waste” because you’ll never be in your room, and you can see the view from outside or in the hotel’s common areas. Whereas to me, it’s a tremendous value, since you have limited time there, and what better than to wake up to one of the greatest views anywhere in the world? To have morning coffee out on the balcony with it? To each there own.

Which is also the point of the Skymiles debate that Brian Kelly and I will have at Frequent Traveler University, to lay bare the thinking processes that go into questions of value, he’ll speak up for Skymiles and explain why he feels it’s a really valuable program, I’ll point out those things that I find to be a huge shortcoming from my perspective, and depending on whether you think about these things more like Brian or are closer to my own thinking will determine how you come out — but more importantly, hopefully, you’ll see the angles that help you judge value in other programs.

Here, Eli likes outlets and free breakfast.

If you expense your breakfast you don’t care. Or if you’re like me and will get free breakfast from Hyatt or from Hilton (due to status) you don’t especially care either. And I really like breakfast, which means what I am eating for breakfast matters a great deal. It’s not just fuel.

As for outlets, one of my staple travel items is a Monster compact travel power strip, which gives me the extra outlets I need. Problem solved.

I want a reliable comfortable bed. Clean, thoroughly cleaned even. I want room service, the ability to order in after a long day or to get coffee delivered when I wake up way too early (and I’m usually not a fan of in-room coffee makers, plus I want real cream and not liquid that doesn’t require refrigeration).

So La Quinta doesn’t work for me. I don’t have personal experience, but the La Quinta idea doesn’t work for me.

The way I understand the value proposition was encapsulated in a story in Lamar Muse’s autobiography. He was the founding President of Southwest Airlines, and the founder of La Quinta was an original board member. Muse relays the story of how La Quinta got its name: the founder went looking for the cheapest furniture he could possibly buy, and it happened to be in a Southwestern motif. So he decided on a Spanish-sounding name. To match the cheap furniture.

Is it a reasonable budget option, recognizing tradeoffs? Probably. Though I’d probably still shoot for a full service chain approach, using a combination of discounts (e.g. Hilton MVP rate, Intercontinental friends and family, Priceline – recognizing that both Marriott and Hyatt honor elite benefits on priceline stays).

La Quinta works for some people, not so much for the way I like to travel, but I’ll still take the 300 free points.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. La quinta is great, if you have an animal. Hilton, Hyatt, SPG charge $50+ to keep an animal in your room. La quinta $0. Maybe this relates to you comment” I want a reliable comfortable bed. Clean, thoroughly cleaned even.”

  2. I have visited the US from South Africa and stayed at numerous La Quinta’s in Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Orlando and New Jersey. Great value for money as free breakfast, free wifi, plasma tv’s and most importantly, consistently helpful and friendly staff.

  3. Gary I think you are being pretty snooty… plus do you REALLY think the crap they furnish the average Sheraton with is any better than what you’d get at one of these places?

    Why I don’t go out of my way to stay at this kind of place, I am not going to pay any significant premium if it’s a La Quinta vs Sheraton. And I am SPG plat.

  4. The funny thing about “full service hotels” is that they don’t actually include any services in the price, whereas limited service hotels do. Internet, parking, breakfast — you’re much more likely to get those services fully included in your room rate at a Days Inn than at a “full service” hotel, where those three services can easily run you more than the other place cost per night.

    In this regard, so-called full service hotels are actually more like Spirit Airlines where every breath you take is an opportunity for “revenue enhancement”. Regardless of whether you prefer the full service or discount approach, I wish people could come up with a more accurate descriptor for the “internet extra” style of hotel.

  5. I think La Quintas can be just fine, true they are more often functional as opposed to luxurious, but often functional is all that is needed. It isn’t a chain I most often frequent, but I would not hesitate to stay at one that had good reviews, if it best suited my needs for a given trip. I also echo the comment about dogs – lots of my friends who travel with their dogs do frequent La Quinta.

  6. I’m right with Gary on this one. I collect/redeem points for aspirational vacations otherwise outside my means, not power outlets.

  7. You sound like a bit of a snob. Of course everyone would love to stay at the best everytime, but that just isn’t realistic for everyone.

    If you have unlimited $$$ to pay for your coffee view, great.

  8. If you would like to actually see a review of the La Quinta Returns loyalty program see my April 2011 post:

    La Quinta Returns points can be used for hotel stays at dozens of affiliated resorts from the Destination Hotels and Resorts member properties.

    Much of my travel is in rural areas and La Quinta is a program to know when you are in places where the only choices are Best Western, Choice, Wyndham and La Quinta.

  9. If you go to smaller towns and cities, often La Quinta is the best choice available! One shortcoming of La Quinta is that they offer double beds which are extremely narrow in my opinion.

  10. I’m with Gary on this one… I have gold status with Hilton and Marriott, getting the various perks of that status. Both chains are good because they have a wide range of properties in many locations at various price points. When making my lodging decision, if my budget is La Quinta-equivalent, I’m looking for the best Hilton or Marriott property in the area for that range. Why? Because the stay will further my status goals. Perhaps the matching rate to La Quinta might be only a Hampton Inn (but frequently our corporate rates might yield something a lot nicer). If no Hilton or Marriott property is available, I’m looking for a Hyatt, Starwood, or ICHG property where I may have low-level status. If none of those, I’m probably looking at TripAdvisor recommendations – which could potentially say that La Quinta is the best available option.

    I’m sure that La Quinta has nice properties, but it isn’t even on my radar because it doesn’t further my long-term aspirational travel goals. I don’t see that as being snooty. Their chain isn’t big enough and doesn’t have luxury properties. As far as I know, they are owned by the Blackstone Group, which also owns (or partially owns) Hilton Worldwide. If Blackstone decided to make them part of the Hilton family, that would increase the odds that I might stay at one of their properties.

  11. As Ric notes above, La Quinta’s program does allow access to some resort properties:

    Maybe not “aspirational” resorts (depends on your aspirations, I guess, but you know, I’ve just never had the desire to go to Easter Island or the Maldives), but from my experience, resorts (especially on Sanibel/Captiva and Wild Dunes outside of Charleston) that would make for a very nice vacation. And, if nothing else, LQ points are worth gathering in some small amount for the “hit” opportunity if USAirways runs its Grand Slam promotion again this fall.

  12. I second what Ric said. La Quinta is great in rural areas. Of course it’s nice to stay at fancier places, but it’s also nice to know that I can accumulate some points for stays where I don’t have better options.

  13. @Ric as I commented on your blog post…

    You are MAKING MY POINT.

    In my post I contended that I don’t desire to stay at La Quinta properties, but I do want their points.

    You laid out in your post how to get some high end redemptions with their points. Awesome! But that doesn’t rebut me at all.

    And despite your snark, “And even though he has never slept at a La Quinta Inn, he implies the housekeeping staff does not clean the rooms to the same standard a guest will find at a full-service hotel chain like IHG, Hilton or Hyatt” …

    … You know FULL WELL that there are brand standards for housekeeping, and that those differ across chains.

    Ric we are in agreement, your post shows that, even if you want to label this a takedown… 🙂

  14. Gary – enough of the cumbaya – methinks you need another debate at Frequent Traveler U!

    But which one of you will be Dan Aykroyd, and which will be Jane Curtin?

  15. @Gary

    You say: “You know FULL WELL that there are brand standards for housekeeping, and that those differ across chains.”

    I don’t mean this with any antagonism, but on what basis are you inferring that the brand standards with specific regard to cleanliness of La Quinta are lower than an equivalent level, e.g., Hilton property. If you have some basis for this point, than I will likely concede, but without having stayed at a La Quinta (and I have not either), it seems purely speculative.

    I’ve stayed a Red Roof Inns that are immaculate and nice full-service hotels that leave much to be desired (condom wrappers inside the wardrobes?).

    Also, for anyone who’s looking at taking advantage of La Quinta, here’s a great hotel option to use La Quinta points on.

  16. I’ve stayed in plenty of full service properties that failed to MEET brand standards. I walked into a Ritz-Carlton with a used condom on the bed, too. Brand standards apply to the number of soaps and whether or not they’re replaced during your stay if not fully consumed. They apply to how often a room is taken out of service for a deep cleaning. What that deep cleaning consists of. How often bedspreads, not just sheets, are cleaned. Literally hundreds of items dictated by the chain and each chain is different in the particulars.

  17. @Gary

    Yes, fair point re: the specifics; the question remains, on what basis have you inferred that the specific protocols at La Quinta are somehow inferior to, say, a Hampton Inn?

  18. It’s hard commenting about a particular hotel chain when the person commenting hardly ever frequents that chain, which seem to reflect most of the comments posted.
    As a budget conscious traveler I give the Returns reward program very high marks and the La Quinta chain overall an above average grade.
    The frequent stay program reminds me of the old Southwest Rapid Rewards Program, very simple you stay and you get free nights. Considering their bonuses, they are the most generous of any program I experienced. Even more so, is their availability and flexibility. Never denied a free room (and have utilized well over two dozen nights) and a very simple points + cash program. Use points for each level grade or pay $15 for each level.
    Thus a level 3 free night property is 11,000 points or I can pay $15 and use 8,000 points or $30 and use 6,000 points (Level 1). Simply use of points and not too much money for a free night.
    Although on the outside many seem like cookie cutter hotels (a la Hampton Inn) quality does vary. From a step above a Motel 6 to on-par (or even higher) than a Mariott Courtyard. An excellent indication is the amount of points for a free night is direct reflection to the quality of that property. (Not like Hilton, IHG or Raddison).
    Easy to use website and wonderful customer service (and a mean Wonderful) make this a real plus. Also their call center is in Texas, not a foreign country with a language problem.
    Only negative is that their free continental breakfast (which is pretty much the same in most properties) is not on par with Hampton Inn or Country Inn.

  19. @Gary Yes, I’m aware of that. I didn’t mean to introduce confusion by mentioning Hampton specifically. I’m just wondering if there is a reason to believe that La Quinta has less than clean rooms than comparable hotels, per the inference drawn from:

    “Clean, thoroughly cleaned even […] So La Quinta doesn’t work for me.” Presumably you mentioned that for some reason, along with room service, etc. I’m just curious what your reasoning is, and, again, I’m not intending any antagonism. I’d assume that La Quinta is as hit or miss as any moderately large hotel chain, and would vary by the standards individual managers comply with and demand of their employees.

  20. my point isn’t that they are less clean than comparable hotels, my point is that i prefer the brand standards for cleaning that *higher end* hotels have.

  21. Not too long ago, we drove across the country – 11,000 miles, 38 days, 25 national parks. A beloved Jack Russell was our faithful companion. I had not been very familiar with La Quinta before the trip, but by the end of it, I was sold.

    Here’s why: consistently nice properties – many recently upgraded and a cut above; hassle-free free wifi; free breakfast; and by far the best pet policy around (zero pet fee and genuinely pet-friendly).

    The thing that impresses me most about La Quinta is their spirit – all-around positive and pleasant.

    In my experience, animal lovers generally tend to be nice people, and most of the other guests I encountered were also pleasant and caring. It’s just an overall good attitude.

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