01/22/2014 05:27 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Hotels and Motels Are Not at Their Best -- Pet Friendly or Not

I love the scenery and the feel of a road trip, the away-from-it-all time with my husband and our animals, and especially the ability to spontaneously detour to see whatever, whenever and wherever. But driving several thousand miles does mean a fair number of nights in hotels or motels along the way. That's okay by me. Ever since I was a little girl, the act of tucking into a motel for the night has always felt like a treat. Checking in comes with that pleasurable inherent option of doing something creative or doing absolutely nothing at all.


It used to be that traveling with pets meant that we had to stay in less-than-desirable lodging. Lower-end establishments were once the only ones that deemed pets to be acceptable guests. But today's pet-friendly options include wonderful hotels with beautifully appointed rooms and top-notch amenities.

Whether upscale, mid-price, or low-end, some travelers avoid hotels over things like the potential for bedbug infestations or possible virus-laden surfaces. I never really worry about any of that. Unless I walk in and find roaches doing the Mambo on the nightstand, or the outline of a body on the carpet, I'm pretty much good to go. Cleanliness can be quickly assessed, and if the room is not up to snuff, we just move on. But, as pet parents, we also inquire about room location.

Some pet-friendly hotels cluster all pet rooms into one wing, which is decidedly unfortunate. In spite of the fact that most traveling dogs are super well-behaved, barks spawned by unfamiliar surroundings is quite normal. Even the best dog on earth won't swallow his excitement if a couple dozen of his distant cousins are howling the news of a discovered squirrel. So we definitely try to avoid undesirable room "clustering" if possible, just as we try to avoid rooms with paper-thin walls. (My apologies to Mary and Ben for unavoidably hearing every word of your, uh, intimate conversation.) But on our latest trip, these issues weren't the concern.

I'm a fan of La Quinta Inns & Suites because they are great, pet-friendly hotels that never charge a pet fee. They always provide a suitable place for the family hound to do his duty, along with the disposable means to clean it up. The rooms are nice, and they throw in breakfast.

I also really appreciate Candlewood Suites. Even their smallest suites have full kitchens, and since I feed my dogs a raw diet, having a beautifully-appointed kitchen is a real pleasure. Plus, I love that recliners are standard and that the beds are no doubt some of the best in the industry. The beds at Candlewood Suites (experienced in multiple states) are consistently luxurious, so much so that my husband scoured the mattress for a brand name. Alas, we never unearthed the secret of their origin. Apparently we are lousy detectives.

So what didn't I like on my most recent 5000-mile trip? For La Quinta, it was a broken recliner in one room and a broken thermostat in another -- simple maintenance issues that should have absolutely been addressed before anyone ever checked into those rooms. To their credit, they responded in an appropriate manner when told of the issues. I've never found occasion to argue with the service from La Quinta's staff. It's one of the things I enjoy most about them.

For Candlewood Suites, the issue was light. Way, WAY, too much light. Not only are the rooms inundated with multiple "on" lights (the smoke alarm, the microwave, the TV, clocks, etc.), there is an unforgivable amount of light coming from the hotel's exterior. Parking lot and street lights flood the space all around the ineffectively-mounted black-out drapes, casting a far-reaching glow that can't be escaped. Add that to the light spilling in from under the door, and you could read a book after you have extinguished all of the actual bulbs in the room. What good is a spectacular bed if you can't sleep because of the light? I personally like my bedroom pitch black, but I would settle for black with dots of red from all those electronic doodads. One shouldn't have to wear a sleep mask (which I personally hate) to get a good night's sleep in a hotel or motel. And any provided nightlight should come with an on/off switch.

Not every Candlewood Suites room had the same degree of unwanted light, but every facility we visited had the problem to one degree or another, and all of them need to address it. I advised multiple people of my displeasure with the brightness, and all of them informed me that it would be taken under advisement. Their expressions conveyed that they'd heard this complaint all too often. Too bad "advisement" doesn't provide a good night's sleep. Action is needed. And, honestly, it's a fairly simple fix -- recessing the blackout drapes into the window frame would do it, so would shades or blinds that rest next to the glass. Honestly, Candlewood Suites is so lovely that this issue is as much of a crime against itself as it is against its guests.

So my latest personal hotel/motel grievances (beyond paper-thin walls and a cornucopia of tiny nitpicks) are lax maintenance, pet clustering, and a room that can't be darkened. And although I only mentioned two specific chains here doesn't mean that other establishments don't also have failures to address. For example, my mom and I were once greeted in the room of a very classy New York hotel by a wastebasket housing a man's pair of dirty underwear. To this day, understanding how skid-marked briefs could be overlooked in a room that charges several hundred dollars a night is a mystery for the ages. But it's proof that failures can happen anywhere. Still, it is the existence of ongoing failures, like too-bright rooms or broken equipment, that are decidedly more egregious than any one-time faux pas.

Are the issues from our latest trip enough to keep me from ever again staying at a La Quinta Inn or a Candlewood Suites? Nope. I enjoy them both. There are too many pluses to ignore. But if the disagreeable issues continue, I will eventually have to rethink my loyalty. After all, if you can't rest in a room because the thermostat won't allow for a comfortable temperature, or because the light in the room looks less like the glow of the moon and more like an alien invasion, then I will certainly have to bail. I hope that doesn't come to pass. I would hate to cut either of these hotels from my favorites list.

So what hotel/motel failures do you find unacceptable? Do you have a personal line-in-the-sand that would make you say, "Never again!" to another stay? Go ahead and share. After all, hospitality industry honchos can't fix what they don't know is wrong.