Europe on a budget: The best affordable hotel chains

If you’re a frequent traveler in the U.S., you probably have a favorite affordable hotel chain. It’s the one you book when you don’t want to spend a fortune for a single night but still want a decent experience. (We’re fans of Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express, for example.)

Finding similar options in Europe can be a little daunting, since some of the brands we know and trust don’t exist there. Here are a few to consider for your next trip:

Best Western. I associate Best Westerns with road trips through the American West, but the chain has some terrific properties, often in historic buildings, throughout Europe. My favorite so far: Best Western Premier Hotel de la Poste & Spa, housed in a former post office in Troyes, France. 

My CitizenM room felt like a spaceship pod, in a good way.

CitizenM. This “affordable luxury” chain offers small, well-designed rooms in prime locations. You won’t find bellboys or concierge desks. Instead, there’s a self-serve check-in desk that’s part of a larger “living room” that includes a bar, breakfast buffet and hang-out spaces. I stayed at CitizenM’s Copenhagen hotel, nicely situated on a public transit route near the train station and just steps from the old part of town, including Tivoli Gardens amusement park.

Moxy. This Marriott brand started in the U.S. and spread to Europe, where it emulates some aspects of the CitizenM experience, including compact rooms combined with large common spaces. Moxy locations tend not to be as centrally located as CitizenM’s, but if you need to stay near an airport or don’t mind a little extra travel time from an outlying neighborhood, the savings can be worthwhile.

Ibis Hotels. This is a budget brand from France’s Accor Hotels that you can find throughout Europe. If you need extra room for a family, look for Ibis Styles hotels, which offer slightly larger rooms (and included breakfast). I saw some Ibis hotels in great, central locations and others that were miles away from anywhere most tourists would want to be, so check a map before you book.

All these brands have frequent traveler programs. Best Western and Moxy allow you to book with points you accumulate in the U.S.

Do you have a favorite good-value hotel chain in Europe? Please share your experience in the comments.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Cash advance apps can hurt more than help at the holidays. Also in the news: Lawsuit against Marriott makes hotel pricing math easier, Black Friday 2021 store hours and online hacks, and what to do when inflation cuts into your black Friday deals.

Cash Advance Apps Can Hurt More Than Help at the Holidays
Cash advance apps offer a boost at the holidays, but consumer advocates say they could lead to a cycle of debt.

Lawsuit Against Marriott Makes Hotel Pricing Math Easier
Marriott commits to a policy that would be transparent in the disclosure of mandatory fees like resort fees.

Black Friday 2021 Store Hours and Online Hacks
Many stores are closed for Thanksgiving as Black Friday discounts span weeks rather than just days.

What to Do When Inflation Cuts Into Your Black Friday Deals
Inflation will cut into Black Friday deals this year, but there are strategies you can use to soften the blow.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 3 colleges that help you handle student debt. Also in the news: How one couple purchased a home in Oakland, Marriott/SPG cards are getting a makeover, and how to get reimbursed for old medical expenses with your HSA.

3 Colleges That Help You Handle Student Debt
You’re not alone.

How I Bought a Home in Oakland
One couple’s story.

Bonjour, Bonvoy: Marriott, SPG Cards Getting New Names, Perks
New goodies.

Get Reimbursed for Years-Old Medical Expenses with Your HSA
No time limit on reimbursements.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Get to know your 401(k) plan. Also in the news: How one couple ditched debt, having the talk about college costs with your teen, and what to do if you’re affected by Marriott’s huge data breach.

Get to Know Your 401(k) Plan
Everything you need to know.

How I Ditched Debt: ‘We Have Choices Again’
One couple’s story.

Having ‘The Talk’ About College Costs With Your Teen
Keeping expectations in check.

What to Do If You’re Affected by Marriott’s Data Breach
Over 500,000,000 customers are affected.

The death knell for hotel rewards cards?

credit card detailed 1Rewards card ninjas have long loved hotel rewards cards because the associated loyalty programs tend to be a lot more generous and easy to use than airline cards.

That may be changing.

Brian Kelly at The Points Guy has an excellent series of posts on the coming changes in hotel rewards programs, and there’s not much good news. (You can start with his post “The State of Hotel Loyalty Programs: A Devaluation Story.”) Starwood and Marriott are diluting their programs, but some of the most dramatic changes are in the Hilton HHonors program, which will not only require more points for most stays but will upgrade a bunch of properties to higher, more expensive categories. Hotels like the Conrad Tokyo will go from 50,000 points per night to 80,000 to 95,000 points.

In a warning to hotel loyalty programs, Kelly says these changes could come back to haunt them:

As you hack away more and more of the value proposition, I think you’ll realize that consumers are actually pretty smart and will start shifting their spend towards chains that actually reward loyalty and not punish it. This may not come in the form of traditional points, but many boutique hotels offer far more enriching experiences with more amenities and at cheaper prices. This Hilton devaluation was so brazen that I do think it will hurt them dearly in the end when Amex and Citi cardholders reduce their spend or cancel their cards. In fact, if the impact is so negative, I could see those issuers coming after Hilton since there are likely clauses in the contracts that state that Hilton can’t materially change the program (since the credit card companies are buying millions of dollars worth of points that their cardholders can use at a later time and date). I’ll be complaining to both American Express and Citi about the Hilton changes and hope everyone else considers doing so as well if you don’t like the changes.

Even if you plan to stay loyal to your card, the program devaluations underscore what has always been true: you don’t want to hoard rewards. Earn ’em and burn ’em to make sure you get the most value.