Growing up and studying American history, I always associated a road trip with roadside motels. A clean and welcoming Howard Johnson, or a motel in the shape of a teepee. It seems when traveling across the American Southeast, teepee motels are few and far between. But, there were a lot of other options of where to stay on an American road trip. We seemed to hit them all.
First, I will note that we started our trip in Florida and were lucky enough to stay with a series of friends for our first two weeks in the States. So, I thank them for their hospitality. But, chances are, you will not be staying with them.
Luxury Historic Hotel
For our one night in Mobile, Alabama, we wanted to stay in the center of town. We knew we would only have one dinner, and one more morning to explore Mobile. We wanted something in the middle of it all. We cashed in a free night certificate to stay at the Battle House Renaissance Mobile. This hotel is the perfect example of a luxury historic hotel. The lobby was beautiful, and we chatted with the staff and General Manager about the history of the hotel. The Battle House Renaissance was a perfect way to break out of the mold of typical chain hotels. And using points is a great way to save money on your roadtrip.
Rooms at the Battle House Renaissance start at $189 a night.
Historic Bed and Breakfast
In a similar line, during our last stop on our culinary road trip, we stayed at the John Rutledge House Inn in Charleston, South Carolina. A little less sumptuous than that hotel lobby in Mobile, but the bed and breakfast in the center of Charleston just exuded history. We stayed in the main manor house, facing the road, in a four poster bed, with a fireplace and antique furniture. During the late afternoon, we enjoyed a glass of sherry during tea time and chatted with other travelers. Although it’s also possible to have breakfast in the adorable courtyard, they delivered it to us in our room, making the stay feel even more luxurious.
Rooms at the John Rutledge House Inn start around $240, including breakfast.
From historic, centuries-old hotels, to a beach bungalow in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Front Beach Cottages are not exactly in front of the beach but are just around the corner from Front Beach in the quaint town of Ocean Springs. Each self-contained cottage is pastel in color, decorated with seaside touches, and includes a kitchenette, which is a great addition. It was quiet and comfortable, allowed us to explore all over the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and allowed us to take walks along the beach each morning.
Our Key West Cabana at Front Beach Cottages starts around $105 a night.
Boutique Chain Hotel
The words boutique and chain might at first glance to not fit together, but we stayed at two Hotel Indigo properties during our road trip. Hotel Indigo is part of the IHG group of hotels, one of the biggest loyalty programs out there. But, with Hotel Indigo they tried to bring a more boutique feel to properties at a value price point.
At the Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge, the recently renovated property once housed Governor Huey Long’s girlfriends, while he stayed in the historic hotel across the street. The girlfriends would be shuttled through underground tunnels to avoid the press. Now, that’s a story. Although we had some severe air conditioning problems with our room, they did their best to fix it. And, to compensate us for our troubles, they offered us some IHG points. So, we got a historic hotel, and points.
The Hotel Indigo properties are contemporary, with bright colors and white linens. The relatively new Hotel Indigo in Athens, Georgia, also came with a southern music theme. They regularly host local musicians to play in the bar. The restaurant downstairs offered cocktails out on a patio with a fire pit. And, much of the hotel was built using reclaimed wood from a South Carolina cotton mill. They will even set up a Taste of Athens package for guests.
Luxury Loft Apartment
While in Lafayette, Louisiana, we stayed in a crazy luxurious, recently renovated, loft apartment. I wish we knew more people in Lafayette because this apartment just screamed “rock star party.” We expected a simple studio or one bedroom at the Buchanan Lofts. But, when we arrived, they only had Loft 9 available. Loft 9 sleeps 5 people, is 2400 square feet, and is contemporary and swank.
Apartments at Buchanan Lofts start around $180 a night, with Loft 9 starting at $500 a night, or $2800 for a week.
We stayed in an Airbnb during our week in New Orleans. Anytime we are in a city longer than four or five nights, I prefer to rent an apartment. This is particularly important as we work when we travel. The extra space comes in handy. And, we can find apartments with kitchens, and most important, laundry machines. In this case, my sister and her (now) husband stayed with us a few nights. It made a lot more sense to rent an apartment, than two hotel rooms. It also gave us a living room to hang out in when we were not off exploring.
We also stayed in a lovingly restored Airbnb while visiting Macon, Georgia. Set in the old Woolworth Building on Cherry Street, the apartment was comfortable and well decorated. My only complaint was that it is an interior apartment, with no windows. I have trouble sleeping without windows. But, they offer a few other listings in the same building, with windows, so check them out.
If you’ve never stayed with Airbnb, it’s worth it to try them at least once. And, use this Airbnb link for a discount off your first stay. Rates are generally comparable to a hotel price but offer more value. The Macon Airbnb listing starts at $150 a night.
How To Choose Where to Stay on an American Road Trip
That old image of the roadside motel in the 1950s obviously still exists. But, for us, we wanted to stay somewhere with a little more character. And, most of these properties were centrally located, allowing us a chance to walk for dinner and drinks. That meant Eric didn’t always have to drive Biscuit, our Kia Optima. That also meant that for many of these hotels we needed to pay for parking. But, it was worth it. We enjoyed all of these places. We stayed at a few others that are not included, mostly because they just didn’t stand out, or didn’t offer any character.
As much as there were no roadside teepee motels, we stayed in some unique properties. We made some good decisions on where to stay on an American road trip. It made our road trip planning stress free!
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.