Gas prices be darned. You finally got time to vacation, and you’re heading to New England. Trouble is, you’re not quite sure whether you should stay in a hotel/motel, a B&B inn or rent a vacation house. Here are some insights into the best lodging for your needs.
Because we don’t know your specific interests, or what presents itself as the best place for you to stay, we’ll plug some traditional variables into the equation, and that should help you narrow your choices.
If you’re single or a couple, before you read this, take a look at the many spas and resorts up here. They are designed as ultimate destressors, and offer all kinds of exquisite pampering services.
If you’re not interested in being pampered or you’re a family, read on.
Let’s start with your budget. Gas prices are a factor and may mean that the grand hotel you had in mind is now beyond your means, so we’ll say you can work with between $1,500 to $3,000.
Most people are convinced that the region’s ski season or spectacularly colored autumnal leaves are the biggest draw to New England, but they’re mistaken. Starting with Memorial Day and coasting through Labor Day, summer is when the most tourists flock to New England-even those who live inside the region.
But as the seasons change, so do the rates, and if you’re looking for lower rates in the summer, you may be in for some sticker shock. However, while you may pay higher hotel fees in summer, you don’t have to surrender your first born for lift tickets-unless your kids bug you to go a mountain and make ample use of the Alpine Slide and growing number of other rides at something like $19 per ride if you go to Vermont or New Hampshire.
Second, how long are you planning your stay? For most folks, five days is about the max. When you’ve been away that long, you need to take a vacation from your vacation. Let’s say we’ll choose five weekdays. The smart thing is to get away at a time when you’re nowhere near a holiday or weekend. There are myriad advantages to weekday getaways, especially for skiing if you decide to come up in the winter. You’ll have much shorter lift lines, more mountain to yourself and lower-priced lift tickets.
Third, how many people will be going with you? Let’s say three and a half: your husband, your daughter and son, aged eleven and thirteen respectively. The “half” part is next.
Are you planning on bringing any pets, a dog, cat, boa constrictor? Let’s say Mugs, your Chihuahua, will be making the trip. While there are many pet-friendly places to stay, pets usually aren’t welcome at many hotels unless it’s a no-tell motel that’ll rent you an 8-by-10-foot cabin for $49 a night per person and you can’t get the fold-up bed to stay up, so it becomes your table.
Fifth, is being close to a single mountain or attraction important, or will you be heading for the shore? Would you rather be near a lake? All of the New England states have wonderful ponds, lakes or beaches. If you like to play in the surf, Newport, Rhode Island has three beaches, each with a bit rougher surf. Vermont and New Hampshire have wonderful lakes. Lake Champlain in Vermont makes its way to the Hudson. And Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire is a prized vacation spot. Maine is loaded with gorgeous lakes and rivers, especially the Kennebec. Connecticut has wonderful shorelines and lakes. Massachusetts has some of the best surf up on Cape Cod.
No matter where you go, let’s figure out what accommodations are best for you.
Room rates at hotels and motels typically range from $159 a night to $349 a night. So it pays to do your homework, which is best done on the Web. If you’ve decided to go to Vermont, Stowe in the North is loaded with hotels, resorts and spas. In the southern part, the Stratton area is a great place to stay.
Hotels offer more amenities than do smaller lodging places, such as indoor pools and the like, and there’s usually that piece of chocolate on your pillow.
Many of the lodging entities cut deals with various ski resorts and summer charters to provide you with stay-and-ski or stay-and-play packages that can work well for you budget-wise.
These really run the gamut from being breathtakingly romantic and luxurious to being a spare room in someone’s house.
Rules. Some B&B innkeepers seem to busy themselves in the morning thinking up new ones. They love them. Some are uber strict-one in Vermont, for instance, demands that guests, “not sit on the bed.” Oh, okay so you sleep where, in that wonderful Shaker chair? How exactly does one get into bed without sitting on the edge? At this place, I guess you have to dive into bed.
While their prices are comparable to hotels and motels, you can find some great deals at B&B inns, and like hotels, many of them offer stay-and-play packages.
But… B&B inns are notorious for not allowing pets to stay unless it’s a dog-friendly inn, of which there is a growing number. Second, the thing about B&B getaways is that they are geared more toward romantically minded guests; those who bring that all-important shiny rock with which to pop the question. They’re also geared to those looking to destress in absolute silence.
The rooms are often frilly, but very nice and you want to find an inn with a nice host or hostess. You can tell the difference immediately when they pick up the phone. I don’t know of any B&B where the owner doesn’t answer the phone. If they scream, “What,” head for the next on the list.
The best thing to do is to tell an innkeeper that you will be bringing your son, daughter and Mugs along, and if they don’t growl or sputter on the other end of the line, that’s good news. While you get a room and breakfast (thus the name of these inns), some also serve dinner.
Some with larger dining rooms rent space to chefs who prepare marvelous delicacies for the discerning palate. BB&Ds are very rare, however, and you’re still on your own for lunch, but you can always get that $25 hamburger and $14 soda at the base lodge when you want a skiing break or to tear the kids away from the Alpine Slide.
In all seriousness, while there are many superb B&B getaway deals out there, they do tend to be geared more toward adults than they are to families because there’s one bed per room. They won’t turn you away, but it may not be the ideal place to stay for your son and daughter, who would have to sleep on roll-out cots or in another room-double the fare.
House or Condo Rental
Ignoring time shares for this article, that leaves us with renting a house or condo for the week. This a hybrid mix of a hotel and B&B, but with all kinds of room and total privacy. The owners often have rules posted, and you must be absolutely certain you obey them or no refrain next year.
You do have a whole house to yourself, you can eat without having to go out, you can sleep in if you want without some lady with a cart knocking on your door to make your bed.
There are really two kinds of rental housing: a house in the proximity of a ski area, or a condo right on the mountain or lake and beaches. If you’re not comfortable driving in snow, then a trailside condo will be your best choice if you’re here to ski.
During the spring (after mud season-you don’t want to visit Northern New England during mud season), you can drive anywhere and spend the bulk of your time sightseeing. Houses can also offer the best budget deals. In towns with a ski area, houses and condos start at about $150 per night depending on when you go-again, avoid holidays and weekends-and can charge as much as $500 a night depending upon where they are. Usually, the closer to a mountain they are, the more expensive they are if it’s a big house, but that’s not always the case with condos.
In the final analysis, doing a house or condo rental with all of your variables could be your best bet. At $150 a night, that’s $750 for five nights.
Here’s a good tip: When you first get into town, assuming you’re not exhausted from the drive, visit a local supermarket and get enough food for a week so you don’t have to drop a ton of dough at restaurants.
Most houses have not only TVs and cable or satellite, but VCRs and DVD players, as well, so your little guy and gal can bring some favorite tapes or DVDs along.
It’s not all perfect. Many of them insist that you to change the sheets on the beds and leave the house as neat as you found it. But if that’s all you have to do to enjoy some privacy, relaxation and do-what-you-want-when-you-want freedom, this is the way to go. Just make sure Mugs doesn’t leave his mark on the carpets.
Finally, if you like the house and would like to own your own as a vacation home, now that the housing bubble has exploded, prices have come way down from ridiculous peaks, so take a ride and look for “For Sale” signs. Take down the broker’s number at a house your like and give them a call. It may be the best vacation investment you’ll ever make, because when you’re not there, you can rent it out and have your guests pay the mortgage.