While Kathy and I often stay in campgrounds during extended periods of travel, we also spend our fair share of time in motels and hotels. Some of these Motels/Hotels are absolutely fantastic. I have fond memories of the Hyatt Place in North Charleston and the Fairfield Inn and Suites outside Salt Lake City.

Unfortunately, not all Motels are up to snuff. With the advent of smartphones it’s easy to check hotel ratings and pricing beforehand, which is very helpful, but sometimes the ratings don’t tell the whole story, which is why I recommend that you always check the room before you pay.

This is especially true when your motel options are unexpectedly limited. When driving long stretches of the country, it’s difficult to preplan everything. On several occasions we’ve hit our ‘too tired to drive any more’ point, and started looking for a hotel, only to find that there’s a festival or event in the area and every hotel and motel for 50 miles in every direction is booked except for one. My list below comes from my experiences with those hotels.

And so it is that in learning from my mistakes I’ve come up with these 9 Motel Dealbreakers inspired by Jeff Foxworthy’s ‘You Might Be a Redneck’:

#1 – If the entire outside of the motel is covered in large black beetles (outside San Antonio), you may want to look for another motel.

#2 – If the motel deals with the bug problem by assigning each room its own tarantula, you may want to look for another motel.

#3 – If the motel staff’s idea of cleaning the room is spraying every surface with something that looks like coffee or dried blood, you may want to look for another motel.

#4 – If your room’s door can be unlocked by shaking it from the outside, it’s time to look for another motel.

#5 – If your sheets, blankets and pillowcases all contain cigarette burns and scary stains, it’s probably time to look for another motel.

#6 – If the motel proprietor’s idea of a lobby is a slot in the door of their room, it’s probably time to look for another motel.

#7 – If the motel is still advertising color TV as a feature, it’s definitely time to look for another motel.

#8 – If the motel charges by the hour instead of by the night, leave without checking the room!

#9 – Finally, If you pull back the blankets on the bed (which I highly recommend BEFORE you pay) and find that the bed is already ‘occupied’ by earwigs, beetles, or ants, politely hand the key back to the manager and RUN!

So what should you do if your only option is a sketchy motel? If you have camping equipment with you (we always do), you can treat the room as a clean campground. I’ve gone so far as placing my camping air mattresses on the floor and sleeping in sleeping bags.

Alternatively you can find the nearest rest area and take a 20 minute nap. I recommend parking in a well lit area for safety, and don’t stay too long. Even when I’m really tired, 20 minutes of sleep makes a huge difference. After that I can usually push on another 50 miles and find a decent motel.

I’ll add a disclaimer – Don’t drive when you’re tired! It’s very dangerous. I recommend looking for a room as soon as you start to feel tired – don’t wait until you’re nodding off.

I hope you found my list entertaining. Good luck with any motel room you choose and happy travels!


Hi, I'm Rich - Perpetual traveler, photographer, writer, and web designer. Thanks for reading, and happy trekking!