Home Hotels The Interesting Differences Between Motels and Hotels

The Interesting Differences Between Motels and Hotels

by SharonKurheg

If you travel a lot, the things you know that have to do with traveling come like second nature. If you don’t travel a lot, there’s a definite learning curve.

Some other bloggers tend to focus more on info for people who know and understand travel as much as they do, but we try to mix things up a little. So whereas you might see a post from us that reviews a credit card that can get you 60,000 frequent flyer miles in one post, the next post might be about the complaining business class customer who got exactly what was coming to him. And the one after that might be something especially for newbies, like:

This topic – the interesting difference between hotels and motels – might seem more like a “newbie” topic but I suspect there’s some info that even the most seasoned traveler might have known.


There have been places for people to stay, for payment, for centuries. Facilities offering guests hospitality have been in evidence since early biblical times and in the early 8th century, the first two hotels in the world were registered, both in Japan. They were called ryokans.

Since then, more and more inns were registered around the world. Generally family-owned, they were usually for travelers to spend the night.

The word “hotel” dates back to the 17th century and originally comes from a French word: hôtel (yeah, sometimes they’re no brainers LOL). Like the English one we’re familiar with today, that word referred to a place that provides lodging, meals, entertainment, and other services to travelers.

On the other hand, Motels are a much more recent lodging option and are very much a “United States and Canada” entity. The word “motel” dates back to the 1920s and combines the words “hotel” and “motor.” As the country’s major highway system developed, so did motels. They filled the need for one-night roadside stops for motorists who were traveling cross-country.

The difference nowadays

Although both hotels and motels have the same basic use – to house visitors for X number of nights – there are still lots of differences between the two:

Physical Layout

Hotels usually have lobbies and rooms can be accessed via hallways, oftentimes in buildings that are several stories high.

Motels usually have a check-in building and rooms are usually accessible directly from the parking lot. It may only be one story high, but it is sometimes two or very occasionally three. But it may or may not have an elevator.


Hotels are generally meant for longer stays and therefore tend to have more amenities. Lounges. A gym and/or spa. A full-service restaurant. Entertainment. Room service. The swimming pool may be indoors. Maybe free continental breakfast.

Motels are more often used for just a night or two. They usually have a small, basic pool outside and perhaps washing machines to do laundry, but other amenities may be scarce. If they offer free breakfast, it’s usually the bare minimum.


Hotels might have doormen, elevator operators, receptionists, concierges, bell services, housekeepers, parking valets, and onsite maintenance workers, along with a full array of restaurant staff. A manager (or more than one of them), might be on duty to supervise employees and help resolve problems.

Motels have many fewer employees – usually receptionists and housekeepers. And for some motels, those two jobs might be done by the same person. Third-party employees might do maintenance.


Hotels are more often found in cities, near tourist destinations, and where many things are happening. Public transportation options might be nearby.

Motels are more often on the side of major roads and highways, sometimes in the middle of not much, but on the way to popular destinations 😉


Because they have more to offer (including the number of employees) and are usually in more urban areas (and therefore pay higher rent), hotels invariably cost more motels.

Which is better?

Like many things, staying at a hotel vs. a motel is very much a Your Mileage May Vary situation. You get what you pay for, so if you’re willing and able to pay more for a hotel, you’ll get a more luxurious experience. On the other hand, depending on your location, you may not have much of a choice. For example, there are no motels in Manhattan, and if you’re getting off Interstate 80 in the middle of a small town in the mid-west, you may not have any choice but to stay at a motel.

It all depends on what you’re interested in paying, and what’s available.

Feature Photo: Omni Nashville / Motel 6

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


derek August 17, 2021 - 6:52 pm

As a kid, I learned that motel originates from motor hotel. The main difference is that motels have parking and are designed for guest that come in cars. The corridor being on the outside is a common design but is not a deciding factor of whether a place is a motel or a hotel.

What is a notel (or is it a notell or a notell motel)? Is that where the guests are having sex with someone other than a spouse and hiding it from somebody that is supposed to be close to them? I once stayed at a notel that had porn playing. It was not because I was kinky but because it was dark and snowing hard, with poor visibility, and I had to either stop for the night or possibly die from a car accident. My hands were gripping the steering wheel so tight.

Sodalin Yorn August 18, 2021 - 4:57 am

In my point of view, I always consider hotel is advance and provide something more than just a stay while motel is basically just for a stay.


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