What Really Is The Difference Between A Hotel, Motel, And An Inn?

Choosing a place to stay when you go on vacation usually isn't that complicated, and unless you're traveling somewhere remote, you should have a lot of options. One of those options will be to choose between a hotel, motel, lodge, inn, and other types of establishments. Knowing what those words refer to specifically will help you make your decision because there is a real difference between most of those words. 

Appearance and Layout

Hotels and motels are the two big types of lodging, and they differ mainly in terms of layout. Hotels are generally enclosed buildings; there may be an outdoor courtyard, but you reach your room through an interior hallway. Hotels are also fairly large, though motel complexes can also be extensive. Motels have exterior hallways and usually have parking right outside the rooms, so you can walk straight from the room door to your car door.

Extent of Services

The services offered by hotels and motels overlap quite a bit, though hotels are more likely to have a dedicated concierge who can help guests hail taxis and find restaurants. Both types may have onsite restaurants, though motels may have them attached while hotels have them inside the main building. Hotels are also more likely to offer perks like drycleaning services.

Phone Costs -- Important!

Both hotels and motels have the option of charging you for local calls. However, motels are usually less likely to charge for local calls than hotels, though that can change since so many people have their own phones now with excellent calling plans and nationwide coverage.


Lodges are a special type of establishment. Any place can call itself a lodge, really, but the image that most people have is of a ski lodge, mountain lodge, or coastal forest lodge. Someplace where you need a cozy, warm room after being out in nature.


Inns are an odd animal. An inn used to be a place where you could get food, and bed and breakfasts are a type of inn. Yet the word "inn" is now also used as a form of marketing because sometimes "motel" doesn't sound so nice. Remember, motels were originally motor hotels, where motorists could rest for the night near a highway, so that isn't the most elegant word; it exudes practicality. Inns bring to mind someplace quaint, so many motels will use it instead of the word motel.

Wherever you choose to stay should fit your needs well. Remember how the different types of lodgings function, and you'll be able to make a more informed choice on where to stay in the vacation spot of your choice.