Travel Tuesday: A Tale of Two (or Three) La Quintas

Last month, my wife and I set off on a road trip to California. A major reason why we choose to drive this time instead of fly was so that we could more easily travel with our dog, Rigby, who’s still getting used to life with us. With her in tow, we decided to not only make more overnight stops than we usually do (actually, we usually drive straight through) but would also aim to stay at La Quintas, since I’ve heard the brand tends to be pet-friendly. That part I knew — but what I didn’t realize was how different two properties under the same brand banner could be.

In total, we actually ended up staying at three southwestern La Quintas on this trip, so I thought I’d take a look at how these three locations varied and which I ultimately thought was the best.

Reviewing Three La Quinta Hotel Rooms in the Southwest

La Quinta Albuquerque Airport

Knowing that Albuquerque was about halfway between Springfield and Los Angeles, the city was the first spot I planned to stop at. Looking on the Wyndham app, I found that there were three or so La Quinta locations in the area. In fact, I initially booked a room at one that was a bit closer to the I-40. However, after stumbling upon the review section for that property, I decided to change course and opted for this property near the airport instead. While the price was about the same and there were still some not-so-great reviews, they were certainly a step up from the others I read. In all, our weekday stay cost $84.82 after tax.

To me, this location was exactly what I expected from a motel. Specifically, in my mind at least, the difference between a hotel and a motel is that the latter lacks interior hallways and has room doors that open directly to the outside. I don’t know if that’s technically the definition point, but I’m going to roll with it for now.

One thing I liked about this property is that there was plenty of parking. Furthermore, we were able to get a spot right in front of our room. Now’s also a good time to mention that the exterior lighting on the property was very bright, which made it feel safe.

As for the room, it was a bit larger than I expected. However, the beds were slightly smaller than normal as they were double beds instead of queens. This wasn’t really a big deal for us but it struck me as a bit odd. The room included a pretty sizable mini-fridge, a microwave, and a table with two chairs — all of which made it easy to eat in the room. On top of that, there was a Fuddrucker in the parking lot that we decided to try for dinner. Alternatively, there was also a nearby Little Caesars that was easily within walking distance along with a Waffle House and a few other venues.

While the age of the room was apparent, I still found the room to be comfortable. One exception to that might be the A/C. While the wall unit did manage to keep the room cool, it would run constantly, only stopping for a few seconds before kicking back up.

All in all, this motel La Quinta fit the bill for us as we just needed a place to sleep for a few hours. Plus, there was a pet area right next to our room, which made it easy to take Rigby out. Spoiler alert: this location didn’t end up being my favorite, but I wouldn’t be too hesitant to stay there again under similar circumstances — especially given the price.

La Quinta Kingman

After making the long drive to Albuquerque on Labor Day, we decided to split the rest of the drive up even more. This resulted in us stopping in Kingman, Arizona for a night. Since we left super early in the morning and the drive to Kingman was “only” seven hours or so, we arrived at the La Quinta before check-in was available. To be sure, this absolutely wasn’t their fault, but it was a bit inconvenient for us as 1) we had work to do and 2) it was over 100 degrees and 3) we had the dog with us. Luckily, after grabbing some lunch and returning to set up shop in the lobby, the super-nice team member at the desk called me over as a room had become available.

First off, this La Quinta location was a lot different than the one we’d just left. Namely, this was more of a “hotel” style, with no exterior entrances to the rooms. This one also had an indoor pool, fitness center, and more. Speaking to the front desk agent, this is apparently the style of La Quinta that Whyndahm is now pushing.

Starting with the positive, this room was definitely a step up from our other one. That’s partially because we were upgraded at the desk (I do technically have Wyndham Diamond status, after all). When we walked in, we were surprised to find a whole kitchen area, complete with a sink, drawers, and cabinetry. Of course, these were mostly empty as the hotel did not provide any flatware or other dining essentials — and I didn’t see whether such things might be available upon request. Even without that functionality, this area made the room feel homier right away.

I was also a fan of the rest of the room’s design, including Route 66 photos, a dark blue accent wall, and a pretty nice-looking bathroom. As far as functionality goes, I loved that there was a proper desk in the room. Plus, the power was plentiful, including a pass-through plug for the alarm clock that allows you to still plug in a different device without having to unplug the clock.

There was also plenty of food to be found within a short walk of the property. Personally, we opted for the nearby Chipotle for lunch and the Five Guys next door for dinner. As for breakfast, we were able to grab a few items from the complimentary options before setting off to our next destination.

Turning to downsides, unfortunately, all of the rooms on the first floor were booked, so we had to walk Rigby downstairs to go out. This wasn’t a big deal, but we definitely would have preferred a ground-floor room. Speaking of the ground, our midwest dog was not prepared for the southwest terrain and was confused by the lack of grass. Luckily for us, she did learn to use the rock and red sand, but there was certainly a learning curve. The other downside was, once again, the A/C. This unit was identical to the one in Albuquerque and had similar results. Granted, this one had a harder job to do given the temperatures, but it didn’t make it any less annoying.

Finally, the biggest downside here was the price. After taxes, our one-night stay came to $167.37 — or double what our Albaqurue room cost. Was it twice as nice? Even though it was definitely an improvement, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that price was worth it. Still, this one ended up being my wife’s top pick of the three.

La Quinta Tucumcari

Finally, for our drive home, I thought we’d take one super long day to drive as far as reasonably possible and then complete the rest the following day. So, after consulting the Wyndham app’s road trip planner, I decided to try a La Quinta in Tucumcari, New Mexico — which is a couple of hours west of Albuquerque.

Like the Kingman location, this La Quinta was another all-interior room door one, which I’ll go ahead and call a “hotel.” Arriving late, we had no issue checking into our room. Even more conveniently, we were on the first floor, just steps from the lobby. I thought this might be a bit annoying given the proximity to the elevator, but it turned out not to be a problem.

Similar to the Tru by Hilton we recently stayed at in Wichita, the first thing we noticed in the room was the high ceiling. I have to imagine this was just a first-floor thing, but I loved it. I also really liked the deep red wall by the bed, the desk, the sitting chair in the corner, the mini fridge and microwave — which had their own furniture piece instead of just being stacked on each other like in Albuquerque — and more. I also want to give a shout-out to the floor-length mirror that actually opens to reveal a closet with an iron, ironing board, and hangers. As for the bathroom, it wasn’t quite as nice as the Kingman location, but I still liked it.

Outfront, there was indeed a patch of grass that our dog absolutely appreciated. We were also only a few steps from a McDonald’s, so we mobile-ordered some dinner. This was also the only king bed we had on the trip, which, while unnecessary, is also nice.

In terms of drawbacks, in a surprise to absolutely no one, the same A/C was once again at play. Of course, at this point, I’d pretty much become accustomed to it. The only other downside as I saw it was the price. At $148.43, it was a bit cheaper than Kingman but still more than Albuquerque. Despite that, I’d say that this one was my favorite of the three — although I can’t quite tell you why. Part of it might be that this location made me realize that I might have been going about my road trips the wrong way. Rather than looking for motels in major metros like Albuquerque, perhaps we should aim for locations in decent-sized cities like Tucumcari or even Kingman (although the latter was shockingly packed and pricey). In any case, if we were to head this route again, I’d at least stay here on the return and skip Albuquerque altogether.

To my surprise, the La Quinta brand is pretty diverse in terms of the types of properties it offers. The good news is that each was dog friendly, which was hugely helpful for this inaugural road trip with Rigby. Overall, what I’d recommend if you’re looking at a similar situation is to use the Wyndham app to find the best locations in the best cities, compare prices, and look at the reviews! While there will always be those who complain just to complain, there may be some actually helpful information in there.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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