The most expensive (regularly-priced) Motel 6 in the country actually looks nice for a motel

What is it like to stay in the highest-priced Motel 6 in the nation at $426 a night in Santa Barbara?

My room, 220, had an ocean view, a surprise upgrade from the front desk clerk after I paid a $20 early check-in fee and tipped her for fixing an error in my reservation.

An orange sign on the wall says “Relax.” Two mints sit on opposite corners of the inspirational note card on the nightstand. “You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf,” reads the quote from mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn.

There’s a blue retro minifridge and a rain showerhead in the decent-size bathroom. The toiletries aren’t name-brand, but also aren’t standard budget-hotel issue with shampoo and conditioner in a single bottle.

The Serta pillowtop mattress is comfy enough, too. The hotel’s new owner disagrees and says he wants new mattresses.

This place still has some budget motel in its DNA. The Amana air conditioner in the room is so old-school, you can find YouTube hacks on how to keep the fan running. The tiny hair dryer is bolted to the wall. The bedspreads are flimsy, the walls thin. And a sign taped to the outdoor ice machine by the pool urges guests not to fill their coolers with ice, so there’s enough for everyone.

There are no coffee makers in the room but you can find free coffee and powdered creamer in the lobby each morning.

Patricia Dawes, a psychologist from Montreal, paid $1,600 including taxes for two rooms for two nights during a two-week road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles with her family in late July. It was almost as pricey as their weeklong stay at a Los Angeles Airbnb.

Ms. Dawes and her husband, Jaime Samayoa, had never stayed at Motel 6. (Nor had I, as best I can recall.)

“I never had a great feeling about it,” she says. “It always looked like off-the-side-of-the-road super sketch.”

The rooms were a tight squeeze with two beds in them, but the family came to love the place. They enjoyed the proximity to the beach, ocean views from the pool, Adirondack chairs on the small deck above the pool and the retro décor.

“I’m pleasantly surprised, I have to say,” she says.

Not bad for a place where you’re a few steps from the beach in Santa Barbara. The room looks pretty cool, at least from the pics.

Travel writer finds that living out of a van on the open road wasn’t as free-wheeling or fun as it’s made out to be

Travel writer Erin Clark was tired of living in a cramped apartment with roommates. She thought she found the answer to her problems:

When you search “van life” on social media, you’ll see aesthetically pleasing interiors and pristine couches without a cushion out of place.

Inspired by these photos, I decorated my camper in a tan-and-teal color scheme and decked it out with flax-linen bedsheets, bamboo memory-foam pillows, and a set of rose-gold cutlery.

Clark discovered that van life isn’t all its made out to be:

I thought having my home, office, and vehicle expenses all bundled together would be cost-efficient. It wasn’t.

Because my laptop battery was limited and I wasn’t willing to go very long without a shower, I stayed at campgrounds during the week, which charged between $15 NZD (around $10) and $25 NZD (around $15) per night. And a full tank of gas cost roughly $200 NZD (around $125).

So in one month, I spent $784.85 NZD (around $490) on gas and accommodations. For comparison, my rent in Auckland was $848 NZD ($528) per month.

Other than going on weekend hikes, van life wasn’t particularly healthy. My home on wheels didn’t have a refrigerator, so storing fresh fruit and vegetables was a pipe dream.

Plus, the idea of doing dishes in the tiny sink, which had a manual pump, was enough to dissuade me from cooking. Instead, I stopped by supermarkets every couple of days to buy easy-to-prepare foods, like sandwiches and crackers.

I also ambitiously packed a yoga mat in my van, but I didn’t unroll it once. Rather, I resigned myself to an achy neck from hours of driving and contorting myself around my laptop.

The main lesson here seems to be that if you desire to live happily on the open road, you probably need to make it a bare bones pleasure-only adventure with little to no work. Either that or you need something larger than a camper van. And it can cost a lot of money to do it in a glamping, connected-to-the-grid sort of way.

In other words, you probably need to be upper middle class or higher.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Erin Clark’s travel van never looked as hip or pristine as the ones she saw in promotional videos. (Photo: Petrina Darrah)