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When traveling on business, you usually don't spend much time in your hotel room. Even so, you want to have a comfortable place to sleep, shower, and work. With so many hotel chains from which to choose, and so little time to research your options, finding a sweet place to crash is a challenge.
Here, then, is a guide to the best U.S. hotel chains, based on recent surveys conducted by Consumer Reports (online subscription required) and J.D. Power & Associates. The CR survey ranked hotels using an overall reader score from 1 to 100, with 100 the top. JDP rated the hotel chains from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 the best.
The two surveys categorized hotels differently. CR listed hotels as Fanciest, Luxury, Upscale, Moderate, and Budget. JDP categories were Luxury, Upscale, Mid-Scale Full Service, Mid-Scale Limited Service, Economy/Budget, and Extended Stay. To simplify things for this article, I've combined comparable categories from both studies.
Most of these chains offer amenities for business travelers, including in-room broadband Internet access, fax service, and copying machines. For tips on finding the best business-class hotels, see an earlier column, "Hotel Tips for Business Trips."
Not surprisingly, the Ritz-Carlton ranked highest in both surveys. The CR score was 89; JDP gave it 5 stars. Be aware, however, that Ritz-Carlton hotels rarely offer in-room wireless Internet access, according to HotelChatter. And that Internet access often requires an additional fee, which is the case with many luxury properties.
Worth noting: W hotels earned 2 stars in the JDP survey in the luxury category. (The W brand, owned by Starwood, wasn't included in the CR survey.) Though designed to be hip, the W chain has been slow to roll out in-room wireless connectivity, though it's often offered in W lobbies.
Embassy Suites (CR score 83; JDP, 5 stars) and Renaissance (CR: 84, JDP: 5 stars) did well in both surveys.
Among chains in this category earning just 2 stars in the JDP survey were Sheraton and Wyndham. Both received only average scores in the CR survey, too, at 78 and 77, respectively.
Drury Inn & Suites earned high marks in both surveys (CR: 84; JDP: 5 stars). Other high-ranking chains in both included Hilton Garden Inn (CR: 83; JDP: 5 stars) and Hampton Inn (CR: 83; JDP: 5 stars)
Chains earning the lowest marks in this category, in both surveys, included Ramada (CR: 64; JDP: 2 stars) and Howard Johnson (CR: 59; JDP: 3 stars).
Microtel Inns & Suites came out on top of both surveys in this category (CR: 75; JDP: 5 stars), with Econo Lodge (CR: 66; JDP: 2 stars) dragging up the rear.
Homewood Suites ranked tops in this category in the JDP survey (5 stars; CR score: 87). Homewood Suites earned excellent scores from CR for value and fewest complaints. (But don't confuse it with Homestead Studio Suites, which earned just 2 stars from JDP and wasn't included in the CR survey.)
Extended Stay America earned an okay score from CR but only 2 stars from JDP.
Don't Forget B&Bs
You might want to consider a bed and breakfast for your next business trip. A survey conducted by BedandBreakfast.com found that most U.S. B&Bs offer business amenities, including free Wi-Fi, fax service and corporate rates.
The top ten urban B&Bs for business travelers, according to BedandBreakfast.com, include the Boston Yacht Haven (Boston); Oge House Inn on the Boardwalk (San Antonio); Butler House on Grand (Des Moines); Royal Elizabeth B&B (Tucson); and Union Street Inn (San Francisco).
For More Information
Watch the video "Wireless Routers for the Road" for useful information about portable routers that can turn your hotel room's wired Internet access into a wireless network.
Find the latest prices for the Linksys Wireless-G Travel Router.
Have you ever seen a business traveler have a meltdown in a hotel lobby? If not, take a look at this equally appalling and funny video.
Read these PC World stories for more tips:
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Laptops of Luxury: Laptops are bigger and more feature-packed than ever. Recently, we tested six portable powerhouses to see which ones are best buys. The results may surprise you: For example, the fastest Windows notebook in our roundup was a Mac.
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Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I've missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it. However, I regret that I'm unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.
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