Travelodge vs Premier Inn: Which UK budget hotel chain is better?

Here is my personal opinion on the “Travelodge versus Premier Inn, Which is Better?” debate.  I made my evaluation by looking at four criteria; price, room quality and amenities, customer service and location.

Travelodge Edinburgh Central

Background

In December 2007 I wrote a post entitled “Which is the best UK budget hotel chain?” where I came to the conclusion that Travelodge was tops for me, mainly based on their availability of cheap rooms.  Now that I’ve finally stayed in four Premier Inns (albeit it being on a complimentary basis during my Summer 2010 Scotland Blog Tour), I thought it was time for a comparison between Travelodge and Premier Inn.

Premier Inn Elgin

Price

I’ve managed to book many really cheap Travelodge rooms, from as little as £9 a night in their promotions.  However I’ve noticed that it’s getting harder to find the really cheap rooms in the Travelodge sales, the £9 rooms often sell out within a couple of days and it can be hard to actually book the cheap rooms as the site keeps crashing.  But there is generally some availability of £19 and £29 Saver rooms midweek in low season. I observed that Premier Inn now advertise rooms from £29 a night, so I have looked at their site several times in the last year but haven’t been able to find any £29 rooms at locations and/or dates that were suitable to me.

I’ve always found the lowest prices for Travelodge and Premier Inn to be available on their own sites, as opposed to on hotel price comparison sites.  However, unless you can find a Travelodge or Premier Inn room at £29 or less, don’t assume that either will offer the lowest available price for your destination and dates.  I’ve found some fantastic prices at other chain and independent hotels using the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

I’d have to say that in my experience, Travelodge wins on the low price front.

Room Quality and Amenities

Premier Inn  promotes itself as a superior budget brand with the tagline “Everything’s premier but the price” but what do they mean by premier?  From the point of view of extras not found in Travelodges, premier means a bathmat, a hairdrier, a soap dispenser at the sink, a gel/shampoo dispenser by the bath and telephones in some rooms of some hotels.  Nothing earth-shattering so far then. As I never use a hair dryer and take my own toiletries with me and have a mobile phone, it’s only the bathmat that is useful to me. I have to say that the beds in the Premier Inns were all very comfy.   Whereas some of the Travelodge beds weren’t great and to make matters worse some like Edinburgh Cameron Toll have plastic mattress covers which makes pleasant sleep virtually impossible.  Premier Inn rooms seem to be larger than some of Travelodge rooms, especially when in newer Travelodges the double rooms can be pretty small and seem to be becoming very utilitarian.

Both brands make hefty charges for wifi access. Travelodge’s charges are £5 per hour or £10 for 24 hours, Premier Inn is £5 per hour or £12 for 24 hours.  I have an 02 mobile broadband contract, which allows up 3GB of data, for £15 a month.  This is much better value than paying these sorts of prices for hotel wifi and I get a decent signal in most parts of the UK.

However, there is a major problem with consistency of room quality with both brands.   I’ve stayed at some older Travelodges in need of a refurb such as Travelodge Stirling which had a mouldy bathroom ceiling but I had a fab room at Travelodge Harrogate.  I was allocated a sub standard room at Edinburgh Dreghorn Travelodge in November 2010 In my limited experience, there was also a great variation between some Premier Inns, with Premier Inn Elgin not living up to the premier tagline in terms of room quality but Premier Inn Stirling having newly refurbished rooms.  The brands really have to ensure that all rooms meet a minimum standard as one sub-standard hotel or even room can tarnish the whole brand in the customer’s eye.

Premier Inn offer a “Good night’s sleep guaranteed or your money back” whereby if you’re not entirely satisfied with your stay, you can ask for a full refund.  I’d be interested to hear if anyone has been able to claim this refund.

Premier Inn is the winner for quality of rooms, considering the generally high spec, the larger size of most rooms and the Good Night Guarantee.

Location

The Travelodge site states that they operate 380 hotels in the UK.  The Premier Inn site says 580 hotels in the UK and Ireland, I couldn’t find a figure just for the UK.  Desired location depends, to a large extent, on the purpose of the stay and the individual guest’s preferences e.g. if you just want a convenient location near a major route for an overnight stay, or are planning a cheap city break.

Travelodge Edinburgh West End

I stayed at Travelodge Falkirk which practically sits on the motorway, luckily I was able to change to a room at the other side of the hotel a bit further away from the traffic.  Travelodge Edinburgh West End sits in a fairly quiet location, next to the Water of Leith, a 15 minute walk from Princes Street, and offers free parking.  Premier Inn Aberdeen Central West is in a handy location just off the Aberdeen ring road with plenty of free parking, but then it’s a trail into the city centre for the nightlife.  Premier Inn Dundee Central is located right on the Tay Estuary, so you can even have a river view if get a room on that side of the hotel. There’s free parking, it’s just across from the railway station and a few minutes walk to Dundee attractions, shopping, restaurants and nightlife.

Premier Inn Dundee on the Tay Estuary

Now, you’d think you could judge a hotel location by a quick look at a map.  Well not always, it depends on the exact position of the hotel.  Travelodge Edinburgh Learmonth is set back off the main road in a terrace, but the rooms at the front of the hotel have beautiful large original windows which let in a lot of traffic noise.   The Premier Inn Aberdeen Central West is just off a very busy dual carriageway, but because it’s set back from the road and has decent double glazing I didn’t hear any traffic noise.

I’d advise you to look at the exact hotel location on a Google satellite map.  Of course there will still be differences between individual rooms with regard to views and noise.  If you can check in early, you have the best opportunity to ask for a room at your preferred side of the hotel.

I can’t come to a conclusion with regard to the better UK budget hotel chain for location.  Although Premier Inn do have more hotels, I can’t judge if they are in better locations than Travelodge. I think that’ll depend on which hotels exist in your destination, the type of stay and your personal preferences.

Customer Service

Overall I’ve found Travelodge staff to be pretty friendly and helpful.  However, I would say that Premier Inn staff seem to be more focused on the guest and on delivering good customer service.  I received a warm welcome and was told about the Good Night Guarantee at check in at each Premier Inn.  Whereas check in at some Travelodges has been pretty perfunctory.

In my opinion, Premier Inn offer better customer service than Travelodge.

My Conclusion

So it looks like Premier Inn comes tops as it’s the winner on two counts, room quality and amenities plus customer service, with Travelodge being better for low prices, and no firm conclusion on location. In many ways it’s realistic to expect lower Travelodge prices to equate to lower quality of rooms.  I’m actually beginning to wonder if Travelodge and Premier Inn are direct competitors.  I see Travelodge rooms becoming smaller and more basic in the newer lodges and in refurbs e.g rooms only having a shower as opposed to a bath with shower, window blinds instead of curtains, less desk space and plain white walls with no pictures. Whereas Premier Inn seem to be concentrating on positioning themselves as a superior budget brand.

To a large extent, which UK budget hotel brand brand is better depends on the individual hotel, the location, the price (which partly depends on how far in advance you book and/or if you book during a promotion) and the customer’s requirements and expectations.

Update January 2011

After managing to book £19 rooms at the Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith and Premier Inn Glenrothes for stays in January 2011, during a promotion in December 2010, it seems that the price gap between the two brands is closing.

Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith at Newhaven Harbour

Update October 2011 – Travelodge now offer free wifi in the Bar Cafes.

Update November 2011 – The breakfast served at Premier Inn is much better than the Travelodge breakfast, although prices are similar at around £8. At Premier Inn the hot items are cooked to order whereas at Travelodge it’s a hot buffet. The quality of food at Premier Inn is higher and there’s a better choice in the cold buffet.

Your Feedback

I’ve asked for feedback from other Travelodge and Premier Inn guests on Twitter and Facebook.  You can also leave your opinions on the Travelodge versus Premier Inn debate as a blog comment and/or take part in the poll below.

@eurapart on Twitter commented on the TwtPoll that “Premier Inn pip Travelodge, for locations, service and amenities.”

@markkcurtis on Twitter replied to my tweeting asking if anyone had successfully claimed under the Premier Inn Good Night Guarantee.  He received a refund after he voiced his dissatisfaction with a room at Premier Inn Luton.

Lynda Hamilton via Facebook “I’ve experienced similar (variations between the 2 brands) but Premier Inn has been better by far – even though I was pretty disappointed the last time. My last experience in Travelodge was a room stinking of smoke… and dog! There were dog hairs everywhere and …it really wasn’t that clean. The first time I stayed at Premier Inn, I ended up getting the room for free because my daughter’s bed was infested by ants that were coming through a crack in the wall. Other than that, it was great. However, the last time there, I found the room smelly and, again, not very clean. There was even something cream and sticky all over the door. I dread to think what that was. Staff at Premier were very friendly though and went out of their way to help – even bringing us drinks to our room.