I just returned from a vacation that took my family of four from Memphis, to Chicago and finally, to Washington, D.C.. Before we left, I spent hours on this very computer, searching Tripadvisor, Travel Forums and hotel websites for the perfect spot for us to stay. I wanted something nice, but not too expensive. I wanted it to be extremely clean and well maintained, of course. And, I wanted all this for a deal. The first night, in Memphis, we satyed in a hotel I booked on Priceline. I got a great deal, $65. But, I was really disappointed in the hotel. It almost ruined my vacation mood. Although it was a 3 diamond, which I thought would be perfectly nice for a one night stay, it was drab. The employees were nice enough. It was adequately cleaned, but it’s decor almost gave me the creeps. It’s funny how little things can convey a feeling, one way ot another. As we walked to Beale Street, I found myself wishing I’d boooked a different hotel, despite the great rate. By the way, it was lauded on Tripadvisor as,”Great”! In Chicago, I first used Priceline again, requesting a hotel near the Art Institute, Downtown. I was awarded a hotel for $100/ night, but it wasn’t Downtown as they promised. This was sneaky. After 45 minutes on the phone with their customer service people, they grudging agreed to refund my money, but only if I booked another hotel with them in Chicago. So they had pulled a bait and switch, awarding my bid for a Downtown hotel, but giving me a hotel in a different area than promised. Hmmmm. I booked another hotel in Chicago, not through Priceline. It was really nice. It wasn’t $300 nice, which is what you pay in Chicago, downtown. But, I had to pay for internet, parking, $8 sparkling water, breakfast would have been $25 per person. In Washington, D.C., we stayed at the Omni Shoreham. We stayed here in the past and my children loved it, mostly because they brought milk and cookies, we’d been upgraded to a suite with a separate living room, two televisions and it had a great pool, with a nice bar. It was a historic hotel; lots of character.So we had to stay here. This time we didn’t get upgraded and there were no milk and cookies? But, I don’t regret this because the hotel is beautiful, very clean, aesthetically pleasing, fresh flowers, custom bed covers, etc. The bathrooms were really nice and the service by the pool was wonderful. Although there was one front desk clerk who could use a little training in hospitality, but the other staff more than made up for her almost rude indifference. We were happy enough and we were able to take the metro to any place we imagined in the area, from the Smithsonian to Alexandria, Va.. As we traveled across Illinois and Virginia, I cam to realize that what I was seeking in these hotels is the very thing an inn has to offer. An inn is most often, a special place where you will find everything that is missing in the hotel experience; great food, service and beautiful fresh flowers. Our coffee is actually good, (we have it roasted by a local roaster; Fountain City Coffee)! Our rooms are super clean and they are gorgeous. They have character. They are all different, all custom drapes and bed linens. We have real art. Art that could be in a museum, (www.garrypound.com). And we have breakfast like you’ve never tasted. And it’s FREE! Even our internet is free and our parking. You even get turndown and your very own fresh flowers for your room. And, we are only 8 minutes to Ft. Benning, walking distance to the Riverwalk and the Columbus State University Downtown Campus, the Rivercenter and Springer Opera House are three blocks away. The point is, why stay in a predictable hotel chain, that may or may not be up to par, when you can stay at an inn, a place with heart? After all, where else are you going to eat, “The World’s Best Pancakes”?