When traveling on a shoestring budget – like we did during research last fall – you generally aim for the cheapest accommodations you can get. In our case, we are talking about those cheap and seemingly endless motel chains that cover all of the United States. In fact, our budget for the whole trip was so small, we even had to go with the cheapest of the cheap. No exceptions.
Our first stay was in Newark, NJ, close to the airport. Our plane came in late at night, and we couldn’t get our rental car before the next morning. The hotel we had booked offered a free shuttle service from and to the airport. And so we were waiting with many others at the shuttle area to get picked up. Shuttle busses were constantly coming and going: Imagine brand new vans from Mariott and Hilton, from Best Western and Holiday Inn, painted in the respective colors of their hotels, dropping of travelers and picking up new ones. Drivers helped carrying luggage, loading and unloading. We kept waiting. And slowly began doubting if there was ever going to arrive a shuttle service for us, too.
Well, no reason for a doubt. Just a little more waiting, and an old Dodge van turned into the shuttle area. The Dodge’s color would have been grey, if it wasn’t for all the rust. This van was so dented you could only guess that it took part in Monster Truck Shows in its free time. Not as Monster, apparently. In the windshield was a piece of paper that read Howard Johnson Hotel. That’s our ride! I don’t have to mention that the driver was just a driver, no porter. And as if we needed another confirmation we kept looking for other travelers that needed a shuttle to Howard Johnson Hotel. But we were the only ones. After all, the hotel itself was absolutely sufficient. Our room was right in the middle of the airport approach path and next to the Interstate that went into Manhattan, but we were far too tired to even think about it.