If you’re thinking about staying at a lodge in or around a national park or national forest, there are a few things you might want to consider beforehand.
These are things that can help make your trip a little bit smoother and help you to avoid disappointment.
Note that this article is focused on rustic lodges and not ski lodges, which are sort of a different breed.
Know what you’re getting into
Lodges can come in many different forms when it comes to amenities offered.
Also, sometimes a single lodge can offer a wide range of room types including some that are a bit primitive. For example, you could be sharing showers or you could have your own private bathroom.
So when booking a lodge make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into especially if that lodge has a variety of cabins.
If the price seems too good to be true it probably is!
Make the right bed decision
Lodges may offer you familiar hotel room types like twin, double, queen, and king beds but the experience is not always what you might be used to.
For one, lodges don’t always have the most comfortable types of mattresses and bedding. You also might be dealing with bunkbeds, pull out mattresses, etc.
It’s also not uncommon for the sizes of these beds to be smaller than what you are used to. For example, I’ve seen queen beds at lodges that fell a few inches short of the standard bed dimensions.
So if you are someone who likes to have your space when sleeping, try to max out the size of your bed when choosing your room at a lodge. Err on the side of going too big.
Remind yourself what you’re paying for
Before you book a lodge, you should really take some time to think about what it is you’re paying for.
This will help set your expectations appropriately.
I’ve stayed at lodges going for twice the amount of nice four-star hotels in large cities despite those lodges offering amenities that are not even close to what I would find at those city hotels.
So what was I paying for?
Usually, it was all about the location.
Expect to pay a premium for lodges located inside national parks or other areas with limited lodging, such as in the mountains.
If you head to one of these lodges during peak season, you may experience some sticker shock which can be difficult to swallow once you arrive to your room and realize how basic your set up is.
But if you’ve already decided that paying a premium for the location is worth it, you can avoid this disappointment.
What’s more, try to plan something that utilizes the location so that you get your full money’s worth.
For example, if you’re staying inside of a national park make plans to head out extra early for a hike and take advantage of the solitude that comes from hiking on an empty trail that’s normally home to hundreds of tourists.
Not the best places to work
Unlike traditional hotels, where you can take advantage of high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the entire property including your room, you won’t always get that at a lodge.
Sometimes the Wi-Fi is limited to the lobby area and other times it may even be borderline nonexistent.
And if you’re headed to somewhere remote like a small town in southeast Alaska, you may not even have cell phone service.
So if you plan on getting work done during your lodge stay you might want to adjust your expected production output.
Or better yet, consider changing your focus.
Perhaps it could be a good time to take a break from technology for a while and give yourself some rest from your work?
Be prepared for spotty customer service
Over the phone customer service can be very hit or miss for lodges.
For one, a lot of lodges are not associated with a nationwide program that offers 24-hour customer service.
Not only may the hours be limited, but the staff also could be limited so that it becomes difficult to get things done over the phone.
Wait times can be very long (assuming you even get someone to pick up the phone). Some lodges may not even have an official front desk.
And if you send an email, you may have to wait several business days to get a response.
With that said, I’ve found a lot of the staff that works at lodges to be very passionate about where they are.
For example, you might be dealing with summer interns who are enjoying their summers day and basically always in a good mood.
So while the customer service might be lacking when you are away from the property, once you get there it can actually be a great experience.
So try not to be turned off by sub-par customer service before you arrive. Chances are, the people you will be dealing with face-to-face will be great.
Plan out your dining
One thing that might surprise you about lodges is that they can really deliver the goods when it comes to the dining experience.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised on numerous occasions by the quality of food at the different lodges we’ve stayed at.
But note a couple of things.
Because of the limited dining options, reservations are often needed at lodges. Also, sometimes they don’t offer dining service for every meal.
For these reasons, you want to plan out your lodge dining ahead of time and plan your activities around those dining times.
It’s also really helpful to contact the lodge about what kind of food offerings they may have in their gift shop or “market” because you may need to rely on them to get by.
Think twice about pet rooms or come prepared
I’ve stayed in a lot of dog friendly hotels and on occasion you might deal with a slight odor but when it comes to lodges, that odor can be on another level.
That’s because a lot of people visiting lodges are also exploring the great outdoors with their pets.
That means dirtier animals going in and out of the room more often, jumping on the couches, rolling around on the bed, etc.
One of my last lodge visits was in a pet friendly room and I have to say that it was one of the worst smells I’ve had to deal with while lodging in a while.
So if you are somebody bothered by strong odors, consider bringing something that might be able to freshen up the room.
Staying in lodges is a lot of fun because they can offer you a rustic experience and amazing location that a standard hotel just can’t normally do.
But it’s best to be ready for a slightly different experience and to adjust your expectations accordingly.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.