A Comprehensive Guide to Hotel Star Ratings

Accommodations are a huge factor when booking vacations. But too often, travelers focus on price rather than the hotel star ratings. With all things being equal, does the star rating matter?

Yes, it does if you have certain expectations on rooms, amenities, and location. Also, note that a low hotel rating doesn’t mean guests are dissatisfied or have poor experiences. Nor does it refer to the quality of the bed, cleanliness, and security.

For this reason, you might find a 2-star property given 4 or 5-star ratings by a guest because of great service. Alternatively, you may find a 5-star property rated 1 or 2 stars due to bad customer service.

Prices tend to increase as the hotel star ratings increase because you are spending extra dollars for extra conveniences (like an in-room fridge, or gym equipment).

At a minimum, you should expect the following at any star hotel — room cleaning service, soap, towels, tv, electrical outlets, lights and lamps, pillows and blankets, and basic security.

What is a Hotel Star Rating

Hotel star ratings is a method of classifying properties in the hospitality and tourism industry. The hotel classifications differ in subtle ways that may not be apparent at first glance. However, the hotel star ratings system provides a standardized way to assess hotels based on their quality and amenities.

Here is a guide for understanding the hotel stars ratings, hotel pricing, and the brands of hotels you can expect in each hotel classification. Comparing properties in the same classification, or star rating, is the best way to know you are getting a good hotel deal.

What is a 1-Star Hotel

single twin bed

When planning a trip, it’s important to consider the hotel star ratings to ensure your expectations align with the level of service and comfort provided.

A one-star hotel is in the family of budget hotels. The rooms are inexpensive and the traveler’s needs are quite basic. These types of hotels are typically not a chain but rather a business owned by an individual.

A room in a one-star hotel must have at least 120 square feet in the room, a bed, sufficient lighting, a wardrobe (clothes storage) with three hangers, and bed and bath linens.

The rooms are modest and contain a bed and bathroom. There are no restaurants on-site, but there may be one within walking distance of the hotel. In short, it’s just enough to lay your head down.

What is a 2-Star Hotel

A two-star hotel has the same requirements as a one-star hotel. In addition, it will have an attached bathroom with a minimum of 30 sf with water-based facilities (tub and/or shower, sink, toilet).

You may have a few amenities like access to an ice machine, an iron, and an ironing board.

Brands in this and lower categories will be hostels, motels, or properties not in a chain, but you will find a few like Motel 6, Days Inn, Super 8, and Travelodge. And it is a great way to cut down on your travel expenses.

What is a 3-Star Hotel

On 3-star properties, the quality of the furniture and linens are relatively nicer, the bathrooms are slightly larger, and you’ll find more amenities like a pool, free wi-fi, and onsite breakfasts.

Hotel brands are different and set the standard for their organization. However, you’ll find that more is offered for the comfort of the guests, like ice machines, telephones, and outdoor spaces to enjoy.

Three-star hotels include more well-known hotel chains, such as Marriott, Radisson, Best Western, and Comfort Suites.

What is a 4-Star Hotel

In this category, the quality is more upscale. Air-conditioning is required throughout the building and the minimum size of the bedroom (excluding the bath) must be 140 square feet.

There are also requirements for mattress thickness and space criteria for suites.

You’ll also find more amenities like a minibar and fridge, in-room safe, hairdryers, drinking water, direct dial telephones with intercom, stationary with desk space, a separate business center, and conference rooms.

These hotels typically have an on-site restaurant and room service, and some provide live entertainment. You’ll also notice nicer finishes in the bath area, like marble countertops and tile, and multi-head shower sprinklers.

Other property amenities encompass an indoor and/or outdoor pool, spa, fitness centers, laundry and cleaning services, and staff services like valet parking, concierge, concierge, and bellhops.

Brands in this category of stars include Hilton, JW Marriott, Sofitel, Fairmont, W Hotels, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Westin.

What is a 5-Star Hotel

woman standing in hotel lobby

A 5-star hotel offers luxurious accommodations and unforgettable experiences. Guests’ needs are the highest priority.

The cost may not be realistic for the average Joe, so these hotels are chosen for special occasions (honeymoons, wedding venues, etc.) by those who can not normally afford them.

Neil Patel chose to live in 4 or 5-star hotels for several reasons — the people, the room service, and the gyms. And if you can afford it, why not? The property says glam from corner to corner with architectural works of art, cutting-edge interior design, and affluent furnishings.

Among the amenities offered at a 5-star hotel are a dedicated concierge, a 24-hour room service, a butler, gourmet restaurants, valet parking, a spa with personal trainers, saunas, and steam rooms, an expert massage service, salons for hair, nail, facial, and body care, live entertainment, babysitting, designer linens, bathrooms, and more!

Brands in this category of stars include Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, The Langham, Waldorf-Astoria, and the Ritz-Carlton.

What is the Difference Between Hotel Star Ratings

The primary difference between a 1 and 2-star hotel is that you will have a telephone and a TV. It is common for 2-star hotels to be a chain so there will be multiple locations, whereas the 1-star hotel does not have locations in multiple cities.

The primary difference between a 1 and 2-star hotel is that you will have a telephone and a TV. It is common for 2-star hotels to be a chain so there will be multiple locations, whereas the 1-star hotel does not have locations in multiple cities.

The main difference between a 3-star hotel and a 4-star hotel is the on-site property activities. Three-star hotels are concerned about your comfort, while four-star hotels give regard to comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment.

3-star hotels may offer a pool, but in contrast, a 4-star hotel will provide several options such as an indoor pool, outdoor pool, spas, and a gift shop.

Instead of targeting business travelers, 4-star hotels endeavor to reach vacationers. Thus, the rooms are designed to accommodate additional beds or sleeper sofas, and the properties are in well-desired locations.

Also, the size of the room may vary. For example, the size of a room in Idaho may be larger than a room in New York City.

The difference between a 4-star hotel and a 5-star hotel is the level of indulgence and personal attention that guests can receive.

While both offer on-site dining and activities, a 5-star hotel will take the guest experience above and beyond to make it rare and unique. Choosing higher hotel star ratings can provide peace of mind and ensure a more luxurious and enjoyable stay.

Five-star hotels are geared toward celebrities and wealthy clientele, whereas 4-star hotel targets family and couple vacationers. The lobby in a 5-star property is posh and extravagant (and you definitely won’t have to share the elevator with housekeeping).

Final Thoughts on Hotel Star Ratings

I am pretty sure in my 2+ decades of traveling that I have stayed in every star hotel that exists. However, when given a choice, I prefer 4-star hotels.

I think 1-star hotels are great when traveling and you don’t want all the frills or have high expectations. I usually stay at these hotels when I am traveling alone. When I am with family, the 4-star hotels perfectly meet our needs.

Hotel star ratings take into account factors like room quality, cleanliness, facilities, and customer service to determine the overall score. When planning a trip, it’s important to consider the hotel star ratings to ensure your expectations align with the level of service and comfort provided.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that hotel star ratings may vary between countries or regions, so it’s advisable to research specific rating systems for your intended destination.

Now that you know about hotel star ratings, the difference between them, and what to expect, you may change your mind and be a bit more flexible when it comes to travel accommodations.

There are plenty of hotel options that will suit your travel. The first step is to decide on what you need and how you want to experience the accommodations!

Save travels!

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  1. Such an interesting read! I remember just adding an elevator can change the rating of the hotel. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Elevators are in most US hotels with 3 or more floors. I imagine it is different in the UK because the buildings may be more historic.

  2. simplyjolayne says:

    What a great post. I never knew all of the reasons for the differences in the star rating (but I did know I liked 4 and 5 star hotels a lot!).

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      I like the 4- 5- star hotels too! Those conveniences are hard to give up!

  3. Fantastic guide to understanding the system of the hotels in the US, I like sometimes to spoil myself with some nice hotels with a view, but occasionally, I just need a room with just a bed and a closet since I spend so much time exploring! thanks for sharing!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      I often book a 4-star for the conveniences. But sometimes it hard to justify the cost when you are hardly in the room. You really have to think about the kind of travel experience that you want. Thanks for reading!