Yellowstone is a tourist trap.
This is something I knew going in, but I was still shocked at how crowded and expensive it was. Mrs. Selfish is more of a glamping gal, then a car-camper, so I set out to find decent accommodations within range of Yellowstone.
While there are many hotels in Yellowstone itself, very few of them are actually bookable online.
Yellowstone is split up into 4 main entrances: North, East, South, and West. Having consulted a guide to Yellowstone’s main attractions, Mrs. Selfish and I decided to head through Yellowstone’s east entrance on Day 1, ending in the west entrance. For Day 2 we decided to head south to the Grand Teton National Park.
As a result I decided to book accommodations at two of the larger cities around Yellowstone: Cody, Wyoming and West Yellowstone, Montana.
A) Cody, WY. B) West Yellowstone, MT. C) Grand Teton National Park.
Rustic, but nice: The Cody
For our first night, I booked us at The Cody, in Cody, Wyoming. Unlike most places we passed through, Cody seemed to be a decent sized town with all the usual American stores. It’s a great place to stock up on supplies and sandwiches before hitting Yellowstone.
I ended up booking the room through hotels.com for ~$265, which was pretty steep. Since we already had 9 hotel stays through hotels.com, this pushed us over the number required for a free night, so it ended up saving us 10% on the overall cost. I also used hotels.com’s best rate guarantee to lower the price to $216. Lastly, I booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal using my Chase Sapphire Preferred card to earn a total of 4 points per dollar. In the end we ended earning the following:
- Hotel Cost: $216
- Hotels.com free night (-10%): $21.60 saved
- UR Points earned (.02 each): 864 UR points ($17.28)
- Total Cost after savings: $177.12
So how was the room? To be fair it was clean and well maintained with a refrigerator and the usual stuff, but nothing special.
Verdict: Nice if you can get it for cheaper. Otherwise not worth it for cost. PASS.
The Holiday Inn at West Yellowstone
From Cody we drove west into Yellowstone, which was a beautiful hour and a half drive.
We spent the next 8 hours walking along Yellowstone’s awe-inspiring Grand Canyon and taking in its multiple geysers. We ended our drive in West Yellowstone, a small town just outside of Yellowstone’s western entrance. Where Cody felt like a working town, West Yellowstone is clearly a town built on Yellowstone’s tourist industry.
For West Yellowstone, I booked us at the West Yellowstone Holiday Inn for for one night for ~$257 – which is way too much for a Holiday Inn. Fortunately, I booked it as part of IHG’s “Big Win” promotion, which ended up netting us around 19,000 IHG points. Since IHG points are worth $70 for 10,000 this effectively meant we saved $133.
So what did we get for $257? Not too much, though we did get a room with a hot tub.
Unfortunately, since it was a Holiday Inn and not a Holiday Inn Express, no breakfast was included. We were also told that the hotel was at full capacity, so Mrs. Selfish was not able to get an upgrade even as a platinum member.
VERDICT: Too expensive for a Holiday Inn, plus no breakfast. PASS.
While both hotels were nice, they were both overpriced by $150 (though granted, this is a case of paying for location). If you’re in a pinch and looking for somewhere nicer to stay, I would strongly consider staying in the park itself. While the food options are likely to be worse, the location will easily save you 2-3 hours of driving if you plan on entering and exiting the park multiple times.