Several times now, we have pulled up to hotels looking for a room (because we don’t book ahead when our plans are flexible) only to be told that they were full, or did not have the rooms we were looking for. As a family of four, we need a family room. Health and Safety would not allow them to permit kids to stay with their parents unless adequate beds are available. Furthermore, most places in the UK still charge per person, even children (sometimes with discounts). However, the chain hotels (mostly US-owned) will charge per room.
I have been pleased, though, that when these hotels are full, they are extremely helpful to the stranded motorists. The desk clerk will usually do one of two things: refer you to a local B&B that may have vacancies, or more often, they will actually get on the phone and call around for you. I cannot tell how many times we’ve travelled overnight in the US and stopped at every exit to check the hotels. So, I am very grateful when these clerks take the hassle out of driving needlessly in search of a bed.
Unlike in the US, you do not have large billboards advertising hotels/motels/B&Bs all over the place. You have to look out for the brown signs with the beds on them, not knowing what you might get (reminds me of Vermont). And you might not have these at every exit, so there is a lot of guesswork involved if you do not have your travel plans all worked out.
When we went to Holyhead this weekend, we ran into a wedding party that had booked up several hotels within a five mile radius. We had set a time limit on driving, so we didn’t want to keep moving. The hotel receptionist was extremely helpful, calling several places up and even calling back with questions, etc. Her supervisor even printed up directions to one of the places. Unfortunately, our daughters came in to use the toilets and wanted to stay. So, after all that help, which I really appreciated, we ended up taking two rooms at the hotel to comply with Health and Safety regulations. Unfortunately, it cost more than we wanted to spend.