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My family returns to Santa Monica, Calif., almost annually. But since we moved from there to here 15 years ago, the place has gone posh. A Blockbuster we frequented is now a spa and the UPS store has turned into a place devoted to pearl jewelry.

For longtime residents that might be a problem. For visitors, not so much — until the same transformation takes place at their favorite hotel.

For years, we’d stayed at a hotel that had been pricier than we’d like, but manageable. We shelled out year after year because it was near our old rental house, so we were back in the old neighborhood. We liked the familiarity.

We last stayed there Thanksgiving weekend 2018. And after we left for the airport, management locked the doors and called in the contractors. The hotel was going through a major face-lift, and we were the last guests out the old doors.

And now we’ll never walk through the new doors. Room rates have nearly doubled. Sure, the updated place looks great, but I want the faded sofas back and the more affordable rate that went with them.

After learning of the price hike, I went through the classic stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

The bargaining stage bogged down when I was promised a lower rate, but the manager who had made the promise failed to return my calls when I tried to book.

That discourtesy actually made the final stage easier: acceptance. So did Google.

At, I input the old Santa Monica address, clicked the “nearby” button in the search column, then clicked “hotels” and the map was populated with options. After cross-checking TripAdvisor reviews, I landed at a great, nearby alternative hotel.

When we last stayed at the old fave, I tried to buy a few of the poolside towels emblazoned with the hotel name, knowing new ones would be coming with the renovation.

“Just take some,” a kind manager said.

So at least I have souvenirs of the old place — and they cost nothing.

Contact Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at