That which distinguishes a motel from a hotel can be found in the word "motel" itself. The word motel is derived from "motor" and "hotel," words that describe its purpose well. Motels are usually located in rural areas or along the edge of cities to accommodate travelers and commercial drivers. With their customer base being what it is, motels rarely take reservations; rather, they encourage an atmosphere where anyone can walk in at anytime and stay the night. Usually, motels are single-story or double-story buildings with rooms opening up to the exterior.
Hotels, on the other hand, are located more densely in urban areas and/or popular tourist areas. Unlike motels, hotels are reservation-oriented and will rarely have walk-in customers. Also, hotels normally have multiple stories and often have amenities that motels lack such as room service, cable television, pools, exercise rooms, restaurants, and business centers, among other things. In terms of customer base, hotels cater to families and groups on long-stays/package deals or simply people that know in advance that they will be spending a few nights away from home and don't mind paying the extra cost of a hotel.