You spent how much? Our travel writer's expense account laid bare

My job, loosely defined, is traveling the world in search of fun and value. So when I stumbled upon five years of hotel receipts the other day, it was a long, strange, global list. Some nights cost as little as $71, some as much as $631.

Together, they add up to something more than a simple bottom line. The cheapest lodgings weren’t the best bargains; the costliest weren't the worst.

In fact, the most expensive place I slept last year -- a bunk in a Alaskan cabin – was well worth doing. Once.

The Holiday Inn by the Brussels airport? Not so much.

The place in Santa Barbara with the monogrammed pillows? Again, not so much.

Here, from cheapest to priciest, is an annotated look at 12 hotel bills from Buellton to Belgium. Along the way, take note of how widely taxes vary, how some hotels disguise their true rates, and how renovation was my enemy in Arizona but my friend on Kauai.

You’ll also see that I don’t bother with fake names when I travel (this isn't much like being a restaurant critic), that I usually avoid the most uniform chain brands (because you already have a good idea what to expect from them) and that I pay the going rate. The Los Angeles Times is among the few media outlets left whose Travel section really, truly doesn’t take freebies or media discounts. (On the bills displayed here, we’ve erased my credit card info and some addresses.)