Guest Author - Christine Wilcox
Every so often, conferences, business trips or other kinds of meetings take me to some great hotel properties throughout the United States. I have been very fortunate to have stayed in some five-star locations, but I've also stayed in hotels that are a half-star and sinking. Getting back from my latest trip, I had to ask myself, is paying for luxury worth it?
In one week, I stayed in two different hotels - one was a property in the Fairmont chain, and the other was a Hampton Inn, part of the Hilton family of hotels. In both places, I had a nice, comfortable bed, a big flat screen TV, wake up calls, and and peace and quiet. Is it worth it to pay the extra money to stay at a resort rather than a hotel?
So comparing the two - the resort had 24 hour room service and two (award winning) restaurants on site, pools (yes, as in plural pools) and an on-site spa. There was a sunken tub, marble counter tops, and a room that spilled out onto a small private balcony. The chain hotel did not have a restaurant on-site, but was in a complex with several food and shopping options within driving distance. The chain hotel offered a free breakfast, whereas the resort had a $7 bottle of Evian (conveniently charged to the room upon replacement if I consumed it). Is it worth it to spend extra money on luxury?
I love the idea of staying where there's a spa. But the spa at the resort (which if you've read much of what I've written, are my weakness) can be booked regardless if I'm a guest at the hotel or not, so I'm not hung up on staying there for the spa time.
The resort had amazing views; the hotel had a view of the highway. The balcony off my room at the resort overlooked the pool and had an incredible view of the mountains. It was absolutely beautiful, breathtaking, and being on the fourth floor, I felt safe enough to leave the sliding glass door open and screen closed, so the room was filled with fresh air all night. It was lovely and relaxing to just wake up to that.
When I checked out of the Fairmont at 6 AM to get to the airport, I was handed my bill pleasantly and with a smile. When I checked out at the Hampton at 6 AM to get to my meetings that day, I was lucky enough to have the head of the kitchen at the desk. She immediately asked if I had eaten breakfast, which (being a sleep junkie) I hadn't. After a "wait here, 2 minutes" she whisked off to the back of the dining room and returned with a brown bag breakfast - apple, 2 blueberry muffins, a breakfast bar and a bottle of water. It absolutely warmed my heart!
Is it worth it to pay for luxury? It's up to you. I think it can be, and I think it's definitely on the list of "just once" options that everyone should attempt. It can be a wonderful way to treat yourself - and you can even find ways to do it at a discount. I think there are ways where a solo traveler can find spots of luxury on vacation without overspending or sacrificing quality environments. If you haven't had a five-star experience, put it on the list.