Are luxury hotels worth the price?

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What a difference a star or two makes.


Key points

  • Luxury hotels have several advantages over budget alternatives.
  • Although they cost a lot more, they can be worth it for the better experience they offer.
  • You can also use travel credit cards to book luxury points hotels and save money.

Travelers often wonder if they should splurge or save money on a hotel, and you get a mix of opinions on that. Some people like to stay in luxury hotels, i.e. four and five star properties. Others have a philosophy that they don’t travel to hang out in a hotel, so it’s best to opt for an affordable option.

I’ve stayed in just about every level of hotel, from ultra-cheap places to high-end hotels and resorts. You can definitely have a pleasant stay in a budget hotel. But even though luxury hotels cost a bit more, they also have some big perks that might be worth it.

Why stay in a luxury hotel

The easiest way to describe the difference from luxury hotels is that they offer a better overall experience from top to bottom. To be more specific, here are some of the most notable advantages that luxury hotels normally have over their more affordable counterparts:

  • Quality of the room and furniture: Luxury hotel rooms have more modern and higher quality furniture, fixtures and fittings.
  • Approvals: In-room amenities, like soaps and bathrobes, and hotel amenities, like gyms and pools, tend to be much nicer at luxury hotels.
  • To eat: Luxury hotels usually have on-site restaurants and much better dining options. Breakfast is usually served in a restaurant where you order food, instead of the buffet style at other hotels.
  • Design: Luxury hotels are much more aesthetic, from the lobby to the rooms themselves.
  • Heating and cooling: You’re more likely to get a room with its own thermostat in a luxury hotel, whereas budget hotels may only have a wall-mounted air conditioner.
  • Location: Luxury hotels are usually located in prime locations, such as right on the beach or near the finest shops and restaurants.

Some of these things make a big difference, like furniture. That’s why the argument that “you don’t travel to hang out in hotels” doesn’t hold water for me. That may be true, but you’re going to sleep there. A quality mattress, pillows and sheets are extremely important.

Even the little things add up. Better design elements, nicer soaps, a bigger pool, and all the other seemingly minor details, taken together, impact how you enjoy your stay.

Less inconvenience

People often only focus on the features of luxury hotels and budget hotels. One thing that doesn’t get as much attention is that you’re less likely to encounter inconvenience at a luxury hotel. They aim to provide a seamless experience, which means there’s less chance of frustrating issues.

I can attest to this with a first-hand example. I recently stayed at two hotels in New York, starting with a luxury hotel and ending with a more economical option. At the luxury hotel, I had no problems. There were three fast and spacious elevators, and I never waited longer than 30 seconds for one. The room was clean and everything was in perfect condition.

At the cheapest hotel I had nothing but problems. There were two cramped elevators, and to make matters worse, one of them was broken all five nights I was there. This meant that a single elevator served over 30 floors. I regularly waited for the elevator for 5-10 minutes and more than 20 minutes before leaving.

The bathroom sink in my room was partially clogged. It wasn’t enough to warrant changing rooms, but it was enough to be annoying. The saddest part was the cabinet handle, which had only been screwed on at the top, but the bottom screw was missing. It awkwardly slid out of position every time I opened it. Everything seemed cheap and I felt like I was getting the bare minimum.

Luxury has a price

All things being equal, luxury hotels would be the obvious choice. But all things are not quite equal. These hotels sometimes cost twice as much or even more per night. The question is whether jumping for an expensive hotel is worth it compared to travel more or save that money for other parts of your trip.

However, there is a great way to stay in luxury hotels without breaking the bank: pay with points. With the right travel credit cards, you can earn rewards to redeem for free hotel stays. It is possible to find amazing deals this way. For example, I paid 29,000 points per night for this luxury hotel in New York, which would otherwise have cost over $900 per night plus taxes and fees.

Another option, if you really like to travel, is to cut back on other expenses so you have more money for your travel budget. This is financial advice from Ramit Sethi that I took to heart. He recommends that you “spend extravagantly on the things you love and ruthlessly cut costs on the things you don’t”.

It’s worth it

Both luxury hotels and budget hotels can be suitable options. If you got the money, or points with the right credit card, I recommend that you go for the best option in your price range. Even though you’ll be spending a lot of time away from your hotel, there’s no overstating how nice it is to have comfortable accommodations.

My philosophy is that if I go on vacation, I want to relax and have as much fun as possible. If it means I need to spend more of my budget on a hotel, I’m happy to take that deal.

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