Are Luxury Hotels Worth the Price?


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A car pulls up to a hotel, the owner gets out as a doorman removes the bags and a valet takes the keys and drives away.  Inside the lobby a well dressed person at the reception desk goes through the check in process while describing all the amenities the hotel has to offer.  Being able to stay at a luxury hotel where employees bend over backwards to do everything for you is portrayed as a symbol of pampering and wealth.

But is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

My wife and I spent the 4th of July weekend in Chicago with a group of people, staying two nights in a Hyatt Regency downtown and two nights at a Courtyard by Marriott in the suburbs.  The experiences were very different, but you may be surprised which hotel I preferred.

The High Life

We rolled up to the Hyatt, where we were greeted by the doorman who informed us that valet parking to the tune of $59 a day was required if parking at the hotel was desired.  Since we were a party of six in a mini-van, we had to utilize every available space in the van for our luggage including the under foot compartments.  I assisted the doorman in opening up the compartments and retrieving all the luggage.  While this was occurring, I couldn’t help but think,  “I’m expected to tip this guy to help do a job that I’d rather do myself.”

I felt uncomfortable in my shorts and t-shirt approaching the formally dressed receptionists. We were checked in, and given vague directions to our room.  Once in our room we eagerly waited 20 minutes for our bags to arrive so we could unpack and start our vacation.  The bags were eventually placed in our room, another tip required of course.

One of the first things I do when I check into a hotel is fire up my laptop and connect to wifi.  I noticed a card on the desk that listed the directions to connect to the wireless network, including the final instruction, “select your payment option.”

That night, we went out for Chicago style pizza.  Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we ended up with leftovers.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t take it with us because the only refrigerator in the room was the minibar stocked with $4 cans of pop, and $10 beers.

Checking out meant calling for the bellman, since their policy requires that they handle the bags.  Another 20 minute wait, more tips.  We were then told that the $59 a night valet parking meant that we had to leave our bags with the doorman to be watched with 50 other carts, go down a level to the parking garage, and wait their for the valet to retrieve our vehicle.   Only then could we drive the vehicle back to the front door.  Of course a tip is expected for such exceptional service.

The Commoner’s Life

I parked outside the Courtyard by Marriott, and was greeted by a friendly, yet causally dressed receptionist who checked us in. She then showed us on a map exactly where to go, and where the best place would be to park.

I drove to a different entrance to the hotel, loaded my belongings on a cart and brought them to my room.  I was completely unpacked within 10 minutes of checking in, including  being connected to their complementary wifi service.

Shockingly, I was able to do all of that without having to handout any of my hard earned cash on assistance I didn’t want or need.

That night we went to a steakhouse and again had leftovers.  This time, however, I was able to bring them back to the hotel and place them in the refrigerator which is standard in all their rooms.

Checkout was a breeze as well.  I brought all my things to my car which was conveniently parked right outside the nearby entrance.  I called the front desk to tell them I was checking out, left the key cards inside the room and was driving away within minutes.  No wait for the convenience of a bellman to get my bags, no wait for the convenience of the valet to retrieve my vehicle, and no tipping needed.

The cost difference:

Hyatt Regency:  $169.99 per night + $59 parking = $228.99 per night
Courtyard by Marriott:  $100 per night + $0 parking = $100 per night

The Hyatt was over twice as expensive, and all those “conveniences” weren’t very convenient at all.

If that’s the life of affluence, no thanks.  I’ll stick to being a commoner.

About Travis

33 Responses to “Are Luxury Hotels Worth the Price?”

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  1. Ouch, $59 for parking? I know it’s Chicago, but man that’s crazy. That said, I tend to prefer the second option as well. I’ve had both bad and good experiences at a “nicer” hotel though I always tend to feel out of place or unhappy because we can’t put leftovers or our own drinks in the fridge without incurring some sort of crazy fee.

    • Travis says:

      I get why customers would have to pay for parking, though. Parking downtown Chicago is NUTS. AND it’s likely a plus for customers that fly in and don’t have a vehicle – the cost of having a parking garage is passed along only to those who use the parking service. But, $59 a night per car is crazy pants. “Out of place” is exactly how I felt, John. Luxury my backside, just flat out inconvenient.

  2. Sounds like the commoner’s life is the way to go. When we travel and need a hotel we always look for a Residence in by Marriott, they typically don’t charge extra for being convenient.

    • Travis says:

      I agree, Brian….maybe it’s what you’re looking for…but I found the “luxury” hotel completely inconvenient. Pay less for a more convenient, and overall better experience. YES PLEASE!

  3. That’s weird that the bag handling was required. Most luxury hotels I’ve ever stayed at it was a option, but not a requirement. Strange! But parking…yes. It always seems crazy expensive and even with fincon last year, the wi-fi was included in the package, but some people at the hotel were paying for it. That’s lame! I think they both are cool for different reasons. Aside from all the tipping and stuff, it’s occasionally nice to feel a little luxurious. I love the look of grand hotels and some of the cool features, but most of the time when I stay at places like that, its because of work or something so I’m usually not paying for it.

    • Travis says:

      Well, if you can carry it yourself they won’t say anything…but if you need to grab a cart it’s a different story. Ran into the same thing at FINCON last year, Tonya. I tried to grab a cart and unload myself, and the doorman tried to take over. I stated I could get it, and he kept helping. I said I could do it myself again, to which he stopped, looked at me very sternly and said, “It our policy.” If that’s not enough, the doorman only takes you inside to the check in desk. After tipping that guy, a completely different person takes your bags from the counter to your room – guess who also expects a tip? If someone WANTS help with their bags, that’s fine. Seriously, do I look like a guy that needs help with my bags? Don’t think so.

  4. Scooze says:

    First, I’m surprised by the bag policy at the Hyatt Recency. I travel a great deal and have never seen that.

    As I said, I travel for work and have stayed in a wide array of hotels, including Hyatt. The upscale hotels generally are better for people with expense accounts who want extra service and don’t mind paying fir it. If the valet, wifi and tip charges bother you, those hotels are not a good idea. I like them because i can get room service and work in in the evening. Also I don’t have to worry about walking to poor from my car at odd ad i travel. But for personal travel, I don’t need all that.

  5. Scooze says:

    Sorry for the typos.. I meant walk to and from my car at odd hours. Hope the rest is clear. On a plane currently and have to power down.

    • Travis says:

      I certainly respect your opinion, Scooze……but I’m trying to figure out what extra services they provide – maybe I just don’t use them. I honestly don’t get why “low end” hotels can offer free wifi, but luxury hotels don’t. I understand the room service thing, but parking……in this particular hotel at least I would have to go down to the parking garage (which is like any other parking garage) to the valet counter and ask for my car. Doesn’t seem convenient or any safer to me at all. As I mentioned above, the bag policy seems to be only when you have to use a cart. If you can carry your bags, they let you do it.

      The reason we picked this hotel is because of it’s location…..unfortunately there are no “commoner” hotels in downtown Chicago (at least not that we could find).

  6. Kathy from CT says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this post. I am definitely a commoner!

  7. The constant tipping for things I’d rather do myself makes me SO uncomfortable. But the rest of the high life I could get used too 😉 My ex had a ton of hotel rewards that allowed us to stay in a high end hotel in San Fran for two nights. I really enjoyed sitting in the suite with my plush robe and getting things delivered to the room (though it’s probably because they were free- except the tip).

    • I don’t mind the whole “getting things delivered” either, and I don’t mind tipping someone to bring it to me. That’s pretty cut and dried – I’m not going to go into the kitchen (for example) and go grab my food. But to tip someone for unloading my car as I stand there and watch him do it…or even worse after having to help him because he doesn’t know how to open up the under foot compartments in my van? I call bullshit.I dunno what you call that, but it’s not luxury.

  8. The only time we stay in nice hotels is if they are free with credit card rewards. Other than that, no way. We always stayed in dumpy hotels when I was growing up and I’m used to it. I don’t get why people pay big money for fancy hotels. I guess it’s just not my thing.

  9. Average Joe says:

    Parking in downtown Chicago IS crazy. I’ve gone to some of those types of hotels for business conferences and just taking my car is a pain. I’ve learned through staying at these places a TON back in my traveling days how to negotiate the hotel without having to tip everyone (I actually think you overtipped when you arrived….no need to tip the first guy you mentioned, only the dude who brought the luggage to your room). I never have someone else carry my bags, self park (have to check out options ahead of time in the area) and avoid the minibar (expensive lesson learned on that one!). Without all the tipping and a spot right downtown (you’d have to park downtown anyway if you didn’t stay at the hotel….), it’s still more expensive, but now you’re paying for proximity.

    • I’ve definitely learned the minibar lesson (you should have seen my bill for enjoying Pringles from the minibar in India for two weeks….), and I definitely know about the self park nearby trick – I just didn’t think ahead enough to check out my options. I honestly think it would have been faster to park in the public lot a few blocks away than it would have been to wait for the valet to go get my car….great to hear from you Joe!

  10. I have been to a few nice hotels and I am with you. What am I paying for? I just need a freaking place to sleep and not have to worry about tipping this man or this man. When I am traveling, I am not in the hotel much anyway, so why pay that much?

    • That’s exactly where I’m coming from, Grayson – especially with this trip. I didn’t need all the pomp and circumstance….I just needed a room to sleep in after a day of checking out the city! I guess in retrospect maybe it just wasn’t the right choice in hotels…maybe there would have been a better one even downtown.

  11. Kathy J says:

    Hey Travis!

    Long time since I’ve commented….but been keeping up with the reading.

    I think that you should also include the plethora of tips you “had” to dole out in your totals. THEN lets see how the REAL totals compare.


    PS just wanted to let you know that I’ve got (count ’em) 3 more DMP payments with CareOne!!! Woohoo!!

    • CONGRATS, Kathy on being so close to the end of your DMP – I’m proud and excited for you! We should talk sometime about doing a post here on EOD about your experience (if you’re interested).

      As far as tips are concerned….I thought about putting that in the post, but here they are:

      Initial doorman: $10
      Baggage delivered to room: $10

      Baggage picked up from room: $10
      Baggage put into car: $10

      I dunno how much my brother in law tipped the valet as he was driving my car in the city….but that’s $40 to get my (very full) cart of luggage to and from my room.


  12. Kim says:

    I loooooathe valet parking and will do just about anything to avoid it. Our favorite hotels are the Holiday Inn/Homewood Suites type places with a fridge, free breakfast, and free parking and wifi. We are staying at a luxury Hyatt in Kauai next week, but it was booked with points. With points we don’t even have to pay tax or the resort fees AND I made sure we have the option of self parking. I have no problem tipping for services I choose and want, but I also hate tipping someone just because it’s policy. I can carry my own stuff and park my own car just fine.

    • Your criteria in hotels seems identical to mine……we’d get along fabulously. On a separate note….Vonnie and I stayed at the Hyatt in Kauai – I assume there is only one (south side of the island?). It’s absolutely beautiful….the tipping thing still burns my butt, but we didn’t have a car so no valet for us there. It was so many years ago I don’t remember if they required someone to help with the bags or not….but the hotel grounds are absolutely beautiful. Vonnie is jealous – she LOVES Hawaii. I even gave her a plumeria plant for our anniversary one year – it was shipped as a stick since all the leaves had to be stripped off. It took three years, but we are finally getting our first blossoms! have a great trip!

  13. I think it depends on what you’re doing. If you don’t plan on being in the room much, I would opt for a cheaper place, but if you are going to spend most the time in the room, you may want something nicer. Timeshares are great, if you know someone who isn’t able to use their time. You can usually get a nice condo for a couple hundred bucks. Nice post!

  14. As I read your description of the “commoners” hotel I definitely felt a sigh of relief – sounds so much more relaxing than the expensive hotel with all the amenities. I stick to the less-expensive hotels and have had some great experiences at “regular” hotels. One example I have of a ‘high-end’ hotel was Sandals in Jamaica, which we went to for our honeymoon. I actually got really frustrated about how long it took them to get our luggage out. Granted it was raining, but we were freaking tired and ready for a nap, but had to wait quite some time (say 45 minutes) until our luggage finally got to our room. I’d rather handle my luggage myself!

    • Travis says:

      Definitely more relaxing and less stressful for me too, DC. I didn’t mention this in the post, but my wife and I waited about 20 minutes for our luggage. We got it, put it all away and got settled in. My brother-in-law, however, waited another 20 minutes, and then called down. He described the cart and what was on it, and the desk confirmed that it was sitting there an someone would bring it up. After a total of an hour, the bags arrived. Not very luxurious or convenient at all!

  15. I’m with you Travis!
    I stayed at the Omni in Dallas over 4th of July with 3 friends, thinking it’d be much more fun than the Best Westerns we usually stay at. We really regretted the decision. None of us had stayed at a nice hotel as adults and we thought we’d finally “grow up” and pay for “luxury”.

    We missed our mini fridges, I felt self-conscious because I packed casual clothing, and we had no money to spend on experiences outside of the hotel.

    Uhg, live and learn, right?

    • Travis says:

      The feeling of being uncomfortable and out of place was huge for me as well, Megan. I shouldn’t have to feel that way on vacation, right??? Thanks for sharing your story!

  16. Kiat says:

    Luxury hotel is never worth the price, if you are really going on sightseeing holiday, how much time would you be staying in the room, usually only during bed time, why spend that money.

    • Travis says:

      I like your perspective, Kiat – and it fits our vacation perfectly. We needed a place to sleep, and that’s about it. thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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