I've been lucky enough to stay in five-star hotels around the world.
I cherish any amount of time in a hotel, but I think money is best spent when you're there for multiple nights.
With late check-ins and early checkouts, enjoying amenities is easier when you have more time.
As bellhops grabbed my bags, a valet driver swiped my car keys, and a receptionist handed me a key to my room at The Little Nell, a five-star hotel in Aspen, Colorado, I was already feeling the pressure of time.
Check-in for the luxury hotel had started at 4 p.m., and my friend and I arrived just before 5 p.m. This meant we had already lost a precious hour of our $848 stay.
Since this was only my second time in a five-star hotel, I planned to maximize every second. I wanted to soak in the hotel's hot tub, sip cocktails at the hotel's bar, dine on truffle fries at the on-site restaurant, and utilize the hotel's free car rental.
Before I even had a chance to blink, it felt like my luxury experience was over. I lamented over the fact that I didn't have enough time for everything on my Little Nell bucket list.
Since then, I've been lucky enough to stay in four more five-star hotels thanks to my job as a travel journalist, bringing my grand total to six five-star stays. And the times I've felt the shocking price tags were worth it were the times I stayed more than one night.
A single night isn't enough to enjoy all the amenities
When travelers shell out hundreds of dollars for a five-star hotel, they can expect luxury. According to Five Star Alliance, hotels earn five stars with amenities like a concierge desk, 24-hour reception, room service, and nightly turndown service.
From experience, the amenities go beyond that. I've learned that a five-star hotel is typically in a city's prime location — which means I'll have easy access to restaurants, tourist attractions, and shopping. Beyond a room filled with comfortable bedding and lavish toiletries, there are typically perks like a pool, gym, on-site restaurant, and even a hotel ski shop.
To take advantage of all you're paying for, you need time. Meanwhile, most hotels have a check-in time that starts around 4 p.m., while checkout is typically around 11 a.m. the next day.
If I'm factoring in eight hours of sleep (which I typically am in a hotel bed with high thread counts and down pillows), that means I'm left with less than a full day in the hotel.
If I never left my room, a one-night stay might be long enough to appreciate a hotel room's soaking tub, rain shower, and cozy bed. But one night is not nearly enough time to take advantage of every amenity.
At the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff, Canada, for instance, my friend and I raced to the hotel's bonfire for s'mores night, but since we spent our evening devouring the campfire snack, we missed swimming in the indoor pool and taking a fitness class.
At the Crystalbrook Albion in Sydney, Australia, I checked in late and missed the hotel's daily gin-and-tonic happy hour. It wasn't the end of the world, but I would've added it to my itinerary if I had another night in the five-star accommodation.
Meanwhile, in the hotels where I spent more than one night, like the Hotel Britomart in Auckland, New Zealand, and The Darling, a five-star hotel in Sydney, Australia, I was able to take advantage of more amenities.
For example, at the Hotel Britomart, I spent an entire day wandering around the city on one of the hotel's free bikes — something that wouldn't have worked with my schedule if I stayed only for one night. At The Darling, I used the hotel's gym, basked in the outdoor pool, soaked in my hotel room's shower, and ate breakfast at an on-site restaurant. These four things would've been impossible if I needed to check out by 11 a.m.
Plus, I typically stay in five-star hotels in new cities, which makes every decision more challenging. Do I spend time enjoying the expensive hotel I spent hundreds of dollars on? Or do I explore a new destination that I might not visit again anytime soon?
I'd splurge on extra nights at a luxury hotel
The times my five-star stays weren't worth it were the times when I didn't spend enough time in the hotel.
I travel to learn about new cultures, dive into a city's rich history, and meet locals — three tasks that are impossible to do from a hotel bed.
More times than not, I'll opt for an affordable hotel. I save money, which means I can stay in a destination longer and there's no pressure to spend time at my hotel.
But that doesn't mean I won't ever splurge on a luxury stay. Every now and then, there are instances when I want to relax on vacation, and I've decided that if I'm going to splurge, I might as well truly splurge and stay for more than one night. That way I can take advantage of every amenity all while truly decompressing, which to me, is the point of staying in a five-star property.
It's a privilege to have a decision like whether to enjoy a hotel's pool or visit a nearby art gallery, but when you're paying hundreds of dollars for a place to sleep, it's a decision nonetheless.
For any future luxe trips I'm saving for, I'm going to save even more so I can vacation in style for two nights instead of one.
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