The Princess and the Pea – Why I Sometimes Need Luxury Travel
I am sometimes a princess when I travel but I am careful where I splurge on luxury travel. A bit of luxury is one of the reasons we are still “semi” retired – working when we are not travelling lets us earn the money for travel treats occasionally! And when I pay for a little luxury, I have pretty high expectations for customer service!
But there is a “cheap and cheerful girl” inside of me. While I will often splurge on business class travel for long haul flights, we had no trouble flying on the discount airlines when we hopped around SE Asia. We may rent a car when we want to go off the beaten path but we are just as happy hopping on public transit with the locals. In Europe we do a lot of train travel in economy class but for long trips we have sometimes upgraded to business class on the train.
We will splurge on a great dinner out one night and have a picnic lunch in our room the next night. We have good rolling suitcases and rarely engage a bellman to help with bags. The money we save on things that matter less go towards the travel we want to do. And we can splurge now and then on a little luxury travel. Sometimes you need a touch of luxury on your travels, but I do find that remembering a few essentials like earplugs can feel like an absolute luxury when you’re on the move. You can visit foreignpolicyi.org to find out more about these items.
We have stayed in a wide range of accommodations, although you will not find hostels or camping on the list. I must admit that my idea of roughing it is “no mints on the pillow”. We don’t regularly go to the very high end hotels, although we have splurged for special occasions (e.g. a butler suite in Exuma for Valentines one year).
Hotel Basic Needs
There are things that I find are basics when I pay for a decent hotel room. Some have been added to the list through experience. While some may consider these luxury travel, at this point in my life, these are pretty mandatory:
- Good reliable high-speed wifi
- Real air conditioning (not “climate control” or a ceiling fan) with user friendly controls
- Decent mattress that does not need layers of mattress toppers to be even bearable
- Variety of pillows (a pillow menu is an awesome offering)
- Good security for the building and the room (large in-room safe that can hold a laptop)
- A location that is close to transport, food options and things to do
- Non-smoking rooms
But when we do spend money to upgrade our hotel rooms, we are looking for a little extra luxury travel. Sometimes we bring pets with us when we travel so we have to use websites like PetsWelcome to find pet friendly hotels. I still expect the same standards from pet friendly hotels and I’ve not had a bad experience yet!
Luxury On Our SE Asia Trip
On our trip to Australia and SE Asia, we took the opportunity to upgrade some of our accommodations. We were delighted with the service and the experience we had to pamper ourselves with luxury travel at:
- Park Royal Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia
- Intercontinental Jimbaran Bay in Bali
- Holiday Inn Silom in Bangkok
- Holiday Inn Aonang Beach in Krabi, Thailand
Other hotels during our long trip certainly met the basics but they didn’t have the extras the above group provided. Our son Nick was travelling through SE Asia at the same time we were and a couple of times he came to visit or to stay with us. He found our accommodations to be quite luxurious and a far cry from the hostels or home stays he had been enjoying. But he had no trouble settling in to be spoiled with us!
If you have not been upgrading your accommodations to enjoy a little luxury travel, there are a few things that you may want to consider next time you book your holidays ….
Collecting Points Will Add Up
We travel – a lot! In 2015 we were away for over 33 weeks! Given how much we travel, you would think we have a ton of points to use to travel even more. But you would be wrong! Historically, we have not done very well at consolidating our travel to a few vendors to maximize our points. We typically have been searching for the best price, retired military discounts, a location that has a local flavour, a flight routing that may not be typical or a number of other selection criteria. This usually results in us making purchase decisions that are unique for each trip. And this does not build loyalty points. The biggest points we accumulate are from our TD Canada Trust Advantage Visa card which gives us travel points for each dollar we spend!
While we don’t have a great number of points with any one airline carrier or hotel chain, we have cards for them all. At the beginning of our SE Asia trip, we decided that we would try to do better. Ultimately we didn’t do such a great job on our airline travel but we did awesome with hotel points! Our hotel points helped us get a little more luxury travel on this trip!
We decided to stick with the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) hotels if we could find one at a reasonable price in the location we wanted. We had little or no points when we started. At the beginning of the trip, we paid $200US to buy into the Gold Ambassador Level. This would give us guaranteed upgrades on any reservations we made.
At virtually every IHG hotel we stayed at, we got a great upgrade and those upgrades alone were worth the price we paid to buy Ambassador level! We stayed in so many IHG hotels through this trip that we quickly rolled through the Gold level into Platinum. The IHG membership got us special check in lines, a personal “hello” letter, sometimes a cocktail with the local management and sometimes a special treat (e.g. candies and fruit at the Intercontinental Bali). At the Platinum level we would start to accumulate points even faster.
Our decision to consolidate hotel points on this trip was a great decision for us. We get another year to enjoy the status we have gained and to continue to explore the hotels in this chain. We would get more opportunities for luxury travel!
Consider consolidating your travel purchase decisions to increase the points you are getting. Make sure you don’t make compromises in what you are looking for but look at what options you may have to get points before looking elsewhere. Once you start getting some points, you will be able to step up your luxury travel simply by being a bit more loyal!
Executive Club Service Is Worth the Upgrade
While our loyalty point upgrades were great, it didn’t always mean that we were upgraded to the Executive Club level. If you have never tried the Executive Club level, you may want to consider this for just a little more luxury travel.
For a few of our hotel choices, we deliberately booked Executive Club rooms. In general, an Executive Club room will get you:
- Private check in and check out
- Concierge services
- Dedicated rooms that are generally upgraded and on a separate floor
- Private lounge area
- Business area that can include computers, printers and even meeting rooms
- Happy Hour that will include drinks and usually includes food
- Breakfast may even be available in the lounge area rather than down in the restaurant
The Executive Club extras always felt like luxury travel. We liked having a place that was quiet and spacious where we could go and relax. If we had been out all day touring around, it was great to know we could get a drink and a snack. We were usually set for the night if we decided not to go back out in the evening. At the Holiday Inn Silom and the Park Royal in Sydney, this was often our “picnic” dinner!
It was great to know I could print our boarding passes at the last minute or get booked for a tour with little fuss. In the Holiday Inn Silom in Bangkok, the breakfast served in the lounge had a broad selection including eggs made to order. We saw no reason to ever head down to the restaurant for breakfast.
In general we found the level of customer service to be exemplary when we upgraded to Executive Club level. We were greeted by name, our preferences were remembered and staff seemed delighted to be of help. This luxury travel certainly exhibited many of the things you should look for in customer service excellence!
Sometimes a Bathtub Can Make all The Difference
We are generally shower people. It seems that more and more hotels are moving to shower only bathrooms and usually that is ok. We even had an awesome outdoor shower in Krabi, Thailand!
But sometimes I really want a bathtub!
While it may seem like a luxury travel addition, there are times when a bathtub has been heaven. When we are walking a lot or when a bed is particularly hard, there is nothing better than a bathtub to relax in. And when that bathtub is large and deep and may even be jetted, it will meet the definition of luxury travel. All of the upgraded rooms had great bathtubs and I used every one!
A Room With A View
When we make hotel bookings, we are pretty firm on some things. We want a non-smoking quiet room on a high floor, away from the elevators and not a connected-door room if at all possible. If you don’t get the room that meets your needs, don’t be afraid to politely ask for another room. We have had so many bad first rooms that David always checks out the room thoroughly before we decide we will stay. Someone has to have the less desirable rooms and if you don’t push back, it may be you!
Sometimes a view will be important and sometimes I will forsake a view for a quiet room. I love to sit on a balcony with a water view, but not if that view is over a noisy pool. A great view to the city skyline in the distance may bring with it a view over the noisy highway. But then a quiet room may mean looking right at the wall of another building.
We will take a room with a view if it is quiet but generally will not pay extra for a premium view. Especially if the hotel has a lounge, restaurant or bar that will get you the premium view. And sometimes you may even get a surprise when you look out the window!
All of the upgrades we recently experienced came with a much better view, even if we did occasionally still have to ask for a room a bit further from the elevator.
Space To Spread Out
Sometimes size matters! We normally are looking for a mid-size room – after all, we do need to store all the luggage and stuff we seem to travel with. But sometimes we are looking for just a little more room when we travel.
If we are staying in one place for some time, it is really nice to be able to have the space to spend time in your room and not have stuff cluttered everywhere. If we are taking a break and just want to chill out, it means more time at the hotel and it is nice to have more room in your hotel. If you get sick while travelling, your room is your refuge and you want a little space.
All of our upgraded rooms got us more space. But in a few cases, we really got spoiled with a true luxury travel experience.
We were upgraded to a two level suite in Bali. This put the master bedroom up on the second level with its own bathroom and left living space and a second bathroom on the main level. This space was so big, our son Nick wanted to enjoy our luxury travel and spent a few days with us when we were travelling together in Bali.
We were also upgraded in the Holiday Inn Ao Nang Beach in Krabi. Not only did we get a very large room with a separate living area, but we also got our own private pool on the deck. That was indeed luxury travel.
A Touch of Pampering
And if you upgrade, you will generally get a level of pampering that says luxury travel. A few of the things we particularly enjoy being spoiled with:
- Chocolates, a snack and sometimes even champagne when we arrived
- A personal small gift
- High quality slippers, large absorbent robes and big fluffy towels
- Electronics slots everywhere – on each nightstand, at the desk, at the beverage counter, by the lounge chair
- Night lights in the bathroom
- And even a separate dressing room with a large space to store luggage
Sometimes You Want To Enjoy the Resort
While we travel to visit the sights, we do not always want to be out and running. If we are staying at a nice resort, we want to enjoy the resort and the facilities. Sometimes the resort itself is your destination for luxury travel!
While we always check out the gym facilities, I must admit that we rarely use the gym when we are travelling. We are usually walking too much and too pooped when we stumble home. It is great when a hotel has bicycles available to tour the local area.
We will often use the pool facilities especially if we are travelling to a warm destination. Having a separate adults-only pool is something we really look for. Lots of shade umbrellas or cabanas are a must if we are spending any time by the pool. If we are in a beach destination, we like to have the beach on the resort if possible. There were numerous great pool options both at the Intercontinental in Bali and at the Holiday Inn in Krabi and we took full advantage of the facilities to enjoy the resort.
And many resorts will have complete spa services to help you relax even more. And so much better if you can hear the surf as you get your massage.
For breakfast, we often book the hotel breakfast so that we don’t have to be struggling to make restaurant choices first thing in the day. By the end of a long vacation, having to make yet more one more restaurant choice can just add stress. Once breakfast is done, we love to head into a new town and check out the local food.
Sometimes you can find great food right at the hotel. This is especially true if there are nights when the hotel does a special local food night. Our Italian “good-bye” dinner at the Intercontinental Bali with our son Nick left us all very well fed with home made pasta and spoiled with exemplary service.
Enjoy A Little Luxury Occasionally
We always make sure that our hotel choices meet our basic needs. You may need to change rooms in a hotel to make sure you are not in that room nobody wants!
Sometimes you need a little luxury travel. You don’t need to travel that way all the time or for all bookings, but splurging now and then feels like such a treat. On our trip to Australia and SE Asia, we got spoiled several times and those experiences added to the great memories of our trip.
You too can spoil yourself with a some luxury travel. We have talked about what luxury travel is to us and how we managed to get it.
Do you splurge on luxury travel sometimes? How do you choose what to splurge on? How do you get your luxury travel?