Friday, May 7, 2010

"Heavenly" Stays

Since the idea here is luxury without breaking the bank I thought I’d post my thoughts on a GREAT hotel brand that fits into this concept well and that most importantly offers AMAZING deals. 

Now keeping within my budget for business travel means I stay at more than my share of Courtyards in any given year.  Which is fine, it’s not vacation, it’s just a bed and an internet connection.  But I began to notice the most interesting thing last Spring as I compared hotel rates.  In many markets it cost just as much to stay at an “affordable” business traveler focused hotel like the Courtyard or Embassy Suites as it did to stay at the Westin.

Why?  I think it’s because the mid-level business hotels have already pre-sold you on their value.  They don’t think they have much to prove since they’re already perceived as the fiscally responsible choice during a time of heightened cost sensitivity.  (aka hard economic times…)

Not so for the higher end hotels – they’ve got more work to do to attract and keep clients who don’t want to seem extravagant or may be looking at expenses at little closer since 2009.  So brands like the Westin are cutting their rates and becoming VERY competitive.  I’ve found steals in Fairfax, Richmond, and South Florida for under $200/night with other perks like breakfast and parking included.

An example of these gems is in NY.  The Times Square Westin is the only hotel I’ve ever walked up to and paid rack rate for on impulse.  It offers a level of luxury difficult to achieve at their pricepoint in NYC which meant  I still feel like I came out ahead by paying around $300/night for a room in midtown Manhattan that should have cost me $500/night at any time let alone booked on the spot. 

And while I’ve already blogged about the WDW Swan & Dolphin I can’t say enough about these hotels.  The Swan is a Westin (Dolphin’s a Sheraton but the hotels are almost exactly the same in terms of bedding and amenities – only difference is bed size.) These hotels are literally in the middle of the magic and within walking distance to two parks yet their prices are amazing.  I booked an $88/night rate last year and was even able to stay there on reward points for New Years’ eve.  And I used my pocketed pennies to book the most amazing hot stone massage at the Dolphin’s Mandara Spa.

This is a great brand folks.  They were the first to market with 24 hour room service (in 1969) and luxury bedding and baths.  NO ONE in the fewer than 5 star hotel market cared about bedding until the Heavenly Bed® came into the hospitality marketplace in 1999.  And now everyone cares about thread count and duvets and pillow top mattresses.  It’s become such a selling point that the HGI I stayed in last week had an instruction booklet for the bed.  Seriously.  And Westin has also brought in a GREAT menu with tasty, healthy dining options in the last year along with “workout” rooms.  It’s nice to stay somewhere you can really enjoy your hotel and not worry as much about your wallet – so thanks Westin for delivering a consistently exceptional experience at a good price.

My “TripTip”:
You really can get a lot for a little – especially in this economy.  Don’t miss out on great deals.  Always search a hotel’s website and those of their membership programs (Starwood, Luxury Hotels of the World) for discounts and upgrades. There’s nothing worse than leaving money on the table that you could use for all the fabulous things you’ll want to do ON your trips.

1 comment:

WDWStevieB said...

I am also a fan of Starwood properties. So many people overlook the Swan and Dolphin hotels as options. You are so correct about the deals they offer which are independent of the Walt Disney World Resort. AND- for many of us who are business travelers, point redemption (like your NYE- good find that night BTW) is a great way to reward yourself for time away from family.

On the non-Disney, Starwood front, I will say that I love the W and Aloft brands. Very chic, tech, and you can find great weekend deals in many of them.

PS- Heavenly Bed :)