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Budget Travel Tip: Uber-Expensive Hotels

A gloriously counter-intuitive budget travel secret: crazy expensive hotels are your friends!

Have you ever woken up in your perfectly comfortable but not exactly luxurious $7 hotel room (pictured, right) and thought, “Geez, man, I could stand to feel bit more like a Prince/Princess today.”? Of course you have.

(Okay, literally, as I was just sitting on my $7 bed writing that last paragraph, an ant crawled up the mattress and onto my arm! Thanks for illustrating my point, little guy. I shall now flick you to the ground. Ahem– back to the article.)

Have you ever woken up in your own bed in your own town and muttered, “I’m sick of this mundane life. I want some sparkle, dammit!”? Well this applies to you, too.

The next time you feel this need for niceness, take a walk outside and into town and scan the horizon. If you are in a town with any tourist population at all, you should eventually lock eyes with a cluster of tall, sleek, fancy-schmantz hotels. Walk towards them!

Try not to wear your “Chang Beer” tank top, but rather something a little classier. Get to the glass door of the first fancy hotel, let the bellhop bow to you and open the portal to shininess, and stride right in like you belong! You now have the following fantastic options at your disposal:

1. Walk around and soak up the beauty for as long as possible.

Fancy hotels are built with one purpose in mind: to make you feel like you are the richest Queen or King on earth, so that it doesn’t seem so odd that you’re spending $500 a night on a hotel room. Therefore, every nook and cranny is designed to pamper your royal self.

The lobby soars and the plush furniture caresses. The mirrored elevators play soothing but innovative music, and the lobby sculptures curve sensually. Every floor has a marble sheen or cushy carpet, and every bathroom has flowers, fresh scents, and abundant chrome and polish. Do not underestimate how heavenly each of these sights and sensations are, after weeks and weeks in less-than-luxurious settings! Soak it up, baby, and take your time walking around.

2. Eat or sip the cheapest thing on the menu.

Want to feel like you belong in this hotel a bit more? Want to feel that you’re contributing a little something rather than just darting around, furtively freeloading off the experience?

Find the most beautiful restaurant in the hotel. Maybe it’s outside on a terrace overlooking the local body of water, or maybe it’s on the top floor with a view of the city and surrounding mountains.

Let the waiter graciously lead you to a seat, and regally sit down and open the menu. Sheesh– what crazy high prices! Calm yourself and remember this: there is really only so much that a restaurant can charge for a beverage or a spring roll or a slice of cake. Order it and savor it blissfully, along with the view.

(Note: this fancy hotel restaurant thing is particularly fun with a group of lady friends and some really puffy dresses… not that I did this for my Bon Voyage party in Boston, or anything.)

3. Find the gym and the pool!

There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but by and large, fancy hotels have utterly stunning gyms and pools. About half the time, these hotels will allow non-guests to use the facilities for a fee (usually from $5 to $20).

Sometimes they will just turn you away with a sneer, which hurts, but then you can just trot over to the fancy hotel next door and try your luck there.

Sometimes the doors to their watery and cardiovascular Edens are left wide open and unguarded, and if you have brought your swim or workout gear, you can dive right in, unmolested!

Which method did I use to get all these great “hotel gym overlooking crystalline pool overlooking purple Thai mountains” photos?

Only the little ant crawling around my $7 hotel room knows, and he ain’t tellin’.


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Sunday 8th of February 2015

Going for the cheapest option in fancy hotels is definitely the easiest way to travel on a budget and not stay in cheap, substandard accommodation. It's the best way to enjoy a holiday.


Sunday 8th of February 2015

Glad you agree, Jared!

Trans-Americas Journey

Tuesday 25th of May 2010

Great tips. Another idea is to look for brand new hotels that have pre-opening specials. We scored a few nites in the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok back in '99 during its soft opening for under $50. Not exactly extreme budget, but a luxury bargain.

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