Everyone loves a five-star hotel. The lush bed linen, the charming white-gloved waiters, the gold sticker holding down the loo roll; it’s hard not to leave such an establishment purring like a cat. Less lovely is the final bill, of course. But there are lots of ways to keep that under control. Here are seven of the best.
1. Try an alternative destination
To get more bang for your hotel buck, try a less fashionable destination. As in any business, the price of a five-star hotel room follows the laws of supply and demand, so if you choose Montenegro instead of the Côte d’Azur, or Trieste instead of Venice, you’ll get a better deal. Dreaming of a Californian road trip? For equally amazing coastal highway views, Why not try Cape Cod instead? A night at the Ventana Big Sur on California’s fabled Highway 1 costs £1,225 on 5 September, whereas the same night at the Wequassett Resort & Golf Club (set on Cape Cod’s elbow, above a sheltered beach) can be had for £385.
2. Travel off-season
Sometimes you can enjoy five-star pampering for half the cost if you go ‘off-season’. The destination will be less crowded and more relaxed, too. Take, for example, Switzerland in summer. Ok, you might not be able to ski, but you can mountain bike, hike, have a picnic next to a waterfall and relax in some stellar spas. The price differences speak for themselves. A room at the luxurious, art-filled Alpina Gstaad in Switzerland on 11 July costs £398, while in high season (Christmas, New Year and mid-February) you’ll be spending more than £600 a night.
3. Eat out
Steer clear of the hotel’s restaurant (and room service) and you’ll make the final bill more manageable. Instead, research the hotel’s neighbourhood before you arrive, and make a hit-list of more affordable restaurants and cafés – especially ones that are popular with locals. For example, the glittering Four Seasons George V in Paris is home to Le Cinq, one of the city’s best restaurants. It’s a place of pilgrimage for foodies, but its foie gras starter will set you back €85. Meanwhile up the road at the Relais d’Entrecote – a traditional bistro with Parisian-red awnings – starters can be had €6.50. And if you want the luxury that comes from being served by George V’s beautifully-trained staff, why not treat yourself to a pot of tea or a soft drink in the hotel’s La Galerie lounge? It’s the beating heart of the hotel.
4. Make the most of the freebies
Five-star hotels aren’t just for sleeping. You want to soak up as much of the atmosphere/service/facilities as possible without spending extra, and one of the surest ways to do this is to head to the spa. There’s no need to book an expensive treatment, just wander down in your hotel slippers and enjoy a swim or a spell in the steam room – it won’t cost you a penny. Make the most of the unlimited mineral water/flavoured teas/cookies/dried fruit and fashion magazines in the relaxation areas too – and before you go, slather on some of the free lotions and potions. At the new Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, there’s a large counter of La Prairie testers in the spa’s lobby, plus free SPF50 dispensers in the changing rooms.
5. Pivot to a different type of hotel
If it’s ultra-chic design details that turn you on, you needn’t splash out on a five-star hotel. Hipster chains such as Sister City, Mama Shelter and Roam provide dapper digs full of inspiring touches – especially in their buzzing public areas. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some flashy five-star hotels have smaller satellite hotels nearby at more affordable prices. For example, just across the road from the all-singing all-dancing Hotel Faena in Miami (£303 for a night on 7 September) sits Casa Faena, Hotel Faena’s little sister, which has an arty Cuban-style feel and 13 beautiful rooms (£170 on the same night). Finally, don’t overlook the odd luxury B&B – especially if it’s the quality of the bedroom that matters most. Sometimes, they’re more spoiling than a five-star suite.
6. Scan the internet for ‘soft openings’
When hotels throw open their doors for the first time, they often have a few creases to iron out. The swimming pool might not be ready, the hotel might not have its liquor licence or the service might be a bit iffy while new staff learn the ropes. The upside of this is much lower room rates – but only for a limited time. The big chains such as Anantara, Hilton and Alila Hotels & Resorts are always opening new hotels, so make sure you sign up to their mailing lists for special offers. For now, keep an eye on Meliá Hotels. It has two new hotels opening at the end of the year: Desert Palm Polo Club & Resort in Dubai and Sol Marrakech in Morocco. There’s also Chablé Maroma, a jungle-encased beach resort opening in Mexico late 2018, and in 2019 Ace Hotel Kyoto will be welcoming guests.
7. Fill the minibar with your own treats
One of the best things about staying in a five-star hotel is lounging around your room in a dressing gown à la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. But indulging in snacks from the mini-bar will send your bill skyrocketing. Instead, clear some space in the fridge and store your own shop-bought drinks and snacks. Hey presto: a lavish night in and nothing extra to pay. Bear in mind, however, that some hotels use weighted fridges, which take note if you remove items. So tell reception what you’re going to do, and put the mini-bar items back afterwards. Then check the bill to make sure you haven’t been charged.
And one final thing…
Don’t forget to keep the cost of your flights down by using Sksycanner’s flight search tools. Check out our feature Flight booking hacks that can save you cash for tips on how to use them to find the cheapest deals.
Published May 2018. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.