Why I actually prefer limited-service hotels over luxury chains
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When I first got into points and miles in 2011, it was the ability to book luxury hotels for less that appealed to me the most.
Now, nearly a decade later, I find myself drawn to the limited-services hotels more than full-service or luxury properties. Luxury hotels are popular for award redemptions because they’re perceived as the “highest value.” After all, if a hotel is $1,000+ per night, then redeeming 30,000 Hyatt points gets you over three cents in value, a stellar return. So why wouldn’t you just save your points for those high-end awards?
Well, you certainly can. But, believe it or not, you can get as much (if not more) value out of limited-service properties like Hyatt House and Hilton Garden Inn hotels. Here’s why I’d book one of these hotels over a full-service property any day:
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They’re cheaper (and often newer)
Whether you’re redeeming points or paying cash, limited-service hotels are virtually always cheaper than mid-range and high-end hotels in similar locations. That goes without saying. But limited-service chains like Hyatt House are often newer and, in some ways, nicer than their high-end counterparts.
That’s the case because several hotel companies have been expanded their extended-stay portfolios fairly recently while new high-end resorts have been around longer. Sometimes you’ll find these limited-service properties to be much nicer than high-end hotels in the same market if those properties haven’t been recently updated.
For example, I recently stayed at a luxury hotel that costs 70,000 points or well over $400 per night during peak season. The hotel was fairly new and about three times more expensive than a nearby Hyatt House that I stayed at a few years back. Guess which hotel was cleaner and in overall better shape? The Hyatt House.
In fact, when I walked in, I was pretty stunned at the resemblance between the two properties: The bathroom floors, the bedding and even the furniture looked similar to the room at the nearby Hyatt Place. The difference? The room in the luxury hotel was not cleaned properly and the pool area was in even worse shape, with stained loungers and crumbs covering the seats — yet that hotel cost significantly more.
The Hyatt House offered a room of about the same size, with similar amenities and free breakfast. It was a far better value than the luxury hotel. This isn’t even the first time I’ve encountered this issue. The pandemic has provided an excuse for many full-service hotels to cut back on some standards and housekeeping frequencies, but even factoring that in, next time, I’m going back to the limited-service option.
Related: How to avoid resort fees
More space, ideal for large groups and families
Limited-service and extended stay properties are my go-to when I’m traveling with a big group or family.
Many of these hotels offer two queen beds along with a sofabed, offering plenty of space for four or more people. When I travel with my sister and her kids, they all prefer to be in the same room. Properties like Hyatt House make that possible by providing rooms large enough to accommodate families with kids.
It’s not just kids that warranty more space. I recently traveled with four other people and when it got late and we decided to stop at a hotel for the night. This was a college town with several hotel options, but the Hyatt House Davis ended up being the best one. The five of us were able to fit into a single room, which had two queen beds and a separate living room with a pull-out couch.
There was also a fully-equipped kitchen with an island equipped with all the power outlets you’d need for a workstation. Most other hotels would have required our party of five to book two rooms, but we were able to book just one with plenty of room for the whole group.
The best part? Everyone got complimentary breakfast the next morning. No status or special room rates required.
Related: Our 6 best family award trips — ever
Sensible food options
I’ll gladly go without room service in favor of something simple yet edible from something like Hyatt’s Gallery menu. I’ve stayed at plenty of full-service hotels (some of them very high-end) and I can’t say I’ve ever had a room service meal that I particularly enjoyed, especially not for the price. Room service has been convenient when I’ve checked in late and was too exhausted to find alternatives, but it was typically overpriced and underwhelming.
I’ve really come to appreciate the simplicity of to-go options at Hyatt’s limited-service properties. And now that food delivery apps serve even some obscure suburbs, there’s often no need to settle for a subpar room service menu when literally the most delicious local foods might be at your fingertips.
Despite being dubbed “limited service,” hotels like Hyatt House, Hilton Garden Inn, Springhill Suites actually do offer some services and amenities – ones that are not common at higher-end properties, yet super useful. I’m talking, of course, about laundry. As someone who packs light, laundry is pretty high up on my amenity wishlist during longer trips.
I’ve stayed at full-service hotels where laundry will set you back $15+ per item. I can’t think of a single piece of clothing I wear during my travels that is worth washing for $15. Dragging a laundry bag halfway around town to a laundromat isn’t ideal either (though I have done this in my younger, scrappier days).
I really value a hotel that offers convenient on-site laundry, even if it sets me back a few quarters. Properties such as Hilton Garden Inn and Hyatt House typically offer on-site laundry that is either free or cheap. I’ll take that over some invisible amenity that costs an extra $35+ per night.
Extras like fully-equipped in-room kitchens are also a bonus. I imagine families with small children or travelers looking to save on meals will appreciate it even more than I do.
As someone who often works on the road, I also appreciate that these limited-service hotels are adding public workspace areas in their lobbies. Full-service hotels have yet to incorporate these types of spaces across the board, even for renovated properties. It’s obviously not as useful now with distancing, but once the pandemic ends and travel goes back to normal, I imagine I’ll be using these spaces more often.
Another perk of staying at limited-service hotels that directly impacts the wallet: resort fees.
Outside of markets like Hawaii and to a much lesser degree, places like Orlando, you won’t see any of those pesky resort fees at limited-service properties. Resort fees at high-end hotels can run $50 – $100 per night, in some cases even if you are staying on points. But the vast majority of limited-service hotels have pools, gyms and WiFI without taking on a resort fee.
There are certainly exceptions, but most limited-service hotels offer free parking that is easily accessible right outside the hotel. I want to park my own car and be able to get to it quickly when I realize in the middle of the night that I’ve left my charger behind (again). Waiting for a valet or hustling over to a separate parking garage is not ideal.
If I can park right across from the hotel entrance and not pay $35 or more per night for the privilege, I’ll gladly choose the limited-service hotel.
My travel habits have changed over the last decade. I still like nice things, but I’m much more inclined toward value than “luxury”. Between the lower rates, often bigger rooms, newer properties and more practical amenities, limited-service hotels like Hyatt House and Hilton Garden Inn are often the best choice for my travel patterns.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t even have to sacrifice location by opting for these hotels. In fact, in big markets like New York City and San Francisco, you can often find Hyatt House properties in desirable neighborhoods, just at a more realistic price than their luxury alternatives.
Featured image of the Hyatt House Davis by Ariana Arghandewal / The Points Guy
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