A couple of weeks ago I helped my wife get a reservation at a hotel. She’s giving a presentation out of town for an organization that’s staying at a top flight resort in North Carolina.

Hotel Lobby, Salamanca (Spain), HDR
Marc via Compfight

The problem initially wasn’t the nightly price of the hotel. Because it’s an organizational event they were getting a very nice cut rate for the stay. After that though, everything else was going to add up to a pretty penny before she and her friends did anything. In the end, moving her to a regular hotel, even one that’s costing $5 more a night for the room, is more economical.

I get it; resort hotels can be wonderful places to say. They’re large, plush, usually have great views, and offer amenities you often can’t get anywhere else.

The problem is that they’ll nickle and dime you to death; actually that’s a misnomer because they’ll actually $10 and $20 you to death. And many of these amenities are items that you’ll get at other hotels either for free or very low cost. Let’s look at 5 things to consider as to whether or not you should stay at a resort hotel or a regular hotel, and we’re only talking cost.

1. Parking. At most resort hotels, you’ll end up paying anywhere between $10 and $50 a day. Sometimes if you’re in and out there’s a separate fee each time you come back. If you were getting more security in a dangerous area it might be worth paying something, but most of the time they give you a disclaimer that they’re not responsible for your cars.

Regular hotels, parking is free unless they don’t offer parking, like in NYC.

2. Internet. Most resort hotels don’t give you free internet, even though it costs them almost nothing to offer it to you, and it’s never very good whether you pay for it or not. That can run you between $7.99 and $20.99 a night, and no matter what they say, it’s no faster in the lobby than it is in your room, and if it is, shame on them because they have the money to make it right.

Regular hotels, internet is almost always free, although I did stay at one chain where it was $2.99 a night. Didn’t like it but it was inexpensive.

3. Meals. Resort hotels are known for having very fancy food. Most of it I don’t recognize, and I travel a lot. I know many people are going to say that if a regular hotel has a restaurant the costs are pretty high as well. That’s not quite true. They’re higher than what you’re used to but nothing like a resort hotel.

Think about a hamburger. You might balk at paying $10 for a hamburger via room service in a normal hotel but how would you react to $20 for a hamburger and an added cost for french fries because everything is ala carte? Add to that the possibility that in a resort hotel you’re not getting ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard that you recognize, but something with a fancy name and probably some kind of fancy spice you’ve never heard of that you might not like.

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Most hotels I stay at offer some kind of free breakfast, even if it’s only continental. If you drink coffee, you can always get that for free, along with juice. If they have a sit down restaurant your meal is usually going to cost you less than $10; nothing wrong with that.

4. Shuttle service. Most normal hotels you stay at that have shuttle service offers it for free. In some cities they’ll even pick you up at the airport for free, even if it’s outside their normal 5 to 10 mile area limit.

For resort hotels, no matter how close or far you are, there’s a built in fee that often starts around $20 and can be as high as $75, and it almost always includes a gratuity. If you want to take the shuttle anywhere around town, no matter how close or far, they’re going to charge you. At a certain point you might as well just take a taxi because at least they’re a bit more flexible in taking you almost anywhere you want to go.

5. Gym. These days almost every hotel has someplace you can work out. Most hotels have a treadmill or two and maybe some free weights you can use; it’s not fancy and there might be limited hours but at least it’s free.

Resort hotels don’t just have gyms; they have workout palaces. Often they’re these large rooms with multiples of everything, TVs, a pool or whirlpool, a trainer, a spa… the works. And they’re going to charge you for the honor of using any of it, starting with at least a $25 daily fee for the stuff you can do on your own and adding extras if you want something like time in a sauna or the whirlpool. Most of them don’t charge you for using the pool; at least there’s something to look forward to.

As I stated earlier, if you’ve got the money and just want to be pampered for a few days then have at it. If you want to use your extra money for something else, like paying for souvenirs or heading downtown somewhere to have some fun, stay at a regular hotel.

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