Budget travel tip: Ask to use a hotel’s hospitality suite

I often book red-eye flights in order to save money and to spend more time in my destination — without having to pay for an extra night’s hotel.

Depending on your destination, even after you officially check out, you may also be able to use a hotel’s hospitality suite to get cleaned up. I’ve had the best luck in Hawaii, where resorts seem the most sympathetic to people wanting to squeeze in extra beach time (and to people wanting to scrub off the sand before the flight home).

After checking out in the morning, I ask to leave my bags at the hotel, and then I either go off during the day for more sightseeing and eating, or I hang out on the resort property (with permission, of course).

Several years ago, I spent Labor Day weekend with my mom on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our flight was scheduled to leave at night, so we spent much of our departure day relaxing at the resort. Having joined a full-day Circle Island tour the day before — which required waking up at 6 a.m. — I was more than happy to do absolutely nothing but laze around the pool at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. In the afternoon, my mom participated in a water aerobics class, and I napped under the shade of a beach umbrella. We ate, read a bit, and went swimming.

When it was time to get ready to leave for the airport, we went back to the front desk and were given a key to a spare hotel room, where we could shower, change, and otherwise make ourselves presentable for the return flight. I felt refreshed and though few people ever are ready to leave Hawaii, it was a mellow way to end a mellow vacation.

Here are five ways to make the most of a hotel’s generosity:
5 Tips for Using a Hospitality Suite

1. Ask your hotel for permission to use the hospitality suite before you check out and before you jump in the pool or head to the beach. If for some reason the hotel is fully booked or has changed its policy, you don’t want to be caught soaking wet.

2. Make sure you keep a change of clothes with your day bag. You don’t want to have to ask the bellhop to retrieve your luggage and then dig around your suitcase with everything — and I mean everything — splayed out in the lobby.

3. The standard allotted time for using a hospitality suite seems to be 30 minutes. If there are two people who need to shower and otherwise beautify themselves, you may need to yell at the other person to hurry up. Or agree that the person who takes the least amount of time should go first.

4. It doesn’t hurt to leave a tip in the hospitality suite. The housekeeper does, after all, have to refresh the towels and toiletries.

5. Though I’ve yet to try this, I’m told that some hotels may let you use the spa facilities or showers if you arrive super early on a red-eye flight and your rooms aren’t ready until later that afternoon. Though many hotels graciously hold your bags until check-in time, I know I would especially appreciate having access to a shower if I land at 6 a.m. and the room isn’t ready until 3 p.m. As always, it’s best to work closely with the front desk to make sure the hotel can accommodate any special requests or arrival times.

[Photo Credit: Amy Chen]