>  Advice   >  Luxury hotel tips for budget travellers

Many travellers choose to splurge on a stay at a high-end hotel for a special occasion. However, booking in somewhere that is designed to cater to those with champagne tastes when you’re on a beer budget can be harder than it looks. Staying at a luxurious 5 star hotel can feel like setting foot in a foreign land, especially if you’re more accustomed to camping than caviar. Read on to discover how to get the most out of a special 5 star stay when you’re travelling on a budget.

Arriving at a luxury hotel

Most hotels offer to park your car on arrival but it is worth checking how much this costs before you hand over the keys. Some flash hotels charge upwards of $50 for this service but self parking at even the most expensive resorts is often free. If you don’t feel comfortable asking about the possible charges when you arrive, call the hotel beforehand to find out what your options are.

Check the parking charges before you arrive

To tip, or not to tip?

Porters always get a tip in the movies but what about in real life? Tipping etiquette largely depends on where you are in the world so take your lead from the locals. If they tip, you should too but don’t make the mistake of tipping everywhere you go. While tipping is expected in the United States this is not the case everywhere. In fact, in some countries it is considered an ‘insult’ to leave coins on the table for the staff after a meal. Read up on tipping etiquette before you leave home to prevent undertipping, overtipping or – even worse – embarrassing everyone including yourself by tipping when you aren’t supposed to.

Checking in at a luxury hotel

Reception is not always easy to find at some 5 star hotels, especially when there are multiple desks dotted around the lobby, but it will usually be the largest one. Smile broadly, give your name and have your credit card handy. Even if you have pre-paid your accommodation, the receptionist will undoubtedly want to take an imprint of your credit card to cover incidental expenses. Don’t take this personally. It’s not because you look like you can’t afford to stay here, everyone has to hand over their plastic.

The more the hotel costs, the more this amount is likely to be. For this reason it can be wise to increase your credit limit before you leave home even if you don’t plan on spending up big. These ‘held charges’ can quickly add up and often take a few days to be ‘released’ from your card which can be a problem if you are moving hotels every few nights. You don’t want to have your credit card declined because it is showing as being over its limit even though you haven’t technically bought anything.

Look for the largest desk when you arrive - that's usually reception
Look for the largest desk when you arrive – that’s usually reception

5 star hotel room

Obstructed views, noisy lifts or overlooking the car park: most hotels have a few less-than-ideal rooms which nobody, yourself included, wants. Going back to reception and asking politely if it would be possible to move rooms is fine however if you didn’t pay for an ocean view, your request for one of those rooms is unlikely to be successful. For a special occasion, paying a little extra for exactly what you want is often worth it and can even save you money, especially when it comes to dining.

Dining at a 5 star hotel

This is when paying for a better room really comes into its own. Why go out to an expensive restaurant when you have already got the best view in town? Ordering room service is the perfect indulgence but if you have blown all your money on the accommodation then ‘virtual room service’ is an economical option. Pick up some bubbly at the bottle shop, call in-room dining to request an ice bucket and ask the concierge for a local takeaway recommendation. The only thing missing from your dining experience will be the fancy trolley and the hefty price tag.

What a great spot to enjoy some ‘virtual room service’

Family 5 star travel

Most five star hotels cater for children but take care when selecting your room as some have maximum occupancy limits. Remember to request any cots, rollaway beds and special requirements when booking and don’t forget to ask if there is a charge. The cost of that rollaway might be better spent upgrading to a larger room with a fold out couch. Babysitting can usually be arranged through the hotel although costs vary considerably even within the same chain. It may be preferable to organise your own babysitter through a reputable private agency or choose a resort with a Kids Club. This is a fun option for children which also gives parents a break. Check the minimum age for participation as it can vary from six weeks to seven years.

Not all rooms include a free sofa bed like this one at the Novotel Darwin
Not all rooms include a free sofa bed

Hotel freebies and facilities

When booking ask if there are any special packages with extras like parking, breakfast, movie tickets or a free upgrade thrown in. These packages often cost little more than a standard room but the savings can be substantial. This is especially true during the weekend at 5 star hotels that are popular with business travellers. Some hotels have free in-room movies and a choice of first-rate flicks. Others boast a sensational swimming pool or spa with a steam room and plunge pool that is free for in-house guests to use even if they don’t book in for a spa. After you have settled in, peruse the hotel directory in your room to discover what is available to enjoy in-house. You might be surprised when you discover how much ‘free fun’ is on offer.

Disclosure: The writer loves a 5 star bargain and often has DIY room service for dinner.

Want tips that save time, money and your sanity when you’re flying or at the airport? Check out our suggestions for how to pass the time at an airport with kids, how to access airline lounges (even if you’re not a member), and how to make the most of a stopover.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.