Most travel hackers I know won’t even think of staying at a non-chain hotel, let alone one where they don’t have access to elite benefits like free club lounge access. It’s understandable because lounge access can certainly be useful.
Getting upwards of three meals a day in the lounge saves money and is super convenient. I used to think it was essential to at least have breakfast covered at the club lounge or elsewhere. But is free lounge access really a blessing, or a curse?
The main advantage of having club lounge access is to get convenient access to food. While it’s certainly a shame to visit a new destination and spend the entire time gorging on generic lounge food, club lounge access does have several benefits. For starters, it saves you money. It’s also a convenient way to grab a snack or coffee when you’re jet lagged and waking up when most local eateries are closed.
The caveat? The food is usually pretty generic, which is a real shame if you’re traveling to a new city and missing out on local fare. Food is a huge part of experiencing a culture and by holing up in a club lounge eating frozen meatballs and chicken wings, you could be missing out on incredible culinary experiences. That goes for all three meals – even breakfast can be something extraordinary if you visit the right restaurant. Having free club lounge access makes it way too tempting to stay at the hotel and miss out on delicious food, not to mention the sights and sounds of the city. Which brings me to my next point….
Another major negative to having lounge access is that too many people spend a huge chunk of time hanging out there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left a lounge and returned several hours later, only to find the same person sitting in the same seat, presumably never having left the lounge. If it’s stopping you from exploring a new city or doing anything other than sitting around drinking free lattes, maybe free club lounge access isn’t so great after all.
Limited Hotel Options
Have you ever made a hotel booking decision based on hotel status? You’re not alone. Everyone I know (myself included) books hotels based on elite status benefits. Why stay at a hotel that doesn’t offer free breakfast, lounge access and bonus points? While you’ll get a lot of value out of these benefits, you may be missing out on some incredible hotels as a result.
Free club lounge access can absolutely be a blessing, especially if you’re traveling on a budget. But if it keeps you from experiencing the best of what a city has to offer (in terms of food, sights and experiences), then it can actually be a curse. I’ve absolutely been guilty of only staying at chain hotels where I have status and sometimes spending a little too much sipping lattes at the lounge. Being aware of our behaviors leads to growth, right? I aim to be a more enlightened and enriched traveler and as such, I intend to make future booking decisions independent of my status with a hotel chain.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think free club lounge access is a blessing or a curse?
[Image: Ritz Carlton]