Tag: hotels

Hotel guests use Wi-Fi within seven minutes

Seven minutes. That’s how long it takes to microwave a small frozen pizza. It’s the length ofLed Zeppelin’s No Quarter, give or take a second. And it’s also the maximum amount of time that the majority of hotel guests can go without connecting to Wi-Fi.

How addicted are travelers? According to a survey conducted by English hotelier Roomzzz, 65% of guests were online within seven minutes of checking in and one third requested the Wi-Fi password as soon as they arrived. (guilty as charged). Mark Walton, a spokesperson for Roomzzz, said:

“Our research shows that free Wi-Fi is paramount to guests, because without it, they are unable to check email, stay in touch with family and friends over social networks, check the news and, most importantly according to the research, read the weather forecast for where they are staying.”

Yes, according to the study, hotel guests said that they most frequently used the Wi-Fi to check the weather in their location. A quarter of respondents said that they ignored the television and used the Wi-Fi to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime or other streaming services.

Those surveyed also listed Wi-Fi as the second item on their wish lists, right behind getting a free room upgrade. But Wi-Fi outranked having a room with a view (if you’re staring at the lush landscapes of Downton Abbey, who cares what’s outside your window?). That data echoes what TripAdvisor discovered in its own recent TripBarometer survey of more than 44,000 travelers and hoteliers. According to that research, 46% said that in-room Wi-Fi was a “must have” amenity and that they would look for alternate accommodations if it was not available. More than a quarter (26%) specified that they required super fast Wi-Fi in their hotels.

Guests who responded to the Roomzzz survey overwhelmingly (61%) said that they felt “bored, lonely and cut off from the real world” if they couldn’t get online, while 10% said that they would go into an all-out panic without an internet connection. But a sliver of those surveyed (10%) said that they would be “relieved” if their hotel did not offer in-room Wi-Fi.

The 13 most haunted hotels in the world

From disembodied voices to ghostly apparitions, we’ve heard many spooky details from hotel guests who have visited notoriously haunted hotels. While Oyster.com reviewers haven’t had any paranormal run-ins at these spots, staff and guests have allegedly had eerie encounters that may leave you sleeping with one eye open. So if costume parties are too tame for your Halloween, consider booking a stay at one of the 13 most haunted hotels in the world. Just don’t fault the hotel if a spirit interrupts your slumber.

1. Stanley Hotel, Estes Park

A 1909 building, the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park has been reporting paranormal activity since the 1970s and has been the subject of many paranormal investigations. Many believe owners F.O. Stanley and his wife Flora are the more prominent ghostly guests, often seen in the Billiards Room or making the Music Room’s piano play. In 1974, horror author Stephen King stayed in room 217 at the hotel and based his novel The Shining on the hotel. The hotel offers nightly ghost tours, an on-site psychic, and TVs that play the Jack Nicholson thriller on a continuous loop. They’ve even installed a miniature tree maze in the front of the property as a nod to the book. Guests can stay in one of several reportedly haunted guest rooms.

2. Bourbon Orleans Hotel, New Orleans

The grand, historic Bourbon Orleans Hotel originally opened in 1827 as a ballroom for glamorous events. By the late 1800s the hotel was acquired by the Sisters of the Holy Family to be used as a school, orphanage, medical ward, and convent; a yellow fever epidemic struck at this time and led to the death of many children. It’s said that the ghosts of children and nuns can be seen and heard throughout the hotel. Additionally, several reports of a ghost dancer in the famous Orleans Ballroom have been made. You can book a Ghosts & Spirits Walking Tour, which stops at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, during your visit to New Orleans.

3. Emily Morgan Hotel, San Antonio

Housed in a historic neo-Gothic building with a reputation for paranormal activity, the 177-room boutique Emily Morgan Hotel has a prime downtown location across from the Alamo. It also at one time was a medical facility, so the property housed a morgue and a psychiatric ward. Reports of unexplained noises, apparitions, and the feeling of being touched are pretty frequent. If you want to up your chances of a paranormal encounter, book a room on the seventh, ninth, eleventh, or twelfth floors. Also, as a nod to the hotel’s notoriety for paranormal activity, the on-site Oro Restaurant and Bar offers a Psychic Happy Hour with palm readings on Thursday nights.

4. Omni Parker House, Boston

Steeped in history, stuffed with ghost lore, and teeming with old-world grandeur, the surprisingly affordable Omni Parker House is the place to stay for a taste of Boston’s literary and political past. The original hotel opened in 1855 and was run by founder Harvey Parker until his death in 1884. Many guests have reported seeing him in their guest rooms, where he’s asked about their stay. After a businessman died in room 303, there were multiple reports of laughter and the smell of whiskey. Stephen King’s short story 1408, which was made into a movie with Jim Carrey, centers on a writer who experiences a haunted stay at a New York hotel; the story was based on the supernatural activity in room 303.

5. Langham Hotel, London

One of the more notable historical hotels in London, the Langham Hotel has been around since 1865 — when it opened as the city’s first purpose-built luxury hotel. The hotel is a frequent place of lodging for celebrities and royals, and apparently, ghosts. Guests have reported seeing the apparition of a German prince, a German solider and a doctor who murdered his wife and then killed himself on their honeymoon, among others. The spirit of Emperor Napoleon III, who lived at the Langham during his last days in exile, has also been said to occupy the basement. Room 333 is supposedly the most haunted of the guest rooms and is available for booking for any brave travelers.

6. The Southern Mansion, Cape May

Originally a country estate for Philadelphia industrialist George Allen and his family,The Southern Mansion was built in 1863. When the last of Allen’s relatives, Ester Mercur, passed away, her husband sold the property. It was later bought and restored to its former glory, utilizing many of the original architectural elements and heirlooms. It’s said that Ester, Allen’s niece, can often be seen throughout the property — particularly in the kitchen. Staff will tell guests all the ghost stories associated with the hotel upon request.

7. Audubon Cottages, New Orleans

First built in the late 18th century, and named after naturalist and writer John James Audubon — who lived in one of the cottages in the first half of the 19th century — theAudubon Cottages have managed to stand the test of time with thorough renovations and continuous maintenance. Like many historic properties, it’s said to have a haunted history. Cottage Two and Cottage Four are supposedly the ones with frequent paranormal activity. Disembodied voices and the feeling of being touched are supposedly common occurrences. Cottage Four also is said to frequently host the spirit of a Confederate soldier who ensures the radio is always playing country music. He can also be seen in the courtyard.

8. The Marshall House, Savannah

Built in 1851, the charming 68-room Marshall House accommodated Union soldiers during the Civil War — and some guests say their spirits still walk the hallways. The oldest hotel in Savannah, it also acted as a hospital three times — once for soldiers and twice for yellow fever epidemic victims. During renovations, workers found human remains under the floorboards from long-ago surgeries when the ground was frozen and nothing could be buried. In addition to seeing ghosts throughout the property, guests report hearing children run down the halls, faucets turning on by themselves, and the rattling of doorknobs.

9. The Hay-Adams, Washington D.C.

Quite possibly the most famous hotel in the capital, The Hay-Adams has hosted many a politician, including the Obamas before inauguration. In 1884, best friends John Hay (Abraham Lincoln’s private secretary and later a Secretary of State) andHenry Adams (the author, and descendant of John Quincy) built their homes on the plot of land where the hotel now sits. In 1927, nine years after Adams’ death, the houses were razed and replaced by the hotel that stands today. Adams’ wife, Marian Hooper Adams, committed suicide on the site in 1885 and her spirit reportedly haunts the hotel. Guests and staff say they can hear a woman crying softly, disembodied voices, and doors opening and closing on their own.

10. Hotel Sorrento, Seattle

Built at the turn of the 20th century, the upscale Hotel Sorrento is an iconic Seattle boutique property. It’s said that the ghost of Alice B. Toklas, a woman credited with the invention of pot brownies, can often be seen roaming the halls, particularly around room 408. Guests have also reported their drinks being moved at the Dunbar Room. To honor her, they have a Ms. Toklas cocktail on the menu that includes lucid absinthe, elderflower, chamomile, honey, and lemon juice — so you can get both a trick and a treat at the Sorrento.

11. Hotel Provincial, New Orleans

The two-story Hotel Provincial — with 94 rooms in the historic French Quarter — is a retreat into old New Orleans. Like many New Orleans properties, it also claims to be a popular paranormal activity hub. Like other area hotels, the property acted as a medical facility for wounded confederate soldiers and is said to still possess their spirits. From distressed soldiers and operating doctors to pools of blood, guests have reported it all. If actually staying at the property seems too spooky, it’s also a stop on many walking ghost tours of the city.

12. Omni Shoreham, Washington D.C.

Built in 1930, the Omni Shoreham Hotel has echoing ceilings, grand chandeliers, and an allegedly haunted suite. The Ghost Suite, a two-bedroom apartment-style suite with a full kitchen, is reportedly haunted; spirits of the original owner, his daughter, and the housekeeper supposedly linger here. Both the housekeeper, Juliette, and the owner’s daughter, Helen, died in the suite. Once the family was gone, reports of unexplained noises, lights being turned on, and the feeling of someone running by, were made. Travelers can book the suite if they’re looking for the chance of a paranormal encounter.

13. Ballygally Castle, Northern Ireland

Built in 1625, Ballygally Castle is steeped in history, some of which is sinister. The original owner Lord James Shaw and his wife Lady Isabella lived at the castle until Lady Shaw either fell, jumped, or was pushed to her death from the top of the castle. Her ghost is said to be friendly, seen wandering around the castle or knocking on doors and then disappearing. The hotel has dedicated “The Ghost Room,” in one of the towers of the oldest part of the castle, in her honor.

Hotels target creative travelers with do-it-yourself activities

Historically, travelers who shell out for pricey hotels have done so in order to forget their lives of responsibility and be waited on hand and foot. But these days, many travelers are paying a pretty penny for hotels that allow them to do some work. The upscale DIY trend is here and growing. These are some hotels who are using DIY activities to appeal to creative guests:

1. Hyatt (various locations):

Hyatt has designed residential meeting spaces in order to make business retreats feel less sterile and more, well, retreat-y. Many of Hyatt’s larger hotels offer these spaces, which include open-plan boardrooms and large kitchens where groups can store snacks and even cook late-night snacks together. The Campus is a university dorm-inspired space (see above) where meeting attendees can brainstorm around the foosball table…likely with the help of some herbal refreshment. The idea is to take the “boring” out of standard meeting space and add a bit of creativity. Hotels with these residential setups include the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, and Hyatt Regency Chongming, China.

2. Four Seasons (various locations): Several Four Seasons hotels are launching an Entertain U program of classes that coach people on how to succeed in service professions or organize group events. The Orlando Resort property, for example, features a barista boot camp which instructs participants in how to prepare artisinal coffee and espresso. And at Four Seasons-Bahrain Bay, wannabe-hosts are trained by Wolfgang Puck’s culinary team. Want to take control of your own nutrition and dietary health? The Farm to Fork series of cooking classes at the Four Seasons Westlake Village in California offers regular cooking classes and demonstrations by licensed experts.

You hook it, we cook it program at Los Suenos Marriott Costa Rica is popular with those who love fresh seafood. Photo credit, Marriott

3. Los Suenos Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort (San Jose, Costa Rica):

This resort offers a “you hook it, we cook it” program where guests can catch their own fish to give to hotel chefs, who will prepare them to the guests’ preference in the restaurant. In fact, Los Suenos Marina is known internationally as the “fishing capital of Costa Rica” since more trophy fish are caught here each year than anywhere else in Central America. There’s nothing better than bragging to your dining partners about your own dinner!

4. AYANA Resort and Spa (Bali, Indonesia):

Guests at this resort can visit the onsite perfumerie, where the staff will help them mix fragrant notes from almost 100 different origins in order to craft their own personalized scent. The only one of its kind in Indonesia, guests follow traditional French processes to create perfumes that fit their own personality. There are 45 different essences, fragrances, and raw materials that form the base notes of the final product. The staff then helps guests bottle it, including a label with any name that a guest chooses, and place it in a gift box. Believe it or not, one of the scents is civet, the cat-like creature whose droppings are used to make Kopi Luwak, one of the world’s most expensive and gourmet coffees.

5. Regent Singapore

At the Manhattan Bar of the Regent Singapore, guests can fill and bottle their own barrel-aged Negroni. While pricey, the experience is popular among cocktail aficionados. The experience takes a full three hours, but includes a tour inside the world’s first in-hotel rickhouse (where barrels of bourbon are stored while being aged) and a peek at the collection of unusual ingredients from around the world like schisandra berries and dandelion root. Of course, there’s a tasting flight of aged Negronis to better prepare participants for their own bottling session.

Learn to blend your own wine at the Grand Bohemian, Autograph Collection in Charleston, S.C. Photo credit, Marriott

6. Grand Bohemian Hotel (Charleston, South Carolina):

This hotel, a soon-to-open member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, will allow guests to blend their own wine under the tutelage of master sommeliers who guide them through flavor palates as they customize their own bottles of wine to take home. Guests can sip and savor different flavors as they create the perfect bottle that meets their own personal preferences. They can then purchase them to enjoy at home or to give as gifts to friends and family.

Green wall at 1Hotel South Beach. Guests can build their own organic terrariums here. Photo credit, Ramsey Qubein

7. 1Hotel South Beach (Miami Beach, FL):

Earth-friendly 1Hotel South Beach in Miami Beach allows guests to build their own terrariums in a lobby-located workshop behind its eye-catching living wall. Guests and locals can be inspired by the public area’s living walls and artistic terrarium and floral displays. Across from reception, a garden shop offers tutorials on how people can customize their own using the plants and flowers that most appeal to them. Staffers can help to package them for travel or ship them home for guests.

Photo credit, Nortonius

8. Penha Longa Resort (Sintra, Portugal)

This Ritz-Carlton family hotel gives artsy guests the chance to paint their own traditional Portuguese tiles, which are seen in architecture and murals throughout the country. The tile painting sessions school participants in a variety of techniques giving guests the chance to put their creativity to the test. Tile masterpieces are packaged up for guests to take home.

JetBlue to help develop hotel at JFK’s iconic TWA terminal


The iconic TWA Terminal at New York JFK Airport is finally to get a new lease of life as a hotel, with a little help from New York based JetBlue Airways.

JetBlue has teamed up with MCR Development to build the on-site airport hotel close to JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK and will be the only hotel within the airport.

The hotel is slated for a 2018 opening and the long closed TWA Terminal will form the new hotel lobby.

The $265 million project will feature 505 rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, several restaurants and an observation deck.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK, is expected to approve the plan this week.

“We are thrilled the TWA Flight Center will come alive again. As New York’s Hometown Airline, we are proud to be a minority investor in MCR’s plan, which celebrates the landmark’s rich history while returning it to public use,” said Rich Smyth, vice president of corporate real estate at JetBlue.

“We want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in supporting our long-held belief that the TWA terminal can viably be restored and re-opened.”

This will be the second hotel project for JetBlue.

The carrier opened boutique hotel The Lodge at OSC in Orlando earlier this year, which is not open to the public and is used as a base for new recruit orientation.

The incredible shrinking hotel room

Hotels are thinking big by going as small as they can.

Independent hoteliers to big-name brands like Marriott are getting into the “micro-hotel” trend. The hotels have tiny rooms — think as small as 50 square feet — but big public spaces that appeal to social travelers.

“It is a slightly literal example of the ‘living like a local’ trend — where an apartment is often just a place to sleep, and the public spaces are where one spends the majority of their time,” says Gray Shealy, executive director of the Master’s of Hospitality Management Program at Georgetown University.

Micro-hotels first popped up in urban centers such as Japan and New York Citywhere real estate is particularly expensive. Packing more rooms into a property made financial sense.

In the USA, micro-hotel chains such as Pod, Yotel and CitizenM are expanding to other cities like Miami, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. These are destinations where travelers tend to look for great value and smart design.

Modus Hotels, a Washington, D.C.-based hospitality company, plans to open a Pod Hotel and the Hotel Hive, both micro-hotels, next year in the nation’s capital. Marriott will introduce 10 Moxy hotels next year in major metropolitan locations such as New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle and San Diego. Commune Hotels and Resorts will launch its micro-hotel brand tommie early next year in New York City, with other domestic and international destinations to follow.

“These are hotels in every city that are 1) unusual, 2) reasonably-priced, and 3) cater to modern, working, frequent travelers,” says Garth Holsinger, who has stayed at Yotels many times.

The micro-hotels are particularly appealing to Millennial travelers, who are starting to travel more and spend more.

“We are focused on the Millennial-minded consumer, with an emphasis on style, attitude and design at an economical value,” says Vicki Poulos, global brand director for Moxy.

Some travelers don’t necessarily agree that the comfort level equals that of regular hotels, but room rates can make staying at micro-hotels worthwhile.

“At first, it is entirely novel,” says Diana Edelman, who writes a travel blog called d travels ’round and stayed at the Yotel at London’s Gatwick airport. “But then reality hits that it is nearly impossible to open a suitcase in the room without hitting your head on the bed’s ‘roof’ or that you are showering next to the toilet and sink.”

“The room is tiny,” she says. “And I mean tiny, so for people who don’t like small spaces, it can be claustrophobic.”

USA TODAY took a look at a few micro-hotels in New York. Here’s what we found.

Pod Hotels

Hoteliers Richard Born and Ira Drukier introduced the micro-hotel trend to New York City in 2007 with the debut of Pod 51 in Midtown East. Pod 39 opened in June 2012 with a rooftop lounge, a communal play room where guests can engage in ping pong matches, and a Salvation Taco restaurant that on an early Friday evening drew as many or more young locals as guests. Pod 51 has an outdoor garden area and weekly happy hours.

“My target audience when we built it was the very next stage after you build a youth hostel,” Born says.

Rates start at $89, a mere fraction of what hotel rooms in New York normally cost. The smallest room is 72 square feet. The largest is 200 square feet.

Some rooms have bunk beds, each with their own plugs and TVs with headsets that were made for airplanes. Cubby holes provide storage space.

“It’s designed for intelligent people who understand the quality of design of the room and avail themselves of the technology,” Born says. “The rooms are very well thought-out meaning there’s a space to put your bag, there’s a space to put your things, there’s a plug wherever you want to plug in your device.”

The Jane

Once home to survivors of the Titanic, this hotel in the West Village feels more like a cruise ship or a train with sleeper cabins. Rooms have single beds or bunk beds.

In the rooms with bunk beds, “there’s two of everything: two TVs, two waters, two bathrobes, two slippers,” says Courtney Garron, a manager at the hotel.

Guests staying in the smallest room, the 50-square-foot Standard Cabin, share communal bathrooms.

There are built-in drawers and a luggage rack, but Garron acknowledges that sometimes people traveling with too much run out of space.

“We hold people’s bags,” she says.

The Standard and Bunk Cabins are 7 feet long and the beds are around 6 feet long, large enough for an average-sized person but perhaps a tight fit for someone taller.

Larger Captain’s Cabins with their own bathrooms are available as well. And with prices starting at $99 a night, upgrading to the larger cabin would still run you less than a regular hotel nearby.

An historic ballroom with a bar, lounge and mezzanine plus a rooftop with views of the Hudson River provide entertainment for those who want to get out of their rooms.


In addition to the Yotel New York, travelers can try out this micro-hotel in London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Expansion plans are in the works for Boston, Brooklyn, San Francisco, Miami, Dubai and Singapore.

The smallest room, found at the airport locations, is 75 square feet. Rates at the New York location average around $200. Travelers can book at the airport locations in four-hour blocks.

With rooms that small, some features have to be customized. Yotel recently introduced the adjustable “SmartBed by YOTEL” created in partnership with Serta. Think of a Barcalounger for beds. Guests can convert the bed into a sofa for TV watching or working on their laptops.

Having trouble sleeping? The Yotel channel broadcasts a “Yawn” video to help induce sleep. The bizarre video of a man yawning is effective at making viewers want to close their eyes.

And in a nod to how important technology is to the modern-day traveler, the Yotel New York has a YOBOT on full display. The automated luggage storage and retrieval facility provides entertainment while taking care of luggage.


Rooms at CitizenM in Manhattan’s Theater District feature interesting technology such as a digital artwork display that lets guests select whichever contemporary piece of art they want to stare at.

Samsung touch-screen MoodPads control the TV, music, window blinds, temperature and alarm. Wi-Fi is complimentary.

All rooms at CitizenM are 170 square feet, and each has a king-sized bed that is about 6′ 6” long. Rates start at $199 in New York.

There are five European properties in addition to the New York CitizenM. Plans are in the works to open more in the United Kingdom, France, Taiwan and USA.

“Our travelers appreciate an inspiring environment, a place where they really connect to the atmosphere, a great sleep experience … without having to pay the high rates of a typical boutique hotel,” says Noreen Chadha, commercial director, USA, for CitizenM.

Yet the New York property has the vibe of a boutique hotel. A hip bar plays curated music. A shop features books by Mendo, a popular Dutch store. And a rooftop bar called Cloud Bar has a fireplace and outdoor terrace. For now, it’s only open to guests.


Marriott’s brand for Millennials debuted in September 2014 with the opening of the Moxy Milan. More than 150 properties will be added to the collection in the next 10 years.

What can guests expect when Moxy finally arrives in the USA next year?

Public spaces with four zones: a welcome area, library and plug-in area, food and beverage outlets, and lounges.

Bedrooms, on average 186 square feet, have an open storage concept with a peg wall. A platform bed has “underbed” motion sensor lighting. The bathroom has a one-compartment layout with a shower and vanity.

There’s free Wi-Fi and keyless entry with your mobile phone.

Guests can buy food at Moxy’s 24/7 self-service station. The bar is full-service.

The Guestbook is a digital platform that collects stories, pictures, and videos from travelers. They are broadcast on the website, Instagram and on hotel screens.

The definitive ranking of hotel chain rewards programs

It doesn’t take a lot of work to be loyal to Marriott, Hilton or IHG. If you stumble into a town – any town – you’re reasonably likely to wind up at one of their hotels. On the other hand, it takes work to be loyal to programs that are smaller like Starwood Preferred Guest and Hyatt Gold Passport. That’s why smaller programs have to try harder. They need to give you a reason to be loyal.

US News offers a ranking of the best hotel rewards programs. It isn’t very good. (In fairness, the attempt is better than their airline frequent flyer program rankings.)

JD Power also tries to rank hotel loyalty programs. (Here’s my strong critique of JD Power’s survey, to which JD Power offers a spirited defense in the comments.)

The key thing to understand is that different programs do different things well – to understand the value proposition of each, and pick the one whose strengths match what you value most.

  • Hyatt Gold Passport has the best elite benefits, and the best value redemptions if you like to spend your points for suites, but has a small footprint. There are only about 500 hotels in the chain.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest offers strong elite recognition and has some of the nicest hotels. The program isn’t nearly as rewarding as others for the spend you do at their properties.
  • Hilton HHonors is everywhere. They have fantastic value awards for low-end hotels, with the best hotels much more expensive. Their mid-tier Gold elite level is the best combination of easy to get and rewarding (although their Diamond level is not comparatively strong, and can be had for just $40,000 in spending each year on their credit card).
  • Club Carlson has the cheapest reward nights. The problem is that the chain is relatively small, and most of the hotels aren’t very nice. Their elite benefits aren’t competitive. Club Carlson is strongest in Europe.
  • Marriott Rewards has hotels everywhere. They’re consistent. The program doesn’t promise very much, but what it does, it delivers.
  • IHG Rewards Club is similarly ubiquitous, and offers average value but frequently runs strong promotions. It’s difficult to deliver on top elite recognition since the chain is skewed towards mid-tier brands like Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

Best Elite Recognition

The status recognition benefits that elite members value most are usually upgrades and club lounge access or breakfast. Here are the rankings of how each program does with those.

Suite at the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur


  1. Only Hyatt lets Diamond members confirm a suite at booking from any Hyatt rate (4 times per year, up to 7 nights each time).
  2. Only Starwood promises to give Platinum members an available standard suite at check-in, if available. Starwood also lets their Platinums who stay 50 nights express priority for suite upgrades up to 10 nights a year, since members care about upgrades most when traveling on vacation with family and least on one night business stays when they’re alone.
  3. While Marriott and Hilton allow hotels to upgrade elites to suites, no hotel is required to do so.
  4. Club Carlson similarly only says that top-tier Concierge members “may be eligible for an upgrade to the next room category or to a standard suite, if available” which is pretty weak sauce.
  5. IHG Rewards Club offers upgrades which are 100% ‘determined by the hotel’ and hotels areexplicitly not required to upgrade members to suites or even ‘specialty rooms.’

“Extreme Wow Suite” at the W San Diego

If you’re not an elite, you can still use your points to get into suites.

Club Lounge or Breakfast

Hotels generally give top elites access to club lounges where breakfast and evening snacks are served.

  1. Hyatt wins as the only chain which guarantees a full (not continental) restaurant breakfast for Diamond members when no club lounge is available and for up to four guests registered to the room.
  2. Hilton gives breakfast to mid-tier members at all of their properties where breakfast is sold.
  3. Starwood lets Platinum members have continental breakfast when there’s no club lounge available.
  4. Marriott doesn’t offer breakfast at Courtyard properties or at resorts.
  5. Club Carlson gives continental breakfast for one person only to Concierge members.
  6. IHG doesn’t offer breakfast at all.

Hotels can be more generous than the loyalty program promises. No hotel breakfast I’ve experienced was more over-the-top than the St. Regis Bali. But overall Hyatt does breakfast best.

Caviar for breakfast at the St. Regis Bali

Here are nice charts showing each chain’s elite benefits in one place.

Late Checkout

Late checkout is one of the most useful benefits of elite status. Both Starwood and Hyatt offer their top elites 4 p.m. late check-out (at non-resort properties, and excluding designated convention properties and dates). Starwood even guarantees it for their mid-tier Gold members and Hyatt offers 2 p.m. checkout for their mid-tier members. Those two programs do late checkout best.

By contrast, Marriott’s late checkout benefit is subject to availability, by request on the day of departure. That’s especially weak considering it takes 75 nights to earn Platinum with Marriott, compared to 25 nights or 50 stays at each of Starwood and Hyatt.. and both Starwood and Hyatt offer guaranteed late checkout even to mid-tier elites.

Overall Elite Ranking

  1. Hyatt Gold Passport
  2. Starwood Preferred Guest
  3. Hilton HHonors
  4. Marriott Rewards
  5. Club Carlson
  6. IHG Rewards Club

Best Value for Earning Free Nights

At its most basic level, here’s what hotel programs offer as their cheapest room redemption and how much you need to spend with the chain to have enough points for it.

(For Hilton I’m assuming that you choose to earn “points and points” rather than “points and miles”.)

Of course, most of us don’t want the ‘category 1’ hotels that are also cheapest to pay for with cash (and of which there also aren’t very many). Once you get into mid-priced hotels, the kind you’ll find plenty of in major cities, you’ll find that Club Carlson gives you the most bang for your buck (plenty of Radissons in Europe are quite nice) and that Hilton, Marriott, IHG and Hyatt all offer pretty similar value.

Starwood is an outlier in that it takes the most spending at their hotels to earn enough points for free nights. Starwood points are also the most valuable, though, and offer the best transfers to airline miles by far.

Find the Chain Which Best Matches Your Needs

What matters most is which chain has the hotels that match your redemption patterns — hotels in the right places (does Hyatt or Starwood have a big enough footprint for you) and at the right quality level (do you want to stay at most Radissons, and do Marriotts offer the local character you may be looking for).

You need to determine whether or not the rest of the features of a hotel chain work for you.

  • Are you going to be an elite member?
  • Does the chain’s benefits make sense for you — Will you get suite upgrades? What about breakfast? Will the chain even honor elite benefits on reward stays (IHG doesn’t require their hotels to for most benefits)?

I like Hyatt and Starwood best. I’m a Hyatt Diamond member and a Starwood Platinum. But their footprints mean that there are plenty of small towns where they just don’t have properties. By contrast, Marriott loyalists most often tell me what they like about the chain is “no matter where I go I can earn my points” and “I get a consistent experience every time.”