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There was a time when I chased elite status for one reason only: suite upgrades. In 2015, I did a mattress run to secure top-tier Hyatt status before a trip to Asia. Back then, Hyatt issued top-tier elites four confirmed suite upgrade awards upon earning status. Nowadays, Globalists receive these after completing 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100 nights.
But back then, they were easier to earn and seemed vital to an exceptional hotel stay. It wasn’t just limited to Hyatt. I got a Hilton credit card to achieve top-tier Hilton Diamond status, which resulted in multiple suite upgrades. I chose hotels based on where I thought I would be more likely to get upgraded for best buy credit card.
My priorities have since changed. Of all the elite status perks I care about, suite upgrades rank pretty low. In fact, during a recent stay in New York, I turned down a suite upgrade, opting for a standard room with a city view. Here’s why suite upgrades aren’t a priority for me anymore.
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I’m never in the room
Before the pandemic, I spent a lot of time in my room over the course of a hotel stay. I’ve been working remotely on and off for more than a decade now. Whether I was a freelance writer or working for a company with a limited PTO policy, I found myself mastering the workcation before it became mainstream.
The room mattered because having a suite allowed me to have a separate space for work. So, what’s changed? Well, over the last year and a half, I’ve been stuck at home and isolated so much that I don’t want a private space for work anymore. In fact, I want to spend as little time in my hotel room as possible.
I’m making use of hotel amenities more than ever, using the gym, spa and making sure I see as much of the surrounding area as I can manage. When I’m working, I prefer doing so at a local cafe, the hotel lobby or utilizing a shared workspace like the library at the Seabird Resort in Oceanside.
I’m an introvert through and through, but the last year of forced quarantine has made me want to be around people more. So I’m happy to have a standard room with a comfortable bed and then spending my waking hours outside of it.
Other amenities matter more than the room
There are other room amenities that matter to me than room size. Mainly cleanliness, a comfortable mattress and a good view. That’s not to say you can’t get those things in a hotel suite, but I don’t need anything more than this. Though while we’re on the subject of suites, it’s worthwhile noting that housekeeping has been lax during the pandemic. If hotels have a hard time keeping standard rooms clean, I’m not convinced suites will be in much better shape.
I recently realized how much I value floor-to-ceiling windows and views – much more than room size. It surfaced when I was looking for hotels in New York City last week. There are lots of different Hyatt properties there. A friend of mine was in town and recommended two downtown properties I hadn’t stayed at before.
While those hotels looked nice and would have helped me get closer to a Hyatt Brand Explorer award, I ultimately stayed at the Hotel 50 Bowery and the Hyatt Union Square because both offer rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows.
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It’s a small thing, but I’ve realized what a difference it makes to have a large window in the room and how connected I feel to a place when I’m able to look out and see the hustle and bustle. It just makes me want to get out there and see things rather than stay indoors and work after-hours or watch Netflix.
Years ago, I stayed at a hotel in Chicago that had the smallest window facing a brick wall. After just a few hours in that room, I started to feel claustrophobic and eventually cut my stay short. So while a large room is certainly nice and a suite offers plenty of that, I’ve decided that all I need is a good view for the short amount of time I spend in the room.
In fact, when I checked into the Hyatt Union Square a few nights ago, the front desk agent offered me a suite upgrade. At that point, I was only planning to stay for two nights (though my flight got canceled and I ended up staying longer). While I’m sure the room would have had a lovely view, I asked if I could have the same room type they offered me last time. It was on a high floor with a view of Fourth Avenue and it was available right away, whereas the suite would have required some waiting.
Travel comes with many unknowns and as great as that is, I like consistency and convenience in my hotel experience. So I turned down the upgrade and opted for a room that I previously stayed at (and liked), which happened to be available.
More space = more room to leave items behind
No matter how long my stay is, I travel light and minimize the space I use. I keep my clothes in packing cubes on the desk, next to my electronics, while my small bag of toiletries stays in the bathroom. I never use the closet or dressers because the odds of me leaving things behind are high.
With a suite, I’m always tempted to spread things out a bit, leave my laptop on the couch, leave chargers in different parts of the room and maybe leave a shopping bag in the corner of the living area.
Now, in theory, that sounds nice, but gathering everything up afterward can be a challenge. A smaller room means less space for me to put my belongings and potentially leave them behind. I can do a quick sweep at the end of my stay and pack up in a matter of minutes. It just works for me.
I travel solo more than ever
Before joining TPG, I was a freelance writer and had a full-time job with limited PTO. When I took time off, it was often for a family vacation: traveling with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephew. When you’re traveling with such a big group, extra space matters. Getting a suite upgrade was much more important in those scenarios than now that I’m traveling solo more often for work or just to decompress.
That’s not to say family vacations don’t happen anymore or that I would turn down a suite upgrade when traveling with others. But since I’m more often traveling solo, getting a suite upgrade isn’t essential.
I will also say that during trips when we got an amazing suite upgrade, all of us stayed indoors for longer. Sure, it’s perfectly fine when you’re at a resort and your upgraded room has a private rooftop pool, but in large cities, you want to leave and explore. In my case, suite upgrades discourage that. The nicer the room, the less likely anyone is to leave.
Like many of you, my priorities have changed over the last year and a half. I took just one trip in 2020 and began traveling more after getting vaccinated. Having seen how much hotels have changed their services and amenities, I value cleanliness and minimal amenities that are well executed.
While I certainly wouldn’t turn down a suite upgrade in every circumstance, I just don’t need them anymore. I’m fine with a clean room with a nice view (anything except a brick wall or courtyard) and large windows to let in natural light. That’s all I need to be happy in a hotel room. The rest of the time, I want to go out and explore.
I’m curious how you all feel and what you value most about hotels and the perks you get as an elite member. Do suite upgrades matter when you’re traveling?
Featured image by the Palazzo Manfredicourtesy of Small Luxury Hotels of the World
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.