Executive Lounge

Special amenities, such as concierge service, free meals and private meeting space, are just a few draws for leisure and business travelers. (Getty Images)

Complimentary meals and beverages, well-appointed lounges, high-speed Wi-Fi access, stunning skyline views … these are just some of the perks guests can expect at hotel club-level floors around the world. But these upgrades come at an added cost – is it worth it?

"When I visit a destination for business or somewhere that I don't intend to sightsee, I always upgrade," says Katie Goldstein, a travel writer and author behind TravelingPanties.com, a popular travel blog. "However, if you're in a destination that you want to explore and enjoy local cuisine, then spending the extra money to have the option isn't worth it. In fact, you may feel confined to the option of the lounge since you paid for it," she adds.

Splurge or Save?

Hotel club levels can help you maximize savings and upgrade your hotel stay simultaneously. For example, at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach, California, for an extra $50 charge per night, guests can enjoy breakfast and snacks, beer and wine, curbside check-in, a dedicated concierge and access to the spa steam room and lounge, among other benefits.

"Club level often includes services that, if you had to pay for them separately, would add up to be more than the price of club level," says travel expert and TripAdvisor Travel Advocate Wendy Perrin, who frequently travels on business and often brings along her husband and two boys.

Summer Hull, who writes about rewards travel for MommyPoints.com, echoes similar sentiments. "It is typically most worth it when multiple people benefit and you are staying at a resort where you won't be frequently leaving the grounds," she says.

Other times, such as romantic getaways or trips celebrating a special occasion, can be ideal times to spring for an upgrade. For example, the club-level rooms at Walt Disney World Resort properties often go upward of $150-$200 more per night, but offer substantial benefits like unobstructed views of the fireworks from the club-level lounge at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.

If you're wondering whether it's a smart idea to spring for an upgrade, here are seven times when it pays to splurge.

If You Want All-You-Can-Eat Meal Options

One of the most popular services provided by hotel club levels is the access to food throughout the day. Most hotel and resort club levels provide breakfast, afternoon snacks and evening hors d'oeuvres, many with alcohol included, especially during happy hour.

This is especially helpful for families, Hull says. "Families are often harder to get moving and out the door, so having the ability to eat on property without an additional cost for each bagel or orange juice can not only save money, but stress and time," she says.

"I love the convenience of being able to start my day with coffee and breakfast at the hotel, so I can get a quick and early start to my day without having to search for somewhere to go," Goldstein says. "Often, if I can upgrade for under $50, I figure I'll have a good breakfast and a couple glasses of wine and recoup my money," she adds.

A Quiet Enclave

A key benefit of a club-level room for both families and business travelers is the opportunity to escape to a quiet and private location. "I can leave the kids in the room and tiptoe down the hall to the club lounge to get my work done," Perrin says, noting that it gives her a space for quick meetings with business colleagues.

Club lounges often provide access to high-speed Wi-Fi and are typically located on top floors of hotels and resorts, often yielding striking views. "Some are even on rooftops," Perrin says. "You can be working under an umbrella on a terrace. Plus, as you're arriving in a foreign city, you can almost recon the entire city and its neighborhoods via the view."

If You Want a Premium Room

In addition to lounge access, club-level guests often have access to better rooms. At the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta, for example, club-level rooms (roughly $100 more per night) occupy the top three floors of the hotel and are granted the best views of the city. Plus, these rooms are often appointed with luxurious touches. For instance, at the InterContinental Presidente Mexico City, club-level visitors are treated to an in-room Nespresso coffee machine and a TV in the bathroom mirror.

If You Want Insider Access

With club-level status at a hotel, you may also be eligible for VIP experiences. Josh Francia, general manager and chief marketing officer at Gozengo, an online vacation website, says Occidental Grand Xcaret Resort in Mexico is a great example. "When vacation time is at a premium, concierge-level rooms put you in the front of the line when making restaurant reservations, arranging area excursions and in this case, customizing a visit to the ecological park of Xcaret," he says. “Booking the concierge level at these premium all-inclusive resorts also gives one an edge on the best tables and reservation times, too, especially since there are 10 restaurants at this property alone," he adds.

If You Want Family-Friendly Amenities

For families looking to keep kids both entertained and well-fed on the property grounds, club lounges can provide a respite for down time and breaks from sightseeing. Beyond providing snacks and beverages, several lounges offer more family-friendly features. The Ritz Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, for example, offers club-level guests access to their Ritz Kids Club, which features an environmental-focused program for younger guests. One of Perrin's top picks for families is Fairmont's Gold Lounge, which offers great food for all ages, along with amenities like movies to take back to the room, books and games.

If You Want Extravagance

For travelers craving top-notch service, many club-level room options will fit the bill. The Langham, Chicago, for instance, provides club-level guests who pay an additional $100 per night with their very own butler, two-hour access to the club boardroom and car service providing transportation within 2 miles of the hotel. And at the Inn on Fifth in Naples, Florida, club-level suites get guests access to a private rooftop sundeck, a whirlpool spa and transportation downtown and to the airport.

If You Want Perks with Points

If you don't want to pay a hefty price tag to to spring for a club-level room, many hotel chains will let you upgrade using rewards points. At Sheraton Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest members can upgrade to club-level rooms for between 1,000 and 1,500 points for Category 1-4 hotels or for between 1,500 and 2,750 points for Category 5-7 properties.

Hull often uses her points to book free stays, and then reaches out to the hotel in advance to determine how much the extra cost is to upgrade to a club-level room or a suite. "I have had amazing suites for less than a $100 surcharge per day on top of my award reservation when it would have been over $1,000 to book the suite for the going rate,"  she says.

Sorting the Good from the Bad

Not all upgrades are equal. Some properties may offer limited meals and snacks or feature a subpar drink selection. Make sure to conduct research ahead of time by exploring your desired hotel's official site as well as review sites. Perrin also cautions that the hotels with some of the best club-level privileges tend to highlight them on their website, while those who don't, rarely mention them.

Tags: hotels, vacations, travel

Lyn Mettler is the hotels contributor to U.S. News and also writes about destinations, adventure travel and flying free using miles and points. She is the author of “The Step-by-Step Guide to Flying Free on Southwest” and blogs on the topic at GotoTravelGal.com. She is a longtime travel public relations professional and writer based in Indianapolis, whose articles have appeared in Executive Traveler, Private Air, Legion magazine, the National Catholic Register, MSN and other outlets. She and her family enjoy exploring the U.S. on active trips and her favorite destinations include the Rocky Mountains, Chicago, Orlando and California. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram at @GotoTravelGal.

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