Walk through the doors of a hotel club lounge and you’re walking into a secret ‘hotel within a hotel’.
In the mornings, you’ll see guests enjoying a private breakfast far from the crowds in the main restaurant. After lunch, they can take afternoon tea – for free. And in the evening, there are usually canapes and cocktails.
It’s all on the house and reserved for a limited number of lucky guests. Here’s what’s on offer – and how to join the club.
Life in the lounge:
Club lounges vary and the best are spectacular. The newly refurbished, two-storey lounge on the 30th and 31st floors of the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong is billed as the ‘world’s best’.
Guests rave about visits, starting their day with a full breakfast at sunrise and ending it with champagne and stunning views at night.
At the Langham Hotel in London, the free food comes from Albert Roux and Michel Roux Jr – and staff offer complimentary clothes-pressing so you can enjoy it in style.
At the Hamilton Princess in Bermuda, the lounge also has sofas on a private terrace overlooking the marina, and the club lounge at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida, often becomes the club beach, with hammocks reserved by the sea.
In almost every club lounge there are quiet areas and business facilities, such as high-speed wi-fi and printers.
You can always expect lounges at the big chains such as Hyatt, Sheraton and Hilton. But they are increasingly offered at mid-range hotels too, including Radisson-Blu and Sofitel.
How do I join?
Sign up to a hotel loyalty scheme, build up enough points and you can access the lounge for free. The Hilton scheme is one of the most generous, though frequent travellers also like Accor’s scheme for allowing points to be converted into Avios points.
InterContinental (which includes Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza) and Starwood (Marriott and Westin brands) also have hotel-branded credit cards so you can earn points as you shop.
If you don’t have enough points to get into the lounge, and the hotel is quiet, some allow you to pay for entry. It starts at about £40 per person per day, depending on the hotel and the day of the week.
When choosing a hotel room, see if there is a ‘club bedroom’ available, with lounge access included. They normally cost about a third more than standard rooms, with the best deals at weekends when there are fewer business travellers.
Club rooms often have extras such as Nespresso machines, faster wi-fi and a later checkout.
The bottom line:
The most lavish lounges are in the Far East, Middle East and Europe. In many American hotels, you can be charged for alcohol at night. But in costly cities you can still save by snacking in a lounge rather than heading out to a restaurant – many solo travellers say they prefer eating in a lounge rather than at a ‘table for one’ elsewhere.
If you don’t arrange access in advance, and if you’re not in a loyalty scheme, industry insiders say you should always sign up if you’re offered the chance at reception. When the standard rooms are overbooked, staff may have a number of lounge access rooms to fill and offer those to guests.