The Hidden Danger of Staying at Nice Resorts

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I learn something new every time we travel, often times the hard way, but it is good to learn none the less.  On our most recent trip to two lovely resorts in Hawaii (more to come on that soon), I became astutely aware of a hidden danger to staying in full service resorts in amazing destinations.  I’m certain some of you will be able to relate to this danger.

The danger is that some, or all, of your party won’t want to leave the resort and do other things to get a true taste of your selected destination.  Some of these resorts that can be booked on points can be so easy and enjoyable that it might be tempting to spend your time on the property, but then miss out on great things to see and do in the city you are visiting.

resort pool

As an example, let’s say I was staying at the Courtyard Marriott Kauai for a few days.  That hotel has a pool, is on a beach, has a full service restaurant, but I bet isn’t a place where your family will want to stay camped out without leaving the property for days on end.  You will want to do as the hotel describes on their website and use their location “as a base camp for your island adventure.”

Now let’s pretend you were at a very full service resort in Kauai that has a lazy river, salt water lagoon, tons of pools, kid’s club, a spa, parrots, kid’s activities, lei making, multiple restaurants, evening entertainment, slides, cabanas, and more.  Would you want to use that (more expensive) property as a base camp for your island adventure, or would you be tempted to simply make the resort your island adventure?  I guess the next question is, if you are having fun with your family, is either a bad decision?

Island Hammock

This doesn’t look like such a bad option!

I’m a bit of a go, go, go-er on vacation, and while I love having a very comfortable base camp to enjoy during downtime and on certain days, the chance of me staying put for days on end at a resort are nil to none.  However, I have learned (or am learning) over time that my husband and I have different vacation styles and he is happy to simply enjoy the perks of using points to stay put at a posh resort.  Recently our travels have been a bit more adventurous or activity oriented including staying in a cabin in Alaska, seeing fireworks in DC, etc. so we were naturally on the go on our trips.

However, now that we were back at a great resort property in Hawaii over the last week, he wasn’t sure why we would leave to go check out another beach, or go drive and stand in line to try out a local restaurant.  But, but they have a beach right here.  They have good food right here.  They will even bring it to your room or umbrella by the pool – why would we get in the car and drive around on vacation? 


Why wait in line for food if they will bring it to your hammock?

Turns out, he is not the only one afflicted with don’t-leave-the-resort-a-tosis.  I met several other families that week having the same “problem”.  Some members of the family wanted to stay put and soak in the magic of the resort while others wanted to still explore the magical island.  Alternatively I met families who had collectively hoped to see and do more on the island, but found themselves drawn to the brilliance of total relaxation at the resort.

Explore or enjoy the resort?

Explore or enjoy the resort?

I think this problem, if it is a problem, has to be related to points in some way since points are what is enabling many of us to stay at places nicer than we imagined possible.  When at these extremely nice properties it does get harder to get out and explore than it might be at the totally adequate, but not over-the-top, Courtyard by Marriott type of property.

In addition to communication and planning with your family on the front end, perhaps the solution lies in splitting time on your vacation between a resort property and a more limited service property that just offers a “bed to lay your head”.  You then have your adventurous days and resort relaxation days clearly separated.  Of course, moving hotels with a young family has its own set of problems, so ultimately that won’t be the perfect solution either.

Has your family experienced this hidden danger of staying at a very nice resort?  I’d love to hear your stories and solutions!

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  1. The other problem is once they good used to the “good life” (purchased with points)how are you going to get them to a regular place when you have to actually pay for it?

  2. This happened to us at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, and I know we’ll have a problem when we go back to the Grand Wailea soon. My hubby likes to go-go-go when we visit Hawai’i, but why would I ever want to leave the Grand Wailea?

  3. This is also an issue if you stay at a property with a great club lounge. Once when staying at the RC Tokyo, I was upgraded to the club level– and the lounge there has five food presentations a day. I believe on one day, we actually stopped by for breakfast, lunch, evening cocktails, and then desserts. While it was wonderful, we later felt like we had missed out on the food that Tokyo offers by spending so much time eating at the hotel!

  4. Having just returned from the Nai’a Suite at HWV, and a GC room at GHK, I can say for sure we didn’t do as many island activities as planned. However, we were able to prioritize and get the most important items on our list completed. Yes, I wanted to hike a bit more and do a bit more snorkeling and surfing, but the hotels know what keeps people happy.

    I choose to look at it a bit differently. I now consider my to-do list as an ongoing list that can be used on future trips. It just helps us ensure we go and visit again. I am heavily considering spending our next Hawaiian vacation in a condo/home rental though.

  5. If I’m going to Hawaii, I want to go out and explore the islands. I’ll happily take the Courtyard. If I want to spend most of my time at a resort, I can find plenty of resorts closer to home. Same problem exists on cruise ships – do we stay on the cruise ship and enjoy the amenities, or go explore the place we’re docked?

  6. We just spent 8 nights in Kauai last June and spent 4 nights at the St Regis Princeville and 4 nights at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Altought we spent time at both resorts and enjoyed all their amenities we took the time to explore the island and we probably made to 80% of the beaches listed on the book Kauai Revealed. I put almost 500 miles on my rental car in 8 days. We also took a sail boat to explore the Napali Coast. Both resorts are amazing but they do not offer the best beaches for kids and after a while we got bored to spend more time at the pools. Also, we explored local restaurants and I have to say one have to leave the hotel to get to know Kauai.

  7. It’s not limited just to points. We stayed at the PH Tokyo on a paid stay and it was still hard to leave the hotel. Sure we could explore other bars, but when we’ve got window seats at the New York Bar, why the heck would we?

  8. I actually put quite a bit of thought into this when planning our trips. If we are going to a place with lots of things to see and do, I don’t bother “wasting” points on full service resorts. If we are going for a relaxation vacation, or a ski trip where there isn’t much to explore in the dead of winter, that’s when I use the points. We are going to Hawaii in April. Hyatt Place in Oahu for a few days of exploring, followed by 6 days at the Grand Wailea with minimal exploring planned. And in that order because no one wants to move hotels and “downgrade” on the same trip!

  9. I agree with Lynn. I rarely ever use points to stay in a 5-star hotel in a city since knowing me, I wouldn’t be in the room 90% of the time. I use my hotel points to stay at beach resorts where I know hte main point of hte trip is to enjoy the resort and beach! 🙂

  10. Interesting topic!

    We are going to Hawaii in March (the first time for my whole family) and have decided to split our stay between Aulani and 2 hotels in Waikiki. While we are in Waikiki, we will do hiking and visit some places on the island. We want to reserve most of our Aulani days for staying at the resort. We want to get our money’s worth from the resort.

    • Aulani is so great! We stayed at Sheraton Waikiki on our first trip to Oahu, but then we went last year specifically for Disney. We had a 1 bedroom for 4 nights. soo great. We have done Disney Cruise and Aulani specifically because we can’t travel without children, but need couples time too and the activities are 1st rate. I’m not much of a cruiser I’d rather be on land, but Disney spoiled me and I wouldn’t want to take another cruiseline. Disney costs REAL $$$, but my time is valuable and it is good ROI. The Aulani room was luxurious, but we weren’t in Hawaii for the room. Our last day was spent shopping and meandering in Waikiki and the shopping is so awesome there.

  11. We usually have a basic plan set up before we ever arrive at any destination.
    Our compromise for either of our hopes for relaxation or go go go, are to plan ahead of time to leave a few open and unplanned, unscheduled days. So when we are actually there, we get a better feel for if we just need that week full of relaxation, or a need to explore spur of the moment.
    Sometimes you stumble upon something while relaxing, or in that go go go moment,you find a place that you really want to slow down and enjoy.

  12. We have a nice portfolio of 3-4 Marriott timeshares and so we pretty much always stay at a wonderful Marriott timeshare resort on our vacations. We like to get out and explore the destination and we try to balance our exploring days with our resort days. We also sometimes try to make the tourist stuff just 1/2 day and stop at a beach for the other half the day.

  13. Exactly why I’ve no interest in visiting the Maldives. If I’m going to travel to such lengths I’d rather go to the Galapagos, Easter Island, etc. If I want to lounge at a resort the whole time, it’s much easier and affordable to go to the Caribbean.

  14. We always go off resort no matter how nice the hotel is. We previously had a weeks stay at GH Kauai and have to say we were not at all blown away by the place like everyone else seems to be. Much better food available once you get off resort, the beach by the GHK is well below average for any beach. The food is over priced and not that fantastic. To me a hotel is a place to sleep and not much more. That said I do enjoy when there is a good afternoon tea in the club or nice snacks in the evening.

  15. Vicky – I totally agree! We thought the GH Kauai was nice, no complaints, but not as FANTASTIC as it is made out to be. When we stayed there, I was happy to spend days out exploring. On the other hand, we once stayed at Dromoland Castle in Ireland for 2 nights, and you couldn’t have pulled me out of there for anything!

  16. The GH Kauai was one of those places our daughter could have spent all day at. I like lying by the pool, but can only do it for so long. We used a sort of bribe system. “If you go on this hike with Mom and Dad, we will stay by the pool all afternoon” or something similar. That way we all get do a little of both.

  17. I’m like you are but my SO will happily spend days at a resort. We end up alternating days.
    I also make sure to plan different vacations. At least 1 ultra active vacation every 2 years. The kind you have to train for like trekking in the Andes or Himalayas etc, they can be very memorable but you can’t use points apart from maybe the flights.

  18. I can’t decide if you and I would make good vacay buddies… On the one hand I love you to death and we have the same taste in flight and hotel options, but on the other you just said that you’re a go, go, go-er and I’m most definitely a stay, stay, stay-er!!! 😉 We may have to split the difference: travel together, then once we get there you go do stuff while I stay back and enjoy lounging beach- (or pool-) side. hehe! 🙂

  19. In July we spent 4 nights at the Andaz in Maui. But it was our first trip to Maui and there was soooo much to see on the island. I never had the chance to even take a dip in one of Andaz’a pools. Needless to say, I need to go back and enjoy the resort. 😉

  20. While we can certainly classify this as an ultimate “1st World Problems” example, I think this kind of discussion exists in any kind of travel. When I go to Vegas, for instance, I can never justify spending more to stay at the Bellagio or Caesar’s when there are other hotels that are much cheaper. I don’t care about the quality of my room because I never plan to do anything but sleep there.

    I have stayed at resorts in Cancun and Phuket. For my own purposes, if I am going to go to a resort and never leave, I’ll do the cheaper alternative in the Caribbean rather than Hawaii. My view would be….if you’re not going to leave the resort, then the destination doesn’t matter as long as it’s warm and has a beach. If I go to Hawaii, I won’t be all that interested in spending all of my time at a resort, so I would choose to stay somewhere else that is just a hotel room

  21. Great discussion. Personally I think you can have both downtime at the nice resort and adventure time to explore in the same trip, heck even in the same day. The longer your trip, the easier this is to accomplish to the likes of everyone in your party.

    However, if you know for sure you only want to lounge at the resort, or you only want to explore perhaps that should weigh heavily into where you go and where you stay.

  22. We try to split our time between properties, some where we don’t feel bad leaving and others where we don’t leave AT ALL. In Kauai, we split between a condo up in Princeville and that is where we head off to snorkel, etc. but GHK is for staying on property. On Oahu, we don’t ever leave Aulani, but we ventured away from Turtle Bay and The Kahala. When we stay at The Del on Coronado, we don’t ever leave, not even to walk along Orange Street! We positively adore the Del bubble and never even leave to eat or anything. LOVE these awesome reorts!

  23. I was in that hammock an hour ago! Were having that same problem right now, especially because our two year old just wants to go from lagoon to lazy river to under the bridge and back! We do try to sneak out for other food options, though

    • Aarash – I know you posted this awhile ago, but I’m reading all of the Hawaii-related posts for planning a trip! We’re thinking of going with a two-year old next year. How was the hotel and the location with that age? This is my first child, I don’t know what to expect with a toddler! I don’t want to go all the way there, just to end up with an overwhelmed toddler!

      • Meg, it was great and I think you will love it. The salt water lagoon was great for a two year old. The beach itself isn’t great for a two year old, but there are plenty of others on the island – especially loved the one at Lydgate with the protected areas for a young kid. Only downside with a little one is the size of the resort – it can be quite a hike to the pool and back for little legs. Have a great trip!

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