VIP FOR FREE
While you may not yet have the bank account or entourage of a VIP, that doesn't mean you can't feel like one when traveling. Many hotels, primarily for upscale stays, offer fun and free perks to guests to sweeten the splurge. Many of these aren't listed among the usual amenities, but all guests have to do is ask. Here are the best hidden hotel freebies you don't want to miss.
Avoid a rough night of sleep by asking for a free pillow upgrade. Hotels often offer a range of styles in case a guest needs extra support; others offer hypoallergenic options. At W Hotels, you can even ask for a body pillow.
While you typically get charged for taking those plush robes, some hotels give you a free pass on the cozy slippers. (Check with the front desk to be sure). At the boutique Archer Hotels in New York, Austin, and soon-to-open Napa in California, guests get stylish his-and-hers slippers to take home. Some have mustaches, and some have red lips.
Some hotels offer free bicycle rentals during a stay so guests can cruise around the neighborhood or hit the beach. The Godfrey in Boston offers cruisers seasonally, for example, and Mr. C Beverly Hills lends out top-of-the-line Italian Colnago c60s. Bikes may be in limited supply, though, so see if they can be reserved.
There's nothing quite like a bit of bubbly when arriving at a hotel room, and some hotels offer free pours -- especially for special occasions. Book directly with the hip Farmer's Daughter Hotel in Los Angeles to get complimentary champagne. At La Casa Del Camino in Laguna Beach, breakfast comes with mimosas.
Chowing down on a freshly baked cookie after a day of travel is a great way to feel at home even when you aren't. DoubleTree by Hilton famously gives away warm chocolate chip cookies at check-in, and other hotels follow suit.
Many hotels offer live entertainment on site, including music and comedy. With The Living Stage at Hotel RL, which has locations from Brooklyn to Spokane, guests can enjoy free performances from local musicians, poets, and authors. Guests can get on stage as well.
Signing up for a fitness class is more fun than working out alone at a hotel gym, and many hotels offer free sessions from aerobics to Zumba. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego features nearly 100 fitness classes a week and even offers complimentary protein shakes and cold-pressed juices.
TREATS FOR KIDS
Don't forget to ask about freebies for the little ones; some hotels offer toys, games, snacks, and more. Loews Hotels feature lending libraries of games for kids, music download cards for teens, and even cribs for the smallest guests, Mr. C Beverly Hills offers a complimentary teddy bear and homemade cookies with Nutella, and select Archer Hotels provide a treasure chest of vintage toys to play with.
Not all hotels are pet-friendly, but those that are often go the extra mile to make sure four-legged companions get royal treatment. At the Loews Boston Hotel, cats and dogs get complimentary treats and a bowls. Plush bedding, a gourmet pet menu, leashes, and other amenities are available, along with dog-walking maps and lists of local pet services.
Why rent a boring sedan when upscale hotels loan luxury rides? The Thompson Chicago has a Lexus car service for business travelers, and Terranea Resort in Los Angeles offers guests Lexus vehicles with GPS-guided tours. At San Diego's Rancho Valencia, guests can test-drive Porsches, and Langham Place in New York offers first-come, first-served use of a house Jaguar.
Master mixology with complimentary booze at hotel cocktail classes such as the monthly Liquid Intelligence courses at J.W. Marriott Los Angeles -- a free, fun alternative to just drinking at the bar.
Some hotels feature completely free happy hours with beer, wine, and cocktails. At Provenance Hotels properties in Seattle and Portland, guests enjoy a daily complimentary Craft Beer Hour in the lobby, sipping pints from local breweries from 5 to 6 p.m.
PHONE CHARGERS AND ADAPTERS
In the rush of travel sometimes we forget modern essentials such as phone chargers and power adapters. But many hotels provide free loaners to power up during a stay, including those in the Hyatt and Kimpton chains.
RECORD PLAYERS AND VINYL
Most of us carry our music collection on our phones, and many hotels are equipped with iPod docks. But there's nothing like the warm sound of vinyl to unwind when traveling. Select Ace Hotel rooms come with Ace x Rega RP1 turntables and records curated by local DJs and record shops.
LAVA LAMPS AND RUBBER DUCKIES
Creature comforts offered to help guests unwind often feature twists particular to the hotel or city. At the Hotel Preston in Nashville, guests can borrow quirky items such as art kits, lava lamps, rubber duckies, and even goldfish to help them chill out.
Some hotel restaurants let guests get behind the stoves with free cooking classes. At Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach, guests visiting at the right time are invited to a traditional harvesting of kalo leaves in the garden and taught how to prepare their own laulau.
Spa services such as massages and facials often come with an extra charge at hotels, but those in the know take advantage of free amenities such as saunas, steam rooms, and pools. At the historic Mission Inn in Riverside, California, guests can make use of luxury saunas and pool even if they aren't tempted by a massage.
Stretch out after a long day or stay limber for exploring a new city by signing up for free yoga classes. At California's La Jolla Cove Hotel & Suites, there's rooftop sunset yoga with panoramic views of the coastline. The Garland in Los Angeles hosts free tai chi and yoga classes at Beverly Park, the hotel's new backyard urban oasis.
Sometimes you're looking for a bit of peace and quiet in a hotel room, other times you're ready to rock. Most Hard Rock Hotels will loan guests who are feeling the groove a guitar from a selection of premium Fenders, as well as a small floor amp and top-notch headphones so as to not disturb neighbors. They also have free video lessons to improve your playing.
Motivating yourself for a run can be tough when traveling, but some hotels offer free group runs to get you going. At The Godfrey Hotel Boston, guests can participate in the "Running Mate Guided Tours" program, booking individual or small group running tours guided by a local (weather permitting).