So What is a Deluxe Room Anyway?

Miami South Beach Marriott King City View; Marriott

What do you get when you pay for an upgrade?

Trying to get the best deal for your money in a hotel has become as complicated as a chess game, with as many as five variations on the same room category. So how do you know when it is worthwhile to pay extra for an upgrade?

Is it worth $20 or $30 extra to have a breakfast buffet for two adults thrown in with your room? Probably, unless you are having breakfast meetings, it's included in a conference, or you just drink coffee in the morning.

Is it worth an extra $6-$15 to get free Internet in your room? Again, probably, if you are going to be online much -- and definitely if the upgrade to Internet service also brings other perks you want. If your plans are written in stone, advance purchase can give you a substantial discount – as much as $60 -- but you must make full payment in advance, and there are no refunds.

And, although concierge floors are very appealing with their private lounges, snacks, breakfasts and drinks, if you book a room on the weekend, the lounge with its amenities is often closed, and all you may be getting for your extra money is a room on a high floor.

There are plenty of choices: for example, travelers can book a King Bed room at the Hilton Minneapolis on an August weekday from $209, $167.20 advance purchase; if you take the room on the B&B plan, you get the breakfast buffet for two adults plus a child of five years or younger for $219 -- a no-brainer unless you prefer breakfast elsewhere. Likewise, a Business Connection rate adds high speed Internet at $215. Other features remain the same, including wi-fi, a work desk with a Herman Miller chair, two-line phones with voicemail, LavAzza Coffee, iron and board, down comforters and pillows and Crabtree & Evelyn bath amenities.

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Sometimes you're paying for size and location. The Hilton Times Square in Manhattan offers a King Bed rate of $299, $239.20 advance purchase, for a 330-square-foot room with 37" flat panel TV, MP3 player, work desk, Crabtree & Evelyn bath products, 300 thread count bedding, bathrobe, laptop-size safe, dual phone lines, wireless Internet service, iron and board, mini-bar and shower and tub. A Deluxe King Bed room at 360 square feet on a high floor is $349 with the same amenities.

On a September weekday at the Hilton Seattle, King Bed rooms at $209 run 300 square feet with a laptop safe, iron and board, coffee maker, mini-bar and TV. Executive Level King rooms at $244 add continental breakfast for two at the Top of the Hilton and access to the Executive Lounge with its complimentary wireless Internet access, hors d'oeuvres and beverages for a nominal fee at cocktail hour.

A view is another amenity with a price tag. At the Miami South Beach Marriott in August a 250-square-foot King City View room is $229 (advance payment $209); with a balcony it's $249. The Oceanfront Balcony room at the same size, is $289. Both categories have safes, decks, coffee maker/tea service, mini-refrigerators and two phones. If you choose the concierge level at $319, you add a complimentary breakfast, midday snack, hors d'oeuvres, dessert and non-alcoholic beverages plus an honor bar.

The Renaissance Austin Hotel (Marriott) in the Austin Arboretum has 324-384-square-foot rooms at $199. Club Level rooms at 432 square feet are a bargain at $219 with the living area separated from the bed by a privacy wall; lounge access during the week includes complimentary continental breakfast, hors d'oeuvres, dessert, non-alcoholic beverages and honor bar.

At the Renaissance Los Angeles Airport Hotel (Marriott), a 324-360 square foot King room costing $209 gives you features including a pillow-top mattress, featherbed, and duvet, three phones, refrigerator and iPod dock; the Club level King at $229 adds Club lounge access Sunday-Thursday, with complimentary continental breakfast, midday snack and hors d'oeuvres, non-alcoholic beverages, business services and pressing for one garment per stay.

Guests reserving a King Bed room at the Hyatt Regency Louisville pay $204 for a room with a separate work area, cordless phones, iron and board, coffee maker and iPod docking station. The Deluxe King at $229 has robes by request and larger rooms, but the Business Plan King is more tempting. Available to anyone, it costs $214 and provides a complimentary full breakfast, free local and toll-free calls, and one shirt or blouse pressed per day plus a daily bottle of water.

The Four Diamond Grand Hyatt Denver has a similar offering with a corner King room costing $279 with a large work station and walk-in closet, and a Business Plan King at $294 adding the same features as in Louisville. The Grand Club at $309 includes complimentary continental breakfast, evening hors d'oeuvres and desserts, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the day, and cocktails for a nominal charge.

The Hyatt Regency Philadelphia has a King rate of $209 that includes robes, iron and board, Internet access, a daily paper, iPod docking, a coffee makes and safe. The Deluxe King at $259 adds a pillow-top bed with goose down duvet, and they also offer the Business Plan amenities (previously listed) at $229.

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