VIP Perks Without Status: Why You Should Book Your Luxury Hotel Stays with a Travel Agent

In today’s digital age, many people think that travel agents are a relic of the past. Especially given my travel expertise and the joy I get from travel planning, it often comes as a shock to others that for many of my hotel stays, I go through a travel agent. This is because of the misconceptions that travel agents take over the planning of a trip, or that you can get the same deals going through a site like Expedia or Orbitz (also known at online travel agencies, “OTAs”) or by booking directly.

These misconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth!

Travel agents provide a ton of value that OTAs or direct bookings can’t. On top of years of real world experience with travelers, travel agents are often members of various travel programs that can elevate your travel experience in ways that OTAs or direct bookings won’t replicate.

*Please note that I am happy to accept travel booking requests through this link, through will you can receive the amenities described below on eligible bookings and I earn a small commission!*

Should you consult with a travel agent?

When it comes to travel planning, there are a few different types of travelers. If you want to hand over all the travel planning from beginning to end – from booking the car to the airport, to securing your flights, to reserving your room, to coordinating activities – you’re likely already BFFs with a travel agent.

If you’re reading this blog, however, you’re probably more like me – you get a rush from planning out all the details of your amazing trips yourself! Travelers like us are actually the ones least likely to be aware of the benefits of working with travel agents since we want to have control over the whole process.

However, even if you’ve already planned out your entire itinerary, you should still consider enlisting the help of a travel agent for just the hotel or resort bookings in your plans. By booking with an experienced travel agent, you can take full advantage of their memberships to VIP hotel programs only they can join which confer many amazing benefits. You may end up with free spa or food/beverage credits to use at the property, complimentary breakfast (yes, we’re talking the full luxe breakfast options which can run $70+ per person at some resorts!), and highly-coveted room upgrades.

How much does booking with a travel agent cost?

It’s usually free! I only have experience with going through a travel agent for straightforward property bookings; for these, travel agents are paid on a commission basis by the property. This means you don’t pay any additional fee to work with a travel agent – in fact, it’s really a win-win because you pay the same rate publicly available on the hotel’s website if booking direct but with a ton of extra (and very valuable) perks. The travel agent then gets paid by the property for bringing them your business.

The reason properties will do this is because the clients that travel agents have are usually considered incredibly valuable; whether due to client loyalty or the size of client wallets, travel agents can bring serious business to a property. Properties wants to encourage travel agents to think of them when booking stays for these clients.

We didn’t pay any extra to book our stay at Perivolas in Santorini with a travel agent!

What should you look for in a travel agent?

First, you want someone who is passionate about travel themselves. A natural passion for what a travel agent does will always come through in their relationship with you. Even if you’re only asking them for a vanilla property booking, they may be able to give you some insider knowledge on your destination or property of choice based on their own travels there.

Next, make sure your travel agent is a part of many different programs so you can enjoy these benefits no matter which property you’re visiting. If you’re a Disney addict, there are Disney-specific programs you’d want to make sure your travel agent is a part of. Similarly, if you’re a cruise-goer, there’s another set of programs for travel agents that specialize in luxury at sea. Since I mainly dabble in luxury hotels and resorts, I’ve put together a list further down of some of the best programs that your travel agent should be a member of in that space. The best travel agents will be a member of most, if not all, of these.

You can secure this incredible breakfast at Le Meurice for free by booking through a travel agent!

Are these stays elite-qualifying?

For the most part, stays booked through travel agents for properties with loyalty programs are elite-qualifying. This means you will earn nights, stays, and points toward status. If this is a concern for you, ask your travel agent if your stay qualifies for status earning.

Can you stack these benefits with promotions?

The best part about these program benefits is that they’ll often stack with promotions being offered by the same property or brand. For example, Four Seasons properties will often run “stay 4, pay 3” or similar deals; the Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits stack with such promotions! However, third party promotions typically do not stack with these benefits. For example, if you’re using the Citi Prestige Fourth Night Free credit card benefit, you can’t stack this benefit with a FSPP booking. You either need to make your reservation through Citi or through a travel agent.

Since we booked the Four Seasons Bora Bora through Citi for the fourth night free benefit, we couldn’t stack FSPP perks with our reservation

Programs and Benefits

The benefits across these programs are generally repetitive, but there are nuances depending on the program.

Virtuoso

Virtuoso is a program that partners with hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators around the world. When your travel agent is a part of the Virtuoso network, you can gain access to preferred rates at hotels. Additional Virtuoso benefits will usually include:

  • Daily complimentary breakfast for two
  • Extended check-in/out hours
  • Complimentary room upgrades (when available)
  • Property credits (e.g. spa, food/beverage, shopping)

Other Virtuoso exclusives may be available and vary by location.

Complimentary breakfast at the Four Seasons Mexico City is a benefit you can secure through Virtuoso, Amex FHR, or Four Seasons Preferred Partners!
American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts

Fine Hotels and Resorts is a program by American Express available to Platinum cardmembers that ups the quality of your stay at any of their 1,000+ partner properties.  Some of its benefits include:

  • Noon check-in (when available)
  • Guaranteed 4 pm checkout
  • Daily complimentary breakfast for two
  • Room upgrades (when available)
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Welcome amenity

Certain properties may also offer property credits.

Four Seasons Preferred Partner

The Four Seasons Preferred Partner program is especially valuable since Four Seasons doesn’t have a published loyalty program, so booking through a Four Seasons Preferred Partner is a great way to mimic elite status benefits at a chain where elite status doesn’t exist. When booking through a Four Seasons Preferred Partner, you will receive top priority in any waitlist situations and a strict no walk policy (meaning if the hotel oversold, you won’t be sent off to another hotel). Four Seasons Preferred Partner reservations will also typically include the following:

  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets)
  • Spa OR food/beverage credit of USD100 once during stay (whether it’s a spa or F&B offering varies by property)
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites, villas, and private residences)
  • Complimentary basic Internet in all guest rooms; complimentary premium Internet in all suites

The benefits may vary slightly by location.

Our Four Seasons Maui upgraded view thanks to FSPP perks
Hyatt Prive

When booking with a Hyatt Prive partner, you have access to the wide variety of brands in the Hyatt portfolio, from more design-focused Thompson Hotels to luxe Park Hyatts. Hyatt Prive is not nearly as straightforward as other programs, though. The benefits vary by brand, and not all Hyatt brands or properties participate. Some brands also require a minimum two-night stay to qualify for benefits whereas others have no minimum stay. The benefits vary by brand but you’ll generally receive:

  • Complimentary room upgrade at time of booking (when available)
  • Extended check-in/out hours
  • Daily complimentary breakfast for two
  • Property credit (USD50-100; varies by property/brand)
  • Welcome amenity

Because the benefits do vary depending on the property, it’s extra important to review the benefits closwely if comparing different properties.

We stayed at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa on points, but would’ve booked through a Hyatt Prive partner otherwise!
Marriott STARS

Marriott STARS is a unique program offered at St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, The Luxury Collection, EDITION, and Bulgari Hotels and Resorts properties.  STARS offers many of the same benefits as many of the previously described programs, including:

  • Daily complimentary breakfast for two
  • USD100 property credit
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Welcome amenity
Marriott Luminous

Marriott Luminous is much like STARS but is offered at Autograph Collection, Le Meridien, JW Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance, Tribute Portfolio, W Hotels, and Westin properties.  The Luminous program offers guests:

  • Room upgrade at check-in (when available)
  • Early check-in/late check-out (when available)
  • Daily complimentary breakfast for two
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Welcome amenity

Some properties in the Luminous portfolio will also offer a USD100 property credit.

Other programs

The following brands also have VIP programs for bookings made through travel agents:

  • Belmond Bellini Club
  • Dorchester Diamond Club
  • Hilton Impresario
  • IHG Luxury & Lifestyle
  • Jumeirah Passport to Luxury
  • Langham Couture Program
  • Mandarin Oriental Fan Club
  • Oetker Pearl Partner
  • Peninsula Pen Club
  • Relais & Chateaux Preferred Program
  • Rosewood Elite
  • Shangri-La Luxury Circle
  • Small Luxury Hotels
The Little Nell, Aspen Colorado
The Little Nell can be booked through a Virutoso or Relais & Chateaux Preferred Program partner

In Conclusion

Booking luxury properties with a travel agent is a great way to add convenience, luxury, and a more VIP touch to your stay for no added cost. By consulting with a travel agent prior to making any reservations, you can avoid potentially leaving benefits on the table that can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings per stay. While not all stays at all properties will qualify, it’s always worth having a travel agent’s information on hand and checking with them prior to booking!

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