I'd purchased tickets to a concert at the Sydney Opera House for him after he "ooohed" excitedly when he heard that John Butler Trio and Missy Higgins were performing together. (PS, anyone who says they're a terrible gift giver take note, this is the sign of a wishlist item.) Since the concert was on a Friday, I thought I'd up my game with an overnight stay in a 5-star hotel.
Because (in true Homer Simpson style) presents aren't really about him, they really are about me.
I looked at the price and gritted my teeth as I clicked "book now" on a $192.27 stay in the cheapest room possible, the deluxe king.
Use those coupon codes. You might be thinking that $192.27 is an odd price to pay for a room, but it came about as I went through Hotels.com which had an 8% off coupon. This took the cost under $200, making me feel that much better about my unnecessary purchase.
I also made sure the room had free cancellation up until the day, just in case I wigged out on spending the dosh. I'll admit I considered cancelling a few times because, with concert tickets already secure, he'd never know there was a missing element to his birthday present.
I'm glad I didn't though and these are my main reasons why:
1. It actually did feel like a mini holiday (or a long date night)
A change is as good as a holiday and waking up in a clean, plush bedroom surrounded by luxury really does feel as though you're miles from reality. You get to swan around at your own pace, explore the facilities, take a bath. Yeah, it's pretty nice.
We also got to explore Sydney CBD on a weekend morning, which is something typically reserved for those who live in the area or work on the weekends. As part of my belt tightening around the staycation, I didn't book the hotel breakfast, so we Googled and both agreed to make our way to The Walrus Cafe after check-out for a brunch date.
It was a beautiful find with friendly service, a buzzing atmosphere and good coffee. The bill set us back a bit ($51.80), so in hindsight it would have been slightly more cost-effective to have signed up for the hotel brekky, which was $25 per person. On the upside we did discover a new cafe and anyone who knows us knows we love new gastronomic adventures.
Compare the price and quality of the hotel breakfast against cafes in the area to see which is more budget-friendly. Also consider how much both of you eat as large meals are going to cost more, whereas 5-star hotels often have buffet breakfasts for a single cost.
2. We were upgraded to a SUITE
My humble brag starts here. Prior to our stay the Amora Hotel Jamison sent me an email offering upgrades for rooms with a view or on a higher level for a "discounted" cost. I was tempted to take up the cheapest option, which was a room on a higher level for $17 but put my credit card away.
Perhaps this is a sign the hotel is underbooked because after having been given no notification at check-in, we found ourselves pushing the elevator button to level 33 (out of 34 possible levels) and walking straight into a Jamison Club Park Suite.
Naturally I had to do the giddy price check and discovered the suite was worth almost double the cost I paid. $360 to be exact. We were given the less appealing side of the building, which faced Wynyard Park as opposed to Sydney Harbour and our bedroom window had a view of an office floor but you know what? For $192 we were singing. You can read more about it in my review here.
I'll be the first to admit the upgrade isn't going to happen every time. Heck, this is the first time either of us have experienced a hotel upgrade in our lives and we don't expect it to ever happen again. But it definitely contributed to us falling in love with the idea of a staycation.
Use the upgrade option if you feel the price is worth it. If neither of you are fussed about your room's positioning save that cash for something else. Instead, the two of you can still romance it up by catching the view from the lobby windows, restaurant or spa/gym area as most 5-star hotels position these for panoramic views.
As for upgrade tips? I apologise because I have none. I maintain in this case we were just lucky.
3. We avoided the tired journey home after a long night out
You know that feeling when it's 11pm and the kick-out music has started playing but you still need to get home? Staycations prevent that.
The Hotel Amora Jamison Sydney is literally an 18-minute stroll from the Opera House so we were "home" by midnight with enough time to wind down before we tucked in for the night.
We also avoided the crowds at Circular Quay station taking the train home on a Friday night.
If you're on a staycation for a reason (e.g. an event) choose a hotel you can walk to. You'll appreciate the convenience when your feet are tired and you're ready to enter the land of nod. You'll also avoid unexpected transport costs like an Uber or train which can add up.
4. It didn't cost nearly as much as an interstate break would have
Our only transport expense was a train ride from home and back ($3.55 on Friday night and $2.55 on Saturday afternoon). This meant the major costs incurred were the hotel stay, concert tickets and breakfast.
This amounted to just over $500 for the both of us (see below for the breakdown). It's not a blow-out but it's definitely a dent to the bank account, so we won't be going on one too often (sorry hubby!). But when we're itching for that vacay feeling without the price tag, I wouldn't say no to a 5-star stay in Sydney.
How much did I spend?
If you've been following A Couple Of Travel Makers, you'll know I'm all about counting my expenses at the end of a trip. So here goes:
Meals and drinks: $94.20 (Friday dinner, drinks at the concert and brunch on Saturday)
Activities and experiences: $216.50 (concert tickets)
Annual leave days taken: 0
Total for 2: $515.17
How to go on staycation (my tips):
Book a 5-star hotel. No, really. You're not paying for flights so you may as well use this as your chance to experience the high life. Waking up in a room fit for a millionaire also adds to that feeling you're actually on a holiday. Need some inspo? Check out Finder's hotel recommendations for Sydney hotels.
Book a hotel (or Airbnb) you've always been curious about. When you travel you get to explore the hotels in another city - but how often do you explore your home city's ? Answer: never. Here's your chance. Pick one that looks amazing or that friends have raved about and experience it for yourself.
Make it a date. Pair your staycation with an event or an occasion to make it that much more special.
Keep the following day free. You'll gain a different perspective of the city when you see it in the early morning on a stroll.
Indulge in the facilities. Pools, spas and gyms are at your disposal.
Stay tuned every fortnight for more tips and tricks on travelling with A Couple of Travel Makers.
Love this? Hate this? Want to know more? Leave some feedback in the comments below.
Stephanie Yip is the travel editor at Finder and has been writing about travel and lifestyle for over a decade. She has written for Travel Weekly, Escape, Showpo, The Nibbler and Hostelworld. She was also the editor of kids magazine DMAG. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Technology Sydney and has visited 55 countries (and counting).
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