Living in the UAE has many perks, from the tax-free wages, to the constant sunshine. However, the best of all are the staycations.
Without leaving your city, you can stay in a luxurious hotel that you would otherwise only be able to find in a glossy brochure or an enigmatic website, with final prices almost always hidden.
A staycation is about the transportation to a dream location, without going far; with the perfect weather, infinite pools and a sea breeze always on your face, it could be the Maldives or the Caribbean; the impeccable service, outstanding food and beverage offers, it could be London or New York; the exquisite interiors, interesting paintings and sculptures, it could be Berlin or São Paulo.
With property rental prices on the rise and a high cost of living, how can we afford such dreams? The truth is that there are way too many luxury hotels in the UAE. So many that competition is fierce, not only to get the rooms occupied but to fill the tables in the food outlets.
The best restaurants are often inside the hotels, and so are the licensed venues, with an average of 4 food outlets for each hotel, although some might have as many as 8 or 10, so you are truly spoiled for choice.
Here is a guide on how to get the most out of this battle for customers and to make your fantasy staycation come true:
Many hotels, in particular during the low season, offer special rates for UAE residents. All you have to do is provide them with your Emirates ID card upon check-in. The deal usually includes extras too, such as breakfast and sometimes even half-board.
This is a great way to spend some quality time with the family, and if you have kids, most hotels will have a dedicated area and a program of activities for them. For couples, this is the best way to have some time away from it all. For a group of friends, this can create great opportunities to catch up and reconnect.
The UAE has a wide selection of websites with weekly and daily offers. All you have to do is subscribe to the mailing list and you will get an influx of offers in your inbox.
However, be careful, you don’t want to be overwhelmed, so select the options that interest you most, like ‘travel’ or ‘getaways’, some even have a ‘luxury’ option.
Local magazines also offer coupons for hotels and restaurants, some in special editions, while others do it weekly, so keep an eye out and don’t be shy to flick through it before purchasing to ensure your deal is inside.
Some banks and credit cards also offer hotel deals, so before you choose one, be cheeky and ask about any extras like hotel rewards memberships and airport lounges.
Finally, there are paid apps and voucher books, which have a whole section on BOGOF (buy one get one free) offers for hotels in the region and abroad, which you can buy pretty much anywhere in the city.
Some hotels do not like to use third-parties to announce they are giving discounts. These hotels are usually the most well-renowned names in the industry, their brand is usually associated with exclusivity. So, in order to remain exclusive, they send out their special offers only to those who subscribe to their newsletters.
Sometimes you cannot even find the offers on their website, that’s how secret they are!
Next time you are asked if you want to subscribe to a newsletter while visiting the website of a hotel you can’t really afford, tick that box.
Friends Who Work In The Industry:
This is a great way to get an upgrade or a treat upon arrival in your room. Because of the numerous hotels in the country, sooner or later, if not yet, you will make a friend with someone from the industry.
A lot of the hotels are from the same chain, so even if you are not staying at the place where your friend works, they will know someone who can help you.
Most chains offer friends and family rates, so ask them before you book anything. Knowing people in the industry really pays off in the UAE.
Hotel Loyalty Programs:
This is a tricky one because some hotel chains offer this for free, while others will charge you a fee.
Obviously, the free ones will get you up to 20% off your food bill, while the paid ones usually give you up to 50%, so it is all about value for money.
Before paying for anything, consider how often you visit the hotels in the chain (and do some research as it really pays off to know about hotel chains) and eat at their food outlets. They will usually include some cash vouchers to be used or even a free night anywhere in the chain as part of the subscription package.
Signing up to the free ones is really a no-brainer as you get something for nothing, but consider your options carefully when paying. And although this is not an extensive list on how to access the best hotel offers in the country, it is a great way to start.
Most people living in the UAE work long hours and the staycation has become something to look forward to.
So remember, before going to a website to book your next staycation, be wise and consider some of these options. They will help your dream escape be a bit easier on the wallet.
Written by Milene Bizachi, an English as a Foreign Language teacher and food blogger based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Milene is also the Vice-president of the Abu Dhabi Roller Derby team. You can follow her on LinkedIn and Facebook.