Hotel Gyms

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I had to laugh when I saw that post on Twitter. I laughed because it happened right around the same time I had been noticing that what hotels call a “fitness center” and what *I* expect in a fitness center is way off. (Check out this interesting post: TripAdvisor responds to a provocative study of bogus online reviews.)

Sometimes I go through phases where I plan future vacations. Recently when I was living in my fantasy world (researching trips to Belize, Costa Rica and the Caribbean) I decided to create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything I’d looked up. I know, nerdy. I have color-coded tabs for each location and include “must see” sights for each location.

Michael and I were talking recently about a vacation for this year. Last year we went to Vegas for a weekend, Texas for his sister’s wedding and then Hawaii. It was a great year for vacations! We got lucky with cheap options (staying with family and then staying with friends at their timeshare in Hawaii).

We both love to travel and while I’m always up for Vegas, I said I wanted to go somewhere we’ve never been before. I’d mentioned wanting to go back to Chicago (Michael’s never been). Someday I’d also like to go to Philadelphia to visit my brother. Of course, going to Philly opens a whole can of worms because if I’m going to fly that far east, I want to see Boston and New York too! That complicates things. Going to Philly, New York and Boston in one trip would require a lot of vacation days and money!

Another place I threw out as an option was Los Angeles. I’ve never been there as an adult and as dorky as it sounds, I’d love to go and see all the touristy things: the star walk, the Hollywood sign, Rodeo Drive, Griffith Park, etc. I started doing my research and what I required in a hotel was either a lap pool or a gym, but both would be nice.

Do You Book Your Hotel Stay Based on The Hotel’s Gym?

I prefer hotels that have a gym option. I definitely try to fit in a workout on vacation. Some of my favorite vacation memories are things like swimming in the oceanrunning someplace I’ve never been before, and hiking in the desert. I’d prefer to get my fitness outdoors exploring my area (like biking or hiking) but if that’s not available I want a gym in the hotel that I can use.

In doing my research on Expedia, what I found was that the reality was often way off. If you look carefully at the photos online, most of them look pretty good. After spending a few hours perusing hotels and photos, I was able to spot the crappier ones. One of the tricks I figured out with their photography was taking the picture at an angle where the mirror on the wall makes it look like the gym is huge and has a dozen machines. Pretty sneaky! And smart. So you think you’re getting this:



When you’re really getting more like this:



I totally get that this is a First World Problem. But really, if I’m paying for a nicer hotel that promises a gym, it would be nice if it was actually usable! Either way, I make it work. Some of the worst gyms I’ve used, I still got a decent workout done. Another issue is that if you’re paying for a hotel, it should look like what it advertised! You never really know what you’re getting. (Another interesting article: Hotel photos: Quality or quantity?)

One of the better gyms I’ve used was at the Monte Carlo hotel in Vegas last year. It had three treadmills, three bikes, a stairmaster, a decent selection of weight lifting machines and a full set of free weights. I was pretty impressed and it was awesome that I was able to go there in the morning (morning “ish”–I mean, it WAS Vegas) and even though half the machines were full I could find something to do. The machines were also newer and pretty nice!

QUESTION: Is the gym something that sways your hotel choice? Have you had any exceptionally good hotel gym experiences or bad ones?

Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and

29 thoughts on “Hotel Gyms”

  1. It’s funny you write about this. The last hotel we stayed at the gym was one elliptical, one treadmill, one sit down bike and small set of dumbbells with one resistance ball.

  2. I don’t expect too much from a hotel gym which is too bad. I guess it’s not worth the upgrades for the few people in there? We’ve gotten spoiled with the hotel we have stayed at the last 2 summers. A good mix of cardio machines, weight machines, dumbells and even a spin/pilates studio (that we haven’t used) I love that they provide plenty of towels, headphones and bottles of water. Not every hotel does this. We got into the habit of going first thing in the morning – then heading off to an amazing breakfast. It all balances out, right?
    Christi in MA recently posted..Ten on Tuesday – Random Edition

    1. That’s great you found a hotel that had a lot of amenities. And I definitely think it balances out. When I’m on vacation I like to get a quick workout in and then spend the rest of my day doing fun things and not worrying about my calories!

        1. Great idea! I didn’t even think about that. Although, I have a gym membership to a nation-wide gym and I’ve often considered going to that branch that was local. I never have because it always turned out to be inconveniently located. But it’s a GREAT option.

  3. I haven’t done a lot of traveling lately, but when I do, I have been choosing really cheap accommodations- so no gym. I try to make sure I walk everywhere when I travel to offset it. When I did travel for work a lifetime ago, the hotel (no idea which one) I stayed at in Chicago had a small gym and it was empty so I was able to get a run in. When I stayed in Florida, I stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort and they had no gym (that I know of) but I was so sick anyways it wouldn’t have mattered.

    I do like to pretend I can afford to stay in a nice place when I vacation plan. My must have would be a hot tub!
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    1. Walking on vacation is a GREAT activity. You’d be surprised at how much exercise it can be. For example, I probably don’t need to work out in Vegas because I probably end up walking 10 miles a day!

  4. We tend to stay in pretty inexpensive places so that we can use money for other stuff during the vacation, so a hotel gym is not a requirement for me at all since it usually is not part of inexpensive places. It’s nice if it is there, but I know we are going to do a lot of exercise out and about – even if it rains. The nicest gym in a hotel I was at was actually on our cruise. Does that count? The cruise gym was quite nice with lots of cardio equipment and free weights.
    Lori recently posted..Vroom, Vroom

    1. Oh it’s not like we are looking for luxury but a decent gym is preferred for me. I don’t usually spend much time in the hotel/room when on vacation so I’m not as picky.

      Cruise gym definitely counts! That’s great you used it. I went on a cruise years ago and the orgy of food was hard to resist!

  5. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been fooled at the “amenities” offered at hotels which is way off in real life. One trip in particular, luckily we were only staying at this place for one night, but it showed pictures of this gorgeous pool – I kept telling my then 8 year old daughter how much fun it was going to be once we got there!

    Only to find out that not only was the pool a postage stamp size, but was actually closed because of repairs and no one ever mentioned that – and it was Florida for goodness sakes!!
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    1. YES!!! That has happened many times! I hate when the pool looks huge and it’s basically a hot tub sized pool. How disappointing for your daughter. 🙁

      The last trip we made to Austin, we booked the hotel entirely on the pictures of the pool (for me). We got there and the location wasn’t ideal but the pool was supposed to be big…yeah. Not so much. Didn’t even end up using it.

  6. I’ve never had good luck with hotel gyms. Typically, I make plans to get up in the morning to workout and all the limited equipment is already being used. I usually wait a few minutes to see if anyone finishes, and they rarely do, so I go back to my room disappointed! I started just burning workout DVDs to my laptop computer or iPad and working out in the hotel room. It works and if you do workouts using body resistance (instead of weights) you can get a decent strength workout while you’re at it (pushups, burpees, squats, lunges, supermans, etc.). Of course, it won’t be as good as what you can get at home, but it’s better than doing nothing!
    Jill @ a Girl in Progress recently posted..Because I FEEL like it!

    1. I have experienced the same exact issues and it’s frustrating. Especially when I am having knee issues and can’t run–if the treadmill is the only option to me, it’s kind of a bummer to just walk.

      Doing workout DVDs in your room is a great idea and YES doing the body weight exercises are a fantastic workout and you’ll be sweating in no time. My boyfriend often brings his kettlebell on vacation and does his workout with it in the room.

  7. I once had a free “gym membership” at a local hotel due to my girlfriend at the time working there. I never used it. It was worthless. It looked even shabbier than your photo. But they had a nice pool . . . I couldn’t bring myself to use it, however, after some of the stories I’d heard about it.

    Best just to stick to bodyweight exercises when on vacation. You can do ’em right in your hotel room.

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    1. Eeek, I don’t even want to know about the pool.

      YES! Body weight exercises in the hotel room are a great idea. A jump rope and maybe some resistance bands are easy to pack in the suitcase.

  8. I’m a member of the Y and most other Y’s allow you to visit out of town locations. I used the visitor pass when visiting my family which was great. Once I took my exercise DVD’s when I visited my Dad and did them in my bedroom in the morning.
    I also like planning trips where there is exercise included – that makes things much easier!

    With smart phones and laptops it wouldn’t be hard to find a series to work on a specific area each day, like the routines I’ve seen on Pinterest or in health magazines.

  9. Aha, never tried a hotel gym but I can understand your complaints. Disregarding the fact that it’s a gym, any false advertising gets me, nothing destroys reputation more than dishonesty!

    In regards to choices, I haven’t been in a hotel in a while, and I don’t honestly think it would sway my choice, I’m more for a nice view and convenience, if possible.
    Nick Goodall recently posted..Major vs Minor

    1. Agreed. False advertising isn’t cool. Michael and I like to travel and thankfully we’ve done it enough to find some good hotels that don’t mislead but there have been some doozies!

  10. Funny you should write about this…I just got back from an Oregon coast trip where we stayed at reasonably priced older motel or as they called it…”inn”. The pics were very flattering…as they should be…no one is going to book a room off of depressing pics. However, I read the reviews extensively. I love reviews!!! Either way, you will get your answers there. I knew that the pool was tiny and the “gym” was skimpy based on the reviews. Overall, it was clean, pretty and the staff was amazing. They asked about my experience and my only complaint was a slow draining tub and sink which resulted in a coupon for my next stay.

    1. I try and read reviews too but sometimes they are so hit or miss. It can swing from “best place ever” to “will never stay there again” type comments. Too many conflicting reviews like that make me confused as to what the reality was. And of course, a lot of people complain about stupid things. Like the room was small. Who cares? You’re on vacation, go explore outside the room! Or that the TV is old or something…

      Which Inn did you stay at?

      1. It was in Seaside. I think it was called Inn at Seaside? At least for a beach trip, I’m of the same mind. The room is there for sleep or showering beyond that tv’s and the quality of wifi isn’t a concern of mine. You’re definitely right about the variety of reviews…I still find them hilarious! Usually, (hopefully) there’s at least a few that reference the same things…size of pool or exercise room, staff, the “breakfast” provided. There was a huge fancy place right on the beach with an awesome pool and the kids and I did breathe a small sigh of envy 🙂 Then we headed off to ride the bumper cars and build sand castles…

        1. In my search planning a recent trip, I read all the reviews for various hotels and there was only ONE review that included that the gym was sad. I guess I’m in the minority that it matters. I guess most people don’t care about the gym on vacation and don’t even know if it’s crappy!

          Seaside is fun. Hope you had a good time.

  11. With all my business travel last year, I’ve seen a lot of hotel gyms! When I have a choice, I do try to book a hotel with a decent gym. And I do look for the photos on the website. I have gotten good at telling when there is a mirror in the picture that makes it look twice as big as it is! I’ve been in hotel gyms that would rival the nicest club, and others that are ridiculous — the bike could have been from an old I Love Lucy episode! I’m not hard to please – a treadmill, ellipitcal and free weights are all I need. And good venitlation, water, and towels!
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    1. That’s funny you’ve had a similar experience as I. When I was writing this post, it wasn’t that I wanted some luxury gym but what I wanted was the websites to reflect accurately what they had AND maybe try a little harder to be nicer. One bike, on treadmill is not a gym.

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