Stay at a five-star like the Athenaeum for a fraction of the price
Stay at a five-star like the Athenaeum for a fraction of the price

Forget the staycation – why a ‘daycation’ is the ultimate way to relax

Checking into a luxury hotel for the day is a great value way of living the high life, finds Helen Coffey

Helen Coffey@LenniCoffey
Tuesday 06 November 2018 09:15
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“Would you like a wakeup call, madam?” the receptionist asks as we check in to Athenaeum, a hip Mayfair five-star on the edge of Green Park.

I suppress a smile and shake my head.

“No thanks – we’re just here for the day.”

The receptionist looks confused for a moment – as well they might – before expertly regaining composure.

“Of course. Let me show you to your room.”

We’re trying out the very latest trend to hit the hotel scene, so it’s no wonder not everyone’s up to speed yet.

The “daycation”, as well as being a near-perfect portmanteau, describes the practice of booking a hotel room just for the day. The idea, launched by DayBreakHotels earlier this year, makes staying at a luxury hotel a much more affordable prospect. By booking a room from 10am-6pm and forgoing an overnight stay, guests pay up to around 50 per cent less while still getting the full A-lister experience, and hotels can make money from rooms they’ve been unable to sell that would otherwise be empty.

Suites come with oversized sofas

It’s an interesting concept, but it feels a little odd to be checking in to a room that we won’t be sleeping in. What will we do all day?

Most people have immediately jumped to one inevitable conclusion.

“Isn’t it just for people having affairs?”, “It’s a love hotel!” and “So… a little afternoon delight?!” are just some of the responses I’ve heard over the past week.

As we step through the door into one of Athenaeum’s high-spec residences, complete with giant blue-grey sofa, high ceilings, mini kitchen and sleek, all-marble bathroom – in addition to the, admittedly massive, bed – I can’t help but think it would be a bit of a waste to just use it for a discreet midday bonk. This is a suite that deserves to be savoured.

Afternoon nap, anyone?

My partner and I are both feeling a little delicate after quaffing too much wine at a dinner party the night before, so the first step is to kick off our shoes, grab a coffee from the Nespresso machine and curl up on that sofa. It’s so big we can both lie full out without touching – bliss.

There’s something about being somewhere that’s not your own home – perhaps the lack of washing up on the counter, unopened mail on the table and laundry hanging over every possible surface – that is outrageously relaxing.

I idly fill in a sudoku puzzle while Sunday morning cooking shows play in the background; which, as it turns out, is the ideal hangover cure.

A long lunch is all part of the daycation

Our contented chill-out makes time pass swiftly, and before we know it lunchtime has rolled around. A stroll downstairs takes us to the hotel restaurant, Galvin, where a small but carefully curated menu of dishes awaits.

I’m used to lunch being a pretty swift affair, even in a restaurant – an hour is about right, 90 minutes at a push, although even that feels fairly decadent. With nowhere to be and waited on by attentive staff who have zero incentive to move us along, however, we manage to spend nearly two and a half hours in our comfortable, velvet-clad booth, lingering over endive, walnut and Roquefort salad, the world’s tastiest tuna burger and a gloriously chewy passionfruit pavlova. Accompanied by a carafe of Spanish white, it makes for just about the most pleasant few hours imaginable.

Sleepily sated, we pour ourselves out of the restaurant and return to our room for a brief digestion break before the next item on the agenda – the spa.

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Athenaeum has a small but perfectly formed wellness area, including a gym. (We’d optimistically brought workout gear but that remains stubbornly buried at the bottom of our bags.) I don’t feel like it’s possible to get any more relaxed, but alternating between the two hot tubs, sauna, steam room and relaxation space, I realise that was pure baloney. An hour into this delightful process I am jelly-limbed and fluffy-headed – all is right with the world.

Somehow time has progressed yet again; doing nothing seems to have a hastening effect on the clock. At 5pm, there’s just enough of it left to get properly squeaky clean under the room’s rainfall shower, using every complimentary ESPA product available, before one last stint of companionable reading sprawled on the bed.

There’s a compact spa onsite

Moving at a languorous pace, we gather up our things, faces swathed in drowsy smiles.

“Checking out? Already?” The woman at the desk is just as confused as this morning’s receptionist.

“Yes, that’s right. It was just a daycation.”

I sigh contentedly. We may be spending the night in semi-squalor rather than five-star opulence, but after eight hours of unfettered relaxation, I feel pretty confident we’ll sleep well tonight.

Travel essentials

DayBreakHotels offers four-star hotels with spas from £59 per day.

A day in a suite at Athenaeum costs £360 (saving up to 50 per cent compared to £720 for an overnight stay). Guests can pay for spa access for £25 per hour.

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