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Is Butler Service Right for You? Here’s What You Need to Know

Once geared toward the rich and famous, butlers are available at more all-inclusive properties

spinner image a butler holding a tray of breakfast for guests
Butlers at hotels and resorts provide one-on-one attention and can anticipate your needs.
Alamy Stock Photo

I had never experienced butler service before this year, and while it’s something I didn’t need, I absolutely want it again.

Is butler service worth it? Well, if vacations really are about vacating your normal life, I’ve found that there’s no better way to celebrate that notion than to indulge in a level of service you never knew you could afford.

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Surprisingly, it’s easier than you think. Major hotel chains are moving toward all-inclusive — and more exclusive — packages and levels of service that were once available only to the rich and famous. From Marriott to Hyatt to Hilton, the option of a dedicated butler who handles everything from whisking away your breakfast dishes to securing dinner reservations is attainable, but it may be a splurge at the chain’s high-end properties. Take that into account as you decide whether butler service is right for you. 

What is butler service?

The true luxury comes from the one-on-one attention you’ll receive, either a text, phone call or email away. Need a pick-me-up midafternoon? Text your butler for a cappuccino. Don’t want to wake at the crack of dawn to secure lounge chairs at the beach? Just let your butler know where you want to sit, and they’ll find your chairs — literally with your name on them — waiting when you’re ready. Need a shirt pressed before dinner? Your butler will ensure a crisp, fresh look. These services and more are part of the butler experience — you choose how much or how little you take advantage of them.

“Our butlers’ biggest strength is providing a true holiday for guests, from greeting them at the dock upon arrival to taking care of their every need,” says Nicolas Meslet, operations manager at Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina in the British Virgin Islands. “Guests have told us they don’t want to talk to many people to get the job done — they prefer one dedicated person and the private service that comes with a butler.”

Where can you get butler service at the main hotel chains?

Among the Marriott brands with butler service are the St. Regis and The Luxury Collection. Properties in Hyatt’s the Inclusive Collection, such as Secrets Resorts & Spas and Hyatt Zilara have butler service included. At Hilton, butler service can be found at Hilton Playa del Carmen.

spinner image butlers from left: Melisa, the butler from Sandals Barbados and three butlers from Coco Bodu Hithi.
Melisa Williams, left, is a butler at Sandals Royal Barbados. At right, a butler team is ready to serve guests at Coco Bodu Hithi Residences in the Maldives.
Rebecca Duerlein

What can you expect from a butler?

Services vary from one hotel to another, but in general, you’ll have a single point of contact to meet your needs. You won’t have to hunt down the concierge, call the front desk, deal with housekeeping, or wait on hold while you’re being transferred to the spa. Instead, you’ll contact your butler, who will track down whatever information or service you require and see that it is delivered satisfactorily.

My husband and I discovered the joys of butler service for the first time when we booked a stay at Coco Bodu Hithi Residences in the Maldives (starting at $537 per night.) Our butler, who greeted us upon arrival, not only got the job done but managed to anticipate needs we didn’t even know we had. He rushed to carry our flippers as we returned from snorkeling, insisted on toting my beach bag when my hands were full, and, seeing me in heels heading to dinner, returned with a golf cart and delivered me to the restaurant.

Even when we didn’t see him, we enjoyed the results of his efforts. After a hot day outside, we’d find our favorite beverages, chilled and waiting in our villa. He quickly learned our routine, so our room was spotless without our ever running into housekeeping. As my husband said when we sighed contentedly at the end of each day, “Everyone deserves a butler.”

On a vacation to Sandals Royal Barbados, where a villa with a butler can be had for as little as $489 per person, per night, I had a team of three butlers, all just a text away on my dedicated butler iPhone. At Sandals, each butler is trained and certified by the Guild of Professional English Butlers. Even with white-glove service and polished uniforms, butlers here are warm and inviting, so much so that returning guests frequently request the same butlers who now feel like friends.

Sandals Royal Barbados butler Melisa Williams says it’s all about letting guests know you care. “Once we had a guest who was in remission from cancer. We threw her a party and decorated her villa courtyard to support her in her strength and recovery.”

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One guest from Canada visits Sandals yearly and always requests Williams’ team. Williams says her team is so familiar with the guest’s likes and dislikes, they draw her a bath, place her preferred drinks in her room, and book reservations at her favorite restaurants — all without being asked.

The St. Regis, a Marriott property, has celebrated the butler tradition for more than 100 years, with experiences tailored to your liking.

“We find that some guests very much engage with butlers — having a coffee delivery each day or a daily suit pressing,” says Julia McKelvey, director of sales and marketing at St. Regis Atlanta. “Some engage to arrange for special celebrations, and others choose not to engage … but know our butlers are there should they need anything.”

What shouldn’t you ask of your butler?

One guest asked Williams to stop the rain. And that guest was serious. Aside from the impossible — like controlling weather patterns — virtually any housekeeping or service requests are fair game. But do remember that butlers are generally assigned to more than one guest (Williams’ team of three serves six to seven couples at a time). Your butler won’t stand behind your beach chair – and would you want them to? — but will be just a text away when you need them.

The Golden Rule applies here — treat your butler as you would want to be treated and it will be a pleasant experience for all.

Are there any downfalls to butler service?

Since you control the level of attention you’ll receive, there really aren’t. The only caveat is that with most hotels and resorts, this service comes with higher-priced rooms. And yes, you will need to tip your butler.

How much should I tip my butler?

Tip expectations vary by country, so it helps to do a little research in advance. Travel sites like Condé Nast and TripSavvy suggest tipping 5 percent of the room rate, with the American Society of Travel Advisors recommending $25-$75 a day, depending on the level of service you require. If you consider that you are tipping one person who is meeting all your needs versus various people you might see once or twice, that amount seems not only fair, but quite the bargain.

As McKelvey says, exceptional butlers create “a seamless and nonintrusive service from start to finish. They are ever present, but never the focus.” If you seek a true vacation — one where you don’t want to think about what you need — treat yourself to the level of service only a butler can provide.

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