The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) claims over 10,000 worldwide member clubs and has an intriguing IHRSA Passport program. Pauline Frommer mentioned this in her blog but did not test it out.
Members of participating IHRSA member clubs, and many of the big US chains are included, can only request a free IHRSA Passport Guest Pass from their home club. They can use this for short-term visits to clubs a minimum of 50 miles from their home club. The locator uses Google Maps, providing club info and ‘visit this club’ info, critical to check for fees. It irritatingly requires a city to be entered in addition to country.
Most importantly, it is recommend to call a club ahead. This is sage advice because this may be totally unfamiliar to staff at many clubs. Also prudent to print screenshot printouts of the information. Anyone who has tried to use airline partner airport lounges knows how truculent club gatekeepers can be, sometimes even disbelieving hard copies.
So you only stay at premium hotels with their own fitness centers, why would you bother? Well, premium hotel does not guarantee good fitness center. Hotel fitness centers rarely extend beyond a collection of cardio machines and a smattering of weights (spa areas excluded from consideration). Dedicated health clubs typically provide much more extensive facilities such as ball courts, boxing, classes, wide variety of machines, etc.
Too bad The Rapid Traveler’s gym is not a member, because there is no way to get the passport without belonging to a member club.
The IHRSA also has a program in the US called Joining Forces, providing free memberships to immediate family members of deployed Reservists and National Guard members. Bravo.