How do you choose a hotel when you travel?
I research as much as time will permit before taking a trip—not always easy with a crawling baby!—checking out all the recommendations from big sites like Conde Nast Traveller, Nat Geo, and Travel + Leisure, as well as perusing smaller blogs that seem like-minded. I’ll check out Tripadvisor, too, but I’ve been burned by their reviews in the past, so I have to take them with a grain of salt. At the risk of sounding rude, one person’s five-star ‘this was the best hotel ever!’ might mean something else to you.
If you had to choose 3, what were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?
I’m a hotel junkie, so it’s hard to pick favorites…and yet, there’s one that immediately springs to mind. Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand was so next-level, so special, so once-in-a-lifetime that I have a framed series of photos of it in my bathroom. The food is phenomenal (which isn’t rare in New Zealand, to be fair), the spa features indigenous ingredients and is remotely located in a Totara forest, and the staff is the best I’ve ever encountered. Oh, and the views: insane.
Number two would be Raffles Istanbul, which has personal butlers for each guest. When my husband and I arrived, our butler had arranged for framed pictures of our daughter to be waiting for us, because they figured I’d be missing her. I literally burst into happy tears when I walked in the room and saw her adorable photos!
And last, but certainly not least, is Qualia in Australia, where my husband Erik and I honeymooned. It’s consistently named one of the top few hotels in the world, and for good reason. Even the smallest rooms have huge balconies on the water and are basically more luxurious than any other hotel you’ve ever stayed at.
If I had my own hotel, what 3 things would I make sure existed?
Only three? This is hard! Okay:
- A fully-renovated marble bathroom with both walk-in shower AND bathtub large enough for two people is a must. A hotel without a deep claw-foot tub is a waste.
- 1 pm late check-out, without having to ask and without an extra fee.
- A pillow menu with a variety of materials and thickness on offer, with at least 3 pillows per person already in the room, so you don’t have to call housekeeping after midnight when you get back to the room after an amazing night on the town and realize there are only pillows you don’t like, and not even enough of them. #highmaintenancesleeper #huggingpillow #pillowfortheknees #pillowtosleepon
Bonus answer, because I just asked my husband what he wished for. The ability to choose your own specific room the way you can choose your own seat on a flight. He likes knowing in advance which floor he’s going to be on, whether it will be a harbor view, etc, etc. We recently stayed at The Museum Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey, and because every room is a suite with distinct characteristics, you’re able to choose your individual suite in advance.
Three things I loved in hotels I stayed in before:
- Your own butler. This is huge: somebody to unpack your bags, bring you afternoon cocktails, make spa appointments, and draw your bath? Worth its weight in gold. Raffles was the gold standard—where our butler came all the way to our dinner table to make sure we had our breakfast ordered in time for the next day—but I’ve also experienced this at The Goring and The Savoy hotels in London, Royal Malewane in South Africa, Qualia in Australia, and Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand.
- High-tech rooms that include the ability to check out via iPad, an iPhone for every guest with wi-fi and local restaurant/bar options, electronic blackout curtains, and electronic “please make up my room” or “please do not disturb” buttons. Aria and The Cosmopolitan in Vegas are masters of this.
- A buzzy late-night bar open into the wee hours. Even though it’s usually ill-advised, I like having the option of grabbing an after-hours drink within the hotel and keeping the evening going. We recently experienced this at The Virgin Hotel in Chicago, and it was awesome.
Three things I wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel again:
- Wi-fi charges. In this day and age, it feels tacky and like you’re nickel-and-diming your customers who are clearly already paying for it.
- Parking charges (same as above). In countries like New Zealand, Ireland, England, France, etc, to say nothing of other cities in the US, my husband and I have rented cars to go further afield. Parking charges at an already-expensive hotel are simply irritating. I’d rather you build the fee into the bill and let me at least pretend it’s free./li>
- Clueless concierge who recommend tourist traps and things you can find with a simple Google search. The concierge should go above and beyond, and ideally have insider info.
How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?
I LOVE the Amberlair concept! It’s deceptively simple, but giving the power back to hotel guests and allowing them to have the best boutique hotel experience possible is worth every cent.
Where are you off to next?
My husband and I are taking our 9-month-old daughter on her first international trip a week from today, to Copenhagen and Stockholm! We scored a last-minute reservation at Noma in Copenhagen, so we cobbled the trip together and added Stockholm as a 4-day layover. Erik’s grandmother was born in Sweden, so we’re incredibly excited to visit his ancestral homeland, plus obviously to dine at Noma, see Tivoli Gardens, go archipelago island hopping in Stockholm, and hopefully live to tell the tale of an 11-hour flight with baby!
Nadine Jolie Courtney is a freelance beauty and travel writer. A former magazine editor for Lucky, Ladies’ Home Journal, FHM, and Jane, Nadine currently freelances for Robb Report, Town & Country, Yahoo, Fox News, The Hollywood Reporter, Angeleno, and GQ, and she specializes in international SPAs, luxury hotels, high-tech skincare trends, and city guides.
Nadine is the author of two books published by HarperCollins: Confessions of a Beauty Addict (2009) and Beauty Confidential (2007). Her third book Wisteria, a YA novel, will be published by HarperCollins in 2017.
She and her husband Erik starred on season 2 of Bravo’s hit show Newlyweds: The First Year. The New York Post dubbed her “the poster child for the blogger generation” for her blog, Nadine Jolie Courtney, widely considered to be the first beauty blog, and she regularly posts photos of her chubby baby Aurelia on Instagram. You’ll also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.