How do you choose a hotel when you travel?
Travel Guides, friend recommendations, blogs and social media are my go-to’s when looking for a place to stay. I look for a convenient location like a cool neighborhood if going on city-break or an unique place if going to the countryside/isolated area.
I really look into amenities, pictures and comments and compare price tags before. I am not into 5$ rooms and will not pay 500$ either, so I try to find unique places with cool vibes.
Recently, I’ve found myself looking for accommodation on Instagram, from bloggers I love and on Airbnb. I reach to Instagram because of the visual side: I want to sleep in a nice place ! I will refer to bloggers I can relate to, so I’m sure it’s on my same taste-level. I’ve seen that more and more cool small (boutique) hotels are on Airbnb offering lovely places you wouldn’t find otherwise !
If you had to choose 3, which were the most special (boutique) hotels you have ever stayed at and what made them so special?
I will always keep an amazed luxurious-oriental-exotic souvenir of the Palais Jamaï in Fez, Morocco where I got to spend a family vacation a few years ago.
More recently, I loved Be Playa boutique hotel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, a sophisticated yet cool and relaxed, boho-chic hotel in the beautiful Riviera Maya.
Last but not least, the boutique hotel Casa Cordoba in Cartagena, Colombia, where honey-mooned with 40 friends. The main house, Casa Estrella, is a stunning colonial mansion in Cartagena where we were treated like royalty. They also have a beautiful private island on the Rosario archipel not far from Cartagena : Casa Baru has a natural pool, private chef and caribbean coziness, all you need to be happy.
They all made me hope to stay longer or wish to go back and they all gave me the sense of living an unique experience.
All of them are rare or unique properties like a luxurious Palace in the Fez medina, jacuzzi in-room at Be Playa or a 300years-old mansion in Cartagena, they all made me feel I was sleeping in unique places. They also had unique decors and designs with local touches that made them feel authentic: baroque furniture and fresh flowers in Cartagena or boho textiles in Playa del Carmen are details giving that extra thing that makes you smile. We had no problem with service or reservations whatsoever and the staff was super friendly. In Cartagena, the hotel manager kindly booked all the activities we asked her and got us a brand new BBQ the night we wanted to cook ourselves. Service is key to a great hotel experience !
If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?
- A great shower in a beautiful tiled bathroom. To me, bathrooms are the most important part of my hotel room. A great shower can make or break my day and being in a neat and beautiful bathroom is essential. Why are there beautiful hotels with old and bad showers?!
- Healthy and lean breakfast with natural and local products. I will also make sure to have a short (but good) tea list on the menu for non-coffee drinkers like myself. I still have to struggle with mediocre tea in most hotels and would not let that happen anymore!
- A great bar or hang-out spot. If possible, a rooftop bar or an open-air space like a terrace or balcony where guests could hang out and have a drink or a cup of coffee tea… and why not meet new people, a place I would actually enjoy being at and not being forced to lock myself in my room.
Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…
- Quality Bathroom products. Those automatic soap-dispensers need to go to cheap shampoo hell. In Germany I was greeted with Bulgari beauty products: I was one happy guest.
- Included amenities and activities like bikes, canoes… I hate being asked extra pennies to get a bottle of water by my bed. In Roatan island, we got a complimentary cell-phone during our stay, in Colombia’s coffee valley we got a bird-watching guide to go on our own : no extra fees!
- Restaurant flexibility. There is nothing as frustrating as being hungry and facing a “Closed Kitchen” sign. In Antigua Guatemala they arranged for us a “meal-box” with sandwiches, water and fruit for our 3 A.M wake up call for example.
Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.
- Artificial orange juice. Seriously?!
- Over-packaging, plastic diner-ware, plastic useless bags… I hated my hotel in Costa Rica just because everything was plastic. Please, stop this.
- Buffets need to go to hotel nightmares hell along with old and dusty bread for breakfast. Change that buffet for a daily 2 options menu :)
How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?
It’s so exciting! It looks like a fun concept with a lot of hard-work behind it. I believe every traveler has at some point said “I’d like to have my own hotel” so the Amberlair initiative sounds like a step closer to living that dream. Can’t wait to see this great story unfold !
Where are you off to next?
Soon to explore Mayan ruins in Belize and Tikal (Guatemala) for an exotic jungle-forest and caribbean beach kind of journey. Then I’ll be off to San Francisco for the first time to explore Death Valley and Sequoia and Yellowstone National Parks on a 15-day road-trip to Las Vegas… before going back home to Paris and Berlin to head for another European summer trip.
Fernanda of Try The Sky is a travel lover who writes about hotels, restaurants, shopping and unique travel experiences around the globe. Born in Guatemala and raised in a Colombian family, she grew up in Spain before living in Bolivia and Egypt.
She is now living between Paris and Central America as a full-time International Consultant in non-profit, human rights and gender issues… and as a half time traveler around the globe! Fernanda created Try The Sky to connect with other travelers looking for authentic experiences, beyond hostels and upper-luxury, in charming and unique corners of the world.
When Fernanda is not tweeting, she’s sharing travel adventures on Instagram and Facebook in Spanish, French and English.