How do you choose a hotel when you travel?
Like most people, price and location are both important considerations when I’m choosing a hotel to stay in. But that doesn’t necessarily mean looking for the most budget-friendly hotel, though. To me, price has more to do with value. If a place is exceptional in certain aspects, it may be worth paying more for your stay there. Likewise, location is important and it may make sense to pay a bit more to be more ideally situated. But apart from these practical considerations, design is the next most important thing I look for in a hotel. With both a personal and professional passion for design, I’m always drawn to hotels that place an emphasis on gorgeous interiors and other memorable design details.
If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?
Hotels that really nail the guest experience are ones you never forget! Three of the most special hotels I’ve ever stayed at are:
Cavallo Point, nestled at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, California. Every single thing about this hotel resonated with me and felt like home from the moment I got on property. It’s a historic hotel situated at Fort Baker, a former US Army post and the rooms are a delicious blend of original design elements and new, modern ones, too. It’s not surprising that this hotel has a focus on wellness – healing the mind, body and spirit. Something about it just feels good for the soul.
Ham Yard Hotel, which I discovered through the booking service Mr. and Mrs. Smith, in London’s Soho, is walking distance to Mayfair and Knightsbridge so it’s definitely well-situated in the city. But beyond that, the design is what makes this property really special. Designed by Kit Kemp in modern British style, each of the hotel’s 91 bedrooms are individually designed and they’re breathtakingly beautiful. Ham Yard Hotel treats guests to the unexpected at every turn (there’s a 1950s-inspired bowling alley!) and it’s one of the most delightful places I’ve ever seen.
Mahali Mzuri, which means ‘beautiful place’ in Swahili, is Richard Branson’s safari camp, located in Kenya’s Masai Mara. The luxury tents feature all the creature comforts a person could want while camping out in the bush. But the location puts you in the heart of some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see. The elevated location of the hotel means that guests have sweeping, panoramic views of the plains below where the animals roam free. Having lunch and watching a family of elephants meandering down below was a life experience I’ll not soon forget!
If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?
Sometimes it’s the simplest details that please guests the most – at least, that’s often been the case for me! What would I ensure my boutique hotel had? Here goes:
- A luxurious bathroom: I adore a deep soaking tub and heated bathroom floors!
- A seamless technology experience: That means free WiFi, in-room chargers and outlets on both sides of the bed. These days, everyone’s traveling with so many gadgets that need charging and we’re not all sitting at the desk all day. Easy access to outlets for everything from hair dryers to phone chargers is important to me.
- Luxe design details: This is what I remember when I stay at a hotel. Stunning wall coverings and luxe silk drapery – ooh la la!
Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…
When I’m traveling for long periods, I start to miss the things I take for granted at home – like being able to make the perfect cup of tea whenever I want. I appreciate free tea and coffee delivered to your room. Many hotels have tea and coffee machines in the room but no milk, so I can’t make that perfect cup. Being able to order my English Breakfast tea with skim milk and not have to pay a ridiculous room service charge is huge to me. I’m currently at the St. Regis Bali and they offer this service – I absolutely love it!
St. Regis hotels also offer a packing and unpacking service for guests – how amazing is that? They’ll unpack your bags in your room for you, hang everything up and then pack your suitcase again before you leave. That saves a lot of time for doing other things if you don’t have to worry about your bags!
Last but certainly not least – (I’ll always come back to a design element!) – the books at the Rosewood Hotel in London. The hotel’s design is modern yet classic and the rooms are really stunning. But what really won me over: The PG Wodehouse books found lying about the hotel – on the coffee table in the lobby and on side tables in the hallway leading to my room. As an avid reader, a certified bibliophile and a longtime adorer of PG Wodehouse, this detail just delighted me to no end.
Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.
Slippery stairs: My hotel in Cambodia had open-air stairwells and after the rain, the steps were slick and very slippery. I wiped out – seriously wiped out – smacked my head on the cement steps and bounced down the rest to the landing. I was so dazed and in a great deal of pain – and unfortunately, the hotel staff didn’t really do much to help. That was over a year ago and I still have a dent where I hit the stair the hardest; looks like it’s permanent. I strongly recommended that they put some sort of safety tread tape on the stairs and I hope they’ve done that.
Food poisoning: I’ve had food poisoning while traveling before and it is no fun and definitely ruins a trip. While traveling in Jerusalem, I missed some of the most incredible experiences because I was so sick (trust me: puking into a garbage bin at the top of Masada is just ridiculous.) I wasn’t able to swim in the Dead Sea and my husband and I had to cancel our trip to Nazareth.
Bugs: I admit – I’m a huge wuss in the bug department but when they’re in my hotel room, I’m even wussier. I know that in many tropical destinations, they just can’t be avoided but on a recent trip to Chiang Rai, I was in my hotel room when I looked down and saw a huge, black bug with a hard shell just hanging out on my leg. Not. Cool.
How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?
I absolutely love the Amberlair concept. As you can probably already tell, I have a distinct sense of what I like and what I don’t like at hotels and welcome the opportunity to have a voice in the creation of this first crowdsourced hotel. What an innovative idea! And in today’s increasingly social world, this just seems like the right next step towards providing the ultimate guest experience.
What is your dream location for our first Amberlair?
South Africa! This beautiful destination has long been on my list of must-visit places. Would love to see an Amberlair hotel open there.
Where are you off to next?
I’m currently at the St. Regis hotel in Bali but tomorrow afternoon, it’s time to pack my bags (actually, the butler will do that while I’m at the spa!) and head to Taipei. I’ve never been to Taiwan before and it will be the 56th country that my husband Johnny Jet and I have been to together as a couple!
Natalie DiScala is a Toronto-based travel writer and digital editor for Canada’s leading decorating magazine, Style at Home, managing the editorial content and strategy for the online brand. She is a contributor to Canadian Living, ElleCanada.com, Toronto Magazine and the Toronto Star and is the editor of the travel and style blog, Oh! Travelissima.
Natalie also has a public relations background, having worked for three years in the consumer marketing practice at international PR firm Fleishman-Hillard. She graduated from Ryerson Polytechnic University’s journalism program with a major in print journalism.