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The Insider’s Guide to Luxury Travel

Five jetsetters share their favorite hotels around the world and the most valuable travel secrets they’ve learned along the way

For those in the business of luxury travel, jetting around the world is all in a day’s work. So we thought it might be interesting to assemble a group of savvy professionals—from a famed hotelier to top industry executives—and have them discuss their favorite hotels, the destinations they’re dying to visit and the secrets they’ve picked up in the process. Here’s what our panel had to say:

The Splendido in Portofino

The Splendido in Portofino

Olga Polizzi
Designer and Hotelier, Rocco Forte Collection

1. Aside from your own properties, what’s your favorite hotel in the world? 

I like small, quirky hotels, like Il Pelicano in Porto Ercole, or the less small and quirky Splendido in Portofino with the best swimming pool in the world or the Hotel de Russie with the most romantic garden restaurant. 

2. What carry-on items are your must-haves whenever you fly?

Always a scarf or shawl as at some point it gets too cold. Always my large traveling handbag with Kindle, phone, Sudoku, sweets, Kleenex, pens—all very practical! 

3. Where is one place you’re dying to visit but haven’t yet? 

South America, as my daughters are always threatening to go and live there.

4. What’s the best insider-y travel secret you’ve learned throughout your years in the business?

Never take a tip from the concierge when it comes to restaurants. They always send you to the most expensive or chi-chi places—always ask for a recommendation from the locals. Spend a bit of time before you travel deciding what to take. If you are going for four days, take four outfits. Only ever take 2 pairs of shoes: a comfortable pair for walking and shopping and a pretty pair that goes with everything!

5. Whenever I travel to Verdura, our resort in Sicily, I always bring home the delicious local olives and almonds as well as a piece of unusual pottery from nearby Sciacca. 

 

The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok

The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok

Victoria King
President, Victoria King Public Relations

1. Aside from your own properties, what’s your favorite hotel in the world?

I have many favorite hotels, but The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok is certainly top of the list.  I have been staying there for years, and in addition to the location on the river, I love the staff. From the moment you arrive, you feel welcome and comfortable. They know your likes and dislikes, and the staff bends over backwards to make sure that everything is taken care of for you. From the welcome amenities to the personalized stationary in your room, the hotel is just comfortable and easy to be in. It’s my go-to hotel in Bangkok. It’s also close to my favorite tailor: The Cotton House.

2. What carry-on items are your must-haves whenever you fly?

When I fly, I always have a pashmina. I’m always cold on the plane. I also bring my own socks for long haul flights and my favorite pink eye mask so I can sleep. I always travel with mini bags of almonds, just in case you get stuck on the tarmac or end up circling due to weather.

3. Where is one place you’re dying to visit but haven’t yet? 

The Seychelles. I’m a water person and these islands have been on my list for some time. I am planning to go in 2015 with my daughter for her spring break.

4. What’s the best insider-y travel secret you’ve learned throughout your years in the business?

Always do carry-on luggage unless you absolutely have to check a bag! Plan your wardrobe around one or two colors and pack lightly. Get global entry to avoid the long lines in the airport.

5. Whenever I travel to Provence I always bring home an assortment of espadrilles, which I buy in every color. I get them from a vendor at the Friday market in Carpentras. I have been renting the same house in Provence for almost 20 years, and he has been selling me espadrilles for years.

 

The Point in Saranac, NY

The Point Resort in Saranac, New York

Jacques Brouchier
General Manager, The Cotton House Mustique

1. Aside from your own properties, what’s your favorite hotel in the world?

The Point Resort in upstate New York for the beauty of the Adirondacks, the morning mist on the lake and the romance of it all. The history, the log cabins…

2. What carry-on items are your must-haves whenever you fly?

Noise-cancelling headphones, Kiehl’s moisturizing cream, a bag of trail mix and a small dose of great bourbon.

3. Where is one place you’re dying to visit but haven’t yet? 

The Himalayas. 

4. What’s the best insider-y travel secret you’ve learned throughout your years in the business?

Travel very light. Pack a one or two day supply and buy what you need upon arriving at destination. You’ll also avoid the hassle of finding space in the overhead compartments in planes. 

5. Whenever I travel to Provence, my home, the things I always bring back home with me are lavender honey, saussissons a l’ail and goat cheese from the Sunday village market.

  

Las Ventanas Al Paraiso

Las Ventanas Al Paraiso in Los Cabos

Joe Diaz
Co-Founder, AFAR Media

1. What’s your favorite hotel in the world?

That is so not a fair question. My favorite hotels are ones in which the experience is genuine and personal and where I feel the hotel’s deep commitment to connecting guests to the authentic essence of the destination in their own unique way. I always find myself back at Las Alcobas in Mexico City because of the hotel’s dedication to creating an authentic, modern Mexican experience. The restaurant, Anatol, is currently my favorite restaurant residing in a hotel on the planet. Las Ventanas Al Paraiso in Los Cabos is a favorite because you feel the team’s passion and pride for their “home” the minute you step onto the property. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, stay in a two-bedroom beachfront luxury villa. I never wanted to leave, and watching the chef roll up on an ATV with our seafood lunch will go down in history as one of my most memorable dining experiences. Finally, I love the Ritz Carlton Montreal because of the friendships I’ve developed there. Simon, the head concierge, is so passionate about his work that he took me to lunch on his day off to share his knowledge of this incredible city with me when I showed interest in learning more. The $200 million renovation has made the property best in its class. 

2. What carry-on items are your must-haves whenever you fly?

Checking bags is against my religion, so I carry everything on with me. I always make sure to have a couple of Emergen-C packets to give my immune system a boost. I always bring an extra copy of AFAR magazine to give to my flight attendant or the person next to me. My Powerbeats headphones are key when the kids start screaming. I also use them to go for a run after a long flight.

3. Where is one place in the world you’re dying to visit but haven’t yet? 

Eastern Africa. I’m dying to experience the migration on the Maasai Mara and need to spend time with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The highlands of Ethiopia are calling me too. I’m going to make my friend Mark Lakin, the co-founder of Epic Road, take me. This man’s stories (and photos to prove it) will leave you begging for more.

4. What’s the best insider-y travel secret you’ve learned throughout your years in the business?

Talk to people. Take interest in their lives and the way they see the world. You never know where it will lead, but it’s always somewhere good. Some of my best friends are ones I met on planes. And the more kitchen tables you can sit at the better. Some people brag about how many countries they’ve been to, I count kitchen tables. 

5. Whenever I travel to places I might never see again, the thing I always bring back home with me is a small, distinctive rock or shell. I get them from places I feel a physical and spiritual connection to.

 

The Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul at Bosphorus

The Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul at Bosphorus

Terrie Hansen
Senior Vice President, Marketing at Virtuoso

1. What’s your favorite hotel in the world? 

While the Oberoi Udaivilas Hotel [in Udaipur, India] is the most beautiful hotel I’ve seen, I have to say my all-time favorite is the chic Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul on the Bosphorus. Situated right on the waterfront of the bluest sea of I’ve ever seen, there’s a gorgeous outdoor space for al fresco dining and a stunning pool by the water. It’s located in the heart of Istanbul, with views of two continents. We arrived by private boat, and we felt like rock stars!

2. What carry-on items are your must-haves whenever you fly?

For international flights I change into comfy clothes as soon as we’re airborne, and settle in with my laptop and a stack of favorite magazines—I still love to flip the pages of real print! I give them to the flight attendants when we land. I never leave home without a pashmina and a few healthy snacks in my carry-on bag. Other must-have essentials include Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb perfume in a travel-friendly roller ball tube and Yves Saint Laurent Touché Éclat, the best for concealing under-eye circles after a long flight. 

3. Where is one place in the world you’re dying to visit but haven’t yet?

Cape Town, South Africa. After two amazing safari experiences in East Africa, I want to try South Africa. Cape Town has a lot to offer in one vacation: a cosmopolitan city with great shopping and restaurants, the famous Table Mountain and wine tasting at the nearby wineries. Of course, a few days on safari will top it all off. 

4. What’s the best insider-y travel secret you’ve learned throughout your years in the business?

My most important tip: use a professional travel advisor. As an executive with Virtuoso, I am lucky enough to work with the world’s best. I’ve called on them to create amazing experiences in destinations around the world and to bail me out when my flight cancels and I need to get home. A good travel advisor can save you time and money, while offering inspiration and ideas that suit your travel style. Plus, they deliver amenities and benefits you can’t get on your own.

5. Whenever I travel to a new place, the things I always bring back with me are a piece of local art for my home. I get them from boutiques, street artists and local bazaars. We’ve collected paintings, vases and sculptures from all over the world. Every room in the house has a treasure from one of our trips, even the bathrooms!

 

MORE:

The 7 Deadly Hotel Sins
Expert Tips for Mastering the Carry-On
The 3-Week World Tour

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