Luxury hotels: what to expect

Amantaka, Laos

 

Chances are, your honeymoon might be one of the first opportunities you’ve had to stay in a luxury hotel – it may well be the first time you’ve felt able to justify the expense. Splashing out on posh accommodation can feel like a big leap, however – while in some parts of the world you can still just about nab a five-star hotel for under £100 a night, in many places you’ll be looking at paying substantially over this. And so the big question arises – is it really worth spending so much money to stay somewhere?

The answer really depends on how much money you want to spend, your travelling preferences, and where you’re going. Just because you’re paying £500 a night won’t necessarily guarantee you a great time – like any standard of hotel, your enjoyment will depend on a number of factors, from service and the style of furnishings, to the exclusive nature of the place. For example, I don’t like stuffy, overly formal hotels – yes, I like being greeted in a friendly manner by staff, but I’d rather not be called Madam or Ms Gibbs.

It’s always a bit of a gamble choosing accommodation, so regardless of how much money you’re spending, I’d really recommend doing a bit of research – check out what other websites say about the property (not just TripAdvisor, which should be used a little cautiously) and speak to a travel agent or tour operator – they may well have visited the hotel, and should be able to offer advice on whether it fits your criteria.

The biggest factor that will affect the feel of a hotel is the size of the property – a city hotel with five hundred bedrooms is always going to feel a lot more impersonal than a beach resort with just thirty villas. If you’re in a city, chances are this won’t bother you – you’ll want to feel as though you can come and go whenever you please. That said, if you’re in a city, you might prefer to stay somewhere cheaper in order to keep more money for eating, drinking and making the most of what the destination has to offer.

So, what can you expect from a luxury hotel? Here’s just a few things that you’d hope to find in a luxury hotel – though not every place will quite live up to this list:

Fantastic beds I’ve just returned from a holiday in Mexico where we stayed in a mix of luxury and mid-range places (details up on the site soon!) – the beds at each of the luxury hotels were hands-down some of the nicest I’ve ever slept in, and if I could have fitted one of them in my suitcase, I would have taken one home.

Turn downs Pretty much every luxury hotel I’ve stayed in offers a turndown service, which is pretty much just making the room ready for bed – so taking off a bedcover if there is one, putting on the bedside lights, closing the curtains, and generally making the room as cosy as possible. Some hotels will leave a bottle of water by the side of the bed for you, others a little piece of cake or a few chocolates – at Six Senses Samui, small bean-bag animals were left on our bed each night, while at Maroma Resort & Spa, our choice of aromatherapy oil was left so we could burn it on our return from dinner.

Attentive staff  Again, this varies from hotel to hotel – it may just be that there’s someone on the door to greet you and take your bags up to your room, or it could be that the staff will all address you by name, that they’ll bring iced water to your sunlounger, or that people will go out of their way to make sure that you’re having the best possible stay. In a great hotel this is never intrusive, and always makes you feel like you’re staying somewhere really special.

A welcome drink  My favourite hotels have generally all started off by offering a welcome drink – anything from ice-cold water to a margarita – which is especially appreciated if you’ve been travelling for hours and hours. Sometimes it’ll come with a refreshing towel, and you’ll always be able to take it back to your room to properly enjoy it after check in.

Effortless check-in  The last thing that you want after a long flight is to spend ages standing at the check-in desk filling out details like passport numbers and addresses. At a lot of hotels (especially in cities), you may still have to do this, though often you will be taken to a more comfortable area so you can relax a little while you do so; at others, check-in is done in the comfort of your room; either way, a good hotel will make it a breeze and you’ll barely notice that they’ve checked you in.

Excellent facilities  Whether it’s a rooftop bar with amazing views over the city, a perfectly smooth white-sand beach, a restaurant with a celebrated chef, or a spa that brings a whole new meaning to relaxation, a luxury hotel should have superlative facilities that stand out against its competitors.

Great toiletries  I love seeing what toiletries the hotel stocks in its bathrooms, and the choice of toiletries can really make or break a hotel – the best generally use fantastic local companies. That said, something that I’m seeing a lot more in luxury hotels in the moment, which I love, is refillable ceramic toiletry dispensers – these aren’t just a discouragement for pilfering the items, they also look really classy and are a lot more environmentally friendly.

Expensive prices  There’s no doubt about it, staying at a luxury hotel isn’t cheap, and so generally you can expect prices in the hotel/resort – say for a drink at the bar, a meal in the restaurant or a spa treatment – to also be high. In a resort, this will often make opting for a half-board or all-inclusive package much more beneficial, but if you’re staying in close proximity to other restaurants/hotels then you might prefer to have the option to go elsewhere. That said, it really does depend on the destination – we were surprised in Mexico to find that cocktails in the luxury hotels we stayed at were generally around £6/7 – that’s cheaper than we’d expect to pay at a normal restaurant in London.

 

One last piece of advice: staying in a luxury hotel can be an amazing experience, but, like anything, it can sometimes be disappointing. If splashing out on your hotel means you’ll have less money to actually enjoy your destination, then I’d question if it was worthwhile – the last thing you want is to feel like you can’t afford to do anything on your honeymoon. It’s also worth knowing that the rates on hotel websites are often the most expensive you’ll find – it’s worth speaking to a travel agent to see what kind of deals they can get for you, as they’ll often be much more competitively priced, especially if you’re buying a flight through them.

 

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