The greatest gift an adult can give himself is a night in a hotel. Hotels, and more specifically, hotel rooms, are portals that exist somewhere between fantasy and reality. They are neither truly real nor truly extraterrestrial. The fine hotel room will exude a sort of “all things are possible, sir” je ne sais quoi. It will build self-esteem to heady, even dangerous, levels.
I used to get off on very fine hotels. On nights in Manhattan’s Meatpacking Standard, West Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, Zurich’s Dolder Grand. I would revel in high tread count sheets and open and close and open again remote controlled curtains. Over the years, as jade set in, I have come to some concrete conclusions. First, as grand as trendiness is, nothing beats the Four Seasons as far as service is concerned. Second, service is the only thing that really matters. Third, kinky nights in rundown, backwater Floridian hotels is still fun. And fourth, staying in a hotel beats staying with friends. Always.
I love hotels now with a deep an abiding love that transcends mere getting off and thus feel very suited, young hipster, on giving you rules that will undoubtedly maximize your hotel experience.
Booking: Do not use Travelocity, Hotelstonight or anything .com. Tablet is a nice resource for window shopping but when it is time to book call the front desk directly. A personal encounter takes the day. This does not mean you should expect fruit baskets, teddy bears, upgrades upon checking in. It just means that a personal encounter takes the day.
Checking in: You are not the savvy traveler you imagine yourself to be, if you imagine yourself to be a savvy traveler. The true savvy traveler has moved beyond first-timer giddiness, beyond false “I’ve-seen-it-all” posturing, beyond regarding himself as anything other than a man needing a service. Be polite to the check in desk. Be happy, sad, whatever you want, except cool. Cool equals amateur. Are you an amateur? Probably. But don’t act like one. No amount of posturing can supersede points. Get on a point system, American Express, Starwood, whatever and let that bring the upgrade. Gold status beats cool status when standing in front of front desk staff every day of the week.
The Hotel Bar: Fine hotel bars will put you shoulder to shoulder with greatness. If you are staying in a fine hotel you should really not leave. You should move from bar to pool to room to bar to pool to room to bar to bar to bar. All the people you need in your life are there, if it is a fine hotel bar. I did not follow this advice, once, in Miami. I stayed at the Standard, which was good enough, and spent the day going from room to bar to pool to bar but then I got restless and drove over to the Fontainebleau and right into the middle of a giant hip-hop party. I was stuck between Pitbull and some other gross Dominican “star” drinking “bubbs” and retreat took multiple hours.
Amenities: Soap and fancy chocolates and caramel corn and little bottles of Grey Goose are all cute but never necessary. Likewise, a roadside inn along the 101 in rural Oregon with nothing but knock-off Dial and only a dream where the refrigerator should be is quaint but blah. I cannot overstate. The best amenity is service. Will the kitchen make you a Monte Cristo at three in the morning? Will the doorman give you a cigarette? This happens, for sure, at the Four Seasons but may also happen at the roadside inn along the 101 in rural Oregon making it * * * * * at least for the night.
The Pool: Pools in cold climates are who cares. I once stayed at a fine hotel called The Prince in Melbourne, Australia and it had a hip little indoor pool. Melbourne, unfortunately, has the climate of awful so that hip little indoor pool is entirely superfluous, and, moreover, annoying. But a pool at, say, The Parker in Palm Springs is a total revelation. Sitting there, in the sun, cocktails at the call, alternately boiling hot and cool is…is…is…well, life simply cannot get any better.
Location: Where your hotel happens to be, geographically, is overrated if it is fine. Staying at, say, a Wyndham, just because it is close to where you need to be is dumb, unless you are in love with the Wyndham, which makes you dumb. The hotel is, generally speaking, destination enough. All else is merely window dressing and so the hotel should be chosen first and foremost. The Hotel Amour, for example, is on the outer outskirts of Paris. It is far from the tower Eiffel and the left bank but it is one of the finest hotels on earth and so it could be in Mitry-Mory and still be completely worthwhile.
Staff: And finally we are to the most important of all. Connoisseurs choose hotels based purely and, really only, on staff. A keen, energetic, thoughtful, discreet staff is the greatest luxury of all. Usually such a staff is housed in fine hotels and so there is no compromise but I would stay in a pig sty with an exceptional staff rather than heaven with poor. Four Seasons is a guarantee. The Standard is not and usually has bad staff. The Shorebreak in Huntington Beach tries very hard to be chic and helpful but dwell in Huntington Beach.