Traveling well is always what we do, but there are certain must-haves we look for before booking that vacation. When these traveling moms think of luxury travel, destination is usually first on the list. But there are many other factors to consider that define luxury, some you may not have even thought about. While many see luxury as an exotic location or booking a suite or having a relaxing facial during a day at the spa, who says luxury can’t be a state of mind?
10 Must-Haves That Define Luxury Travel
Luxury travel is most often defined as being in an exotic or infrequently traveled location, where you stay in the best room, jam packed with amenities. These usually include in-room massages for two and service that anticipates your every need.
Luxury travel can mean more than just the overall vacation experience. It can also be defined in one or two simple pleasures of a trip that make you go, aaah…
Perhaps you’re staying at a cabin with bunk beds and bucket showers, but you get the opportunity to have dinner at a Michelin rated restaurant or they give you L’Occitane bath products or you’re overlooking a lake with amazing views and sunsets. These little things can make up for everything else and make the whole trip seem like a slice of heaven.
Or maybe there’s nothing luxurious about your trip at all, but getting away with your family with no cares in the world is your definition of luxury. Even if it’s just your state of mind, that’s okay, too. Enjoy!
Travel and food go hand in hand. Whether traveling domestically or internationally, food plays a huge role. It can be for fueling ourselves if on an adventure trip. Food not only nourishes us, but excites our taste buds as well. But more importantly, it’s a way to truly understand your destination and its culture.
We make sure we eat locally and that these options are available. For example, there are many resorts in the Caribbean that have a variety of restaurants. This is true for smaller resorts with 50-70 rooms and massive resorts with thousands of rooms. Either way, we never book until we make sure there is an acclaimed chef in charge serving local, traditional dishes with flavors that shine. It’s also important for me to get a chance to chat with the chef and soak in as much knowledge as I can.
We love ourselves a big room. It’s a luxury to book a room at a hotel you know has a suite available to give you room to spread out and relax. Honestly, even on “site seeing” visits, a large relaxing room is a must.
If it’s on a vacation like in Belize or Jamaica, we also search for the largest room and most secluded. We frequent Belcampo Belize and stay in “our room.” We always book one of the 4 Ridge Suites, located at the top of the property with a private infinity pool. We find the average $300 a night more over the base rooms (there are only 17 rooms total on property) well worth it. A small price to pay for over 800 square feet, including a wrap-around porch, outdoor soaking tub, and butler service.
A larger resort we visit is Melia Braco Village in Jamaica, a wonderful resort for all budgets. Yet The Level, with only 50 rooms and private concierge service, provides the level of luxury we love for a quick getaway. We book the Royal Suite (there are only 2) with 2 full baths, a full sitting area, and a dining area. The room has additional benefits like wine, in addition to the regularly stocked items.
Yes, a spa is on the list. It does not have to be on-site, especially if you are renting a home. But a spa should be nearby or a massage therapist on standby. For example, the home we rent on Hawaii is located in Manini Beach on the Big Island. Our wonderful concierge on the island lines up a massage therapist for us who we have been using for years. We also frequent Mamalahoa Hot Tubs and Massage in the rainforest.
There are other destinations we travel to just for the spa or services they offer. One is the Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado with its amazing spa and relaxation circuit. It includes the Turkish Bath and dynamic pools, not to mention the chocolate body treatment.
Location can be the single aspect that defines luxury for us. But, it’s not just the amenities at the destination that defines the luxury, it’s often the exclusiveness of the location. Which means, there are locations many people will never travel to, due to the inability to get there and/or the cost. Long flights, cruising to the Antarctic, or reserving a cot a year in advance just so you can sleep in a tree in Costa Rica are a few that come to mind.
An example of the exclusiveness was a trip to the luxury, private North Island in the Seychelles where Prince William and Kate honeymooned. You have to take a helicopter to get to the 11 villa resort. Once there, you truly NEVER want to leave. Why would you when you have amenities like your own island, own pool, butler, in-room massage table, and every desire met, including a private picnic on the beach?
We are sorry to say it generally costs more for companies to be truly eco-friendly. From training the staff to actually implementing the eco-friendly policies, you generally pay more for helping the environment, like you do for organic produce at home. But we do love to see hotels and resorts becoming green and sustainable and many more are doing so.
Some luxury properties are doing their part by giving out water bottles and having filling stations, while others have converted to key lighting and air conditioning. There are, however, many that claim to be eco-friendly and are not. For example, they may say they won’t change your linens unless requested, then change them anyway. So, if this is important to you, check out that actions match words.
From bath products to bed sheets to stocked mini bars, quality is a plus. One of our favorites is the new Hotel RL line of products. From the toiletries to the bath sheet (yes BATH SHEET!), it is like a spa in your hotel room. They use Cascadia Soapery made in the Pacific Northwest’s Cascade mountain region. The Hemp and Lemon shampoo is one of my favorites and my hair loves it, too. Beyond that, they use a Lavender & Tea Charcoal bath soap which is rare to find let alone in a hotel room!
Sheets are another soft spot for luxury travel and they must be appropriate for the region. For example, in the Caribbean, they should be made for the humidity and air dried, often linen. Others should be high thread counts. I love that many of our favorite brands now offer their sheets and towels for sale, so you can enjoy the same comfort at home – although it somehow never feels the same…
Amp Up The Stay
Luxury travel also means getting the most out of your travel. This can range from getting those sold out theatre tickets to dinners in caves to unique experiences. You can either receive these special amenities or add-ons from the staff as part of your luxury vacation or you can book them yourself to make the trip all the more special.
An example of the treatment you can receive by the staff at luxury resorts occurred during a solo trip to Greece. The team planning my trip knew I loved to cook. Instead of just a day sailing Santorini, they arranged for a chef to sail with me. The team caught fish and we cooked traditional dishes. From sunrise to sunset, I sailed, swam into the volcano, dove off rocks, and cooked. That’s not to mention the wine and nap time.
An example of amping up the stay occurred during a trip across France. I booked a private hot air balloon at sunset over the Chianti region of France that was topped off with a champagne toast. Even my husband was in awe over this one.
Whether it is on on-site, pre-planning, or local, a concierge service is a must when traveling in luxury. There are many different ways to use a concierge. When we book our travel with Orvis for fly fishing, they function as our local expert, because they have been there and know the people. They keep in close contact and make sure every detail is taken care of from the moment we book until we get home and beyond.
Then there are concierges like our Kathy in Hawaii. She is a local expert and arranges everything from our kayak delivery to dinners to spa treatments to local excursions to transportation like a helicopter to Maui for dinner. Then there are on-site concierge and butler services. The Melia Braco properties are so dedicated to service for The Level guests, you receive a cell phone when you check in for constant contact.
Getting there is as important as being there. Arriving relaxed and ready for your adventure is a must. You should not arrive sore from travel or exhausted. We believe that flying first or business allows you to better transition, especially when changing time zones. No one likes being grumpy on vacation. It also gives you priority boarding and deplaning at your destination and often making customs and immigration lines shorter for you.
Transfers are also important for making your travel flow less stressful and complicated. We always work with local experts, our concierge, or travel agency to provide us with private transfers from the airport to our destination. This cuts out the waiting for others and keeps you on your schedule.
State of Mind
While we’ve listed state of mind last, it is far from it. In fact, it’s probably the best way each one of us defines luxury. What is important to me is not necessarily important to the next person AND luxury doesn’t have to be a thing. It can be based on an emotion. If you feel you’re vacationing in the lap of luxury, then who am I to say you’re not!
The most important thing to remember with luxury travel is that just like anything else, luxury is “the state of great comfort and extravagant living.” And, often times, extravagant living is simply the experience!