It used to be enough to be ensconced in a perfect suite, a penthouse with rooftop views and sexy history, a lair by the sea steps from the waves, a country estate rife with horses, or a chalet crowning a mountain. A luxurious, five-star stay was that simple. Sure, we expected high-count linens, white-gloved service, impeccable design, and stellar cuisine. That went without saying — and sometimes there was that extra wow factor that captivated our attention: a concierge’s good deed, a treat for our children, an upgrade, or a stand-out butler who was not shared with other suites. But things have shifted. Now we aren’t content with any old presidential suite. We aren’t impressed with mere lavish details or mundane, run-of-the-mill, so-called exceptional service. We expect more — and we’re willing to pay for it. When we’re lucky, the trumpery and trimmings might (even) be complimentary.
Uber luxury isn’t new. But traditionally it was reserved for silver screen stars, oil magnates, royals, and billionaires with bodyguards. When the pandemic drove us to no longer put off dream trips, but instead live them large in the moment with family and friends, a whole new attitude toward embracing indulgence emerged. Resorts and hotels listened. They understood that travelers wanted cosseting, ease, wow moments, and other-level care and whimsy. Enter a few extravagantly lavish memory makers — amenities, programs, itineraries, flourishes, doodads, enhancements, and elevations — sure to make every holiday or work stay the trip of a lifetime.
Flying isn’t always pretty — and a lame travel day can put a damper on a trip before it has begun. Enter Aero, a semi-private jet service with hubs in Dallas and Los Angeles that flies guests in 16-seat designer jets to coveted destinations including Los Cabos and Aspen. One of the best parts? You need only arrive at the airport 20 minutes before departure. Partnering with properties such as Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal and Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection, Aero joins the hotels to offer packages that ensure door-to-door and destination-based pampering.
Even more decadent flying: when by-chance frequent travelers to Africa (like me) have found themselves sharing a small bush transfer plane with Abercrombie & Kent’s peerless kingpin Geoffrey Kent, it’s an honor to just be in the same air space with the pioneer, albeit momentarily. For those who want more, the charming travel explorer has offered to lead a private, 26-day jet tour around the world that will stop in places where not even he has been. A trip of a lifetime, slated to stop in destinations such as Senegal, Uruguay, and Malta, the journey will include a slew of world-class hotels and dining venues.
Novelty arrivals have also become something to proclaim. Six Senses Krabey Island in Cambodia whisks guests to the resort across the water as fast (or as slowly) as they choose via a two-person Funtube, attached to the back of a jetty. Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort can arrange a longboat arrival, followed by an elephant parade accompaniment from the riverbank to the resort. Pass temples and palaces on your traditional boat that skirts Lake Pichola en route to Oberoi Udaivilas in Rajasthan. Disembark to be greeted by dancers, adorned camels, and musicians galore. A number of hotels seek to save travelers time and weariness by offering helicopter and small plane transfers from major airports, such as the Plane to Paradise Package’s 10-seat Cessna that delivers guests to Hana-Maui Resort in just 14 minutes.
No matter how magnificent the hotel is, sometimes you’ll hanker to leave the property and explore the surroundings. Naturally, you’ll want to do that in style. Hotels are offering more than the house car that provides chauffeured rides within a one-mile radius; they’re upping the ante by actually providing a worthy car you can drive yourself as you explore. At Ocean House in Rhode Island, for example, guests can speed away in any of four Mercedes-Benz cars without charge for day or night excursions. San Diego’s Rancho Valencia offers up a fleet of sexy Bentleys for guests. Chatham Bars Inn, Massachusetts, partners with Lexus to offer self-drive outings for blustery beach days and beyond. Choose from 40 vintage cars such as Porsche Spyders and Volkswagen vans via Alia Big Sur’s collection to steer along iconic Highway 1. Gobsmacking Rolls Royces transfer guests at every Peninsula Hotel, and some of the properties also provide the opportunity for self-drive experiences.
You know the feeling when you arrive bleary eyed from an overnight flight at 7 am and your room isn’t ready? It’s the worst — but understandable as it is likely the guest who reserved the room before you is still asleep at that hour. Solving this problem, the inimitable Ritz Paris guarantees your suite will be ready — no matter what time you arrive. A true sign of the hotel’s ethos of ultimate hospitality, Ritz Paris manages this by never filling the hotel to capacity, also a perk because though the Ritz Paris feels buzzy, it also allows for mood-exclusive intimacy.
Perhaps it’s jaded to dismiss once-appreciated arrival (and stay) amenities such as bowls of fruit, bottles of mineral water, and turndown chocolates. Still, inveterate travelers, craving something personal may overlook these humdrum offerings. They’ll revel instead in gifts such as the sumptuous, colorful velvet slippers offered by Castello di Reschio, an Umbrian estate owned by Count Benedikt Bolza; the personalized pillowcases, monogrammed with your initials that greet guests at Cheetah Plains in Sabi Sands, South Africa; or the custom pajamas that come with the Gran Suites at Ibiza Gran Hotel. When traveling to India (or Africa) with Micato Safaris, you’ll want to bring an extra suitcase to take home your nightly gift from the legendarily upscale outfitters. Exquisite and local, the daily surprises are always something you would have bought yourself.
You want to travel with your family but still have time to yourself — nothing to feel guilty about. Fiji’s Nanuku Resort has your back. A designated nanny (for each child under five years old) is given as a complimentary perk for the entirety of the stay. On duty from 8 am to 8 pm daily, the nanny may also be hired after hours or overnight for an added fee. With an unparalleled children’s program, the resort has a goal to deeply immerse kids in regionally evocative activities from warrior drumming to sand castle building.
There’s a huge difference between a butler shared among guests and a butler assigned just to you and your suite. You’ll meet some of the best in the business at Las Ventanas al Paraíso, a Rosewood Resort. All suites and rooms receive butlers so attentive they offer unheard-of niceties such as sewing kits customized to match your wardrobe. Of course, by far the most lavish service happens at the retreat’s waterside Ty Warner Mansion, a 28,000-square-foot sanctum, staffed with both a personal assistant and a butler. Favorite deeds include arranging bespoke firework displays and a different live band for every night of guests’ stay.
Spoil Them Rotten
Sometimes pets seem the most mollycoddled members of the family. Now, more than ever, as countries make it easier and easier to bring our fur babies along, resorts have risen to the task of spoiling them rotten — thereby winning the loyalty of animal-loving guests. From comfy dog beds and dedicated dog walkers to couches, designer bowls, and adorable toys, dogs and cats are getting the royal treatment.
We’re particularly entranced with gastronomic doggie menus, such as La Quinta Resort & Club’s “Doggie-in-room-Dining list that includes applewood crisp bacon, peanut butter ‘puppuccino,’ and grilled woof salmon. At Heritage Resort & Spa, dogs nosh from a canine-safe, gourmet “Barkuterie Board,” arranged to match the human one (sans the wine) that the parent guests receive. At Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, dogs are welcomed by the hotel’s V.I.P. (Very Important Pet) program, which includes pooch personal training and time at the nearby Domus Aventina dog spa for shampoos and massages — among other fabulousness. The Collective Hill Country in Wimberly, Texas, serves four-legged friends a Bone Appetit three-course tasting menu that includes dishes such as Surf + Turf, complete with locally sourced 44 Farms Beef Heart Tartare (sardines, quail egg, parsley) and Poached Atlantic Salmon. Not to forget kids, who joyously cheer amenities envisioned specifically for them. From pint-sized robes and kid-appropriate bath amenities such as The Little Prince-themed ones we had in our bathroom at Paris’ Hôtel Lutetia to tents set up for sleep and play at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, kid treats are becoming standard in resorts around the world. Expect chocolate sculptures, elaborate toys, stuffed animals, puzzles, games, and more.
Featured image courtesy of Ritz Paris