During my travels this year, I’ve stayed in every kind of accommodation from a hostel in Bogota (Bogo Hostel), to a 5 star property in Bangkok (Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, a Luxury Collection Hotel) thanks to Starwood points. While I used Airbnb, unless there’s significant savings, my preference is to stay in a hotel, especially one-of-a-kind boutiques. The ability to store luggage and not have to coordinate keys is better for flights, and I love having someone else clean my room. As a solo female traveler, I’ve also benefited from the safety aspect of staying at a hotel. In 2017, I stayed at almost 20 boutiques and below are seven highlights from Australia (Sydney & Perth), Denmark (Copenhagen), England (London), Portugal (Lisbon), and Spain (Seville). Since I was able to stay at some of these hotels for free due to my American Express and Chase credit cards, I’ve shamelessly included card referrals.
The Old Clare Hotel (Sydney): After I left my job in February, this was the first place I stayed on my first trip. The Old Clare Hotel is one of the Design Hotels, a high end boutique chain, and is located in the trendy Chippendale area of Sydney. While the Design Hotels were acquired by Starwood (which in turn was acquired by Marriott), Starwood has had the good sense to leave The Old Clare Hotel and its one of a kind aesthetic alone. One perk of Starwood’s acquisition was that I was able to redeem my Starwood points for my stay, a big perk in a pricey city.
After 24 hours of travel from New York to Sydney, I arrived at the hotel early morning. The front desk asked housekeeping to put a rush on cleaning an upgraded duplex room (yes Starwood status yes!) and in the mean time I ate a delicious breakfast at one of the hotel’s two restaurants, Kensington Street Social. After I checked into my room (by 10 am!), I laid out at the hotel’s beautiful rooftop pool. This is one hotel I can’t wait to go back to and easily my favorite of the three hotels I’ve tried in Sydney.
Alex Hotel (Perth): The Alex Hotel is a relatively new independent property located in Perth’s CBD (central business district). I booked my stay using my Chase Ultimate Rewards Points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve (easily my most used card with 3x rewards on travel and dining, Priority Pass membership & Global Entry fee coverage) and Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x rewards) cards. Like many new budget friendly hotels, rooms at the Alex cut space by ditching closets. I only travel with a carry on so I didn’t have an issue with storage.
Each morning the hotel offers a complimentary continental breakfast, featuring in-house baked goods, in a communal space. The space also serves as a place to work or hang out during the day and has an honor bar where guests can serve themselves, a great feature if you want a drink but don’t feel like going to a bar. Other hotel amenities included complimentary bikes, a roof terrace, and a wine bar. The hotel’s website had a directory of places to eat, drink, see, and do that was by far the most comprehensive neighborhood guide of any hotel I stayed at.
Ibsens Hotel: While Copenhagen is a small city, Ibsens Hotel, half of an environmentally conscious two hotel group, is centrally located in the Kobenhaven K neighborhood. I redeemed Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a medium room, which was the biggest room I’ve stayed in while in Scandinavia. The hotel has a few restaurants that I didn’t have a chance to try and was located a few minutes away from the Torvehallerne market where I did eat a few times.
Every night from 5 pm – 6 pm, Ibsens has a social hour where guests can collect one free drink. Copenhagen is very expensive so I was down for any freebies. One thing I absolutely loved was that the hotel features work from various artists in the lobby. Artists can potentially pay up to half their stay at Ibsens with their art and if you see something you love you can purchase the art! (Check out more about this trip here)
citizenM London Shoreditch: London is expensive and large and staying near I want to be is key for me. Since I knew I wanted to be a hipster for a weekend in Shoreditch, I opted for the citizenM, part of a modern European budget hotel group, as an alternative to the nearby sceney Ace Hotel. After a red eye from New York where I slept less than four hours, the hotel room’s blackout window shade system and XL king bed were an amazing combination.
citizenM amenities include a 24 hour canteenM where one can purchase food and drinks, an IPad to select free movies (even X rated), and a short walk to eat at the excellent Indian restaurant Dishoom.
The Windermere Hotel: I had less than 24 hours in London on this trip and wanted to stay at a hotel that was a direct train ride from Gatwick Airport and to Heathrow Airport. The Windermere, which I booked last minute through HotelTonight, is right near the Victoria train station in Central London and fit the bill.
The family-run hotel is pretty old school but the room was a decent size for London and I appreciated the free made-to-order breakfast provided in the morning.
Browns Central Hotel: Browns Central Hotel was yet another Chase Ultimate Rewards points redemption and, true to the name, is right in the center of Lisbon.
While my room was small, it contained nice finishes, an espresso & tea set, and shelves filled with books to read. My booking also included a free breakfast buffet, which had a nice variety of choices.
In other dining, I’m still dreaming about the seafood rice I had at the nearby restaurant O Arco.
Aguilas5 SevillaSuites: Aguilas5 was another amazing HotelTonight booking. Normally this would’ve been out of my price point but I was able to stay here at almost a third of the normal price! I arrived after 10 pm and, even though the front desk is not open at night, the concierge waited for my arrival because he was worried I might not have remembered my pin access to the hotel. When I mentioned that I wanted to eat dinner he ran to the El Traga tapas restaurant across the street and asked them to hold the kitchen open until I arrived. This kind of service reminded me about how wonderful a hotel at this price point is (or at least should be) in all aspects.
In the morning, the combination of an in-room espresso machine and PANYPIU, a bakery down the block, was a great way to start my day. To top it off, Aguilas5 is a short walk to Seville’s attractions like the Museo del Baile Flamenco and the Casa de Pilatos. I could not recommend staying here enough.
In spite of the length, this was easily my quickest post to write. Remembering these experiences affirmed why hotels are one of my favorite parts of traveling. I can’t wait to try more boutique hotels in 2018.
Good but didn’t make the cut
Colombia (Cartagena): Patio de Getsemani – On the edge of a hip neighborhood, free breakfast, and rooftop terrace but missing a real pool and Cartagena is hot (more on that trip here)
Norway (Oslo): Citybox Oslo – Centrally located, small rooms but cheap for Oslo
Spain (Ibiza): Ryans Ibiza Apartments (Adults Only) – Would I ever hang out with the other people staying at this hotel? No. Was the soundproofing good enough that I could not hear them? Yes! Huge room, cheap for Ibiza, on the beach, and near restaurants
Thailand (Phuket): The Blue Hotel – If you’re in Phuket for Muay Thai or Crossfit etc, it’s near all the gyms and has an amazing rooftop with a pool
Switzerland (Zurich): Hotel Limmathof – Very basic but central and as cheap as you get in Zurich besides a hostel