Kelly Michelle is a New Zealander living in England who has a serious addiction to travel, shoes and cake. This year Kelly has travelled to Belgium, Morocco, Croatia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and had many staycations within the UK. She blogs over at Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes where she shares her travel and gluten free tips with the world. Kelly now likes to travel in style and has come to realise that some hotels are destinations themselves.
What’s your must have hotel amenity?
Without a doubt, wifi – doesn’t everybody want to holiday spam photos all over social media to make their friends and family jealous! But it’s also beneficial to hotels as it’s free publicity.
What hotel could you happily return to again and again?
Ahhh there are quite a few… I think I could quite happily return to La Mamounia in Marrakech as the hotel is definitely a destination itself, nothing was too much of a problem when we stayed and the spa is iconic the world over. Also the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan or the Grande Bretagne in Athens. Was I allowed three?!
For you, what makes a great hotel?
Service, you can have the most fabulous hotel in the world however if the service is pants then that’s what I will most likely remember. We checked out of a hotel recently after one night as the service was so bad but ended up in paradise at La Mamounia in Marrakech. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining.
What is your welcome amenity of choice?
I’m a huge fan of chocolate, still water and fresh fruit (it’s gluten free) but I find most of the fruit is pretty old and shouldn’t be left in a fruit platter for loyal guests. The Grande Bretagne in Athens provided me with a gluten free cake for each day that we stayed with them. Trust me, nobody has beaten the shoe cake as yet!
Do you interact with hotels on social media before arrival?
Depends really. I normally tweet them to make sure they have gluten free options at breakfast or to see if they serve afternoon tea.
In your opinion which hotel is continuously great at social media?
I think SPG are definitely the stand out when it comes to continuously great social media as they have a very proactive social media team rather than just being reactive. I’ve yet to see anyone topple them off their social media pedestal.
What are your basic expectations for every hotel?
Great service, clean rooms and free wifi!
Which hotel has the wow factor for you?
We’ve just stayed at The Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat in Malaysia and this luxury hotel has completely blown me away. It fits in perfectly with its surroundings and not one thing feels out of place. I have to admit that I often wondered what came first, the retreat or the jungle. There is total privacy due to the limited number of villas at the retreat and the garden villas come with their own private pool and hot tub. Paradise is a 2.5 hour drive from Kuala Lumpur!
Hotel wifi – do you ever pay for it?
I have and it made me cross (sad I know)! I just can’t understand how you can get fast free wifi in a hostel / campsite but most 5 star hotels want to charge for super-fast wifi. I’m glad that IHG provides all their IHG members with free wifi in any of their hotels; it’s a reason why I stay at a number of their properties.
What is your hotel pet peeve?
Without a doubt slow wifi!
What’s an absolute hotel no no?
Do you use hotel minibars or avoid them like the plague?
We avoid them unless they are free! We tend to upgrade to a Club Lounge Room at various hotels which means we get free nibbles and drinks hence avoiding the minibar.
Luxury to one person may not be luxury to another. How do you define it in relation to hotels?
For me luxury is staying at a hotel where everything is effortless which is helped by a great team on reception that welcomes you a warm smile (nothing less appealing than getting greeted by reception staff that look like they’ve been sucking lemons all day), a concierge team that have their fingers on the pulse and know great local places to eat and shop plus can point me towards all the touristy things that I need to see, and just friendly staff around the property that make you feel at home. A hotel is your home away from home and I personally feel if you don’t feel comfortable or at home than the hotel experience doesn’t feel very luxurious.
Do you generally stay in budget, design, standard or luxury hotels?
My travel evolution has changed over the years from when I first went travelling where I camped or slept under the stars in Africa and the Middle East, then it was flash packing (i.e. staying a few nights in a hostel and one night in a luxury hotel) to now where we just book into a luxury hotel for the duration of our stay.
Do you prefer boutique or chain properties?
I’m a fan of both however we do stay at a lot of hotel chains as we hold a few hotel loyalty memberships (IHG, Sofitel and SPG) which means we get free upgrades and can earn free nights. I always recommend hotel loyalty programmes as they can help you save lots of pennies when travelling by using your points for the super expensive hotels in a chain (we used our IHG free night credit card vouchers to stay at the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam saving us over 800 euro for two nights = more money in my pocket to buy shoes and tulips!). Luxury doesn’t have to be expensive, you just need to be smart with how you spend your money.
When staying in a hotel is it important to you that staff use your name or do you prefer a more anonymous stay?
I actually just like been called Kelly when I stay at a hotel, it makes me feel more comfortable especially since that hotel is your home for a few nights. I’m currently in Malaysia and everyone calls me Miss Kelly which I find very sweet.
Do you ask for an upgrade upon arrival?
My other half does but I’m way too embarrassed to! I’m normally kicking him while he asks! But thanks to him asking we have stayed in a few of presidential suites over the years.
If/when something goes wrong during your stay, do you complain or grin and bear it?
I complain; a stay in a hotel should be relaxing and I would prefer to complain so that the next person that comes along doesn’t have to suffer a similar situation. I know when a situation is bad when my other half complains (he’s English and hates complaining) but he does complain more now and it’s normally over an issue with my gluten free dietary requirement as I’m normally sobbing in the corner due to hunger pains and my other half has to go and get the issue sorted.
Which hotel is on your wish list?
Claridge’s Hotel, I totally adore this London institution and head there for afternoon tea at least once a year but have never stayed so it’s on my hotel wish list. The staff at Claridge’s know that I’m gluten free as soon as I walk in but that just shows the attention to detail (and possibly that we visit a tad too often for food!). Then definitely Brown’s Hotel, Carlton Cannes, Chateau Eza Hotel and the list goes on and on and on…