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(P.S. LuxuryBARED can help…)

Booking into a top hotel should guarantee you’ll be pampered, spoiled and made to feel like you’re number one all the way down the line. But what if it doesn’t? What if your stay, and the service you’re offered, turns out to be a very different story from a friend’s glowing review of their recent stay in the same place? You’ll ask yourself ‘how did that happen?’ The bottom line is, a good or bad experience is not usually down to chance but, rather, it’s dependant on how you plan your visit in advance. Suggestions (and personal asides) as follows, from our editor-at-large, Alison Holmes.

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Make contact before you go

Convey birthdays and celebrations of any kind to the concierge in advance. In luxury hotels the staff are trained in anticipatory service; they are there to know what you may need or want before you yourself do, and will pull out all the stops to make you happy. So, by you making it easier for them to do so, you are almost guaranteed special attention. Not to mention getting what you want, when you want it. Email them before you arrive asking for dinner reservations, theatre bookings, museum tours and any other special things you want. Oh yes, and tip them before rather than later, showing you appreciate a job well done from the get-go. You won’t be disappointed, and you may even be able to swing a hotel car transfer into the deal on one or two of your jaunts. As newby friends at this point, you can always ask. I have found that hotels in Manhattan are the most giving when it comes to using the hotel car service: the Mandarin Oriental, New York, and The Mark at the top of that list. Al Naseem, Jumeirah’s newest hotel in Dubai, has a culinary concierge who will pander to your every bite while you’re in residence. How wonderful is that?

Make the right choice

No two hotels in the same city with the same price tag are the same on many levels. But talking service, they often have very different approaches. Formal vs. informal; at your heels, or not; chatty vs. the Mary Poppins approach (speak only when spoken to); nurturing, or not; proactive, or laissez-faire (as in housekeeping tidies up all your stuff, displaying your toiletries on towels spa-style, or not). Many hotels address guests by their first names; other by their last. The best example of staff addressing guests by their last names is, across the board, the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai; always an impressive act. Some will ring the doorbell with goodies and extras all day long; others will steer clear. Some have butlers; others do not. Embrace whichever approaches you like and research which hotel offers what, as best you can. Personally, I like it when the staff at a hotel call me by my first name (the 1 Hotel in New York and in South Beach in Miami both take this approach) and I definitely appreciate it when they elegantly organise my toiletries; so I’m all for a butler or two (housekeeping at The Oberoi Mumbai are masters at this service).

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Upgrade to a club floor

The club floor in any given property often provides invaluable services and extras, many of which will save you money in the long run, while offering you added luxury and comfort. Benefits and perks often include special things like breakfast in a quieter environment than the main dining room (great if you need to host a business catch-up); tea and coffee service all-day in a dedicated lounge; high cocktails in the evenings; extra concierge services; assistance with the kids; and an overall feeling of belonging somewhere special. If you’re partial to an evening sundowner or two, the club’s cocktail hour offerings in cities like Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore will more than cover the added cost. Besides, the hor d’oeuvres can sometimes be substantial, generous enough to allow you to skip a full-blown meal at night and spend that time doing something more adventurous, like going for a midnight swim or a walk around the block. The Four Seasons Hotel Singapore, as an example, has a pool for club members only. And the Mandarin Oriental Singapore offers those guests with club access free-flowing Laurent Perrier champagne at both breakfast and in the evening.

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Speak up if something goes wrong

Anyone who’s ever been a hotel general manager will tell you that even in the best hotels, mistakes can be made. Life happens no matter what the price tag. Hotel employees are people, and they, too, will have good and bad days. So, if your room service order takes too long to arrive, or comes without the extra fries you requested, speak up. Right away. Allow the hotel to make amends, and they usually will. Don’t shout. Just politely inform the duty manager and let them know what’s happened. Kindness is contagious. I recently stayed at a hotel in the Middle East (where there’s no stronger morning sun that I know of) where the blackout curtains magically opened on their own in the middle of the night, every night, even after I had complained several times. Not wanting to change rooms, I finally opted for an eye mask to get through the nights. When I left, I wrote them an email outlining my aggravation, and they wrote back to apologise, offering me a complimentary visit on my next time through town.

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Book through LuxuryBARED

As one of the few companies with a dedicated connectivity to a hotel central reservations platform, LuxuryBARED can guarantee the best available room rates with hotels in our system. We also have access to the last available rooms at a given property during peak periods. Better yet, there are very valuable free perks involved wherever you go. Complimentary daily breakfasts for two, dining or spa credit and free Wi-Fi are guaranteed when you book. Room upgrades, early check-ins and late check-outs are offered as well, subject to availability. You need a credit card, of course, to reserve a hotel stay, but your card won’t be charged until check-out, ensuring you won’t pay months in advance.

All that comes with sound advice from those in the know, who’ve been in the industry for years. I, for one, never travel without the advice of my LuxuryBARED colleagues, who have saved me from making countless, painful mistakes. Because in the past, and I’m not alone, after spending hours researching online, I would book myself into a hotel, convinced that it was a sure bet, only to get there and find that I was categorically in the wrong place for me after all. But that, for sure, is a topic for another day.