Credit crunch, schmedit crunch… what we all need during January’s bleaker moments is a bit of holiday escapism. So we quizzed editor of Luxury Travel magazine Alyson Cook about the highs and lows of luxury, and asked her for some luxe-for-less tips to make your budget go further…
Luxury for me is the chance to relax and hide away in a hotel incognito; unrecognised by an enthusiastic general manager keen to impress me with his latest, luxury suite tour! I love my job and I have been privileged to stay at some amazing places, but I also guard my privacy with the family – the chance to be with them, undisturbed, in a sunny location, preferably with a good book in one hand and a glass of fine white wine in the other, is my ideal relaxation.
Any top luxe-for-less recommendations or tips?
My top tip is do your research beforehand on the web, but then turn to a good travel agent or ATOL-bonded operator who knows the destination well, can give sound advice and tips and, above all, is fully insured in case of emergency. And during the current credit crunch, all-inclusive, ultra-luxury cruises with lines such as Silversea are increasingly good value for money.
What is the most luxurious destination?
I spend my working life immersed in a vast quantity of information about destinations worldwide, but the definition of luxury can vary widely – one man’s paradise is another’s complete nightmare. My personal favourite is an unlikely choice – Jordan. Each time I visit, I have never failed to be enchanted by the rich history and culture, iconic sites such as Petra and Jerash, and a night’s sleep in the open air with my daughter in the awe-inspiring Wadi Rum desert, following in Lawrence of Arabia’s footsteps, was an experience I will always treasure. Their luxury hotels have very much raised their game recently and the new, Dead Sea-based Kempinski Ishtar has the largest spa in the Middle East. Sunshine is predictable and it has something for everyone – of all ages.
Most luxurious airline?
Travelling on Virgin’s Upper Class to Shanghai recently reminded me how pleasant air travel can (and should) be and Singapore Airlines (unquestionably) has the best food. Sadly, the much-lamented all-business class airlines, such as Silverjet and MAXjet, are no more, but they took flying to a new level.
Most luxurious hotel?
Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives comes close to perfection (for many high-net-worth honeymooners especially), while I am a big fan of the Raffles Resorts, Peninsula Hotels in Asia, Villa San Michele in Florence, and the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. And I have a soft spot for the Danieli in Venice.
Worst attempt at luxury?
My worst attempt at luxury was a flight to Tioman Island, Malaysia, made famous as mythical Bali Hai in the Hollywood classic South Pacific film – an amazing destination, but it boasts a terrifying airstrip. I have never been so scared on arrival as we dipped low over the ocean in a very small plane, turned right steeply and then seemed to aim directly for the hillside before landing rapidly on the pot-holed tarmac. And then I had a row with my husband because he dared to be relaxed when I was quite petrified!
Best luxury travel accessory?
My favourite travel accessory is my red leather Aspinal of London luggage accessory set – an all-encompassing travel wallet, a passport cover and several luggage labels. Originally birthday gifts, they have become my good-luck talismans when I am travelling overseas.
Describe your dream holiday house…
My dream holiday house would be right on the beach, in a (mythical) place where the sun always shone; it would have sea views from the master bedroom, be furnished with simple wooden furniture and white cotton fabrics; there would be a very warm swimming pool, an all-weather tennis court, plenty of spare ensuite bedrooms for friends to come and stay, a well-stocked library, great music system and a very large fridge! If it existed, I would never leave…