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Hotels

What Makes a Hotel Perfect for a Staycation

We know we have high standards, but sometimes even we come across a hotel so luxurious, that after we check in, we never want to check out. Who would want to leave when there's 24-hour butler service, personal masseuses and more? Erin Van Der Meer gives the lowdown on why it's better to skip the sights for the stay.

There’s a hotel in Bangkok I’ve stayed at so many times I’ve lost count. I found the Banyan Tree on my first trip to Thailand and instantly fell for the smiling staff, the sweeping city views, the rooftop bar 61 floors high (and its kick-ass cocktails), the smell of jasmine around the posh pool deck and the world-class spa, where I could get Thai massages on speed-dial.

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I’d stay at the Banyan Tree every time I returned to Thailand, but soon that wasn’t enough, so I’d make a detour to Bangkok whenever I was in Southeast Asia just to get my fix. My obsession officially peaked when I booked a two-night stay at the hotel as a stopover on my way from Europe to Australia, and didn’t step outside the front door from the moment I arrived until I dragged myself out days later. I justified the extravagance as a way to ease the jet lag on that merciless long-haul journey, but let’s be real, the hotel was a siren song I just couldn’t resist.

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It was these hibernations at Banyan Tree Bangkok where I discovered the deep relaxation that comes from checking out of day-to-day life and into a hotel, with no pretenses of sightseeing, or doing anything outside its walls. It’s the indulgence of escapism: for once, you can kick back and be taken care of—not having to ‘adult’ as they say. Staying at a luxury hotel is in some ways like turning up at mom’s house: any food I’m craving can be prepared, my dirty laundry miraculously returns washed and folded, and turndown service is the closest thing to getting tucked into bed anyone over the age of 13 can hope for.

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My most recent hotel hideout was at the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn, which was just a 15-minute cab from my apartment. Outrageous, perhaps, but after waiting all year for it to open last August, I decided to embrace the staycation and book a night. All 183 rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and a balcony overlooking the Williamsburg Bridge and the One World Trade Center—luxuries I’d never get in my tiny flat.

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At sunset, I made the most of my guest privilege and skipped the line for Westlight, the rooftop bar with a jaw-dropping view of the Manhattan skyline. For dinner it was Leuca, the Southern-Italian restaurant headed by chef Andrew Carmellini of NYC staples The Dutch and Bar Primi. I devoured wood-fired pizza, penne pugliese with rabbit, black kale and chickpea, and finished off with sicilian pistachio cake and coffee. The best part? I didn’t have to take anything with me but the room key, and there was just an elevator ride between me and my bed, so I could lay down just as the food coma set in.

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The next morning, after a blissful rainfall shower and coffee on the balcony, I begrudgingly went down to check out. The front desk staff member thanked me for “choosing the William Vale as your home in Brooklyn.” I decided not to make things awkward by revealing that I actually already have one of those.

Five of our favorite staycation hotels:

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Photos by Nick Simonite

1

South Congress Hotel, Austin

You’ll have to stay a couple of days at least to get through all the dining options at Austin’s South Congress Hotel. From Japanese Omakase restaurant Otoko to Central Standard, which serves up hearty American fare, there’s a cuisine for everyone. Snag a guestroom with a balcony overlooking the shops and bars of South Congress to make the most of the prime location, or head up to the stylish sunbed-lined pool deck for knockout vistas.

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2

The Mark, New York City

There’s no need to go out to dinner when Jean-Georges comes to you. At The Mark on New York’s Upper East Side, you can dine at his on-site restaurant, or skip the formalities completely and have dinner in your pjs, since the full menu is available via room service. But that’s just one of the perks at this gem, which is tucked away in a quiet, leafy spot opposite Central Park. There’s also a Frederic Fekkai salon with hair, brow and nail services, and Laduree macarons served to your bedside on your first night’s stay.

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Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles

In the hills above Hollywood, Hotel Bel-Air offers rooms with private patios for soaking up the California sun, an on-site restaurant helmed by Wolfgang Puck, an old-Hollywood style bar and a five-star spa stocked with La Prairie products. But the most exciting prospect for hotel hermits might be the special in-room menu, which includes a mixology experience that allows you to make your own cocktails, or a movie night complete with popcorn, snacks and more than 80 movies to choose from. Plus, if you’re lucky, you may even have some star sightings (paging Leo DiCaprio).

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The Sentinel, Portland, Oregon

Push the ‘Make It So’ button in your room and the staff at the historic Sentinel hotel will cater to your every whim, big or small. You want local-favorite Salt & Straw ice cream? Done. How about a iPod customized with your favorite tunes? You got it. Hotel homebodies will also love the renowned Portland eateries Jake’s Grill and Jackknife, just downstairs. And if you do crave some human connection, there’s The Room At The End Of The Hall, a stylish nook where creative minds commune, converse and come up with their next big idea.

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5

W South Beach Miami

Every room at the 18-story W South Beach has a balcony with an ocean view, so you don’t need to leave your quarters to enjoy the stunning location. On-site restaurants The Dutch, Mr Chow and Wet Bar & Grille provide plenty of culinary variety, and the Bliss Spa is the perfect place to, well, bliss out with a decadent massage or facial. Direct access to the beach and a buzzing poolside scene mean the party will come to you.

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