After weeks of staring at the same four walls, it’s natural to daydream about a luxurious escape. So we reached out to hospitality experts from beachside resorts, luxury hotels, and elegant country houses around the world to learn how we can make our homes feel as well-appointed and inviting as an upscale hotel. Their tips and tricks are quick and easy to do — but deliver big results.
That’s because the art of hospitality meets both physical needs — food, water, shelter — and emotional needs like comfort, relaxation, aesthetic beauty, and order. Great hospitality cultivates the emotional states we desire by fulfilling our needs, anticipating our desires, and appealing to all of our senses. These are skills we can practice at home.
Savoring a beautifully arranged breakfast in bed under crisply ironed sheets transforms a familiar bedroom into a luxury suite. A certain playlist evokes happy hour in Bangkok or sunset in Jamaica, making an ordinary work-from-home shift a little more interesting. A perfectly chilled cocktail with a fresh kick of lime tastes just refreshing on the couch as it does on the white sand beaches of Kenya. The scent of sandalwood and a soothing milk bath bring a Hawaiian spa experience home.
These calming rituals, transformative tips, and little luxuries are easy and affordable ways to spice up your staycation and create a relaxing retreat.
1. Transform your bedroom into a luxury suite
Creating a restful room is easier than you think. The first steps don’t cost a dime.
“Declutter,” recommends Global Project and Technical Manager Christina Low of StayWell Holdings. “Hotel rooms often feel luxurious because of the sense of space. You can even move a few things around or change the orientation of the room so you feel like you’re sleeping somewhere new.”
Hotel suites look organized and streamlined, but they feel so soothing because housekeepers quietly appeal to our other senses too. Blackout curtains block out noise and light so we can rest easy. Towels, bathrobes, and duvets are fluffy and soft, inviting us to curl up and stay awhile.
To take it to the next level, spritz your sheets with scented water (lavender is a favorite) and iron them before making the bed. Upgrading your bedding can also have a dramatic effect.
“Invest in high thread count sheets, and add a mattress topper to your bed,” says Low. “A quality mattress topper is often the secret to how amazing many luxury hotel beds feel.”
“Smell is another important sense to focus on,” adds Marine Berard, Rooms Division Manager at Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort, located off the coast of Mozambique. “Opening your windows and cleaning your home will help you get a nice, fresh smell. You may add some oil diffusers as well, especially in the evening.”
And don’t forget about taste. Hotels excel at anticipating guests’ wants and needs, which often include a cool drink and a little something sweet. Treat yourself by turning off your phone, grabbing a good book, and implementing your sense of taste into a restful evening routine.
“Before going to bed, take some time to prepare a turndown in your bedroom,” suggests Berard. “Dim the lights, put a small chocolate on your pillow, prepare a bottle of water next to your bed, tidy your clothes a little, place your slippers next to your bed. These little touches will change your night.”
2. Create a signature drink
Nothing says vacation like a cocktail. Take your mixology game to the next level with tips from the pros.
For a refreshing drink that’s popular on the coast of Kenya, try a Dawa cocktail, the signature drink of Hemingways Watamu. The chilled vodka, muddled lime, and honey concoction is served ice cold with a sugared rim. The ingredients are available at the average grocery store and Kazungu, the hotel’s mixologist, demonstrates how to make it online.
For a taste of Hawaii (and a bit of a technical challenge) try a mai tai. To recreate this iconic cocktail recipe at home, “methodology is key” says Oswaldo Rabago, Assistant Director of Food and Beverage at Halekulani and Halepuna Waikiki.
“First, pour the orgeat syrup, orange curacao, simple syrup, lime juice, Bacardi Gold, and Bacardi Select in your glass,” explains Rabago. “Pack with crushed ice, then float with Lemon Hart 151 Rum.”
You could create a classic, like the perfect negroni. Or to create your own signature drink, search online for recipe inspiration or try a cocktail subscription box. These kits include all the little extras that make a mixed drink special, including flavored syrups, mixers, and garnishes.
3. Make dinner an event
After weeks of cooking and eating at home, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. But a few simple decorating tricks and a little genteel scavenging can make a home kitchen almost as special as the chef’s table at a buzzed-about hotel restaurant.
Sofie Nilsson of Dorsia Hotel and Restaurant knows a thing or two about setting a spectacular table. The Gothenburg, Sweden, hotel’s colorful, opulent interior — think Alice in Wonderland meets French regency — elevates even the simplest meal. Contrast and candles can help recreate the property’s decadent table settings at home.
“Find your most beautiful glasses, cutlery, and porcelain,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if they don’t match. Take a cloth and make them shine. If you have linen napkins, iron them to perfection. You can also use a kitchen towel and fold it nicely after ironing. Go outside (mind the social distancing) and find flowers, branches, or other plant materials to put in a vase. Support your local restaurants and order takeaway. Now you can light some candles, plate the food nicely, and enjoy your dinner.”
Now is the time to open that bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion. It turns even a simple take-out dinner into an event.
“Any white or rosé wines, sparkling wines, or light reds are great for pairing with spring dishes, which I tend to think of lamb, ham, and fowl as the main proteins and fresh vegetables such as spring peas, fennel, turnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus,” says Jon McPherson, winemaker for South Coast Winery Resort and Spa and Carter Estate Winery and Resort in California.
You don’t even have to cook to make a meal extraordinary. Uncork a few bottles of wine (ideally a white, a red, and/or a blush) and host a mini wine tasting. Then support your local cheese and butcher shops and assemble a charcuterie board. Wendy Higgins, General Manager of The Lodge at Columbia Point in Richland, Washington, has a few pairing suggestions.
“With a nice, bold Cabernet Sauvignon or blend, I would choose a cheddar, gruyere, gouda, or a parmesan-style cheese, along with some salami,” says Higgins. “If I am serving a Chardonnay or maybe Chenin blanc, a nice brie would be a good addition. Fresh seasonal fruits, dried fruits, and pickled vegetables — and you have to have some chocolate for the red wine. A loaf of crusty sourdough bread and selection of crackers round out your board.”
4. Book a spa day
You don’t have to leave home to savor a spa day. Loma de Vida Spa & Wellness at La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio, Texas, hosts online webinars featuring sessions on nutrition, resiliency, and stress management. It’s also surprisingly simple to recreate a spa-like atmosphere at home. The first step is often the hardest.
“Start by turning off your cell phone,” says Kamala Nayeli, Director of Spa and Wellness at Halekulani and Halepuna Waikiki. “Next, choose a tea to help calm the body, such as a chamomile blend, hibiscus flowers, ginseng, or licorice. Select an essential oil for the diffuser to freshen up your space and elevate your ambiance. Sandalwood is a calming scent that will relax your mind and instantly transport you to the heavenly island of Hawaii. Other scents I suggest would be lemon for an energy boost or eucalyptus for an overall aromatic healing experience.”
Once you’ve decided on a mood, set up a designed relaxation space. Bathrooms are popular, but you can also transform the corner of a bedroom or living room with a few simple additions. Customize your space using the sights, sounds, and scents that appeal to you.
“Create a spa or relaxation corner with scented candles, diffusers, and live plants,” suggests Portia Ntsholo, Spa Manager at the Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara in Zambia. “Have a jug of fresh water with lemon, mint, and apple slices in the living room to hydrate. Put on some relaxing background music.”
For a quick treatment, Nayeli suggests wetting two hand towels, infusing them with a few drops of essential oils, and warming them in the microwave for 30 seconds. Placing one on your neck and one over your eyes provides instant relaxation. If you have more time, try a bath.
“I find a warm bath with a few drops of essential oils and Epsom salts to be most relaxing,” she says. “You can even add one to two cups of coconut milk to nourish and rehydrate the skin.”
5. Be transported by a playlist
Sound has a powerful effect on our moods. But the work of most hotel DJs, sound designers, and music directors flies under the radar. We often don’t notice their creations at all — we just appreciate how the space makes us feel.
We can work similar magic at home. If there’s a destination you love, sampling popular or traditional music from that city, region, or country can be an easy way to feel transported. Acoustic guitar or subdued percussion infuse a space with quiet energy while subtle nature sounds like trickling water or soft birdsong relax and soothe us.
To make it even easier, pick a playlist from a pro and let your escape begin. Try the AlmaLusa Morning playlist from AlmaLusa Baixa/Chiado hotel in Lisbon, Portugal, with your morning tea or coffee. It features pop and jazz from Elton John to John Coltrane.
Scotty B., Music Director at Avani+ Riverside Bangkok Hotel crafted a Work From Home playlist to get you through the workday. Crank up his Korean pop-infused K-Tunes mix or the Mamacita: Ladies’ Night Special Playlist when you want to kick back.
The Sounds of Bluefields features the wind and waves guests hear outside the property on Jamaica’s south coast. Proceeds from Spotify listener credits are donated directly to Bluefields Bay Villas staff.
6. Decorate like a pro
If you can’t travel to your favorite region, you can echo it in your home decor. To make redecorating easy, many paint and home improvement stores offer pick-up services. If you’re in a financial position to do so, artwork, textiles, and even furniture can be shipped right to your door. If buying new furniture is not in your budget right now, you can a lot just with color palettes and even found objects.
If you prefer sun-washed desert hues, keep things subtle. Focus on shades of bleached bone and ochre and the earthy spectrum that runs from dusky purple and terra cotta to the palest sand. Accent with natural, and inexpensive textures, like smooth wood, warm copper, and cacti, and succulents for a pop of green. For a touch of whimsy, you could purchase the palm tree wallpaper that adorns The Scott Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. Or you could save money and get a potted palm from a nursery.
To create a Provencal atmosphere that highlights historic accents and a calming color palette drawn from nature, take design tips from Arielles Gordes, La Bastide. The elegant clifftop property is located in the French village of Gordes.
“Dark cherry wood furniture with the palest shades of cream, olive green, or yellow walls combined with antique-looking art and artifacts will create a suitably 18th century palatial feel. Decorate with floral cottons in red and green to complete your romantic Provencal-palace design,” says General Manager Madeleine Munier. You can even touch things up with low-cost, but lovely, herbs. “Add small bouquets of lavender around the house to help transport your senses to Provence,” adds Munier.
If you covet Italian luxury, bold is better. Think vivid color, strong lines, opulent chandeliers and lush fabrics like velvet. Trust your instincts.
“Be brave and play with colors,” recommends Valentina de Santis, third generation owner of Lake Como’s Grand Hotel Tremezzo. ”Don’t be worried about mixing styles — it is the best way to give a strong personality to your rooms.”
If you’re feeling indecisive, look inward for guidance. Laura Coburn, Director of Serenity at Inns of Aurora in New York, says that decorating according to your dominant dosha (a term that sums up a unique mix of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics) can bring balance, focus, and order into your living space.
“Fiery pittas do well with soothing colors, such as blues and greens,” she explains. “Kaphas can balance their natural heavy and dense attributes with bright colors and stimulating artwork. Vata needs warmth and grounding, such as warm wall colors and soft fabrics with some weight.”
7. Cultivate coziness
To create a cozy nest for a soothing staycation, warm and comforting scents, textures, and textiles are key. Luckily, you probably have much of what you need close at hand. This is a deeply subjective practice, so think about the sensations that are most restful for you. Light candles (or a crackling fire in the fireplace or a backyard fire pit, if you’re lucky enough to have either), curl up under a pile of blankets, and relax with a warm drink, a board game, or a favorite film.
If you have the creativity and the time, small decorating projects can elevate nesting to an art form. Combining handmade, antique, and collected items makes a home feel as if it’s been curated, not decorated.
“To ensure your bed looks inviting, bring craft into your home,” suggests Ian Taylor, owner of Kaleidoscope Collection, Homewood Hotel and Spa, and The Bird, Bath. “Get out the sewing machine and make your headboard out of your favorite quilt, or collage together with [a] selection of fabrics. Install dimmers and change lampshades to flamboyant vintage shades.”
Taylor also recommends highlighting collected objects, sculptures, photos, and souvenirs from travels. These mini collections make an attractive tablescape and add interest to a room. They also evoke pleasant memories and serve as conversation starters.
8. Enjoy room service at home
After a long or hard day, it’s perfectly normal to want to indulge a little. And after a string of those days, anyone would crave an escape. To really shake up your routine, reimagine dining at home by combining several pleasures into one hedonistic experience.
“To really feel like you’re having a night away, recreate the decadence of room service by ordering from a meal delivery service and eating a fabulous dinner — and having a glass of wine — in your newly rebooted bedroom,” suggests Christina Low, of StayWell Holdings. “Plating it up on a tray will make for easy removal too when you whisk it back to the kitchen, not to think about again until morning.”
The relaxation doesn’t have to end at dinner. “Add a small trolley or shelf to your bathroom to make a cocktail to enjoy as you relax in the bath,” suggests Kaleidoscope Collection owner Ian Taylor.
Is it a little indulgent? Absolutely. That’s what staying at a top of the line hotel is all about. And if you’re stuck at home for longer than you’d like, that’s exactly the kind of experience you want to cultivate during your staycation.