In my view you are never more dependent on your hotel than when you wake up in the middle of the night and don’t know where you are.
Richard Phibbs Nancy Novogrod
| Credit: Richard Phibbs

This just happened to me in an unnamed South American city after a too-jammed travel schedule. You can feel pretty lost and lonely when the signs aren’t right—the pillows are lumpy or soft, the room temperature has veered from Arctic to sub-Saharan, and you can’t find the switch for your reading light or your glass of water on the bedside table. And that terrible thought creeps into your mind: I want to go home!

If you’re like me, you roll with the punches: tomorrow will be another day, and another place to stay. And it’s not a matter of finding perfection—very often, it’s about finding eccentricities that you can tolerate and embrace. For instance, I can still remember the utter bliss I felt at a bed-and-breakfast near my daughter’s summer camp in central Maine. Run by two women who could bake blueberry muffins like no others, it offered a coziness that hit the spot. Or the hip hotel in Santa Monica (before this term was even an official designation), where unassuming suites outfitted with kitchens were ideal for family vacations. But I’m not alone, as readers of this issue will see. We travelers share a common quest—to find the memorable and the unique.

For Another Night in Paradise, in this month’s special Hotels Issue, we solicited reflections on favorite hotels from a cadre of writers and learned that perfection takes on many different guises: a laid-back resort in the apple country of Washington State that calls out to Marie Brenner; the Oriental, in Bangkok—the éminence grise of Asian hospitality—that earns highest marks from Guy Trebay. We, the editors of Travel + Leisure, also let you in on our roster of up-and-coming favorites, from Jackson Hole to Jodhpur, in It List 2008, The T+L Editors’ Choice Awards. And you, the hard-traveling readers of T+L, speak out in turn, in your selection of properties for the annual World’s Best Service awards. Because housekeeping is so essential to a good hotel experience, we decided to sign Patricia Marx up for the training program at that paragon of service, the St. Regis New York—let’s just say that she won’t be fluffing your pillows anytime soon if you happen to check in for a stay Writer Cleans Up! Oliver Schwaner-Albright continues our examination of hotel bliss in the Golden State, in California Dreaming.

In case you, like me, ever wake up lonely in a hotel room far from home, it may help to realize you’re in a place with real Hollywood allure. After all, why would such legendary celebrities as Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, and Clint Eastwood choose to become innkeepers if hotels didn’t have their own iconic potential?