When I search for accommodation on my favourite websites I start to see the same forty or so good 5-star hotels - any one of which would be an amazing experience for most travellers. So which one or two do I cherrypick for that extra- special, transcendent stay that we’ll remember forever? Last April I spent 21 hours straight looking for our upcoming hotels in New York, and I woke up the next morning saying to Sheira “I still haven't got it!” - like Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, driving home the point. But I am always searching for something different and when you are on a treasure hunt, you have to put in the spadework. For me this is the part where the journey begins. It’s the fun agony – or ‘fnagony’ for short…

I customise my modus operandi according to the nature of each destination. An itinerary should reflect the strengths of the area. Is it about urban chic or gritty backstreets? Do you siesta, then come alive at night or is this an early risers paradise full of great dawn markets? What do you want after three days in a powerfully empty desert? (Well, that’s easy – a hotel with a pool…)

There are other planning philosophies that I apply across the board. Are the kids coming or is it just us? I know my wife. I always calculate that when we travel childfree, Sheira can mentally manage about 17 days before the mother-tug kicks in. We both just miss them too much after that so it’s a constant concern when I plan. Experience has also taught me not to just fall in with travel agents or stick to dates if it means taking flights at crazy times. 

You can have a look at my process on each trip to see how an obsessive like me unearths the gems and finds a balance between great prep and impromptu experience. I’ll be the first to admit it when a leap of faith or assumption goes wrong (which I’ll include because you can learn from that too), but over the years I have honed my techniques for getting it right with a lot of frequent flyer points!

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