TRAVEL TRUTHS FROM THE FOUNDERS OF MR & MRS. SMITH

James and Tamara Lohan are the powerhouse couple behind the hugely successful boutique hotel site, Mr. & Mrs. Smith (smithhotels.com). Together the two (along with their family) crisscross the globe curating a superb collection of over 950 hotels. Every hotel needs to be up to snuff and are reviewed anonymously in order to make their portfolio. Top celebs such as Cate Blanchett, Dita Von Teese, Stella McCartney and Philip Treacy, and are known to file reviews.

I had a chance to catch up with James and Tamara and got their thoughts on travel, inspiration and where they might be heading next.

JAMES LOHAN

What do you do  to help reduce jet lag?
I always stick to the local clock. Don’t let yourself keep to your home time zone: the quicker you adapt the quicker you’ll kick-start your holiday. I also unpack as soon as I get into a hotel room – I hate living out of a suitcase – and that makes me feel instantly more at home.

Of all the places you have travelled which destination has left a lasting impression and why?
Over the summer we stayed as a family in the incredible Treehotel in Sweden and I’ve been talking about it ever since. There are six amazing dens in the trees, including a floating mirrorcube and a quirky UFO. We tried reindeer meat and went ice fishing – I think we almost had more fun than the kids!

How have hotels changed over the last decade?
The boutique hotel scene has mushroomed over the last 10 years. We started Mr & Mrs Smith in 2003 when the very first hotels were emerging, such as the UK’s Hotel Tresanton in Cornwall and Babington House in Somerset. It was much harder to find unique places then, but now there is an established demand for places with personality. Even the big hotel chains, like Hyatt and the Andaz, are getting in on the act with their own boutique brands.

How have hotel guests changed?
I don’t think guests have changed necessarily, but I do think that hotels are much more accessible than they were (and definitely less stuffy). Luxury hotels are far more down-to-earth than they used to be, and even the best places don’t bat an eyelid if you arrive looking a little scruffy.

Is there any destination you have not yet visited but would like to?
We’re keen to explore Japan at some point with the children. Tokyo is must, of course. I’d love to visit to the Shinjuku district for shopping and tech thrills, Harajuku for the crazy outfits and eat sea-fresh sushi for breakfast at the Tsukiji fish market. I’d also like to zip out of the city on a bullet train.

What do you pack in your toiletry bag?
All the usual stuff plus an electric razor, ear plugs, an eye mask and some Nurofen Plus (ibuprofen).

Jetlegs RECOMMENDS:

Braun Series 9 Electric Shaver
Happy Ears
Armand Diradourian Cashmere Sleep Mask
 

Best piece of travel advice
Plan ahead – this is my absolute top tip. If you really want to eat in that hot restaurant or see the latest show, book it way ahead of time. It sounds control-freakish, but my policy is to plan half and let the rest evolve and happen naturally.  Oh, and always say it’s a special occasion too to get the best seat in the restaurant.

Do you have a travel style? If so how would you describe it?
I just love to soak as much of it up as I can and, although I like to bank a couple of must-dos, I also enjoy finding out about places from just being there. Walking to recommended neighbourhoods with no big agenda is always the best way to get to know a place.

What has travelling taught you?
I get so much inspiration for work and home from travelling, and some my best ideas come from being abroad. I’ve also learnt (twice) that Moroccan hammams aren’t very relaxing.

What do you think travel can teach others?
It’s a cliche, but for good reason – travel broadens the mind and makes you realize how fascinating and varied the world is. It also makes you realize how great your own home is, something that we often overlook here in London, as I guess, any city dweller does.

Most surprising destination you’ve been?
Most destinations don’t live up to their postcard-image hype, for example, the Leaning Tower of Pisa isn’t that impressive. However, I will never forget the first time I went to New York and it really was as massive as my mind had imagined it to be. The skyscraper views were truly awe-inspiring and those long boulevards and avenues just go on forever. It was just as I’d seen in countless movies, and even now I still love coming over the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing Manhattan in all its glory.

TAMARA LOHAN

How do you prepare for long trips? What do you do when you arrive to help reduce jet lag?
I pack nice things for the journey – creature comforts to make the plane ride more luxurious – such as a cashmere wrap, my own eye shade and small gifts for the kids if they are with me. For long-haul trips, we try to arrive when it is still light. I’ve heard that sunshine can help adjust your body clock, so I try to make the most of that.

Of all the places you have travelled which destination has left a lasting impression and why?
I’m very attached to New York – it’s our favourite destination and in many ways feels like home. We’ve spent a lot of time there and it’s where we set up our first international office, plus, we used to explore the city as a couple before we had children. I love how quickly it refreshes itself, too – there’s always a new bar or restaurant to discover. We make our home-from-home there at the Crosby Street Hotel in Soho. It’s perfect for shopping and also close to our office.

How have hotels changed over the last decade?
Hotels have become more like home. They are so much more than you get at home of course, but they’re increasingly places where you can feel as relaxed as when you’re in your own living room. The creativity and design in the hotel scene has exploded over the last decade. There is so much innovation and hotels are now packed with personality, whereas they used to be much more formal and cookie-cutter.

How have hotel guests changed?
Well, hotels are increasingly places to hang out in as well as spend the night. The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, East London, actively welcomes locals to just hang out in the lobby and the juice bar regardless of whether they have checked in, which is an attitude I love. That’s what hospitality is about, after all. I think guests are more relaxed on arrival too – things are more informal but of better quality, which is a winning combination.

Is there any destination you have not yet visited but would like to?
Trancoso in Brazil where we have Uxua Casa, the Smith Hotel Awards winner for the best boutique hotel in the world. I’ve been to Rio and lived in Sao Paulo, but I’ve never explored Bahia or the north of Brazil, so a trip there next year is in the planning

What do you pack in your toiletry bag?
My number one essential is lip Balm – even the longest journeys won’t take a toll on your lips. Face cream goes everywhere with me, as well as an eye cream which I apply under the eye mask on long haul flights and I genuinely think my eyes are less dark upon arrival as a result.

Jetlegs RECOMMENDS:

Caudalie Lip Conditioner
Dr Roebuck’s Face
Tata Harper Restorative Eye Creme

Best piece of travel advice
Go with the flow. Often the most surprising things happen when you just let them.

Do you have a travel style? If so how would you describe it?
Highly organized but laid-back – I believe that spontaneity is all in the planning. If I’ve planned well, I enjoy the travelling that much more. With two children we have to have everything booked and scheduled and we always allow plenty of time to get anywhere. But once we’re travelling, we try to just let things happen. I also get the kids involved before we go so they get excited about the trip too.

What has travelling taught you?
That there is always a different way to look at things, a different perspective. I grew up in Spain and my first language was Spanish but my parents spoke English to me (much to my distaste). I learnt from an early age that there were two words for everything.

What do you think travel can teach others?
Travel gets you out of the office and out of your comfort zone – it surprises you and teaches people to be open minded. Maybe there is something, someone or somewhere out there that does things differently, and better.

Most surprising destination you’ve been?
Swedish Lapland. Having grown up in the Mediterranean where most of my days were spent on a beach, I’m generally a sunshine seeker and crave warmth. But this year we took the kids to the very remote north of Sweden and stayed in some treehouses. It was raw, real, good for the soul and absolutely beautiful – it felt wholesome and was a breath of fresh air (literally).

 

Daniel MacKinnon