Vacation. The time to relax, to go on grand adventures, and to wash all your worries away. Traveling can be fun, or to some like myself a little stressful, but what really seems to make or break a trip is one detail. Where you are staying. How many times have you stayed at a hotel and left feeling like you needed a vacation from your vacation? Or that you couldn’t wait to sleep in your own bed again? Or maybe you left feeling like you never wanted to leave and could live in that simple hotel room? Trust me, I have felt a good mixture of both and I am sure my love for traveling will continue to bring me that mixture again and again.
Hotel stays are honestly an important part of my traveling experience because I am someone who travels alone so often. It is a home base even if it is only for one night, and it acts as somewhere stable during that time. I love when hotels allow me to relax, but also give me a space to get some work done on the go! I also take cleanliness into consideration. I am a bit of a germaphobe, so if I find hairs all over my sheets or a used condom on the dresser (yes, this has happened!)…I freak the heck out! Remember, you are paying for a room that should be cleaned at least up to health standards, so it is okay to politely say that something is wrong (especially if it is that extreme!) Another added benefit is when they have a complementary breakfast option so I can grab some fruit, eggs, or oatmeal before running to my next destination (also a really great way to save money!)
When I went on my most recent trip, a large graduate school exploration down the Southern Californian coast, I stayed at 3 very different hotels. I was lucky enough to stay in nicer hotels due to my work bonuses, but what I was most curious about was how they would truly differ based off of what they offer to their guests. Now, I am sure everyone’s experiences and preferences are different, because let’s face it, we are human. However, I made my own list and rating score based off of what is important to me, especially as a female traveling alone.
- Location: Where is this hotel in regards to my trip? Is it out-of-the-way or along the way? Are there restaurants nearby? Is it in a safe area?
- Parking: Is parking available? Is it free for guests? Is it safe?
- Customer Service: Are staff greeting me as well as answering any of my questions? Am I easily able to speak to a staff member if I need assistance?
- Room: How comfortable is this room? Is it clean? Is it private? Do I feel safe?
- Price: Was it worth the price? Where there added benefits?
I drove from my wonderful home in Los Gatos, CA to multiple stops in places like Santa Barbara, Woodland Hills, Fullerton, and back up to Ventura. I visited a few graduate school options, loved a handful of my dearest friends, and spent some much-needed time with myself. I stayed at 3 different hotels (and two nights with my girl Christina in her dorm) but what I found so interesting was how incredibly different each hotel experience was. I am excited to share with you my discoveries, reviews, and things that I learned while doing this road trip solo!
The Cliff House Inn – Ventura, CA.
I am not going to lie, this hotel was one I have had my eye on for a long time. I always drove past it when heading back up to my hometown from my college (CSU Channel Islands in Camarillo), but I never knew too much about it. After looking online, I saw that this hotel was within my budget for my trip, as well as in the area I would be looking at 2 schools, so I decided to go for it! I booked this room for Monday, April 2nd, and I could not wait to experience this beautiful place.
My trip started at 7am because I would be meeting with my first grad school at 1pm in Santa Barbara. It was a long drive, longer than usual, but still beautiful and how I always remember it. However, I was exhausted after my 2 hour meeting, so I could not wait to get to The Cliff House Inn. It is about 15 minutes south of Santa Barbara, which was fine with me. It’s a gorgeous drive next to the ocean so honestly it was calming and set the mood for the experience I was going to have.
I arrived at the hotel around 3:30pm and I easily found parking in front. It was right next to the entrance, and later I discovered I would be able to see my car from the window in my room, which was a huge plus. I was greeted when I walked into the lobby by a friendly woman and she helped me check-in. She told me how to get to my room and told me I could ask her anything if needed. This is always reassuring for me, because I often have questions about the area I am in, if their hotel accommodates dietary needs, and if I ever felt uncomfortable, I would want to be assured someone was there for me. I can confirm this statement: The staff at The Cliff House Inn are some of the best I have ever met. I never felt like I was less important than any guests and they truly accommodated all of my needs. If you want to stay in a hotel where staff truly treat you with kindness and respect, this is the place to go.
I entered my room and realized immediately how perfect this hotel was for me. A lot of my readers know that the beach is my favorite place in the world. I love the ocean, the sand, the sun, the sounds and smells…everything. I looked out my window and this, this was seriously my view?! I was in heaven! Apparently all their rooms overlook the ocean and yes, it is really this beautiful! Not to mention how cute the room was too. Not overly updated, but charming and clean. I looked around and noticed that all surfaces seemed wiped down, the bed smelled clean, and the shower had no questionable hairs or marks. I was excited and ready to spend a night in my paradise. I unpacked what I needed from my car, and got settled in.
I decided to go on a walk, as I was told there was a nice beach nearby. This beach was stunning and I was completely alone as I walked along the shore. I had plans to leave and drive to a yoga studio, but instead I decided to do some yoga on the beach. Wow, what an absolutely wonderful experience this was. If you have never ventured outside of your yoga studio or backyard, I highly recommend it. I felt so incredibly at peace, and the sand added an extra balancing obstacle. I think it is really great when a hotel has places to explore nearby, and this beach hit the spot! I collected some gorgeous shells, and headed back to get ready for dinner.
I went back to my room and grabbed my notebook to write as I ate dinner. The restaurant is attached to The Cliff House Inn called The Shoals Restaurant and it was recommended to have a reservation, which I did not have. So, I went early and hoped for the best, especially because it was a Monday night. Luckily, the server said she could definitely seat me, and she actually sat me outside at her favorite table. The view was perfect. I watched the sunset as I indulged in a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (Brander, 2016) and decided what to eat off the menu. I am sure that everything on the menu is delicious, but I wanted to keep it lighter and get my greens in (let’s face it friends, this isn’t a shock.) I ended up ordering the Organic Mixed Greens Salad, and this salad did not disappoint. I ate every single piece of it and it left me craving more, but
absolutely stuffed. The desserts sounded incredible (they even had a flourless cake aka Emilee friendly option) but I decided to stick to the salad and wine. The service was amazing and I was able to write some reflections about my grad school meeting and watch the sunset.
I slept wonderfully with the window open, and woke up to the sound of the waves crashing gently against the rocks. They had a great continental breakfast, and they even brought out gluten-free toast for me! I was so excited to spread some all natural peanut butter on that bread and eat it all up! Their fruit options were also great, and the coffee was strong and bold without being too bitter. It was a great start to my day before another long meeting. I would 110% recommend this hotel and restaurant. I had an amazing time and I hope that I can visit again sometime. If you need a getaway, consider booking a room at this hotel for around $190 a night. Again, I was blessed to have my work bonuses saved up, but this hotel is worth every dollar!
The Hilton Hotel – Woodland Hills, CA.
After a long meeting, a quick trip down memory lane, and a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway then through Topanga Canyon, I made it to my next hotel. I have never stayed at The Hilton, but I know that this location in particular is renovated and very modern. I was curious to see the difference between this hotel and the one from the night before. The location was ideal as I would be seeing some friends from the area, and it was next to the mall where my friends and I were going to grab dinner. There were a lot of restaurants nearby to choose from which was nice.
When I pulled up, I first parked in the loading zone. I entered the building and began the check-in process. This is where I felt uncomfortable. The staff left me feeling very insecure and treated me like I did not belong. I was staying in a more expensive room (the 10th floor; $200/night), and I later found out there were a lot of perks to go along with that, but I was never told this information. I also asked a couple of questions and the staff member acted like it was completely ridiculous for me to be asking her anything. It was not busy, but even if it was, I should be allowed to ask about where to park, how much it costs, and what charges would appear on my card. But, I let that brush off my shoulders because I wanted to enjoy my time in such a nice hotel.
Parking was absolutely awful. Not only was I having to park in a parking garage (as a solo female traveler, this is definitely not ideal), but it was also a decent walk away from the nearest hotel entrance (and I had to pay $20/night). I took my bags inside but realized I left my phone in the car, so I went back downstairs to get it. This is where my fears became real. I was alone and trying to get back on the elevator in the parking garage to go back to the hotel. 5 men were exiting as I was entering and started cat calling me and asking me where I was staying. Great. I luckily was able to smile and ignore it while the elevator doors closed. I reminded myself not to go to the parking garage in the dark. I hate this about the world we live in as it adds extra stress to a female’s life, but I am glad that I am aware and recognize that I need to do what I can to stay safe.
I finally got to the room and had the chance to appreciate its beauty. It was huge! It was the corner room, but honestly felt like a suite. It included a kind size bed, a huge bathroom, a whole desk space perfect for work, and a seating area. I was in love with the chic art and sleek feel. It was very clean, and I liked that I felt luxurious and well taken care of. I would’ve stayed in that room for 2 weeks honestly. My friends ended up coming to check it out and they were just as in awe as I was. The only worry we talked about was the fact that it was a corner room and directly next to stairwell exit. Again, over thinking safety, but I would be an easy target if anyone wanted to kidnap me or something crazy like that. However, I didn’t think too much about that. I was too in love with this room!
In the morning, I realized there was not a free breakfast option which is always tough. So, I ate one of the bars I brought with me and took my time getting ready for the day. I loved the shower and the fact that they had the hairdryer in the room (I’ve found a lot of hotels you actually have to ask for them which I didn’t know). I was able to enjoy my last hour before check-out by just lounging in my room and getting caught up on some blogging work. When it was time to leave, I went to get my car first because I didn’t want to carry my luggage all the way to my car. I parked in the same place in front of the hotel as I had before, and the valet drivers were actually quite rude. They didn’t bother to ask if I needed help, but instead helped the men and women dressed in business suits…I am just not about that kind of favoritism. Especially when I paid the same amount, if not more, for my room. I should receive the same service. Checking out was quick and not recognizably pleasant, but just felt like a routine. I did not mind it though, because I was ready to leave the service behind. Overall, the room was by far the best part of my experience. I would recommend this hotel if you do not mind a little colder of staff, or walking to and from the parking garage.
Amanzi Hotel – Ventura, CA.
After staying in Fullerton for 2 magical nights, driving back up the coast through Marina Del Ray, Venice, and Malibu (my favorite secret beaches are there), I was back in the beautiful Ventura for just one more night of fun with my friends. Amanzi Hotel is located conveniently in Downtown Ventura, and I had a simple time parking for free and even easier time checking in. The staff was kind and actually asked me if I had any questions. I love good customer service (and I get customer service because I have been working in the business for years). I felt reassured of my safety and I was able to go straight to my room with ease.
I walked into the room and it was pretty clean. There was a chair that looked a little funky, but overall the appearance was great. I had a small, yet effective view of the ocean from my window which is a nice touch. The beds and the bathroom looked great, so I was excited about that! I was so excited that I actually took a nap for an hour and woke up feeling so refreshed. I took a nice, long shower and even soaked in the bath for a couple of minutes. I then got dressed in some comfortable clothes and took a walk downtown to a classic beach taco joint, Snapper Jack’s. It was great to be able to enjoy something familiar and unique to Ventura County. If you have never been downtown, it is a great place to explore!
I went back to my room and took my time getting ready to go out. My friends ended up coming over and pregamming before hitting up my favorite bar of all time. Tavern was my college bar, but I plan to always go, even when I’m 80. We had a great time and made some interesting memories (; It was great that my friends were able to come hangout with me without the hotel getting upset or telling me I couldn’t have guests come into my room. None of my friends stayed the night, which was nice because I was ready to sleep and not have to wake up until it was time to leave in the morning.
I woke up and headed straight to the continental breakfast. Not as great of a spread as The Cliff House Inn, but still delicious! It is hard to find breakfast foods that I can eat at something like this because there are always a lot of baked goods filled with gluten, and very few gluten-free options overall. I ended up grabbing some oatmeal and fruit. The check-out process was quick and easy. I was treated with respect and the staff seemed to genuinely care how my experience was. Even if he didn’t truly care, I appreciated him making me feel like he did. I loaded up my car, stopped by my favorite smoothie shop (Blender’s) and enjoyed a nice drive home! For $150/night, I would definitely recommend Amanzi Hotel to anyone looking for some Ventura flavor. The location, staff, and rooms are completely worth it!
The Cliff House Inn:
- Location: 5/5
- Parking: 5/5
- Customer Service: 5/5
- Room: 5/5
- Price: 5/5
Total: 25/25 – I would HIGHLY recommend a night in this paradise! Or a week if you’re lucky (;
The Hilton Hotel:
- Location: 5/5
- Parking: 2/5
- Customer Service: 2/5
- Room: 5/5
- Price: 4/5
Total: 18/25 – This hotel room was luxurious, but the parking and customer service were NOT worth the price. I would recommend this for business trips, and groups, but not for solo females. I was surprised by this experience.
- Location: 5/5
- Parking: 5/5
- Customer Service: 5/5
- Room: 4/5
- Price: 5/5
Total: 24/25 – The room had a gross chair, but that is my only complaint! I think otherwise it was nice and cheaper than the others. The location is perfection and I would stay there again anytime!