As the holidays creep up and the year comes to an end, the editorial team at Forbes Travel Guide decided to do some reflecting. Traveling is in our job description, so it’s only natural that we are experts at everything from packing to picking out souvenirs. Whether you’re heading somewhere tropical for the festive season or have a lavish vacation planned for 2014, it’s never a bad idea to gather a few tips to make your trip a bit smoother. Check out which cities we adore, hotels we can’t wait to check back into and things we love to bring home. And for even more travel advice and vacation ideas, visit ForbesTravelGuide.com to plan your next getaway.
Kim Atkinson, Senior Vice President, Content
Favorite place to travel: Hong Kong
Check into: The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong or Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
I always travel with: Comfortable socks to slip into on the plane; an iPad; and La Prairie beauty products I stash away from the hotels I stay in.
What to bring home: My husband and I try to purchase a piece of art whenever we travel—one of my favorites is a dreamy abstract fashion photograph we picked up at the 798 Art District on a snowy day in January in Beijing.
Travel advice: Book a room on the executive floor whenever you can, especially when traveling to Europe or Asia, so you have somewhere to go for snacks and Internet access when you’re awake in the middle of the night. I also always try to go see a concert or art gallery opening whenever I travel—it’s the best way to mingle with locals and see what life in each city is really like.
My travel playlist: Sigur Rós, Vampire Weekend, Wilco, Band of Horses
Jennifer Kester, Executive Editor
Favorite place to travel: Napa Valley
Check into: Auberge du Soleil or Meadowood Napa Valley
I always travel with: A White + Warren cashmere wrap; Kindle; and an iPhone.
What to bring home: I try to buy jewelry made in the area. It’s easy to pack a necklace or earrings, and the baubles remind me of my travels whenever I wear them.
Travel advice: In Napa, don’t book wine tastings on your own. Go through your hotel’s concierge, who can score you free tastings and VIP access to some of the vineyards that are usually off-limits to the public.
My travel playlist: Jay Z, A Tribe Called Quest, Adele, John Legend
Laura J. Downey, Managing Editor
Favorite place to travel: Macau
Check into: Conrad Macao, Cotai Central or Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip
I always travel with: My iPad; Bible; a pair of brown oversized Gucci tortoise shell side buckle sunglasses; and a pair of Marc by Marc Jacobs black aviators.
What to bring home: I collect coins from every place I visit. I have euros from my travels to London, Paris and Amsterdam, patacas from Macau, coins from Hong Kong, pesos from Mexico, and more. I keep the money in a big coffee mug inside a drawer in my console table.
Travel advice: Instead of carrying a laptop bag to store my MacBook Pro in, I let my Louis Vuitton Neverfull double as a bag for my computer. This allows me to fill up another bag with clothes and use it as my second carry-on.
My travel playlist: Drake, Jay Z, Rihanna
Michelle Doucette, Senior Editor
Favorite place to travel: Boston
Check into: XV Beacon
I always travel with: Noise-canceling headphones; Emergen-C; and a scarf for dressing up, covering up and warming up.
What to bring home: A packable piece of local art, even if it’s just a postcard. I often frame those, too.
Travel advice: When packing, slide suits and dresses into a plastic dry cleaners bag to avoid wrinkled clothing—I never have to bust out the in-room iron.
My travel playlist: The Head and the Heart, Brett Dennen, Carole King
DeMarco Williams, Senior Editor
Favorite place to travel: Highlands, N.C.
Check into: Old Edwards Inn and Spa
I always travel with: My wife; my laptop; my notepad; and a good pen.
What to bring home: A baseball cap or a T-shirt representing the local pro or collegiate team. In the case of the secluded Highlands, that’s a little tough. But hey, I do have a hat for the nearby Asheville Tourists Minor League Baseball team.
Travel advice: To all those travelers who hate checking luggage, it may be time to reconsider. While overheads are getting more and more cramped, baggage handlers are working harder to get you to your bags quicker. No, really. On my return flight during the Thanksgiving break, I checked my luggage. After deplaning, I went straight to baggage claim and my suitcases were already waiting for me on the carousel. Give it a try—your clear head and free hands will thank you.
My travel playlist: Drake, J. Cole, ’90s Jay Z, ’80s Anita Baker, Yuna
Caroline Patek, Associate Editor
Favorite place to travel: New York City
Check into: Four Seasons Hotel New York
Always travel with: Cashmere socks for the plane; Caudalie Beauty Elixir for an instant pick-me-up; and a classic watch.
What to bring home: Black-and-white prints of the destination. I inherited this tradition from my dad, and they’re great additions to a gallery wall.
Travel advice: Bring versatile clothing. I usually pack a few key pieces, such as a chic black sweater, that can easily transition from day to night.
My travel playlist: Haim, Ellie Goulding, Kings of Leon
Hayley Bosch, Associate Editor
Favorite place to travel: Hawaii
Check into: Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
I always travel with: My stuffed animals (true story); my iPad so I can read and watch movies; and my sneakers because I’m always game for a run.
What to bring home: Postcards. I’ve been collecting them since I was little—one of my favorites is from The Baths in Virgin Gorda. I also like to get a piece of jewelry or clothing that’s unique to the place. Every time I wear it, I’m reminded of a great trip. I got a beautiful stingray cuff bracelet in St. Barts when I was there with my family a few years ago.
Travel advice: Pack light. If you forgot something, chances are the hotel has it or you can buy it. For a beach vacation like one to Four Seasons Hualalai, you’ll really only need a few staples: swimsuit, sandals and a couple of nice outfits for dinner.
My travel playlist: O.A.R., Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson
Melanie Nayer, Boston Correspondent
Favorite place to travel: London
Check into: Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London or 45 Park Lane
I always travel with: A cashmere or pashmina wrap, which I’ve spritzed with Lavender room spray or my favorite light perfume; sneakers so I can stay active anytime; and a bag of electronic adapters because you never know when you’ll need to plug in.
What to bring home: Jewelry and art. When you’re in London, there’s always a great flea market or small boutique hidden among the better-known stores. Stop in and find that perfect piece of vintage jewelry, a cool one-of-a-kind painting, pottery or sculpture.
Travel advice: Pack light so you have extra room to bring home gifts, and pack an extra, fold-up bag. (Longchamp is great for this!) London shopping is legendary, and it’s likely you’ll find a few things to bring home, so don’t pay for shipping when you can just store purchased goods in your extra duffel.
My travel playlist: The classics: Sting, The Who, Paul McCartney, Amy Winehouse, and anything that reminds me of the location I’m visiting.
McLean Robbins, Washington, D.C. Correspondent
Favorite place to travel: Las Vegas
Check into: Wynn Las Vegas
I always travel with: A stuffed bear named Aggie. Seriously. On a professional level, my MacBook Air so that I can keep up with deadlines; my iPad for reading and gaming; and my Nikon D90 for documenting every step of the way.
What to bring home: A Starbucks mug. They’re all the same size, so they fit in my cabinet nicely—and I can use them every day.
Travel advice: Fly direct whenever possible.
My travel playlist: It’s more like my travel reading list. I’ve always got a romance novel on my iPad.
Linnea Covington, New York City Correspondent
Favorite place to travel: San Francisco
Check into: Hotel Nikko San Francisco
I always travel with: My Bose noise-canceling headphones; Kindle Fire; and an eye mask to block out the light on long flights.
What to bring home: Usually something in the food category. If I can, I head to Berkeley and stock up on cheese rolls from The Cheese Board Collective to take home.
Travel advice: Bring a little bottle of lotion on the plane. If your skin tends to get dry, this can really help you perk up.
My travel playlist: Oh Land, Bat for Lashes, The Cure
Erica Firpo, Rome Correspondent
Favorite place to travel: Naples, Fla.
Check into: The Ritz-Carlton, Naples
I always travel with: My iPad loaded up with lots of books; watercolors and postcard-sized watercolor blocks; handmade di San Giacomo sandals; white T-shirts; and a Nars Cruella lip pencil so I can dress up or down at any opportunity.
What to bring home: Shells; my tiny beachscape paintings that are probably unwanted gifts; and Rainbow flip-flops for my husband.
Travel advice: Photocopy all of your documents twice and bring them with you.
My travel playlist: Anything with Warren G and Nate Dogg
Claire Gibson, Nashville Correspondent
Favorite place to travel: Sea Island, Ga.
Check into: The Cloister
I always travel with: At least two novels to read; a journal to write in; and my favorite chambray shirt that makes me feel at home wherever I am. When I’m headed to the beach, I also make sure to pack a one-piece bathing suit—it makes me feel classy and unhindered from ordering my favorite Cloister beachside cocktail.
What to bring home: Other than a tan? I love shopping in Redfern Village for a new bathing suit—I try to find a new one each year. And every time I’m in the Golden Isles, I love to stop by Southern Soul Barbeque for lunch and pick up a pack of their famous “Soul Dust” dry rub or a bottle of their signature tomato-based sauce. That way, when I’m back home in Nashville, I take a little bit of Georgia home with me.
Travel advice: Spend on memories not mementos. Last year, my husband and I splurged on a sailboat tour that left from The Cloister Beach Club; and though we stepped off the boat slightly more green, we’ll never forget seeing dolphins close-up and the feeling of open water.
My travel playlist: Right now, I’m loving an iTunes exclusive album called Nashville Indie Spotlight, which features 30 brand-new songs from 30 independent Nashville artists. Some of my favorites from that album were already on my iPhone: Leagues, Courtney Jaye, Brooke Waggoner, Trent Dabbs.
Photos Courtesy of Auberge du Soleil, XV Beacon and Niall Clutton