1. vero beach hotel & spa (vero beach, FL)
i've written about this incredible place before, but it's just one of a kind. everything is absolutely 5-star, from the oceanfront location to the service to the rooms to the animal print robes (which i can't resist taking selfies in every single time i stay), but the price usually isn't! vero is a gorgeous, super-sleepy, stereotypical "old person" florida town. but you know what that means ... $$$. ridiculous, cool people stay here, and you get to meet all of them at the nightly wine hour. after you're comfortably tipsy and have made some new friends, you can stumble down to the ocean grill or bobby's for a deliciously drunken seafood dinner (or the hotel restaurant, if you're feeling fancy). then, come back to the hotel to sit in the hot tub or hang out around one of the fire pits. and THEN put on your animal print robe and chill on your patio. it's perfection.
the last time i stayed, it was right after i had finished grad school, and i had made an offhand comment to one of the staff during the aforementioned happy hour. my parents and i came back to our room that evening to a friggin' bottle of champagne, three glasses, and a handwritten note congratulating me on my master's degree. R U SERIOUS? that's how you do customer service, folks.
2. best western sunset plaza (west hollywood, CA)
hands-down, the cutest hotel i've ever stayed in. located right on sunset boulevard in weho, it has the feel of a quaint b&b, so don't be fooled by the best western name. i remember that when i first arrived in the room, i threw open the adorable windows -- no screens, praise jesus -- and inhaled that sweet california air (and probably some exhaust fumes, too). i also shared an elevator with marion raven from fallen tween pop group m2m, so that was chill. for a car-dependent city, the location is great and kinda-sorta walkable to a starbucks, saddle ranch chophouse, the house of blues, and mel's diner. the pool is legit an oasis in the middle of LA.
3. the westin ottawa (ottawa, canada)
i don't really know why, but canada was always my dad's destination of choice when it came to family vacations when i was a child. as a result, i have an immense, random love for ottawa which most people are weirded out by. but it's such a cool, vibrant city! and i'm pretty sure this hotel was part of why i love it so much. it's right in the heart of downtown ottawa, overlooking parliament hill, aaaaand connected to a mall. sold!
4. doubletree guest suites (new york, ny)
i actually won a doubletree stay at a work christmas party a few years back, and decided that instead of imposing on my NYC friends and crashing on their couches for 4th of july weekend, i'd just fly solo and go big and stay in times square. props to the very friendly front desk man who remained super sweet as i rolled up with nothing but a big-ass backpack and a crumpled up certificate in my purse, checked in, and started eating my complimentary doubletree cookie before he even gave me the receipt. i emerged from my room 10 minutes later in a way-too-mini dress, still eating the cookie, and he just smiled at me, probably thinking something along the lines of "thisbitch." i don't think i'm suite material. anyways, definitely had a few macaulay culkin moments at this place because the rooms are HUGE. the views are also amazing -- where else can you scope out the half-price broadway ticket line from your bed?!
5. courtyard virginia beach oceanfront south (virginia beach, VA)
give me a balcony overlooking the ocean, and i'm a happy girl. this hotel, in addition to having oceanfront balconies, is also in a prime VB location that's super-close to a bunch of really good restaurants (shoutout to tautogs) and literally steps from the beach. my favorite thing to do during my stay here was people-watch the boardwalk, uh, walkers, from the balcony. endless entertainment, especially the dude i saw wearing an "FBI: female body inspector" shirt that was walking with his small child. good times.