Photograph: Sunset Tower
Luxury Travel

Trip Hacks From a Germaphobic Traveler

The Sunset Tower’s Jeff Klein on how he disinfects a hotel room—and why he loves a breakfast buffet.

At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we’re doing it right. So we’re talking to globe-trotters in all of our luxury fields—food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate—to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.

West Hollywood, CA – March 11, 2014:Jeff Klein for the New York Times. Photo by Emily Berl

Jeff Klein in West Hollywood.

Photographer: Emily Berl/Courtesy of Sunset Tower

For Hollywood royalty, Sunset Tower Hotel is the place to escape. The art deco building, located on the Sunset Strip, is both glamorous and comfortable, marrying showbiz glitz with a warm, cozy vibe. Plus, the doormen put umbrellas in the paparazzi’s faces.

The tower’s owner, Jeff Klein, made it that way when he remodeled the 1929 landmark, an Old Hollywood remnant where John Wayne and Howard Hughes used to live. Klein brought the glow back, holding the legendary Vanity Fair  Oscar party there until 2013, and contenders continue to make it a hub every awards season, even though Klein himself isn’t a fan. “I hate Oscar week so much,” he says. “It’s the worst week of the year. I just pace myself. You’ve got to understand that you’re running a marathon, and you cannot crash.”

Klein hits the road about every other weekend, researching what does and doesn’t work in the hospitality industry as he renovates his second property, San Vicente Bungalows—an “oasis” in the middle of West Hollywood—to open next year. Here’s his travel advice:

Always pack Clorox wipes

“I’m such a germaphobe. Clorox has these travel packs, and I take a couple with me everywhere I go. I wipe down the whole hotel room because you don’t know who was in the room before you, and if they were sick. That’s one reason people always end up getting sick on vacation. You could touch a light switch of somebody who had the flu, and then you touch your eye, and you’ve got it, brother.”

Beware of over-the-top amenities

“We try to speak very directly to our market at Sunset Tower. The reality is, my customer is me. I don’t want some fancy ridiculous dessert that’s delivered on a sword. I just want a delicious hot fudge sundae or a piece of chocolate cake. It’s sophisticated, but clean and simple. We have a make-your-own-sundae as a dessert, and you check off these little boxes if you want vanilla ice cream or chocolate or strawberry, and then if you want chocolate sauce, and if you want peanut M&Ms or caramel popcorn on top of that, or if you want bananas in there, strawberries. And the guests just love it.”

Punta del Este beach, Maldonado, Uruguay, 2014.View of beach at Punta del Este, Maldonado, Uruguay.Image taken outdoors, daylight.Some people appears on the image at the sand on the beach. Also there is a surfer walking on the shore (water), and others surfers are on the water.
Punta del Este beach, Maldonado, Uruguay.
Photographer: ElOjoTorpe/Getty Images

Know what to schedule …

“Restaurants and hotels are mapped out months in advance. I do major research. I’m calling people whose opinions I respect, or e-mailing them, and looking online. I research the hotels and restaurants I’m going to, because that’s my business, and I don’t want to leave it up to chance if I can get in.”

… And what to leave unplanned

“But other things, like, if I have friends there, I go out with them and pick their brain, like, ‘What do you think I should do? What do you think I should see?’ I went to New Orleans a few weeks ago, and Julia Reed, who is a food writer, had me over for dinner, and she changed my plans to this restaurant Shaya. I’d read about it, but it’s an Israeli restaurant, and I was like, ‘I’m not going to go to New Orleans for Israeli food. It’s so weird.’ But it was one of the greatest meals I’ve had in a long time.”

The great American destination

“I just went this weekend: the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. For those of us who can’t afford private planes, there’s this airline called Surf Air, and you can get a seat on a little hover plane that goes back and forth to Monterey. It’s expensive, but not as expensive as chartering a plane. Then, when you get there, you’re in a whole different world. There’s ocean, there’s mountains, there’s hiking. They have the greatest breakfast on earth. It’s a buffet, which I love, because you don’t have to wait. They have delicious coffee. And then I love how cold it is at night: All the rooms have fireplaces, and you light a fire, and it’s just cozy enough to read a book. It’s a great place to recharge.”

Exterior of the Sunset Tower.

Photograph: Sunset Tower

The one international destination to see

“Everyone should see Maldonado, in Uruguay. You stay at Garzon, which is this little gorgeous hotel and restaurant by Francis Mallmann. Also, in Uruguay, we weren’t in Punta del Este, but we stayed in a smaller area called José Ignacio. It’s simple, not fancy—my kind of place. There was this [restaurant] called La Huella that’s right on the beach. The fishermen bring up the fish, and then they grill them right there.”

Make the best of a long flight

“I am obsessed with Swiss Air’s flight from L.A. to Zurich. When you go to Europe from New York, it’s six hours in the air, so you can’t really sleep. But from L.A. it’s wonderful, because you’re in the air for 11 hours. You can actually have a little dinner, watch a movie, and then go to sleep for seven or eight hours.”

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