Whether planning for a summer on the beaches of Europe, trekking the Himalayas or surfing on the Indian Ocean, you can count on a select number of luxury hotel chains to satisfy your need for splendor and relaxation.
Here's a list of top chains that aren't household words in the U.S. -- but should be everyday lexicon for true luxury travelers.
This Madrid-based hotel chain is a high-end luxury brand of design hotels located in historic buildings throughout Spain, Portugal and Italy. Hotels contain impeccably designed lobbies and guest rooms blending Old-World details, contemporary art and New-World design.
Hotel New Hotel: AC Cordoba Palacio (Summer 2008)
Likes: Newer properties in Barcelona and Seville are iconoclasts.
Dislikes: Smaller rooms in older properties could incite a PETA protest.
This Hong Kong-based uber-luxury chain with a series of 18 resort properties in removed and exotic locations presents the highest level of customer service and exclusivity offered in modern hospitality. Resorts range from meditative Indian Ocean retreats to glittery ski palaces in Courchevel and Jackson Hole.
Hot New Hotel: Aman Montenegro and Amangiri near Lake Powell (both late-2008)
Likes: High price point and far-off locations keep exclusivity at a high.
Dislikes: Lack of real-time booking on the Web site is a return to pre-Internet days.
The name Banyan Tree graces high-end spas, retail centers and 20 luxury resorts and hotels in such remote destinations as Bhutan and Phuket. The hotel embodies Asian hospitality through a series and meticulously designed properties built for meditative getaways that intuitively blend into their surroundings.
Hot New Hotel: Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Mexico (2009)
Likes: It has one of the most ambitious "green" conservation programs of any hotel chain.
Dislikes: Franchised name allows for expansion of separate Banyan Tree Spa brand.
London's preeminent hotel owners Tim and Kit Kemp create a lively and rich collection of city hotels in neighborhoods like Soho, Chelsea and Knightsbridge. Standout properties like the Soho Hotel and Charlotte Street are be-seen addresses for visiting celebrities and fashion elite.
Hot New Hotel: Crosby Street Hotel NYC (2009)
Likes: NYC's new Crosby Street is attempting to acquire LEED Gold Certification.
Dislikes: Signature granite bathrooms are identical at some properties.
One of Europe's fastest growing hotel chains, Hospes Hotels operates a portfolio of fifteen four- and five-star properties throughout Spain as well as recently acquiring Paris' Hotel Lancaster in its expansion across Europe. The chain features historic buildings renovated with design-minded common areas, resort spaces and guest rooms.
Hot New Hotel: Hospes Budapest (2009)
Likes: Spanish collection of properties is affordably priced for star-category.
Dislikes: The Hotel Lancaster is in desperate need of an interior face-lift.
With Dubai's hottest properties including Burj Al Arab and Emirates Towers, UAE's fastest growing hotel operators have their eye on the rest of the globe with recent acquisitions in London and New York. Expect colorful exuberance with decadent resorts varying between opulent towers and more traditional family hotels located on the sea.
New Hotel: Palm Jumeirah Dubai, Bermuda, Mallorca, London
Likes: Burj Al Arab offers chauffeured Maybach from the airport and butler service.
Dislikes: Interior design of bold colors can look like an over-caffeinated Versace store.
Think opulent guest rooms with baroque furnishings and hand-woven oriental rugs. Opened in 1897, Kempinski Hotels is one of Europe's oldest hotel brands representing hotel palaces like Berlin's Adlon and Hotel des Bain in St. Moritz. Savvy eastward expansion brings hotel presence to emerging markets like Slovenia, Croatia and Russia.
New Hotel: Kempinski Hotel Adriatic in Istria, Croatia (late-2008)
Likes: No one does mannered European hotels like the Kempinski chain.
Dislikes: White glove service sometimes feels cold and elusive for anyone under 50.
With outposts throughout the U.K. and Scotland, Malmaison is a clever collection of four-star design hotels named after Chateau Malmaison, the palace acquired by Josephine after Napoleon's triumphs in Egypt. While Napoleon was not pleased, today's traveler flocks to these design sanctuaries boasting high design, lively bars and cafes.
New Hotel: Hotel Du Vin Poole (Summer 2008)
Likes: Malmaison's sister company Hotel Du Vin has outposts in Glasgow and Bristol.
Dislikes: The groovy London property in Clerkenwell is a 10-pound cab to anything chic.
Call them the George Washington of the boutique hotel movement that began within New York's Schrager-designed Royalton. While the hotel chain is de-Schragering most of its slate of properties in New York and Miami, it's also expanding a new empire of Mondrian set to debut in Palm Springs, South Beach and Soho.
New Hotel: Mondrian Soho (late-2009)
Likes: New designers and partners are invigorating well-worn properties in LA and Miami.
Dislikes: Just book into an entry-level room at the Hudson or London's Sanderson!
If there's a Rocco Forte Hotel in town, it's likely to be the best place to stay. A family-owned dynasty of exquisite design hotels with the utmost of luxury and service, Rocco Forte is a growing icon making a mark with signature properties like Rome's Hotel de Russie, Berlin's Hotel de Rome and Brown's Hotel in London. The ever-expanding empire includes new outposts in St. Petersburg, Sicily and Prague.
New Hotels: Abu Dhabi and Marrakech (2010)
Likes: Unlike many luxury chains, Rocco Forte embraces a younger, stylish clientele.
Dislikes: With no outpost in France, it's long time the hotel chain arrived in Paris.
With a longstanding reputation for fine luxury hotels around India and Sri Lanka, Taj Resorts recently branched out across the globe with new locations in New York, Boston and Sydney. Operating luxury resorts against the backdrop of such world-renowned landmarks as the Taj Mahal, Great Pyramids and Sydney Harbor is what they do best.
New Hotels: Campton Place San Francisco
Likes: Sister-chain operates India's decadent Bandavgarh and Baghvan safari camps.
Dislikes: Former W Sydney property lost its luster after name and management change.
It's Australia's most famous collection of luxury resorts, but sadly it will take at least a three-hour flight from Sydney and a short puddle-jumper to get to any of them. Operating 21 hotels throughout the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and Central Australia, this acclaimed hotelier offers six top-of-the-line luxury properties for global gluttons down under.
New Hotel: New Spa located at Ayers Rock
Likes: Conservation practice involves recycling and vigorous water rationing.
Dislikes: Non-premium hotels are sparse on luxury with dated rooms at some resorts.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.