On the road

On the road

At Claybrook we are on the road quite a bit searching the world for the most beautiful handmade wall tiles and lovely floor tiles, as well as wood flooring.

I thought I would share a few handy tips based on what we have learned along the way in the name of creating stunning interiors.

Booking and preplanning

  • Lower your expectations and then you may not be disappointed. Don’t ever believe the pictures that hotels post of their properties, particularly the bedrooms as this way disappointment lies. As a rule, they post their most luxurious room with the nicest view and often prop the room with items which don’t appear in any of the rooms. For example, you will often see flowers in a vase on a side table or by a bedside online. This is to make the room seem fresh; I have never seen flowers in my room.
  • The wide-angle lens is alive and well, don’t be fooled by shots of huge rooms.
  • Hotels don’t post pictures of the room where someone shook a cola bottle, aimed it at the ceiling and then unscrewed it. They also don’t show pictures of rooms with bleach stains on the carpet, cigarette burns on the vanity or weird scrapes across the wallpaper. Trust me, only THE most expensive hotels redecorate and check for damage regularly so be prepped for stains that at home go ignored, but in a hotel, make you wonder ‘who and what caused that?’.
  • Be prepared for extra costs once you have spent ages online and got to the checkout at the end. Some add transfer costs from the airport only at the end.
  • Take out annual travel insurance separately to the trip, it will be much cheaper than bolting on.
  • The best agent for long haul trips that I have found is trailfinders. They are very helpful in providing hotels with flights that are quality and bring the price down.
  • Pack a small pillow if you find it difficult to sleep. I find some European hotels provide very flimsy pillows and I need a little boost.
  • I always take earplugs and an eye mask. Some guests forget their manners and shout along corridors late at night, slam doors, have the volume on the TV on very loud and generally cause noise so plan ahead and block them out. The less said about honeymoon couples and banging headboards the better. Earplugs!
  • Make sure the room is non-smoking. Even as a smoker you will find the stale smell of cigarettes has permeated every bit of upholstery and soft furnishing, and will be obvious with every breath.
  • Don’t leave valuables in your case. If your case is standard medium size and black you will not be alone! Avoid someone accidentally taking your case by identifying it with stickers or tie a scarf around the handle. Lock your case as this will deter the bad apples in airport service from dipping their fingers in. Don’t bother with a lock for the USA though as they open EVERY case to check it and will cut off the lock with bolt cutters.
  • Take a bag slightly bigger than you need in case of purchases, and used clothes tend to take more space than fresh ones.
  • Keep important documents, pills or electricals like cell phones and laptops with you as hand luggage. I recently had checked in luggage go missing for a week on a return to UK and got it back a week later but luckily had everything I needed.

At the airport

  • Be prepared to pay a large amount for food, toiletries and essentials. Try to get these locally at home before a trip. Likewise, currency will be expensive to buy at the airport, so plan ahead.
  • Airports are often rather warm so don’t overdress or you will be carrying hand luggage, a coat and a jumper until you board. Perhaps take a thin but warm jumper, and if the aircon on the plane is cool you can slip it over you then.
  • Nip to the loo before boarding, occasionally one can be stuck on the runway pre-take off. Likewise take a drink on board with you and a little snack. Recently I sat on the runway for a morning flight for 2 hours due to delays during which time there was no coffee, snacks, or loo breaks. I was miserable.


  • Pay attention at passport control and immigration, particularly when arriving in the USA. These agents can be quite aggressive in their questioning and if you have just woken from a long flight slow answers make them suspicious.
  • If when you get to the hotel you are not happy with the room go straight to reception and politely explain. I always check the air conditioning is working properly and not too noisily, the bed is clean and the bathroom as clean as you would hope. I have been given upgrades to rooms when I’ve explained what is wrong. I find if you take a picture that speaks for itself of a room misdemeanour then there can be no quibbling at reception over your views being subjective. 
  • If at breakfast the food is running low ask for it to be refilled. If breakfast is advertised as 6-10am, you still have a right to some eggs at 9.45am.

There are some wonderful places across the globe. Some European favourites we have been lucky enough to visit on our tile and wood travels : Seville, Verona, Berlin, Copenhagen and Menton and Antibes (south of France), and further afield: Jerusalem, Shanghai and Seattle.

Happy Travels!