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Seasoned Traveler: Ben Pundole

Hotelier Ben Pundole worked with Ian Schrager for 11 years and helped found King & Grove, a collection of properties that includes Montauk hot spot Ruschmeyer’s. Earlier this year, he founded A Hotel Life, a travel website dedicated to his passion for hotels. We tracked down the hotel guru (who’s currently working on the opening of the London EDITION) to find out what he looks for in a hotel, his favorite amenity, and his travel theme song.

Travel ritual. I have to touch the plane when boarding. I’ve done it for 14 years. Other than that, it's half a sleeping pill, an eye mask, headphones, and a window seat.

To check or not to check. Checked. Always.

On choosing a hotel. I choose a hotel by how I think it's going to make me feel. It has to be truly hospitable and have a focus on food and design, but not in that 'design-y' way. Authenticity is essential and I always look for a sense of place. Anything generic gives me the fear!

On choosing a room. Ask for a room on the highest floor possible—and never near an elevator.

Best hotel amenity. Mini bars. You can tell a hotel by its mini bar. And magazines. It's the only time I get to read them, so they'd better be good!

On settling in. Unpack properly. Put your things away—really—like you're moving in. A candle always helps. I was once stuck in a hotel in London for 6 weeks waiting for my visa. It was a very sparse room and by the end, I'd completely redecorated.

Favorite souvenir. An embroidered hand towel, 'borrowed' from the Imperial in Delhi.

Travel hero. Hunter S. Thompson.

Travel theme song. One World by Talvin Singh. It's 20 minutes long, always calms me down, and sends me into some lovely dreams on a flight.

Ben’s Birchbox picks: I love anything from Izola, particularly this zip pouch.

Want more unexpected tips for packing, flying, and arriving in style? Check out the rest of our Seasoned Traveler series.

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