Most high end hotels like Soneva Secret are built around curating ultra-bespoke experiences
Places 10 Jun 2024 4 MIN

How to have a perfect holiday without planning it yourself

Check in to Soneva Secret for a stress-free, super-personalised, ultra-luxe beach holiday

Planning a vacation has gotten so stressful, it almost defeats the purpose of the getaway altogether. The simplest Google search serves up a Pandora’s box of options, right from where to go (Vietnam? Thailand? Both? Neither?) to what to do once you’re there. Should you spend an entire day on a waterfall trek, just for the flex and the ’gram, or should you spend it in a quaint village sampling the softest hand-pulled noodles you’ve ever eaten? There’s never a right answer (I lied, hand-pulled noodles, always). And what about that one gluten-free member of your group who also hates all physical activity—is there a café in the area where you can politely pawn them off for a few hours? At this point, the only true vacation would be one that has been planned for you. The good news is that the travel industry knows this and is on it.  
It starts at the most fundamental level: the hotel concierge. In 2023, Oberoi Hotels and Resorts started offering an Exotic Vacations programme that customised itineraries for its guests. You no longer had to worry about whether you were hitting up the best restaurants and shopping, seeing the best of a destination’s heritage monuments, or getting a true feel of its arts and culture scene—it was all mapped out for you.   
Even influencers, arguably the group that caused this whole mess in the first place, are jumping on the bandwagon, offering up their services as ‘personalised travel consultants’. What a world. Of course, now in 2024, AI is poised to make the biggest disruption in this sector. Startups like the ChatGPT-powered platform Mindtrip are gearing up to streamline every stage of your journey: looking up where to go, booking tickets and planning out travel times, and even stay up to date with real-time info (Is it raining? Did a local sporting team just win a match?) so you can change plans on the fly.

All of this, of course, pales in comparison to the doors that open up when you have the cash. Ultra-luxe Maldives hospitality group Soneva has taken personalisation to the next level at its new property, Soneva Secret, which has been 30 years in the making. Prioritising privacy, the resort, set on Makanudhoo Atoll, offers just 14 overwater and beach villas, which feature all the amenities and modern day luxuries that you would imagine: a private pool, outdoor bathroom, spa treatment room, and water slide that takes you straight into the lagoon. Each villa also comes with its own team of three staff members, a guardian, an assistant, and a chef. If you really want to live out your marooned-at-sea fantasy, choose the Castaway Villa, a two-level floating paradise that can only be accessed by boat.

But if you really, really want to throw caution to the wind, you can opt for the Secret Day service, where a team of curators will map out an entire day of activities exclusively for you. You could find yourself ziplining across the property straight towards a multicourse meal that’s been prepared keeping all your dietary preferences in mind (I’m looking at you, Mr-I-Only-Eat-Onions-That-Are-Caramelised). Or you might end up spending the day at the spa because the staff just figured that’s what you needed all along, before your backpain made it evident. Tailormade to the T, everything at Soneva Secret, from the fragrance in your room to the books you like reading, is arranged for you. A booking for two costs anywhere between US$3,200 and US$7,600—but if a truly stress-free holiday is your dream (and you can afford it), this could be your answer.