My Life In Travel: TV presenter Holly Willoughby

'Once I've checked out the hotel room, I usually check out the cocktail menu'
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The Independent Travel

First holiday memory?

Going to Walt Disney World in Florida when I was about five. I was totally bowled over, and couldn't believe I was there, because it seemed so magical. I've still got my autograph book with Mickey Mouse's signature in it.

Best holiday?

My honeymoon in the Maldives and Sri Lanka, from which I've just returned. We stayed in a bungalow on Cocoa Island in the Maldives, which has an amazing Como Shambhala spa. I've never seen a sea socrystal clear. In Sri Lanka, we stayed at a hotel called The Fortress in Galle, which was lovely but the beaches didn't compare.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I was brought up in Brighton so I love going home to see my family, who still live there. Even if I hadn't grown up there I think I'd still love it because it's got such great shops in The Lanes and bars along the beach. And there's beautiful rolling countryside just outside.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That you should look carefully into where you're going to stay before you go. And listen to advice from people you know and respect, and who have the same standards as you.

Ideal travelling companion?

My husband, because I miss him when he's not with me, and he loves travelling. It's tricky getting two weeks off at the same time, but his mum's Italian and has a family home in Tuscany, so if we can get a couple of nights away together, we often go there.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

When I was younger I used to love culture, but now it's all about relaxing on a beach.

Greatest travel luxury?

A friend gave me a fantastic Christmas present last year – a cashmere travel set with eye mask, socks and a blanket. The cashmere bag it comes in fits perfectly over an aeroplane pillow, too. I feel very posh when I use it.

Holiday reading?

I read The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger recently, which I loved. I also recently discovered audiobooks, so for my honeymoon I downloaded Harry Potter books on to my iPod. It was great because I didn't have to sit up on a sunlounger to try to read.

Where has seduced you?

I went backpacking to Perhentian and Langkawi islands in Malaysia and I loved it there, particularly the colours of the sand and sea. It's beautiful – misty and romantic, I really like the food, and I learnt to dive there, too.

Better to travel or to arrive?

If you're travelling for nine hours in a coach, of course it's better to arrive, but if you're flying in business class or on a cruise somewhere, then it's the travelling that's great.

Worst travel experience?

I went travelling with friends and we stopped off in Hawaii for a week before going to LA, which was supposed to be a week of doing nothing except lounging on the beach. We ended up at Waikiki Beach, which was like Blackpool and not at all how I had imagined it. We were staying in a hostel so we took our valuables to the beach – rather naively. We all went for a swim in the sea and came back to our towels and everything had gone. There is no British consulate there, so we had to go to the Australian consulate to get replacement passports. The worst thing was losing all the photos from our travels.

Worst hotel?

When I was younger, I stayed with my parents in a hotel that had only just opened in Malta. It was the middle of August, the weather was absolutely boiling, and the air conditioning had broken. There was a tiny rooftop pool that the owners had to close because there was so much algae in it. We had all swum in it on the first day, and by day five we all had ear infections!

Best hotel?

Cocoa Island in the Maldives. I'll never forget the delicious smell of it – they give you ice-cold flannels dotted with Como Shambhala oil, which you smell everywhere in the resort.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

My favourite swim would be in Malaysia, when I learnt to dive and saw a turtle for the first time. It swam above me and I tried to swim up to touch it, but my instructor pulled me down because I was going up too fast.

Best meal abroad?

In Barga, a medieval walled town in Tuscany, there are lots of little restaurants that all do incredible food and red wine in little tumblers. It's heaven.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Check out the room – a good hotel room is very important to me. Then I usually check out the cocktail menu!

Favourite city?

New York – it's cool, the shopping and the food are great, especially the burgers, hotdogs and steaks, and I have friends there.

Where next?

I love Dubai, so I think Fearne [Cotton] and I are going to go together. A friend lives there and she knows a guy who makes copies of clothes. We thought we'd take our favourite clothes and get him to copy them.

Holly Willoughby is a TV presenter and ambassador for Oli Fashion (www.oli.co.uk)

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