By Leslie Patrick

When checking into a hotel, there’s nothing I love more than to rush into the bathroom and inspect the toiletries. Some people judge a hotel by its pool, others by the Michelin stars of its restaurants. But me? I scrutinize the soap. I’m not talking about the chalky, unbranded square of questionable material placed on the sinks of low budget motels, but the gloriously scented, beautifully packaged and infinitely stealable variety found only at high-class establishments.

A recent writing assignment sent me packing for eight nights in swanky, five-star resorts along the California coast. Sure the $300 per night rooms were fab, but what really got me going were the heavenly collections of soaps, shower gels, shampoos, conditioners and lotions stocked in the marble clad bathrooms. At one hotel in Santa Barbara, the toiletries were lavender scented and crafted by none other than Bvlgari! Another stocked its own label of tangerine scented products that sent me swooning, and still another mini bottles of my favorite brand, Kiehl’s—that discovery left me squealing in pure delight. I also found your run of the mill L’Occitaine and Aveda products knocking about.

Over the week I covertly collected the myriad products from my room for use on my future travels, those times when I stay at a place with a dangerously low thread count or (gasp!) the conditions are so dismal there are no toiletries to be found at all. Meanwhile, in between traveling I place the soaps strategically in my dresser drawers to lightly scent my clothes, and the tiny lotions are a perfect match for my purse. Although I still have a plastic bag overflowing with bathroom beauty treats, my obsession for pint-sized products remains as strong as ever. I’m heading out again next month, and I can’t wait to see what treasures the next hotel bathroom holds. Maids, lock up your carts … the soap snatcher will be at it again.

Photos by Leslie Patrick