Sunday, May 31, 2009

An Island Getaway....To Quit Smoking ?

A British man is moving to a deserted island to quit smoking, reports The Sun. Geoff Spice, 56, will be dropped off at the island of Sgarabhaigh in the Outer Hebrides, which is off the coast of Scotland, and will have just a tent, water, and food with him. After trying to use nicotine patches, gum, and special books to quit smoking, Geoff's last-ditch effort has come down to a stay without his wife, children, and cigarettes. While we might not be looking for something so extreme, perhaps a stay on an island will help us improve our lifestyle and kick some bad habits, too.

If you'd like to travel domestically this summer for a health-centered vacation, head to Hawaii. You'll feel like you've been transported to a far-off land, but you'll be much closer than if you jetted off to Asia with the family. Book a stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, which happens to be close to several famous tourist attractions like Whalers Village and Maui Ocean Center. Spend the night scanning Maui's night skies with their 16-inch computerized telescope, and be sure to take a relaxing stroll on the resort's tropical grounds. You can also spend time meditating on the stunning Kaanapali Beach after classes like pilates, yoga, water aerobics, and Tai Chi. Doesn't that sound like an easy way to shed bad habits?

Should you want a once-in-a-lifetime break to commemorate a special event, you simply can't go wrong with French Polynesia (Tahiti). The Bora Bora Lagoon Resort is located on a tiny island in the middle of the lagoon, and has been described as dream-like by visitors. Amidst crystal-clear water and quaint Polynesian-style bungalows, you can let your troubles slip away. Not only does this location feature the largest outdoor pool in Bora Bora, but it also has a fitness center and spa, complimentary snorkeling, and kayaking. While you stay in your hut, you can request healthy and fresh Polynesian foods like Almond Chicken, rice dishes, pork, and fresh tropical fruits.

Regrouping and recharging in one of the most stunning locations on the globe sounds rather tempting, doesn't it? Geoff should have booked himself a stay in Bora Bora instead!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Visit Natural Wonders Before It's Too Late

The first comprehensive report on climate change warns that 300,000 people are killed each year by the "silent crisis," and the effects of global warming are supposed to get significantly worse by 2030. In London, CNN's Becky Anderson reported that people are migrating to previously uninhabitable areas, which presents a major security risk and should be addressed by the United Nations Security Council. While these issues are currently being worked out, perhaps we should start planning more vacations to pristine spots for a nature vacation?

Australia is considered most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and years of rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall have been attributed to Australia's severe droughts. It sounds like we need to travel to Australia for some sightseeing, and to understand the effects of climate change firsthand. Who knows? You might end up donating to countries in need of funds to adapt to climate changes: besides Australia, the Middle East, Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia are all in danger.

On your Australian travels, consider swinging by the Great Barrier Reef to experience an amazing natural wonder. Hayman is located between the northeastern coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, and it is situated by two white-sand beaches and a network of scenic gardens and walk areas. Just some of the relaxing activities at one of Australia's most stunning locations include parasailing, snorkeling, fishing, diving, tennis, and scuba diving, but don't forget that there are lots of resort activities at Hayman as well. Another spot that's now world-renown for ecotourism is the Voyages Longitude 131°, set on a sand dune near the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Since only 30 guests stay at Voyages Longitude 131 at one time, you'll feel like you're all alone in Australia's magnificent outback.

Dreaming of these untouched areas isn't enough. Head to your dream spots before your time runs out!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You Don't Have to Win the Lottery

A university student in Australia hit it big when she cashed in some long-forgotten lottery tickets this week to help her parents. It turned out that one of the tickets (just 2 months away from expiring) was worth $10 million, and now the anonymous student will be able to "fulfill my dreams and the dreams of the people around me." The student also said that "the people close to me will be looked after," so hopefully that means everyone will be heading out on a vacation to celebrate their great fortune. Here's one of the coolest lavish vacations out there for you to enjoy.

Venice, Italy can be utterly opulent if you choose the right spots to visit in the city. Book a stay at the Hotel Cipriani & Palazzo Vendramin, which is just a five minute walk from St. Mark's Square. Take a break from visiting the art galleries, historical treasures, and glass works to sit by the heated, Olympic-sized pool. When you stay at the Hotel Cipriani & Palazzo Vendramin, you're right next door to one of the most lavish of Palazzi, the Red House in Venice. This spot, which costs $47,000 per week, is just a stone's throw away from your hotel, but you'll be paying a fraction of the price near the same canal. If you're going on a multiple-city vacation in Italy, hit up Rome to check out gorgeous ruins and plenty of authentic eateries.

Not all of us can afford a luxury hotel at a fantastic location, so how about traveling domestic for a visit to Santa Barbara, California? It's been referred to as a luxury destination for budget shoppers, so it provides good value for money and plenty of diversions. You can stay at the Four Seasons Resort, The Biltmore, which provides a perks package when booking with, or the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa. When you spend time in Santa Barbara, leave time in your schedule for the high-quality restaurants and impressive entertainment scene, from film tours to dinner theatre. If you're the adventurous type, you can go horseback riding or hiking instead.

Where are you headed this summer? Lotto winner or not, you can find a place that suits your budget.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Russia, No Objections....

Russia hit the news recently after speaking out: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the world must be firm but cautious when dealing with North Korea and in so many other words, essentially said Russia will not object to a new U.N. Security Council resolution on the situation surrounding North Korea.

While we are waiting to see how the situation develops, why not have a look at Russia's popular vacation spots now that they are surprsingly in step with the US position on North Korea. After all, no matter what side of an issue they're on, Russia is an excellent destination for Americans who seek what was previously very much off limits to most.

Visiting Moscow is a perfect way to get introduced to Russia. With its stunning Kremlin, fascinating architecture, simple but filling cuisine, and well-appointed hotel suites, Moscow sticks in the memory of even the most distracted of vacationers. The Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow is just a short walk from the Kremlin, the Parliament House, and the Red Square, so it's a good way to take in the sites without having navigate the city. If you're the late-night type, you can catch up on emails after dinner on the hotel's free wireless internet, and then hit up the Cafe Ararat, which is open until midnight. While you are there, try visiting the Bolshoi Theater and Izmailovo Park--and take a metro tour to catch downtown stations filled with chandeliers, murals, mosaics, and marble.

St. Petersburg can be your next stop in Russia, because it's perfect for seeing Italianate mansions, plenty of historical artifacts, and interesting canals. The Hotel Astoria - A Rocco Forte Hotel makes for a fantastic stay to complement the heady cultural blend of the city. Built in 1912, the Hotel Astoria is located near the Hermitage museum and Mariinsky Theatre, and overlooks St Isaac's cathedral. If you book a room through What a Hotel!, you'll score Exclusive Complimentary Perks and have stunning views from the hotel over Isaac's Square, the Mariinsky Palace, or the the Monument of Nicholas I, depending on where your room is situated.
Whether you decide to head to Serbia or Kaliningrad next, we also have no objections to visting Russia, so go explore!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Had Enough of Gambling in Las Vegas ?

Patricia Demauro recently headed to the craps table in Atlantic City, but she wasn't expecting the extended roll that she ended up on: the novice player bought into the game for $100 and ended up playing for four hours and 18 minutes! Demauro's winnings were not announced by the casino, but it was reported that she beat the previous record holder by one hour and 12 minutes. 154 dice rolls after the game started, Demauro was greeted by a champagne toast. If that sounds like something you'd like to witness for yourself, there are casino stops all over the globe that you'll find equally as fun, if not as lucrative.

Let's say that you've already done the Atlantic City and Las Vegas thing, and you've got your sights set on something a little more international. Have you ever thought about going to Australia for a few games of roulette or poker? There are tons of well-known gambling pros who hail from Down Under, and you can take your pick from 400 casinos and racetracks in Australia, including the Crown Casino and Star City Casino in Sydney. When you look into all your options for possibly winning big, consider the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, the Park Hyatt Sydney, or The Observatory Hotel in Sydney--all three offer Exclusive Perks for those booking through For individuals who need a dose of nature before and after the casino, consider the Park Hyatt Sydney for its stunning 360-degree views of Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House.

If you're craving a European vibe instead, there's always France. France has always been highly regarded as a great spot for gambling thanks to its high concentration of casinos, its generally glam reputation, and the fact that it has tons of spots for sightseeing like Arc de Triomphe, Cathedrale Notre Dame, Musee du Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower to complement your time at the table. For a real treat while you're planning your conquests at the Aviation Club de France, book a stay at the Esprit Saint Germain, which recently opened its doors after an extensive renovation. Two 18th-century buildings, which look similar to grand private residences, have flat-screen TVs and well-appointed suites complete with en-suite bathrooms and a sauna on the upper floor, and you'll be situated right on the fashionable Saint Germain des Pres.

Got that gambling craving? Now you've got options besides Vegas!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Credit Cards Now Offer Greater Protections

President Obama signed a bill recently designed to protect consumers from surprise fees and APR hikes after over-the-limit problems arise. The rules, which will go into effect in nine months, prohibit companies from giving credit cards to people under the age of 21 unless they have a parent or guardian co-sign or if they can prove to have the means to pay debt. In addition, customers will need to be over 60 days behind on a payment before they have their rates increased as a result. With these protections in place, you can use your credit card responsibly while on vacation, and know that Obama's reforms will protect you.

One of the best places in the world to bust out those credit cards is Dubai, a shopping capital in the United Arab Emirates where bigger is always better. Tax-free prices are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to browsing in the UAE: it's one of the best places in the world to buy quality jewelry and Persian rugs, and up-market goods are available in such impressive numbers that Dubai is rumored to rival only New York in the number and variety of expensive items offered. While planning your shopping getaway, try booking a hotel like Jumeirah Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa, which offers Exclusive Complimentary Perks when booked through and is set in the golden sands of ancient Arabia 45 minutes out of Dubai. This oasis-style resort combines rich Arabian culture with a great spa, which means that a hard day of shopping can be worked out of those muscles in no time.

Another noted shopping destination is South Africa's Cape Town, which combines sun and surf with cool boutiques for an unforgettable trip. You can zip by the flea markets like Greenmarket Square and check out the goodies, but you can also head to malls like the Victoria Wharf and V&A Waterfront if you please. Check out the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa in a stunning location, which is only 10 minutes outside the city. If you need a break from retail therapy, you can visit nature trails and diving spots for some time exploring.

Now what will you be buying after you check into your luxury hotel?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Beyond Cannes for Film Buffs

UK-born Mark Price spent 18 months developing a zombie flick entitled Colin, and word has it that film heavyweights are eyeing it as the next big thing. According to Helen Grace of Left Films, who helped Price market Colin at Cannes, even Hollywood studios have been sniffing around the film--which had a surprising $70 budget. Horror mag SCARS has predicted that the movie would "revolutionize zombie cinema." Sound exciting? For any film aficionado, going to Cannes is a dream come true--but what about other film festivals around the globe?

For something slightly off the beaten path, consider checking out the Berlin Film Festival, which screens a limited selection of documentaries every year. Each film shown in Berlin gets special attention thanks to the limited number of participants, and that means plenty of in-depth interviews, panels, and a better chance at grabbing some autographs. While you're taking in the culture, how about staying at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, which is located a short walk from major shopping routes as well as the business district? Since it has a spa, saunas, gym, beauty parlor, and a pool, you might find yourself struggling to get motivated for screenings!

Another well-received film festival is The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival, which screens international films along with a load of British talent. Held in London right after summer, it reportedly features unusually high-quality work that can hold its own in larger festivals if need be. On a day off from screening films, take the train to Oxford for a fun movie-related mini-break. Wandering around the university location gives traveling goosebumps when one realizes that the college grounds ooze a Harry Potter feel: that's because the historic Bodleian Library was used in the film's interior scenes, and the Christ Church and its Great Hall were used for the Hogwarts School. Consider staying at Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons in Oxford, which happens to have impressive gardens and many rooms with private terraces. Be sure to dine there during your short stay, because the menu has been called a "twist of imaginative genius" and features fresh veggies grown right on the grounds.

How about it? Are you going to catch a film or two at a festival this year?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Space Station Team Inspires Foodies

The International Space Station team tasted recycled liquids on board this week, even clinking cups of recycled sweat, urine, and atmospheric moisture refined on a closed-loop system on NASA TV. Flight Engineer Mike Barrett confirmed that the product "tastes great," while another astronaut was seen catching balls of recycled water floating around the ISS. If you're intrigued by unusual food and drink, how about planning a few trips with a culinary focus?

For the daring types who have always wanted to travel in South America, consider going to Brazil to try local cuisine. Luxury hotels abound in Rio de Janeiro, and you still get a chance to snack right on the beach if you please, as well as sample local beers in open bars, cafes, and kiosks. After you check in at the Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro or Copacabana Palace Hotel booked through, head down to the beach to try grilled "queijo de minas," or cheese made in Minas Gerais, which you can buy straight off the heat and nibble off the stick. If you're feeling even more daring or are already burned from the beach, head to a local bar, or boteco, to try testiculos de boi, or bull testicles. This tasty treat is simply slit down the middle and salt-and-peppered before being fried. Wash them down with a Skol beer--they are kept at freezing temperatures!

Another popular foodie destination is Asia, and visiting Shanghai may surprise you with its depth of local and international cuisine. When you emerge from your luxury hotel, go out in search for Xiao Long Bao, which remains one of the top foods to try in Shanghai. Xiao Long Bao is a steamed dumpling dish filled with minced pork and jellied chicken or pork stock. The textures and juices will keep you flagging down your waitress to order more before you finish your first bowl. You also might want to take a day to wander to the Muslim market in the central area of Jing'an, where you'll find spicy cold noodles, lamb broth, lamb skewers, and extra-large dumplings. When you get thirsty, you won't find a Coke, but you can try a thinned yogurt drink sweetened with honey and served over ice.

Have you discovered a tasty treat while vacationing? What was it?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Deals that Feel like Steals

A New Zealand couple is currently under investigation after a bank mistakenly donated 10 million New Zealand dollars into their account (USD 6.1 million). The couple, who ran a gas station in Rotorua, applied for a bank overdraft and had 1,000 times their request deposited into checking. After allegedly withdrawing some of the money, the couple seems to have disappeared.

In this crazy world, we all worry about money--but some deals are just so good right now they make us feel as though we're getting away with something. This is the case with luxury hotels around the globe.

By accessing Specials at Whata Hotel!, you can browse through deals to suit a wide variety of specialized tastes. If you'd like to explore the west coast, you can try out spots in California. At the recently-renovated La Costa Resort and Spa, kids stay, play, and eat free until June 15th, and that's not all--booking through also gets you some Exclusive Complimentary Perks. Now those are some guilt-inducing savings! If you don't have kids, consider getting the third night free at a number of California hotels, including the Beverly Wilshire, The Peninsula Beverly Hills, and the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco. Other states with specials include Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, and Texas.

International travelers can get lots of discounts, too--savings aren't just for those traveling domestic. You'll feel a little funny when your travel agent starts tallying up the savings, but you've earned it with your smart planning. With London's high prices, it's important to try to save where you can, and three high-quality hotels are offering specials. London's green parks, carefully-tended city streets, and easy-to-use transport system make it one of the most impressive summer spots for city strolling. It also has some of the best museums in the world, according to a list compiled by Virgin Airlines, including the Tate Modern and the British Museum of Art.

If you want something more exotic, Singapore currently has three featured hotels with "one night free" options, including a "third night free" deal at the Raffles Hotel Singapore and a "fourth night free" deal at the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore plus Exclusive Complimentary Perks.

Where will you be going this summer?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bust Stress with a Mini-Break

Are you confused about where to go on vacation this summer, or even if you should leave for a break with the economy in its rocky state? Blogger Cindy Goodman for The Miami Herald admitted that "I don't think anyone is going to be fired for taking two weeks off, but they might think that they'll think of another way of doing my job without me." If you share similar fears with Goodman, read on for reasons why you should be going on vacation after all.

According to experts, one of the most compelling reasons to take a small vacation is to reduce your stress levels from escalating and affecting your job performance. According to, 34% of Americans do not take advantage of the full amount of time allotted. In contrast, 22% of French and 24% of Germans don't take all of their vacation time--but legally-mandated vacation days are already around 30 days in France! If you overwork yourself, experts say, you'll be setting yourself up for health problems including heart disease, and you'll probably find yourself performing less effectively when you're feeling sluggish in the cubicle.

One way to beat economy-related concerns is to take extended weekend breaks, says Goodman. She's planning on taking a four-day vacation for the 4th of July, so she can sneak in that relaxation time without added anxiety. Spend a long weekend in Las Vegas, for example, where you can stay at Planet Hollywood and Casino and still soak up Exclusive Perks from booking with Visiting specialty stores and plenty of discounted attractions is a good way to spend a four-day weekend, and hotels always feature extra deals upon arrival in Vegas.

If the east coast is more your thing, Philadelphia is a great stop for a short break. The nation's first capital and home to many national historical sites, Philly is perfect to visit in the summer, particularly around the 4th of July. The Four Seasons Philadelphia is located in the heart of Philadelphia's cultural center and is popular with both leisure and business travelers, and you can grab those Exclusive Perks by booking through What a Hotel!

Give yourself a break this summer with a mini-trip: it's a great balance between work concerns and your personal needs, and you can lock in the deals, too.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

For your Must-Visit List - The Resort at Pelican Hill

California's Newport Coast is hiding a great getaway for all of us looking for a deal: The Resort at Pelican Hill. If you plan a stay now through June 30, 2009, you'll be able to get even more savings than usual by booking through Instead of staying three night at this lush location, you can get your fourth night free at one of their bungalows and extend your break.

Although Newport Coast is tucked away near Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, you'll feel like you're on the coast of Italy when you spend time at this luxury resort. Situated on 504 acres of land stretching across the Pacific coastline, the resort is inspired by classic Palladian architecture in Italy. You can take in the scene from your bungalow or a villa outfitted with ultra-luxury appliances and fine appointments, and then enjoy the resort's special amenities. Among them are two world-class golf courses, a spa with 22 treatment rooms, and a "Coliseum" pool that is considered one-of-a-kind.

When you've got four days to explore Newport Beach, you might wonder what you'll do to occupy your time (especially when you are getting one day free through WhataHotel!). The city of Newport Beach often has boat shows and whale watching excursions, but you don't need to stick by the ocean for the whole trip. The Wine Lab Newport features 400 selections of international and domestic wines, and even those on a restricted budget can pick up a bottle to take home: 180 wines are available for $25 and under. Have a browse through small producers' selections along with the bug guys' and get something tasty!

With the money you will save by getting your fourth night free at The Resort at Pelican Hill, you can also stop by one of Newport Beach's many oceanside restaurants. You'll come home tan and well within your budget after this summer vacation!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Whole Body Imaging Causes Drama

Privacy advocates plan on calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to stop the use of "whole-body imaging," referred to as a "virtual strip search" by critics. These machines, which cost $170,000 apiece and are currently installed in 19 airports, are used to detect metallic and nonmetallic items of concern to protect passengers. Before you begin to worry, they won't be used on everyone, and are an elective option used instead of a pat-down or strip search. While this technology is still in the pilot stages, there are other features available right on your plane that are much more welcome.

Secret airline perks are a great way to complement travel to your luxury hotel. Whether you are headed to Paris or to New Zealand, you can look into the possibility of extra perks. Air New Zealand, for example, has an in-flight concierge service available to all passengers that includes help with airline processes and procedures, as well as top stops at your destination. While your luxury hotel will feature amazing restaurants and shopping savings, you can get a jump on travel planning while still in the air.

If you hop aboard Air France on your way to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome or the Hotel Le Bristol, no matter what class you choose, you'll receive free champagne on your flight. Sip on a little bubbly from your seat in economy, business, or first class, and enjoy this bit of pampering before you get to your hotel. If you fly Delta, you can also enjoy a quality Todd English-developed menu that boasts updated classics.
You also get to pair all this food, drink, and concierge goodness with work-friendly perks that make your trip less stressful, even if you run into a delay or two. If you take a trip on Singapore Airlines with an Elite Gold status, your important business suit or awards ceremony dress will be treated as a "priority," meaning that it is carefully handled and loaded onto the plane. Keep in mind that you can still have an economy ticket while holding Elite Gold status! When you combine that with WiFi available on selected Jet Blue and American Airline flights in the U.S., it sounds like you'll arrive perfectly caught up with work and ready to look fabulous.

Plus, at least you know that with whole-body imaging, you will feel safe as you enjoy your perks. We'll be keeping an eye out on the official decision regarding the scanning systems, but until then--sip that champagne and kick back!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Visit a Culturally Rich Destination Like President Obama

President Barack Obama will be heading to Cairo next month, and it has been claimed that Egyptian officials hope he'll choose the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar mosque to address the Muslim community. The American Embassy in Cairo claims that no decision has been made on a venue for June 4th. While we're waiting to see exactly where President Obama will end up, why not plan our own stops at luxury hotels in culturally rich locations?

Most travelers, no matter where they are jetting off to, want to catch breathtaking sites and great museums. Thanks to a recent list compiled by Virgin Airlines' Virgin Vacations, we know which spots are guaranteed to delight. The number one place named by Virgin Vacations? Paris, France. The Musee du Louvre got the honor by being a former palace and housing the Mona Lisa. If Paris sounds like a great spot to visit, try the Hotel de Crillon for an unforgettable experience--it comes with Exclusive Complimentary Perks when booked through What a Hotel!

Have you already been to Paris and are looking for something more exotic? The State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia happens to hold the Guinness Book of World Record's acknowledgement for the World's Largest Painting Collection, which is housed in six buildings and totals over three million works of art. To check out this massive collection of Western and Russian art (among other treats), try staying at the Grand Hotel Europe, St. Petersburg, which offers a lengthy list of perks when you book with The Grand Hotel Europe, St. Petersburg received a Five Star Diamond Award and is located in the heart of the city--perfect for sightseeing when you're not at the museum.

If you're not planning on heading abroad this summer, don't forget about New York City! With the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim Museum, you're bound to find something cool and enriching.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Exotic Animal Sightings Are Within Your Reach

Nile Monitor Lizards have been hitting the news as they slow air traffic at South Florida's Homestead Air Reserve Base. The six-foot-long lizards have been basking on the runway, according to reports, and are currently causing a health and safety hazard as they increase in numbers. More traps are being laid to humanely catch and relocate the lizards, but if you hear your airplane is waiting for clearance before landing, who knows? It could be one of these mucking up the works!

If the prospect of exotic animals gets you raring for a vacation, you've got a lot of choices. Going to South Africa will allow you to experience safaris, adventure trips, and amazing sightseeing excursions, and staying at the Phinda Private Game Reserve between the Ubombo Mountains and the Indian Ocean will let you try all three--and more. It happens to be located in an area boasting seven ecosystems, and not only is the area a breeding ground for loggerhead turtles, but lions, leopards, hippos, crocodiles, pelicans, flamingos, buffaloes, and pelicans are regularly seen roaming the land. By taking an open Land Rover through the surrounding landscape, you'll catch a glimpse of some of the most exotic animals, and if you enjoy that, you can even go white rhino tracking afterwards!

Those taking trips near the world-famous Garden Route might also want to make a stop at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa, where 49,000 acres of land were restored and restocked with African wildlife. The reserve is filled with safari-worthy animals roaming free in their natural habitat, including buffaloes, black and white rhinos, lions, and elephants. The location even offers Exclusive Complimentary Perks when booking through

From overgrown lizards in South Florida to big game viewing in South Africa, we've got a lot to see this summer.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What You Might Find in a Mini-Bar

Looking for a cool break? You might be surprised at what you find in your mini-bar if you're staying in a luxury hotel.

Compulsive shoppers? Beware--you're likely to encounter tasty snacks, cool accessories, and even a faux voodoo kit or two when you go to certain properties.

Omni hotels, for example, allows each of their properties to customize their mini-bars to specific geographic locations. The Omni Sensation Bars, as they are called, offer regional treats like Orange Blossom Pilsner at the Jacksonville location and Lammes Texas Pecan Praline Chewies at the Houston Hotel Westside, and you can also expect a miniature Zen garden in your mini-bar as well as mojito-flavored jellybeans and a sound machine for restless sleepers. If you head onto Omni's New Orleans site, you'll find that you can build your own Love Voodoo Kit for just $10.

The Hotel Gansevoort also has a revamped mini-bar, but it's healthier than Omni options. You can pick up vitamin sprays by Sprayology like Sleep Ease and Travel Ease, and Airborne tablets boost your immune system. Instead of the boring old Snickers and chips, you can find Pirate's Booty in place of potato chips and Cocoa Via dark chocolate complete with antioxidants.

If you'd like more healthy living treats, check out the Four Seasons Westlake Village, which happens to be positioned next door to the California Wellbeing Institute. Not only can you meet with life advisers and wellness experts, but you can raid the mini-bar in your room, called a "private bar," which offers Turkish apricots, wasabi peas, organic Bumble Bars, and dark chocolate stuffed full of antioxidants.

No matter what, you'll be surprised at what you find in your mini-bar at your luxury hotel.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Top 5 Travel Fears

Travel can be stressful, and many of us have issues with flight quality, concerns about germs, or problems with lost luggage. Take a look at common travel fears and how to address them in this list--and then take to the skies confidently.

1. Fear of Flying
Nearly everyone thinks about a plane crash when they get ready to fly, but that's not where your worries should lie. Did you know that the chances of getting hurt in a plane crash are one in 11 million? Author of "The Happiness Prescription" Elizabeth Lombardo says that "You are much safer in a plane than you are a car, or even walking."

2. Fear of Being Away
This second-biggest travel phobia can create a lot of stress for the average traveler, and it is a legitimate concern. While it can be stressful to be away from your home and job, taking small breaks out of town can help until you build up to a bigger vacation. Why not take a short drive to a nearby vacation spot over a long weekend like Memorial Day?

3. Fear of Illness
The best way to avoid getting sick while traveling over the border is to get your shots ahead of time. Swine flu fears may be overrated, but infectious disease shouldn't be ignored. Pack some antibacterial hand wipes and go! If you have all your shots and follow standard safety precautions, you are good to go.

4. Fear of Losing Your Luggage
Traveling with the right airlines can help deal with that fear: some airlines like AirTran use scanning technology to reduce their lost luggage issues. According to current averages, there is a 1 in 285 chance that your luggage will be lost, but with carriers that use scanning technology, the chance is 1 in 500.

5. Fear of a Bad Flight
Difficulty with delays, poor quality food, overcrowded flights, and long lines can be an issue--but arriving at that luxury hotel will certainly improve your mood. Try packing a small container of snacks in your carry-on and bring your iPod, planner, and a good book to try to avoid irritation while vacationing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Memorial Day Travel Should Increase by 1.5%

Are you one of many planning to gas up the car this Memorial Day and go exploring? If AAA is correct, you might see more on the road than last year. The number of people traveling 50 miles or more from home should rise to 32.4 million, according to the AAA, as opposed to the 31.9 million motoring a year ago. Last summer, high gas prices and a shaky economy contributed to fewer trips than planned, but bargains and higher stress levels mean that Memorial Day mini-vacations are almost a necessity for some families.

If you are taking a trip out of town by car, there's no need to rough it in a seedy motel or a shabby chain--or a campground, for that matter. Luxury hotels are priced lower than ever, and some of the best deals are pretty easy to unearth with the help of a luxury hotel website offering perks like What a Hotel! or a travel agent.

Have a look through a dedicated North American listing that details luxury hotels by city and state for your convenience. If you are headed to Boston by car, for example, you can choose between nine locations in the city, including some with Exclusive Perks by booking through The Boston Harbor Hotel offers a free room upgrade, complimentary full American breakfast, a $50 credit towards the spa, F & B, or parking, a seasonal treat, and a 4 p.m. late check-out (subject to availability). Doesn't that sound like a great choice for a family Memorial Day weekend? You can also browse the rest of the Best of Boston Hotels on to compare other luxury hotels.

Besides Boston, other great Memorial Day stops include Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Phoenix, all of which have hotels that feature Exclusive Complementary Perks obtained through booking with Save some money this upcoming holiday weekend and have a great time this May!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Oprah Can Gas Up the Jet & Go Anywhere She Likes

In a recent speech addressing Duke University this month, Oprah told the audience that she loves her private jet and that "anyone that tells you that having your own private jet isn't great is lying to you."

While most of us can't hop on our own jet to go anywhere we like, we can get an upgrade to business class and ride in style. Travel Agencies like Lorraine Travel (which operates have certificates on certain carriers including American Airlines that apply towards a free, guaranteed upgrade to Business Class on many international routings, provided space is available & one has purchased a "full coach" (highest unrestricted Economy Class fare) ticket.

With these kinds of savings, you'll have enough to stay at a luxury hotel of your choice. Try following Oprah's suggestions by staying at Miraval Tucson, which has an Exclusive Complimentary Perks package through What a Hotel! that includes a Relaxation Gift Basket valued at $125. Besides being an Oprah favorite, the Miraval Tucson has been voted one of the top spa resorts in the world by several leading publications, including Travel & Leisure and SpaFinder. All-inclusive rates at the Miraval Tucson include casita-style accommodations, three gourmet meals per guest/per day, a daily spa treatment OR a daily round of golf, free non-alcoholic drinks, and complimentary roundtrip airport transfers.

Looking for additional locations? Oprah's also been spotted at Hotel Bel-Air, where she threw a party for her 40th birthday. If you happen to be traveling to Chicago where Oprah's show is taped, check out this lineup of the best hotels in Chicago.

This kind of travel sounds like it would definitely get Oprah's seal of approval! Enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stretch Your Travel Bucks This Summer

Smaller budgets won't stop you from accomplishing your travel plans this summer, and even if your vacation savings have decreased recently, there are plenty of ways to stretch them in order to kick back and relax this season. The best news? You won't even need to stay in the States to scrimp--you can also head on an international trip within your budget.

The first tip? Consider checking in with a local travel agent to plan your trip. Travel agencies like Lorraine Travel have access to amazing perks and discounts that you simply won't be able to find on your own. By booking through its site - What a Hotel!, for example, you get an amazing package of perks by booking with preferred properties. If you combine your stay at a luxury hotel with frequent flyer credits during the off-season, you can save even more on a trip across the pond.

It's important to stay flexible when you plan your stay at a luxury hotel either in the States or abroad. You'll probably notice that changing your booking from a busy weekend to a softer weekday will result in savings at some resort hotels. By speaking with a travel agent, you'll find out exactly where you can save the most with flexible booking abilities.

By packing a lunch on your way to and from airports and by taking advantages of any memberships that you may have (such as AAA and AARP), you will save even more-- perfect for a spa trip at your luxury hotel.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ride on Obama's Coattails to Egypt

Looking for somewhere good to go this summer that serves up a dose of exotic sightseeing? Egypt is definitely the place, and it is getting some special attention right now: President Obama will travel to Egypt to give a speech to the Islamic community on June 4th. According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, "The president will give a speech in Egypt. The speech will be about America's relations with the Muslim world."

With Egypt receiving President Obama shortly, there will certainly be magnificent pictures popping up of his travels--and of his sightseeing trips. If you would like to try a trip like the President, consider staying in Cairo, a cultural hub full of historic artifacts in some of the world's greatest museums, and a fascinating stop far different from any other city on the globe.

If you are looking for a place to stay, the Four Seasons has more than one location in Cairo, Egypt. The Four Seasons Cairo at The First Residence is located on the banks of the Nile and even affords views of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Not only do you get to enjoy a spa and wellness center and a Nile-facing Library Bar, but also the Exclusive Complementary Perks from booking with What a Hotel including a free room category upgrade and free breakfasts. You also have the option of staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, which also offers perks by booking at What a Hotel like a welcome amenity and a daily complimentary buffet breakfast. The Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza is located on the Corniche along the river banks and has views of the Nile and the Citadel.

Well, which one will it be? You might soon be enjoying Egypt just as much as President Obama!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

We're Giving Away Four "Luxury Included" Vacations

Can't travel due to financial ups-and-downs? Don't worry--Lorraine Travel & have teamed up with American Airlines & Beaches Resorts to give away four "luxury included" vacations at Beaches Resort in the Turks & Caicos at the 6th Annual Cuba Libre Block Party sponsored by The Globe Cafe & Bar. If you've not had time to book a vacation at a luxury hotel this season, but you really need the break, this is the event to attend.

Held Friday, May 15th, the 6th Annual Cuba Libre Block Party is a free, open-air event where everyone is expected to toss their cares aside for the night to enjoy the spirit of community--and dance! Issac Delgado, called "probably the most significant singer of his generation" by the L.A. Times, will headline the event.

Four winning couples will be drawn for the "luxury included" getaways at the event and will fly roundtrip free on American Airlines to stay at Beaches Resort in the Turks & Caicos for the "all- inclusive" vacation of their dreams. By clicking on the link above, you can learn all about Beaches Resort in the Turks & Caicos featuring Pirates Island, 16 restaurants, and plenty of family fun in three distinctive villages--French, Italian, and Caribbean--to suit all tastes, not to mention blue-green water and sandy beaches as far as the eye can see.

These 4 grand prizes, in addition to luxury accommodations and free air travel, include all meals, open bars, all water sports, nightly entertainment, gratuities and transfers.

See you on Friday, May 15th at the 6th Annual Cuba Libre Block Party. The venue is the entire 300 block of Alhambra Circle in Coral Gables, fronting the buildings of Lorraine Travel and The Globe Café

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hotel Key Cards Start Security Debate

Just this week, ran an article explaining the potential dangers of hotel key cards, which many of us have probably never even considered. According to their source Equifax, a customer's information could be held in the card, presenting a real security risk to vacationers. In fact, the report even mentioned that magnetic key cards could contain your credit card number and address, along with your name and room number. 

Just days after the first report was released, hotel security experts have come forward to claim that credit card and other personal details are not encoded into magnetic key cards. Most electronic key cards contain information on room number and check in/check out dates exclusively, and hotels also refrain from printing room numbers directly on cards for security reasons. 

Since it is theoretically possible to store personal information on a key card, however, know that hotels cannot charge for cards that remain unreturned, according to Neil Munroe, the External Affairs Director of Equifax. If you are concerned about the safety of your data, take your hotel key card home and cut it up before disposing of it. 

The good news is that when you stay at a luxury hotel, you often have fewer safety concerns because of its reputation and rating. If you'd like a worry-free stay with extras, try a location with Exclusive Complimentary Perks when booked through What a Hotel! like the Stowe Mountain Lodge or the Trump International Hotel and Tower, Chicago.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

First Lady Hits the Big Apple

Michelle Obama took her first trip to New York City as the First Lady this week and was spotted dining with Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People, where she was one of the honored guests. When she wasn't hobnobbing with other influential leaders, she was also seen making a stop at the United States Mission to the United Nations. She truly seems to be loving all that New York has to offer, and you can, too. 

If you're searching for the best hotels in New York, you can rest assured that there are plenty of luxury spots nestled in the city to suit your taste. The Peninsula New York features a confidential Exclusive Complimentary Perks package when booked through What a Hotel! and is located in the heart of midtown Manhattan. By choosing the Peninsula, one of the best hotels in New York, you get to enjoy exquisite dining experience at locations such as Bistro, a casual spot for light lunch and dinner, or the Pen-Top Bar and Terrace on the 23rd floor, which is perfect for evening cocktails. 

Are you the shop-til-you-drop type? The St. Regis Hotel is located in close proximity to Pucci, Takashimaya, and De Beers. Gorgeous restorations and lots of elegant hotel details are only trumped by the Exclusive Complementary Perks that you get through booking with What a Hotel! (which are so good that they can't even be advertised online). The St. Regis has a fine wine bar and luxury spa as well, so everyone in your party will have something to do at your luxury hotel.

And who knows? Maybe next time you hit the shops in New York City, the First Lady will be browsing right beside you. Big Apple, here we come!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Passport Processing Times Make Planning Necessary

Your passport is your lifeline to travel beyond US borders. While you can use an Enhanced Driver's License (depending the state you originate from) to travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea; you'll need to get a valid U.S. passport for trips outside the USA.

Think ahead before traveling abroad, especially when you expect to snap up a deal or two. According to the U.S. Department of State website, it takes four to six weeks to get your passport, so grabbing those last-minute flights to Paris on your way to a luxury hotel won't be a possibility if you don't think ahead. Even an expedited application still takes three weeks to process, so your best bet is to get a passport now--they are valid for ten years for anyone over 16.

To apply for your passport, you can visit most U.S. Post Offices, the U.S. Department of State, or some local courthouses or libraries. You will need to provide a certified copy of your birth certificate with your application, which has been cited as the most common issue with longer processing times. You can't use a photocopied certificate or other hospital paperwork: the certificate needs to be original and state-issued. You will also need to include two identical, passport-sized photos, a completed DS-11 form (available at the U.S. Department of State's website, the application fee, and the above-mentioned identity document. If you were not born in the United States, you can include a U.S. Naturalization Certificate or a Certification of Citizenship.

As of June 1, 2009, U.S. citizens will be required to have a valid passport for land, sea, and air travel to and from the United States. The passport card may only be used for land crossings or at ports of entry in Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean--not for international air travel. 

Besides that passport, don't forget that travel to many international locations also requires a tourist visa, which can be obtained through the consulate of the country you are visiting.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why Using a Travel Agent in the Internet Age is Still Important

Travel isn't easy, especially not when you're trying to get the best value for the best experience. A recent report on the Road Rules of Travel brought about an important point: there are some skills that we need to master to get that once-in-a-lifetime trip, including the ability to bargain, hook perks, get upgrades, and plan ahead.

Here are some of the top "Road Rules," and how travel agents like Lorraine Travel (which own WhataHotel ! ) help you make the most of them:

1. "Stay loyal." Loyalty programs are a great way to make the most of flights and hotel stays, but they can be really confusing. If you're planning regular travel to a certain place, you can find out which hotels provide the best perks for repeat visitors through your travel agent. Booking willy-nilly will not help you get ahead!

2. "Play the upgrade game." When you book a luxury hotel, you might be pleased with exactly what you paid for: a room with a view, a suite with many of extras, or a penthouse overlooking the city. Keep in mind that you can still upgrade your room if you book through the right "connected" travel agents. For instance, through Lorraine Travel's What a Hotel!'site, one can get Exclusive Complementary Perks at participating hotels so you won't have to bargain solo. Just to name a few "preferred hotels" in the What a Hotel! program are the Four Seasons Hong Kong, The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth , and the Maui Prince Hotel.

3. "Book smartly." Booking mistakes can easily be avoided with the right guidance, and choosing to work with a family-owned company like Lorraine Travel is one of the best ways to operate.

4. "Get extra perks that pay." Perks enhance the value of a booking! Booking a luxury hotel with Exclusive Complimentary Perks at What a Hotel! yields the best value because the actual room rate is not raised & the free amenities result in savings.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Travel Therapy" Book Recommends Personalized Destinations

Need a reason to book that vacation? How about relaxing in a luxury hotel to ward off the ill effects of stress or breakups, or to celebrate a major life milestone? A new book by Karen Schaler entitled Travel Therapy: Where Do You Need To Go? is a great option for those hoping for a break, but unsure of exactly where to go.

According to recent press on the travel book, one can take a special quiz in each chapter to get an idea of styling, mood, or taste, and then flip to the diagnosis for a pre-planned trip to address specific areas of concern. Instead of waffling over where in the world to go, you'll soon have that out of the way--and you'll be ready to book that luxury hotel in no time.

Cutting out the drama, bother, and stress in our lives is often the goal when it comes to vacationing, but things can get in the way. From travel destination disagreements to scheduling conflicts, there will always be something that "comes up." Instead of fretting over the details, it sounds like this book can give you a boost. In the "Heartbreak Hotel" chapter of Schaler's guide, we get to try a special quiz that weighs our need for adventure and excitement vs. relaxation and rest. Results include cave tubing in Belize--where you could stay at the Victoria House near San Pedro--or whitewater rafting here in the States.

With another chore out of the way, your vacation planning and luxury hotel booking will be easier than ever.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Encouraging" Signs on Swine Flu Ease Concerns

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official said this Sunday that there are "encouraging" signs that the swine flu is less severe than previously thought. Richard Besser of the CDC commented on "FOX News Sunday" that the H1N1 influenza A virus doesn't seem to be any worse than our garden-variety flu. While the situation has been deemed "rapidly evolving," it's important to keep in mind that even the average flu bug kills 36,000 each year.

Swine flu is being painstakingly monitored everywhere in the world, and the United States has an "aggressive" approach in pursuing both suspected and confirmed cases. It may be sprinkled throughout the U.S. in 34 states, but there has been a single death as of yet, which was recorded in Texas.

In other words, proceeding with caution but still booking your stay at a luxury hotel wouldn't be unwise. According to current reports, recent fluctuations in the travel industry have lead to some enticing discounts. Government and travel officials have also reassured the public that air travel is safe, with the President and CEO of U.S. Travel Association Roger Dow even commenting that "the air on a plane is cleaner than the air in my office building" because "the air goes out the sides of the plane and up through HEPA filters, which are hospital filters."

With some hand sanitizer and common sense, that luxury hotel booking will still be yours.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Biden Takes to "Confined Space" for P.M. Commute

Vice President Joe Biden might have mistakenly advised America to avoid "confined spaces" when traveling by air or on the ground, but even after his gaffe on the Today Show yesterday, he still took the train from Union Station to his Delaware home, according to his office. There's also plane travel in his future, because Biden reportedly plans to travel to Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina this May. So much for avoiding planes and subways!

According to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Biden would have said that "If [people are] feeling sick, they should stay off of public transit or confined spaces" if he had a chance to reword his previous commentary. That's certainly sound advice for anyone feeling ill, in any corner of the world, and at any time, so it shouldn't impede upon your plans to book a luxury hotel.

While Biden's people backtracked to avoid a backlash, the press is tracking swine flu cases closely. President Barack Obama said that the U.S. is taking "all necessary precautions" to remain ahead of swine flu. He also reminded Americans to wash their hands often, cover their mouths while coughing, and to stay home if feeling sick. With careful efforts on the part of the general public, we'll be able to book our trips to luxury hotels worldwide without worry.

Since Biden's already been seen in "confined spaces" and President Obama is presenting a positive view on preventative measures in the U.S., we're planning a vacation or two out of town right now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What Joe Said Wasn't So

Did Vice President Joe Biden make you worry that you were making a mistake by booking your luxury hotel--or even get stressed about taking the subway? The good news is that Biden (and several outside forces) have been doing their best to lessen the reaction to his unfounded commentary that he wouldn't suggest traveling via plane or subway. If you missed what he said, here are the details, which were broadcast on NBC's Today show.

"It's not that it's going to Mexico -- it's that you're in a confined aircraft," Biden said. "When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. I would not be at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway."

Again, there is absolutely no need to panic, or even heed VP Biden's commentary. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs released a statement clarifying that Vice President Biden had intended to say that those who were sick should stay at home, and that "If anybody was unduly alarmed for whatever reason, we would apologize for that."

Train operators, airline companies, and travel agencies are at least pleased about the speedy retraction that, if uncorrected, could have cost many people their luxury hotel bookings and could have racked up tons of cancellation fees across the board. If you are sick or have flu-like symptoms, take some time to rest and recuperate, but if you are feeling well, there is no reason to avoid flying and subway travel, Richard Besser of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed.

It is also quite possible that after Vice President Biden's remarks, travel prices have been discounted further. Why not take a look and book that luxury hotel now?