Tuesday, June 30, 2009

US Soccer - A New Game?

Brazil’s victory against the United States 3-2 may have been a disappointment, but everyone who loves a good game certainly had an interesting time tuning in and checking out the action. Are you a sports enthusiast looking for international excitement? Why not combine two of your favorite things—soccer and traveling? You can catch a regional game or just a pick-me-up scrimmage at any time of the year, and hunting down English-speaking locals who love a friendly debate and a round or two is guaranteed to be a real blast. It’s not easy being the lone USA supporter, but as long as you bond first with a few well-placed compliments, you’ll be ready to hang out in any central sports-loving bar in the city. You might not be joined by your partner if you’re traveling as a couple, but this is a great way to make friends while the other half hits museums, galleries, and shops.


If you’re going to catch some “futbol,” or soccer, in South America, Brazil's a great place to start. They've won the World Cup five times and truly love soccer, and an experience viewing a game in Brazil is something you'll never forget--even if it's just on the bar's TV. For prime location close to great bars and cool places to meet and great, book a stay in the Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro, which is situated right on Ipanema Beach. This popular spot is known for its tasteful designer décor, but it also happens to be an important meeting point for Brazilian society and has a bar called “Londra” with live music downstairs. If you're really into exercise, stop at the fitness room, do some crunches and run a few laps on the treadmill, and then check out a Brazilian soccer game. Ask the friendly front desk what they recommend, because if there are no games going on at the moment, you can also catch a neighborhood game in one of the boroughs nearby--with a guide, of course! Another perfect location in Rio is the Copacabana Palace Hotel, which is an iconic tourist hot spot situated on Copacabana Beach, Rio's most popular beach and meeting place for both the rich and poor. When you hang out on the sand, you can catch more sports: the beach is a good place to watch volleyball and enthusiastic Kadima games in the surf!


If you'd like to check out Europe, be sure to book a stay in an Italian city. Not only will you save plenty through WhataHotel.com's Exclusive Complimentary Perks program, but you will be able to play a little bocci ball while you talk athletics with some incredibly passionate locals. Book a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Milano, which has 118 rooms and suites with individual flair. Italian touches help you stay in the moment: from the marble bath to the carefully developed wine list, you won't forget that you're vacationing away in Italy. For those who will be traveling to several cities, which we highly recommend, we urge you to try the Four Seasons HotelFirenze, which is located a comfortable distance from any other city in Italy, and is located close to the many galleries and museums that make the country such a popular tourist destination. With all the distractions in this treasure trove of a town, you can easily slip away for an afternoon of sports watching.

Nothing like two of your favorite activities coming together for a successful week or two of traveling. Who knows? Maybe you'll see a US victory come up on the screen. Just be sure not to cheer too loudly!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Resort at Pelican Hill

Have you ever been staying at a luxury resort and felt like there really wasn't much to do? It's time to combine the best of both worlds with a seaside location and two nearby towns with plenty of tourist attractions. A home-away-from-home bungalow (with a decidedly luxe air) is just the beginning of your relaxing vacation experience: there's plenty to do at one of WhataHotel.com's featured properties, Resort at Pelican Hill. Take the family or head off on a romantic couple's trip, because teens and couples alike will find fun things to do along the Newport Coast. If you can peel yourself from the massage table or pull yourself away from the golf course, you can dine at a number of traditional restaurants, walk the boardwalk or coastline, and grab a movie.

The Resort at Pelican Hill is great for a discerning guest who needs lush surroundings with luxurious options. 504 acres of land, which happen to be part of Newport Beach's most stunning coastline, are just part of the resort's appeal, and lucky guests can step outside to catch a striking sunset along the crystal blue ocean. What makes your stay at the Resort at Pelican Hill even more special is the combination of Newport Coast views with the classic palladian-inspired architecture of the resort buildings. You'll have a choice of booking bungalows or villas, but if you do go for a bungalow stay, you'll be pleased to know that WhataHotel.com has a special deal with the Resort at Pelican Hill that allows guests to get a fourth night free, and they also have bungalow and villa-specific Exclusive Complimentary Perks. Book some time in the spa while you stay at the resort—they have 22 treatment rooms—and try a round of golf at the Tom Fazio-designed golf course for a real treat. Follow up all that relaxation with. . . more relaxation! Soak in the Coliseum pool or do some lazy laps before you leave.

And in town? The Resort at Pelican Hill lies between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, so you can fire up the rental car and head in either direction. In Newport Beach, you should hunt out the Wine Lab Newport, where you can eat gourmet cheeses and try out a variety of wines (they have 200 varieties) for $25. It might be a smaller location, but it's an amazing place to swing by and sample Napa Valley picks and French selections, too. If you're the active type, you can go to Newport Beach during the day and sign up for surf lessons, where you'll see young and old alike hopping on their boards and hanging ten. Shopping is a good choice for a low-key day (after all, you might be sore after all that surfing!) and Fashion Island is considered one of the best places to shop in Southern California. Heading to Laguna Beach on another day of sightseeing? You can go to the Hortense Miller Garden if you make reservations in advance with the City of Laguna Beach Recreation, and then you can visit the Laguna Canyon Winery, which holds daytime tastings and an impressive barrel room for your tasting pleasure.

This is one luxury vacation that feels like one—regardless of the price you end up paying. Where will your first stop be while you explore the Resort at Pelican Hill?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Four Seasons Maui at Wailea

We're all looking for a bargain these days, but that doesn't mean we need to sell ourselves short. While some vacationers will hunker down in a hostel and brave the raucous crowds, you can have the best of both worlds (affordability and luxury), while enjoying a location that's nothing short of paradise. Have you ever considered going to Hawaii? Amazing deals abound, and if you haven't experienced it yet, you'll be in for a treat. WhataHotel.com isn't just offering Exclusive Complimentary Perks when booking a stay at the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea, but they have an additional offer available: get your fifth night free in the hotel through their current special offer.

The Four Seasons Maui at Wailea is located on the sunny shores of Maui, and you'll instantly start unwinding when you arrive at this award-winning luxury vacation. Located on one of Hawaii's most impressive beaches, the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea has plenty of activities available right on resort grounds. If you take the family along, you can sign the kids up for the complimentary "Kids for All Season" program while taking advantage of outdoor activities like tennis, watersports, and gold courses. Hawaii's only Mobil Five Star Resort has racked up the accolades over the years (including a Conde Nast Traveler designation as the ""#1 Tropical Resort in the World." Sound tempting? Mix in that "5th Night Free" special offer from WhataHotel.com (valid until December 17, 2009 with specific black-out dates), and we might just see you there.

You've arrived at the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea. Now what? Besides your hotel diversions, you've got plenty to do in Maui. Start off by going to a luau and trying out Hawaiian cuisine, actually a blend of several culture's best foods, and you can sample kalua pig, poi and haupia, and plenty of buffet snacks that will keep you satisfied. When you're not looking for a luau, you can nosh on fine cuisine from Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Italian, and Vietnamese restaurants—Maui is considered the backbone of Hawaii's dining scene. Don't forget the drawstring pants! When you can't possibly eat a bit more, hop on the hiking trails--there are ones for all levels. Not only will you see plenty of waterfalls, flora, and fauna, but you might just tip over when you catch the view of a sweeping, dark valley in an incredibly lush environment. Go with a guide and a group if you'd like to know more about Maui's key indigenous creatures and notable plants. Too stuffed to walk? Get in a rented car and travel along the Hana Highway, which follows a lava shore and passes by interesting homes and landmarks for 56 miles. For a more hands-on transportation experience, bike rentals are available all over Maui for you to grab and go. Balance out all the physical activity with shopping excursions in Lahaina and Kahului, where you can find handmade crafts and amazing items carved from Hawaii's native wood.

What will it be? While you're soaking up the Hawaii sun, will you be trying out the food, hiking, sightseeing, or exploring—or everything?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Travel Differently

Pico Iyer recently thought back on an experience traveling in Tibet. The more expectations you leave at home, Iyers commented, the more you can understand what the destination is trying to tell you. Does art get in the way of modernity? Is Tibet as magical as it seems, or does it just seem this way? Iyer might not know, but he's going to find out. While he attempts to solve his travel questions, he brought his audience along for the ride, imparting some wisdom along the way. Here are two of Iyers' top points that every traveler needs to know.

Check Out a Bookstore

Visiting a bookstore is a perfect way to discover the life of the locals. Iyers points out that you can grab books on spirituality, life, and palaces off the main streets of New Delhi, but Salt Lake City, unsurprisingly, will have something else in store entirely. One of Iyer's favorite places to browse the shelves is Seattle's Elliot Bay Book Company, considered an "institution in Seattle," which will open doors to parts of the city you never thought you could discover. If you're up for a trip to Seattle, you might want to give the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle a try, which places you in a prime location for Pike Place Market, Seattle Art Museum, and Benaroya Hall's concerts. Being in such close proximity to the arts means that surely you can find a bookstore to browse—and plenty of diversions nearby—but then you'll be able to retire in luxury to your room with views of Puget Sound, or chill by the fire near the rooftop pool.

Embrace the Prospect of Being a Tourist

Sure, being a "traveler," not a tourist, is important, but don't be afraid of taking a guided tour of the city! If you spend your time worrying about looking like a tourist, you'll miss out on what a city has to offer. Aim for more eclectic, independent travel guides if you want to learn about the country and still stay a little more anonymous. Where's a nifty hotel to stay for a cool undercover tourist experience? Try the Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski, which has been described as "an architectural museum, a design exhibition, an exercise in cutting-edge modernism," and tourists regularly come to examine the great work of two dozen esteemed architects in Asia. Waking up to the sublime Chinese countryside, you'll feel invigorated to travel the land and explore—and why shouldn't you? It's right outside your window! If you want to stay in the city instead, The Langham Hotel, Hong Kong might be for you, which is just five minutes away from self-guided tour necessities: the Star Ferry, the MTR subway, and the KCR rail, as well as plenty of shopping and tourist attractions. It's a convenient way to kick-start your exploration of Kowloon, Hong Kong, and plenty of tours will wind straight through the area before jetting off to the city center. Be sure to visit the Kowloon Walled City Park and the Wong Tai Sin Temple in the north of Kowloon, one of the most famous shrines in Hong Kong.

Has Iyers inspired you to travel differently? Join the club! From bookstores to backpacking, we're already dreaming up our next excursion.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Supreme Court Ruling Shocks Environmentalists

This week, the Supreme Court upheld a permit to dump rock waste from a gold mine in Alaska into a nearby lake, even though all of the fish would be killed. The justices determined by a 6-3 vote that an appeals court blocked the permit on environmental grounds in an incorrect manner, leaving environmentalists concerned about how future mining waste will be dumped. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen released a statement stating "If a mining company can turn Lower Slate Lake in Alaska into a lifeless waste dump, other polluters with solids in their wastewater can potentially do the same to any water body in America." In light of such worrying news, perhaps we should be planning that eco-sightseeing trip now.

Treehugger.com has highlighted many an interesting trip abroad for the eco-friendly traveler, and we'd like to hop on board. There's nothing more rewarding than visiting an area that needs help, support, or protection, and catching a glimpse of an endangered animal whose habitat you could support with regular donations isn't half bad, either. Ponta dos Ganchos in Governador Celso Ramos, Brazil is a perfect place to catch a glimpse of some of the world's most breathtaking land and seascapes. It might have been graced with a Conde Nast honor for the "Most Romantic Getaway" ('09), but it also includes plenty of adventure-type activities at no extra cost to visitors. You can arrange snorkeling, kayaking, and sailing with the front desk, in which you can examine exotic marine life close up. The fantastic underwater scenes might remind us that there are still some amazing pockets of untouched marine life left, but it's essential that we act now to keep them this way. Ponder your impact on the environment as you watch emerald green waters lap a sandy, private beach, where you can also reserve a private dinner come night.

If you're more interested in a city that does things green, Amsterdam might be the right place for you. They've been hitting the headlines this month as they move towards making their infrastructure more eco-friendly with solar power panels on on local bus stops, special financing for households making green changes, and energy-saving systems installed in 1,200 homes to kick things off. Amsterdam is a leader in renewable energy projects and efficiency regulations funded by special government funds, and $1.5 billion dollars will be invested in the smart city programs over the next few years, so we're looking forward to an even greener Europe. If hopping on a bike and touring Amsterdam sounds like a good idea to you, how about trying the Hotel Pulitzer, which overlooks two of the city's more picturesque canals in the old city center? They have an art gallery and WiFi in all public areas, and being so close to potential sightseeing spots means that you'll reduce your carbon footprint for sure. Don't forget to dine at Pulitzers Restaurant after a day of whizzing around the city on your Schwinn—you've earned it!

After vacations like these, you might be more inclined to buy a hybrid or browse the environmental headlines online. Go for it--and then book another green-themed vacation.

Employees Now Get Their Space in Montana

Two former employees of a Houston's restaurant were recently awarded damages after filing a federal lawsuit against their past employer. The two made headlines after they were fired from their jobs when a manager gained access into a password-only site and read private commentary on co-workers. Not only were the former employees awarded significant damages (over $13,000), but they received back pay as part of the settlement. Just 24 hours after the settlement, the city of Bozeman, Montana said that they would stop their practice of asking job applicants for their login details for social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Blogger. They claimed that their request "exceeded that which is acceptable to our community."

Concerns about privacy when you go away on vacation? Going to a small, secluded spot is the easiest way to forget about the busy world (where you've obviously got to safeguard your passwords more than you thought) and is just the ticket for busy parents and professionals alike. La Samanna on the Baie Longue, on the island of St. Martin, is a quiet spot to visit and get away from the bustle. The white stucco Mediterranean resort features lush tropical foliage and an oceanfront location, and they are a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, which ensures a quality experience. Not only has the location been designed for total comfort, but all 81 rooms and suites give guests a view of the ocean. Step out on your private patio after making a stop at the fully stocked bar and wrapping up in a hotel bathrobe. Use that hotel internet sparingly, because you'll be back on Facebook in the city soon enough! If you're usually on holiday in major sightseeing locations, this is one vacation that's strictly for relaxation.

Caneel Bay, A Rosewood Resort, another secluded vacation spot, is located within the Virgin National Park on St. John and offers you the opportunity to "disconnect" from the real world and enjoy devastatingly beautiful surroundings envisioned by founder Laurance Rockefeller. The resort doesn't have any digital distractions, and it also has a much slower pace than what we're used to. Don't even think about MySpace while you're basking on white sand beaches that border 170 acres with hiking trails, tennis courts, shopping spots, and bars for an evening glass of red wine or a whisky on the rocks! It's not a "just me" resort, either, because you're welcome to take the kids along with you to be entertained at Turtle Town, while you spend time at the Self Centre restoring balance with yoga and other classes.

After your break, you'll be ready to tackle the working world with a little more energy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Best Summer Music Fests

Some of us love to hit up music festivals, but who wants to be stuck in a stuffy tent all weekend long? While you plan on attending some of the best festivals in the United States this summer, why not balance the grimy, good-music moments with some spa time before and after the event? It's the perfect balance of luxury with unforgettable memories in American fields and theatres--and you can pick the East and West coast for your upcoming vacation in the music world.

Liberty State Park, New Jersey
The Manhattan skyline is plain ol' gorgeous as you check out this three-day festival in New Jersey, and in order to streamline the lines and crowds, there's regular ferry service available for ticket holders. Rumor has it that this epic festival will boast new beer gardens in the crowd, but you should definitely get there early--last year, the crowd was capped at 5,000 people. Before you head over to the festival, have a good night's sleep to recharge at The Alex Hotel, which is located in mid-town Manhattan. Lather up with complimentary Frderic Fekkai bathroom amenities before you hit the crowd, study the line-up on their blindingly fast internet, and be sure to raid the mini bar for supplies before you catch your ferry to the festival location.

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, San Francisco
The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival attracts a star-studded crowd of performers who perform in that San Fran mist, including Beastie Boys, Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Incubus, Black Eyed Peas, Thievery Corporation, M.I.A., The Mars Volta, Modest Mouse, and Band of Horses. After watching performers on what has been called the "perfect stage," head to the St. Regis Hotel, which is right next door to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and across the street from the Yerba Buena Gardens. Enjoy the vibrant community before catching another show at the Music and Arts Festival in town.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana
Get ready for an explosion of tastes along with your music: fans say that this festival features some of the most impression food and culture fusions for a U.S. festival. Sit and soak up the jazz as you feast on soft-shell crab, crawfish, gumbo, pralines, and sweet orange iced tea. Where to stay when you retire for the night? The Windsor Court Hotel in the central business district of New Orleans is only one block from the historic French Quarter and two blocks from Bourbon Street. Staying in one of Conde Nast's Top 100 hotels means that you'll find fresh fruit at the gym, a sauna nearby, a polo club lounge stuffed with assorted tipples, and a 75-foot rooftop pool (plus more excellent food). You even get Exclusive Complimentary Perks through WhataHotel.com!

Have fun at your music festival of choice, whether you choose to hang by the French Quarter, relax in the mist, or take the ferry and brave the crowds.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


For many in the US, it's hot, it's dry, and you feel like you need to get away. While some of us are driving off on short vacations, others have got new resort escapes on the mind. The newly-opened Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California provides inspired food and brand-new rooms, and when you combine that with Exclusive Complimentary Perks through WhataHotel.com, you're definitely getting the most bang for your buck.

The Terranea Resort opened in June 2009, combining a paradise-like location with a more accessible location than far-off resorts in Southeast Asia. The hotel's perched on over 100 acres of land above the Pacific for stunning 270-degree views. If you're picky about where you stay, The Terranea Resort offers 400 guest rooms, suites, bungalows, Villas, and Casitas, so you simply can't get your booking wrong. Wander down from your stylishly-appointed room while staying at the resort to explore The Spa at Terranea, a 25,000 square foot spa with studios for pilates and yoga, plenty of lavish treatment rooms for masques, wraps, waxes, and massages, and a wide-open area of workout studio with brand-new equipment. There's nothing nicer (for the person who enjoys exercising on vacation, of course) than a fitness studio with equipment that doesn't creak, crack, or thump while you're working on toning up before the beach.

Unlike some resorts out there, The Terranea Resort is located near the town of Rancho Palos Verdes, which means that you can easily head off to explore the surrounding area if you need a break from gazing at the ocean, getting massages, or eating freshly-prepared meals oceanside. If you're the type who needs a dose of nature with each trip, consider going to the Abalone Cove Shoreline Park and Ecological Reserve, which has two beaches, trails, tidepools, and a bluff top. You can park for just $5 to criss-cross the landscape and catch gorgeous ocean views from a number of points along your trek. Rancho Palos Verdes is also home to Frank Lloyd Wright's son Lloyd Wright's Wayfarer's Chapel, which is a stunning site to see for architecture buffs. The working church blends natural elements with manmade architecture in a way that will get you reaching for the cameras—it's so "California"! Golfers might want to check out the Trump Golf Course in Palos Verdes, which has been called "better than Pebble Beach" by Trump himself. The course has hosted the LPGA, but unlike other Trump resorts around the U.S., it's the only one open to the public. Try out the course for a combination of sport plus sightseeing, because it's said that you can get great views at every hole. Other recommended activities in the area include horseback riding, tennis, and perhaps some Famer's Market browsing at the Peninsula Center Shopping Center off of Silver Spur Road in Palos Verdes.

If you're planning on visiting The Terranea Resort soon, join the club. It's been added to our must-visit list!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vacation Like Bailed-Out Bank CEO's

Bailed-out executives working for Regions Financial Corp., Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup Inc. had used company jets for private use, reported The Wall Street Journal this week. According to Federal Aviation Administration flight records, personal use of the planes occurred on multiple occasions, and a Bank of America spokesperson said that they were currently developing a policy forbidding the personal use of company airplanes. Banks like Marshall & Ilsley Corp. and Synovus Financial Corp. have already added restrictions to their company jet use policy, or have eliminated the possibility of personal use altogether, reports The Wall Street Journal. Sure, you might be flying in business class or economy, but you can enjoy the same resorts that these executives take advantage of when they're indulging in a personal vacation.

The Caribbean is always a smart pick when you're choosing resorts. You won't need to travel too far from the States to go somewhere warm, and that makes the flight easily forgettable when you're relaxing on the white sands and staring out at the glittering ocean. Saint Lucia is one of the more notable Caribbean islands, with a more mountainous terrain and one of the few "drive-in volcanos" in the world. The Landings St. Lucia is an outstanding spot for your vacation in the Caribbean, and will meet many an executive's requirements for a lush and luxurious spot. This exclusive RockResort location is found on Rodney Bay and has 800 feet of beachfront stretching out for guests. Take your pick from 2- or 3-bedroom suites (the ones at the top and ground floor units have plunge pools), and whip up an exotic meal in the fully-equipped kitchen if you'd like. To do it up executive-style, order a sumptuous room service spread and taking in views from your balcony of either the inlet or harbor.

Many visitors to the Caribbean explore more than one island when they travel: Canouan Island is another great choice for explorers looking for quiet beauty on an island, but with the perks of an established hotel. The Raffles Resort at Canouan Island offers just what you are looking for, set on 300 acres with three white sand beaches. With all that space, you'll notice that your accommodations stretch out to a space of at least 600 square feet, with private plunge pools added to many of the suites. After exploring your room, which is guaranteed to have a private patio or terrace overlooking the beach or ocean, head down to one of the hotel's prized dining experiences, like their European or Italian restaurants. Have a good browse before you dine, because The Raffles Resort at Canouan Island has seven different restaurants from which to choose. Just like an executive, you might be thrilled to discover the Raffles Golf Course, which is regularly voted among the top golf courses in the Caribbean, and was also awarded the Robb Reports "best of the best" Golf Courses in the World 2005. Hang with the locals on the beaches, where you might get a glimpse into Canouan Island's complex past of French settlement, plantation life, and slow-but-steady development.

Are you ready to travel like an executive, sans the drama? Get yourself to a resort and experience what it's like to be positively pampered.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Familiy Vacation Deals

After Continental airlines put two unaccompanied girls onto incorrect Continental Express flights to different cities last weekend, parents are seriously considering taking their children with them on vacation, or at least being by their side while on vacation. "I don’t like for children to be put into adult situations and, in my opinion, flying alone puts a 9-year-old in an adult situation. It can be stressful and traumatic for a child to be alone on a plane. Stuff can happen," said Burnice Drake, who flew Northwest to accompany her daughter to Los Angeles, where she will be visiting her favorite aunt. Drake returned the next day to Washington while her daughter stayed in L.A., but perhaps you're torn on whether to take the kids on vacation. Why not, especially since there are plenty of family deals to be had?

Cap Juluca in Maundays Bay, Anguilla offers plenty of incentives for the traveling family, for example. You won't need to worry about your children getting lost in the bustle, because each Moorish-style beachfront villa has 6 rooms, and you can get breakfast served on your private terrace every morning.. Best of all, if you book one room for five nights, you'll get the second room for free at Cap Jaluca. You can bask on a private resort beach as a Cap Jaluca guest, but you can easily go to shops and restaurants by boat—it's just a 15 minute trip. Grab snacks for the kids at George's, located at the center of the beach and frequented by tourists, and take in the views of the mountains of St. Maarten, only six miles away.

Hotel Le Bristol in Paris also features a special family deal for those who are more interested in checking out Europe than they are staying on an island. You might want to take your teen to this exclusive hotel, known for its gorgeous French garden, which puts you in a prime location for both art (there are plenty of galleries nearby) and fashion (boutiques abound). Take a dip in the indoor rooftop swimming pool while thinking about all your savings: Hotel Le Bristol offers two connecting rooms and a free buffet breakfast daily for families from 1185 Euros per night. With just a two-night stay required, you can book this hotel while traveling Europe with your family, or when you head out for a mini-vacation of London, Paris, and Madrid with your teen for a graduation present. Don't be afraid to take your teen to a few of the countless art exhibitions in the city, because some of them are fantastically funky and interesting, including performance art work and displays like Andy Warhol. There's always Disneyland Paris if you're traveling with younger ones, or you can retire to the quiet Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Montmarte for a picnic lunch.

Your child won't be flying unaccompanied this summer—not when you can get these deals!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Peninsula Beijing

Iran's Opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called for another day of demonstrations after what he called a rigged election on Thursday, and is considered to be a direct challenge to the Islamic cleric-led government and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Mousavi maintains that he won the election and called for rallies to continue, which was claimed to be won by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “A number of our countrymen were wounded or martyred,” Mousavi announced on a website, as protests continued to build.

While we might not be vacationing in Iran, there are plenty of places to view with political sites of interest that get every history buff going. Heading to Beijing, China means that you'll be able to examine one of the most fascinating spots in the Eastern world--the Great Wall is just an hour away by car or bus. One stop even closer to your Beijing hotel is the Forbidden City, which contains the largest number of wooden structures in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site was unseen by plebeians until the walls were breached and the occupants forced out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Try a rented guided tour headset if you're by yourself and sans guide, and then explore Tiananmen Square to check out monuments and notable political structures. Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, located in the square's center, is worth the line-waiting if you'd like to zip by Mao's coffin and see the leader for yourself. Stay until sunset to watch the Five Star Red Flag raising ceremony for the full effect of the square.

Wondering where you'll stay when soaking up all this political stuff in Beijing? The Park Hyatt Beijing has 360-degree views of the city and is part of the Beijing Yintai Center, the tallest skyscraper in the famous business district. Balancing the super modern with visits to UNESCO sites is the smart way to get extra energy before you trek around Beijing and outlying areas. Following the same train of thought, The Peninsula Beijing combines a traditional exterior with a modern interior and is a quick walk away from Beijing's Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Finely appointed hotel rooms with the perfect high-tech additions will thrill the gadget junkie who needs to load up the iPod or research on the internet before the next day of sightseeing. Both of these locations also feature Exclusive Complimentary Perks through WhataHotel!, so you simply can't go wrong.

With political turbulence around the globe, and many changes in the air, why not check out China's past on your next vacation?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Unlikely Jobs Where Top Earners Pull in 6 Figures

Looking for the perfect job to support your traveling needs? These six-figure positions bring in the right amount of money for you to take some time off without worrying! You'll be surprised at the list of unusual jobs that have 10% or more of their top earners getting over $100K per year: among them include boat captains in Tennessee, gaming managers in Pennsylvania, pharmacists, and human resources managers. The recent study also commented that music composers and directors were close to making the cut, but the average income was a little too low. If you're on the job hunt and think you might secure one of these positions, here are a few locations to spend that new income.

One of the most stable, enjoyable, and beautiful places to live in Europe, Zurich, Switzerland also happens to be a great place to explore. Try out your high school German, your Italian, or your French while traveling in Switzerland, but rest assured that English is widely spoken (and well at that). Take a peek at the list of hotels in Zurich, which include Eden Au Lac and The Dolder Grand. Eden Au Lac is centrally-located, making it perfect for the enthusiastic sightseer, and you can easily walk to Zurich Old Town and the Zurich West Quarter. For the traveler concerned with aesthetics, don't worry--even though the hotel has Exclusive Complimentary Perks through WhataHotel.com, each room is individually designed and decorated to an exacting standard. You can even get a room with a balcony and a view of Lake Zurich or the Alps, which is a priceless addition to anyone's vacation.

The Dolder Grand might be located in Zurich as well (and on What a Hotel!'s top hotels in Zurich list), but it's more suited for the health conscious and the luxury-obsessed. Built in 1899, this hotel recently underwent a grand transformation that fused old and new, still retaining the reputation of one of Zurich's most impressive landmarks. After a day getting pampered at the gorgeous location, you can catch a train to Uetliberg, where you can hike the Alps and check out a panoramic view from the Belvedere Tower that encompasses all of the Zurich area. For diversion closer to The Dolder Grand, you can take your pick from indoor sports like squash, tennis, swimming, and bowling, and then head to Lake Zurich, where you can stroll along walkways around the West Bank. Of course, winter sports enthusiasts should book as many winter outings as their schedules allow, because they can choose from snow tubing, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, sledding, ice skating, and even curling.

If you're getting ready to spend some of that career cash on a trip, Zurich might be just the right thing for you. If you're really feeling flush, go to the shopping district and get a fine Swiss watch--you've earned it! The world-famous Bahnhofstrasse is a smart and chic place to pick up jewelry as well as footwear, furs, and accessories in both department store and boutique settings. Day shoppers who are interested in exploring might like Niederdorf, which is a more out-of-the-way shopping location where you can purchase plenty of goods at smaller, more unique shops than you'd find on the high street. Lastly, for the bargain shopper, Fleemarket Kanzlei is a great flea market filled with bargain shopper deals along with a cafe, wine bar, and a small movie theatre.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ladies, Get a Vacation to Match the Male Mind

Comedian Steve Harvey recently made an appearance on Oprah to discuss women's expectations for their ideal match. Are women looking for too much? Harvey explains that many are waiting for the perfect guy, but that there's one man (who might not fit all those requirements) wandering around somewhere right now. "He exists today. All you've got to do is stay patient," Harvey said on The Oprah Show. If you've already found that special someone, maybe you're looking for a good guy-friendly vacation for the two of you. Here's what some travel experts recommend.

Vacationing in Spain might be a good pick for the enthusiastic adventure junkie. Whenever you travel to Spain, you've simply got to go to Madrid before you travel to smaller towns like Pamplona, which is only a three hour train ride from the city. Explore Madrid by staying at big, beautiful hotels before your rough-and-tumble tour of Spain. The SC Palacio del Retiro is a totally transformed location by the SC hotel chain and is often considered the best small hotel in all of Madrid, beating out places like the Santo Mauro. It overlooks the Retiro, Madrid's central park, and combines old and new architecture and decoration for a look that'll please you and any adventure-loving guy. You simply have to step out the door of the hotel to get paddling on the boating lake in the center of the park, or take a brisk walk through sculpture exhibits for a combination of culture and exercise. If that's not enough, you'll be pleased to know that ballooning has gotten more and more popular in the Madrid area, and you can take an hour-long trip near the city on the weekends. Why not? You only live once!

Let's say that you crave something wild, farther from the hustle bustle of the city. Chile's the place to be, without a doubt. You can go to Explora Atacama, located in an oasis in the Atacama desert, where you can explore the vast wilderness of this striking desert for yourself. Sign up for a classic trek through your hotel or hotel affiliate, but keep in mind that these trips are physically demanding. Besides the trekking and hiking, you can arrange shorter horseback trips into the desert to explore amazing flora, fauna, and views better than a postcard. Next stop on a Chile-wide tour? Definitely Explora en Rapa Nui, Posada de Mike, which is a new outpost for Explora Rapa Nui and is located right on the edge of southern Easter Island. The lodge looks out over the Pacific Ocean as well as the Rano Raraku Volcano, and it'll make even the most raring-to-go traveler stop and think for just a minute before heading out to view the stunning moai statues and ahu stone platforms.

Even if you're not the one with the travel bug, you might start appreciating these types of vacations once you've accompanied that adventure-travel loving someone across the globe.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

World Cup Inspires South African Vacation

Soweto lies on the southwest fringe of Johannesburg, and this township has witnessed major changes in recent history, from the apartheid to the current World Cup preparations for 2010. Named with a combination of "southwestern" and "township" by town officials, Soweto happens to be soccer-crazy, with three stadiums and the best teams in the area. Two of the stadiums have already been refurbished for World Cup practice, and Soccer City, built on the outskirts of Soweto, has been designated for the opening game and finals play. Hotel rooms are already being booked all over Johannesburg for the World Cup 2010, and many bed and breakfast owners in Soweto have been full for some time.

Have you ever considered visiting Johannesburg? Whether or not you make it for World Cup 2010, The Westcliff Hotel is a smart place to stay. Located in the northern region of Johannesburg, the hotel features 115 individually-appointed and furnished rooms, and many of them have sunny, private balconies for your enjoyment. Soak up some South African flair while alternating between the two heated swimming pools, the plunge pool, the tennis court, and the team of personal trainers at the gym. On a day trip out in town, you'll be surprised at how much there is to do. Johannesburg is not well-known as a prime tourist destination in South Africa, but the vibrant city is one you just might come back to again and again. Kick off your self-guided tour with the city center, which has plenty of traditional African wares and produce for sale along the streets by salespeople. Use your city smarts as you browse for a safe shopping experience, and then check out the observation deck at the Commission Streets Carlton Centre. Look off into the distance at the yellow hills, which are actually mine dump hills, which have a great drive-in at the top if you have a vehicle or a car and a driver.

The center of Johannesburg is just the beginning. Leaving the city center, head to Newtown, which has tons of galleries, coffee houses, and cultural areas like Museum Africa and the French Institute of South Africa. Little India is nearby as well, so grab some naan to snack on while you browse the fabrics, spices, and more. Later, book a visit with a tour group to Soweto, and watch a soccer game with your group. Nelson Mandela's former home happens to be located in Soweto, and that's now been converted to a museum. It's a must-see stop before you leave Johannesburg for a taste of the country, and solo sports like hiking.

After a dose of culture in Johannesburg, going off to Franschhoek Valley is a great break. La Residence is an all-inclusive destination that happens to offer Exclusive Complimentary Perks through WhataHotel.com. La Residence offers 30 acres of rolling hills and pastures, and it happens to feature world-class service accented by lavish rooms and beautiful views. With only 11 furnished suites, you'll feel like you're the only one staying in this valley famous for its fruit trees, vineyards, and mountainous terrain. South Africa is a land of contrasts, and experiencing the stunning views around this hotel after navigating the city will be unforgettable.

From city sports to countryside cruising, South Africa offers a lot for visitors. Where will you stay?

Truck Loses Loads of Cash

If you happened upon some cash along I-75 in Loomis, Texas, turn it in right away. A Texas-based security company had bags upon bags of money spill from the back of one of their vehicles this week. The incident occurred at 8:30 a.m., and cars quickly pulled to the side as guards loaded cash into a large bin. It's not clear why the money spilled from the truck in the first place, but the guards are still missing $125,000, and the police department offered a 10% recovery reward to those who turned in the money before midday on Friday.

Now, if you've had a stroke of luck lately and have a little extra cash to splurge, here are some recommended spots to try.

One super location for those who want to explore the world is Athens. The capital city of Greece might offer a ton to tourists and business travelers alike, but it also has ancient sites that are incomparable to other Mediterranean vacation spots. Since Athens has mild winters and warm to hot summers, you can book a stay at any time of the year, and take in the exciting, vibrant qualities of the galleries, boutiques, museums, monuments, and attractions that Athens offers during any season. One of WhataHotel!'s recommended luxury hotels in Athens that never fails to impress is the Hotel Grande Bretagne, which even has views of two popular tourist sites, the Acropolis and Parthenon, as well as the regal Constitution Square, the Parliament, the original Olympic Stadium, and Lycabettus Hill, depending on where your hotel room is located. Whether you're sold on panoramic views or you'd like to pick a perfectly-aged tipple from the Hotel Grande Bretagne's collection of 3,000, this location will make you feel like you got a special deal (especially when you factor in the Exclusive Complementary Perks through WhataHotel.com). If you can tear yourself away from the Roof Garden, visit the Agora-Athens Central Market, which will let you explore tasty Greek treats for a cheap price at any time. It's easy to do a bit of shopping right after your visit to the market, because it's located next to the popular pedestrian district near Eolou Street.

Are you more the resort type? The Arion Resort & Spa might be a better pick for you, because it features contemporary surroundings and another stunning view of Greece waterways and ancient ruins. Situated on the Athenian Riviera, this resort is only 15 miles from central Athens, but it gives you the feeling that you've chosen a resort in a secluded Mediterranean location. Explore the Excelsior Club Floor, an exclusive feature of this hotel, and then check out the private beaches and pools to get just a few rays. Since you'll be looking for ways to stay trim and feel healthy, drive to Athens one day to hike up Mount Lycabettus for a great view (plus stop at the amphitheatre and cafe). If you don't want to walk all the way up, you can take a train, and then take a leisurely walk down after exploring.

Got a craving to spend some of recently fund cash? Athens is a prime place to be for both resort lovers and luxury hotel enthusiasts.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Four Seasons George V Hotel Paris Exceeds Expectations

Did you know that The Four Seasons George V Hotel Paris, formerly known as the "George V," was General Eisenhower's headquarters during the 1944 Liberation of Paris? This Whatahotel.com preferred hotel features Exclusive Complimentary Perks, and the guest rooms are furnished so well that you'll probably feel like you're in the private residence of royalty, or close to it.

Last year, The Four Seasons George V Hotel Paris unveiled a special surprise that will make even the most discerning patrons get jazzed up for a visit. Guests at The Four Seasons George V Hotel Paris can now take a spin in a Hermes-inspired, hand-built Rolls Royce Phantom exclusively through the hotel. The commissioned project started up in 2007 and was developed by Jeff Leatham, the George V's in-house artistic director. Key design elements include a leather and mohair throw, a calfskin grey interior, and a "starlight headliner," which is composed of 800 lights on the car's roof liner for indoor star gazing in the City of Lights. The car is available exclusively to hotel guests, where it can be used for airport pickup, day trips, and business excursions.

If that's not enough for you, this fabulous hotel located off the Champs-Élysées happens to have lots of other creature comforts and carefully-executed design details. Conde Nast Traveler commented that Le Cinq, the hotel's restaurant, has service "that simply boggles the mind," while the rooms are "elegant without being over-the-top." Should you take a look at designer Leatham's description of the hotel's interior, you'll see how much thought goes into each and every detail. Rich fabrics and a Renaissance flourish are only the beginning: the lobby is filled with marble when you first walk into the hotel, fresh floral bouquets cascade in public spots, and state-of-the-art features pepper the rooms of this 1928 landmark. Take some time out for the pool and the Versailles garden mural that wraps around it.

If you ever manage to emerge from your hotel, you'll find that The Four Seasons George V Hotel Paris is perfectly positioned for a stroll by the Seine or to the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. Since the hotel is in the heart of the "Golden Triangle," you can make some upscale picks at the Avenue George V, Rue François 1er, and Avenue Montaigne, where stores like Dior, Céline, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gian Franco Ferré, and Donna Karan are all located. In a 15 minutes' drive (perhaps in that previously-mentioned Phantom, reserved in advance?), you could check out the Pompidou Center, the Latin Quarter, Musee d'Orsay, Parc des Princes, and St. Germain-des-Pres.

No matter what you need in Paris, staying at The Four Seasons George V Hotel Paris ensures that your whims will be catered to, your shopping bug sated, and your culinary wishes fulfilled. What a stay this will be!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Guess what the Millionth Word in English is ?

"Web 2.0" was added as the millionth word in the English language, beating out "noob," "defriending," and "cloud computing," according to the Global Language Monitor, an Austin, Texas-based global language tracker. "Web 2.0," as most of us know, is a term that refers to the second generation of the web made up of social-oriented, user-centric photo sharing and social networking. The Global Language Monitor published an announcement on their site claiming that Web 2.0 had crossed the lines from tech jargon to everyday usage. If you're into Scrabble or surfing the internet, it sounds like this is a great excuse to plan a road trip in celebration!

Whether you're traveling from the West Coast or from the East, you'll probably pass by Chicago. Take a break from the Prius and spend a few nights in a luxurious hotel near one of Chicago's landmarks or prime shopping regions before continuing to tour the countryside with the windows wide open. Our top suggestion? Book your hotel stay in advance through What a Hotel! while you are heading towards Chicago, because you can capitalize on your savings by finding a hotel with Exclusive Complimentary Perks. Consider the Park Hyatt Chicago, which is the flagship hotel of the Park Hyatt and combines luxury and elegance. Get a room on one of the higher floors for a breathtaking view of the Park Hyatt Chicago's proximity to architectural landmarks, shopping spots, and cultural landmarks. During a day off from driving, step out from the hotel to explore Chicago's Magnificent Mile, which can be toured using the complimentary bike program through the hotel (instead of a car!). After spending the day out on the town, settle into the NoMi award-winning restaurant and enjoy the fine wines offered every night (or the Sommelier's tastings on Tuesday nights).

If old-fashioned glamour is more your style, book a stay in the Ritz Carlton Chicago (A Four Seasons Hotel) for quick access to area attractions. Opened in 1975, the hotel is decked out in rich tapestries, glossy woods, and heavy marbles, and you might not want to leave this urban oasis with amazing views of the Magnificent Mile's north end. Take an afternoon to visit Chicago's Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago, with a new wing opening in 2009. Should you crave life in the fast lane while you're cooling your heels in the city, book a spot on the City Segway Tours Chicago to cruise effortlessly through parks and side streets without tiring yourself out. At night, check out the Blue Man Group or "Supernatural Chicago" shows before hitting the road yet again.

If you can't head out on an extended road trip this season, you'll be pleased to know that the Global Language Monitor reports that the English language adds 14.7 new words a day, or every 98 minutes. There are plenty of excuses to celebrate creativity in the future!

A Cowboy with lots of Cash

Neal Wanless, who won the $232 million Powerball jackpot in South Dakota, hasn't been seen around town since he was presented with a giant check last week. While people say that the mild-mannered cowboy kid, who graduated salutatorian from his mostly Native American high school in 2004, had been walking around with a smile plastered on his face after the win, there hasn't been much movement at the Wanless Ranch save for the new addition of a lock linking together a rusty chain outside his family's ranch lands, where they lived in a camper after losing their home to foreclosure. Maybe the formerly down-on-his-luck cowboy has just been planning a blow-out vacation with his family in celebration? That sounds like a good idea to us!

The Wanless family might be able to go anywhere they want now, but if we choose our next vacation hotel carefully, we'll feel like a million bucks, too. For a never-fail experience, head to Los Angeles, where WhataHotel.com has Exclusive Complimentary Perks arranged with many leading hotels. If you'd like to vacation like a star, book a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel at Beverly Hills, which is considered by many a hotel aficionado to be an incomparable selection. Even if you can afford just one or two nights here, it's worth it: you get complimentary surprises, great bathroom amenities, a cozy, thick robe, and a well-stocked mini-bar. Plan a trip to The Cafe for a light meal, or reserve a table at the Gardens Restaurant to do some quality noshing and star peeping right on site. Close to the Four Seasons Hotel at Beverly Hills are the famous shopping spots Rodeo Drive and Robertson Boulevard, but you'll still be able to step out onto your private balcony to enjoy the quiet of the palm-lined residential neighborhood in which this Four Seasons nestles. After a long day of window shopping at Kitson, Agnes B, and Curve, venture upstairs to the lush rooftop terrace, and hit the spa with your $100 spa credit you'll receive through What a Hotel!'s Exclusive Perks.

Then again, Los Angeles is known for its quirky spots, and even a Powerball winner flush with cash might be looking for something they can write home about. The SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills still offers those perks through WhataHotel.com, but the vibe is decidedly more avant-garde and daring than many other choices. Decor is elevated to art complete with Phillipe Starck-designed furnishings and a "liquid retail" concept by MOSS within the hotel. It's daring and different, and it's entirely "L.A.," so book a stay in this spot to feel chic while still getting a chance to soak up creature comforts. Relax in a state-of-the-art spa and exercise away on well-tuned, high-tech equipment, and then explore near the hotel to snap pictures of all the Beverly Hills distractions that will tempt you into spending a little more than you budgeted for. Take a drive along the top of Hollywood Hills, Mulholland Drive, and take in gorgeous views of Los Angeles before going to Rodeo Drive, which is arguably one of the most well-known shopping spots in the world. After browsing exclusive boutiques frequented by the silver screen set, you might want to wrap things up with a historical tour of the Virginia Robinson Gardens or the Greystone Mansion and Park.

The Wanless family might be rumored to be buying another ranch in South Dakota, but they probably wouldn't object to some LA sightseeing with their new travel budget. They might even stay in a hotel near you when they're in the City of Angels, so keep your eyes peeled for the cowboy with a lot of cash.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Stephen Colbert has Hair Chopped off in Baghdad

Stephen Colbert traveled to Iraq from Kuwait on Friday on board a military transport plane, and it is said that he was inspired to take the trip after he observed economic reports overshadowing information from Baghdad. Performing for roaring troops at Camp Victory, he filmed the first four episodes of "The Colbert Report," playing a conservative TV show host. Colbert's series of half-hour shows mark the first time anyone has broadcast a taped show from Iraq to entertain troops. "It must be nice here in Iraq because I understand some of you keep coming back again and again," he joked. "You've earned so many frequent-flier miles, you've earned a free ticket to Afghanistan." While filming, Colbert had his hair cut by Gen. Ray Odierno (although it was finished off by a stylist), wearing a camouflage suit and matching tie, and then mingled with the cheering troops for photo ops.

If you're interested in following Colbert to the Middle East but staying away from a war zone, head to Jordan for an exotic trip with plenty of luxury bonuses, especially when you stay at a hotel that is in the WhataHotel.com Collection. For example, Four Seasons Amman boasts amazing facilities and private balconies, and you'll be in a prime location for major sightseeing. The Alexander the Great gallery is only a five minutes' walk from the hotel, while you can drive to a number of museums in just 15 minutes, among them being the Jordan Archaelogical Museum, Jordan Folklore Museum, Jordan Museum of Popular Tradition, and the Royal Automobile Museum. Three art galleries are found in under 30 minutes' drive, and the city of Jerash can be visited in one hour. You might get the modern vibe in Amman, but Jerash is a step back in time and is considered one of the largest and best-preserved sites in Roman architecture outside of Italy.

Another interesting location in the Middle East to visit is Saudi Arabia, where you can stay at Four Seasons Riyadh which features a wide range of amenities for single, family, and business travelers. And you'll be surprised at how many different things you can add onto your tourist itinerary. Take a drive from Central Riyadh to the older part of the city, characterized by traditional homes built from earthen materials, and ancient structures clustered together near central squares. For an interesting contrast, visit the Kingdom Tower afterwards, which is one of the most famous landmarks in Riyadh, and go to the observation deck on the 99th floor--and then all the shops beneath. On a break from the bustle, go to the Thumama Desert, where you can visit sun-baked dunes and even drive a buggy around the desert.

With Stephen Colbert taping away in the Middle East, there's a good chance that Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia will be in the back of our minds when booking our next vacation. Hot weather gets so much more enjoyable when you've got places to go and things to see, don't you think?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Obama's in the City of Lights

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were seen taking in the City of Lights this weekend, even dining blocks from the Eiffel Tower at a cozy neighborhood bistro. The First Lady and President were in France to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day, and it sounds like their trip wasn't just for governmental responsibilities, but perhaps to sneak in a little bit of romance as well!

Paris is a city for everyone, from the foodies to the history buffs to the closeted romantics, and now it's possible to try what the Obamas did during their visit. The Obamas ate at the famed La Fontaine de Mars, which dates back to 1908 and specializes in rustic dishes using traditional French ingredients. While the White House did not release what our President and the First Lady chose, there are several traditional options on the menu that will make any foodie smile, like duck, foie gras, and cassoulet. When you choose to dine at this restaurant, you won't encounter half the ruckus that the Obamas did: police in riot gear had to line the street as crowds snapped pictures on cell phones and cameras. Other foodie destinations in Paris, France include authentic brasseries like Le Gallopin in the 2nd Arrondissement and Julien in the 10th Arrondissement. Be sure to visit a market, because there are more than 100 "marchés alimentaires" in the city-- Place des Fêtes and Jaurès are two of the best. If you find yourself craving ethnic food, head to the city's Chinatown on a Sunday to sample glazed duck, spiced soups, couscous, and falafel.

Now that you've got your food browsing schedule down, where will you sleep? Paris's hotels rival the quality of its restaurants and sightseeing options, so you'll have plenty from which to choose. Browse WhataHotel!'s Paris luxury hotels to view the very best, while planning which hotels fit your budget . One unforgettable choice is the Pavillon de la Reine, which features a green courtyard and is located in one of the most beautiful squares in the world. Built in 1605, the Place des Vosges houses chic restaurants, galleries, and shopping spots as well as this hotel with Exclusive Complementary Perks through What a Hotel! For large-scale thrills, consider Le Meurice, which is found between the Palace Vendome and the Louvre, and is a stunning Parisian destination. Book a stay in the spa for special grape seed oil-based treatments and a spin on some of the latest exercise equipment.

Your trip to Paris might not be as glam as the Obamas' trip, but it will be close.

The "Venice of the North"

One of CNN's correspondents has been jetting around Stockholm, munching on meatballs, caviar paste, and lingonberry, and he's inspiring us to explore what has been called the "Venice of the North." The weather might be cooler than we're used to, but it's also bathed in light that kicks in with a stunning sunrise at 4 p.m., and sunsets that hit around 11 p.m. If extra daylight for sightseeing sounds like an enjoyable trip to you, here's what you should try out in a visit to the Venice of the North.

A recommended hotel for your trip to Stockholm is the Radisson Blu Strand Hotel, which has waterfront views and an advantageous location close to the Old Town as well as theaters, museums, and the Royal Palace. From there, you can easily start your tour of Stockholm's Gamla Stan (Old Town), which is considered one of the "best preserved medieval city centers in the world." Although it's often filled with tourists, it's a great place to browse galleries, stop by delicious eateries, and explore well-crafted jewelry from a variety of craftspeople. After cruising by the packed main walks and smaller, almost hidden alleyways, you can watch the changing of the guard ceremony at the Kungliga Slottet, the official residence of the King of Sweden. For the Venice-like part, hop on a sightseeing tour boat and choose the "hop on, hop off" ticket so you can visit spots that look interesting. Be sure to check the routes, because some of the waterway tours go straight to the islands and don't swing around to other points of interest!

Should you have extra time on vacation, you should go to Denmark, located southwest of Sweden, as a complement to the Venice of the North. Stay at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Copenhagen, one of the most exclusive spots in the city, which also happens to boast Exclusive Complementary Perks through What a Hotel! The hotel is in the heart of Copenhagen, making it a great place if you're planning on serious sightseeing. Copenhagen is a multifaceted destination that's great for two, nice for budget vacationers, and also good for wellness-related excursions. It may not be the first place you think of when you imagine castles, but it has plenty of halls, castles, and gardens for your exploration, including the Rosenborg Castle, Fredensborg Palace, and Kronborg Castle. Sneak in a kiss with your significant other at the "Kissing Row" at the Empire Bio, which has love seats for couples wanting to grab a movie.

Not just Italy has a Venice, it seems, and we'll be exploring that and more of Scandinavia this season.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Combat Cell Elbow with a Spa Vacation

New studies have revealed that "cell phone elbow" has affected those who use their cells on a regular basis, because an essential nerve can be pinched over an extended period of time. Dr. Leon Benson told CNN that constant cell phone use can "stress out the ulnar nerves," which can actually become scarred and weakened. You may feel tingling in the ring or little finger, and it's imperative you switch arms before it gets worse. If that sounds like something you'd like to avoid, how about hunting down some of the best spa resorts in the world to take care of your pinched and damaged nerves in your arms and back?

To work out your cell elbow, why not hit the southwest, where healthy living feels agreeable when you're surrounded by those interested a fresh perspective on health, diet, and beauty? One night you may be taking in a bright sunset streaking across the desert at Canyon Ranch, Tucson, and the next day you could be targeting work-related stress with spiritual and relaxation classes. You'll get special spa credits through What a Hotel's Exclusive Complementary Perks, and you can book health and healing classes in Medical Services, Behavioral Health Services, Food & Nutrition, Exercise Physiology, and Movement Therapy at the Canyon Ranch, Tucson. When your elbow starts getting back in shape, you might want to look into some of Tucson's outdoor adventure breaks, which include all levels of hiking, horseback riding either near the resort or at a public stable, bird watching, and outdoor family fun. If you get really inspired as your trip in Arizona rolls along, there's always voluntourism, where you can pitch in with Native Seeds, Habitat for Humanity, or the Tucson Botanical Gardens' clean-up program. Don't forget to get a Bluetooth attachment to keep your elbow readjustments in place when you get home, though!

If you're an East Coast vacationer, you might want to head to Canyon Ranch, Miami Beach instead. With 150 guest suites and an oceanside location, you'll get plenty of attention at this newest addition to the Canyon Ranch family. The location was restored far beyond its original luxe, meaning that your spa pampering will be complemented by gawk-worthy surroundings and cordial gathering spaces. If you find yourself getting your elbow worked out with all that shiatsu, Swedish, and hot stone therapy, you might want to ask about Canyon Ranch's exclusive skin care line for a beauty break. Not only will you keep that cell phone elbow away, but you'll be able to enjoy perks that leave you looking rested in the office, too.

You probably won't be feeling that cell phone elbow after all this relaxation, will you?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mom's Flex Shopping Muscle

Stores and their representatives are starting to take notice when moms speak up about unnecessary fees and unappetizing deals, and that means they're getting to take advantage of more impressive savings to suit their needs. As Gap spokeswoman Louise Callagy told the press, "[Moms] are the voice of our customers, and we are working harder to develop and maintain their trust and respond to their feedback.” Corporate America has been paying more attention to consumer responses on forums and blogs, so Moms are getting more deals when looking for clothing, shopping for supplies, and even browsing for travel savings.

Some countries' four and five-star hotels are so opulent that you feel your every need can be catered to immediately. While the standards for hotel ratings might be carefully determined and carried out, some hotels' common areas, layouts, and amenities are extra special, particularly in conjunction with the excellent service you'll be receiving. Head to Qatar in the Middle East to experience some of the world's most luxurious hotels in a stunning location like Doha. The Four Seasons Hotel Doha gives guests a breathtaking view of the Arabian Gulf that knows no price, but budget-minded vacationers will be glad to know that the location has Exclusive Complementary Perks when booking through WhataHotel.com as well as a "Fourth Night Free" deal through September 30, 2009. Settle into your hotel overlooking the sparkling city and beautiful water, and then get ready for a day of shopping in one of the Middle East's economic hubs. The Hyatt Plaza Mall is one of the best-known locations to get a deal, and it's fantastic for bargains from international purveyors.

The Middle East is a place where your money counts, and Saudi Arabia shows off how glamour should be done. The Four Seasons Riyadh features plenty of services and amenities for families and businesspeople, and there's only going to be more options in the future. Reports claim that Riyadh is planning to open up 1,530 rooms for tourism by 2010, and that developers are currently working overtime to make your experience even better. For those looking to save, you'll be glad to know that the Riyadh Tourism Bureau started a special program to offer free sightseeing tours of the city earlier this year. Swing by the Duty-Free in the International Airport on your way out of the city post-vacation, as a way to commemorate your trip to a place where Old World and the cutting-edge combine and save a little money.

Looking for a place where you can shop, enjoy plenty of perks, and luxuriate in an exotic environment? The Middle East might be for you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"I Always Feel Like, Somebody's Watching Me"

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard to post lawmaker spending records online on Wednesday. House and Senate lawmakers are given an annual allowance between $1.3 million and $4.5 million to run their offices, which is used for operating costs and staff salaries, as well as equipment, travel, and operating supplies. The thousands of pages were previously only available to those who requested them in Washington, D.C., or those who were willing to pay for copies sent their way. Beginning in August, the documents will be available online in order for operations to be as transparent as possible. With all that attention on spending, will you be looking for travel deals this year?

If you'd like to go somewhere that's affordable but doesn't feel inexpensive, you'll probably love visiting Africa. Mauritius is located off the coast of Africa in the southwest Indian Ocean, and both English and French languages are spoken widely on the island. Foodies will love the blend of cuisines at one meal, and adventurous types are urged to visit the back country, where they can indulge in zip lining, horseback riding, deer hunting, and quad & mountain biking. Enjoy this island (said to have "inspired heaven") by staying at the Four Seasons Resort Mauritius in Anahita, which allows breathtaking views of mountainous lands and lagoons surrounding the incredibly luxurious resort and golf course.

Mauritius might spoil you rotten, but perhaps you'd prefer something different than an island atmosphere. The Kasbah Tamadot in Morocco could be one of the most stunning locations you'll visit this year, tucked into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. After taking in the river and mountains near the hotel gratis, head out to explore Marrakech, which is an experience that's not only unforgettable, but often so amazing that you'll want to repeat it soon. Just a few important stops include Majorelle Garden, Le Bains de Marrakech, and the Museum of Marrakech, which displays lots of Moroccan tile work and ancient artifacts. Walking through the Semmarine Souk, you'll find plenty of traditional garments with exquisite detailing for very little, and antiques and jewelry, too. Those with extra time must stop by the Jemaa El Fna, where storytellers and snake charmers perform day and night. When you finish up your trip in the city, consider taking the overnight Marrakech Express train for an affordable overnight trip to Tanjier.

Wouldn't you rather watch your pennies on vacation while the House scrambles to explain their expenditures?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


There's a new type of work hybrid in town: instead of work and leisure, we've got a special term just for the summer of '09! That hybrid is called "weisure," and the term was coined by New York University sociologist Dalton Conley, author of "Elsewhere, U.S.A." Since many of us have long workweeks full of responsibilities, Conley states, people are more likely to get on their smartphone while at a family gathering, or do a little networking via Facebook at work. With all of this stress in our professional lives and the crossover between work and play, we definitely need to find a good locale for our Weisure Time during vacation.

If you're looking for something slightly exotic but not too far from North America, Central America is a great choice. Try Guatemala, located south of Mexico, for a glimpse at some amazing ecosystems as well as Mayan temples and stunning highlands. Take that smartphone along with you as you settle into El Convento Boutique Hotel, which is located by La Antigua's famous cobblestone streets and combines modern elements with Guatemala's ancient past. Their excellent service is complemented by the fantastic rooms and great view of La Antigua's 18th century Capuchin convent. Even if you do have some work to take along with you, you'll probably forget about assignments for a few minutes while you relax with a goblet of fine wine at your hotel. On an early morning when you're away from the internet, visit Parque Central and its popular fountain located right in the middle, and then meander towards the Arco de Santa Catalina, one of the many notable architectural highlights in La Antigua.

Those avoiding cities might want to try out Costa Rica's resort options, such as the Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort in Costa Rica's northern region, at the foot of the Arenal Volcano. Nothing quite beats the rush of hot thermal springs piped straight from the volcano's still-active core. Be sure to snap pictures of the volcano during your stay, especially if you see it without clouds at the top, which is considered good luck. Take home a picture to put on your desktop during weisure time, and don't forget that the resort offers other outdoorsy activities like white water rafting, rappelling, kayaking, canopy tours, nature cruises, and caving. The Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort might have a minimum stay of two nights, but you'll find that that's hardly enough advantage of all that's available to do at Arenal Volcano National Park.

Wherever you decide to take your Weisure Break, make it a gorgeous spot. Central America's just the ticket this season!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Feeling Susan Boyle's Pain?

Susan Boyle, the singing sensation known for her outstanding "Britain's Got Talent" performance and surprising defeat in the finals, was hospitalized for exhaustion at a private clinic today. The 48-year-old singer was reportedly left "exhausted and emotionally drained" post-defeat, reports CNN. Boyle had previously claimed that she would leave the show before the final competition, and show judge Piers Morgan told the press that her week had been "pretty rough."

If you're feeling the strain of the day-to-day, there are plenty of spots in the States to plan a lavish getaway, on either champagne or Diet Coke budgets. The Winvian might cost $2,000 per night on average, but it is worth it for all the quiet relaxation you'll get in Litchfield Hills, Connecticut, away from the buzz of the city. This area of Northwestern Connecticut is known for its distinct scenery, its mountainous areas, and its close proximity to New York City. Set on 113 acres of woods and lakes, the summer getaway was painstakingly designed by 15 architects and has a special cottage to suit every personality, including a Maritime Cottage and an all-glass Greenhouse Cottage. All meals are included in the cost of your stay when booking through WhataHotel.com, as well as all liquors in open bars and cottages. Since the Litchfield Hills area is known for its small wine industry, you just might find something tasty tucked away in your cottage.

Should you be looking for a similar location on the West Coast, La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa is located in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico, but it still evokes a sense of serenity as soon as you step inside. The location, which has a spa on-site, is considered the number one choice for vacationers to Santa Fe and has been featured in National Geographic, Architectural Digest, and Sunset Magazine. Since you'll be located in the center of town, it's easy to step out after a Swedish massage or facial to explore the city square surrounded by historic buildings and 150-year-old cottonwood trees. Be sure to slip to the north side of the plaza, where the Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in the country, is located. Take a look at the fresh fruit at the Santa Fe Indian Market, and then meander over to the jewelry stands, boutiques, and galleries. From there, you can view the Rio Santa Fe, located near old, converted haciendas and a narrow, winding road.

Those feeling fatigued should take a break to one of these recommended spots--they sure beat a stop to the clinic a la Susan Boyle!

Top Jobs Created by Obama Keep Us Safe

President Barack Obama announced at the end of last week that he will be creating the position of cyber security coordinator to secure "America's digital infrastructure." The lucky new addition will be hand-picked by the President to protect our online activities, which includes taking out our credit cards to pay for travel arrangements, reserve tours and special activities, and book hotels through WhataHotel.com. With all this attention being placed on internet activities, how do you know if your travel agency can be trusted?

Don't take a chance while President Obama is still choosing this important person to protect national security. Taking precautions is always smart, no matter where you live and how many online travel bookings you make per year.

As you might know, What a Hotel! is owned and managed by Lorraine Travel of Coral Gables, Florida, which has been in operation since 1948. One of the largest privately-owned travel management companies in Florida, Lorraine Travel has organized trips for high-profile clients like government representatives, private companies, and prestigious academic institutions with commendable reviews.

If security is extremely important to you, you should look into visiting some of the safest countries in the world for a worry-free stay. Norway is considered one of the safest, often topping the lists with low unemployment rates and an immeasurable illiteracy rate. There are few delays, and travelers who hate changing their plans will love exploring cities like Oslo and Bergen, where things "run like clockwork." Consider staying at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel in Oslo, which is right next door to the Express Train Station and close to the city's new commercial district. New Zealand offers an entirely different environment for the enthusiastic traveler, but it is also considered a very safe place to travel, as well as Ireland, Japan, and Denmark.

Here's to a safe summer, thanks to Lorraine Travel and President Obama.