Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Great Spring Trips

Spring is in the air... in most places, that is. After spending some time in Canada, it’s clear that a few places have catching up to do, but that’s expected for northern climates. If you live somewhere chilly and you don’t want to wait for the spring thaw, why not try one of these recommended getaways? Oh, and if you are from somewhere further south and are getting increasingly uncomfortable as the weather gets warmer, prepare yourself for a vacation, too!

San Diego: Cosmopolitan evenings out and beach strolling are both high on the list of tourist attractions in San Diego. Grab a beer at a close-to-the-boardwalk bar and plan a night out at the beach, because there are facilities provided for those who like to stoke a fire on the sand. Other attractions include Mission Beach, SeaWorld, and the Gaslamp Quarter.

Top Hotel Pick
The Grand Del Mar: Recognized as one of the “World’s Best Places to Stay,” the Grand Del Mar offers views of the golf course or nature preserve. 31 spacious suites and two presidential suites round out accommodation offerings.

W San Diego: The centrally-located W San Diego is near the Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, and the convention center. Perch on the window seat in your room for a great view.

Miami: Miami’s sun-soaked South Beach provides plenty of distraction when you’re not toasting on the beach. The Art Deco district is stuffed full of boutique hotels, some of which offer tours to non-guests because of the great number of celebrity visitors over the years. For ghost stories and a tour, head to Miami's Biltmore, in Coral Gables. Cuban snacks and interesting international cuisine is easy to find all over Miami, so prepare to dig in.

Top Hotel Pick
Hotel Victor: Located in the Art Deco district, the Hotel Victor is chic, with al fresco dining on the outdoor terrace and divinely decorated rooms.

Canyon Ranch: Positioned right on the beach, the Canyon Ranch Miami Beach offers water views, an unsurpassed spa, and great amenities

Montreal: Live in Miami, or anywhere else in the southern part of the States? Head up to Montreal during the spring to enjoy fresh air and some top-notch cuisine. Montreal’s famous poutine is a divine treat for foodies, and there’s a buzzing nightlife along St. Catherine street, one of Montreal’s most famous entertainment spots. Hit up the casino if you want a little roulette or blackjack action during your break.

Top Hotel Pick
Hotel Le St James: This warm, luxurious hotel occupies a building dating back to 1870. Located in vibrant Old Montreal, this luxury hotel comes highly rated and offers perks via

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth: About 10% of the Fairmont's rooms are suites, and it's located above the trains for easy access. World-class accommodations positioned near the underground city (filled with shops and restaurants) are a great place to stay for any tourist new to Montreal.

Amsterdam: Amsterdam might attract those looking for a coffee shop (where not just coffee is sold), but there is so much more to do than just browse Amsterdam’s legalized offerings. The city is as picturesque as can be and is more than excellent for bicycling, tulip enthusiasts, and art lovers. Electronic music fans will swoon over local club offerings.

Top Hotel Pick
Sofitel Amsterdam: This hotel has 177 rooms and is located near many important landmarks in the city. Now that the hotel’s been renovated, rooms will surpass exacting standards.

Hotel Pulitzer: Got a thing for the canals of Amersterdam? The Hotel Pulitzer is close to the most picturesque canals, Prinsengracht and Keizersgra, and it has placed on Conde Nast’s Gold List.

Dominican Republic: Any young traveler will love exploring a package featuring the Dominican Republic, especially if it’s packed full of perks. This destination is favored by spring breakers and sun-soakers alike. Late planners are welcome because of the last-minute deals available at all levels of accommodation. Punta Cana is considered the country’s most popular destination, but Puerto Plata is considered an excellent choice as well.

Top Hotel Pick
Casa de Campo: Want to visit a tropical playground? Get a booking at Casa de Campo for golf, tennis, and even horseback-riding lessons. Children are especially welcome at this resort destination.

Silvory Punta Cana: This private, exclusive luxury resort is set on a lush setting in the D.R., and you can enjoy a private beach, a well-stocked wine cellar, and a top-notch spa.

Forget the stress of vacation-planning; selecting a perfect place for your vacation isn’t hard when you're browsing luxury spots. The perks and amenities make your destination a success, no matter where you go, and it’s unnecessary to choose a hotel in a city you’ve already explored. Go out on a limb this spring and discover something new about a city you’re bound to love.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Magic of Barcelona

Barcelona is incredibly scenic, absolutely breathtaking, and without a doubt one of the most popular spots in Spain. We regularly hear about friends and family planning a trip to this great city, and its magic has also been recorded in literature, films, and modern art. Home to one of Europe’s largest ports, Barcelona doesn’t simply draw art-lovers and cosmopolitan foodies, but honest-to-goodness sailors who know their stuff.

When You’re at Sea...
Expert Stuart Butler told CNN exactly what places he loved when he set sail from Barcelona. Got your adventure cap on?

Costa Brava: Butler says that Costa Brava is more challenging to explore for the average sailor, due to the higher tourist concentration, but he recommends Aiguablava, which has limited space for parking and is therefore much quieter.

Butler Says: "The area around Palafrugell and Begur contains a string of pocket-sized coves with minty blue waters and a very low-key, and often quite exclusive, tourist industry. Although yachting facilities are fairly limited, this area is exceptionally popular with sailors who like to moor up off the quiet coves."

Bay of Roses: The Bay of Roses is full of intimate coves that can be reached by foot or by boat, and this area is particularly perfect for those planning on sailing to France after. Due to strong winds, sailing is slightly more challenging--or "exhilarating," as Butler put it.

CNN, Butler Says: "Cadaqués was the adopted home of eccentric artist Salvador Dali, and as such, ‘the town retains something of a bohemian and artistic feel. The region is littered with small, intimate coves -- the majority of which can only be reached by foot or boat."

Illedes Medes: The Illedes Medes is known for some of the best diving on the Western Mediterranean, and if you're a nature person, it'll take your breath away.

Butler Says: "Some 1,300 different species of plants and animals have been seen in the waters around here, including conger eels, moray eels, rays and giant groupers -- some of which might even feed from your hand."

Port Olympic Marina: This spot between Barcelona and Icaria features a landmark sculpture built by renown architect, Frank Gehry, called "Peix" (fish). The marina and the surrounding tourist-friendly development (cafes, shops, and restaurants) is a product of the 1992 Olympics.

Butler Says: "Prior to the '92 Olympics this part of Barcelona was fairly neglected and run-down. But ever since it has been undergoing a steady gentrification and is considered the best place in Barcelona to eat seafood."

Where to Stay
Do the “real sailors” sleep on the boat? These hotels in Barcelona are begging to be booked and settled into, all over the city, so take a break at one of these top destinations.

Majestic Hotel and Spa, Barcelona
The name says it all. The Majestic Hotel and Spa is situated perfectly for landlubbers accompanying a pro sailor on a trip to Barcelona, with its close proximity to Las Ramblas, the Plaza de Cataluña, and the Barrio Gótico. 303 suites and rooms suit exacting types and have experienced a recent renovation.

Hotel Arts Barcelona
Barcelona’s Hotel Arts doesn’t just have rooms and suites, but 28 stylish apartments for those who require extra space or those who’re planning on a longer stay. The Six Senses Spa is something you must experience, as is the distinctive neighborhood in which Hotel Arts Barcelona lives.

Hotel Claris, Barcelona
Got a foodie in the family? The Hotel Claris is a gastronomic playground for those extra-serious about their food, and a Mediterranean flair to the dishes brings you the freshest ingredients and innovative combinations that have gotten Hotel Claris plenty of attention. The hotel also happens to be right in the center of the action, close to the Passeig de Gràcia.

Meridien Barcelona
This beautiful building is situated close to the harbor, so you can be there in a flash to tend to your daily boating plan. Le Meridien Barcelona is near the Gothic quarter and the El Liceo Opera Theatre and features Cent Onze, the hotel’s restaurant and bar.

After you’ve spent a day sitting by the Barcelona Harbor, you will plan on going back again and again, even if you don’t sail. Those who come to Barcelona can’t get enough of it: Doesn’t everyone know a friend who loves it?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Top Romantic Resorts

Romantic getaways are often shown as those fantastic island stops filled with flowers, thatched huts, and clear-as-gin waters, but there’s a reason for that... everyone should experience an intimate island retreat at least once in their life. Luxury hotels the world over offer ambiance and history, but island resorts boast a unique blend of outrageously beautiful sights, total luxury, and seclusion. That sounds like the perfect combination to any couple, we’re sure, and not all island retreats are new, busy, or gimmicky. From heritage sites to nearly hidden destinations, these island retreats are what people look for when it comes to beautiful, romantic vacations.

Little Palm Island
Florida’s Little Palm Island isn’t just an escape for honeymooners, but for celebrities and politicians, too. The different bungalow suites allow for varied vacationing experiences, from the luxe to the super-ultra-premium luxury afforded by the Grand Island Suite. This resort doesn’t allow children (16+ only), and there are no TVs or phones around, so you’re going to be focusing on whomever was lucky enough to travel with you. Indulge in the Thai cuisine while you are there, and go on a diving tour when you finally emerge from your room.

Hotel Highlight: Dine on a terrace, which is perched on the beach, or eat at Little Palm Island's candlelit restaurant.

Spice Island Beach Resort
This Rosewood Resort offers a stay close to nature, and those seeking romance will want to book a suite with a private lawn garden or a private pool. The resort's private beach is only made better by the addition of new Cinnamon and Saffron Suites, which have private porches and custom furnishings. Spice Island calls the new suites the “beach lover’s dream.”

Hotel Highlight: Swing on a hammock on your suite's porch.

Elbow Beach Bermuda
If you don’t have many vacation days available, reduce time spent on a plane by heading to an intimate resort in Bermuda. Sitting on a stretch of private beach, this destination happens to be just five minutes away from the island’s capital, Hamilton. Lush gardens surround Elbow Beach Bermuda and have been enjoyed by guests for over a century. This particular pick is good for couples who want their privacy, but also want the opportunity to explore local towns on afternoons off from beach basking.

Hotel Highlight: Take a picture of the stunning pink sand beach.

Hotel Guanahani and Spa
If you want time to stare into each other’s eyes with no distractions, look into the Hotel Guanahani and Spa, which has an intimate environment perfect for those seeking peace and tranquility by the beach. The recently-renovated resort overlooks Marigot Bay and is situated at the tip of Grand Cul De Sac Bay. For an ultra-calming experience, choose Hotel Guanahani’s white-sand beach on the reef side, which is quieter.

Hotel Highlight: Go for a jet-skiing or snorkeling trip when you're craving adventure.

Cap Juluca
Cap Juluca recently underwent a $20 million renovation that’s given every corner of the hotel a fresh look. New furnishings, new robes, and new features are just an intro to the changes made at this Maundays Bay resort, which is tucked into a romantic crescent. A recent revamp also means improved service and a re-envisioned spa.

Hotel Highlight: Explore the refreshed grounds--Cap Juluca planted 60,000 plants during their renovation.

Is love in the air? The earlier you schedule your stay before your anniversary, the more you can save. Will it be the no-TVs-allowed quiet of Little Palm Island, historic Elbow Beach, or newly-renovated Cap Jaluca--or perhaps something else?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bargain-Seekers Find Value in Eygpt

Just because you’re staying in a high-end hotel does not mean that you don’t want the most value for your money while on vacation. Many savvy travelers have made the pages of travel newspapers and magazines for their clever maneuvering for deals after Egypt’s political changes--and they’re still getting some of the best prices in town.

The U.S. State Department marked Egypt as ill-advised for “non-essential travel,” but that’s hardly stopped a handful of tour operators and guides from coming back to the region with deals to spare. Since just after news of Egypt’s uprising, tourists have been getting incredible bargains on hotel rooms and sightseeing, and someone’s got to show them around town. If you decide to book a trip to Egypt, here are some of the current available activities to enjoy once you’re there--at lower prices, of course.

Upscale River Cruises: Traveling down the Nile is like traveling back in time, and now you can do it for less. Begin your journey at the temple of Abu Simel, built over three thousand years ago, and explore the locations of ancient villages and the Temple of Luxor.

Small Guided Trips: Hire a local guide through your hotel concierge to discover statues and monuments that aren't on the average tourist's map. There are small tombs and statues hidden along the Nile away from the beaten path.

“New Egypt” Tours: For the enthusiastic historian, there are opportunities to explore Egypt's recent uprising with expert guides.

Where to Stay
If you already have plans about what to do in Egypt, you’re going to need a place to stay. Instead of worrying over your accommodations, you should consider these options for lower luxury rates with more perks packed in per night.

Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh
A seaside resort with a layout reminiscent of a hillside village is an easy way to enjoy Egypt. With the Red Sea stretching in front of your accommodations, the Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh offers 27 suites and three residential villas amongst its guest lodging options.

Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria
The Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria has hummed right along through Egypt's uprising, providing a home-away-from-home for deal-seekers and historians alike. The legendary setting continues its dedication to luxury service, making it exceptional for the pleasure traveler, but it’s also kitted out with a high-quality business center and provides complimentary newspapers daily.

Sofitel Cairo
A luxury hotel in the heart of Cairo won’t be surrounded by competitors: this hotel is located right on the Nile River. The elegant hotel destination is the preferred spot for high-class travellers and distinguished international guests, and it offers Exclusive Complimentary Perks to those booking through

Mena House
Did you ever imagine being lucky enough to sleep close to the Great Pyramids of Egypt? The Mena House was one of the first hotels in Cairo to cater to wealthy European travelers, and it has been host to dignitaries, diplomats, and celebrities since it opened in 1869. Richly appointed in the luxurious blend of modern and traditionally-inspired decor, the Mena House Oberoi offers fantastic locally-sourced meals and gourmet dishes in their restaurants, which also offer international cuisine.

The travel guides offering a “Real Egypt” or a “New Egypt” tour while in Cairo have it right: this is a perfect time to visit a city that’s experiencing a transformation. Instead of shying away from great change, you have an opportunity to see it up close, and besides getting an invaluable history lesson, you are getting it for less--even better.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sacred Routes Around the World

There’s something magical about seeing sacred sites the world over. Your background doesn’t matter, and neither does your religion, when you stop by modern-day wonders that draw local people just as often as they attract international people to worship and explore. While many are content visiting standard sights while on vacation, why settle for what everyone sees? Stopping at a sacred destination adds depth to your travels and priceless understanding of a new culture.

Angkor Cambodia
Angkor Wat is Angkor’s most famous temple, built to honor the god of peace and preservation, Vishnu. For those who plan on spending a longer time in Angkor, you can also arrange a volunteer visit in Siem Riep that combines a visit to the temples.

Expert Advice: “Look for ancient Sanskrit poems and prayers and exquisite etchings depicting Hindu gods and goddesses and apsaras (dancing nymphs) on the temple’s sandstone walls. The wats, having evolved from their Hindu roots to serve as contemporary sacred sites for Buddhism, swarm today with orange robe-donning Buddhist monks.”

Where to Stay: The Hotel de La Paix is a contemporary hotel that borrows from the past with Art Deco elements and luxurious furnishings. This hotel is just a 10-minute drive from Angkor Wat.

Part of the former Ottoman and Byzantine Empire’s bound to have a layered history, and it certainly does. Istabul has two of the world’s most awe-inspiring places of worship: the formerly Byzantine Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque.

Expert Advice: “Sophia’s latest incarnation as a museum, deemed so by the Republic of Turkey in 1935, means that everyone can marvel at the building’s sheer beauty and the remaining artifacts of both Christian and Islamic faiths entangled under one massive roof.”

Where to Stay: The Park Hyatt Istanbul is in a super-fashionable area and has corner rooms with great views of the city. Turkish design melds with Art Deco elements for a true tourist treat.

Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Chichén Itzá’s best visited on the two days during the year when the illusion of the serpent god, Kukulkan, appears on the side of the pyramid. This hulking pyramid structure is built with a total of 365 steps to represent the Mayan solar calendar.

Expert Advice: “Though El Castillo is the main attraction at this UNESCO World Heritage Site (also designated one of the New Seven Wonders of the World), Chichén Itzá’s other standouts include the largest ballcourt in Mesoamerica and the Warrior’s Temple, another stepped pyramid topped by a Chac Mool statue, whose likeness is a mainstay of Mexico tourism brochures.”

Where to Stay: Since travellers often visit Chichén Itzá on a day trip from Cancun, you can take your pick of some of the leading luxury resorts in Mexico. Live Aqua Cancun is perched on the Yucatan Peninsula and even offers guests a selection of eight different pillows. This hotel is located close to a brand-new shopping center and is just 20 minutes from the international airport.

Nearly every spot in Jerusalem is situated on or near a sacred spot, but some are more frequently visited than others. The Kotel Tunnels, Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Via Dolorosa are all must-sees on anyone’s trip to Jerusalem.

Expert Advice: “For Jews, the Western Wall (also called the Wailing Wall) is one of the few remainders from the period of the Second Temple (destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD). Today, it’s a must-see for Jews and non-Jews alike, who offer prayers and leave messages in the stone wall’s crevices, set below the Temple Mount.”

Where to Stay: Jersusalem’s rich history joins with tasteful decor in one of the finest hotels in the city, the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel. Be sure to visit the spa, and to order dishes with local flavor, during your visit.

Tips for Visiting Sacred Locales
It’s essential that you avoid any trouble visiting your destinations of choice, naturally, but rules for stopping at sacred places can be more restrictive than you might expect. If in doubt, ask, and use these general guidelines as an aid to wrinkle-free exploration.

Photography: Photographs are often not allowed in enclosed sacred spaces, and local people might request that photography not be allowed during rituals or performances. Stick to a no-flash rule regardless to avoid misunderstanding, no matter what you’ve been told.

Body Coverings
: Some sacred destinations may require head, shoulder, and knee coverings for women, or locally-acquired accessories that can be purchased or borrowed at the site. In general, on a day when one is visiting a sacred spot, it’s best to avoid shorts, tank tops, or low-cut shirts.

An Open Mind: While mosques are beautiful and rich in history, many do not allow non-Muslims. When planning on visiting a mosque, it is recommended that you pack warm socks to fight the chill from removing your shoes.

When it comes to visiting sacred spaces, you should prepare a quiet day afterwards for thought and reflection. Whether you’re stopping at a church or a nook in the earth, you’re bound to feel moved and reflective. Head back to the hotel, have a quiet meal, and settle in to think about life. This will be an unforgettable experience!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Exploring the Left Bank of Paris

The Left Bank in Paris is known for exciting places to visit and things to eat, and you aren't confined to the traditional St-Germain shopping and cafe-hopping. Lonely Planet partnered with the BBC to bring you fresh recommendations from the heart of the Left Bank—the Latin Quarter—as well as from the boutique-lined streets of St. Germain.

Where to Go
There's no reason you should be a lost tourist in the city, especially not when there are so many updated guides floating around for your convenience. These are some of the hottest tourist spots on the to-do list this year.

Musée d’Orsay
: If you enjoy Impressionist paintings, then you'll love seeing the work displayed at the Musée d’Orsay: it covers work from the 1840s to 1914, from artists like Degas, Monet, and Cézanne .

Musée National Eugène Delacroix: Delacroix died in Paris in 1863, and some of his lesser-known and more intimate pieces are displayed here.

Jardin du Luxembourg: This gorgeous public gardens houses orchards and apiaries, as well as the more standard manicured greenery.

Institute of the Arab World: Arab and Western elements fuse in this successful museum of traditional and modern finds.

Where to Eat
Paris + fine dining go together like fromage + vin, so explore these dining options when you're in the Left Bank.

La Mosquée de Paris: Dining inside the city's central mosque is a perfect way to experience another side of strong Parisian culture—another culture within the city. Try peppermint tea, couscous, and tagine here.

L’Agrume: Check out the chefs cooking in an open kitchen on tasty dishes.

Le Comptoir du Relais: Seasonal dishes are the fare you'll find at this exciting Left Bank stop, and you should really try the foi gras if you are feeling adventurous.

Bistro Les Papilles: Looking for some French wine in an unpretentious setting? This part-wine cellar location offers a daily hot special—a “market hot pot.” Lonely Planet calls the wine list “exceptional.”

Suggested Accommodations

Wondering where to stay? All of these hotels listed offer exclusive complimentary perks through

Hotel Lutetia
If you're going to be checking out all that the Left Bank has to offer, then the Hotel Lutetia is one of your best options. This luxury accommodations, the 'Spirit of the Left Bank,” has been host to a wide variety of prominent individuals like jazz artists, royalty, and jet-set celebrities. The hotel is decorated in the classic style of the 1930s and is situated in the stylish district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Hotel Pont Royal
The Hotel Pont Royal combines charm and elegance and is located in the Left Bank, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. If you plan on exploring the area, why not settle into a hotel that evokes the spirit of the Belle Epoche, while still remaining close to the Musée d'Orsay and the Louvre?

Hotel De Crillon
This luxury hotel is a legendary European hotel in a prime location for exploring Paris. Setting itself apart from the renovated-to-the-hilt options, the Hotel de Crillon is a former private residence with classical décor and all the modern conveniences. Walk to major points of interest like the Louvre and Opéra.

La Reserve Paris
La Reserve Paris isn't just for your quick trips abroad: it also has ten apartments in duplex or triplex design to provide a home-away-from-home during an extended stay in Paris. 1930s elegance is the fashionable direction taken by in-the-know hotel designers, and you're be able to roam shops nearby without worry.

Hotel du Louvre
If opulent is what you're after, then the Hotel du Louvre will surely impress you. With Napoleon III style dominating the chic hotel, you'll find it warm and inviting, while still looking incredibly rich, with a touch of eclecticism. There are also 8 meeting rooms for the business traveler.

The Left Bank, with its rich history and many sights to see, should occupy a place on your bucket list. Surrounded by gorgeous hotels and memories of the past, the Left Bank is an unmissable destination in Paris, in France, and in Europe. In other words, GO.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How Will the Catastrophe in Japan Affect U.S. Tourism?

While Japan will take time getting back on its feet after a devastating tsunami in Sendai and now a nuclear crisis, some experts have turned back to the U.S. to analyze another kind of damage--one to the travel industry. Despite declining numbers of Japanese tourists in the United States over the past decade, Japanese visitors still comprised the fourth-largest tourist group to the U.S. in 2009.

Japanese tourism levels simply didn’t recover after the 9/11 attacks, and they never reached the same numbers they had pre-2001. In 2000, 5.1 million Japanese visited the United States; in 2008, that number decreased to 2.9 million. Japanese tourism is greatest in Hawaii, where the islands receive 17.4% of their visitors from Japan for a total of 1.2 million--who spend $1.93 billion, or about $160.9 million a month. While the Hawaiian Tourism Authority was planning on a 2.1% increase in tourism this year, it’s predicted that those numbers will soon be revised.

“The market is very important,” David Uchiyama, vice president of brand management at the Hawaii Tourism Authority, told the press. “We saw an initial dropoff with the earthquake and tsunami. Since then, our arrivals into the state year-over-year were in the 17% to 19% dropoff [range].”

Uchiyama examined past information available regarding crises in Japan and how it affected Hawaiian tourism, and he said that the 1995 earthquake in Kobe resulted in a 12.4% drop in one month, but that the drop was “pretty much isolated [and] at the end of the year, overall for the Japanese market, we were up.” A similar case involved SARS in 2003, when summer months experienced a substantial drop--more than 30% in one month, for example--but the year was down only by 9.6%.

How will Hawaiian tourism fare in light of recent world changes? What about U.S. tourism in general? While we're waiting for updated numbers, we might as well donate.

Helping Japan
Struck by the severity of the tsunami? These giving options can help Japan relief efforts.

Go to or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.

Visit International Medical Corps’ website for donation information or text MED to 80888 from any mobile phone to give $10.

Go to UNICEF’s site to fill out a donation form or text JAPAN to 864233 to give $10.

Access the Salvation Army website to find out about their mobilization efforts, and then text 'JAPAN' or 'QUAKE' to 80888 to make a $10 donation.

Did you know that Americans are among the most charitable people in the world? Even if you plan on sending more than $10 to the people of Japan, you can help provide immediate supplies with a small gift now. It doesn’t take much from everyone, but if everyone gives, it’ll provide serious relief to those left homeless, without supplies.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What Are the Best Hotel Bars?

One of the best ways to enjoy a tropical holiday vacation is to get the most outlandish, umbrella-topped drink out there, sink down into the sand, and start planning for a trip spent in close proximity to cool, clear waters, soft-as-sugar sand, and a well-stocked bar. Don’t forget that, on stays in the city, you should hunt out your hotel’s bar for a tipple or two--they’re often positioned with the best views of whatever metropolis you’re exploring.

Clift Hotel in San Francisco

The Location: This contemporary hotel has a special glamorous glow and happens to be situated near Nob Hill for sightseeing and Union Square for shopping. A particularly eclectic furniture collection will inspire art enthusiasts and invigorate others.

Why This Bar: “The Clift's swank Redwood Room, founded in 1933 (the year Prohibition ended,) is a blend of old and new. Vintage deco lights shine on Starck-designed lounge furniture and plasma TVs displaying digital art hanging on original redwood walls.”

What to Drink: Pick a martini, classic, garnished with two olives, preferably blue-cheese stuffed!

The Carlyle

The Location: The Carlyle opened in 1930 and is considered a New York landmark, located on Madison Avenue, on Manhattan's Upper East Side. 60 residential apartments are also part of this venerable establishment, and the hotel offers 188 rooms for guests.

Why This Bar: “No detail has been left un-fancified: White-jacket waiters, nickel-trimmed glass tables, chocolate-brown leather banquettes and a 24-karat gold leaf-covered ceiling.”

What to Drink: Order an Old Cuban, a champagne-topped mojito.

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa

The Location: You might be planning on taking advantage of the Hyatt Regency's many outdoor sports options, but this hotel also has a fine art collection that's worth a browse. Each room at this hotel has a separate sitting room and a lanai, so kicking back after a long day's a true “breeze.”

Why This Bar: “Inside a dim cave enclosed by dual waterfalls, this swim-up bar is an adult refuge in a resort oozing with pool-splashing tikes. With underwater stools and water jets massagers, it's hard to leave.”

What to Drink: Go classic and order a piña colada... after all, you're in Maui!

The Connaught, London

The Location: Sophisticated splendor at the Mayfair is the sort of environment you'd want to experience in London. Modern art is mixed in the faithfully-renovated décor, while luxury shopping spots surrounding the hotel make the Connaught an ideal location for shopping up a storm.

Why This Bar: “The Connaught Bar simply has it all: ultra-stylish decor, impeccable service and some of the most killer cocktails ever shaken (not stirred.) With textured walls in platinum, leather chairs and white marble floors, the parlor, designed by David Collins, is a work of modern luxury.”

What to Drink: Ask for their Mulata Daisy, which is rum, lime juice, and sugar, with chocolate liqueur and fennel.

Pallazzo Sasso

The Location: This award-winning hotel provides a sumptuous European setting and top-of-the-line service to guests, and while it's a 12th century villa, it has only been open as a hotel since 1997. The Pallazzo Sasso overlooks a fishing village and has Michelin-rated dining options for the foodies of the bunch.

Why This Bar: “Located over the Spanish Steps, this terrace bar is a great place to view Rome's dolce vita. The classy watering hole is part of the opulent, Renaissance-era Il Palazzeto palace, home to Rome's International Wine Academy.”

What to Drink: Wine—400+ options await!

After you've tried one of the best drinks made by the house, you should stop at your hotel bar one more time to give a farewell toast to the city you've explored. Whether it's a fine bottle of red you're after or another one of the signature hotel drinks, be sure to mark the memory with a sip and a photo.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Snow Skiing in Dubai?

When one imagines Dubai, it's often with glittering glass office buildings soaring above the ultra-modern streets—and all the luxury attractions for which Dubai is well-known. However, Dubai's more than just a spot to max out the credit card on stuff—there are plenty of ways to explore the sands beyond the city.

For a quick trip out of Dubai, consider dune exploration in an all-terrain vehicle over high sand dunes. Booked through your luxury hotel or via an indication from your hotel concierge, “dune bashing” is a fun way to see beyond Dubai and get your adrenaline rush for the day. If you fall in love with the adventurous outing, there's always a Bedouin safari to book, with its caravan camping and traditional Arabic snacks in-between dune bashing and camel riding.

Those not interested in sandy pursuits can instead explore green pastures on one of Dubai's golf courses, and then... skiing? It's true: Dubai has a Mall of Emirates' Ski Dubai Park that also features tobogganing hills, bobsled rides, and plenty of wide-open space. Combine that with a trip to a desert spa the next day, and you'll have gone full-circle!

Where to Stay in Dubai
Dubai's hotels are some of the most luxurious in the world, and you'll find them worth the wait. Stretching their shadows across sands and sea, Dubai's premier hotels aren't just the high-rises for which Dubai has become known, but low, manicured destinations with a distinctive Middle Eastern vibe. Many combine local décor with modern convenience and top-of-the-line features, and the spas offer more than just simple scrubs and massages—get ready for some brand-new treatments for even the most jaded of spa aficionados!

Jumeirah Beach Hotel
The Jumeirah Beach Hotel has been cleverly conceived to mimic a breaking wave along the shore, and this hotel is a prime example of the ultra-modern accommodations one can find in Dubai. The Jumeirah Beach Hotel features a top marina for your yachting or sailing requirements, free access to the Wild Wadi Water Park, and a stretch of manicured sand lined by international restaurants.

Burj Al Arab
This Dubai landmark has been designed to look like a billowing sail, and its design is complemented by the glittering water all around it. A can't-miss on the city skyline and positioned for prime views, the Burj Al Arab is a landmark amongst international travelers. At night, the hotel is illuminated by choreographed lighting. A private reception desk on every floor makes your stay at Burj Al Arab all the more comfortable.

Al Qasr
Glimmering by the waterfront, Al Qasr is a jewel of the Middle East and a stunning hotel selection for those looking to experience the old, authentic Dubai. The resort is considered a “tribute” to the culture of Dubai and is a sprawling location mimicking a citadel in design. Unapologetically opulent, Al Qasr features waterways within its walls for easy transport to destinations like two hotels, a spa, a souk, and a banqueting center. Be sure to take a picture of this magnificent spot by night!

Park Hyatt Dubai
If you have golfers and yacht enthusiasts in your world, then the Park Hyatt Dubai is the place to stay. The striking hotel is considered a haven, but it's not situated far from eateries and shopping options that every tourist must have within close reach. An exclusive day spa awaits beside a state-of-the-art fitness studio.

For those planning a trip to Dubai, but wondering when to go, the prime traveling time is between November and March. If you are looking for fewer crowds, more perks, and less waiting time for attractions, book beyond those months!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Movies that Will Inspire you to Travel

Are you an enthusiastic traveler, or do you need some nudging to get your trip underway? If you are looking for a new way to inspire your travel, then you should definitely look to these films for hints.

Date Night in New York
A suburban couple ends up on the hit list of crooked cops after a case of mistaken identity, and while we follow this couple through the city, we get to spot hidden lofts, Central Park's boat house, and the type of ultra-hip restaurant for which New York's famous.

What Budget Travel Says: “From the trip through Central Park to a frantic discussion in Times Square to the hilarious cabbie (played by comedian J. B. Smoove) during the chase sequence, the film provides a whirlwind, action-packed tour of some of the most unique sites across New York City.”

Your Hotel Picks

Jumeirah Essex House: 1920 and 1930s style is evoked in this beautifully renovated hotel on Central Park South.

Soho Grand Hotel: Steps from the neighborhoods featured in Date Night, the Soho Grand Hotel's a perfect place to stay when you're looking for the best wining & dining options in New York.

Karate Kid in Beijing (Remake)
We all remember the famous scene where our original Karate Kid stands tall over the beach and practices his moves, but Karate Kid's also inspirational to those who plan on a vacation whirlwind in Asia. This L.A.-to-Beijing tale gives you just enough of a taste of the eastern way of life to spark plans.

What B.T. Says: “Tantalizing shots of the city skyline and the famous Bird's Nest stadium remind us that the city has a modern side as well. The Karate Kid also showcases the mist-enshrouded Wudang Mountains in southern central China, where Han takes Dre to learn about the origins of kung fu at one of the region's many Taoist temples.”

Your Hotel Picks

Park Hyatt Beijing: This gracious and contemporary hotel has an eatery that offers 360-degree views of the city.

Ritz-Carlton Beijing: A trip to one of the world's most vibrant cities requires a special kind of hotel stay—modern, sleek, and intuitive for guests of all types.

The Tourist in Venice
Intrigue meets arching, complicated canals in The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Waterways look all the more mysterious when accompanied by a tricky, fascinating plot, after all.

What B.T. Says: “Despite the lack of streets, Venice is easily one of the world's best cities for walking. Perambulate over countless bridges, through marketplaces, and into its many hidden niches.”

Your Hotel Picks

Hotel Gritti Palace: Built in 1925, this hotel provides access to the Venice Lido and is situated right on the grand canal.

Bauer Hotel: The Bauer hotel's attraction goes far beyond its great facade—this hotel features ancient Venetian art and sits directly on the water, emulating a docking ship.

Eat Pray Love in Bali
Julia Roberts seeks peace of mind and adventure in Bali, and moviegoers looked for stunning vistas, quiet sanctuaries, and sweeping landscapes. You might not be riding your bicycle between tiny Bali villages, but you can snap picturesque trails and passageways suited for the adventurous types, plus quiet streams, statues, and cool huts.

What B.T. Says: “It may not be an original choice, but it just wouldn't be right to leave Eat Pray Love off of our list: It's basically a movie adaptation of a travel catalogue! While you might not end up running into the love of your life like Gilbert did, you will at least find lush tropics, astonishing beaches, white-water rafting, and a fascinating local culture.”

Your Hotel Picks

Four Season Resort Bali at Sayan: Fantastic ocean views are the icing on the cake at this private hotel with villa and suite options.

Como Shambhala Estate: All guests are assigned a personal assistant while they stay at this gorgeous destination set right in the forest.

What's the top pick on your travel list?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Most Expensive Town in the USA

Blasting past Beverly Hills, Palm Beach, and the Hamptons, Aspen’s single-family home prices have positioned Aspen as the priciest town in America. Called a “Small Manhattan” by part-time resident Altunc Kumova, a Turkish financial services executive, it simply draws crowds--both tourists and residents. Goldie Hawn, Mariah Carey, and Lance Armstrong are regularly spotted visiting Aspen, and prospective buyers from South America, Europe, and Asia are checking out luxury real estate options in town.

"You can find almost all upscale brands for shopping and restaurants are excellent. Apres-ski in Aspen is very glamorous," Kumova told the press.

Since property is at a premium in Aspen, it might be wise to first swing by one of their luxury hotels. Whether you’re searching for a new place or simply drawn to Aspen’s unique outdoor exploration offerings, you’ll need someplace grand to lay your head.

Hotel Jerome
Aspen’s great outdoors is easily accessible when you’re at the Hotel Jerome, and you can choose from skiing and sleighing adventures during the winter to endless chances for mountain hiking come spring and summer. After a day in the wilderness, you’ll appreciate settling down into one of Hotel Jerome’s 94 guest rooms and luxury suite accommodations. This particular premier hotel, lauded as an example of Aspen’s finest (if not the prime example of Aspen’s finest!), is regularly selected as an award-winning hotel for worldwide guests. As for the rooms themselves, they are outfitted with down comforters and feather pillows to sink deep into after a hard day on the slopes, trails, or in the shops.

St. Regis Resort, Aspen
This fantastic luxury hotel is in just the right spot for winter sports and Aspen summer adventures, at the very base of Aspen Mountain. The St. Regis is uniquely positioned to also allow all guests to walk straight out of their hotel and go into area luxury shops. With a renovation scheduled through June 12th, 2011, you can make the most of brand-new features come summer or squeeze in a quick trip before the beginning of April, when the hotel starts remodeling to improve feature services. Browse the Remede Spa’s special list of treatments prior to your vacation to better bust stress and work out fresh-from-hiking knots.

Other Coloradoan Adventures

Perhaps Aspen’s not your only stop in Colorado: these top destinations are a perfect addition to a luxury excursion to Aspen.

Stop 1: Vail
Vail is becoming increasingly popular as a summertime vacation destination, and the activity offerings confirm that: take a carriage ride, go bicycling, and enjoy a guided hike come the summer months!

The Arrabelle: If you are familiar with the RockResorts, then perhaps that’s all you need to know about the Arrabelle. The luxury retreat has a certain European charm and is positioned in the heart of Vail Square, at the base of the number one ski resort in the United States.

Stop 2: Denver
Denver's "Mile High Must-Sees" include the state capitol, the Denver Art Museum, Larimer Square, Confluence Park, and the LoDo Historic District--as you can see, you won't run out of exciting places to visit when you make a stop in Colorado's capital.

Hotel Teatro: This downtown-located hotel is a perfect retreat for those seeking a fun getaway, but it’s not planned like your standard city hotel. The Hotel Teatro features extravagant costumes and photos from the Denver Center Company Theatre and also boasts Denver’s only four-star, four-diamond restaurant.

Bonus Trip: Avon, Colorado
Avon is called the “Heart of the Valley” and is currently getting revamped to receive more visitors than ever before. If you happen to plan a summer trip, try to go around the Fourth of July, when Avon celebrates with the largest fireworks display in the Colorado Rockies.

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa: This mountain lodge-style hotel has a 400 square foot Courtyard King room that overlooks a landscape garden and fountain. The Allegria Spa on location at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek has several special water treatments to knead out knots.

Who knows? Maybe you'll start taking regular trips to Colorado, just like the stars. The first thing to settle is: summer or winter for your seasonal escapes?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Get Away From it All

Do you like to tuck yourself away from hustle, bustle, and stress in the world? If you do, then you probably have trouble choosing vacations that keep you away from busy resorts and less-than-quiet tourist spots. If your aim is to relax and you want to do it in style, then these places--suited for all “recluses”--are going to suit you.

Get away from it all with a stay at Lizard Island, which provides you with a chance for a private retreat on the Great Barrier Reef. Only a handful of villas along the island make a stay all the more worthwhile, since you can experience the reef like few have (or will!) at luxury accommodations. There are 24 powdery, soft beach options there, and they are exceptionally quiet. Go diving at Cod Hole, one of the most famous places in Australia to head underwater without too much going on around you.

Go to Kenya if you want to experience wide-open spaces--very open--and plenty of big game, but little to no crowding. You can book trips out in the wilderness from a luxury lodge booked through, and you can even opt to sleep out there with the help of Samburu warriors. Ease yourself into the overnight stay by booking nights in the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, which is located on an expanse of 100 acres. This particular luxury hotel was originally the retreat of movie star William Holden, who craved a place away from his Hollywood life. An international jet set destination of the past, the lodge now balances sweeping vistas with quiet activities like horseback riding, croquet, golf, and swimming.

New Zealand
New Zealand and Australia can be visited in a worldwind tour, but why not separate the trips and really get your recluse experiences? Both countries have outstanding opportunities for someone to kick back and get away from everything, and Blanket Bay in New Zealand is an exceptional example amongst the greats. The lodge has received national accolades for its uniqueness, and there are so many quiet, nature-appreciating activities on the luxury lodge’s list for guests to experience. Some of our favorites include canyoning, jet skiing, and horseback riding, but there’s much more. This lodge has been featured in National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, and Conde Nast traveler.

Rich in culture and an unforgettable experience for enthusiastic travelers, Thailand might seem like it’s too busy to truly “get lost.” However, when you start browsing exclusive hotels and tucked-away resorts, you’ll find that Thailand’s slice of paradise hasn’t been gobbled up by those looking for a piece of heaven. Aim for meditation getaways and cool water dips when you’re not lounging in a resort surrounded by mountain mist and deep forests. The Anantara Resort and Spa gives guests an opportunity to explore the woods on an elephant or simply soak in a hot tub for two with views of the Mekong. The Anantara Resort & Spa features 22 deluxe rooms with locally-sourced interior decoration, double sliding glass doors, and a balcony.

Got a taste for the exclusive--and the reclusive? These destinations should whet your appetite for traveling to places unknown by much of the world, where you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled on a shangri-la all your own. Perfect for explorers and loungers alike, there are still some places to get lost in the world.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Islands on the Must Visit List

Are you someone who hasn’t been taking vacation risks like you hoped you would? Now’s the time to change that, because CNN compiled a list that’s sure to get you thinking about a tropical getaway. Instead of booking a simple package to a standard island all your friends have been to, you can combine a luxury setting with thrilling natural surroundings.

Marco Polo called the Maldives the “Flower of the Indies,” and this name still rings true. The Maldives will suit anyone looking for a pristine view of blue-green water and white, white beaches--but it’s not just the sunning that makes this location a vacation “wonder of the world." As you talk to other visitors of the Maldives, you’ll discover that a large number of tourists come to the Maldives again after their first visit.

Lodging Suggestion: Soneva Gili by Six Senses is situated in one of the largest lagoons located in the Maldives, with roomy villas dotted along the shore of a tiny island. There are 45 villas here, but if you are looking for something extra-unique, consider the Private Reserve, only reachable by boat.

Easter Island
Going to Chile? Consider a visit to Easter Island, still one of the most fascinating places in the world. With Chile an amazing 2,200 miles away, Easter Island is as isolated as it is shrouded in mystery as to why its inhabitants constructed such gargantuan monuments--and why the island became deserted. One of the most fasinating spots on the island is Rano Raraku, where 400 stone statues lie, unfinished. 900 stone monoliths pepper this island and entertain--stone-faced, I might add--a stream of interested visitors each year.

Lodging Suggestion: Explora en Rapa Nui, Posada de Mike features 30 rooms, all with views of the ocean, and is located on the southeastern part of the island, the most populated zone.

This island has been named one of the most beautiful in the world by many travel sources, but it’s a must-see for reasons beyond amazing tourist pics on websites. Paraty’s Brazilian setting, landscape, and surroundings have inspired a great deal of writers, painters, and explorers, and it could do the same for you. Breathe in the salty air and stare into the foamy sea from a prime location in Rio, and then visit Paraty’s exclusive shore on a day trip.

Lodging Suggestion: Try going to Paraty via helicopter, staying in Rio de Janeiro for the night at the Hotel Fasano. Located right in front of Ipanema Beach, the Fasano also features a rooftop swimming pool with great views.

Maui, Hawaii
Aloha! You’ll want to hit the shore running in Hawaii, where healthy living feels much more attainable, and you’ll get some of the best fish-spotting ops in the world, too. If you’re a snorkeler, you’re in luck, because Papalaua Wayside Park offers a great deal of pretty coral heads sans the stress of crowds. Green sea turtles and butterflyfish are two favorite sighting along this beach just a few miles from Lahaina.

Lodging Suggestion: The Hyatt Regency Maui is situated near 40 beachfront acres and the West Maui Mountains.

Got your island picked out after featuring some of the best in the world? We do, too. It’s time to explore and tick another grand destination off the bucket list, while taking enough photos to leave anyone who views your album both envious and rushing to the nearest travel agent for their own trip. Perhaps you should direct them to this and let them pick for themselves?