Most Valuable Hotel Amenities

Posted on: April 9th, 2014 at 11:56 am by Nicole

Long gone are the days when price was the only factor when choosing a hotel. Today, amenities are strongly taking its place in the decision making process. But which amenities make travelers choose one hotel over another? The Hotels.com Amenities Survey brought some light to the matter by revealing travelers’ top 10 property and in-room hotel amenities.

The survey asked 1,000 travelers which hotel amenities are most important outside of the room. Their answer? Complimentary breakfast. Wi-Fi availability in shared spaces of the hotel was also one of the top amenities. However, this perk only made the top of the list in the favorite in-room features section.

Hotels.com_Breakfast_infographic_RGB

Below is the full list of property and in-room amenities:

Top 10 Most Important Hotel Property Amenities

Rank

Hotel Amenity

1

Complimentary Breakfast

2

Restaurant

3

Internet / Free Wi-Fi

4

Parking

5

24 hours Front Desk Service

6

Smoke Free Hotel

7

Swimming Pool

8

Bar

9

Air Conditioning

10

Coffee/Tea in Lobby


Top 10 Most Important In-Room Amenities

Rank

Hotel Room Amenity

1

Internet / Free Wi-Fi

2

Bathroom Shower

3

Room Size

4

TV Facilities

5

Air Conditioning

6

Coffee/Tea

7

Non-Smoking Rooms

8

Premium Bedding

9

Daily Housekeeping

10

Mattress Type

Which one is your favorite hotel amenity?

 

 

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The Best of Travel Smart Blog

Posted on: April 3rd, 2014 at 3:25 pm by Nicole

Travel Smart Blog has been offering travel tips and advice for five travel-tastic years thanks to the sponsorship of world’s most obvious choice for hotels, Hotels.com.

It has been my pleasure to write each week about destinations, hotels, how-to’s, don’t dos, and the must do’s.  There are thousands of articles on Travel Smart Blog with advice for the single, the newly coupled, the families with small children or even expecting children, and tips on how to handle most any travel scenario.

And remember, you can get more tips and tales by following me on Facebook and Twitter (@travelnicole).

nicole TSB

Below are just a few of my favorite posts over the years:

  • Over the years, we’ve had some great holiday travel tips, this post catches the top tips for surviving a vacation during the some of the busiest times of the year.
  • Traveling with the in-laws is an obvious sticky situation, but here were some of TSB’s top tips for making it a family fun-cation for all.
  • An educational getaway: why stop learning? Check out this video interview sharing tips on visiting historic destinations.
  • A few years ago, we asked our readers to share their best road trip tips. This post had some great advice for saving your sanity in the family car.
  • This infographic about lost and found luggage is super helpful. Here’s hoping that you never need to use it.

And remember no matter where your travels take you, travel smart.

 

 

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Springtime Travel – In Vogue

Posted on: March 21st, 2014 at 3:47 pm by guest blogger

Dean, of ProperKidProblems.com, is a Fashion expert and travel maven.  See below for his favorite spring travel destinations and a photo of his top fashion picks for each of the cities.

With winter finally behind us, it’s time to think about spring travel.  Whether you’re headed to the “Big Apple” or the mountains of North Carolina, I’ve put together a quick list of stops in three of my favorite cities.  After all, no vacation is complete without an awesome brunch, a dash of regional culture and some down time without a notification from our beloved iPhone…

PKP Looks
St. Petersburg, Florida

  • Brunch. From Key Lime Pie to PB&J, Lighthouse Doughnuts has just about any and every flavor you can think of when it comes to our favorite breakfast food dessert.  Make sure you go early because demand can be high – especially on the weekends.
  • Culture. Whether you seek a little history or a snorkeling adventure off one of Florida’s sandbars, you can’t go wrong with a day at one of America’s Top Beaches.  Who knows, you might even get lucky and have a manatee or dolphin sighting within one of the bays.
  • Chill.  We all need a day (or a week) when we can sit by the pool and soak up the sun with a good book.   From poolside service that includes complimentary drinks and sunscreen to beach beds on the brilliantly combed white sand, The Don Cesar takes “beach bumming” to a whole new level.

New York, New York

  • Brunch.  New Yorkers take Brunch seriously so book in advance.  Great spots include Sarabeth’s next to Central Park, Balthazar in SOHO, or one of The Smith’s numerous locations.
  • Culture.   Whether it be attending Open Rehearsal at the New York Philharmonic; taking a spontaneous lesson in the art of flight at The Trapeze School New York; or walking The Highline in Meatpacking, take a chance and do something interesting that will make for a memorable take-home story.
  • Chill.  Go see a Broadway Show where you can kick back in a plush velvet chair and enjoy a favorite – or new – production.

Asheville, North Carolina

  • Brunch.  Ashville is a foodie haven hosing well over 400+ restaurants within the city limits.  Top brunch/breakfast spots include Biscuit Head, Sunny Point Café, and Early Girl Eatry – just to name a few.
  • Culture.  Just 20 minutes north of Asheville lies Navitat – named one of the best zip line canopy tours in the nation.  Lasting just under three hours, the tour includes breathtaking views from 350 feet above the forest floor across ropes that stretch over 3,600+ feet.  No experience necessary – the tour is completely guided with instructors showing you the ropes from start to finish.
  • Chill.  Whether you enjoy the art of fishing or the art of sunbathing, Lake Lure is ideal for those warm afternoon days.  With vacation rentals right on the water that include access to boating and jet skiing, the town provides a quiet escape from the buzz of the city.

Be sure to follow Dean at: @ProperKidProbs on Twitter

 

 

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How to Raise a World Traveler

Posted on: March 20th, 2014 at 1:56 pm by Nicole

As the mother of three children, I’m always thinking about what’s best for them; from their diets to their education and to their overall life enrichment. How do you raise your child with compassion, respect, and inquisitiveness and willingness to try new things, experiences new places, new foods, new cultures if they never get the chance to experience them first hand.

I think one of the best ways to expose your children to these things is through travel.

JUI-7932

The memories that families build when they travel are ones that last a lifetime, and the traits and skills people learn when traveling to other countries are those that you just can’t get anywhere else.  It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go to Disney World (because nobody loves The Magic Kingdom more than me) but there is a great big world out there that is ready for exploration and understanding. Don’t be afraid to think outside your comfort zone as you set your sights on an upcoming summer “vacay.” Travel gives us all the opportunity to become good global citizens by exposing us to the true consciousness of our world, its people, our similarities and our differences.

  1. Go somewhere. Seems like an obvious tip, right? Many parents are fearful about traveling with children.  So start small and take weekend trips to nearby cities.  Work within the schedules that you feel work best for your family and embrace the opportunity to experience something new together. Planning a few short trips will build everyone’s travel quotient and your confidence in planning a longer trip in the future.
  2. Don’t overschedule your trip.  Make age-appropriate choices for your children to make sure that they will enjoy the experience and be able to learn along the way.  Knowing when your children may need to nap and eat will cut down on those vacation tantrums that nobody wants to experience. Respect the age restrictions of your kids and be sure to factor in downtime for everyone.  It will make everyone travel happier.
  3. Get the whole family in on the planning. We all enjoy a trip much better when we feel we have a vested interest in the trip’s success. This is true for kids, too, especially teenagers.  Go to the library, research online, and do your pre-trip planning as a family.  Allow each person to have some say in the itinerary whether that is picking a restaurant for dinner or an afternoon activity.  Researching customs and cultures ahead of time also takes away a lot of anxiety when traveling to a place you have never been, you all will feel more comfortable knowing ahead of time what the acceptable dress is, what people eat, etc.
  4. Bring the babies. I have a 9-year-old, 7-year-old and a 2-year-old. So while I would love for my youngest to be able to remember every place we visit, I know that it is a bit lost on her right now. The trade-off is that my two older children are ripe for molding into good global citizens and world-class travelers.  However, my toddler is able to learn how to adapt to a travel lifestyle and expected behaviors on planes, trains, and automobiles.
  5. Travel is an education. There is not much I would take my kids out of school for, but I do believe that a well-planned trip is an extension of the traditional classroom. Regular study of school subjects is important, travel schooling offers an opportunity to provide real-world application of concepts from all areas of curriculum. History, the Arts, Science, Language and even Math can all be studied hands-on through travel, and brought to life in a way that’s impossible through ‘school learning’ alone. Work with your child’s teacher ahead of time to ensure that schoolwork is not missed and to see if there is an opportunity for your child to share what they learned during your trip.
  6. Avoid what’s comfortable. Going to a new place is all about adventure, so encourage the family to try new foods, clothes, activities, and embrace the destination that you are visiting. So many restaurants are global chains now but try to avoid the same things you eat at home and expand your global palate.
  7. Keep traveling. Find a way to take those family trips and explore the world or even just a nearby town travel with your kids even when they become apathetic teens. Try alternating between international and domestic destinations each year.

Travel can be such a rewarding and empowering experience for adults and children.  For families, it’s an opportunity to share unique experiences, build memories and really engage your children in a way that everyday life doesn’t always allow.

What’s your favorite family travel memory?

 

 

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Spring Blooms around the World: Where to Catch a Glimpse

Posted on: March 13th, 2014 at 4:56 pm by Nicole

A single blooming flower marks the first sign of spring in destinations all over the world.  Some of the best cities to watch these joyous blossoms, representative of the warmer seasons are the hidden gem, Hangzhou, China, classic Washington D.C. and stunning Assisi, Italy.

Hangzhou, China
XixiPrice: $129 per night on average according to the Hotels.com Hotel Price Index (HPI)
Where to stay: Banyan Tree Hangzhou
The winter bloom of China’s distinct Mume flower, or “Plum Blossom,” marks the first signs of a Spring full of festivals and events in the ancient city of Hangzhou, described by Marco Polo as “the most beautiful and splendid city in the world” for its ancient temples and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed West Lake.  The Winter-sweet and Mume Blossoms are frequently depicted in Chinese art and poetry as a symbol of perseverance and hope. Chaoshan Hill, XiXi Wetlands and Lingfeng are known as China’s top three areas for enjoying Mume blossoms through the month of April.

Washington, D.C.
Price: $156 per night on average according to the Hotels.com Hotel Price Index (HPI)
Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Washington D.C. Downtown
The #10 most visited place in the U.S. for International visitors, and #8 most visited place in the U.S. for Americans, Washington D.C. is at its most popular during the springtime. Visitors can relax on their Washington city vacation in Potomac Park and snap photos of the famous cherry blossoms during the National Cherry Blossom Festival starting March 20th.  The festival is a celebration of not only the springtime, but a thank you to the people of Japan for the cherry trees as a gift in 1912.  Bordering the Potomac River and the National Mall, the park includes the Jefferson Memorial and many more patriotic memorials.

Assisi, Italy
Price: $135 per night on average according to the Hotels.com Hotel Price Index (HPI)
Where to stay: Dal Moro Gallery Hotel
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this town in the Umbria region of Italy is absolutely stunning from now through May.  Sweeping the countryside are hoards of dark orange poppies.  It’s a sight to see, with medieval castles as the backdrop to this colorful ode to springtime.  Visitors can go by foot through the cobblestone streets through each of the piazzas, viewing historic churches and enjoying classic Italian foods and wines produced right in the region.

 

 

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How to Stay in Style: Tips for Staying for Less in a Fancy Hotel

Posted on: March 12th, 2014 at 12:38 pm by Nicole

Is 2014 the year of the vacation? Maybe so, because it seems like everyone is planning one.  And that is such a welcome economic change from just a few short years ago.  But with so many folks planning their getaways, are there deals enough for everyone?

In top cities, prices will be up in popular seasons and availability may be less, so how do you still score great deal at stylish hotels? Here are my top travel tips for staying for less on your upcoming vacation.

Luxury for LessCB063916
Visit destinations that are more deal-prone.  According to Hotels.com’s latest Hotel Price Index (HPI), you can find five-star luxury for less than $200 a night in European cities such as Warsaw, Budapest, and Lisbon.

Where else can you find hotel rooms for affordable prices? Not only is Las Vegas the most popular city for American travelers, it’s also one of the most affordable cities to visit. Orlando, Atlanta, Portland and Denver are right in the mix for both popularity and price, according to the HPI.

Social Media
Don’t just share your vacation photos on your favorite social media sites, use them to help you have a better trip BEFORE you even leave.

  1. Follow your favorite hotels, restaurants and airlines in cities you want to visit to stay on top of any special deals that may become available. Hotels often broadcast deals on social media first. You can also do a keyword search with (hotel name and #deal) on Twitter.
  2. Be social and interact via Facebook and Twitter with the hotel and other places you plan to stay or visit on your trip.  Sharing your excitement could land you an upgrade.

Club Level Value
If I’m going to stay at a hotel that offers a club level floor, I often try to book a room on it regardless of my loyalty program status.  Sure, the prices are higher than a standard room but the perks that come along with it are often a better deal than paying for WiFi, drinks, breakfasts and snacks a la carte.  Don’t be fooled: club-level rates at brands such as Sheraton, Radisson, Ritz-Carlton, Fairmont, and Marriott may be higher, but they can offer real savings so consider all your costs before you book a less expensive room.

 

 

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I’ve Just Got to Have a King Cake! Bring Home a Taste of Mardi Gras

Posted on: March 1st, 2014 at 9:00 am by Nicole

One of my favorite Mardi Gras traditions is the King Cake. I always looked forward to getting my slice as a child and hoping that I would find the “baby” in my piece and have good luck for the coming year. Eating the delicious combination of sugar and cake was a special treat heading into the Lenten season. Secretly, I still get excited for this tradition. 

The celebration dates back to the story of the Three Kings bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. The King Cake is baked in honor of Three Kings and is generally shared any time, these days, during the Mardi Gras season.

Originally, King Cakes were a simple ring of dough with minor decorations. Today’s king cakes are much more elaborate and creative in their recipe. After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar, cream cheese or fruit fillings.

In Louisiana alone, hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are consumed at parties, offices and in homes every year. Feeling left out? Don’t! Bakeries now ship King Cakes overnight if you can get your order in fast enough, and local bakeries in cities everywhere tend to offer their take on a King Cake during the Mardi Gras season.

Check out a few of these sweet standouts for your King Cake:

New Orleans: Manny Randazzo’s King Cakes
The best King Cakes are said to come from this New Orleans bakery. Order online and receive the cake, Mardi Gras cup, beads, doubloons, history of the cake brochure, and overnight delivery.

Syosset, NY: Mara’s Homemade
Located on Long Island, you can order King Cakes year-round for pickup or shipping. This Louisiana seafood and BBQ restaurant gets royal with their creations that include Nutella®, pecan praline or cream cheese fillings.

Arlington, VA: Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery
Why stop at King Cake alone? This VA bakery also caters shrimp etouffee and chicken and Andouille gumbo. Featuring his King Cake with cream cheese filling creation just this week on the TODAY Show, Chef and owner David Gaus, holds an annual block party with Carnival foods and a costume contest on Fat Tuesday.

San Francisco, CA: Boxing Room 

The chef is a New Orleans native, so you are in good hands at this Hayes Valley locale.  Try slices of cream cheese-filled King Cake, topped by sugar colored with mint, hibiscus and saffron, with braised pineapple on the side.

Austin, TX: Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden 

For just $15, you can take home a twisting circle of buttery Danish filled with cinnamon sugar, and topped with bright ropes of beads. It’s the clever combination of bakery and beer garden that keep the locals and visitors coming back again and again.

 

 

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Mardi Gras! Let the Celebrations Begin

Posted on: February 28th, 2014 at 8:40 pm by Nicole

Get on your purple, green and gold and head to some of the best Fat Tuesday celebrations around the U.S.

Why is Mardi Gras called Fat Tuesday? Traditionally, it’s the last chance to binge on rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. And, it’s a great cure for the winter blues with a festive celebration full of food, music, parades and a whole lot fun.

In New Orleans, Mardi Gras is truly a season – they have been celebrating for weeks! Things really kick into high gear this week through next Tuesday, March 4th. The “Crescent City” has more than 60 parades in total leading up to next Tuesday’s grand parade.

Should you even try to visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras? Yes! It is worth it. Use Hotels.com’s mobile app while en route to see last minute hotel availability and deals or call them at 800-246-8357 for a little help navigating nearby communities. Your best bet may be to stay in outlying areas. Hotels do have last minute cancellations and there are waiting lists, so know that before you go. If you are persistent and flexible, you can find a place.

A few tips to remember if you are heading to New Orleans for Mardi Gras:

  • Don’t depend on hotels to supply you with transportation to the French Quarter or to the parade routes during Mardi Gras.
  • Ladders, grills and tents must be at least six feet away from the curb on all parade routes and such items cannot block sidewalks.
  • Throwing back beads, etc. tossed from the floats is a $250 fine. Don’t do it.

Where else are the Mardi Gras celebrations in full effect?

St. Louis, MO

St. Louis celebrates its French heritage in the coming week with a Grand Parade on Saturday, March 1st at 11am at Busch Stadium, and the Light Up the Night Fat Tuesday Parade next Tuesday at 6:30pm, not to mention a whole lot of Cajun-style revelry at area bars and restaurants throughout the city, Check out www.stlmardigras.org for more details.

Mobile, AL
Did you know that Mobile was celebrating Mardis Gras 15 years before New Orleans? For the next week, the streets of Mobile will be filled with the sounds of marching bands, colorful floats, beads, and moonpies each and every day. There’s even a Mobile Carnival Museum worth checking out.

Chicago

The city of Chicago will turn 177 years old this year and is throwing a Mardi Gras birthday party in Daley Plaza on Fat Tuesday.

Visitors to the Windy City can take part in Mardi Gras festivities all week long including an Indoor Bar Crawl at Navy Pier. Seven bars along the pier are celebrating Mardi Gras style Saturday March 1st from 2pm – 8pm.

  • Chicago’s Commonwealth Tavern celebrates Mardi Gras, N’awlins style, with $7 Hurricanes and a Jambalaya with slow stewed Andouille sausage, okra, and seafood.
  • The Nouveau Tavern’s (celebration kicks off Friday, February 28 and keeps going  through Fat Tuesday with a series of Mardi Gras events in their “Bourbon Street Lounge.” The lounge, located in the back bar area at Nouveau Tavern will feature Nouveau’s “Flight of Hurricanes.”

Universal Orlando

Can’t make it this week but still want to get in on the New Orleans Mardi Gras fun? No problem. On Saturdays through May 31st, Universal Orlando’s will feature a Mardi Gras celebration complete with an elaborate Mardi Gras parade, dozens of colorfully costumed performers, authentic New Orleans bands, delicious Cajun cuisine, and live concerts.

Universal has really got it right this year with a Little Jester’s Parade Viewing Area, which has been set up just for kids. It is located next to the Terminator 2: 3-D attraction, opens one hour before the parade starts and is right next to the park exit  to make it a little easier to leave with your kids once the parade passes.

Where will you be celebrating Mardi Gras this year? Share your plans and traditions here on TSB.

 

 

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Hotels.com Has a New Biggest Fan!

Posted on: February 26th, 2014 at 12:18 pm by Nicole

“The hotel pool is usually filled with water,” he says, as he dances, clad in a tight red swimwear with a number of lovely ladies in a luxurious hotel pool. He goes on to explain, “The hotel gym is short for gymnasium,” and “The hotel lounge is where you do your lounging.”

Hotels.com_Captain_Obvious_LockedUp

Who is this very observant man? Introducing Captain Obvious, the new biggest fan of Hotels.com and main character of the brand’s latest TV commercials. The new creative campaign, the most robust creative launch in the 23-year history of Hotels.com, shows why it is the obvious choice for booking hotels. Upcoming commercials will focus on obvious differentiators, such as the Hotels.com award-winning mobile app, hotel deals, the brand’s more than 10 million genuine guest reviews, and the Welcome Rewards loyalty program.

Take a look at the new ad here and let us know your thoughts! We think you’ll like it, obviously…

 

 

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Cozy with a Cocktail

Posted on: February 24th, 2014 at 7:31 pm by Nicole

Not many stand-alone bars can match the swank and sophistication or just the sheer comfort of a hotel bar. From the décor to the signature selection of drinks, don’t forget to check out the coolest hotel bars on your next trip out of town.

colorful cocktails with olive and cherryNew York City: Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel
Rose Bar is an intimate hideway inside the trendy Gramercy Park Hotel. This is likely the reason that it’s also a celebrity favorite with visitors such as Janet Jackson, Sting and Chace Crawford. Complete with wood-beams, a walnut bar and a big limestone fireplace, this bar is a hotspot for the city’s most fashionable events.

New York: Soda Bar at NYLO Southside
On a warm night, the rooftop Soda Bar is a fun spot to hang with friends. Park yourself in a cabana next to the pool and take in the sweeping city skyline.

Aspen, CO: 39 Degrees Lounge at the Sky Hotel
A famous après-ski spot, Aspen’s best burger and wicked cocktails from Denis Cote make 39 Degrees a lively local favorite. Hang out by the pool, refuel after a day shopping or on the slopes and discover for yourself why 39 Degrees is a Celebrity Spotting hideaway.

Boston: Simple Truth Lobby Lounge at the Hotel Veritas
Located near the hallowed halls of Harvard Yard, the Hotel Veritas wreaks of higher education. And yet inside its lobby is the simply stated Simple Truth Lounge that is a welcome distraction or perhaps think tank for nearby academia types.

Snowmass, CO: The Lobby Bar at the Viceroy Snowmass
Well it is ski season… this uber chic bar keeps you feeling cool even when the lobby fireplace is roaring hot.

Los Angeles: Bar Marmont at the Chateau Marmont
If you want to see people having conversations that make things happen then spend an afternoon or evening at Bar Marmont. The dim lighting and exclusive feel make it a haven for celebs meeting up for networking or a little fun.

New Orleans: Carousel Bar & Lounge, The Hotel Monteleone
The drinks aren’t all that will make your head spin at this revolving bar inside on of New Orleans most historic and famous hotels.

Dallas: Dragonfly at Hotel ZaZa
Dragonfly oozes sophistication and sexiness. It feels offensive to merely call this a bar. Signature drinks and the occasional star sighting makes this “bar” located in the trend Hotel ZaZa the place to see and be seen.

Atlanta: Rooftop 866 at Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel
Rooftop 866 offers the best rooftop views in Atlanta with a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. While the bar can get crowded on the weekends, the great mix of cocktails and small plates make it worth waiting to find a spot. My favorite? The double dog dare!

 

 

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