Archive for December, 2010

Options for Travelers Stranded by Winter Storms

Monday, December 27th, 2010


Travelers stuck at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago as severe weather in the Northeast caused many flight cancellations. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

For a second day, the winter storm on the East Coast is paralyzing travelers across the country.  Airports are shutdown with flights canceled from Atlanta to Maine.

Speaking from experience, it can take days to get the airports and all the affected flights back on track. It can be terribly frustrating to have your trip plans altered but here’s my best advice if it is happening to you.

There are tens of thousands of people competing for the next available seat on the flights that are leaving. So what do you do if you are traveling this week?

1. Call your airline to check the status of your flight as many flights are cancelled to the East Coast and/or are delayed because flights to other cities in the U.S. are waiting for aircraft that may be stuck in the Northeast. 

2. If your flight has been cancelled, get in line to begin the process of rebooking the next available flight. While you are in line, CALL your airline for the same purpose and see which “line” gets you to your desired result faster. Also, consider rescheduling your trip for another week, if at all possible. You can use the value of your ticket for another day IF your flight was cancelled not just merely delayed.

3. Consider flying in and out of a different airport. If flights to your home airport are unavailable for days, you may be able to fly sooner to a different airport and then drive to your home. Let the airline representative know if you are flexible.

4. Use Twitter to get a response from the airlines. For example follow www.twitter.com/deltaairlines and get the latest updates on delays and cancellations affecting Delta’s passengers.

5. Most hotels that may be expecting you will understand the impact the storm is having on your travels. It’s best to call them as soon as possible to alert them to your situation and to help you discern the best plan for either delaying or rescheduling your trip.

6. If you are currently at a hotel, check for additional night availability BEFORE you check out. If your flights are cancelled en route to your destination call ahead to your hotel to ensure that you are not charged for your cancellation. The more notice that you give the hotel the better they will be about re-accommodating you at a later time. Call 1-800-2-HOTELS to work with a hotels.com representative for any winter storm affected bookings. 

Most importantly, be as flexible as you can.   Here are a few more of my tips for traveling during a weather event.

Send me a tweet at twitter.com/travelnicole with any of your weather travel questions! 

 
 

 

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Celebrity Hotspots for the Holidays

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Beyonce and Jay-Z spent last Christmas holidaying in St. Barts (image courtesy of thewrap.com)

With celebrities getting ready to head to their favorite destinations for Christmas this week, hotels.com has compiled a list of celebrity holiday hotspots where visitors can expect to share a holidaycocktail with the rich and famous.

Barbados

Barbados has been a holiday destination of choice for many celebrities over the years. Simon Cowell from American Idol has stayed at the Sandy Lane Hotel for the last five years. Other famous faces who have property on the island include Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates.

Aspen, Colorado

“Hollywood On Ice” is one of the premier ski destinations and a favorite among many of Tinseltown’s veterans. Mariah Carey was reportedly seen rolling around in the snow in a bikini one Christmas and Goldie Hawn loves nothing better than a spot of festive skiing (and jewelery shopping) with daughter Kate Hudson. Visitors may also be lucky enough to bump into Jack Nicholson, Paris Hilton, or Sarah Jessica Parker, who have all previously spent Christmas in Aspen.

Miami Beach

Miami’s South Beach has legendary Christmas and New Year celebrations, which sees an annual influx of models, millionaires and famous faces enjoying the sun in the Art Deco city. You could find yourself dancing with Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake as the clock strikes midnight on New Years, or bump into Owen Wilson (he owns an apartment there)  jogging on the beach.

St Barts

Beyonce and Jay-Z spent last Christmas holidaying in St. Barts aboard the luxurious 50 foot yacht ‘Galaxy’, which they rented at a reported cost of $200,000 a week! Orlando Bloom also spent Christmas soaking up the St Barts sun last year with model girlfriend Miranda Kerr aboard Roman Abramovich’s yacht.

Maldives

Start New Years in style in the remote Islands of the Maldives. The small island chain is where Katy Perry and Russell Brand recently honeymooned. Other A-List stars who have celebrated Christmas on the Island have included Paul McCartney, Fergie, Kate Moss, Roger Federer, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Where else would you go if you were a celebrity? Let me know!

 
 

 

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Check Into New Hotels for the New Year!

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

When it comes to hotels, I am loyal to one thing: a great experience. I see each trip I take as an opportunity to stay somewhere new because I believe the hotel you choose directly impacts your overall experience. 

What you choose for a romantic weekend should be very different from the hotel you would choose on a business trip or when traveling with small children. 

2011 will welcome a nice selection of new hotels around the world. Each with its own uniqueness and most with an eye on environmental sustainability and service. 

Here is a quick sampling of new U.S. hotels that have just opened or are set to open in the coming months.

1. The Pearl NYC 

Debut:  Opened November 2010; Grand Opening TBD

This perfectly located New York City boutique property is open but is still putting the finishing touches on what I think is one of the best new boutique hotels for the new year. The standard rooms combine modern design and amenities with spaciousness that is hard to find in NYC.  Complimentary continental breakfast and evening wine and cheese receptions just add to the warmth and service that will keep even someone like me coming back again and again.

2. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Debut: December 15, 2010

This 52 story hotel on the Vegas Strip offers a balcony view from nearly every room. The décor is urban sophisticated and the rest of this posh new Vegas hotel is inviting. Boasting 12 restaurants from sushi to bustling food hall, three pools, a spa, casino, nightclub, and shops, add this to your list for must-stay hotels.

3. Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills,

Debut: Early 2011

This five-star, five-diamond resort will definitely keep its luxury reputation after coming under Viceroy ownership. The newly refurbished hotel not only has a prime location but stunning views from the roof-top pool.  You’ll feel like a celebrity with the attentiveness of the staff at this posh Beverly Hills hotel. 

4. Doubletree Napa Valley – American Canyon Hotel & Spa

Debut: February 2011 

Doubletree recently purchased Napa Valley’s first environmentally sustainable hotel & spa from Gaia and is updating the property’s look while maintaining its commitment to Mother Earth. The hotel is affordable and reasonably close to nearby wineries (about 6 miles)

5. Four Seasons Resort Vail

Debut: December 2010

Ski some of the best powder in the world while staying at one of the finest new resorts, The Four Seasons Resort in Vail, CO.  Not only is it luxurious, it is family-friendly.  And when I’m on a ski vacation that is often top of my list. No need is left unmet for guests young or old.  Look for great deals during the summer when hiking, biking and relaxation take hold!

Don’t Forget to Reward Yourself!

All this talk about new hotels leads me to an important tip. Sign up for the hotels.com welcomerewards program. It’s a pleasure to book rooms with hotels.com because regardless of what city I am in or what type of hotel I choose, each stay counts toward me earning a free night. Here’s how it works: for every 10 nights you book with hotels.com, regardless of the hotel, you earn a free night.  It’s just that simple.  Redemption is easy and free from black-out dates typical of most brand-specific programs. 

 
 

 

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Hotels.com and MasterCard Give Travelers an Early Gift for the Holidays

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Looking for an awesome gift to give a friend or family member?

Hotels.com is giving the gift of savings to travelers this holiday season with a $50 discount when they pay with MasterCard now through the end of the year at select hotels.com Price Match Guarantee properties. The discount applies to a future stay of three or more consecutive nights, and hotels.com customers should use coupon code “MASTERCARD50″ for a one-time discount of $50 when they make the reservation.

Also, I wanted to share this great list of “MasterCard Bookable Bargains” with you all.. 

1. The Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa in Dallas - Close enough for guests to do-si-do to downtown nightclubs and bars, the hotel’s chic signature restaurant, Bolla, features a $40 four-course pre-fixe menu and the popular Bolla “Happy Hour” always draws a lively crowd onto its sprawling patios. For guests looking to lasso an affordable and delicious Dallas cocktail this is the spot. Rates at Dallas’ Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa start at $179 per night, and the property boasts a 96 percent approval rating according to hotels.com guest reviews.  

2. Rittenhouse 1715 in Philadelphia – Guests are invited to party like it’s 1776 and to step back into the age of Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross at this boutique property located just steps from historic treasures. This 23-room hotel exemplifies all the elegance and refined style of Philadelphia’s most fashionable neighborhood. Rittenhouse 1715 has an impressive 98 percent approval rating from hotels.com customers, and rooms start at $167 per night.

3. The Hotel Huntington in San Francisco - The “Golden Gate City” is known for its hippies, distinctive Chinatown, wickedly winding Lombard Street, and world-famous gastronomical treasures sprinkled throughout funky and eclectic neighborhoods. Built in 1924 in Nob Hill, this great property stands 12 stories tall and is close to downtown San Francisco, Chinatown and the Financial District – all within four blocks of the property. Rates start at $185 per night, and the hotel is 95 percent recommended by hotels.com users.

 
 

 

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Part Two – My Favorite Things: Shopping and Travel!

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Visited by more than 35 million people a year, Atlanta's Lenox Square is one of the most popular retail centers in the U.S. (photo courtesy of nytimes.com)

Hope you all had a great weekend!

As promised, here is part two of my look at great U.S. cities with great shopping!

Shopping and Southern Hospitality

Boutique shops and great malls make Atlanta, GA a great shopping destination. Visit Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza with hundreds of the finest stores in the Southeast. When it’s time to break from all of the great Christmas Shopping, take a romantic stroll through ‘beautifully-lit‘ Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta.

An Epic Shopping Spree in Minneapolis

How about a holiday visit to the most shopped mall in the world the Mall of America. If it’s 500+ shops aren’t enough for you then perhaps Nickelodeon Universe and Adventures Aquarium and the Macy’s Holidazzle Parade.

Orlando, Not Just for the Kids

This theme park capital is also home to fabulous shopping like the The Mall at Millenia and International Drive. With celebratory events all season long, shopping was never more fun!

 
 

 

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The Travel Habits of One of the World’s Top Ski Mountaineer’s

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Kris Erickson has visited Nepal and Morocco among many other exciting places.

With the cold weather arriving and many people heading off to ski destinations and planning other exciting winter vacations, I thought it would be fun to do a Q&A with a renowned ski mountaineer who has climbed and photographed some of the world’s most breathtaking peaks!

For 10 years, Kris Erickson has brought his camera to the highest points, coldest reaches, and most untouched folds of the planet’s geography. What’s more, he is not merely a shutterbug who stands idle to the side of any expedition. Instead, he tackles the same challenging mountaineering projects as the world’s other top-flight climbers, often combining his abilities to ascend difficult mountains with a love and passion for true mountain-sliding descents.

1. How often do you travel?

I’m on the road 6 to 8 months per year, much of this time is for expeditions with The North Face that last between 4 and 8 weeks. Along with my family, I spend about 4 to 6 months per year in Morocco where we are in the midst of a multi-year historic preservation and education project. 

2. Do you have any favorite destinations?

We (my family) spend most of our time in the remote mountain regions of Nepal and Morocco. Despite their religious differences and geographical separation, we have found that the same things draw us to these countries; the honest and hospitable people, breathtaking landscapes with exceptional recreational opportunities, and a way of life that prioritizes family. We also enjoy exploring our home state of Montana and an occasional trip to Mexico for some beach time in Sayulita or Xcalak.

3.  Do you prefer to stay at a specific hotel?

In Kathmandu I always stay at Hotel Tibet and in Marrakesh I often stay at Hotel Assia. Both are affordable and clean hotels with great service.  

4. When given the option, would you rather stay at a hotel, motel, or bed & breakfast?

Most often, I stay in family-run guest houses or gites when in rural villages and this is generally the only option. When en route to or returning from a destination, I prefer a hotel for the privacy and ability to have a hot shower and recharge after a long flight or a long time in the mountains.

5. What’s your most memorable trip?

In 2006, my wife and I received a grant from The North Face to take a group of athletes to the Central High Atlas Mountains of Morocco for a climbing expedition and philanthropic project. The North Face team completed a new 700 meter rock route, restored dangerous sections of local trails, and put a new roof on the elementary school – all in three weeks. It was an amazingly successful trip that laid the foundation and local relationships needed for our current work in the country.

6. Any advice for people on the best ways to plan an outdoor-focused trip? 

Spend plenty of time preparing before you leave. Think about potential health risks and necessary vaccinations. If traveling to remote regions with small children, be prepared with oral rehydration solution in case of diarrhea. We always travel with acidopholous to replenish healthy intestinal bacteria. Also think about purchasing a rescue insurance such as Global Rescue, which is recommended by the American Alpine Club and used by The North Face for their athletes.

 
 

 

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