Archive for September, 2011

Take A Zen-cation

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Treat yourself to a zen-cation during National Yoga Month. (Photo courtesy of dailycaller.com)

Did you know that September is National Yoga Month? In the spirit of these 30 days dedicated to healthy living, I thought we could take a look at one of the fastest growing sectors of travel – health and wellness vacations.

Health and wellness resorts are popping up all over the world. There are as many kinds of spiritual retreats and wellness vacations as there are people who seek this special kind of travel. The International SPA Association reports that male consumers now comprise nearly 30 percent of all spa-goers. And, you don’t have to go far to experience the best in healthy living. The U.S. has some zen-tastic resorts featuring everything from Yoga on a mountain to nutrition and a good ol’ massage.

Here are a few tips for planning a health and wellness vacation:.

  • Identify the location. There are now hotel and resorts with spas all over the country and even the world. However, there are more spas packed into Phoenix and Scottsdale than in any other area in the country. Florida cities come in at a close second.
  • Choose the type of spa you would like to visit. Remember, you can’t do everything. Don’t try. Pick a focus based on what you need whether it’s pampering and pleasure, health and wellness, spiritual journey, or fitness – and let that guide your choice of activities.
  • Health and Wellness: Explore healthy living, learn to deal with issues such as smoking or medical concerns and discover how lifestyle choices can lead to optimal wellness.
  • Fitness: Work out in fitness classes, enjoy invigorating body treatments, participate in outdoor sports activities or sign up for programs to lose weight, get fit or adopt a healthier lifestyle.
  • Stress Management: Learn relaxation techniques, how to manage stress and other strategies for feeling more in balance and in control.
  • Peace of Mind: Pursue a spiritual journey of introspection and reflection through meditation, yoga, tai chi, chi gong and other practices or activities that lead to serenity, understanding and self acceptance.
  • Pampering and Pleasure: Guests indulge their senses with massages, facials, mud or aroma baths and other delightful treatments as they enjoy a completely relaxing vacation.

Tips on how to plan a Zen-cation on a budget

Destination spas can vary a great deal in the luxuries and amenities they offer, so there is a wide price range. If you want to take a spa vacation but wonder how to get the best deals or how to make it more affordable, consider these options:

1. Stay at a less expensive hotel the night before and following your stay at the spa. If you’re going to choose a destination spa, stay at a less expensive B & B or hotel the night before, then head over in the morning to get a full day of activities in. They’ll let you stash your bags and use a locker until check-in time. You can use the same strategy on the way out.

2. Stay during the week for the lowest rates. Destination spas usually have a three-night minimum. A Thursday night arrival will cost more than a Sunday night arrival.

3. Travel off-season. In the Northeast, rates are lower in the winter, higher in the summer. It’s the reverse in the Southwest and Florida.

4. Take advantage of savings online. Follow your favorite resorts, spas, and travel companies like Hotels.com, and cities on sites like Groupon, Facebook and Twitter to have access to exclusive deals and discounts.

Get your Zen on at one of these resorts:

The Royal Hawaiian

Honolulu, HI

Poised along a private section of Waikiki Beach, The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort is set amid tropical gardens in the historical district of Honolulu, Hawaii. The Abhasa Spa was recently named one of the top 100 spas and delivers its services amidst the tropical gardens of Hawaii.

Naples Grande Beach Resort

Naples, FL

A stay on the beautiful beaches of Naples is a serene relaxing escape by itself. Couple that with the rejuvenating services of the resort’s Golden Door Spa and you have a zen-tastic vacation in the making.

Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Spa & Golf Club

Carlsbad, CA

Add golf, tennis, and sailing to the list of sun and spa activities at this resort just north of San Diego.

Travaasa-Austin

Austin, TX

Whether it’s a couple’s adventure or solo serenity that you seek, this Austin, TX resort exudes health and wellness at every turn.

Enchantment Resort Mii Amo Spa

Sedona, AZ

Ranked the #1 destination spa in the world by Travel + Leisure, the Mii Amo Spa offers personalized all-inclusive three, four and seven night spa experiences.

Are you planning on taking a zen-cation anytime soon? Where will you be heading?

 
 

 

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Ski into Savings: Tips for a $mart Ski Vacation

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011


Thinking about scheduling a winter skiing vacation yet? (photo courtesy of http://www.vailcascade.com).

While you may be feeling the first coolness of fall, it’s actually time to be thinking a little colder and start planning your winter ski trip.  It’s no secret that ski vacations can be costly but there are ways for you to save significantly.


Depending on when and where you choose to take your ski vacation will greatly impact the cost of your trip. Stay away from peak periods, which in the U.S. include the week between Christmas and New Years, Martin Luther King Day weekend, Presidents Day weekend, and the week following Presidents Day. If you want to save money and avoid long lift lines, think “off peak.” And, if possible, consider weekday vs. weekend trips to save even more! Otherwise, choose a weekday to get in tons of runs and to feel like kind of the mountain.

If you travel to a destination such as Denver you have a multitude of ski mountains within driving distance to choose from. Ski venues such as Loveland, Eldora, and Arapahoe Basin are less expensive than larger resorts such as Breckenridge and Vail.

When to Buy a Ski Pass

If you are planning on skiing more than seven (7) days this coming season then you want to purchase a season pass.  The rules and restrictions vary from resort to resort but they all have one thing in common: season passes, which are typically only available for a limited time in the pre-season, are a great value for avid skiers compared to purchasing individual lift tickets.

Remember to check your child’s age before purchasing a season pass, as there may be price breaks based on their age at the time of purchase.  For example, the Colorado Epic Local pass is free for children under the age of five (5).  My daughter turns five in October; so by purchasing her pass now, she will ski free and we just saved $250.

Pass deals only last a few more weeks for most ski resorts. Check out these pass deals for:

Ski Utah

Stowe Mountain

Colorado and Tahoe

Winter Park Resort

Bonus: Season passes usually offer discounts on lessons, food, and lift tickets for family and friends, so season pass discounts may be deeper than initially perceived.  The same is true for a season lesson pass. Take for example, lessons at popular Breckenridge resort: a child’s season lesson pass is $590 and it includes lunch. Once the snow’s on the mountain, a single day lesson will run parents $150/day per child. So if you are anticipating more than handful of lessons for a family member then you may want to jump on the opportunity to purchase a season lesson pass, too.

Saving on Ski Lodging

Whether you are looking for mountain cabins to rent in Colorado or ski areas and resorts in Utah, consider location and alternative lodging options when searching for value. While slope-side “ski in/ski out” allows you to walk out your door and hop on the lift, opting for lodging a little further from the mountain can save you cash. And most ski resorts offer hassle-free complimentary shuttle services with stops throughout town. Renting vacation homes, condos, and cabins can be much less expensive than booking multiple hotel rooms especially for groups and families. I like having the added space of a home-like rental with an eat-in kitchen and living areas for often less per night than a traditional hotel.

Other Money Saving Ski Tips

  1. Pack a lunch.  We often carry a backpack when skiing complete with water, a few sandwiches, and favorite snacks. It definitely cuts down on costs and then we can splurge for après-ski drinks or dinner.
  2. Plan your ski lessons during the week.  You will definitely get more bang for your buck if you can.  A mid-week lesson for adults or kids sometimes is like getting a private lesson.  The crowds are so small compared to weekends that I am certain you will learn a lot more in the allocated lesson time. Be sure to budget for ski instructor tips for each lesson.
  3. Take time to relax. Factor in how many days you will actually ski and allow time to adjust to altitude at the beginning of your trip and plan a day for your muscles to recover mid-trip. Altitude sickness isn’t the way you want to spend your trip. Be sure to drink plenty of water, wear your sunscreen and take breaks.  You’ll waste a lot more than time if you are too sick to ski.
  4. Use online coupons. Sign up now for Groupon and Living Social deals in cities where you will be skiing and look for discount dining, equipment and lift pass deals. Ski-specific sites such as Liftopia, Skicoupons, Skifreedeals, are also good online resources.
  5. Military discounts. If you are active duty military members, there may be significant lift, lodging, and rental discounts available to you. Check your favorite ski resorts website for information.
 
 

 

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Chicago: My Kind of Town

Monday, September 12th, 2011

I love Chicago in the fall, it's the perfect time to visit. (Photo courtesy of mandy-reimann.blogspot.com)

I♥NY. It’s true. But now listen up because I have to tell you why Chicago is really “my kind of town.”

I do find Chicago remarkably similar to New York City but at a less overwhelming, less frenetic pace. The similarities begin with great architecture, shopping and entertainment. Contrasting the two, I find Chicago more easily navigable, clean, relatively safe and affordable. The city’s central location makes it accessible from many states by car; and thanks to its two monstrous (I will admit that) airports, you can often get quite the airfare deal in and out of the city.

According to the latest Hotel Price Index just released by hotels.com, Chi-town ranks number twelve (#12) on the list of most expensive cities with an average nightly rate of nearly $136 per night. But that’s still an average of $54 less per night than New York City. Despite hotel room rates rising an average of 10% from the last year across the U.S., cities across the country are still lowering rates dramatically to attract vacationers in the midst of the economic downturn.


My husband and I from a past Chicago Oktoberfest celebration.


Staying in Chicago

For those of us who try to make that dollar stretch while on vacation, Chicago is still one of those cities where you get more bang for the buck with hotel accommodations compared to some other large U.S. metropolises. For example, a stay at the 4-star Hotel Felix Chicago, which features a full-service spa and fitness facility, may cost you a mere $115/night. And I hear the beds are super comfy! The perfectly situated Sofitel Chicago Water Tower hotel is plush and refined with rates from $290/night. I hold a special spot in my heart for the Sofitel staff that took care of my every need and request when I was bitten by a stomach bug during a business trip. It’s an experience like that, which builds loyalty!

With so much to see and to do in Chicago, it’s no surprise then that the city ranks number four (#4) as a top destination for Americans behind Las Vegas, New York and Orlando. Even international visitors who typically favor U.S. destinations with sun and surf, ranked Chicago number eight (#8) on their list of top cities to visit.

Things to do in Chicago

Dining in Chicago is an experience as well. Many of the city’s chefs and restaurants are lauded for their culinary masterpieces but none more than the famed Chicago-style deep dish pizza. It’s easy to navigate the city; whether you’re walking to Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile or take your chance on the El train line (their subway system), affordable entertainment abounds in the Windy City as well with many options for visitors of all ages. I like to take the El, which is user-friendly and inexpensive, to Armitage Avenue and spend a leisurely afternoon strolling fashionable Lincoln Park.

Chicago in the fall is the city at its best. It’s completely doable in a weekend and will feel like you had a week and still leave you wanting more. If you get there soon, catch Oktoberfest Chicago, September 23-25th or perhaps take in a Cubs or Bears game.

And do me a favor when you’re there, take an architectural boat tour of the city; you won’t regret it!

 
 

 

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Hotel Booking ‘On the Fly’ – Literally!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

JT Holmes is booking a hotel room while skydiving!

Remember the last time you jumped out of a plane and thought, “Oh shoot! I forgot to book a hotel for my family getaway this weekend!” – wasn’t that horrible? Didn’t you wish there was a way to easily and quickly book a hotel room from almost anywhere, even at the very last minute?

All kidding aside, not many travelers find themselves jumping out of airplanes like extreme athlete and stuntman, JT Holmes (pictured above), but a vast majority do have a need to book accommodations on-the-go or in-a-pinch – especially as the use of mobile devices as consumer travel tools increases.

In tune with this trend and the needs of travelers, hotels.com continues to launch new applications with sophisticated functionality, such as its high-speed mobile booking application, which allows users to book rooms at its network of almost 140,000 worldwide hotels.

What’s more, today, hotels.com launched an exciting, “extreme” campaign centered on this valuable app; teaming up world-renowned skydiver, JT Holmes, to put on a wild digital demonstration to prove just how easy it is to book a room while doing just about anything – even flying at over 115 miles per hour in a 15,000 foot freefall!



This stunt is a live-action version of a hotels.com animated television commercial.

This stunt is a live-action version of an animated television commercial, produced by hotels.com, in which claymated characters also book a hotel room while on a skydiving vacation.

The hotels.com mobile booking app, which has been downloaded over a million times by iPhone and Android users, features exclusive mobile deals and over 20,000 last minute deals. It is available in more than 30 languages in more than 70 countries, and can access past and future reservations, even when offline. Mobile GPS functionality will allow the app to find the closest hotels with the best deals, based on a user’s current location. welcomerewards® loyalty points can also be tracked and redeemed through the app.

Download it yourself, or visit TheSmarterApp.com, to learn more!

 
 

 

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Fall into Football

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011


Football season is back and it's the perfect excuse to travel. (Photo courtesy of associatedcontent.com)

Football season is back! Whether you love the NFL or the NCAA, the next 12 weeks should definitely satisfy the most committed armchair quarterbacks. But why sit idly by at home when you can join tens of thousands of spirited fans clad in team colors and shouting for a win? Traveling to see your team play is a great way to renew your commitment to the team and even explore some of those “away” game destinations.

Hotels.com is featuring a Football Sale on its website, promoting savings up to 30%. Here are a few examples:

Ann Arbor, MISheraton Ann Arbor Hotel: from $149/night.

ChicagoHotel Felix: from $114/night.

New OrleansEmbassy Suites Hotel New Orleans: from $79/night plus 3rd night free.

San DiegoHumphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites: from $84/night.

TampaWyndham Westshore Hotel: from $84/night.

If you are flying, remember that airfare into small towns is more expensive. Most college towns are located within driving distance to a major city; check flights into the larger cities and look for car rental deals or a city shuttle.

Some of the airlines are putting out their fall and football airfare sales this week. Check Southwest, Delta, American, and Spirit airlines for some of those deals.   And note that most fare sales only last a day or two with limited seats for sale.  If you want to go, you’ll have to book quickly to score the big savings. United Airlines often posts Twitter exclusive fares, called Twares, so be sure to follow airlines that offer the routes that interest you.

What team will you be rooting for this football season?

 
 

 

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