Archive for November, 2011

How to Decorate Your Hotel Room at the Holidays

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

I always bring extra decorations to make our hotel room feel like home at the holidays.

Ho Ho Ho and pass the dreidel! A whopping 42.5 million people supposedly hit the road over Thanksgiving jump-starting the holiday travel season. And over the next four weeks millions more will celebrate the season with vacations near and far. And where are all these people staying?

Surely everyone is not going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. In fact, a hotel versus a relative’s home is an enticing solution to often over-crowded family quarters. From the holiday décor to tasty holiday fare, hotels are celebrating the season with their guests and working hard to make their hotels feel a lot more like home at the holidays.

If you are traveling for Hanukkah or Christmas this year, consider taking along some of your favorite decorations and holiday gear to keep some of your traditions alive while you are traveling.

Tips for Making Your Hotel Feel More Like Home at the Holidays

Holiday Decor. It’s amazing what a string or two of lights, a menorah, some tinseled garland, a ribbon around your pillow or a little decorated tree can do to make a hotel feel like home at the holidays. Pack them in your suitcase or ship a box ahead. You can also bring supplies for your kids to make decorations. And don’t forget your stockings and a copy of your favorite Christmas movie.

Ornaments. I like to collect ornaments from the cities I am visiting both as a souvenir of my trip and to embrace the spirit of the season. And each year as I decorate my tree, I can remember the wonderful places I have been fortunate enough to visit.

Make the most of the Concierge. A hotel concierge also makes for a wonderful Santa’s helper! They are happy to store any surprises and help Santa deliver those presents Christmas morning. All you have to do is ask!

Presents! Logistically, it can be an issue transporting gifts for kids on a Christmas vacation. If you are flying to your destination, do NOT put wrapped gifts in your carry-on luggage. You run a big risk of having them unwrapped at the TSA checkpoint. In fact, I wouldn’t wrap them until you arrive to your destination. Even if your wrapped gifts are checked in your suitcase, the wrapping paper can easily get damaged. So pack a few gift bags and some tissue paper for easy assembly when you arrive. If time allows, have your gift list ready and do the shopping when you arrive to your destination. Let the Concierge point you to great local boutiques and city shopping favorites. One of the things you should always take advantage of is the in-room safe, especially if precious gifts are to be given this season. You’ll find this in most every hotel.

Hotels with HO HO Happenings!

It can be easy to do a holiday makeover on your hotel room!

Some hotels really know how to deck the halls during the holidays. Look for one that offers night-time calls from Santa or perhaps a holiday story reading, sleigh rides, or even complimentary cider.

Life-sized gingerbread houses can be found at nearly every Ritz-Carlton hotel in the world from Atlanta to Berlin. Children and adults will feel at home for the holidays with long-standing traditions such as Santa nighttime “tuck-ins” and Teddy Bear teas.

Gaylord Hotels located in Nashville, Dallas, Orlando and Washington, D.C. present ICE!, some of the country’s most memorable holiday celebrations each with unique whimsical winter wonderlands hand carved from nearly TWO MILLION pounds of ice. Guests at the Gaylord National will experience Merry Madagascar while at the Gaylord Texan you can Shrek the Halls.

Christmas at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville is Kentucky’s best holiday event. Celebrate now through January 2nd, 2012 and experience thousands of lights, a life-size Christmas village, snow fairy castle, holiday dinner and of course, Santa.

  • During the holiday season at Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego CA, guests of all ages enjoy a variety of activities including holiday night bike tours through festive Coronado Island, cookie decorating, crafts for kids, and Kidtopia Camp with holiday scavenger hunts and family s’mores roasts. Little guest at The Del will love the “Elf Tuck-Ins” where they are visited by real elves at bedtime. Teens can hang out at Vibz teen lounge, featuring billiards, video games, movie-time media and more (for those ages 13-17).
  • Consider setting sail aboard a luxurious cruise ship during December. There’s merriment for all ages during these special weeks from snow making machines that offer daily snowfalls, special holiday meals and storytellers sharing tales of Hanukkah, to late night milk-and-cookies with Santa, to holiday-themed shows, and a full-on balloon drop to ring in the New Year. and

One of the best Christmas’ I ever had was on board a Norwegian Cruise Line sailing in the Western Caribbean. Talk about a holiday to remember! And now you can take a holiday cruise for your next vacation with a special offer from and, an online seller of a wide variety of cruise vacations. This giveaway is for the first 500 people to sign up on and will include a 10%-off coupon from and a $100 on board credit provided by

If you are planning to travel this holiday season, share the details with Travel Smart Blog!



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Black Friday Hotel Deals

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Treat yourself to a Christmas vacation at the beach this year with our Black Friday sales. (Photo courtesy of

Who says Black Friday deals are only for malls and big box retailers? Now you can save up to 50% off on more than 300 properties in highly desired destinations through the Four Day Sale starting at midnight on November 25, 2011.

With temperatures cooling down and school and workloads typically becoming lighter, December is a great time to fit in one last vacation before 2012. Whether you want to treat yourself or surprise a loved one with a special getaway, is offering deals to suit everyone’s inner explorer.

Snuggle up with a cup of tea, pumpkin pie leftovers and a laptop to book these deals and more on Thanksgiving night:

Book a trip south of the border to the beautiful European-like Buenos Aires, Argentina where you’ll not only find gourmet cuisine, but also awesome shopping and a pulsing social scene. Stay in the Recoleta area of Buenos Aires at the Unique Luxury Park Plaza where you’ll be within one mile of Plaza Libertad, Teatro Nacional Cervantes, and National Museum of Fine Arts. Or stay in the heart if it all at the Unique Art Madero where you’ll be a short walk from the Ethnographic Museum and Plaza de Mayo.

Or plan a relaxing trip to the sandy beaches, lush waterfalls, and tropical landscapes of Jamaica where the average temperature is between 80-86°F. If you’re looking for a resort near Negril, stay in the beachfront Riu Palace Tropical Bay All Inclusive, which includes five restaurants, four bars, a range of indoor and outdoor sports options, a health spa, sauna and more. If you’re looking to stay in Montego Bay you can save 50% off the Sunset Beach Resort Spa and Waterpark All Inclusive as well as the RIU Montego Bay All Inclusive.

If you want to stay closer to home but still want an exciting new travel experience, consider the artsy, grunge and coffee loving Seattle, Washington. Stay in the Mediterranean where you’ll have panoramic views of the Space Needle and the ferries crossing Elliot Bay. And don’t worry, there’s a Starbucks coffee shop in the lobby.

If you’d rather book last minute or on your mobile device there are other sales and deals this holiday weekend. Last-minute sales and Deals of the Day allow you to book flash deals that are about to slip through the cracks. Don’t forget, the mobile apps let you book anywhere.

More great Black Friday hotel deals will be announced at midnight Friday, so make sure to visit to save big!

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving from the Travel Smart Blog!



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Turkey Day Travel: Tips for Making it to the Feast!

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Have a Happy Thanksgiving from the Travel Smart Blog! (photo courtesy of

Each year, the Thanksgiving holiday is one of the most traveled times .With the fall already ushering in some super snowstorms, this year’s holiday travel season may be a bit unpredictable. So to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the festive fun, check out these tips and ideas for a Happy Thanksgiving.

Talking Turkey about Travel Deals

The national average for Thanksgiving airfares is $400, up 4% over last year. The national average for Christmas airfares is doing better at $475, up 1% over last year. The best time to travel in order to save a few dollars is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and returning the Sunday after.

If you want to escape the cold, getaways to the Sunshine State and other warm weather destinations are already proving to be quite affordable this holiday season, with airfares to Ft. Lauderdale down 21 percent from last year and hotels in Las Vegas down almost 16 percent this year.

Regardless of where you may be headed, be sure to look for the holiday sales. is offering savings of 30% in top destinations for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Click here to read Travel Smart Blog’s Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel.

Tips for Clearing TSA at the Holidays

  • Give yourself ample time to get through the security lines. It’s impossible to gauge the length of the line you’ll be going through or the speed of your fellow travelers, so be conservative and allow extra time. Hopefully you’ll have time to enjoy a coffee once you get near your gate.
  • Avoid a pat down and do not to wear bulky clothing when flying such as big, flowing skirts or multiple layers. Remove your coat, jacket or sweater, scarf and hat before going through security.
  • Easy shoes – because you have to take them on and off – kids, too. If you’re wearing boots for the winter weather, start removing them before it’s your turn to go through the security lane.
  • Either check your liquids in your suitcase or remember to take out your plastic baggy. Review the 3-1-1 Rules.
  • Medications, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces (100ml) and are not required to be in the zip-lock bag.
  • If your favorite necklace is big and clunky, put it in your purse or carry-on and put it on after you go through security. Also remove big buckle belts.

Hotels with all the Turkey Trimmings

Ever thought about going back in time? You can come close by celebrating in America’s hometown where the “First Thanksgiving” took place. In Plymouth, MA (where the Mayflower landed with the Pilgrims in 1620) there’s a three-day celebration the weekend before actual Thanksgiving, November 18 – 20, featuring everything from a parade to historical reenactments.

In sunny San Diego the Hotel Del Coronado will feature elegant buffet dinners decked with all the trimmings and live musical entertainment from 12pm to 6pm. Cost is $89.50 for adults, $38.50 for children ages 6-10 and free for children 5 and under.

  • The resort’s holiday programs will be kicked off on Thanksgiving weekend, including seaside ice-skating against the backdrop of 100,000 white lights.

Along the Freedom Trail, The Langham will have the tables set and the feast prepared for this year’s Thanksgiving celebration in Boston. For brunch or dinner reservations at The Langham, call (617) 451-1900, ext. 7125.

And, if you’ve always wanted to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person, here’s your chance. has a number of New York City hotels on sale. The Strand Hotel is offering a two-night package starting at $364.00 per night. It includes two nights in a guaranteed upgraded deluxe room; three-course gourmet Thanksgiving meal at The Strand American Bistro; late checkout; daily continental breakfast. And the piece de resistance: reserved front view of the parade for those who book early and a complimentary thermos filled with hot chocolate.

Wherever you land this year to count your blessings, I hope you have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. Happy Turkey Travels!



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Hot for Phoenix: Ideas for a Southwest Winter Weekend

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Phoenix is the perfect warm weather getaway for winter. (Photo courtesy of

If the thought of the impending winter is giving you the chills, then plan a trip to sunny, sumptuous Phoenix. With its unseasonably warm weather, world-class sports stadiums (it was just named the home of Super Bowl 2015), outdoor adventure, art and culture, and a wealth of spas, resorts and hotels, Arizona’s largest city is as inviting as a gorgeous sunset over the desert. Oh, it has those too!

Phoenix passionately embraces its Wild West past and desert surroundings. Wander among an ancient adobe village at Pueblo Grand Museum and Archaeological Park, or mosey down the dusty streets of a Wild West theme town. Beginning in January, you can bring a picnic basket to outdoor concerts at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. By foot, by bike, even by horse there is so much to do in Phoenix; or do nothing but relax in one of the areas renowned spas.

Here are a few of the current happenings at Phoenix Hotels. Thanks to my friends at the Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau for the scoop on these specials!

For the Girlfriend Getaway

The Arizona Biltmore has launched the Winemaker Dinner series, which runs through May 3, 2012. On eight separate occasions, guests can taste bold, innovative menus paired with wines from California and France as they watch haute couture fashion shows sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue. Arizona Biltmore Executive Chef Todd Sicolo and Sous Chef Conor Favre will create the four-to-six course menus. The wines’ creators will attend to socialize and answer any questions. Admission- Single Ticket: $95, Season Pass: $665.

Cocktail lovers can get expert teaching from “Good Libations” cocktail-making class at JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. The class starts with a tour of the resort’s organic herb gardens, where guests can pick their own herbs. It ends with a cocktail class taught by one of the resort’s mixologists, incorporating the handpicked herbs into a freshly made cocktail. This “how-to” class highlights the resort’s extensive variety of desert botanicals, organic herbs, and highly regarded beverage program. This class is an exciting way to learn more about spirit and herb pairings, desert ingredients and at-home herb gardening. A complimentary seed packet brings the fun home. Price- Guests: Free, Non-Guests: $25.

For the Golf Enthusiast

The Four Seasons Resort at Troon North offers time-crunched golfers the new Monument Express, a 9-hole golf course designed within the layout of the famous Monument course. The course is short and offers two PAR options based on skill level. Beginners, juniors, active adults, and children are all perfect fits for Monument Express, and at just $20 per player. Reservations can be made seven days in advance.

Golfers should attend one of Boulders Resort’s new Golf Academy Programs taught by PGA and LPGA professionals. The programs encourage golfers to get back into the swing of things and include a Ladies Only Mini School, Golfers Guide, Buddies Share Day, and even a 2-day “Golf Academy Vacation package”. A new ‘short’ course will be offered beginning Nov. 1 and is ideal for amateurs or professionals with a tight schedule.

Need a few more ideas about things to do in the Valley of the Sun? Check out these Phoenix travel guides from And if you haven’t done it yet, be sure to download the new App for iPhone®, iPad® or Android® that makes planning and booking your next trip simply convenient.

Have you been to Phoenix? What other attractions would you recommend?



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How to Disconnect When Traveling: An Interview with William Powers

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

William Powers shares his advice on disconnecting when traveling.

Thanks to the late Steve Jobs and his amazing innovations, we are more connected than ever before. At any minute of any day from virtually any location we have access to our family, friends, interests, businesses…well, you know – anything and everything. But is that really a good thing? Hasn’t it also made us completely reliant and attached to these little life-changing devices? What ever happened to being alone with our thoughts?

I know just the man with the answers. William Powers is author of the New York Times’ Bestseller Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. Check out his book and his advice on detaching in the Digital Age.

Q: Why is it important that we detach digitally?

WP: It’s important because digital life, as currently structured, is frenetic and distracting and way too busy. It’s like being immersed in a crowd all day. Now, crowds are exciting, but they’re also exhausting, and they have a way of throwing us off balance. If you spend all your day navigating the digital crowd, it begins to define how you think and live. You become a creature of what others do and say. That’s not the path to happiness.

Q: How can we change our daily habits to get some distance from our devices?

WP: It’s not as hard as it seems. The first step is embracing the idea that you’ll gain something by changing your behavior. Once you’ve done that, you begin to see all sorts of creative ways to moderate your digital habits. That’s the key, moderation – not throwing the devices out the window, but learning to balance time online with time offline. Both states are valuable. In fact, they enrich each other.

Q: On vacation, is there a reason to stay connected?

WP: Sure, there are plenty of reasons to stay connected – family reasons, health reasons, work reasons. But there’s a difference between maintaining some kind of connection – the ability to be reached with an urgent message – and ensuring that you’re connected around the clock, every single moment you’re away. That’s not “away” at all.

Q: How do we disconnect when we are traveling? Why is this so important?

For more information on disconnecting, make sure to check out Hamlet's Blackberry.

WP: You disconnect by setting up boundaries for yourself, such as: I will leave my smartphone off except to check messages once a day. I’m not prescribing that particular rule.  The boundaries will be different for everyone. The point is to have boundaries that you define, and to stick with them.  Why does this matter? Because if you don’t work some disconnectedness into the equation, you’ll never get to that peaceful, relaxing place that vacations are all about. You’ll have wasted your time and money, by staying on the treadmill when the whole point was to get off.

Q: What are some examples of things you and your family do on vacation to disconnect?

WP: The simplest and most important thing we do is minimize screen time. We set up a few simple rules about when we’ll check our phone and inboxes, and then we turn off our devices and start having fun. When you free yourself from the digital tether, it’s amazing how different life feels. After about 48 hours, you really go to a new place. You’re present in the best sense of the word. There’s nothing more fun for a family than being truly there with each other, whether you’re in midtown Manhattan or a mountain cabin.

Q: Do you have a favorite vacation destination?

WP: We lived in Japan briefly when my son was young, and that remains our favorite family destination. I can’t think of anything better than a week or two traveling around Japan, both cities and countryside, just us three. The Japanese are very good at thinking about the kinds of questions we’ve been discussing, the inward life versus the outward, and so forth. Maybe that’s one of the reasons we like it there.

To learn more about William Powers and Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age visit



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