Archive for February, 2012

Travel with Friends: A Suite Escape You Don’t Want to Miss!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Spending time skiing with my college friend in Keystone Resort in Colorado was a great time.

I often tell people who ask me about my favorite hotels that it all depends on who I am traveling with and where I am going. The hotel that you choose when traveling, in my opinion, can make or break your trip. For example, if you were planning a romantic weekend away with your sweetheart then two nights at the Nickelodeon Suites Hotel in Orlando would not be the ideal spot. On the contrary, you might choose something such as the Santorini Princess Luxury Spa Hotel in Greece.

And there is something truly great about traveling with friends. A vacay away with your besties is often the ultimate way to catch up on life, and even remind yourself who you are. Over the years, I try to make an effort to get away with my girlfriends for some QFT (quality friend time). Just last week, I got to spend some time with my best friend from college. She and her family live outside Atlanta. Even though we are both now married women with multiple children, when we are together I feel not a minute removed from our days at UGA. Spending time on the slopes of Keystone Resort in Colorado was something we haven’t experienced together and made a fun adventure for our collective whole family.

In fact, I wish that I could take a few of my close friends on an amazing trip to Hong Kong, Dubai, the Philippines, or St. Lucia. For each locale, I might pick a few different friends who would be up for that trip’s adventures. Just thinking about it gets my trip planning juices going!

How about you? Would you like an amazing adventure with your buds? Well, here’s your chance!

Suite Escapes Giveaway

For the next six weeks, is giving away 16 luxury vacations as part of their Suite Escapes Giveaway. Each week there are three luxury trips up for grabs and all you have to do is choose one and invite three friends to come along! You can enter to win a holiday at three different hotels each week (make sure to enter them on different days of the week for a better chance to win a daily spot prize).

Who can enter?

Traveling with friends can be so rewarding. Some of my best memories are from trips like these!

Anyone who is 21 years of age or older and lives in one of the participating countries is eligible to take part. The participating countries are:

  • USA (50 states including the District of Columbia)
  • Canada (except Quebec)
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Germany
  • Australia
  • New Zealand

How to enter

Go to the Suite Escapes Facebook Page. Entering the prize drawing is easy and can be done in two ways:

1) By creating your own suite 
2) By accepting an invite to check-in to someone else’s suite

Creating your own suite

To create your own suite simply:

  • ‘Like’
  • Check-in to a Suite Escape by clicking on a valid hotel
  • Invite three Facebook friends to join you
  • Ensure that all three friends have accepted your invitation before the prize draw closing date (you can send them a ‘nudge’ to remind them)
  • Your suite is entered once all three friends accept your invitation

One of my favorite trips was with my friend in New York City to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

Accepting an invite from a friend

If one of your Facebook friends creates a Suite Escape, and invites you to check-in to that suite, you will be sent an app request via your Facebook profile.

  • Like on Facebook (if you haven’t already done so)
  • Click the ‘Accept Invitation’ button and provide the permissions requested

You have now successfully checked-in!

Grand prize

All virtual suites that qualify for the weekly prize draws will be entered into the grand prize draw to win a hotel stay at Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island, Indian Ocean. The grand prize draw will take place on or around April 4, 2012.

Daily prizes

In addition to the weekly prize draws and grand prize draw, daily prizes are also up for grabs. An iTunes gift card will be given away each day, in every participating country! For more information, please read the Terms and Conditions.

Don’t forget to spread the word about the competition by sharing it with your friends and posting on your Facebook wall. Good luck!



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Let’s Go to the Movies… Or the Cities Where Movies Are Made!

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

The 84th Annual Academy Awards will be shown live from Los Angeles on Sunday. I always enjoy watching Hollywood’s elite collect their golden Oscars. I usually try to see all the nominated best picture films (now there are 10 nominees) before the award show season begins; but I must admit that this year I will be playing catch up after the statues are handed out.

It’s always fascinating to me to see not only how the celebrated movies are made but also where the settings of the films are and where they were actually filmed. Every now and then, a movie features such stunning locations or backgrounds that you wish you could be physically transported to those places. This year was no exception!


Some of this year’s favorites are set in the picturesque streets of France. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is centered around a group of Americans visiting the City of Lights for either business or pleasure. Paris is an inspired backdrop that becomes another character in the romantic comedy. And the setting is a Paris railway station in the Scorsese flick Hugo. In fact, many notable films have chosen the romance and intrigue of Paris to play out their tales including Before Sunset, Amelie, The Da Vinci Code and Paris, Je T’aime.

Need some inspiration? Here are some romantic Paris hotels. has an assortment of Paris travel guides to get you started planning your silver screen vacay. And a quick shout out to my friends at – I really like the new tag line “Finding You the Perfect Place”. I couldn’t agree more that where you stay truly impacts your overall travel experience, and is a great place to begin that journey.


The next destination is across the Channel in Great Britain, which set the stage for The Iron Lady with best actress nominee Meryl Streep. Conveniently, London is less than 3 hours away from Paris via the Eurostar high-speed train. There’s even a tour company dedicated to London Movie Tours from the sites of Harry Potter to Bridget Jones.

If you are going to London be sure to see the inspiration from a 2011 nominee, Sherlock Holmes, 221B Baker Street where Sherlock Holmes spent his time when he was not solving cases. The building houses the Sherlock Holmes Museum and is open every day for visitors.

And don’t forget that London is the site of this summer’s 2012 Olympic Games. Here are a few London travel guides to help you plan your next hop across the pond!


George Clooney and his movie The Descendants are celebrating Oscar nods this year. The dramedy is set on the Hawaiian island of Kauai and is as visually stimulating as the storyline is compelling.  USA Today’s Laura Bly wrote a great article back in November about the movie’s star “Hawaii”. Have a read:

As if you need motivation to plan a trip to Hawaii! There is actually a Hawaii Movie Tour that includes visiting the sites in TV such as Hawaii Five-0 and Lost, and films such as Jurassic Park, Mighty Joe Young, Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates, You, Me and Dupree, Windtalkers, Godzilla, Very Brady Sequel, Snakes on a Plane, Krippendorf’s Tribe, George of the Jungle and others.

And if you still need more to do other than sipping a Mai Tai on the beautiful ocean beaches then here are a few Hawaii travel guides to help you plan your trip.

Hollywood, New York, Savannah, New Orleans…

It’s great that film and television can help us escape to cities never seen and times gone by but it’s even better to visit these destinations ourselves.  As your watching The Oscars this Sunday get inspired by the beauty of the cities in which the films were made. Plan a trip and create your own story lines.

Have you ever taken a movie-inspired trip? Tell us where you went and what sites you visited.



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Three Tips For Long-Term Traveling Twosomes

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Carrie and I going to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

On February 14, 2001, Carrie came to a Valentine’s Day party at my house. I was in college at the time.

I had finally gotten over a bad break-up (from nearly 2 years earlier), and was hosting a party for everyone who didn’t have anything to do on Valentine’s Day.

Carrie and I had met three days earlier at a German club meeting (at our college). Carrie sort of invited herself to my party (because she thought I was cute).

The party ended up being 8 young women and me. They were (apparently) there because they wanted to spend Valentine’s Day with me .

That’s how Carrie tells the story.

I’m generally pretty oblivious to advances and I still think they just came for the party.

At the end of the party, Carrie had outstayed everyone else, and we spent Valentine’s evening just talking and laughing (okay, we kissed for the first time on Valentine’s Day too).

It’s amazing to think that was 10 years ago, but then I think about all that we have done together in those years. We’ve traveled together on 6 continents, using every mode of transportation possible (except spaceship, camel, and hot air balloon).

And now, we are glad to be able to use our 10 year anniversary to share some things we have learned in our travels together.

When Carrie and I first started dating, we had some things to learn about each other. This is true with all relationships. However, it’s especially true when you travel together in close spaces. This is why we recommend our first tip:

1. Start small

You may dream about traveling the world together. (We just completed a 2-year travel around the world, and it is possible.) However, we recommend you start with a small trip. Take a weekend in Vegas, in the mountains, or at the beach. If that 3-4 day adventure goes well, then plan a week away together. If that works well, then figure out how to travel together for 2 weeks.

Road trips are great adventures to explore how you will get along in close quarters for 1 or 2 weeks. Shorter trips will help you learn each other’s preferences and how to accommodate for them. Whether your travel is short or long however, tip #2 is really important for bringing you closer together.

Carrie and I touring a cheese factory near Parma, Italy

2. Make time and plan for surprises

You likely have an idea of what’s special and important to your travel partner. Take something small along with you as a nice surprise because it will make your time together extra special. As an example, Carrie and I lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina (in 2008) for 6 weeks. Our first weekend there was Easter weekend, and we ended up in a dirty, loud, mold-infested apartment. Because it was Easter weekend, there really was no one to call or email to negotiate and get out of the situation. In the midst of this trying situation on our first weekend in a foreign country, Carrie had a surprise for me.

Before we left, she thought it would be nice to bring some chocolate eggs with her from the states, because it would be a nice way to be able to celebrate Easter. She didn’t know we would end up in the situation we were in, but those chocolate eggs became our rallying point for having some good smiles and laughs in what was an unpleasant situation. For you, the surprise you take could be his or her favorite food, a new skimpy outfit for the bedroom, or something else you know your partner likes.

3. When it comes to destinations, decide ‘what’ before ‘where’

Many people like to decide where they will go based on what destinations are currently on sale. But even more important than where you go is what you want to do. You may like to lay on the beach when you travel, while your partner likes to climb mountains. We’re both good about going with the flow and being up for anything, but it was funny (3 weeks before we were set to leave on our 6-week summer 2006 travel) to discover a miscommunication Carrie and I had. It turns out that Carrie dislikes multi-day camping.

But we ended up spending 8 days sleeping in a tent on the side of the tallest mountain in Africa. It was absolutely one of the most amazing experiences of our lives, and is where we got engaged. But from this experience, we learned to talk thoroughly before booking. If you’re thinking about a luxury room at the Hilton, but she wants to sleep under the stars in the middle of the Mojave Desert, you should communicate about what you want.

Thank-you for giving us the opportunity to share these three tips with you, and may all your travels bring you the surprise you hoped for, in the way you least expected.

Carrie and Jonathan Kraft have been traveling the world together for 8 years and have been to more than 40 countries together. For great travel ideas and tips on how to save money on travel, visit



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Sunday, February 12th, 2012

What’s your ideal Valentine’s Day scenario? Would you rather have dinner at a romantic restaurant, explore a new city, snuggle by the fire or something else entirely? In honor of Valentine’s Day this year, asked lovebirds of different ages to weigh in on their secret dreams about the perfect romantic weekend. So take note boys and girls and get ready for some lovin’ on February 14th!



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Travel for Fashionistas – Top Cities for Shopping

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Can't make it to fashion week? There are plenty of shopping getaways you can take instead. (Photo courtesy of

Today marks the start of New York Fashion Week. Lincoln Center is transformed through February 16th into an haute couture paradise. Even if you don’t have front row seats to Christian Dior, there are still many opportunities to attend smaller shows of up and comers or swanky after show cocktail affairs. Visitors can scour local resources like The NY Daily News and to look for events open to the public, within their budget, and even at the last minute.

New York Fashion Week kicks off a global calendar of Fashion Weeks followed by London, Milan and Paris. Fashion is not limited to the runways of these cities. No! No! Many designers are taking their creations to the walls and beds of hotels everywhere. Melanie Nayer shares a few faves for fashionable stays this week on

So if you feel inspired by Spring’s new looks then grab a few friends and plan a girlfriend getaway to a top-shopping destination. I compiled a short list based on cities that have the best mixes of boutiques and shopping malls, haute couture and mainstream fashion.

New York – Obviously NYC is fashion central. Just look at the number of fashion and television shows that use it as their backdrop. The Big Apple is the shopping mecca of the States. It’s filled with fashion designers and those that want to be (the Fashion Institute of Technology is here). Shopping in New York could be couture on Fifth Avenue, boutiques lining the streets of SoHo, Nolita and the West Village, among many other neighborhoods — not to mention the vendors on Canal Street.

Los Angeles – The Fashion District in Los Angeles spans 90 blocks and is the hub of the apparel industry on the West Coast and home to what’s-hot celebrity style. From Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard, to a good assortment of shopping malls, to the eclectic shops along Abbot Kinney Boulevard, LA has it all from vintage couture to the latest craze.

Las Vegas – Las Vegas may be known for its casinos and nightlife, but it’s also home to a number of well-known fashion trade shows like MAGIC and POOL. From bargains to bling, shopping options abound in Sin City. Not to mention that Las Vegas even has its own Fashion Week from May 14-19th. Tickets go on sale in March.

Miami – With the sun and sand of South Beach, it’s no wonder that Miami is host to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim, which will be May 14-18, 2012.  In fact, the Latin infused city even has its own fashion week in March that celebrates International and Hispanic fashion. Downtown Miami has tons of discount shopping, from luggage to leather, while Coral Gables and Coconut Grove are known for their mix of glamour boutiques, boho shops and chain stores.

Dallas – Home to the first shopping mall in the U.S, shopping is a dress-up affair in Dallas. Even designer department store, Neiman Marcus, was founded in the Big D. There are literally dozens of malls in Dallas, such as Highland Park Village for designer-wear and The Galleria and NorthPark Center for their chain and cosmopolitan shops to smaller clusters such as Mockingbird Station and the funky stores of Greenville Avenue.

Where do you go for your fashion finds?



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Be My Valentine: Five Sweet Travel Deals for Your Sweetheart

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
Embera Indian tribe

Here I am with my friends at the Embera Indian tribe in Panama.

I have to say that it was fun watching Ben and the girls on The Bachelor last night as they explored Panama, one of my favorite countries. And seeing them visit with my friends at the Embera Indian tribe brought back some wonderful memories.

All that romantic tension in a beautiful destination reminded me that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. So if you really want to plan a special celebration for that certain someone, here are five travel ideas made for romance.

Valentine’s in Florida

If you want to escape life and embark on a romantic weekend then head to The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Here you’ll experience luxurious accommodations, fine dining, a relaxing spa and fun activities including a daily class on infusing flavors into salt, wine tastings, bike tours and nature walks.

My favorite touch – a personal fire in the dunes, where a crackling fire, comfy blankets and the sound of soothing waves draw you closer and includes s’mores, a thermos of hot chocolate and high-powered celestial binoculars for star gazing.

This winter, book a Romance Package that includes overnight accommodations, welcome amenities of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, rose petal turndowns, breakfast for two, complimentary overnight parking and a 2 p.m. late checkout. Rates start at $379 per night. Please call the resort at 904-277-1100 to book this inviting package.

Valentine’s in New York City

All month, The Kimberly Hotel in New York, New York welcomes romance. The “Romantic Getaway” package includes overnight accommodations in the newly reconstructed luxury one-bedroom suites, Veuve Clicquot champagne and hand-dipped chocolate covered strawberries upon arrival and two plush Kimberly Hotel robes to take home. Guests that book the package on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, will receive the three-course dinner with a special wine pairing at Upstairs. Contact the hotel’s reservation department for additional details and availability.

Valentine’s in San Francisco

In the City by the Bay, you and your sweetie or you and your pal can check in to one of the Personality Hotels: Hotel Diva, Hotel Union Square and Kensington Park Hotel, all centrally located in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square.

Choose from two packages – “Sweet on You” for couples, and the “Anti V.D.” for a single girls getaway. With True to Personality Hotels’ daring style, this won’t be your typical Valentine’s Day getaway – think candy bras, wine from Ben “The Bachelor” and special treats.

Valentine’s in Chicago

From Friday, February 10th through Sunday, February 19th, Chicago is turning out the Cupid-inspired experiences from special performances and dinner dates, to outdoor fun and picturesque photo-ops. Here are two great options:

Love, Sex & the Second City: A Romantic Dot Comedy presented by UP Comedy Club

Now through February 29th, visit The Second City to enjoy a play about relationships in the age of social networking. There are plenty of fish in the sea, but can we all live in eHarmony? Or are our lives too much of an open (Face)book?

Love Songs and Lights (FREE) Now through February 19th, lovebirds can
enjoy the sights and lights of State Street and the sound of love songs when the Chicago Loop Alliance presents “Love Song and Lights” as part of Lightscape, a multisensory experience.

Affinia Chicago is offering a Kiss & Tell Romantic Getaway Package with rates from $134/night. Guests will enjoy an upgrade to a suite, a list of recommended romantic spots to kiss, Affinia signature “Kiss Me” mints and a “Kisses Goodnight” Turndown with Hershey Kisses and some bubbly to share.

Valentine’s in Napa

Wine and romance are pouring at the Milliken Creek Inn & Spa with The Heart of Napa Authentic Trio package.  Rates starts at $640 per night for two and includes two-night stay in a Milliken room, a five-hour luxury vehicle Wine Tour provided by Peralta Luxury Tours, gourmet boxed lunch, a wine tasting at Crocker & Starr winery, and a romance turndown. The best part is that this deal is good Sunday through Thursday until July 31, 2012.

Anywhere else is celebrating Valentine’s Day with a bouquet of great deals. Save up to 30% and if you stay two nights, you’ll get a $25 credit toward wine and chocolate.

How are you and your Valentine celebrating this year?



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