Archive for September, 2013

City of the Month: Atlanta – Hotel Highlights

Friday, September 27th, 2013

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Hotels in Atlanta – Where to Stay When You Are There to Play

Atlanta is equally matched with a great selection of accommodations as it is with great things to do while you are visiting the Cultural Capital of the South. Hotels.com lists 487 choices for hotels around the metro Atlanta area. Narrowing it down to just a few wasn’t easy, but here are the Travel Smart Blog recommendations for hotels in Atlanta.

Best Royalty for a Weekend Hotel: St. Regis Hotel - This five-star luxury hotel has more accolades than I can list, including being #1 on US News list of Best Hotels in Atlanta and is tops on the list of Best Hotels in the US. The hotel’s décor and amenities are fit for a king. Located in the chi-chi Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, Buckhead is one of the loveliest — and busiest — parts of town, offering exceptional nightlife, dining, and shopping. It’s near the Atlanta History Center and the Swan Coach House.

  • AtlantaTSB Insider Tip: Swan Coach House - This historic carriage house turned restaurant in one of my most favorite girly places in the US. If you’re in Atlanta for a girlfriend’s getaway, looking for the perfect mother-daughter lunch spot, or shower locale, experience the southern hospitality and elegant cuisine of the Swan Coach House.

Most Attentive Staff: Mandarin Oriental Atlanta is the former Mansion on Peachtree Hotel and takes the cake when it comes to guest service! This luxury residence hotel employs three staff members to every overnight guest. Where else does a private butler come with every hotel room? And don’t overlook the views! The views from this 40+ story hotel are unparalleled.

Most Fun on a Saturday Night: Where do the locals go for fun on a Saturday night? Loews Atlanta Hotel has a fantastic lobby bar attracting locals and visitors alike. Located two blocks from Piedmont Park and a five minute walk to the Woodruff Arts Center, the Loews Atlanta is the centerpiece of 12th and Peachtree, a new, luxury, shop-eat-play area in Midtown Atlanta.

Best Hotel for Families: Residence Inn by Marriott Atlanta Buckhead -This reasonably priced all-suite hotel offers accommodations large enough for my family of five. Plus fully equipped kitchens, washers and dryers, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, barbecue grills, and basketball, volleyball, and paddle tennis courts. Complimentary breakfast is served every morning. Many rooms even have fireplaces. And it’s close to Legoland Discovery Center and Lenox Square Mall.

Best for Pets: Leave no man or pet behind when you stay at the trendy Hotel Indigo - All pets are welcome — no fees, no weight limit. If you’re in town on Tuesdays, don’t miss Canine Cocktail Hour in the bar. And you are dog-walking distance to the famed World of Coke and Georgia Aquarium.

Best Aparthotel: Twelve Atlantic Station is a premier all-suite boutique hotel that offers guests the experience of staying in an upscale urban condominium, while enjoying the vast range of shopping, dining and entertainment options that are available in exciting Downtown Atlanta. Twelve Atlantic Station is within walking distance of anything you could possible want to do. Don’t miss the Museum of National Patriotism and The Whole World Theatre.

  • TSB Insider Tip: Whole World Theatre - If you enjoy Improvisational Comedy then spend a hilarious evening with the talented company of the Whole World Theatre.

 

 

 
 

 

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City of the Month: Atlanta in Autumn

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

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Autumn in the A-T-L: That’s Atlanta, y’all!

Atlanta AutumnFall is my favorite season. It’s that perfect mix of football, foliage and cute scarves, jeans and boots! And so it’s no coincidence that Atlanta is also one of my favorite cities to visit in the autumnal months with its perfect temperatures, changing leaves, college and NFL maniacs, and of course, everyone outdoors enjoying what the cultural city has to offer (in their cute scarves, jeans and boots).

As the city of trees, Atlanta bursts with color during fall and vibrant leaves blanket the ground. There are more parks, neighborhoods and trails than you’ll have time to explore in one visit. Fall festivals abound throughout Atlanta and up through the North Georgia Mountains. The pleasant fall weather makes Atlanta an ideal city for outdoor concerts, and there are several venues around town like Chastain Park and Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood that host concerts well into October.

At any time of year, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is one of the city’s best spots for a date or family fun, but the fall is an especially beautiful time. This year, the fantastic Imaginary Worlds topiary exhibit is on display through October.

If you are looking for a fun date night – on second Friday of each month, the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll is something not to be missed in Atlanta. Have a drink first at No Mas Cantina, then grab a map from the art stroll desk outside and begin touring the local galleries. The stroll lasts from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and the Elliott Street Pub often has a late-night party after the stroll. How fun is that?

If you’re not into strolling and you’d prefer to run or half-run, the Atlanta Marathon makes its way through the city in November. Atlanta does running races really well. The famous Peachtree Road Race is always a huge draw for runners around the world – and that is in the scorching summer on 4th of July.

Drive an hour outside of Atlanta and you’ll experience memorable day trips in Athens, GA (home of my alma mater UGA) for an SEC football experience ‘tween the hedges or the home of the U.S.’s first actual gold rush, Dahlonega or the Alpine Village of Helen (think Oktoberfest). About 80 miles north of Atlanta, the small town of Ellijay sits on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Renowned as the “Apple Capitol of Georgia,” Ellijay is home to many pick-your-own apple orchards and the annual Georgia Apple Festival.

How to Save Money in Atlanta

  • Invest in an Atlanta CityPass - If you plan on visiting popular sites like the Georgia Aquarium, Zoo Atlanta, or the High Museum of Art, the CityPASS will save you more than 40% on your total cost of admission.
  • Visit in the Fall and Winter - Hotel prices start to dive in the late fall and early winter, with rooms going for less than $100 a night, even in the desirable Buckhead area.

Later this week, Hotels.com will help me give top hotel recommendations for your next trip to the A-T-L!

 

 

 

 
 

 

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City of the Month: Visit Atlanta

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

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What city is home to some of the most popular movie and television productions; boasts some of the most creative cuisine, decorated sports teams, exploding arts scene and has the largest assortment of sea life in one location? Atlanta, Georgia – of course!

Atlanta may be the heart of the South, but don’t be fooled by its Gone With the Wind place in history; Atlanta is decidedly cosmopolitan and fast-paced. You can easily spend a week exploring the multitude of activities and cultural attractions that call Atlanta home.

Visit the trendy neighborhoods of Buckhead and Virginia Highlands for one of kind boutique shopping, a taste of Atlanta’s thriving restaurant scene and pulsing nightlife. And don’t miss the alternative Little Five Points and East Atlanta Village. I appreciate a place that can surprise me at every turn, and Atlanta fits that bill.

The largest aquarium in the world, The Georgia Aquarium, is an attraction for all ages. The birthplace of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., on Auburn Ave. is preserved as part of a National Historic Site that includes his home church, Ebenezer Baptist. The nearby recently redeveloped World of Coca-Cola shows that Atlanta has no plans to rest on its laurels. And don’t forget star-sightings! Atlanta is home to Turner Broadcasting, CNN, and several hip-hop record companies like BME Recordings, So So Def Recordings, and Grand Hustle Records. There’s always a feature film being made in town, most recently Anchorman 2, The Good Lie with Reese Witherspoon, and Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s new flick, Blended.

And as vibrant and bustling as it is, Atlanta still holds on to its southern hospitality and courtesies that attract more and more people from around the world every year.

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Birchbox Video: Yoga Poses for Travelers with Tara Stiles

Friday, September 20th, 2013

September is National Yoga Month!

Birchbox has shared these fantastic ways to exercise and stay healthy while traveling. Watch as Tara Stiles demonstrates some great yoga poses that you can do in the comfort of your own hotel room!

Are you an accomplished yogi? Or maybe you’re just starting to dive into child’s pose… How do you stay fit during travel? Let us know in the comments below!

 
 

 

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Hotel Price Index: Family Travel Spotlight

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

In the latest edition of the Hotel Price Index, the Family Travel Spotlight identifies five key values of family travelers; value-consciousness, making memories, staying healthy and safe, providing activities for kids and adults and staying close to home.

Hotels are changing the amenities and services offered based on changing family vacation needs. Some of the top destinations that are catering towards family vacationers are San Antonio, Texas ($126 USD per night according to the HPI), Punta Cana, Dominican Republic ($267 USD), Chicago, Illinois ($162 USD), Orlando, Florida ($101 USD), and Vail, Colorado ($261 USD).

See the Hotels.com Family Travel Spotlight video below to find out which hotels are stepping up for these ever-changing travelers!

Have been to any of these hotels or know of other kid/family-friendly destinations that are worth a visit? Let us know in the comments below!

 
 

 

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Five Useful Gadgets for Business Travelers

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Close up of businessman's hands touching digital tabletHeading for a sales trip, attending a conference or visiting another office across the globe?  As we all know, business trips can be very challenging, needing to stay connected and productive and having to fully recharge on the go. Business travelers are supposed to be supermen, and with the five useful gadgets we selected below, you can claim your superpowers for your next demanding business trip.

Battery Extender

Who hasn’t been in the situation where your phone runs out of juice just when you need it most?  With a battery extender, you can enjoy extra hours of conversation, internet surfing and fun. The Kensington Pocket battery can be used as a back-up battery and a charger for smartphone devices. Its USB connector allows you to charge your iPhone, Samsung or any other device and add hours to your use!

Mini Battery Pack and Charger (iPhone and iPod): $29.99

Pocket Battery for Smartphone Devices (other smartphones): $39.99

MiFi Card

Tired of looking for a crowed public hotspot? Frustrated with paying for WiFi use? Now you can choose to have your own high speed wireless connection that is both convenient and secure. Get an easy-to-use MiFi device from AT&T to keep your devices connected at blazing fast 4G internet speeds. Its powerful battery provides up to 10 hour of continuous use.

AT&T Mobile Hotspot MiFi Liberate: $49 with 2-year contract

Close up of businessman's hands using smart phoneHeadphones

Most likely, business travelers need to keep working – even on an airplane, but chatty seatmates and other external noises can make it difficult to concentrate. A pair of noise-canceling headphones helps drown out the noise so you can get your work done. Headphones like Plantronics’ Blackwire 700 Series USB Headset, are ideal for business travelers and connect to your PC via USB and Bluetooth.  Its Smart Sensor technology automatically answers a call when you put on the headset, so you can answer calls and immerse yourself in silence.

Plantronics Blackwire 700 Series: Prices starts at $129.95

GPS for your Luggage

Your trip could become a nightmare if you arrive at the airport but your luggage doesn’t. Knowing where your bags landed can calm you down. Trakdot is like Find My iPhone for your luggage. Simply putting it in your bag and track your missing items with the Trakdot app, or get its location sent to you via text message or email.

Trakdot Luggage: $49.99

Packable Travel Pillow

The ability to fall asleep anywhere is an essential quality for business travelers, needing to take advantage of every minute they can to relax and recharge. While you may find that a regular travel pillow cannot guarantee a comfortable sleep, the reinvented Travelrest ® Travel Pillow might be worth a try. This banana-shaped pillow nestles against your head and neck, reducing the likelihood of slipping while you’re sleeping on the go. It is easy to set up and fit into carry-ons.

Travelrest ® Travel Pillow: $26.95

Try these out and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 
 

 

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Layover Lookout

Friday, September 13th, 2013

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rome airportRome’s Leonardo da Vinci, Fiumicino Airport:

Italian fashion all-stars Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Valentino make this seemingly dull airport a Roman shopping mecca.  For those who are less apt to throw down thousands of dollars while waiting for a plane, the duty-free shop houses incredible Chianti wine, truffle-infused pastas, elaborate sauces, oils, chocolates and coffees for you to bring home.  You can’t get a bad meal in Rome, not even at the airport

St. Louis, Lambert International Airport:

Wine Tasting? At the airport? Don’t mind if I do! If you’re passing through the main terminal of St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport, you must check out Missouri Vineyards located on the ticketing level, pre-security, near the American Airlines counters. It’s floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the runways and live piano player transport you from the hustle and bustle of the airport. Enjoy delectable dishes made especially to pair with wine, such as Asian Fusion Salmon, Lime Chicken Brie Sandwich, Cheese & Fruit Plates, and more. And for some French specialties that capture the essence of STL’s history, check out the lovely Brioche Dorée Café right next door!

 

 
 

 

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Hotels.com Hotel Price Index (HPI) – Round-up of Key Results

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

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What’s trending in the travel industry?

Here’s a quick round-up of the Hotels.com Hotel-Price-Index (HPI): It dives into domestic and international travel, which cities are most visited, where hotel prices rose and fell, and other helpful travel tips and trends!

Domestic Travel
In 2013, hotel prices in North America were three percent higher on average than during the same period in 2012. Although relatively small, these figures show a trend of slowly increasing rates (since the start of 2010) with average prices now nearing 2006 levels, before the global financial crisis began.

Honolulu became the most expensive U.S. DMA in the first half of 2013 at an average of $230 a night. This average rate surpasses that of New York City for the first time since the inception of the Hotel Price Index. With an average nightly rate of $211, New York City saw 2% year-over-year increase, but it was Honolulu’s 13% rise over the first half of 2012 that pushed it to the top.

When evaluating U.S. destinations by city (not DMA) Newport Coast, CA blew both Honolulu and New York City out of the water with an average daily rate of $501, up 25 percent from 2012! Debuting at number 3 on the World’s Most Expensive Cities List, this resort town is likely attracting posh visitors for its pristine, five-star beaches, recently named cleanest in the country.

Among the nation’s 30 largest cities, it was Nashville that saw the largest price increase (10 percent) over the same time period.

HPIimageInternational Travel
According to the HPI, Americans tend to splurge about 37 percent more when traveling internationally. London, Paris and Rome continue to be the front-running cities with regard to overseas spending for the third year in a row. However, Bangkok (#14) and other far-away cities are moving up in the ranks of American’s most preferred.

Niagara Falls, Ontario debuted at number 10 on the Top 10 Most Popular International Destinations List, rising considerably from number 14 in the first half of 2012. Mexico City rounded out the Top 20, moving up from number 23.

Asia was the only region to see a fall in prices by 2 percent in the first half of 2013. Individual cities in the region performed well but the depreciation in value of the Yen and the Rupee, coupled with a fall in the number of inbound visitors to China contributed to this result. However, outbound travel from China has not yet been impacted by slowdown in the country’s economy and continued to boom.

The HPI tracks real prices paid per room by Hotels.com customers at approximately 155,000 properties within the Hotels.com network in major destinations around the world. To access the full report, including videos, detailed maps, colorful photos and a city-by-city breakdown, check out: www.hotel-price-index.com!

 

 
 

 

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Traveling with the In-Laws: Vacation in Paradise?

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Travel Sticky Situations: Traveling With In-Laws

As an only child, I embraced marriage as a way to quickly acquire the big family that I always dreamed of. My husband, Ryan, is one of four boys and that meant brothers for me!! And, I’m fortunate to have parent-in-laws who are as fun as they are generous and loving.

But even the best of in-law situations (even friendships) can be tested when you decide to spend precious vacation time together.

photoOur children consider some of these trips to be their most magical because they had cousins to play with, doting grandparents, and loving aunts and uncles. Who doesn’t want to have a sister-in-law to laugh with while watching toddlers at the beach, to stay up late playing cards, or split the cost of a condo rental? But once in awhile, even the most loving families can challenge your sanity–a poor choice of words, a fight between two cousins, not enough sleep, sibling rivalry (and I am not talking about the kids). Here are some tips to help you next time you have a trip planned with the in-laws:

Set Expectations. Whether you are planning the trip together, or you’ve been invited to join along, it’s important that you all understand each other’s trip expectations. Are you going to just chill and relax or will each day be packed with adventure? Communicate! Seems simple enough, right? It’s important to have these conversations before the trip begins so that everyone can relax and enjoy themselves. You should never say or make someone else say, “If I had known it would be like this then I wouldn’t have come.” Vacations are such a wonderful opportunity to get away and have some fun – so be clear about what “fun” is to you and be willing to listen and try what “fun” means to everyone else.

Be Up Front About The Rules You Have For Your Kids. Everyone parents a bit differently and those without kids may not remember or have not experienced what happens when kids are over-tired. If you always put your kids to bed at 8 p.m. and your in-laws are making dinner reservations at 8 p.m., then say something, but do it gently, and don’t wait until you are on the way to the restaurant. It important to let everyone know about the things that matter to you: what kids can and cannot eat, naptimes and bedtimes, behavior, etc.

Be Flexible. With extended families and groups of friends, plans often change quickly or misunderstandings of schedules can jeopardize your most anticipated event. If you are going to travel with others then you have to be willing to bend on some of your typical schedules and even miss out on some expected happenings. If you are trying to keep your kids on a regular nap or bedtime schedule then you may have to miss out on some activities, in order to care for your kids. That’s okay, but everyone else shouldn’t have to sacrifice vacation fun to adjust to your schedule. Don’t lay on guilt trips when you miss out and don’t let anyone give you one for doing what you feel is in the best interest of your family.

Too Much Togetherness is Too Much! It’s important on vacation to have some time for you, whether to relax or explore. That’s when the tips above are most useful by working together, communicating and taking the time to really enjoy your trip; you should be able to get some coveted “me time” and take some time to just be with your spouse. When surrounded by family, it’s good to have some time to connect as a couple, have fun and make sure you are on the same page with the trip plans. Your in-laws might not be happy about it, but you’re totally entitled to some sans-family time. Remember that the rest of the trip is about spending time together too. For larger families, it’s nice for everyone to have some choices and freedom during the day and then all come together for dinner in the evening.

Do Not Disturb. Sleep patterns can really wreak havoc with our vacations, and I mean for adults not just the kiddos. Is your sweetie a snorer? Plan ahead and pack those earplugs. If you have adjoining rooms, you may want to bring some for your relatives. Who’s the morning person? If your father-in-law is up and at’em first thing the morning, then be sure you let him know if you were hoping to sleep in. Perhaps, you could wake up early a morning or two and treat him to an early breakfast or walk on the beach. And be kind to your significant other, too, and allow her that precious time to sleep-in by perhaps following the tip above for your “me time” and take a walk around town or read a few chapters of that book you have been wanting to peruse.

Budgets and Splurges. Let’s face it, money is often an issue for most couples. Before you travel with other couples, family or not, it is important to understand what the expenses are, and what portion you are responsible for. If your in-laws are picking up the tab, then be sure to treat them to a few dinners to show your gratitude. The gesture, not the price tag, will show you appreciate their generosity.

Leave the Baggage at Home. Now this tip is not for your actual luggage. If you are going to go on vacation with family, then leave all the “family baggage” at home and go and have fun. Encourage your spouse to not revert back to 10 years old when he’s around his brothers (sorry, Honey) and parents, and to show them what an amazing person he or she has become. Vacations are a chance to heal old wounds and create new wonderful memories. So enjoy!

 
 

 

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Win with #MyFreeNight!

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

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A free night can mean a lot of things. A night free of obligations and responsibilities, or a night spent in your favorite city for free. As part of the “My Free Night” campaign, Hotels.com is asking travelers how they spend their free time, while rewarding them with free nights through the Welcome Rewards loyalty program.

The campaign rolled out this week with a TV commercial that informs viewers they can win a free night by simply making sure they are a Welcome Rewards member. From now until the end of the year, all current and new Welcome Rewards members will be automatically entered to win daily drawings for a free hotel night valued at $200.

The new TV ad also prompts viewers to join the social conversation by using the #MyFreeNight hashtag. Whether you would use your free night to try a new restaurant with a friend or take a road trip to see a concert, we want to hear about it! Share your photos with us via the @hotelsdotcom Twitter handle and use the #MyFreeNight hashtag. Also, check out the video below to see how one man attempted to complete his 24-hour bucket list of activities during his free night in Las Vegas.

 
 

 

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