Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Cozy with a Cocktail

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Not many stand-alone bars can match the swank and sophistication or just the sheer comfort of a hotel bar. From the décor to the signature selection of drinks, don’t forget to check out the coolest hotel bars on your next trip out of town.

colorful cocktails with olive and cherryNew York City: Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel
Rose Bar is an intimate hideway inside the trendy Gramercy Park Hotel. This is likely the reason that it’s also a celebrity favorite with visitors such as Janet Jackson, Sting and Chace Crawford. Complete with wood-beams, a walnut bar and a big limestone fireplace, this bar is a hotspot for the city’s most fashionable events.

New York: Soda Bar at NYLO Southside
On a warm night, the rooftop Soda Bar is a fun spot to hang with friends. Park yourself in a cabana next to the pool and take in the sweeping city skyline.

Aspen, CO: 39 Degrees Lounge at the Sky Hotel
A famous après-ski spot, Aspen’s best burger and wicked cocktails from Denis Cote make 39 Degrees a lively local favorite. Hang out by the pool, refuel after a day shopping or on the slopes and discover for yourself why 39 Degrees is a Celebrity Spotting hideaway.

Boston: Simple Truth Lobby Lounge at the Hotel Veritas
Located near the hallowed halls of Harvard Yard, the Hotel Veritas wreaks of higher education. And yet inside its lobby is the simply stated Simple Truth Lounge that is a welcome distraction or perhaps think tank for nearby academia types.

Snowmass, CO: The Lobby Bar at the Viceroy Snowmass
Well it is ski season… this uber chic bar keeps you feeling cool even when the lobby fireplace is roaring hot.

Los Angeles: Bar Marmont at the Chateau Marmont
If you want to see people having conversations that make things happen then spend an afternoon or evening at Bar Marmont. The dim lighting and exclusive feel make it a haven for celebs meeting up for networking or a little fun.

New Orleans: Carousel Bar & Lounge, The Hotel Monteleone
The drinks aren’t all that will make your head spin at this revolving bar inside on of New Orleans most historic and famous hotels.

Dallas: Dragonfly at Hotel ZaZa
Dragonfly oozes sophistication and sexiness. It feels offensive to merely call this a bar. Signature drinks and the occasional star sighting makes this “bar” located in the trend Hotel ZaZa the place to see and be seen.

Atlanta: Rooftop 866 at Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel
Rooftop 866 offers the best rooftop views in Atlanta with a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. While the bar can get crowded on the weekends, the great mix of cocktails and small plates make it worth waiting to find a spot. My favorite? The double dog dare!

 
 

 

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City of the Month: San Francisco, the Most Charming City in the U.S.

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Each city has its own unique personality that shines through just like the characteristics we look for in a soul mate. San Francisco, the seventh most popular domestic destination for Americans according to the Hotels.com Hotel Price Index™ (HPI™), claimed the title of “Most Charming” in a recent Hotels.com survey.  This Valentine’s Day, we are honoring San Francisco as the most charming city to take a valentine, and for the rest of February, we’ll let you in on some of the best hotels, activities and hidden gems in this City of the Month.

How to Spend Valentine’s Day in Charming San Francisco:

Villa Florence, a hotel in the heart of Union Square, oozes 0_BYC59Tcharm.  In contemporary Italian style, it features a breathtaking marble lobby and rooms draped in colors of Tuscany.  The location is ideal, two blocks away from the Theatre district and in the midst of Union Square.  The adjacent restaurant, Kuletos, provides decadent Italian dishes, perfect for a romantic getaway.  Head over to close by Bar Norcini for cocktails in an intimate nightcap to the evening.  The hotel is not far from Fisherman’s Wharf and the Embacadero, where couples can sample delicious local foods, see beautiful sights off the Bay, and even embark on a romantic Valentine’s Day cruise.

To find the latest hotel deals and Valentine’s Day travel ideas, visit Hotels.com and follow @hotelsdotcom on Twitter.

 

About the Survey: Conducted by Google Consumer Surveys between January 25 – 31, 2014. Each question sampled at least 1,200 unique, randomly sampled internet users across the Google Consumer Surveys publisher network.

 
 

 

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Mulled Wine, Snowshoes and Ice Climbing – Best Ways to Brighten Your Winter Months

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Skiing and snowboarding may be winter’s top activities but there are plenty of other fun ways to embrace the cooler temps. If you’re looking for something to do this winter, whether with friends, on a date, or just some family fun, try a few of these winter must-do’s.

  1. Drink hot buttered rum and mulled wine – and hot chocolate for the kiddos, of course.
  2. Hot tubbing – Kick back in an outdoor Hot Tub. Is there really anything better?
  3. Take a carriage ride through downtown – Assuming that the weather outside is above zero, take a romantic carriage ride through a downtown near you.  By day or by night, there’s something special about snuggling with blankets and the gentle jingle of bells tinkling to the stride of strapping horses.Snowmobiler Driving Through Snow
  4. Ride on a snowmobile – A snowmobile is winter’s convertible.
  5. Take a trip to Reno - The city’s proximity to ski resorts and other recreational areas make Reno a top winter vacation spot. You can find 18 ski resorts in the Reno and Lake Tahoe area.
  6. Stay in the Québec Ice Hotel - The Hôtel de Glace is a must-see attraction to discover each winter. With its huge snow vaults and its crystalline ice sculptures, the Hôtel de Glace impresses by its dazzling decor. From January 5th to March 23th, enter this magical universe and live an incredible experience by visiting this ephemeral work of art.
  7. Strap on some snowshoes – Even your backyard can become a new adventure.  Local outdoor stores have hourly rentals for a one-time extravaganza.
  8. Try ice climbing – Learn to climb waterfall ice in New Hampshire. There are multiple guide companies to help you get your crampons.
  9. Visit Old Faithful and Yellowstone National Park - The famed national park is even more splendid in the. For a very unique experience stay at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The only way to get there is by a commercial snow coach.
  10. Watch the 2014 Olympic Winter Games – A great excuse to veg out on the couch and cuddle up by the fire in the dreariest month of the winter.

 

 
 

 

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Warm Weather Escapes to Beat the Winter Woes

Friday, January 10th, 2014

The New Year has certainly started off with a chilly beginning. The record freezing temps that terrorized much of the US earlier this week may just be the beginning of what Ol’ Man Winter has in store for 2014. That leaves me with the need for a warm weather escape. If you’re feeling the same way, pack up your sunglasses and swimsuits and chart a course for warmer weather at one of these amazing hotels.

Montage Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach, CA
The Montage Laguna Beach makes it easy to put your winter woes behind you. This craftsman-style luxury resort in arts-oriented Laguna Beach offers ocean-view rooms and suites, seasonal artisanal cuisine, and a nature-based spa. The service and staff of the large resort make it feel like a boutique property. The resort also has children and teen programs.

The Atlantic Resort & Spa Hotel
Fort Lauderdale, FL
The Atlantic Hotel is a great place to put your frostbitten toes in the sand. The beachfront hotel has 124 guest rooms with private terraces with ocean views, as well as kitchenettes and BOSE sound systems. The guest reviews are overly positive raving on the stellar customer service, amenities, and overall stay experiences. Will you join them?
TSB INSIDER TIP: Flying into Fort Lauderdale’s airport (FLL) can often be easier and more affordable than flying into busy Miami International (MIA).

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia
Scottsdale, AZ
You’ll forget you are in Arizona when you set foot in this five-star, 35-acre, Spanish-inspired retreat. Made up of four “villages” featuring fountain-filled courtyards, pools, a full-service spa and health club. Set up against Camelback Mountain, you’ll be winter warm poolside at this Scottsdale retreat.

Jake’s Hotel
Treasure Beach, Jamaica
An eco-chic bohemian hotel that is as fun as it is functional and affordable, Jake’s Hotel is on Jamaica’s southern coast and is a unique family-run hotel features 35 hippy-chic cottages on Jamaica’s Treasure Beach. The restaurant at Jake’s uses only locally-sourced ingredients and serves up some of the tastiest meals on the entire island. The hotel’s Driftwood Spa is naturally elegant and therapeutic. It’s a true treasure on Treasure Beach!

Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel
Honolulu, HI
Want Hawaii on a budget? It can be done. The Aston Waikiki makes it possible with rates that tend to range between $100 and $150 a night. Free breakfast, ocean front views, and lots of attractions such as the Zoo and Aquarium are within walking distance.
TSB INSIDER TIP: Set up a fare alert on airfarewatchdog.com from your origination city to Oahu to get the jump on Hawaiian airfare deals.

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort Hotel
Vero Beach, FL
On Florida’s Atlantic Coast, and less than two hours southwest from the Magic Kingdom is where you’ll find a Disney beachfront family oasis. The resort features four restaurants, mini putt-putt, a sing-a-long campfire, pools, and more. And in the winter, temperatures rarely drop below 65° in this balmy Florida city. 

Hotels.com is featuring some great deals in California and Arizona for warm-weather hotels and resorts. So, shovel out the driveway and get planning your winter vacay today!

 
 

 

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Travel Sticky Situation: Delayed/Stranded by Winter Weather

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Tis the season to be traveling, so as we prepare for another holiday travel week, let’s review the top winter travel tips. The good news is that The Weather Channel is not predicting any major snowstorms in the U.S. over Christmas. Nevertheless, Mother Nature is never beyond a good storm surprise, so let’s be ready for whatever she throws at us this winter.

Trouble Ahead! Travel To-Dos

AA046865When winter storms approach, airlines begin preemptively waiving change fees in order to avoid stranded travelers.  If you have a trip on the horizon, DO stay tuned to national weather forecasts and check the travel advisories of your airline for delays, cancellations and rescheduling policies to see how any of it may affect your trip. You may not need to cancel your trip yet, but you should be aware of the possibility and begin considering alternate plans.

You are your best advocate. DO always have the hotel phone number, airline number, all of your confirmation numbers, and directions ON PAPER in addition to stored in your smart phone. You never know when you’ll be without battery, coverage or a charger.

If you are heading to your destination and get delayed, DO be sure to keep your hotel informed of your situation so you do not incur unnecessary charges for a no-show. If you are heading home and find yourself needing to stay an extra night, check availability as soon as you can to avoid having to scramble for other accommodations.

If You Get Stranded…

Remember when weather puts your trip to sleep, it doesn’t mean the airline owes you a good night’s rest in a hotel.   If you are already at the airport when delays or cancellations occur, DO be sure to have enough of the essentials to get you through a day… or two. For me, that’s contact solution, my phone charger, laptop and cord.

  • DO pack your patience: you are not the only one trying to cancel and rebook – be kind, don’t give up.
  • DO claim any reimbursement you are entitled to (for example, accidental charges for change fees) in writing and keep a copy. File claims as soon as possible.
  • DO forward copies of all documents to your travel insurer, if you have one.

Road-Trip To-Dos

And if you are behind the wheel this winter, possibly one of the best to-DO suggestions is to make a trip plan.  Pilots file a flight plan before takeoff, so driving our cars shouldn’t be any different. Make sure you DO advise someone of your trip plans.  DO call ahead to your destination and let someone know when you intend to leave, what route you will be traveling and your expected time of arrival.  If someone at your starting point and someone at your destination know your plans, help can reach you much more quickly, in the event of an emergency.

Safe Travels throughout the holidays and a merry and bright 2014!

 
 

 

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Where to Stay in Charlotte: TSB City of the Month

Monday, December 16th, 2013

From gleaming high-rise banking hotels to local B&Bs and water park resorts, Charlotte’s mix of hotel accommodations matches the city’s diversity of business, art and culture. So no matter what you are looking for when planning a visit to Charlotte, you’re sure to rest comfortably in ‘The Queen City.’

For Shopping

In the affluent SouthPark neighborhood, the Hampton Inn & Suites SouthPark at Phillips Place is just steps from shopping, wining and dining. Not to mention this gem is affordable too, with rates from $145/night on Hotels.com.  In the same area you may also want to consider a stay at the Marriott Charlotte Park Hotel.

For Sports

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If you want to get in the middle of Charlotte’s Center City, and close to Bank of America Stadium, reserve your room at the Westin Charlotte. It

has 700 rooms offering beautiful views; there’s even an indoor pool.

The Embassy Suites Charlotte/Concord Golf Resort & Spa is the “official” hotel of Charlotte Motor Speedway and is actually within walking distance. Many NASCAR drivers and teams actually stay here. But fast driving shouldn’t be the only reason to consider this resort; it also features a spa and golf course.

For Romance

It’s hard to not feel the love at the Charlotte landmark hotel where southern charm meet modern luxury. Duke Mansion was built in 1915, features 20 roomsand is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s played both home and host to plenty of prominent figures. The hotel operates as a non-profit with proceeds going to preserve and protect the Charlotte treasure.

For Business

A business traveler’s home away from home, The Hyatt Place Charlotte – City Park offers free parking, free Wi-fi, a convenient café/coffee shop for snacks on the go and conference rooms equipped with A/V resources.

2733328_25For Families

Smart parents know that when you are traveling on a site seeing vacation with the kids, planning some “quality kid time” is critical to the trip’s success. Charlotte’s Great Wolf Lodge is a great family destination and even makes for a great staycation for families living in the surrounding communities. A stay at this hotel includes access to the property’s 80,000 square foot water park.

 
 

 

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Top Three Ways to Use Your Days

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
happy new year 2013 on the beach; Shutterstock ID 115836760

Achieve your 2013 Travel Resolutions by the End of the Year

With many Americans failing to use their allotted vacation time, we thought it would be fun to come up with the best ways to use those days before 2013 is over.  After you check out the top three ways to use your days, talk to @HotelsDotCom on Twitter to let us know what you will do with #OneMonthLeft:

Turn your obligations into “obli-cations”

One may not choose to go to Ohio for a family reunion or to Seattle for a business trip, but obligatory travel doesn’t mean you can’t turn it into an “obli-cation.” After the dishes are cleaned up, or the meeting is over, head to a nearby city to extend obligatory travel into an obli-cation; something relaxing, budget-friendly and effortless. Check out the Hotels.com mobile app for last minute hotel deals, and find that this convenient vacation option can be extremely fulfilling.

Completely Disconnect

Eighty-five percent of American travelers use a smartphone on vacation, according to Skift.com, but hotels are helping travelers re-discover the benefits of getting off the grid. For example, Buccament Bay Resort in Saint Vincent and The Grenadines offers a “digital detox” package where guests surrender their cell phones and gadgets to implement complete relaxation. Other hotels, such as The SPA Retreat Boutique Hotel in Jamaica and Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona are offering more spa, yoga and wellness options to relax travelers and remind them of the purpose of a vacation in the first place.

Get out of Your Comfort Zone

This travel resolution is a two-in-one, as it accomplishes travel goals and personal goals simultaneously. Whether it’s tackling a crazy adventure, learning a new language or traveling solo for the first time, anything is possible! For instance, the Six Senses Zighy Bay hotel in Oman requires all guests to choose an extreme form of transfer service from the airport.  Arrive at the hotel via speedboat, parasail or an all-terrain Jeep. The Hard Rock Hotel Chicago allows guests to use guitars with personal sound systems so neighbors don’t hear them learning from the in-room video tutorial. The Mistral Singles hotel in Greece helps guests embrace the feeling of traveling alone in a foreign destination.  Whatever the goal may be, hotels of all kinds can help employees achieve what cannot be done by sitting in an office.

 
 

 

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City of the Month: Where to Stay in Costa Rica

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

TSBCotM
Whether you want to live lavishly at an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica or rough it in the scenic landscape of the tropical rainforest and beaches, there are accommodations for every traveler’s taste and budget.

0_55844284The most common accommodations in Costa Rica are smaller hotels that are often family-run and full of charm and hospitality. Hotels can be found in the corner of a steamy rainforest to the base of a volcano and beachfront villas. Travelers who really want to be immersed into the culture of Costa Rica and the traditional Tico (local) lifestyle will enjoy staying in one of the country’s eco-hotels.

Hotels.com Recommendations for Hotels in Costa Rica

Eco-hotels sometimes even run on solar power, and these lodging options often cater to people who want to do yoga on the beach, go hiking in the cloud forest or surfing along the coast.

La Palapa Eco Lodge Resort – Portalon

La Palapa Eco Lodge Resort is located in a rainforest, with 149 Acres of land, in the Central Pacific Coast of Portalon in Costa Rica. This resort is considered one for the most beautiful and well kept, and is just right for wildlife lovers.

Borinquen Mountain Resort & Spa

This Guancaste luxury boutique hotel that features private bungalows and villas even features its own hot springs, volcanic mud, and steam rooms. If you want tranquility, this is your spot!

Finca Rosa Blanca

0_73170348If you are looking for a little Costa Rican romance then stay at this organic coffee plantation and luxurious inn near San José. This eco-resort features award-winning restaurants and el Targua Spa. And as for the obvious, the coffee tour is not to be missed at Finca Rosa Blanca is a two-hour journey to coffee connoisseurship and sustainable eco-tourism.

If you want to have everything at your fingertips, an all-inclusive resort might be the best option for you.

Occidental Grand Papagayo Resort – Adults Only-All Inclusive

At this all-inclusive property meals and beverages at onsite restaurants and bars are included in room rates. Taxes and gratuities, recreational activities, and entertainment are included.

Barcelo Langosta Beach – All Inclusive

Located in Northwest Costa Rica in the town of Tamarindo, this all-inclusive resort is fun for the whole family. It’s an ideal spot for sports and nature lovers.

 

 

 
 

 

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City of the Month: Keep Your Head in the Clouds & Your Toes in the Sands of Costa Rica

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

You have big decisions to make when you visit Costa Rica: beach or jungle? Clouds or Volcano? Monkey versus sloth? If time allows, you can just choose them all. Costa Rica is one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world. Take time to immerse yourself in the natural wonders it has to offer.

There are two great hikes through the jungle to gorgeous beaches at the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, located in the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica. This national park was the first protected area in the country and has paved the way for Costa Rica’s eco-tourism initiatives.

Most anywhere along the coast, visitors have their pick of yoga studios in town and can go horseback riding on the beach, sail, snorkel or go on a fishing excursion to Tortuga Island. The privately owned Curu National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to see birds and wildlife and it has a lovely, deserted beach.

In Monteverde, take one of the zip-line canopy tours. I recommend the tour in Selvatura Park, which also features other interesting exhibits. It’s here that you’ll explore the rainforests with howler monkeys and macaws. Take the time for the Cloud Forest Tour or the horseback mountain tour. And some say the Extreme Tarzan Swing ($35/each + $15 for the headcam video is one of the craziest things they’ve ever done; up for the challenge?

Manuel Antonio National Park is a small conservation area that manages to encompass both the jungle and pristine beaches. Thousands of wildlife species thrive here. It’s hard to miss the fuzzy sloths hanging from branches, toucans nesting in the treetops and green iguanas basking in the leaves. Capuchin monkeys may even join you on the beaches.

Costa Rica is home to six active volcanoes. This is both intimidating and exciting to me. Arenal is one of the country’s most active and most visited volcanoes. There are Hanging Bridges to cross and Hot Springs that actually surround the volcano and serve every budget and style. It’s easiest to visit from San José so plan accordingly when laying out your route.

What did I miss? Bird watching, kayaking, rivers and lakes, coffee plantations, ATV tours… there’s much to explore in the tiny republic of Costa Rica or you could just grab a good book and head to a hammock on the beach. Which only means one thing: a few good reasons to come back and visit again.

 

 
 

 

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City of the Month: Costa Rica… Yes, It’s a Republic Not a City.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

TSBCotM

 

 

 

 

0_1672R-39304
Each month Travel Smart Blog features a city to explore and inspire future travels. This month, I wanted to focus on Costa Rica but choosing just one city was impossible. In fact, the tiny republic of Costa Rica only has a population of 4.6 Million people, which is half the size of New York City, so I figured why not just profile the whole country!

Situated between Nicaragua and Panama on the Central American Isthmus, the country has three distinct regions influenced by their locations: the Pacific coast, the Caribbean and the Central Region.

What used to truly be a place to live like Robinson Crusoe has captivated the imaginations of surfers, yogis and eco-tourists. In fact, Starbucks recently bought nearly 600 acres of land near the Poas Volcano (an easy day-trip from San Jose), to establish a laboratory to experiment with new varieties of coffee. While the road infrastructure is still a bit primitive and can make traveling to some of the areas a bit more challenging, Costa Rica is for adventure seekers, families, couples and those looking to relax. More and more hotels, resorts, yoga and surf camps, and eco-tourism attractions pop up every month making Costa Rica a must-add-destination to your vacation list.

Getting Around
As I referenced above, the roads in Costa Rica are pretty bad and car rentals can be pricey. So believe it or not, cheap flights between cities are often the best way to see the country. Check out this local airline Nature Air. There are currently two international airports in Costa Rica. Juan Santamaria Airport is the oldest and centrally located north of San José. Liberia (LIR) opened two years ago and is the gateway airport to the beaches of the Guanacaste region and the Nicoya Peninsula. Flying into Liberia saves you a 5 hour drive to the beaches.

Climate
Costa Rica’s Central Valley is famous for having some of the best weather in the world, due to its’ mountainous location yet only 9 degrees from the equator. But the difference in the mountains or on the beaches can vary by 20 degrees. Look out for these micro-climates. The high mountain areas (Monteverde, Savegre, Poás Volcano, etc.) can get chilly – pack a light sweater or jacket.

Cities to Visit in Costa Rica

San José
Spend a few days in the capital city of San José and embrace the history and culture of Costa Rica. The introduction of coffee to the Central Valley in the early nineteenth century fueled San José’s prosperity as the city embraced capitalism. San José is like any big city, although relatively casual: stick to long pants (dresses and skirts also work for women). Most visitors spend a day or two here before venturing to the jungles and beaches. Be sure to see the Plaza de la Cultura, the Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica, and see if you can get tickets for a performance at the Teatro Nacional.

0_109765118Santa Teresa and the Pacific Coast
To the North you’ll find the beach towns of the Nicoya Peninsula in the southwestern part of Guancaste province, which are some of the best surfing spots imaginable. This is why the area is gaining in popularity and experiencing explosive growth. Despite new development, the region’s natural beauty remains intact. None is more beautiful than the beaches of Santa Teresa. But nearby Jaco, Tamarindo, and in the South Dominical beckon to beachgoers for R&R or a surfer’s paradise.

Monteverde and the Central Region
The mountain region of Costa Rica is made up of many small towns including Arenal Volcano, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio. Monteverde is home to the Cloud Forests. Cloud forests are unique highland forests characterized by 100% humidity. A visit to this region inspires the imagination for all that is natural and sustainable. Be ready for some zip-line fun and spend a day or two at an eco-lodge of which I’ll recommend a few in an upcoming post.

Primary Language: Spanish

Currency: Costa Rican Colon

Capital: San José

Population: 4,695,900+

 

 
 

 

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