Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

How to Stay in Style: Tips for Staying for Less in a Fancy Hotel

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Is 2014 the year of the vacation? Maybe so, because it seems like everyone is planning one.  And that is such a welcome economic change from just a few short years ago.  But with so many folks planning their getaways, are there deals enough for everyone?

In top cities, prices will be up in popular seasons and availability may be less, so how do you still score great deal at stylish hotels? Here are my top travel tips for staying for less on your upcoming vacation.

Luxury for LessCB063916
Visit destinations that are more deal-prone.  According to Hotels.com’s latest Hotel Price Index (HPI), you can find five-star luxury for less than $200 a night in European cities such as Warsaw, Budapest, and Lisbon.

Where else can you find hotel rooms for affordable prices? Not only is Las Vegas the most popular city for American travelers, it’s also one of the most affordable cities to visit. Orlando, Atlanta, Portland and Denver are right in the mix for both popularity and price, according to the HPI.

Social Media
Don’t just share your vacation photos on your favorite social media sites, use them to help you have a better trip BEFORE you even leave.

  1. Follow your favorite hotels, restaurants and airlines in cities you want to visit to stay on top of any special deals that may become available. Hotels often broadcast deals on social media first. You can also do a keyword search with (hotel name and #deal) on Twitter.
  2. Be social and interact via Facebook and Twitter with the hotel and other places you plan to stay or visit on your trip.  Sharing your excitement could land you an upgrade.

Club Level Value
If I’m going to stay at a hotel that offers a club level floor, I often try to book a room on it regardless of my loyalty program status.  Sure, the prices are higher than a standard room but the perks that come along with it are often a better deal than paying for WiFi, drinks, breakfasts and snacks a la carte.  Don’t be fooled: club-level rates at brands such as Sheraton, Radisson, Ritz-Carlton, Fairmont, and Marriott may be higher, but they can offer real savings so consider all your costs before you book a less expensive room.

 
 

 

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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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Top-Notch Hotel Nosh

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Eating at a hotel is no longer limited to marginal room service from an institutional supplier.  On the contrary, as hotels continue to find ways to differentiate themselves from the rest, some are adding signature restaurants with star chefs at the stoves and designer spaces.

Here are a few hotels serving up standout culinary experiences from the comfort of a hotel lobby.

0_1672R-54307Las Vegas: é by José Andrés at the Cosmopolitan

We expect culinary greatness from Vegas hotel restaurants. At the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a new super exclusive restaurant has taken top billing as the ultimate culinary experience on the Strip. é is the eight-seat bar offering just two seatings a night for a 15-course avant-garde Spanish tasting menu. Plan ahead for a visit to é.

Louisville: Proof on Main at the 21c Museum Hotel

Located in one of the most creative hotels around, Proof on Main is as original of a restaurant as the art that flanks its walls.  The menu is eclectic and elegant and is ranked #3 best hotel bar according to USA Today. 21c Museum hotel is a former warehouse turned eclectic boutique hotel featuring a contemporary art museum that is free and open to the public all year long. The art spills over into the 90 rooms of the hotel and into the award-winning, Proof on Main restaurant.

Austin: The Driskill Grill at the Driskill Hotel

Nestled in the historic Driskill Hotel, The Driskill Grill has been charming guests since 1886 and it never gets old. Try the tasting menu, it’s as unique as a stay at this landmark hotel, which by the way, is said to be haunted. With well-trained staff and an ever-changing menu, The Driskill Grill has earned each of its four diamonds.

New York City: Gemma at the Bowery Hotel

On NY’s Lower East Side, you don’t have to stay at the Bowery Hotel (but you’ll want to) to enjoy the impressive Italian fare and cozy setting. The Italian trattoria is a great spot to see and be seen. During the summer, sitting outside is really something special and so is the pizza at Gemma. Try the weekend brunch to feel trendy with all of the Lower East Side hipsters.

Portsmouth, NH: SALT Kitchen and Bar at Wentworth by the Sea

Newly opened last summer, SALT is a contemporary restaurant in a historic setting as part of the more than 100 year old Wentworth by the Sea Resort. SALT features great locally inspired, seafood cuisine and small plates. Grab a seat at the chef’s bar to watch the masters in action or entertain friends in the glassed-in wine room that seats 12.

 
 

 

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Traveling When You Don’t Speak the Language

Monday, February 10th, 2014

English is one of the most popular languages in the world, which helps greatly when traveling outside the US.  But we can’t always assume that everyone is as willing or able to speak to us in English.  What can we do to get around comfortably in countries where we do not know the language without being the “ugly American?”

Know the basics.  People are appreciative of even a small effort by foreigners to speak their local language.  Learn how to “hello,” “please” and “thank you,” as well as “toilet,” “do you speak English?” “how much?” and “help.”

0_125347631Get directions in the native language.  Either print them online before you leave or have your hotel concierge help you by writing down the hotel, and any attractions you’re planning on visiting. This way you can show a taxi driver or someone trying to help you where you are trying to go using their native language. It’s great to make it easier on the person actually trying to help you.

Enjoy lessons with a local.  Make an effort to learn the local language by speaking with the locals. Once in Florence, Italy, my husband and I found some local college students at a pizza spot who were willing to converse with us.  They could practice their English and we could work on our Italian.

Ask the experts. Major tourist destinations such as Rome and Paris often have English versions of their restaurant menus. These will be given to you automatically upon arrival, but if you really want the foodie experience, ask the server for his or her favorite dish.

Be polite.  Don’t get frustrated with the locals when you are the visitor. Speak slowly and clearly and try to avoid slang.

Have a translator app available.  Be sure to download a few translator apps to help you communicate while traveling. Many now have audio translations available so that you can hear the proper pronunciation of a word or phrase. I like Jibbigo, which is available on iPad, iPhone and Android. It is available in offline mode after an initial download, which greatly saves on roaming charges.

If you really want to learn the language, Duolingo is a great website and app that has language learning programs and lessons for its users.

Have a good language barrier story or tip to share? Tell us about it!

 
 

 

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