Friday, December 19, 2008

Luxury Travel on TV - Bravo gets it!

Okay, so I don't know if anyone but me watched Bravo's "First Class All The Way" due to its tragic time slot (Monday at 7pm, seriously?) but this show was so great!

Sara Ryan Duffy is now my hero and may have supplanted Samantha Brown as overall travel goddess and who I wanna be when I grow up. I have stayed green with envy watching each show.

But the best thing about this show has been the added content on Bravo's website. And I am going to devote a few posts to some great tips Sara and her team shared online that I thought were great and fit the idea of my blog.

So here we go... I can't embed the video but it's worth the click through.

Traveling on a Budget

And here are a few of my "TripTip's":
  • Don't assume you can't get a great deal at a high-end hotel. The NYTimes has had quite a few articles about all the recent bargains in luxury travel. They're losing corporate business fast an furiously.
  • Book with the hotel directly and don't be afraid to ask for a lower rate or to know what special promotions they have. They want your business - they NEED your business.


Monday, September 1, 2008

An Affordable Hotel in London? Brilliant!

Other than being my ongoing love letter to travel, the major point of this blog is to advance the idea that you can have extraordinary travel experiences at somewhat reasonable prices.

One of the hardest places to do this? London. Our weak dollar has made travel to Europe in general tough and travel to the UK simply painful. Most things just have a 50% markup. Burger and fries lunch will cost you what, $12 at restaurant in the US, right? Well that's still 12 in the UK, except that makes your meal cost $24 dollars. For a burger and fries!

Nowhere does this CRAZY pricing structure become more evident than when you try to book a hotel. It is incredibly difficulty to find a good hotel in London for under $300 a night, let alone something trendy like a W. And VIP traveller's just don't do hostels. Or trust the definition of a three star overseas.

So imagine my delight when I saw this article in the Times:

Check In, Check out
London: Base2stay
Published: August 31, 2008
The boutique hotel could rightfully charge a queen’s ransom for a night’s stay, but doesn’t.

Frommer's Review
Down in Kensington a new concept in hotels has emerged, offering great value by providing "a synthesis" of what guests really need and use -- minus the frills. The fluff has been edited, but what you get is a stylish, comfortably furnished accommodation with a small kitchenette. The cheapest rooms contain bunk beds for 2, and accommodations are rather flexible here, including suites that can be made by interconnecting rooms. Living may be stripped to the basics, but this is no hostel, as there is a 24-hour reception service as well as daily maid service.

A nice hotel in great area of London for under $200. 200 American dollars?

Oh, wow. March 25th I find out I belong in London (see below). Meet family and rekindle friendships with people in London over the last few months. Today I find somewhere to stay that won't bankrupt me. Sounds like a research trip is in my future...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

2008 Planning Update

I figured this would be a good point in the year to take stock of my travels for 2008. I had big plans on the table on January 9th. How am I doing?

So London has become Paris with day trips to London and Brussels (ummm, chocolate). New Orleans was so much fun that we did South Beach two weeks later to keep the vibe going. (And the Ritz, South Beach, and I have totally made up and are BFF now. Seriously, I didn't leave the hotel until it was time to go home.)

Disney's still on the agenda for December, but I didn't get to Chicago before my two free nights expired. That said, I have a new "in" for Chicago that should make up for it.

No Oregon, or Montreal, but I just got back from Pasadena (never been there) and enjoyed a beautiful weekend trip to celebrate my cousin's nuptuals. The Westin there is GREAT, but that's another post.

The biggest update is that I (by virtue of my NEW JOB) have become a true road warrior and have been living in hotels for business more than pleasure for the last two months.

This has made Denver my 2nd home (luv it), allowed me to sample amazing Italian in Boston and enjoy some time on the water there. And I finally get to go to Charleston, SC.

Lastly, trying to plan a BD trip to Montego Bay for a long weekend and then to balance a possible Christmas/Mom's BD and Retirement trip to Orlando with a friend's wedding in Phoenix a few days later. We'll see how poor I am after Europe hmmm?

Friday, April 11, 2008

The things we bring

Ok, had to blog about this new gadget because it had me thinking about technology and trips.

I'm one who almost always packs my:
digital camera
fm transmitter for ipod
hard drive (for my 70G of music & video)
cell phone(s) - (have to add the international phone when needed)
various cables and power cords
flat iron (ok, not technology per say, but it plugs in and is vital)

So clearly this FAB new gadget by Belkin caught my eye when I read about it in the New York Times last month. Surge protector, usb charger and SMALL to boot?

No more hunting for the other outlet in my hotel room as I struggle to check my e-mail while charging my phone and ipod? No WAY! No more using the outlet in the bathroom to charge my phone because I've got to plug in the iron? Stop teasing me!

I'll tell ya how it goes.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I have know quite some time that this is the "Second City" of my heart (NY will always be 1st). One day I think I'll live there.

You Belong in London

A little old fashioned, and a little modern.

A little traditional, and a little bit punk rock.

A unique soul like you needs a city that offers everything.

No wonder you and London will get along so well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Disney for VIP’s on a non VIP Budget

No secret to anyone who knows me that I am obsessed with Disney, especially the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. Also no secret to anyone who’s visited WDW that it is one of the most expensive domestic trips you’ll ever take. I’d give you the average trip cost, but if I thought about it too much I would never go.
Last Disney Trip (2006)

Well this year we ARE going back, so I have tell you about a gem on WDW’s property – the Swan and Dolphin Resort.

Here’s what I love about the Swan/Dolphin:

First and foremost…

PRICE: OMG, I’ve never spent more than $200/night at this resort thanks to an ongoing nurse/teacher discount program, corporate discounts, holiday discounts, group discounts… you get the idea. In comparison, all of the other EPCOT hotels are classified Deluxe (read: expensive) and I’ve rarely seen Epcot’s rooms advertised for less than $315/night to the general public. Now you could stay at the Boardwalk or the Yacht/Beach Club, but the money you’d save by staying at the Swan/Dolphin instead almost covers the cost of tickets and meals over a weeklong trip. Trust me I’ve stayed at the Beach Club and while I LOVED it, I’d trade those Mickey soaps and towel animals on my bed for $$$ any day.

BFF's @ another Deluxe Resort (Grand Floridian) on our way to Afternoon Tea

Location, Location, Location: Again, the Swan/Dolphin is in the Epcot Resort Area, which means you can walk to Epcot or to MGM if you wanted to from your hotel. You can take your mid-day rest or decompress after a long day in the parks and not have to always wait on bus/boat lines with the masses. And you have great restaurants like Il Mulino & Shula’s at your hotel and loads more restaurants, entertainment, and shopping within very close walking distance.

Disney Resort Benefits: You get VIP perks like free transportation to the parks from your hotel, purchases made in the parks delivered to the front desk, and Extra Magic Hours (extra hours in the park on for Disney Resort Guests). The only thing you don’t get is Magical Express (free transport to/from airport) and charging privileges in the parks to your room. The resort also has things like character breakfasts so you don’t miss out just cuz you’re not at a “deluxe” resort.

Great Brand: These hotels are actually Westin properties – that’s right hotel fans, HEAVENLY BED here we come! Also, they’re not as aggressively themed as Disney hotels, which may appeal to some. And, you can use your Starwood points to stay here.

Last day & the BFF can't leave the HEAVENLY Bed!

This will be our 3rd or 4th time at the Swan/Dolphin. And while I’ve stayed at both hotels on the resort and they’re both nice, the Swan is always my 1st choice as it’s a little smaller and more intimate than the Dolphin.

My "TripTip" -

If you have an obsession (like me) always scope books, discussion forums, websites, etc for discounts. Disney lovers have it easy with the huge number of quality publications, podcasts, blogs and user groups out there. I’ve learned so much about having fun and saving $$$ while enjoying VIP perks from sites like the DIS and MouseSavers, podcasts like WDW Today and travel guides like the Unofficial Guide to WDW.

Also, don’t forget to use points for travel! I’m using a free Starwood night for this trip.

Friday, January 11, 2008

It's Out!

Ok, I frequently check out luxury destination lists like Conde Nast's Gold List or the uber-exclusive Andrew Harper's Report to find new places to dream about visiting .

So I'm very excited that the T&L 500 (Travel and Leisure's List of the World's Best Hotels) is finally out for 2008! Maybe I'm indulging my "champagne wishes and caviar dreams" but I always like to search and see if anywhere I've stayed has made "the list". This is pretty much always a domestic search for me at this point since I'm not rich (cue music: "Someday My Prince Will Come") and the dollar continues to be dropkicked by foreign currency.

So here's where I've been:
Ritz Carlton, South Beach - FABULOUS (see my previous blog post). Just fabulous, despite the service.
Ritz Carlton, Palm Beach - I watched the sun rise on the beach, and then enjoyed my ocean view while I ate breakfast on my balcony. This hotel made me fall in love with the RC brand - at 23! I'm sooo spolied.
Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach - AAA 5 Diamond. Fireplace in the oceanfront suite. Starfish/sandollars nightly on my pillow at turndown. Need I say more?
Ritz Carlton, New Orleans - Spent a WEEK here last summer. Very nice lounge and staff. Great home away from home - and they serve some of the best gumbo I've had in New Orleans. I ate it EVERY day, seriously.

4/500... guess I've just got some catching up to do in 2008, hmmm.

My "TripTip" -
I search online often to find deals so I can experience fabulous places on my very limited (i.e. too poor for my rich tastes) budget. During one of my searches on my favorite site, I found a review that mentioned What A Hotel, an absolute GEM. Depending on the resort, their "perks" can include: room upgrades, breakfast, VIP check-in, transfers, and $$$ credits. Also, their packages are usually priced competitively so you don't have to worry that you're paying extra for your savings. It's one of the perks of working with travel agents - and you DON'T have to pay until you check out. Looking forward to checking them out in 2008 - I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

2008 Already? Let's Get It Started!

So I’ve been reading a few blogs recently and have decided to be more diligent about my travel blogging in 2008.

It’s the beginning of the year and the perfect time to begin planning my VIP and non VIP trips, except who am I kidding – I plan trips incessantly throughout the year. Sometime because I really need to travel for work, personal, etc. But mostly just for fun.

What’s in store for 2008? Well, a trip to London in the fall (hopefully) with the BFF and our respective mummy’s and, of course, Essence 2008 in NOLA. I also MUST go back to Disney this year (I’ve already paid for a night) possibly for my BD or Mom’s 65th. And I have two free nights in a suite in downtown Chicago that I have to use before June.

I really want to get out to LA this spring to visit my cousins. I’ve had a good time for the last two summers with different groups of them and I want to finally get over to their coast. Plus I have groups of friends going to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, Oregon and Montreal for their Jazz Fest.

Where to start?

I’ve decided my 1st personal trip of the year will be to an old favorite… South Beach.

Yes, I know it’s pretentious and expensive (I swear you tip EVERYONE) but I LUV Miami. I especially love it in the winter. Mostly cuz’ anywhere I can wear sandals or flip flops in the winter rates high on my list of choice destinations. Plus, the ticket is under $200 and we got a great rate for our hotel – which is my favorite in South Beach – the Ritz of course! Seriously, I had the most amazing time there the last time I visited. The pool scene is brilliant (poolside Pellegrino, anyone?) the vibe so cool. And after all these years of visitng Miami I have all these special things I love doing – like brunch in Coconut Grove and shopping on Lincoln Road. Now, their service – let’s just say my last visit which was almost free due to their

My “TripTip”-
Start planning early! Even if you can’t commit the funds just yet – lay out our year travelwise. Then, if your schedule will allow it, plan your trips to maximize deals. The Caribbean is relatively inexpensive in January. So are a lot of other spots as most people have spent a rack on gifts and travel for the holidays. Also, I love sites like
Farecast for help deciding when to buy a ticket and Hotwire’s Trip Starter for deciding when to plan a trip. Trip Starter is also good international trip planning.