Monday, April 24, 2017

Tax Return Getaways

WHEW!  Hopefully everyone got their taxes paid last week and are anxiously awaiting their tax
return check.  The average American's tax refund is approximately $3,120. While some may suggest paying off debt or saving it for a rainy day, we say there's no better use for a payout than a vacation! Below are some great trips to spend your rebate on—and don't worry, with prices starting at $1,499, you might have some money left over.

1.     Explore Thailand: Discover Bangkok, including the Grand Palace and floating markets. Experience Chiang Mai and northern Thai culture, connect with elephants, and spend time on the beaches of Phuket for some relaxation time at the end of the trip. This 10-day tour is a fantastic introduction to natural and cultural wonders of the country. Prices with Adventure Life start at $1,525.

2.     Experience Louisiana’s Cajun Country: Take Cajun cooking lessons with a private chef, bust a move at a local zydeco dancehall, explore the Whitney Plantation (America’s first slavery museum), kayak Bayou Teche, tour the Tabasco factory, visit a legendary zydeco music studio, tour an organic pecan farm, partake in a private seafood boil with chef, and sample an array of Louisiana cocktails and cuisine. Prices with Gondwana EcoTours start at $1,499.

3.     “Glamp” at a Luxury Ranch: Hike, ride horses, fly fish, and play cowboy at the 25,000-acre
Red Reflet Ranch in Wyoming. The ranch is both working ranch and luxury resort.  Gourmet dining offers ingredients from the ranch’s butcher shop, organic greenhouse and gardens.  From cattle drives to branding, the true western lifestyle thrives at Red Reflet Ranch. Prices start at $1,813.

4.     Ride a Train from Moscow to Mongolia: If you feel like splurging, take Trans-Siberian trains over a dramatic and variegated route that offers limitless opportunities to meet the diverse local people – Mongol, Buryat and Russian. Experience the rolling green hills and nomadic traditions of Mongolia, Siberia’s UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal and endless taiga forest on your way to the booming capital, Moscow. Prices with MIR Corporation start at $7,695.

5.     Cycle the Mediterranean: Join a cycling tour at the crossroads of the Mediterranean:
Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. Split into three week-long stages, the “3 Islands Tour” is a journey through the history, food, architecture and traditions of these Mediterranean jewels. Prices with Ride & Seek start at $3,345.

6.     Go Fishing in Alaska: Unalakleet River Lodge comprises all the warmth and charm of a true Alaskan lodge. Located 140 air miles south of Nome on Norton Sound, the main lodge was built from hand-hewn logs on a hill overlooking the Unalakleet River. It offers very
productive fishing for salmon, dollies, char, and grayling. Prices with Frontiers International Travel start at $5,300.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Where Will You Travel If You Win PowerBall?

The Powerball lottery has reached a record high of $1.4 billion, and tonight some lucky individual might win it all. Here are five jaw-dropping vacations (with eye-popping price tags) the new billionaire might want to consider as their first purchase.

1.   Private New Zealand Adventure - Kicking off with 35 days in New Zealand, this custom
itinerary includes white-water rafting down the Rangitaiki River; hiking tours through national parks; wine tastings at historic wineries in the South Island’s Cromwell region; helicopter flights to remote locations; fly-fishing at top-tier lodges; tours of the glowworm-lined Waitomo Caves; and sailing through the Bay of Islands. After a month+ in New Zealand, the remaining nine days are spent in Hawaii at Maui’s Montage Kapalua Bay and Honolulu’s renowned hotel Halekulani. The trip starts at $83,000 per couple. For more information, visit Frontiers International Travel at  or call 800-245-1950.

2.   Explore North Pole on Nuclear Icebreaker - Sail for the legendary North Pole on this
exciting 14-day Arctic voyage aboard the nuclear icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory. Explore the High Arctic from many angles: view the moving icebreaker from air on a helicopter ride, feel the thick pack ice under your boots while walking, and observe bears, birds, and walruses are you sail. The tour starts at $26,995 per person. For more info, visit Adventure Life at or call 800-344-6118.

3.   Tour The Silk Road by Private Train – Retracing one of the most important trading routes of
ancient civilization, this 22-day private train tour follows in the footsteps of such legendary figures as Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. For centuries, merchants and adventurers journeyed to and from China on ancient routes through some of the most testing landscapes in the world trading silk, spices and perfumes. These ‘highways’ – stretching some 4,000 miles collectively came to be called the ‘Silk Road’. The tour starts at $24,595 per person. For more info visit MIR Corporation, /or 800-424-7289.

4.   Russian Space Tour - On this electrifying exploration of the Russian Space Program guests
will tour Star City, Russia’s premier cosmonaut training facility, where they can participate in 
optional cosmonaut training (Zero-Gravity Flight or Space Walk Training) in the Orlan Space Suit Lab. At the remote Russian launch facility on the Kazakh steppe, rub shoulders with top international space officials, space veterans and family of the next space crew, and witness the heart-stirring launch of the Soyuz on its way to the International Space Station. The tour starts at $14,495 per person. For more info, visit MIR Corporation at or call 800-424-7289.

5.   Ultimate Africa Safari - Africa is the second largest of the Earth's seven continents, making
up about 22 percent of the world's total land area and complete with Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world; Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World; Ngorongoro Crater, the world's largest unbroken volcanic caldera; Olduvai Gorge, one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world; and Cape Town, which has to be one of the globe's most beautiful cities with award-winning winelands a stone's throw away. This 29-day private tour explores the best Southern Africa has to offer and utilizes the most luxurious hotels and tent camps available. The tour starts at $27,175 per person.  For more info, visit Frontiers Elegant Journeys at or call 724-935-1577.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

New Years Eve Getaway Packages

Whether you’re looking to cozy up fireside and watch the snow fall or party all night to the sounds of some of this year’s hottest artists, here are a few unforgettable New Year’s Eve packages that are sure to have you ring in 2016 in style.

This year, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is offering some the most exciting New Year’s Eve celebrations
on the strip. On December 31st, the critically-acclaimed, Grammy-Award winning Bruno Mars will perform alongside his eight-piece band, The Hooligans, at The Cosmopolitan’s state-of-the-art concert venue The Chelsea. The hotel is offering a New Year’s Experience package that includes a two night’s stay, two tickets to see Bruno Mars live at The Chelsea, brunch for two and VIP check-in.  Additionally, guests can enjoy New Year’s Eve at The Ice Rink at The Cosmopolitan, a winter wonderland overlooking the heart of The Strip. The only outdoor Ice Rink in Las Vegas will feature snow showers every half hour between 6pm and 10pm Wednesday through Sunday during the holiday season. For a more romantic option, guests can head to The Chandelier Bar, a three story bar made of over two million crystals. The three-story bar offers a range of toasting options from sophisticated cocktail lounge to lively dance floor.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach will be ringing in 2016 with performances by two of this year’s hottest artists,
The Weeknd and KYGO. The festive nightlife experience will take place around the hotel's poolscape. Prices range from $275 for one general admission ticket up to $50,000 for a stage-side private space with room for up to 30 lucky guests. All packages include premium open bar from 9 p.m. until midnight.

Castle Hill Inn (Newport, Rhode Island)
An Effervescent New Year’s Eve (December 30 - January 2)
Champagne is synonymous with the celebration of New Year’s. This year at Castle Hill, we are fully embracing the fine art of “Bubbly”, starting with a bottle of Champagne in your room upon arrival. On the
afternoon of New Year’s Eve, Beverage Director Anthony Boi will host a premium Champagne tasting, followed by a screening of the 1954 film classic Sabrina. After an evening of dinner and dancing to ring in the new year, make your way to the dining room to enjoy our New Year’s Day Hangover Brunch, featuring an artisan Bloody Mary bar (not included in the cost of the package).  $720/night - $1,200night (based on double occupancy).   Nestled on a 40-acre peninsula in Newport, Rhode Island, overlooking Narragansett Bay, Castle Hill Inn exemplifies the warmth and quiet luxury of 19th century seacoast life.  Combining the elegance of a boutique hotel with the inviting comforts of a coastal inn, the Inn offers resplendent lodging options to suit the needs and preferences of all guests.  Accommodations include seven guest rooms and suites in the original 19th-century Agassiz Mansion, and 24 private, waterfront accommodations in the Harbor House, Chalet, Beach Houses and Beach Cottages. Within the mansion, indulgent meals are prepared by renowned Executive Chef, Karsten Hart, and the recently renovated Lawn at Castle Hill is the epitome of classic New England al fresco dining.  On property activities include stargazing, clambakes, bonfires, games on the lawn, kayaking, paddle boarding, yoga, surfing, sailing and much more. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sunshine State's Annual Winter Wonderland Getaway

As a native Floridian, it is not very often that I get to experience a white Christmas, but thanks to the
Gaylord Palms in Orlando, we get to drive about one hour to visit their annual winter wonderland known as ICE! And there is so much to see and do, that we always make it a two-night stay.

ICE! is a 9-degree, indoor holiday event.  It features a walkable attraction that with two million pounds of ice, four 2-story ice slides, six rooms depicting the story of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (this year’s theme), The Frostbite Factory with live carving zone, and a breath-taking Nativity scene carved from crystal clear ice.

Between my two brothers and I, we have six kids under the age of 7, and they all look forward to going to ICE! each year.  Our annual Gaylord Palms visit is highly anticipated not just because the kids love the ICE! experience, but they also love spending time together and ‘sleeping in a nice

Upon arrival, our first stop was breakfast with Mr. Claus at the Villa de Flora restaurant (voted Critic's Choice for Best Brunch by the Orlando Sentinel), which provides an incredible breakfast buffet, as well as visits from some of Santa’s top elves who visited our table.  We all ate until we could pop, and the kids all took turns on Mrs. Claus’ lap letting her know what they’d like for Christmas.

After we ate breakfast, we walked to the Convention side of the resort where most of the ICE!
festivities take place in the Alpine Village.  We had 11:00 AM reservations for the Gingerbread Decorating.  The kids (and adults) got into the holiday spirit decorating their gingerbread cookies, which then went straight into their bellies. We even enjoyed a visit from Gingy.

The Alpine Village also features an eight-lane tubing hill that’s fun for all ages and covered in REAL SNOW, visits and photos with Santa, hot chocolate and holiday shopping.  Other activities include the hotels Elf on the Shelf® Scavenger Hunt, which make strolling through the resort a ton of fun.

After cookie decorating, we made our way into ICE! with its various rooms filled with beautiful ice sculptures and several depicting scenes from the popular story ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.  The boys had a blast on the 2-story ice slides, and
we are always mesmerized by the talented ice carvers.  Next stop: hot chocolate and photos with Santa.

We ate an early dinner at the hotel’s revamped and renamed seafood restaurant, MOOR, which provides fresh seafood caught nearby for freshness and prepared just the way you like it.  The adults had a great meal, and the kids had fun eating dinner on the large ship placed inside the resort.

In the evening, we enjoyed Cirque Dreams UnWrapped Live Stage Show and the hotel’s amazing 54-foot Christmas tree with more than 2 million twinkle lights.  The 25-minute show features an array of seasonal characters brought to life in a dreamscape of imaginative costumes and creativity, while stunning feats of showmanship are unwrapped, performed on stage and in the air.

Many thanks to the Gaylord Palms Resort for their amazing hospitality and for providing a white
Christmas for those of us who call the Sunshine State home.  

We cannot wait to come back next year!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hot Cyber Monday Getaway Deals

Cyber Monday is almost here and that means great deals on travel.  With the cold weather moving in, now is a great time to heat things up with a great deal on a warm-weather getaway.  Here are a few suggested deals:

Deal: Up to 50 percent off rates for travel December 1, 2015 through June 9, 2016 at any of the brands eight oceanfront, all-inclusive properties located throughout Mexico and Jamaica.

When: Travelers must book online Monday, November 30, 2015.
Relevant Details: Must book a stay of three (3) nights or more. Offer applies to new bookings only, and cannot be combined with any other existing offer. 
Deal:  Save up to 25% Off Best Available rates, Advance Purchase. Marriott Rewards Members receive
30% off Best Available rates, Advance Purchase.
When: Travelers must book online November 27th- November 30th, 2015.
Relevant Details: Valid 7 Days a Week; based on availability.

Deal: 55 percent off rates (starting at $99) for travel November 27, 2015 through September 1, 2016 at Grand Bahama Island’s four-star property.  
When: Travelers must book online November 27-December 4, 2015.  
Relevant Details: Must book a stay of three (3) nights or more. Offer applies to new bookings only, and
cannot be combined with any other existing offer. As an added incentive for budget-conscious families, children 12 and under eat and stay for free

Monday, November 16, 2015

Five Winter Trips for the Non-Skier

Not everyone is a snow skier, especially us Florida folks.  So here are some suggestions for winter trips that do not involve snow skiing.  

Patagonia Fly-Fishing
Travel with Frontiers International this winter to the new Limay River Lodge, the first and only fly fishing
lodge on the famed Middle Limay River in Patagonia’s Neuquén Province. Targeting river rainbows, browns and fall migratory brown trout, the Limay meshes big water drift fishing with ample walk and wade opportunities. Limay River Lodge has the unique distinction of being the only destination fishing lodge on the banks of this tail water with exclusive put in access and 10 breathtaking beats. The season is mid-November – mid-May. Prices start at $850 per day.
China Ice Festival
After exploring The Great Wall or Hong Kong or Beijing on an Adventure Life tour in China this winter, 
add a few extra days to experience the Harbin Ice Festival. Explore this winter wonderland and see the impressive ice sculptures and lit buildings that this city creates for what is now the largest snow and ice festival in the world. $1,105 based on two people traveling together.

Antarctic Cruise
Antarctica travel reveals the dramatic extremes of a frozen continent. Antarctica holds the title of coldest,
driest, windiest, and highest elevation on earth. A number of ships ply the Antarctic waters, from Russian icebreakers to luxury expedition ships with strengthened hulls. Depending on your trip-length, spend time visiting the Antarctic Peninsula, Falkland Islands and the mountainous South Georgia. Antarctica cruises offer zodiac excursions for up-close encounters with wildlife and the blue icebergs that float quietly in the surrounding waters. Small ship cruises operate December through March. Rates begin at $5,995 per person, depending on the specific ship, cabin class and itinerary.

Arizona Cycling
As the days get shorter and colder, and workouts turn to the ‘dread-mill’ and trainer; reverse your usual
winter fitness losses by joining The Cycling House for a cycling and triathlon camp. For 2016 winter training, The Cycling House is offering 18 weeks of camps in Tucson, Ariz. and Solvang, Calif. The first camp is the week of December 8, 2015 and the last camp begins April 4, 2016. Within those weeks are several specialty camps, too, including beginner triathlon, long-distance triathlon, mountain biking, and women-only. Camps are 6 days/5 nights with 45 – 80 miles of guided riding per day, chef-prepared meals, opportunities to run and swim, and plenty of time to relax and recover. Prices start at $1,895.

Siberian Escapade
The thought of Siberia tends to conjure images of punishment, exile, and vast expanses of nothingness – a
place of no return. But, in fact, Siberia is a wild and wooded country of inconceivable beauty. MIR Corporation’s 8-day “Siberian Winter Escapade” tour is perfect for the adventurous traveler who’s seen it all. On UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal, race teams of sled dogs, ice-fish and sweep across the lake by hovercraft.  In Ust-Ordynski, discover one of Siberia's Buddhist monasteries. Participate in a sunrise shaman ceremony at Olkhon Island's best-known spot, Shaman Rock. Feb 20-27, 2016, from $3,995.

Photo credits: Adventure Life,  Frontiers Travel, MIR Corp., The Cycling House.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Family Getaway to Naples - This Is 40

To celebrate my 40th, I decided it was time for a Family Getaway.  For a few logistical reasons, we all agreed to meet in Naples, FL for the weekend to spend a few days enjoying everyone’s company and welcoming the inevitable….my birthday.

I remembered a great little boutique hotel on Naples’ Fifth Avenue South that I never got the chance
to visit during my crazy travel days, but I had always wanted to.  The Inn on Fifth offers a prime location nestled on both side of Fifth Avenue South with the actual Inn (119 guest rooms) on one side and the Club Level (32 luxury suites) across the street on the other side.

Since we all wanted to be together, we booked on the Inn side; however, upon arrival we got upgraded to the Club Level side and we were ecstatic.  Guests in this intimate enclave also enjoy a range of pampering services and exclusivity including a private rooftop sundeck and whirlpool spa, daily deluxe Continental breakfast, afternoon snacks and evening cocktails with appetizers; complimentary transportation to and from the Naples Airport and around downtown in a Cadillac Escalade SUV.
Our first night was just my parents, husband and I and (after drinks on the rooftop sun deck), we wondered across the street (back to the Inn) for dinner at acclaimed Avenue 5.  The $3 million restaurant opens its doors onto prestigious 5th Avenue South and offers vintage glam ambiance. Guests experience the extravagant island bar, an incredible wine list featuring 400 varieties, two private dining areas and sweeping views of the Fifth Avenue streetscape.

On Saturday, we woke up and ate breakfast at the Club Level.  Then we did a little shopping (well, enough to work up an appetite) in the boutiques around our hotel and
then walked about 10 minutes to Tin City to the annual Stonecrab Festival.  This event is a weekend of food and fun starring of course, the stone crab, as well as a chance to explore the beautiful Naples waterfront with activities on land and by water in and around Bayfront, Port of Naples Marina, Tin City and Naples Transportation and Tours General Store/Heritage Museum.

We ate lunch (Stone Crabs, obviously) at the very busy Pinchers in Tin City.  It had a good atmosphere for watching the boats go by, and the service was great.  The beers and stone crabs claws went down way too easy, so the walk back to the hotel seemed longer than it was to get there.  Once we returned to the hotel, I found my room decorated with over the hill caution tape courtesy of Merideth Wohl.  That’s what younger sister in laws are for!! J  We were joined by the rest of our group and took the party to the pool. 

Lined with towering palms and colorful flowers, the beautifully landscaped 3,600-square foot pool deck is dotted with chaise lounges and umbrellas.  The setting was enhanced by the refreshing beverages and casual fare from Avenue5 that was delivered straight to us poolside.  We got to visit with everyone and enjoy some rest and relaxation away from our hectic lives.

After a few hours poolside, it was time to get ready for dinner at Truluck’s.  Specializing in succulent
steaks and the freshest seafood, the signature dish at Truluck’sSeafood Steak and Crabhouse is fresh Florida stone crab.  As we arrived, I realized that the Decoration Bandit had struck again.  This time Merideth made sure our table was decorated and I had a bag full of “old lady” supplies ready for my (now 40) every need. From hair rollers to adult diapers, she made sure my new decade started off well prepared.   We enjoyed amazing meals, great wine and fine drinks all conveniently just steps away from our hotel.  This was very convenient for my mom who had to be escorted home early due to being ‘over-served.’   After dessert, we concluded the evening with more social time in the Club Level common area.

We all woke up hungry and the fabulous concierge at the hotel recommended breakfast at The Café, which specializes in homemade, high-quality breakfast, lunch and baked goods. The menu combines the best of the European and American cooking and baking traditions. With roots in the relaxed Scandinavian lifestyle and influenced by the European café life, this is a place where everybody can enjoy really good food in an inviting and friendly atmosphere featuring an excellent patio area for outdoor seating and interior seating with large window areas towards the street.

Many thanks to the Inn on Fifth for a fabulous weekend.  Do not hesitate to call them to plan your next special vacation.  It was a getaway with some of my favorite people (I only say ‘some’ since our kids were not there). I welcomed 40 with the people who have made me the person I am today and who have loved me during my ups and down.  Thank you all for your wisdom, support and love.  I cannot thank you all enough.