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. 


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Five Tiny House Vacations You May Want to Try

Have you seen and heard all of the 'hub bub' about tiny house living and wondered if it’s right for you? An easy way to dip a toe in the water and see how you like it is to take a tiny house vacation. Here are five recommended tiny houses you can visit and see if you can go tiny. 

Tiny House
Fireside Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyo offers 20 Wheelhaus ( tiny house cabins
for rent only minutes away from downtown Jackson and Grand Teton National Park. These 400 square foot cabins offer a bedroom with king bed, a living room with a hide-a-bed, a bathroom and a kitchen with additional covered deck space. The beauty of this tiny house vacation is you can truly purchase a Wheelhaus cabin for yourself and have it delivered to you. So, this tiny house vacation literally allows you to test drive a tiny house before buying one.

Tree House
Out'n'About Treesort in Cave Junction, Oregon offers treehouse living on 36 acres next to the Siskiyou National Forest. Activities at the resort include ziplines and Tarzan swings as well as horseback rides and river rafting.

Moab Under Canvas offers a range of accommodations in Moab, Utah including Tipi tent rentals. Tipi tents come equipped with camp cots, mattress padding, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, towels, safari chairs, a small table and a lantern. With tipi bathrooms close at hand, all you need to do is bring your toothbrush.

TreeBones Resort offers unique lodging and dining on California’s Big Sur Coast with expansive views in all directions. The 16 yurts have queen sized beds, small table and chairs, reading lights and plenty of hooks for hanging your gear. There is a sink vanity with hot and cold running water in each yurt. Resort amenities include a restaurant and spa with ocean kayaking and hiking available in the area.

Wall Tent
The Resort at Paws Up sits on a ranch along the Blackfoot River in Western Montana. Paws Up offers
six different ‘tent cities’ each offering four, two-bedroom tents and two, one-bedroom tents. All tents have ensuite bathrooms and each ‘tent city’ has a dining pavilion.

Downsizing and “Living Large with Less” as the Wheelhuas slogan says has captured the attention of many and these five tiny house vacations offer the perfect way to see if it’s right for you.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fantastic Fall Travel Deals

Fall is a great time to travel, and in the travel biz, we call it “shoulder season” as it comes between
the popular summer vacation time and the holiday travel season. Whether you are looking for colored leaves, one last beach getaway, beer galore or an outdoor adventure, here are a few suggestions on great places to go this fall.

Portland, OR
Fall is amazing time to visit Portland. They have their lush evergreens trees, as well as the maples, elms and other deciduous trees that change colors in the fall, so you can enjoy the color and greenery that is visually stunning. Although known to be rainy, fall in Portland is the perfect time to visit. The Portland restaurant scene is big on using locally-grown, seasonal food, so you will find lots of menu offerings that feature pumpkins and butternut squash, along with other gourds. You will also find fresh, wild salmon and albacore tuna on the menus. It’s also harvest time for the wineries. Not many people know that Oregon is home to the nation’s 4th largest wine producing region with more than 400 wineries; some that are just a 20-minute drive from Portland. It’s a very outdoorsy city and known for its high population of bicyclists. The residents love to share Portland with visitors, so you can always find a helpful local to point you in the right direction.

This fall, the Portland Perks Package is being offered via Travel Portland. Thirty-five hotels offer their best rates and free breakfast on the Travel Portland website( Plus, travelers can get extra values like 2 for 1 dinners at Portland’s best restaurants, 2 for 1 tickets at theater, free admission to art and cultural attractions. Plus, Oregon has no sales tax, so you automatically save about up to 10% on hotel stays and shopping (great place to start holiday shopping).

Seaside, FL
Just because summer is coming to a close doesn’t mean you have to give up the beach. Seaside, Florida, which is located along Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast, was named one of the top destinations in the world by Frommer’s and listed by Travel & Leisure Magazine as one of 100 Greatest Trips in the world. If it looks familiar, that’s because it served as the location for the movie The Truman Show starring Jim Carey. With the new Panama City airport, it is easy to get to Seaside. Just fly into Panama City and enjoy the easy, 45-minute drive. As you enter Seaside along Highway 30A, you will feel as if you stepped back in time as a real sense of community is fostered here among visitors and residents alike.

And this fall is a particularly great time to visit Seaside as the Cottage Rental Agency ( is offering a “250 Reasons” promotion: book a new 3 night reservation (or longer) for a stay completed by September 30, 2010 and receive a $250 gift card good for future travel on Southwest Airlines! Cottages range from studios to 6 bedroom houses; the more people in your group, the more savings.

Seaside has a lot to offer...there are cute Airstream trailers that sell everything from cupcakes to cocktails, boutique shopping, beach dining, white sandy beaches and a friendly atmosphere that make this the perfect destination anytime of year.

Munich, Germany
When you hear Oktoberfest, you automatically think Germany. This year, Munich’s Oktoberfest runs Sept. 18 - Oct. 4 where you can find all the German food and beer that you could ever imagine. Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany is also Europe's largest beer-drinking festival drawing six to seven million visitors a year and the Largest People’s Fair in the World! The participants consume more than six million liters of beer (you can only order beer by the liter)! Plus, Munich is one of the easiest European city cities for Americans to travel as signs are often in English and most people speak fluent English. Direct flights from the US to Munich are available and start around $600.

Ludus Tours ( is offering their Oktoberfest package, which starts at about $1,000 and includes:
3 nights in a hotel category of your choice (3 or 4 star)
Reservation in a Oktoberfest beer tent w/food & beer
Welcome Bavarian group dinner
City bike tour
Excursion to Neuschwantein Castle
Personal guide assistance through out the client's stay in Munich

Costa Rica
For a different kind of fall “leaf peeping, a hike through Costa Rica’s rainforest jungle is sure to be a fabulous fall vacation. Other Costa Rica activities include: surfing, river rafting, diving, fishing, beautiful beaches and horse back riding. Now is a great time to visit as the Marriott Costa Rica Collection is offering 50% savings on rooms + daily included spa treatments and adventure tours during Green Season. (Green Season runs May - November, and is marked by sunny mornings and rainy afternoons that leave the landscape beautifully green.)

In its new "Green Season Package" the resorts are including:
- Daily adventure tours like rainforest hikes and zip lining (perfect for sunny mornings)
- Daily spa treatments in its brand new luxury spas (perfect for rainy afternoons)
- Daily breakfast
- Accommodations
Rates start at only $276 per night. Valid through October 31st.

PHOTO: Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Pools to Plunge This Summer

You cannot think of summer and not think of pool time.  And with that, we found a few of the best pools to plunge this summer.  From Florida to Puerto Rico to Mexico, don't miss these incredible pools. 

Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (Key West, FL)
Elegantly located on 1,100 feet of private beachfront near the southernmost point of the U.S., Casa Marina, A Waldorf
 Astoria Resort in the Florida Keys, has everything guests need for a relaxing day in the sun. Whether lounging at either outdoor tropical pool – one reserved for adults only and one for families – guests are treated to the resort’s pool and beach concierge pampering services with chaises, umbrellas and towels. Additional perks include fresh fruit at 10 a.m., drink of the day samples at 12 p.m., popsicles at 2 p.m., and chilled eucalyptus towels at 4 p.m. Food and drinks are also served poolside from the resort’s Sun Sun Bar & Grill including the resort’s signature cocktail, the Casa Key Lime Coolada.      

Las Casitas Village, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (Fajardo, Puerto Rico)
Guests in the secluded accommodations of Las Casitas Village, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Puerto Rico, enjoy
exclusive access to three private pools including the magnificent Bahia Azul Infinity Pool perched 300 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. Set on a stunning cliff-top, the luxurious pool is complimented by swaying palms, the sound of surf rolling ashore and a gentle breeze flowing through lush gardens. In addition, guests here enjoy 24-hour resort butler service. Complimentary towel service is also offered. Start the day overlooking the tranquil Las Casitas Village infinity edge pool with a delicious al fresco breakfast at Casitas Café. Las Casitas Village is a private luxury resort that shares the grounds of El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. 

Grand Velas Riviera Maya (Riviera Maya, Mexico)
Set on 205 acres of pristine jungle and mangroves and with the finest white sand beach in the Riviera Maya, the all-
inclusive AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Maya exudes luxury beyond all compare. Surrounded by lush vegetation and the crashing waves of the Gulf of Mexico, the three-tiered free form infinity pool in the Ambassador section of the resort features Aqua Bar, its own swim-up bar with a fully-stocked bar and lite bites, dozens of cushioned lounge chairs for soaking in the Mexican sun, private cabanas and more. In addition, guests are able to order and enjoy gourmet cuisine and handcrafted cocktails delivered directly to their poolside lounger. Adjacent to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Ambassador Class pool, the Grand Class pool is reserved for adults-only. The Grand Class pool also features its own swim up bar, cushioned loungers and poolside service.