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Travel tips: Hotel safety tips for any season

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 29, 2012 06:21 AM

The official last weekend for summer getaways is here, and whether your plans are set or you're playing things by ear, there's a lot of travel to be had this Labor Day weekend. According to AAA, 33 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this weekend (a 2.9 percent increase from last year) – that's a lot of people on the road and in the sky, and safety is always the number one priority.

If you're traveling alone this Labor Day weekend (or any other time, for that matter), or gathering with friends and family for a getaway, consider these important hotel safety tips:

Safety first

When it comes to travel, we're all looking to save a dime. Thanks to travel websites like Expedia, Hotel Tonight, Hotels.com, Travelocity, and others, you can find a great deal on a hotel room at the last minute and head out of town for a much-needed getaway. But before you book that "last-minute" fare, consider your safety. A great deal on hotel room can certainly cushion you budget and allow you to spend more on meals, shopping or indulgences, but it won't matter if you're afraid to leave the hotel.

hotel-map.jpgBefore you book, make sure the hotel is hotel is a good neighborhood and close to tourist attractions. Download travel apps like "Around Me" and "Map My Run", both of which offer points of interest based on your location or address, and will give you a sense of how far your hotel is from populated areas.

Additionally, double-check with the hotel to ensure the following:

  • Security and surveillance cameras.
  • Electronic door locks. Antique keys are cute, but electronic doors track the comings-and-goings of all who enter the room.
  • Check photos of the hotel before you book. Sure, many photos have been doctored, but you can look for specifics like well-lit hallways, parking garages and open lobby areas.
  • 24-hour concierge/security.
  • Check to see if the hotel has a house car on property. The house cars can come in very handy if you're stranded somewhere without access to a taxi or public transportation.
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Got kids? Book a vacation and JetBlue will pay their airfare

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 28, 2012 08:23 AM

You might have just sent the kids back to school, but it's never to early to start planning for school vacations. The organized family wins big in this JetBlue promotion: Book a JetBlue Getaways vacation package and the airline will pay the base fare for up to two children.

Let's break down the logistics and fine print:

  • Vacations must be booked by Wed., Aug. 29.
  • Travel must take place between Sept. 4 and Oct. 3, 2012.
  • JetBlue will pick up the base airfare (everything except the taxes and fees) for up to two children between the ages of 2-11, per room.
  • Offer does not include any hotel costs or hotel taxes.

The confusing part: When you book your vacation, don't expect to see the free fares in the breakdown. JetBlue will divide the total cost of the package, minus the child's airfare, across all travelers in the vacation book. That means you'll see a lower price per person overall, not just for the kids. All the information, including how to book, can be found here.

Dramatic Designs: Enchantment Resort's spiritual surroundings

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 27, 2012 10:38 AM

echantement.jpgSweeping views of Boynton Canyon at Enchantment Resort in Sedona.

Typically, hotel decorators and designers aim for the extraordinary - whether it comes from artwork, lighting, views or even something as simple as floral displays. But when the extraordinary comes on behalf of Mother Nature, it's simply a designer's dream. Case in point: Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona.

It wasn't enough that this resort is surrounded by the stunning (and often referred to as "spiritual") Boynton Canyon, but the resort also recently completed a $25 million multi-phase renovation that included upgrades to its guest rooms, clubhouse and dining venues.

The 218 newly remodeled guest accommodations are dressed in styles, fabrics and artwork reflective of Native American culture. The renovated Clubhouse came with the opening of a new restaurant, Che-Ah-Chi, which sets the stage for a spectacular evening (thanks in most part to its natural surroundings). I hear the food lives up to the views, and while I haven't taste-tested my way through the restaurant, yet, I can tell you the views are second-to-none. Enjoy evening cocktails while you watch the sun set over the Sedona Red Rocks, turning the entire vista shades of red, orange and yellow. Having been there to witness it myself, I can attest to the fact that the moment the sun hits the horizon, and the Red Rocks illuminate under the sky, is one of the more magical moments you'll enjoy on your visit.

Of design note, the new restaurant features hand-blown chiseled glass shards that amplify the glow from the canyon. The nice thing about this new restaurant: there's always a view.

Readers: Your thoughts?

Past Dramatic Designs:
B2Hotel's Lobby Lounge and Wine Bar
Gramercy Park Hotel's Drawing Room
Mandarin Oriental New York's elliptical lobby
Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg's 'floating' swimming pool
Ireland's Lismore Castle
Frescos at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Cave Bar at Mövenpick Hotel Hamburg
Bulgari Hotel London's glass mosaic pool
3D art at Four Seasons Baltimore
Viceroy Miami outdoor pool deck
Fairmont Copley Plaza's $20 million renovation
Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao's glass-bottom pool
Madonna Inn's themed guest rooms

New England escapes: The South Shore

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 24, 2012 07:14 AM

Duxbury_Beach.jpg

Weekend getaways are a privilege to many, and a must for some. As summer winds down, it's time to plan those quick escapes that alleviate the work-week stress and put you in a frame of mind for fall. But you don't have to go far from Boston to escape the madness of the city and embrace that sense of calm.

While the rest of New England sits in traffic to get to the Cape, take a few of the earlier exits and enjoy some of the benefits of the South Shore. The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism put together this list of things to do on the South Shore to help plan those last-minute escape routes.

What to do:

New Bedford/Fall River: Visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum or Seamen's Bethel, featured in Moby Dick. Take a trip to Fall River's Battleship Cove, home port of the WWII battleship USS Massachusetts, and the Fall River carousel, built in 1920. Make new friends among nearly 200 species of wildlife at the 1895 Olmstead-designed Buttonwood Park Zoo. Enjoy a free night of arts and culture every month at AHA! (art, history, architecture) in New Bedford. Or attend a larger-than-life outdoor concert at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield.

Vineyards: Head to Running Brook Vineyards, Westport Rivers Vineyard and High Hill Vineyard and Winery for some tours and tastings.

Arts: Duxbury is known mostly for its fabulous beaches, but head to the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury and check out the museum's eclectic mix of Asian and American art, Shaker furniture and a Japanese tea garden.

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Former Ellis Island ferry now a floating hotel

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 23, 2012 08:08 AM

ellis-island-hotel.jpgWhat once brought immigrants to Ellis Island is now a five-bedroom hotel floating on the Hudson River.

The former New York harbor ferry boasts 16 bunks spread out over five rooms and has a dining room for guests, the Daily News reports. The boat-hotel is decorated in a bohemian fashion, courtesy of its owners, Victoria and Richard MacKenzie-Childs

Prior to it being a floating hotel, this ship patrolled Boston Harbor during WWI, brought immigrants to Ellis Island, and brought passengers to Governors and Liberty Islands.
It's currently docked near Hoboken’s Sinatra Drive on the Hudson River, giving those who stay onboard amazing views of New York City.

Intrigued? Hop over to Hoboken next time in you're in New York and see for yourself.

Photo courtesy of Navid Baraty.

Kimpton offers 20% off Boston, New York, Philadelphia hotels

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 22, 2012 08:48 AM

To kick things off for Fall, Kimpton Hotels is offering Kimpton InTouch members 20 percent off the best available rates for its hotels in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. The best part: this deal is available for weekend stays!

lrg_hote_ink05.jpgThe "Fall for Autumn" rates are valid Thursdays through Sundays until Oct. 31, 2012. Hotels include Boston's Nine Zero, New York's 70 Park Avenue and the newest Kimpton, Ink48, and the Palomar Philadelphia (to name a few).

The deal is good for InTouch members - Kimpton's loyalty program, which is free to anyone. Like most loyalty programs, the more you stay the more you gain. Perks include exclusive offers (like this one), credit toward mini-bar purchases, free WiFi and more.

The fall offer must be booked by Aug. 27, 2012, under the rate code of "FALLNE."

Dramatic Designs: Madonna Inn's themed guest rooms

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 21, 2012 06:41 AM

It's always nice finding a hotel that caters to your mood, personality and travel preference, but when you find a hotel that designs guest rooms to accommodate all your senses, you've struck gold.

Sure, we've seen Presidential Suites that rival some of the most stunning homes of the rich and famous, and we've raised eyebrows over the oddest hotel rooms in the world. But today, we're giving props to one hotel in California that didn't just design a room for fun, it designed all of their guest rooms to appeal to the intricate - and sometimes odd - personalities of guests.

madonnainn_0731.jpgThe Caveman room at the Madonna Inn

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Four Seasons Hotel London gives guests an inside look at 'Downton Abbey'

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 20, 2012 07:24 AM

Fans of the Emmy award-winning drama "Downton Abbey," or those who want to travel back in time as one of the UK's most wealthiest families, can enjoy their place in royal history with this new Four Seasons hotel package.

The third series of the hugely popular television program airs in September, but the Four Seasons Hotel London is giving guests a little preview with their Downton Abbey package.

highclerecastle.jpgHighclere Castle, the famous "home" of Downton Abbey

The town and country package includes a private tour of Highclere Castle, otherwise known as "home" to Downton Abbey. It's also home to the Earl and Countess of Canarvon, who have graciously opened their doors for tours and guests.

This two-night package is valid Sept. 26 - 28 and includes the following:

  • Two nights in an elegant Deluxe guest room
  • Full English breakfast served daily
  • Welcome Champagne reception in the rooftop lounge
  • Private tour of Highclere Castle and the setting for Downton Abbey
  • Lunch at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire
  • Farewell gift

(Additional nights are available on request.)

The price for exploring English luxury? Approximately $2,200 (airfare not included).

Weekend escapes: The rebirth of Baltimore

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 17, 2012 07:36 AM

photo-3.JPGBaltimore's inner harbor, featuring the Pier Six Pavilion, the aquarium and plenty of shops and restaurants.

Baltimore hasn't historically been the first place that comes to mind when you consider a weekend escape. It's reputation has a tough, crime-laden city kept tourists away for years as Maryland's most populated city struggled through the shadows of its much more recognized and visited city to south, Washington, DC, for years. Then came the change.

Baltimore got to work a renovation that aimed at bringing tourists back this historical city. And it worked. Thanks to a new luxury hotel, a few celebrity chefs, the opening of big name retailers and the investment of the city's government and its locals, Baltimore is experiencing its own renaissance, for the better.

JetBlue and Southwest/AirTran airlines fly non-stop from Boston to Baltimore for as low as $152 round-trip. The 1 hour 20 minute flight means you can leave after breakfast, arrive in time for lunch, and have a full weekend to enjoy all that Baltimore has built up.

For your weekend escape to Baltimore, don't miss the following:

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Ikea hotels to open in Europe

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 15, 2012 11:43 AM

ikea_singapore.jpgIkea is getting into the hotel business. The Swedish home furnishing giant known for its trendy, but affordable, task-mastry do-it-yourself furniture is planning to open a few hotels in Europe, according to the Financial Times.

Reports say Inter Ikea, the company that owns Ikea's intellectual property rights, is looking to open 100 "budget design" hotels. (Read: boutique hotels at affordable prices.)

"We will announce within weeks the first location for our budget hotel in Germany and are in talks with hotel operators to rapidly implement our concept," Harald Müller, a project manager at Inter Ikea, told German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

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JetBlue puts Dallas, New York and DC flights on sale

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 14, 2012 04:15 PM

2007_02_jetblue.jpgJetBlue is offering Boston travelers a chance to get out of town in the cheap. The low-cost airline put flights to Dallas, New York and Washington DC on sale today, starting at $60 one-way. But you'll have to act fast!

Book your flights by Wed., Aug. 15, to grab these fares.

Sample one-way fares from Boston include:

  • New York (JFK) $60
  • Newark, NJ (EWR) $60
  • Washington, DC (DCA) $60
  • Dallas/ Fort Worth, TX (DFW) $109
Travel is valid between Sept. 5 and Nov. 14, 2012 and as you might expect, there are a few restrictions (travel is valid on Tuesday and Wednesday flights only, and a 14-day advance purchase is required). All that said, if you're thinking of jetting out of town on business in the coming months, these fares could drastically cut down costs.

American Airlines now offers luggage delivery service

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 14, 2012 05:15 AM

luggage.jpegTired of waiting around for your luggage? Don't feel like cramming everything into a carry-on? American Airlines has the solution: a new baggage delivery service that brings your luggage straight to your home, hotel or office.

The airline is teaming up with BAGS VIP Luggage Delivery to bring your bags from the airport to your final destination, for a fee. One bag will run you $29.95, two bags will cost $39.95, and three to 10 bags will cost $49.95, on top of the other baggage fees you'll have to pay.

“We did recognize there were passengers who would like to just bypass the baggage claim,” David Vance, Managing Director of Customer Planning Operations for American Airlines, told ABC News. “By offering this service, we think it provides an additional opportunity for passengers to get to their meetings or their vacations and bypass baggage claim altogether."

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Dramatic Designs: Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao's glass-bottom pool

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 13, 2012 06:06 AM

InterCon-pool.jpgPhoto courtesy of InterContinental Hotels Group

For some it would be the thrill of a lifetime, for others it would be the scariest swim they ever took. Either way, you can't deny the dramatic effect brought on by this hotel pool in China.

The 390-room, four-star Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao opened in May 2011 and made waves with its indoor/outdoor pool, perched atop the 24th floor of this hotel. No doubt the swimming pool has exception views, but it's the pool's mid-air suspension that made this week's Dramatic Design.

The glass-bottom section allows guests to see the street below and conversely, patrons walking the street on Xiuyan Lu can see the swimmers in the sky.

"We wanted to provide our guests a unique swimming experience, and let them feel they're vacationing even in a bustling city," a spokesperson for Holiday Inn's parent company, InterContinental Hotels Group, told CNNGo.

Readers: Your thoughts? Would you go for a swim in this pool?

Past Dramatic Designs:
B2Hotel's Lobby Lounge and Wine Bar
Gramercy Park Hotel's Drawing Room
Mandarin Oriental New York's elliptical lobby
Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg's 'floating' swimming pool
Ireland's Lismore Castle
Frescos at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Cave Bar at Mövenpick Hotel Hamburg
Bulgari Hotel London's glass mosaic pool
3D art at Four Seasons Baltimore
Viceroy Miami outdoor pool deck
Fairmont Copley Plaza's $20 million renovation

Win a 'dream vacation' from Marriott Rewards Facebook game

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 8, 2012 01:42 PM

Being a hotel loyalty member has its perks - outside of the guest room upgrades and points toward free nights.

Marriott Rewards just launched their Facebook game called "What's Your Travel Type?" that helps members discover their "unique travel personality" simply by visiting Facebook.com/MarriottRewards and liking the page. You don't have to be a member of Marriott Rewards to play.

Once you are a Marriott Rewards Facebook fan, you'll choose your favorite option from pairs of activities to discover your "true travel personality" and then share it with your Facebook friends. Your travel personality will coincide with one of six Marriott brands that embodies your travel type, and you'll be entered to win a dream vacation with that brand.

Marriott-Rewards-FACEBOOK.jpg

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Hotel wedding? Mandarin Oriental fits brides with Louboutin wedding shoes

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 7, 2012 03:45 PM

christian-louboutin-wedding-shoes-sale-high.jpegAll brides are the center of attention, but fit a pair of Christian Louboutin's on her and watch her waltz down the aisle in the designer shoes and signature red soles, and the bride becomes the object of all affections.

That's the premise behind Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC's newest wedding package, and it has brides everywhere considering getting hitched in our nation's capitol.

From now until December 2013, weddings at the Mandarin Oriental, Washington, DC, that exceed a total cost of $50,000 (not a hard estimate to break), will entitle the bride to $1,000 towards the purchase of a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes from Neiman Marcus.

The shoe fitting will take place at Neiman Marcus at Mazza Gallerie in Chevy Chase, MD, and in true luxury fashion, will include small bites, a monogrammed shoe bag and signature gift bag.

This isn't the first time you might have noticed Christian Louboutin pair up with Mandarin Oriental. The French fashion designer is part of the hotel group's "He's a Fan" campaign.

Photo courtesy of Christian Louboutin

Dramatic Designs: Fairmont Copley Plaza's $20 million renovation

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 6, 2012 09:02 AM

Oak Long Bar and Kitchen Rendering.jpgThe new OAK Long Bar + Kitchen at the Fairmont Copley Plaza.

Boston's grand dame didn't just get some new fixings, it got a full-on $20 million makeover. From the lobby to its guest rooms, The Fairmont Copley Plaza celebrated 100 years with a little nip, tuck and lot of tidying that included all of the hotel’s guestrooms and suites, the Fairmont Gold club lounge, the Lower Lobby meeting space and the addition of a new rooftop health club and Lobby Lounge.

All of the hotel's 383 guestrooms and suites, including the guest room floor hallways, were redesigned to include elegant plum and blue color schemes, which the hotel labels a "quiet sophistication". The Fairmont Gold Lounge (the hotel's loyalty club lounge), has been updated to give the feeling of a Back Bay mansion, instead of a traditional club floor, complete with gaming tables, sofas, a library and TV room. The new rooftop health club spans more than 3,000 square feet and includes TechnoGym equipment including cardio vascular machines with individual entertainment systems, weight machines, free weights and benches, and a separate stretching area and outside space, which can be used for private training or yoga classes (at the guest's request). The lobby underwent some extensive renovation, most notably the opening of its Lobby Lounge - an art-inspired space directly opposite the hotel's check-in area that includes signed lithographs by Matisse, Picasso and Chagall.

But what some might consider the most remarkable reinvention of this hotel is its restaurant and bar space.

The iconic Oak Room, known around town as one of the city's last-standing "old-fashioned martini bars" is no longer. There are no more dark cherry red leather chairs, no grand pianos or jazz trios, no dark lighting or martini carts. The Oak Room is now the OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, an open, more contemporary space that traded in its traditional raw bar and steam menu for a farm to table-inspired American menu. More tables surround the room and tufted leather bar stools sit up against an 83-foot copper-topped bar. Quite the drastic change from the original Oak Room, but it didn't seem to bother guests. When I popped in a few weeks ago on a Friday night the bar was packed with people, tables were occupied by everyone from families to the after-work crowd, and there wasn't one seat available at the copper bar.

Readers: Your thoughts?

Past Dramatic Designs:
B2Hotel's Lobby Lounge and Wine Bar
Gramercy Park Hotel's Drawing Room
Mandarin Oriental New York's elliptical lobby
Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg's 'floating' swimming pool
Ireland's Lismore Castle
Frescos at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Cave Bar at Mövenpick Hotel Hamburg
Bulgari Hotel London's glass mosaic pool
3D art at Four Seasons Baltimore
Viceroy Miami outdoor pool deck

World's best pop-up restaurants

Posted by Melanie Nayer August 2, 2012 11:24 AM

brusselicious01.jpgDinner in the Sky, a pop-up restaurant started in Belgium, has made its way around the world hoisting diners up for culinary treats in mid-air.

Found in art galleries, train stations, on the street, and dangling in mid-air, pop-up shops are the ultimate solution for the busy people. They've become more than just a fad, especially when it comes to food. Busy travelers, local foodies and workaholics with little time to spare between meetings seek out pop-up restaurants to enjoy fine dining on small budgets.

The best part about these pop-up restaurants? Not only is the food worthy of a game of hide-and-seek, they're a lot cheaper to set up and dine in than restaurants.

According to Departures magazine, opening a new restaurant in New York or the Bay Area can cost half a million dollars, while operating a pop-up usually runs just $2,000 to $5,000 a week. While we can't tell you what it costs local Boston pop-up shops and food trucks like favorites Eat, 3 Scoops, and Fillet of Soul, to operate, it's obvious by the lines formed that they're food is worth traveling around the city for.

Feel like taking a bite from pop-up restaurants in other cities? Depatures recently ranked their top pop-up restaurants from around the world:

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About the author

Melanie Nayer is a travel writer who spent many years in the newsroom before jetting off to see the world. Her goal is to bring readers the best insider information More »

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