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Goodbye summer, hello holiday travel. Tips for finding cheap flights, holiday deals

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 29, 2012 10:49 AM

flight-board.jpeg
We've only just said goodbye to summer and it's already time to start thinking about holiday travel. Yes, really, it's time. Airfares are rising almost by the minute and if you aren't paying attention, you could lose your seat on a flight home for the holidays (or end up paying a small fortune for one).

As I sit here, end of September, windows still open and fall finally settling in, I admit I'm having a hard time fast-fowarding to holiday spirits. And then I started looking for my own airfare to visit my family at Thanksgiving and was aghast at what I found. After a few days of serious searching I was able to find some decent deals. But these deals won't last long. The holidays have always been prime time for airlines to hike prices, and this year is no exception.

Get on your computer, dedicate some time to these tips, and you'll secure some deals for holiday travel:

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First Canyon Ranch featuring kids spa services to open at The Homestead

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 27, 2012 09:03 AM

homestead.jpgDevotees of the Lenox, Mass. Canyon Ranch spa will soon have another location where they can go to indulge. The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA, and Canyon Ranch just announced a partnership to create a new spa and fitness experience.

According to a statement from The Homestead, the Canyon Ranch SpaClub will debut in spring 2013, featuring a "touch of southern hospitality" and all the wellness options fans of Canyon Ranch have come to enjoy.

Most notably, this Canyon Ranch will be the first to introduce family spa services, giving kids aged 4 and above the opportunity to take part in some of the spa services.

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Hotwire: Top U.S. cities where hotel, air and car rental rates have dropped

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 25, 2012 08:04 AM

180px-Welcome_to_LV.jpgIf you're looking for some steep discounts for fall travel, discount travel Hotwire.com has some suggestions. Their just released September 2012 Hotwire® Travel Savings Indicator features the top five cities in North America where hotel, air and car rental rates have dropped the most as compared to the same time last year.

Using extensive pricing research to cover the three most popular travel products, the report helps guide travelers to the best destinations for maximizing their travel dollars each month.

Hotel Price Drops:
Las Vegas, Tucson, Raleigh, Phoenix and New York saw the biggest declines in hotel room rate prices from the same time last year, according to the report.

Las Vegas tops the list with an 11 percent drop. Hotwire suggests for even bigger discounts in Sin City, look off The Strip in neighborhoods like Downtown – Fremont Street and Lake Las Vegas.

Tucson and Phoenix are hot with deals right now, because it's off season for travelers. As the weather gets colder in the Northeast, the rates in these warm cities will continue to climb. Meanwhile, Raleigh and New York have plenty of hotel rooms to fill meaning prices have dropped.

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New York City's annual “Hotel Week" room rates start at $100

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 22, 2012 12:50 PM

trad-room.jpgNew York City is preparing for its second annual "Hotel Week", taking place Jan. 4-20, 2013, and some of the city's top hotels are already taking reservations.

Twenty hotels spanning various Manhattan neighborhoods offer room rates of $100, $200 and $250 –– a massive discount for some of the hotels, which charge upwards of $500 a night.

Why the drastic drop in room rates? January is typically New York's slowest month for travel and tourism, and while the weather doesn't always cooperate that time of year, it's a great opportunity for travelers to check out some of the city's top-rated hotels.

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Boston, New York top the list of most expensive cities in the world for travel

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 18, 2012 06:43 AM

boston-haymarket.jpeg TripAdvisor released its second annual TripIndex list of the most expensive cities for travelers, both abroad and at home, and for U.S. travelers, New York and Boston top the list. The index is a cost comparison of one-night accommodations in a four-star hotel and an evening out on the town, including dinner with wine, and round-trip taxi fare for two people.

The results show New York has just a slight edge on Boston's costly digs with a TripIndex tally of $457, compared to Boston's $450. The study shows Las Vegas is the most affordable city in the United States, coming in at a total cost of $263. Hanoi, Vietnam, ranked as the most affordable international destination for U.S. travelers, with a TripIndex cost of $141.

If Europe is on your mind, the index found that Budapest, Hungary is the least expensive destination, with a total TripIndex cost of $194. London ranked one of the highest cities at $362 a night.

If you're looking to get a head start on next summer's travel plans, consider Asia, which ranked as the most affordable continent for U.S. travelers looking for summer deals. Asia boasts six of the top 10 most affordable cities. The cheapest average hotel room can be found in Bangkok for $81 per night.

For the full list of cities and their cost breakdown, check out the TripIndex online.

Readers: How did your favorite destinations add up? Are you trying out a new city to save some money this year?

Dramatic Designs: Palatial spaces at Ritz-Carlton, Vienna

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 17, 2012 06:31 AM

rcvienna-staircase.jpegIt's hard to travel around Europe and not immerse yourself in a piece of history. Whether you're researching your family ancestry, admiring art in dramatic spaces, or searching for storybook treasures (a la Peter Pan and Harry Potter), Europe's notable adventures don't disappoint. Neither did the Ritz-Carlton when it opened its 80th hotel on one of Vienna's most historic streets in August.

If traditional European architecture is your cup of tea, a stop at this Vienna hotel is a must. The 202-room property sits within four historic, culturally-protected palaces dating back to the 19th century.

Inside the palatial space, the Ritz-Carlton, Vienna embraces Austrian tradition by maintaining and preserving much of the palaces original design features. The eye-catching marble staircase is the centerpiece of the hotel interior, while decorative mural paintings and intricate wood carvings and panelling can be viewed throughout the hotel, all which were part of the original Palais.

The Vienna hotel, located in the heart of the city and just a short walk to the museums, opera, concert halls and historic buildings, also features Dstrikt restaurant, offering authentic Austrian cuisine; Atmosphere, a rooftop bar showcasing panoramic views of the city; Melounge, a lobby lounge where guests can enjoy the Viennese tradition of coffee and cake in the afternoon; and the cosy D-Bar, offering small bites and cocktails.

The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna, is already drawing the attention of luxury crowds. Actresses Liz Hurley and Dita Von Teese were among the celebs spotted at the hotel's grand opening.

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
Toronto's Hazelton Hotel's $99,900 bed
The St. Regis Hotel New York's Bentley Suite

New England escapes: Nantucket festivals and events

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 15, 2012 04:39 AM

4091950992_8143e225fc_n.jpgSummer is over, the crowds have dispersed, and now you can finally enjoy Cape Cod and the islands the way you want to – without the tourists and increased rates. The island’s natural beauty takes center stage with stunning New England foliage, and to add to the ambiance, here are a few fall events taking place in Nantucket:

Nantucket Island and Resorts "Hot Dates, Cool Rates": Plan an autumn Nantucket vacation and take advantage of rates at some of the island's coveted hotels starting at $125 per night.

Nantucket Restaurant Week, September 24-30: Dig in at some of the island's highly acclaimed restaurants, including TOPPER’S at the Wauwinet and Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant during Nantucket Restaurant Week.

10th Annual Cranberry Festival, October 6:
Milestone Cranberry Bog and the Nantucket Conservation Foundation host an annual festival celebrating Nantucket’s historic cranberry bogs. Take part in cranberry confections, bog tours, hay rides, and sheep-shearing workshops.

The Nantucket Project, October 5-8: This unique meeting-of-the-minds experience, held primarily at the White Elephant Village, will bring together thinkers across many disciplines such as writer and businessman Jack Abramoff, CNN political analyst David Gergen (one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People), and Harvard law professor and politician Elizabeth Warren.

Photo courtesy: Flickr user linseyt

Harbor Hotel Provincetown launches "Pay the Temperature" promotion

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 14, 2012 12:55 PM

photo-1.PNGFeeling lucky? If you're looking for a last-minute getaway, you could score some serious discounts at Harbor Hotel Provincetown this month.

Starting this week, the Harbor Hotel Provincetown is bringing back its “Pay The Temperature” promotion – the hotel will base its daily room rate on the Provincetown temperature on the day of check-in. The current temperature at the time of this post is 75 degrees and the further we go into fall the colder the air, so you can probably expect some super savings with this promotion.

Here's how to get the deal: you have to book your reservation ahead of time by calling (855) 447-8696 (this deal can't be booked online) and you will be charged an $50 non-refundable deposit. When you check in, your daily room rate for the duration of your stay will be determined upon arrival based on the Provincetown temperature at 2pm, as reported by the National Weather Service. This deal is not available on weekends in September and stay must be completed by Dec. 16, 2012.

New England escapes: Fall foliage getaways

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 12, 2012 06:11 AM

fall.jpgAs quickly as summer ends, fall begins, especially in New England. While we mourn the passing of Cape Cod escapes, rooftop sunsets and lobster rolls, we look forward to apple picking, pumpkin-infused drinks, and of course, fall foliage.

New England Inns & Resorts Association, a collection of New England’s independently owned and operated properties, is kicking off fall with travel packages meant to appeal to every type of traveler. Whether you're looking for hayrides or bonfies, pumpkin patches or apple orchards, there's a New England escape in here for you:

Autumn in New England at Ocean House, Watch Hill, RI – Includes 2-nights’ accommodations in a Terrace or Deluxe room, daily breakfast for two and a resort credit of $50. Also includes round trip transportation to nearby Clyde’s Cider Mill, the oldest Steam Powered Cider Mill in the United States. Rates start at $488 per night, plus tax and resort fee. Package is available until Oct. 31, 2012.

Fall Foliage Package at Point Lookout, Northport, ME – This package includes a 20% discount on the best available nightly rate, a complimentary L.L. Bean bag with a bottle of wine and cheese plate and a two-hour sailing excursion on the Schooner Olad. Rates start at just $179 per night (includes 20% discount). Package and rates are based on availability and are good through Oct. 16, 2012.

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Caesars Palace debuts high-end buffet worth $17 million

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 11, 2012 06:28 AM

Desserts.jpgThere's decadence, and then there decadence. And Caesars Palace is Las Vegas is helping travelers define the two with their new, $17 million buffet.

Yes, $17 million worth of food and design now graces the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, providing an obscene amount of over-indulgence for those who didn't get enough the night before. On the table, according to MSNBC, is prime rib, king crab, dim sum, wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, lasagna, sushi, enchiladas, chocolate soufflés baked to order, gelato, crème brûlée, made-to-order omelets and crêpes, breakfast pizzas and red velvet pancakes – just to name a few.

The culinary team tells MSNBC that nine kitchens will help serve up the more than 500 dishes that grace the buffet.

“We are offering the most items out of any buffet in Las Vegas,” executive chef Scott Green said in the article. “Personally, I believe this is the perfect size, the perfect outcome of what a buffet should be.”

Those familiar with Las Vegas can appreciate the entrance of this grand buffet. While buffets still exist at most casinos (mainly catering to the late-night and late-rising crowds), the over-the-top buffets lost their luster in Sin City after an onset of celebrity chefs and star-rated restaurants opened over the past few years.

If you want to indulge, it'll cost you $39.99 per person.

Read more about the buffet here.

Readers: Your thoughts? Is this exactly what Las Vegas needed, or are you turned off by the decadent display of food?

Dramatic Designs: The St. Regis Hotel New York's Bentley Suite

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 10, 2012 06:29 AM

St-Regis.jpg
Themed hotel suites aren't anything new, but when they come courtesy of some of the most luxurious brands in the world, they're worth checking out (or into).

Next up on the luxury retail branded hotel room: The Bentley Suite at The St. Regis Hotel New York.

Set to debut this fall, the Bentley Suite will offer 1,700 square feet of Bentley-themed design including exclusive Bentley decor including black leather tile floors and a sleigh bed made out of Bentley's signature burled wood, according to reports.

If you grow tired of your Bentley surroundings, The St. Regis will provide you complimentary access to a 2013 Bentley Mulsanne to take you anywhere within a 10-block radius of the hotel, which is poshly positioned at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street in New York.

The cost for living it up in the lap of luxury? A cool $9,500 per night plus taxes.

If Bentley isn't quite your taste, perhaps you'll like the hotel's Tiffany, Dior or Bottega Veneta suites, currently available for reservations.

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
Toronto's Hazelton Hotel's $99,900 bed

Travel like a celebrity... to their hotels

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 6, 2012 06:01 AM

Costa-dEste-image-e1333996067988.jpegCosta d'Este resort in Vero Beach, Florida, owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

We've always admired (even if through foggy lenses) the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Now, thanks to their own investments, we can live like them – if only for a night.

From Belize to Vero Beach, Florida, a number of celebrities have added hotelier to their resumes. While the chances of you actually bumping into these famous owners is slim, at least you'll get the satisfaction of knowing your admired A-lister had a hand in picking out your bed pillows. Here are some of the most popular celebrity-owned hotels that are worth checking out:

Palazzo Margherita (Bernalda, Italy) – Francis Ford Coppola: Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola opened this 19th century palazzo last March. The hotel has seven suites and two garden rooms, and is Coppola’s fifth hotel. He also owns Turtle Inn and Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize, La Lancha in Guatemala and Jardin Escondido in Argentina.

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Behind the scenes: Ritz-Carlton gives a glimpse at hotel life through videos

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 5, 2012 08:31 AM

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a hotel concierge, or choose wines for a world-renowned restaurant? Have you ever thought about what it takes to run housekeeping at a five-star hotel or how those flowers in the lobby are always so perfectly arranged?

Wonder no more. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is pulling back the curtains on their luxury hospitality business, and giving guests a sneak peak at what goes on inside the hotel in a new video series entitled ‘The Art of The Craft."

The new digital video series, which is accessible via the hotel's YouTube channel and website, focuses on a different individual from one of the Ritz-Carlton properties around the world, exploring who they are, what they do, and capturing all the ins and outs of their role in the organization. The hotel will have a total of 10 videos in the series – the first four are just released today and include insights from a sommelier in California wine country, a culinary master in Wolfsburg, a housekeeper at the highest hotel in the world and a shoe-shiner in Istanbul.

The motive behind the videos? It's all about adding to the experience of travel, said Herve Humler, president and chief operations officer of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

"At The Ritz-Carlton, we specialize in creating memories for our guests at every touch point of their experience," Humler said. "From concierge services, to housekeeping, to our sommeliers and shoe shine valets, there is a significant amount of dedicated craftsmanship and care that goes into making memories for the discerning world traveler."

The current series can be viewed on The Ritz-Carlton website and on YouTube:

Chef de Cuisine in Germany
Sommelier in California wine country
Housekeeper in Hong Kong
Shoe Shine Valet in Istanbul

Readers: What job would you like to hold at a luxury hotel?

Mandarin Oriental Boston falls for fashion with stylish packages

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 4, 2012 04:02 AM

MOBostonFashion_sep11_2.jpegThis month, as Fashion Week hits the runways in New York and Paris, Mandarin Oriental is giving Bostonians a reason to stay closer to home.

Later this month, Mandarin Oriental, Boston, will serve as fashion headquarters for Boston Fashion Week, and hotel guests will enjoy everything from behind-the-scenes runway access to exclusive parties with designers. To help with the exclusivity, the hotel is offering a special package coincide with Boston Fashion Week:

Rates for the Boston Fashion Week package start at $849, but before you balk at the cost, remember: it pays to be stylish. The package includes:

  • One night of accommodation in a Deluxe guestroom
  • Two VIP passes to a show at The Tent at Boston Fashion Week
  • Access to the show’s VIP pre-party
  • A sweet fashion treat to enjoy upon arrival
  • Two signature cocktails in M Bar & Lounge
  • Choice of new 1 hour 20 minute ‘Beauty by Mandarin Oriental’ Aroma Lift Facial or Aroma Clear Facial
  • A blow-out and makeup application at MIZU Boston hair salon, conveniently located within the hotel

The Boston Fashion Week package is available from Sept. 28-30.

If the full fashion package seems a little too steep, the hotel is also offering a 50-minute Luminous Legs treatment at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Boston to get your legs catwalk-ready. The treatment $138 on weekdays and $150 on weekends from Sept. 15-30.

Dramatic Designs: Toronto's Hazelton Hotel's $99,900 bed

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 3, 2012 07:28 AM

The Hazelton Hotel is gearing up for A-list overnighters in advance of Toronto's 37th International Film Festival, which kicks off this week. The pièce de résistance: a bed made for a celeb's budget.

vividus_env3.jpegTo accommodate the wishes of one of its upcoming guests, The Hazelton Hotel entered into an arrangement with Hastens, a leader in handcrafted luxury beds and bedding. The bed on request: the company's Vividus bed and accompanying mattress, which has a price tag of $99,900.

"TIFF represents the pinnacle achievement for our guest services team," David Mounteer, general manager of The Hazelton Hotel, said in a statement. "While we will never reveal the names of our guests, as privacy is of the utmost importance, we can tell you that their personal requirements are data-based and stored for each return visit."

Vividus by Hastens is considered to be one of the most comfortable and luxurious bed that one can sleep on, thanks to its handcrafted design and natural materials. Maybe, this is the reason why all the A-list guests at Hazelton Hotel wish to sleep on the beds like Vividus only. By this way, Hazelton Hotel and Hastens share a very unique bond that sustains luxury for the people who do not wish to compromise with the quality of sleep.

Want to sleep like a celeb? The Hazelton Hotel, located Toronto's exclusive Yorkville district, has 77 rooms and suites and is home to a 25-seat Hollywood-standard, private screening room.

Photo: Courtesy of Hastens

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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