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Hurricane Sandy travel: What to do if your plans are cancelled

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 28, 2012 01:24 PM

If you had travel plans on the East Coast this week, you likely received an email or phone call in the past 24 hours letting you know your flight has been cancelled. Airlines cancelled more than 3,000 flights on Sunday as a result of Hurricane Sandy and by the looks of things, another few thousand will be cancelled on Monday.

So now what?

As I write this post, I'm in San Francisco waiting out the storm. Virgin America cancelled my flight 48 hours in advance of Monday (when I was supposed to fly home), giving me enough time to adjust my hotel reservations and make alternate plans. Some airlines waited a little longer to make the cancellations, and some hotels are already booking up with stranded guests.

If you're supposed to be traveling this week and need to cancel your plans, you have rights. The airlines, hotels and travel agencies have policies in place for natural disasters and weather-implemented cancellations, so you have options:

AIRLINES

As of Sunday afternoon, Oct. 28, United, Virgin, American, Delta, JetBlue Southwest and US Airways cancelled flights to the New York tri-state area, Boston and Washington airports, as well as others along the East Coast. The airlines are offering refunds (typically in the form of vouchers) or waiving change fees. My advice: Be patient - the airlines are going to be swamped with travelers calling so you might wait a while on the phone. Read the cancellation policy from your airline - you'll have a few days to call and rebook or cancel - so as long as you do it in the allotted time, you'll be fine.

Here are the numbers for the airlines, and a link to their cancellation policies:

American Airlines: 1-800-433-7300
Delta: 800-221-1212
JetBlue: 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583)
Southwest Airlines: 1-800-435-9792
United Airlines: 800-864-8331
US Airways: 800-428-4322
Virgin America: 1.877.359.8474

HOTELS

Hotels are also waiving fees for last-minute cancellations and allowing re-bookings. Hurricane or not, many hotels only require 24-hour advance notice for a cancellation with no penalties, so you should be OK. However, if you booked a pre-paid rate or booked through a third-party agency like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz, you might be subject to their policies as set by the hotel.

I checked with my contacts at Marriott and Hyatt, and both hotel groups confirmed that the individual hotels set their policy, so it's best to call the hotels directly and work with the reservation teams to cancel or rebook your room. You'll find that even the most restrictive policies are loosened in the event of a hurricane. Here's a list of the major hotel groups and their phone numbers:

Fairmont Hotels: 800-527-4727
Four Seasons: 800-332-3442
Hilton Hotels: 800-445-8667
Hyatt Hotels: 800-233-1234
InterContinental Hotels: 800-327-0200
Kimpton: 800-546-7866
Marriott: 800-831-1000
Preferred Hotels: 800-323-7500
Ritz-Carlton: 800-241-3333
Sheraton Hotels: 800-325-3535
W Hotels: 877-946-8357
Westin Hotels: 800-325-3535
Wyndham Hotels: 800-545-5545

The most important thing at this point is your safety. If your travel plans are cancelled, rest assured you'll be able to rebook for another time. I'll keep you updated on any more information about travel as it happens.

007-style travel: Best James Bond hotels

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 26, 2012 12:58 PM

CiraganPalace.jpegCiragan Palace Kempinski in Istanbul, Turkey, is the five-star setting for the latest James Bond flick, Skyfall.
James Bond doesn't settle for second best. And why should he? With the best in high-tech, lavish and luxurious side items, it's only fitting that he consistently chooses to stay in five-star hotels, too.

In anticipation of the release of the new 007 film, Skyfall, the hotel price comparison website www.trivago.com and HuffingtonPost put together a list of the top 10 most unforgettable Bond hotels:

Ciragan Palace Kempinski (Istanbul, Turkey) - Daniel Craig, Skyfall (2012): "Skyfall" is Daniel Craig's third performance as James Bond and the 23rd 007 film released. The five-star Ciragan Palace Kempinski in Istanbul is a classic Bond hotel, with a heated infinity pool, spa treatments, hair salon and a boutique shopping arcade. The hotel offers 007-style transfers by limousine, boat or even helicopter and the Palace suites come complete with a 24-hour personalized butler service and a choice of six different pillows.

Hotel Cipriani (Venice, Italy) - Daniel Craig, Casino Royale (2006): Remember when Daniel Craig moored his luxury yacht in Venice in "Casino Royale"? He moors it right outside the Cipriani, Venice's most unique and iconic hotel. Bond visits this romantic city with the devastatingly beautiful Vesper Lynd, but the stay ends in deception and tragedy. Accessible by boat only, Hotel Cipriani is renowned for its unrivalled views over the lagoon, Michelin star chefs and classic Venetian style in the 79 ornately decorated rooms and suites.

Grandhotel Pupp (Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic) - Daniel Craig, Casino Royale (2006): This hotel poses as Hotel Splendide in Montenegro, the location of the legendary poker tournament in "Casino Royale". Grandhotel Pupp is actually located in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, host of an international film festival and popular amongst celebrities for its spa treatments. Follow in the footsteps of 007 and enjoy international cuisine in the luxurious Grandrestaurant Pupp, where Bond and Vesper enjoyed a drink following the poker match.

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InterContinental's first "health conscious" hotel to open in New York

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 24, 2012 08:12 AM

EVEN Hotels_44thStreetNYC_Perspective Rendering .jpgThe new hotel brand with a healthy promise will open in New York City in 2014. InterContinental Hotels Group announced its first EVEN Hotels property will be located at 219 E 44th Street in the heart of midtown Manhattan, and will be a flagship property for the brand.

EVEN Hotels made headlines back in February with IHG first announced the concept, which is designed around four priority issues -- exercise, eat, work and rest. All EVEN hotels will include:

  • Guest rooms designed for in-room workouts and will include multi-functional room amenities such as a coat rack that doubles as a pull up bar.
  • The fitness center will offer state-of-the-art equipment and group exercise activities, as well as a "Wellness Wall” for fitness options in walking distance, tips and equipment rental
  • There will be on-site guest service to offer personalized advice on fitness options, ideas and/or instruction for workouts.
  • The Marketplace will offer nutritionally designed menus with a particular focus on natural, fresh, fit and energizing meals, as well as free coffee and mini-smoothies in the morning.
  • Guest rooms will be equipped with high speed Wi-Fi, multimedia ports, easy access to outlets, ample desk space, and there will be a "social space" in the bar and lobby.
  • All guest rooms will offer hypoallergenic linens, powerful showerheads, natural lighting, LED dimmers and antibacterial wipes.
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Mandarin Hotel Boston spreads holiday cheer with seasonal offers

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 23, 2012 06:43 AM

MandarinBoston-guestroom350.jpgLooking for a unique way to ring in the holidays? The Mandarin Oriental, Boston has a few packages to amp up your holiday cheer.

Restore balance with a soothing experience at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Boston; indulge in delicious cuisine at Asana Restaurant; cozy up by the fireplace with hot cider and afternoon treats; or retreat to sumptuous guestroom accommodations with a special overnight package.

Extra Day Away Package: Enjoy one-night complimentary accommodations in a guestroom or suite in conjunction with two or more consecutive paid nights of stay. Rates for the Extra Day Away package begin at $345 per night and is available from Nov. 16, 2012 to March 8, 2013. Reservations can be made online at www.mandarinoriental.com.

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Girlfriend getaways: Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach spa tops SpaFinder 2012 awards

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 21, 2012 04:46 PM

Eau-Spa-at-Ritz-Carlton-Palm-Beach.jpegLooking for a great escape with the girls? Eau Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach won four awards on this year's SpaFinder Wellness' 2012 Readers' Choice Awards list, including Best Beach Spa, Best for Girlfriend Getaway & Bachelorettes, Best for Interior Design and Best for Weddings. This recognition is given annually to the top-ten most-voted spas for this category by spa-goers across the world in SpaFinder Wellness' Readers' Choice Awards.

To celebrate the spa honors, The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach and Eau Spa are offering an overnight spa girls' getaway package appropriately called 'Beauty and the Beach'. The package, starting at $449 per night, includes overnight accommodations in a guest room with large private balcony, beach canopy and $200 of Eau Spa dollars to use at the spa per room, per night.

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Top U.S. wine destinations: TripAdvisor names Travelers' Choice

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 18, 2012 11:05 AM

sonoma.jpgSonoma County was rated the top wine region in the U.S. by TripAdvisor readers. Photo credit: TripAdvisor

Where do you travel to when you want good wine? TripAdvisor just announced the winners of its 2012 Travelers’ Choice Wine Destinations awards. The awards are divided up region: World, U.S., Europe and South Pacific.

According to TripAdvisor, winners were determined based on their popularity as wine destinations, taking into account travelers’ reviews and opinions for local wineries, restaurants, attractions and accommodations.

Not surprisingly, most of the top U.S. wine destinations were in California. However, there are a few on this list that might surprise you. Here's what TripAdvisor had to say:

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XV Beacon tops Conde Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 16, 2012 03:00 PM

XVBeacon.jpg
Boston's own XV Beacon hotel ranked number one in the Northeast and placed 52 in the world on Conde Nast Traveler's latest Reader's Choice Awards.

The 2012 awards were rated by a record 46,476 readers voting on hotels, resorts, and cruise lines around the world. In the Northeast region, 45 hotels were selected by Condé Nast Traveler readers in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington D.C.

Four-Star XV Beacon, a Boston boutique hotel in Beacon Hill, took the top spot for the Northeast region and placed 52 in the world. Mandarin Oriental Boston ranked number two for the Northeast, and Blantyre Resort in Lenox rounded out the top 10 for the region.

The top 10 hotels in the world, according to Conde Nast Traveler readers, are:

  1. Qualia, Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Reef
  2. Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Maldives
  3. Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Northland
  4. Hotel Caesar Augustus, Capri
  5. Palazzo Sasso, Ravello
  6. Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Kurger National Park
  7. Peninsula House, Las Terrenas, Samana
  8. La Villa Gallici, Aix-en-Provence
  9. Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
  10. Perivolas, Santorini

To see the full list of the winners, read the Conde Nast Travelers Readers Choice Awards 2012.

Readers: Do you agree with the choices? What's your favorite hotel in the Northeast, or the world?

Hotwire Hotels app offers deals on last-minute bookings

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 16, 2012 03:35 AM

hotwire-app.jpgFinding last-minute hotel deals continue to get easier, especially for travelers on the go. Hotwire just released its mobile app for iPhone that, rivaling HotelTonight's concept, gives travelers steep discounts on day-of hotel room rates.

The biggest difference between Hotwire Hotels app and its competitors: like the website, this app doesn't tell you the name of the hotel you're booking until you're confirmed. You'll get information including location, star-rating, a map of the area and hotel amenities.

I prefer to know what hotel I'm booking, but if you're the kind who likes the element of surprise, this app does offer a bit of excitement. Of course, you don't have to only book last-minute hotels. The app allows you to enter your check-in/check-out dates as well as room specifics and rate ranges, so you can get as close to your desired hotel without knowing its name as possible. I searched hotels in New York City for the night of Sunday, Oct. 14, (a same day rate) and I was surprised to find some suitable four-star hotels at under $200 in Midtown.

Readers: Your thoughts? Would you book the hotel online without knowing the actual hotel name or precise location?

Dramatic Designs: Glass floors at Les Cols Pavellones, Spain

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 15, 2012 04:04 AM

glass-floor hotel.jpegThere aren't many times when walking on glass is a good idea, but the architects and designers at Les Cols Pavellones hotel in Spain made it so. The hotel, located just two hours north of Barcelona, takes style and sensuality to a new level, which is why it's today's Dramatic Design.

One step into this hotel and you'll notice something truly extraordinary: all the doors, walls and floors at Les Cols Pavellones are created completely of green glass and black steel. Even the guest room bathrooms are completely see-through. In an effort to keep guests focused on their own originality, the rooms are void of televisions, phones, or radios. The glass construction also adds a touch of the organic - glass floors allow guests to view the earth - and what's growing in it - beneath.

It's one-part futuristic, one-part sensual, and one-part eco-friendly. Rooms at Les Cols Pavellones start at $355.

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
Palatial spaces at Ritz-Carlton Vienna
Four Seasons Toronto 'spa in the sky'

Get spooked: Spend a night at one of these haunted hotels

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 12, 2012 08:33 AM

If there's one thing we can all agree on about fall, it's the fun of Halloween. You might not enjoy the cold weather or the seasonal allergies, but who doesn't love a spooky jack-o-latern, a bag full of candy, or a creative costume? Or, maybe you're into the spookier elements of Halloween.

Throughout New England you'll find plenty of hayrides, haunted houses, spooky mazes and fright-night events. For those brave enough, you can extend your fear by staying overnight at a haunted hotel. That's right – it seems the ghosts of New England's past aren't ready to truly depart, and like to make sure guests at hotels in the area are aware of their influence.

Are you brave enough to stay the night? Think you'll sleep soundly? I'll admit I couldn't do it and yes, I think you're insane for wanting to – but I applaud your efforts. If you're willing to brave it for a night, I found a few hotels that will test your fear limits:

Haunted_Omni_DPP_0010.jpgThe entrance of the Boston Omni Parker House, said to one of the most haunted hotels in America.

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Get a head start on holiday shopping with the Fairmont Copley Plaza

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 10, 2012 07:35 AM

It's hard to adjust from summer straight into the holidays, but it seems the holidays is exactly what's on the minds of travelers right now. Sure, it's only the second week of October, but it's never too early to start shopping. Last week, I gave you some insight into finding the best deals for holiday flights. Now, the Fairmont Copley Plaza wants to help give you a head start on your holiday shopping. Stay the night in the city and take advantage of a few of these holiday packages meant for shopaholics:

boston-fairmont-copley-plaza-hotel-58977.jpgThe Copley Place Shopping Spree Package: Receive a $50 American Express Simon gift card and an exclusive gift bag filled with special treats from Copley Place’s high-end retailers (including Neiman Marcus, Barney’s New York, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, and BCBG Max Azria). This package, starting at $339, also includes accommodations and is available through Dec. 31, 2012.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace Shop and Save Package: Minutes away from The Fairmont Copley Plaza, Faneuil Hall Marketplace has it all: luxury retailers, endless dining options, live entertainment and over 125 shops waiting to welcome you. This package, priced from $269 a night, includes overnight accommodations and a VIP Packet full of special incentives, discounts, and offers from Faneuil Hall Marketplace merchants.

Shop and Save with Wrentham Village Premium Outlets Package: Head out of Boston for some spectacular shopping deals at the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets. With 170 outlet stores you'll find plenty of places to stock up on holiday shopping. This package, available through Dec. 31, 2012 and starting at $259 a night, includes overnight accommodations at The Fairmont Copley Plaza, transportation for two to and from Wrentham Village Premium Outlets, a $10 gift card at Bloomingdale’s The Outlet Store, and a Tommy Hilfiger tote bag.

The fine print: All packages are based upon availability and exclusive of tax and gratuity. Guests may upgrade to Fairmont Gold for an additional $100. You can make reservations online or by calling (800) 441-1414.

Live free or fly! JetBlue will fly upset voters out of the country, post-election

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 8, 2012 09:48 AM

Raise your hand if you've uttered these famous last words: "If [my candidate] doesn't win, I'm leaving the country!"

Now, you'll have the chance to do just that, thanks to a simple ballot from JetBlue.

“On November 6th, America will elect the next U.S. president,” the airline says on their Election Protection website. “If things don’t go your way, don’t worry. Here’s your chance to get a free flight out of the country with JetBlue. Participate in our election protection poll to enter. And remember if you change your mind you can always come back. Or not. It’s a free country.”

The "Live Free or Fly" campaign is simple: participate in the online poll by choosing Republican or Democrat (JetBlue swears your vote will remain anonymous). From there, you'll get a choice of countries you would want to flee to (where jetBlue has flights) if your candidate doesn't win. The JetBlue poll will post your country of choice to your Facebook page and you'll be automatically entered to win a free ticket to flee if things don't go your way on Nov. 6.

Choose from Mexico, Costa Rica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, the Bahamas and more, if you want to flee the U.S. (I suggest you do some research ahead of time to ensure these countries fit your lifestyle and political preferences.)

Here's a quick video to explain the concept:

On the jetBlue Election Protection page, you can check out real-time poll results and follow election chatter with the hashtag #JetBlueElectionProtection.

Dramatic Designs: Four Seasons Toronto "spa in the sky"

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 8, 2012 06:57 AM

The Four Seasons finally opened its new doors in Toronto last week. After closing its original Toronto hotel earlier this year (and hosting an auction of the hotel's items), the hotel company opened its doors to the 55-storey hotel in Toronto's trendy Yorkville district, and proclaimed this new location as the flagship Four Seasons hotel worldwide.

The latest luxury hotel to open in Toronto, the Four Seasons Toronto features 259 rooms (all outfitted with iPads), expansive meeting rooms and star chef Daniel Boulud's new restaurant. But it's the hotel's spa that has everyone talking.

fs-toronto-spa.jpeg
The 30,000 square-foot spa, simply named 'The Spa,' becomes the largest spa in Toronto, and the largest spa of any Four Seasons hotel worldwide. The hotel refers to this serene escape as a ‘spa in the sky’, thanks to its lofty views of Toronto. More than 30,000 square feet hosts 17 treatment rooms on floors eight and nine, While you're here, don't miss the indoor relaxation pool, whirlpool, steam room, yoga studio, nail bar, a spa boutique and a 3,500-square-foot fitness center.

Breathe in The Spa's signature white tea scent while you wait for your treatment. Spa treatments are priced by length of treatment, instead of type of treatment. Four exclusive product lines at the Spa include Amala, Ajne, Sjal and Neuma, all making their Canadian debuts at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.

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
Palatial spaces at Ritz-Carlton Vienna

Fall hotel, spa deals in Miami, Naples, Newport, and the Caribbean

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 5, 2012 06:51 AM

Hotels from the Caribbean to the continental USA are celebrating Fall with fabulous savings. From spa savings to $100 resort credits and discounts on extended nights, these specials make taking a trip this Fall easy and affordable. Special packages include:

spa-tub.jpgSpa Terre at Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island is offering 20% savings on facials, massage, body treatments, manicures and pedicures with the SpaTerre Escape package. The package includes accommodations, breakfast for two daily, valet parking and wireless internet access. Rates start at $175 per night for a Manor Guestroom now through Dec. 15, 2012.

Hotel Caravelle, a boutique seaside hotel on the island of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, is offering a special “3 Nites for $300” promotion now through Oct. 24, 2012. The special deal offers a savings of more than $40 over the rack rate per night.

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The Benjamin hotel's new "Presidential Pillows"

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 3, 2012 02:04 AM

With campaign season in full-swing, the Benjamin Hotel in New York City is offering up some important sleep tips for the candidates (and hotel guests), courtesy of the hotel's Sleep Concierge. Of newsworthy note, the hotel has dedicated two types of pillows – one suitable for President Barack Obama and the other for Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

The Benjamin is known for its innovative sleep program and on-site Sleep Concierge, who carefully crafts custom sleep-aids for guests, in the form of various pillows (guests can choose from a pillow menu), black-out shades, soundproof windows and aromatherapy options. With that in mind, the Sleep Concierge has selected a pillow for each of the Presidential candidates, based on their sleep habits and strenuous schedules.

The Presidential Pillows will be available for all guests who stay in the VIP Suite and also via the Sleep Concierge on a first come, first serve basis until the night of the election on Nov. 6, 2012.

The specific pillows chosen for each candidate were provided by The Benjamin, including commentary, and do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog.

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Luxury hotel to sell 24-carat rose gold iPad in support of Breast Cancer Awareness

Posted by Melanie Nayer October 2, 2012 05:52 AM

rose-ipad.jpgBurj Al Arab in Dubai is kicking off Breast Cancer Awareness Month by launching its Pinking Burj Al Arab campaign aimed at luxury travelers and shoppers.

The highlight of the Pinking Burj Al Arab campaign is the exclusive, one-of-a-kind 24-carat rose gold iPad created especially for the cause, with an engraved pink ribbon and the hotel's logo.

Want it? You'll have to travel to Dubai to get it. Or, you can "like" the Burj Al Arab's Facebook page and be the winning bid for the item. The rose gold iPad will be reserved in Burj Al Arab's boutique for the person offer the best price on the Burj's hotel's Facebook page, with all proceeds going towards Breast Cancer initiatives.

This isn't the only pink initiative taking place in the luxury hotel. The Pinking Burj Al Arab campaign includes lighting the famous sail-designed hotel in pink with a projection of the pink ribbon logo, and bespoke Pink Indulgence food and beverage offerings, such as the Pink Tea and the "Bella Rosa" Pink Cake. 50% of proceeds from the sale of the items will go towards supporting Breast Cancer initiatives.

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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