June 26, 2016

Beating the Heat at The Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage

I recently traveled to the Palm Springs area for my nephew’s graduation.  My sister and I grabbed the opportunity for a one night girls’ getaway, and I instantly thought of the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage, a property I have been eyeing for a while. I have many clients who travel to this area to visit family, or attend events like the Coachella Music Festival.

Palm Desert
The desert is hot in summer, of course, but this particular weekend it was even hotter than normal, with temperatures around 115 by mid afternoon.   Now why would someone want to spend good money at a luxury resort in these conditions??  Would you do anything other than sit in your room? 
Note the time at the top
Well, in fact I learned that this is the BEST place to be when temperatures are soaring, for several reasons:

> If you are going to be stuck inside, why not be stuck inside a beautiful resort with an elegant bar and restaurant with views, or a spacious room with comfy beds?

Inviting seating area in the lobby

Indoor - outdoor decor
Lots of space in even the entry-level rooms
> Most homeowners' pools are too warm to enjoy when temperatures soar above 100 deg.  But the Ritz Carlton’s pools were chilled, so they were refreshing, and after a quick dunk we were even comfortable sitting on the lounge chairs for quite a while.

Checking out the family pool from the poolside bar
> The resort had many outdoor shaded seating areas.  And while it’s still hot in the shade, it is cool enough to be tolerable. When you've been out in 115 deg temps, the upper 90's feel relatively cool.

Outdoor bar seating
A quiet area in the shade around the corner from  the bar
> There are misters outside the rooms and around the pool, so you don't even have to get completely wet to be comfortable.

Our private patio with misters and a shared firepit 
Sure doesn't feel like it's 115 now!
We were at the resort for exactly 24 hours, and we relished every minute.  We enjoyed a fantastic wine tasting while waiting for our room, hosted by a rep from Michael David wines. 

Big reds - yummy!
Ready for a group of locals to visit
Once in our room, we quickly changed and headed over to the quiet adult pool, with fabulous views across the valley.  

So peaceful!
Location, location, location!
We had to drag ourselves away for our dinner reservation at State Fare, and when I heard they were known for their hamburgers, I knew exactly what to order.  And my sister was happy to try the fried avocados that she had heard others rave about.  

It was as good as it looks.  And those fries!!
Guests dining at the steakhouse have a fantastic view of the valley

After dinner the temperatures had dropped to more reasonable levels, so we strolled around the grounds.   We knew the rooms on the west side were getting a great sunset view, as we could see the last rays glowing on the mountains across the valley.

Firepit rooms next to the lawn are perfect for families,
Never tired of the reflecting pool, which was always changing

Kids were playing lawn games as parents watched from their patios with fire pits, and some guests were eagerly waiting for the telescope to be set up for stargazing.   There were plenty of private spaces around the resort where guests could sit and chat.
Whimsical decorations
Bye bye sun, hello cooler temps!
The next morning we grabbed our coffee and found a quiet spot to read and enjoy the view, then took a tour of the spa.

Morning light
Great nighttime and daytime views from this spot
Another look at those firepit rooms
The co-ed lounge at the spa
For our remaining hours in paradise we hung out by the main pool, which was just steps from our outdoor patio.  After lunch, we relocated to our patio with the misters to enjoy our last few hours of our girls' getaway. It was with great reluctance that we packed our bags and headed home.

Yummy poolside tacos!
Really, we have to leave?
When I book clients at the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage, they receive these complimentary Virtuoso amenities:

* Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
* Daily buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
* $100 resort credit
Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Yes, this breakfast is free for my clients!
And more breakfast around the corner (surrounded by wine)
So don't be scared to head to the desert in summer.  It might turn out to be a really cool vacation!

May 1, 2016

Gift Ideas for Grads Traveling Away to College

Here are some of my favorite travel accessories, which would make great gifts for graduating seniors.  We sent our first child across the country to college this year with several of these, which came in handy for his trips back and forth.

Clear plastic carry-on bag for liquids – It will hold up better than a ziploc bag through multiple trips.

311 TSA Rules:  3.4 oz, 1 qt , 1 bag 

Luggage scale – To discourage the teen’s instinct to shove as much stuff into one bag as possible.

Don't stuff hockey bags to capacity!

Duffle bag that collapses easily and compactly – Can serve as an extra carry-on bag when they pull out all the extra things from their checked bag.
Go Sharks! (Had to get that in for playoff season)

Cable lock – To secure bags when traveling by train or when waiting in airports.  They can also keep items secure in a dorm room.

The 3 ft long cable can link several bags together,
 or secure one to a stationary object

Durable luggage tags – A colorful one is easy to spot on a luggage carousel.

But don't store your jewels in checked bags.

Packing cubes – Full disclosure:  my kids still don’t want to use them, but they’ll appreciate having them some day!

Probably my favorite travel accessory

Portable charger – I love my Jackery, it's a lifesaver on a long flight or a long layover in an airport that has limited outlets.

Also has a light!

Even if your student is going to school in the US, they will probably have opportunities to travel internationally. When the time comes, they'll appreciate these items:

Dual voltage extension cord – So they can charge all their electronics at once (regular extension cords used around the house need a converter).
The Luggage Valet has one USB and three 3-prong outlets.

Universal travel adapter – So they can keep up with social media in multiple countries.
If your electronics and chargers are dual voltage all you
need is the appropriate adapter.

If you see something like 100/240V  or 110~220V on the label
then you don't need a converter.

Here's a tip for summer:  Apply for or renew their passport if necessary so they have a valid one when they head off to school.

And if you'd like ideas for a celebration trip, so your grad can try out his or her new gadgets, just send a note to suzette@family-treks.com.

March 23, 2016

Book London Now for Deals Later

There are some offers available right now for London, valid for travel throughout the year. Some expire next month, and others are limited to availability.  If you plan ahead, you can get a great deal with some of our favorite hotels and tour guides.

Combining traditional grandeur with modern freshness, the redesigned Victorian building is ideally located in the heart of London, facing the River Thames.  It is a short walk from many of the city’s major attractions, and offers an exquisite light-filled lobby, a spacious exterior courtyard, and the most breathtaking spa in London, housed across four floors.

The best spa in London
Annual Sale
Up to 30% off the best available rates. Must be booked by April 30.

Family Friendly Package
Two connecting rooms (if available at time of booking) or nearby, for one discounted rate.  Parents will receive a bottle of champagne, and children will receive a game console and some treats.  Valid for stays until Dec 30, 2016. 

Rooms average 485 sq ft

My clients receive Virtuoso amenities on these offers as they do when booking regular rates:
  • English Breakfast for two people per room,
  • Noon arrival (subject to availability),
  • Upgrade on arrival (subject to availability),
  • £85 Hotel Credit (once per stay)
  • Water and fruit
(Blackout dates and minimum stays may apply)

London's quintessential luxury boutique hotel, a magnificent 19th-century architectural treasure centrally located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Each of the rooms, luxury suites, and long-stay apartments are dressed with fine fabrics, fresh flowers, antique furnishings, and rare artworks, plus 21st century technology. The hotel has two staff members for every guest, ensuring personal care to every detail.  Family friendly amenities include Mini bathrobes & slippers, a teddy bear book and a chocolate mouse on turndown, and even baby intercoms.
Every room is unique

Brownell Travel Exclusive Amenities:
  • $100 food credit per room per stay
  • Additional $100.00 food credit for bookings of two or more nights
  • English Breakfast for two each day
  • Upgrade on arrival (subject to availability)
  • Early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability)
  • Book a suite for 3 or more nights and get a one way airport transfer
  • Book an apartment for 4 or more nights and get a one way airport transfer

Spacious apartments for long stays

A beautiful townhouse dating back to 1843, enviably located on a tree-lined street in fashionable Knightsbridge (just a short walk from Harvey Nichols and Harrods). The hotel features its own private art collection, and all of the 28 guestrooms and suites are individually designed. Head barman Antonio Pizzuto has spent 40 years perfecting his art, and is known for the best martinis in London.
It's 5 o'clock somewhere!

Brownell Travel Exclusive Amenities:
  • Full English Breakfast daily
  • £100 Food Credit
  • Exclusive pair of member tickets to current exhibitions at The Victoria and Albert Museum with access to the members lounge. (These tickets are impossible to get!)
  • Afternoon tea for 2 on one day during their stay
  • Martini Master class
  • Upgrade on arrival (subject to availability)
  • Early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability)
  • Book a suite for 3 or more nights and get a one way airport
Authentic London townhouse in a residential neighborhood

Family Sightseeing Tours

Context Travel is offering 10% off family tours around the world if booked by April 30.  Client favorites in London include:

British Museum for Families
Join an archaeologist in the discovery of the British Museum: one of the largest repositories of ancient art in the world, and an amazing backdrop to a family-oriented exploration of the ancient world and its traditions, religions, and lives. Families will learn about how the museum was founded and how the passion for collecting is still alive today.  Using fun educational tools, they’ll pick a theme or a particular civilization and follow its development throughout time while navigating the museum.
Hands on learning

Tower of London for Families
Known for its feathered inhabitants, for its gruesome executions and its famous prisoners, the Tower is the site of intriguing stories that inspire and fascinates young visitors. Why do the ravens live in the Tower? Was the Tower really used as a zoo? Led by a specially trained family-friendly historian guide, the tour provides an interactive learning experience for children and introduces them to British history
Kids love the macabre!

Drawing London: A Hands On Art Workshop
A hands-on tutorial on how to engage and hone your powers of observation and expression, under the auspices of a professional artist and art teacher.  The tour starts at the artist's beautiful flat, and while sipping a cup of tea, families are introduced to materials and a demonstration of some basic drawing techniques.

Anyone can be an artist

They can even arrange for a  a private tennis lesson on Henry VIII’s court!

Context regular tours are a good value even when not on sale.  And if you have 4 or more in your group it's less expensive to book a private tour!

Contact me if you'd like more information, or are ready to book so that you get our exclusive amenities.

My clients love London!

February 13, 2016

Why JK Place Firenze is the Most Romantic Hotel in Florence

I had the pleasure of visiting JK Place Firenze on my trip to Italy last summer, and I was blown away by how unique and awesome it was.

As we approach Valentine's Day, I found myself thinking about the hotel, how it would be an excellent for a honeymoon or romantic getaway.  Here's why:

* Private and sophisticated -  LIke a home away from home with lots of private spaces.  There's no lobby, you "check in" in the library.

* Great location -  On pretty Santa Maria Novella Piazza with a view of the church, convenient to the train station and shopping, and away from the heaviest tourist traffic

Do you like this...
.. or this?
* Romantic accommodations -  Only 20 rooms, all unique.   The Penthouse has a private balcony with a clear view of the Domo. 

Some have canopy beds
Chic but comfortable

* Spa access - Two minutes away is Olimpo SPA Steam Bath

Couples massage anyone?
* Pretty rooftop terrace - With daybeds to snuggle on after a long day of sightseeing.

Peace and quiet and fresh air
* The tiramisu - Some say the best in the city. 

They say the shortest distance to the heart is through the stomach.
Presentation is everything!
* The general managerOne of the most important features of any hotels is who’s at the helm. Claudio Meli is passionate about providing the best possible experience for his guests, and that attitude trickles down to every member of staff.  After talking to him for a short while, you'll learn he's a devoted husband and father, a true romantic at heart!

JK Place is also a great value when you book through a Virtuoso travel advisor and receive exclusive Virtuoso amenities:

Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Continental breakfast daily for two
- $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Breakfast at "home"
Are you ready to take your Valentine to Florence?? Then contact me!