Call them the anti-B'n B's. Design hotels elevate your vacation or business trip to a purely aesthetic experience that often has nothing to do with the scenery outside and is more about the furnishings, shapes, surfaces and light soothing your senses in a hotel's guest rooms and public spaces. And the go-to website for finding a design hotel everywhere from Berlin and Barcelona to Belize has long been the eponymous DesignHotels.com. The website recently announced seven fabulous new member hotels. And if you're looking for sophistication vacation inspiration, just click here:
- Chateau de la Resle in Burgundy, France
- Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel in Iceland
- The Majlis Resort on the island of Lamu in Kenya
- Miura Hotel in the Czech Republic
- El Secreto in Belize
- Hotel Gallery69 in Poland
- Hotel Cort on the island of Mallorca in Spain
Image of East Hotel in Hamburg, Germany courtesy Terry Ward
Black Friday, Cyber Monday. Oh yes, the festive (shopping!) season is upon us. And if, like me, you prefer to spend your money on travel experiences rather than most things material, you won't want to miss this Cyber Monday travel deal good for 20 to 40 percent off stays at participating Starwood properties in North American and Latin America. You have till this Friday, Dec. 6, to book your room. But the dates of your stay can be anytime from now through Jan. 26, 2014 at participating hotels like the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina (from $95 per night) and through April 17, 2014 at participating resorts such as the Sheraton Kauai Resort (from $169 per night). After all, what better antidote to holiday stress (or what better present to put under the tree, for that matter?) than a hotel stay somewhere spectacular!
Boy, do I love a good idea (and when it relates to the hotel business, you can bet I end up kicking myself all the more that I didn't think of it first!). New travel start-up Roomer has come up with a genius concept whereby travelers who've booked non-refundable hotel stays but are unable to use them can sell their room to someone else at a reduced rate. And if you're looking for a last-minute hotel room deal, this website is definitely worth a browse before hitting up your usual hotel search engines.
During a recent search for a last-minute hotel room in Orlando, I found someone offering their non-refundable room at the Rosen Centre Hotel on International Drive for $55 per night (versus the hotel website's $199 per night rate for stays on the same date). And at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, I spotted an offer for a late-November stay for $116 per night on Roomer. In addition to snagging deals here, keep in mind that you can also try to offload your own non-refundable hotel room bookings in case you have to cancel your travels on a dime. All the details on how things work for hotel room buyers and sellers can be found on the website's FAQ page. And while Roomer only currently deals in US hotel stays, I like where this is headed...
Talk about smarter travel!
Some families relish the together time in the kitchen. The poring over old family recipes, the preparation - even the shopping trips to get everything on the list. But if you ask me, I'd just as soon leave the cooking to someone else and maximize the time watching football and generally hanging out without worrying if something's burning on the stove. If you're of a similar ilk, here are a few hotels around the country that are happy to let you lounge on the couch and leave the cooking to them:
- Dallas folks can hit up the Omni Forth Worth Hotel to pick up an entire Thanksgiving dinner to go, with options to serve up to eight or 12 people. In addition to the bird, the menu includes things like pecan pie, giblet gravy and stuffing spiked with pancetta, chestnuts, corn and cheese.
- For a luxe Turkey Day dinner in New York City, book the five-course Prestige Menu at The London NYC. For $195 per person, the menu includes options like foie gras, Arctic char, roasted Colorado lamb and diver scallops. And there's a less expensive vegetarian menu, too.
- Also in New York, considering booking a Thanksgiving package at Langham Place, Fifth Avenue that includes a stay in the fab residence suites (I recently checked in and love them!), a traditional Thanksgiving dinner served in your suite, continental breakfast the next morning and more from $1,295.
- And hey, here's an idea - fill up earlier in the day (all the more time for football!) by scheduling a Thanksgiving Brunch with the family at the Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa in California. On the menu - sage butter-rubbed roasted turkey, marshmallow brulee and seared Atlantic salmon.
Thanksgiving doesn't have to be conventional, after all. As long as you're giving thanks, it's all good, I say. So go ahead - let someone else do the dirty work in the kitchen for the day.
Come winter - and even here in Florida we can feel it's on its way! - what makes for a warmer hotel welcome than a roaring fireplace to greet you in the lobby? Picture yourself cozying up by these fantastic hotel fireplaces that will roar the chill right out of the air:
- Smack dab in Soho in New York City, the Bowery Hotel's lobby, with access for hotel guests only, ushers you into the realm of the privileged with a vaulted Gothic wood-burning fireplace in the lobby surrounded by oversized chairs that just beg you to settle in and stay a while. Keep your eyes peeled for celebrities - they love this place.
- And also in New York City, hit the new Jade Hotel in Greenwich Village to relax in one of the comfy couches surrounding the fireplace in the hotel's sunken lobby. Grab a NY-themed book from the hotel's library cove to settle in and warm your bones.
- For a twist on tradition, cozy up around the adobe-beehive style fireplace at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. The southwest setting, with bright Navajo rugs and deep leather couches, looks like it's just begging for a cowboy to sidle up and warm up.
- Settle in for high tea at Sea Island on the Georgia coast, where butlers in traditional attire present scones and English Breakfast Tea around the lodge's roaring fireplace.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado gives guests a good reason to be the first snowboarders and skiers to hit the slopes this season - free lift ticks on opening day (Nov. 27 ). Just hit the resort's main ticket office in the Adventure Center to pick up your free lift pass for the day before heading to the lifts. And why not stay a few days afterwards, too, to take advantage of an early season lodging package being offered.
Located right at the base of the mountain, the Grand Lodge Crested Butte has early season packages that start from $79 per person per night to ski and stay in a standard king room from Nov. 28 through Dec. 17. Know more details on that package and browse this roundup written by a colleague of mine for info on tons of fun Crested Butte-area activities, from dog sledding to having dinner in a yurt.
Image courtesy Crested Butte Mountain Resort by Nathan Bilow
There's no place like New York City in December. Manhattan shines brightest during the holiday season, and whether you pop in for a night or linger longer it's pretty impossible not to be smitten by the spirit. Finding a hotel in a prime location can be difficult this time of year, though, and if you're still looking for a good one consider the new Hyatt Times Square, set to open its doors on Dec. 3. With 487 rooms in 54-story hotel, it's Hyatt's largest new build in over 30 years and will be the tallest Hyatt hotel in the world. Here are a few of the fun perks you can look forward to:
- No-line check ins - they do it all here via iPad, so you're in your room as quickly as possible
- Only 11 rooms per floor - even though it's a big hotel it still feels intimate
- Highest rooftop lounge in the city, with river-to-river views and outdoor fireplaces to curl up around with a hot toddy
'Tis the season - better book your room soon!
Image courtesy Hyatt Times Square
For the hotel room bargain hunter, there's nothing quite like scoring an inexpensive hotel room in a fine location in one of the world's notoriously pricey cities (Paris, Tokyo, London - we're looking at you). And it's actually easier than you'd think. CNN recently ran a fantastic roundup pointing readers in the direction of some pretty spectacular hotel finds in ritzy cities. Case in point, a $120 corner room with bay windows to let in all the light of posh Zurich, Switzerland at Zum Guten Glück guesthouse and a centrally located room in the Bastille neighborhood of Paris at the design hotel Hi Matic for $155 a night, with breakfast included. What's the best big city hotel bargain you've found during your travels? I'd love to hear...
Shopping valet. Tequila Connoisseur. Fireside Concierge. Those are just a few of the business-card-titles-cooler-than-mine commanding the spotlight in this story about Unique Hotel Jobs. Guest writer Terry Ward heard first-hand from some industry insiders about what their very unusual jobs entail. Read on to discover what previous experiences aid a successful Vibe Manager applicant -- a bonafide staff position at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego -- or to hear some of the demands expected to be met by a Cowgirl Concierge when she shows up for work at Arizona's Tanque Verde Ranch.
Have you ever heard of a particularly bizarre or unique hotel position during one of your stays? I'd love to hear about it...
Image courtesy Tanque Verde Ranch
For business travelers especially, there's so much to love about booking in at this modern Manhattan hotel (I'm looking at you, team of personal assistants on call to do everything from printing boarding passes to pressing dress shirts). And the Langham Place's central location on Fifth Avenue makes it ideal for visitors with shopping and sightseeing on their New York City agenda, too.
I recently checked in and got to experience Ai Fiori, the hotel's surprisingly affordable fine dining restaurant that just earned its first Michelin star, live jazz music at Measure restaurant and a perfectly intense massage at the Langham Spa (no, I could not love my job more). You can read my review to hear more about those experiences and my stay in one of the Langham's fabulous Residence Suites, decked out with full Miele kitchens, laundry facilities and far more closet space than most of my Manhattan friends dare dream of having.
Image courtesy Langham Place