For the Trusted Travel Experts on Wendy’s WOW List, spending the night in a hotel is serious business: They’re constantly scouting new properties in their destination and re-inspecting their past favorites to make sure they’re still up to snuff. Here are their favorites across North America:
Best for Pinching Pennies
The Garden Wing rooms at the Contemporary allow you to stay in the most expensive neighborhood at Disney—the coveted “monorail” line, which is the closest to the Magic Kingdom—without having the most expensive house on the block. By not paying the premium to have a lake view or a theme-park view in the main Tower building, you can enjoy staying at a deluxe resort in one of the best-priced rooms.
The Port Orleans French Quarter Resort is in Disney’s moderate category, but don’t dismiss it. This sweet Dixieland-themed property has only 1,000 rooms, so there’s less competition for space at the pool and the food court than at other mid-priced resorts, which can be twice as large. The kids will love the water slide, and the whole family will appreciate the direct buses to each of the parks and the option for a boat ride on the canals to Downtown Disney.
Families enjoy the Family Suites at the Art of Animation Resort. They can sleep up to six people, have two bathrooms, and are themed after Cars, Finding Nemo, or The Lion King. You also get a separate room from your kids! Rates start at about $270, which is a much better value than paying for two rooms. —Michelle Allen, Trusted Travel Expert for Disney
Best Pool for Kids
Families headed to Maui might consider the Grand Wailea, where the enormous pool deck is a kid’s paradise, with nine interconnected pools, four waterslides, caves, waterfalls, and even a rope swing.
Best for a Special Occasion
The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea has the best location on the island. Honeymooners appreciate the candlelit, beachfront restaurant and the adults-only Serenity Pool, while families can take advantage of the complimentary kids’ club. It’s one of the priciest hotels on the island but, at certain times of year, we can arrange for our guests who stay five nights or more to receive a $100-per-night resort credit. Unless you plan to spend a lot of time inside, don’t bother springing for a room with a full ocean view—you’ll be more than satisfied with a partial ocean-view. —Jay Johnson, Trusted Travel Expert for Hawaii
San Juan Islands, Washington
Best for Under $200 a Night
The Inn at Ship Bay is the best value in the San Juan Islands in summer: its water-view rooms cost just $195 a night. They are comfortable rather than swanky, but when you’re able to enjoy the view from your balcony—and then walk a few steps to the hotel restaurant, which is one of the island’s best—you won’t worry about the motel-style bathrooms. — Sheri Doyle, Trusted Travel Expert for the Pacific Northwest: Oregon, Washington, British Columbia
Best City Pool with a View
The Four Seasons has big rooms, great service, and a prime location one block south of the Pike Place Market. The heated pool is warm enough that you can swim outside in December, while you’re taking in the view of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains. The partial bay-view rooms are a good compromise, cost-wise, between the city-view and the full deluxe bay-view rooms. My preferred rates often provide substantial savings of $100 per night or more in the summer months. — Sheri Doyle, Trusted Travel Expert for the Pacific Northwest: Oregon, Washington, British Columbia
Utah’s National Parks
Best-value splurge hotel
Book one of the four suites at Cougar Ridge Lodge and you’ll have access to an exhibition kitchen where cooking lessons, wine tastings, and custom wine blending can be arranged; a roomy bar; a game room with a state-of-the-art simulator and a full-length bowling alley; and ATVs, horses, and bikes available for an additional cost (guests at the less expensive casitas that have recently been added to the property can’t use most of these features). The two suites on the north side of the lodge have private hot tubs; the two on the south side have access to a wrap-around deck that leads to a shared hot tub. The lodge is a half-hour drive from the entrance to Capitol Reef National Park, home to amazing rock formations, excellent hiking and road touring, fly fishing, and more.
Best for a Weekend Getaway
Head to the St. Regis Mexico City on a weekend, when prices are significantly lower. It has top-notch service right on Reforma, the city’s main thoroughfare, and it’s especially great for families, thanks to the kids’ program (in-room glamping!), indoor pool, and child-care services. — Zachary Rabinor, Trusted Travel Expert for Mexico
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Best Way to Make Lemons from Lemonade
Hacienda San Angel, a cluster of exquisitely restored villas in the hills above the historic center of Puerto Vallarta. After the triple hit of the economic crisis, swine flu, and the narco-media blitz, rooms are only a fraction of their 2008 prices. The San Jose, Vista de Santos, and Angel’s View Suites have even better views of downtown and the Pacific Ocean than do the more expensive Royal Suites. We can typically offer upgrades and special amenities, depending on season and occupancy. — Zachary Rabinor, Trusted Travel Expert for Mexico
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Best for Privacy Seekers
Hotel Esencia is one of the finest boutique hotels on the coast, with relatively uncrowded beaches, as it’s bordered by private homes to the south. Watch for third-night-free promotions, which give you a 33 percent discount over advertised rates. The super-personalized service makes you feel like royalty; you are, after all, staying in the former home of an Italian duchess. — Zachary Rabinor, Trusted Travel Expert for Mexico
British Columbia, Canada
Best Pool for Kids
Fairmont Chateau Whistler is an outstanding hotel with genuine hospitality and a ski-in, ski-out location at the base of British Columbia’s Blackcomb Mountain. It’s also my favorite place in Whistler to send families—the façade looks like a French castle, but it’s as-homey-as-can-be inside. My kids love swimming between the indoor and outdoor sections of the pool and sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows in one of the three outdoor hot tubs, while my wife and I appreciate the inexpensive meals we can pick up at Portobello Market, a kind of high-quality cafeteria. All of our travelers enjoy complimentary breakfast and room upgrades at the hotel.
Best Wilderness Sightings
As wilderness lodges go, it’s hard to beat the value for dollar you get at Sonora Resort, a Relais & Chateaux property in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands. Unlike other similar properties, Sonora doesn’t require a minimum stay, and its rates include the room, meals, and beverages, but you pay extra for the activities you want. And there are plenty to choose from: wildlife programs (where you can see whales, grizzlies, seals, sea lions, eagles, or dolphins), sea kayaking, fishing, snorkeling with salmon as Wendy and her family did last summer, or just hanging out at the fabulous spa. Our guests who book here get a complimentary two-hour wilderness excursion by zodiac. —Marc Telio, Trusted Travel Expert for Western Canada