Tag Archives: business travel

Symphony of Lights show, Hong Kong

Hong Kong Is A Great Place for a Layover: Here’s What to Do

Hong Kong’s exceptional public transportation system makes it easy to explore the city between flights; whatever else you do, taking in the skyline of this sky-scraping metropolis is a must. We asked the Hong Kong staff of Context Travel—a company on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts that runs cultural walking tours in cities worldwide—for their favorite ways to get a taste of Asia’s financial hub. Keep in mind that because of immigration, getting to and from the airport, and checking back in, you’ll need at least six hours between flights.

The Basics

How to get out of the airport:

Train: The best option is the Airport Express, which takes you to Kowloon or Hong Kong island in no more than 24 minutes. The platform is located in the main terminal building, just after arrivals, and is clearly signed. Trains depart every ten minutes from 5:50 a.m. until 12:48 a.m. A round-trip ticket is 100 Hong Kong dollars (about U.S. $13); purchase tickets by the platform before boarding the train or on arrival at your destination.

Taxi: The Airport Express is the quicker and more convenient option, but you can also take a taxi to Kowloon for approximately HKD $270 (about U.S. $35) and to Central for approximately HKD $320 (about U.S. $40).

What to do with your luggage:

If you haven’t checked your baggage through to your final destination, stow it at the left luggage counter on Level 3 of Terminal 2, which is open daily from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Prices are HKD $12 (about U.S. $1.50) per hour or HKD $140 (about U.S. $18) for the day.

If you have a 6-hour layover:

Context recommends allowing three hours for immigration, exiting the airport, and traveling to and from your desired destination. So don’t bother leaving the airport unless your layover is at least six hours long.

But if you do have six hours, you’ve got enough time to explore Kowloon Island and absorb the famous Victoria Harbor skyline. The best route is to take the Airport Express to Kowloon Station (about 20 minutes); from here, you can either stretch your legs on a 15-minute stroll to the Jordan district, or jump in a taxi for the five-minute ride (HKD $22 /U.S. $3). Here you’ll find some interesting markets selling anything from fish balls to your fortune to the newest gadgets. It’s a great place to soak in the bustling atmosphere and see today’s Hong Kong firsthand. Grab a bite to eat in one of the many tasty eateries in Jordan before walking down Nathan Road toward the harbor, where you can walk along the Avenue of Stars to see the city’s iconic skyscrapers. It’s a striking view day or night, and a great place to sit with a drink or an ice cream.

Head back to Kowloon Station on foot through Kowloon Park (25 minutes) or via a ten-minute taxi ride. If you find that you are ahead of schedule and have an hour to spare, head up to Ozone, the highest bar in the world—located 118 floors above Kowloon Station inside the Ritz-Carlton—for an impressive panorama before boarding the Airport Express to get you speedily back to the airport.

If you’d like a more structured interlude, Context Travel offers a three-hour Today’s Hong Kong walking tour of Kowloon Island. This allows first-timers to understand the social, cultural, and political changes that Hong Kong has experienced (and is still experiencing) since the 1997 British handover.

If you have a 9-hour layover:

A slightly longer layover allows you to head into the Central district and go up to Victoria Peak to admire the sprawling metropolis below. Take the Airport Express to Hong Kong Station (the final stop). Once you’re in Central, signage along the walkways will help you navigate to the “Mid-Levels Escalator,” which links different parts of the hilly city, from sea level to 443 feet high; take the escalator up to admire the bustling streets below. In the Central area Context offers a two-and-a-half-hour food tour; you could sample local delicacies, from dim sum to custard egg tarts.

Continue on your way up the escalator until you see a sign for Hollywood Road. Turn right down Hollywood Road toward Sheung Wan, and you’ll find yourself on an interesting street lined with antiques shops and ancient trees growing up the stone walls. Pop into Man Mo Temple, an interesting contrast to the financial center and towers surrounding it. Now it’s time to see Central and Kowloon from an outstanding vantage point: Victoria Peak. You could catch a tram, which leaves from the Lower Peak Tram terminus; however, the queues can sometimes be long, which may be risky during a layover. A safer bet is a taxi, which should take approximately 30 minutes each way and will cost about HKD $90 ($11.60). The top of the peak is the perfect place to soak up the view, walk off your plane legs, and grab a drink or a bite. When it’s time to leave, jump in a taxi back to Hong Kong station to board the Airport Express.

If you don’t have time to leave the airport:

The Hong Kong airport is a comfortable place to spend a few hours. There are a number of V.I.P. lounges that are free for business-class ticket holders; at some travelers can pay for a day pass. Terminal 2 is home to SkyPlaza and SkyMart (large shopping and restaurant areas), and there is even an IMAX cinema. For a bit of R&R, you can grab a foot massage or a spa treatment inside Terminal 1. Free Wi-Fi is also a plus, to help you pass the time or plan for your next leg of the trip.

An airport layover doesn’t have to mean that you’re stuck in the airport. In this series, local experts in the world’s most popular hub cities recommend sightseeing itineraries for every time frame.


More Layover Solutions:

Philadelphia Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Istanbul Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Tokyo Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Beijing Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle

London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR

Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Philadelphia Airport Layovers: The Best Way to Spend Them

An airport layover doesn’t have to mean that you’re stuck in the airport. In this series, local experts in the world’s most popular hub cities recommend sightseeing itineraries for every time frame.

With a name that’s Greek for brotherly love, Philadelphia is just waiting to welcome you for a few hours between flights. Philly has Colonial history, Revolutionary-era artifacts, and world-class art. Plus, it’s home to the main office of Context Travel, a company on Wendy’s WOW List that runs cultural walking tours in cities worldwide. So we asked them: How would you spend a layover in your own city? Here’s their advice:

The Basics

How to get out of the airport:

Taxi: Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is only a 20-minute cab ride from Center City Philadelphia. Line up at the taxi rank outside the ground transportation exit after baggage claim. The taxis have a flat rate of $28.50 (excluding tip) into Center City, and a $10 minimum for destinations closer to the airport.

There is rarely a lot of traffic between the airport and Center City. The exception is when a Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, or Sixers game is beginning or ending. Just ask a security guard or information desk attendant at the airport if any of these teams are playing at home when you arrive. If the answer is yes, opt for the train.

Train: The regional rail (SEPTA) runs every 30 minutes directly from all terminals of the airport into the city. The ride takes between 25 and 35 minutes, depending on which stop you get on/off, and costs $8 one way, $16 round-trip if you buy your tickets on the train, or $6.50/$13 if purchased at a ticket kiosk or window in advance.

If you only have a couple of hours and want to squeeze in more than a few stops in the city, opt for the more expensive cab ride. Not only will save you time getting into the city, but the taxi can drop you right at the doorstep of your first stop.

What to do with your luggage:

If you have luggage, you should make sure it gets checked through to your next flight before you leave the airport, or be prepared to carry it with you; PHL does not provide luggage storage facilities.

If you have a 4-hour layover

If you want to hit Colonial- and Revolutionary-era Philadelphia, we recommend taking a taxi directly to Independence National Park. From here you can get a close look at the Liberty Bell (but don’t wait in the insanely long line; its new home has huge glass walls, so you can see the American icon without wasting time) and Independence Hall, home to the signings of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. While you won’t have time for the full interior tour of Independence Hall, National Park Service rangers are always stationed outside to answer questions and give a brief history of the building. From here, wander south along 5th Street into the heart of the Society Hill neighborhood, past the American Philosophical Society, where many of the nation’s earliest intellects—think Ben Franklin and John Adams—established the country’s first “think tank.” The APS Museum’s galleries are free and open to the public, and rotating exhibitions display some of the most fascinating objects in American history, including Thomas Jefferson’s hand-written draft of the Declaration of Independence, and a notebook from Lewis and Clark’s exploratory journey. Cut east down Walnut Street, south down 4th Street, and duck into Willings Alley, one of the few remaining Colonial alleyways in the city. When you emerge on the other side, you will find Powel House half a block south (244 S 3rd Street), home to one of the most influential power couples of Colonial Philadelphia: Samuel Powel, the last mayor of the city under British rule, and his wife Elizabeth Willing.

If you have a 6-hour layover

Consider a 3-hour tour, with starting points just minutes from city train stations. You may want to pre-book an immersive exploration of the political, economic, and social strata of early Philadelphia with an expert on 18th century history, to find out what really brought about the first rumblings of the Revolution. Or experience the city’s world-class public art collection—second only to Paris!—through sculpture (think Calder, di Suvero, and Rodin), murals (more than 8,000), and mosaics with a contemporary artist on a brisk stroll from City Hall, at the very heart of Philadelphia, and up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. More art can be found in Albert C. Barnes’s whimsically assembled and displayed collection.

If you don’t have time to leave the airport

Head to Chickie’s & Pete’s (Terminals A-West, C, D, and E), a South Philadelphia favorite, for a beer and to catch a Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, or Sixers game with local fans. Or take a brisk walk across all of the terminals to see the Art at the Airport installations, featuring works by local contemporary artists.

More Layover Solutions:

Istanbul Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them
Tokyo Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them
Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them
Beijing Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them
Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them
Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle
London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR
Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Joe Brancatelli

The Secrets of Business Travel: Straight from Joe Brancatelli

In the new media landscape we live in, the unvarnished truth is harder and harder to come by. But business travel expert Joe Brancatelli always nails it.

I’ve interviewed Joe for dozens of articles over the years. Not only does he cut through the fog and BS that envelop so much travel coverage, but his advice is ageless. To this day, whenever I’m at an airport and want to find out how long my flight will really be delayed, I do what Joe taught me 13 years ago: Ask the gate agent, “Where’s the equipment?”   Why?  Because if you ask “When are we boarding?” they’ll say they don’t know or give the standard non-response “Just a few more minutes.”  But if you ask “Where’s the equipment?” it forces the agent to check the computer and find out what time the aircraft left its point of origin—which tells you how much time you really have. (Nowadays you could also use the FlightAware app to find out where your plane is. But using the jargon with the gate agent is more fun.)

If you don’t know Joe’s site, JoeSentMe, then you’re not taking advantage of one of the best travel resources in existence. His “home page for business travelers” is not just for frequent fliers; the links listed there are for any traveler who wants to make smart, well-informed choices on the road. His newsletters are so wise, so true, so depressing, so snarky…I never know whether to laugh or cry. I usually do both. They’re worth getting, if only so you’ll know how to cope the next time a winter storm or airline strike threatens to wreak havoc on your travel plans.

And then there are Joe’s Steals and Deals. He ferrets out the best business-class airfare and hotel values, filtering out all those phony deals and doing the math so that you don’t have to. Best of all is when he lets you know the moment the airlines’ unadvertised Thanksgiving and Christmas business-class airfare sales to Europe start.

But wait. Stop. Before you check out Joe’s site, check out the travel tips and truths he shares in our exclusive interview. You’ll probably laugh and cry—and collect some cool new travel strategies for your arsenal.


Job and Title:

Editor and publisher, JoeSentMe.com, a non-commercial site for business travelers. Also, business-travel columnist for the 47 Business Journals around the U.S.

Most memorable travel moment:

I’ve been on the scene when governments and ideologies have fallen. I once was one of just five people in the Sistine Chapel. Lots of stuff like that, of course. Virtually everything I know about the world comes from having had the ability to travel it on business. I had never been more than 250 miles from where I was born until I took my first business trip. But I guess I have to give the incredibly obvious answer: I met my wife in a restaurant in a shopping mall on a business trip to Honolulu. So, you know, nothing is more memorable than that. (By the way, the Thai food was also excellent at the restaurant.)

Most embarrassing travel moment:

Too many to count, but I’ll give you one from just last month. I was in Hamburg on a Sunday evening and hadn’t had dinner. Not much is open in Germany on Sundays, so I went to the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof–the busiest train station in Germany–and found an interesting little take-out noodle shop that seemed popular. I order my meal in German and the Chinese woman behind the counter wasn’t sure what I wanted. So I switched to English. Not much more success. She then looks at me and says: “Your German is bad. And your English is poor too.” I mean, that is cold… I didn’t agree with her, of course. My German is serviceable enough and my English, when I keep my Brooklyn accent in check, is quite good. But she surely gave me an emotional beat-down with my noodles. I can’t ever recall being more embarrassed than that on the road.

Name one thing people would be surprised to find in your travel bag:

Duct tape. It’s an all-purpose problem solver. It’ll hold together a broken laptop, help you do an instant hem, repair a rip in your luggage or a hole in your shoes. It’ll be an emergency bandage if you need one, and I can’t tell you how many packages I’ve shipped home from around the world that were secured with duct tape.

Touristy spot that’s actually worth it, and the trick to doing it right:

Oahu, I think. First-time visitors never leave Waikiki. Regular visitors to Hawaii insist Oahu is too touristy and go elsewhere. But if you head into downtown Honolulu, you’ll find an interesting little city with some marvelous turn-of-the-century Hawaiian architecture. If you head off to the North Shore, you’ll find scenery to rival anything on any of Hawaii’s other islands. If you surf, the waves are best off the beaches of Oahu, too. And if you insist on hanging around Waikiki, just walk a couple of paces to Diamondhead for a wonderful hike to the top of the crater. Each of the Hawaiian Islands has their unique charms and culture. But I think Oahu offers it all in one place.

Non-touristy spot people should add to their must-visit list:

I’m urban guy. I love cities. I tell people to go to Pittsburgh and their heads explode. But it’s a charming town that has found a life after its iconic industry (steel) long ago disappeared. The confluence of the three rivers is a natural marvel. The Duquesne Incline is one of the world’s great funiculars. Food’s good, people are sophisticated AND nice. The museums and attractions (they all seem to be named Heinz, Carnegie or Frick) are top-notch. It’s a quintessentially American city and deserves a better reputation and more visitors.

Name 2 indispensable apps you use when you travel:

Salk’s Airport Transit Guide is the first thing I consult when I visit a destination for the first time. It lists every possible way to get from the airport to the city center so you can make an informed choice. When it was a print product, I carried it in my bag. Now that it’s an app, it’s literally the first one I add to any new phone. And the PriorityPass app. I spend more time than I’d like in airports, and I never want to be without access to a private lounge. So I make sure I know where all the lounges are and whether I have access to each via one of my credit card programs or Priority Pass membership or simply have to lay out cash.

The travel gadget or gear that has saved your life…or your mind:

My Glaser Designs Stadium bag. I bought it 25 years ago and the leather-and-ballistic nylon duffel is not only indestructible, it looks as new as the day I purchased it. I use it for short trips, of course, but if I plan and pack properly, I can squeeze a week’s worth of travel into it and still hit the carry-on rules of the airlines. A Glaser Designs transaction bag is my primary carry-on. It is beautifully crafted and has been my trusted travel companion since before 9/11. (I’m probably the last traveler in the world who doesn’t own a bag on wheels.)

Choose any two travel-world bloggers and tell us the most important thing you’ve learned from each.

I was the original frequent-flyer program expert 30 years ago because I was literally the first person to cover them regularly. All of the travel writers of the day—whether they were leisure or business-travel oriented—were obsessed with planes and hotels and destinations. But I came to travel as a business reporter, and I saw instantly how frequency marketing was changing the travel equation. But as the programs became more intricately entwined with the airlines and hotels that sponsor them, I switched to covering them as part of the package, not as their own products. So when I read Gary Leff’s View from the Wing today, I know the kind of deep thinking and sharp analysis he puts into the frequency game. His strategies and tactics are almost always sound, and he has a wonderfully holistic approach to maximizing the value you can get with your miles and points. And that is saying something because the airlines and hotels have literally rigged the games for their own benefit.

I love reading Carol Pucci’s blog. Carol is a marvelous reporter with a reporter’s eye for detail and telling a good story. She’s a fun read; she goes to places I’ll probably never get to because I cover business travel, not leisure travel; and I learn from her coverage of those destinations. Even when she visits places where I have been, I find she turns up details that I missed.

Whose Tweets do you find the most useful and entertaining when you see them in your feed?

I only got onto Twitter as a service to JoeSentMe members so that I could push out breaking news to them before and after our weekly newsletter and time-sensitive alerts. But it turns out I learn as much from my members’ Tweets to me because they are working literally everywhere in the world and transiting at airports everywhere. They are quick to alert me to something new or untoward they’ve found on a flight, in an airport, at a hotel, or in a place where they are working.

Name one way the travel industry can do better.

There are a million ways for the travel industry to do things better. But most of the existing companies in the travel industry don’t really want to innovate. Especially now, with energy cheap and profits high. So if you ask what one thing can be done better, I’d have to default to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

The airlines have made their pricing specifically opaque and infuriatingly convoluted. And they do it to trick leisure flyers into paying more. (Airline pricing starts by being biased against business travelers because we are perceived as “must fly” customers and we are ALWAYS charged more.) But the DOT should regulate more and better disclosure of mandatory or de facto mandatory fees. I believe the DOT should require airlines to show more than just the “fare” because the fare today only covers the actual transit. Whenever airlines put a price on their website or in an advertisement, it should also be accompanied by the cost of checking a bag, choosing a seat, making an itinerary change, and (if applicable) carrying on a bag.

We even have a template for this. The food industry once claimed it could never rationally have a label that explained a product’s contents and ingredients. Well, they have them now and we know how many calories, how much fat or sodium or whatever, is in the package. The airlines should be required to post a grid along with every fare that includes the other basics. It’s not hard, it’s not complicated, and it would allow leisure travelers to make informed choices about the true cost of flying with a particular airline.

Look into the future and describe one aspect of travel that you think will be different in 20 years:

Failing a breakthrough on Star Trek-style transporters, I don’t think airlines will be all that much different in 20 years. Lodging, on the other hand, will be dramatically different. And I base that simply on how much the lodging experience has changed in the last decade.

As personal tech gets even better and cheaper, I can’t imagine traditional hotels and resorts putting TVs or phones in rooms for much longer. You’ll bring your own stuff and just plug into the Net for all your communications and entertainment. Lobbies will continue to evolve because guests won’t need the check-in/check-out/concierge facilities because that, too, will be handled electronically. And while hotels aren’t yet suffering from the growth of Airbnb and other “sharing economy” operations, I think it’s inevitable that chains will try to ape what travelers like best from these options. You might see mixed-use buildings where some people are permanent residents and others are transient guests. The lodgings themselves might feel more residential and more personalized. That’s what’s good about the lodging industry. It has always been more willing to change and segment itself to accommodate guests. Airlines, of course, require you to adjust to them.

Most effective thing you’ve ever said or done to get an upgrade or a special perk while traveling:

I know this will sound incredibly basic, but the most effective thing anyone can do to get an upgrade or a perk is simply to ask politely. Don’t act entitled or arrogant. Just politely inquire if there is a better seat or better room or better car available. You’d be surprised how often something better is available simply for the asking. And even if they are not willing to give you something for nothing, a polite inquiry will yield some incredible bargains on a suite upgrade or a better class of car.


To make friends, I always carry:

Mints. Has anyone ever declined a mint?





If you were in my car during a road trip, you’d hear me singing:

“You Don’t Have to Cry” by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

The airplane movie that, unexpectedly, made me bawl was:

American Beauty. I was so shaken up I had to get out of my seat and go hang in the galley with the flights attendants so that I remembered life is better than that.

When I travel, I’m not afraid of:

Any new circumstance.

But I am afraid of:

Not having done my homework and being unprepared for situations that I would logically expect to encounter.


Follow Joe on Twitter @joesentme.

Auberge du Jeu de Paume, Chantilly, France

Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle


Hi Wendy,

You have great suggestions for the best hotels for a London (Heathrow) stopover. Can you help with Paris (Charles de Gaulle)? We’ll be en route from Africa to California, landing at CDG in the mid-afternoon and departing at 10:30 a.m. the next day. We’ll be tired and would prefer to stay near the airport rather than going into Paris. (We’ve been lucky enough to have seen Paris many times.) But none of the obvious CDG hotel choices look that appealing.



Jane, I presume by “obvious CDG hotel choices” you mean the Sheraton Charles de Gaulle (Terminal 2), the Hilton Charles de Gaulle (Terminal 3), and the citizenM across the road from the Hilton?  I’ve stayed at the Sheraton—because it’s conveniently located at the entrance to the train station where you can zip into the city center—and you’re right:  There’s no real reason to stay there unless you want to pop into Paris for an afternoon and evening.

Here are four alternatives, suggested by one of my Trusted Travel Experts for France, Jack Dancy of Trufflepig, who until recently lived in Paris and is now based in Burgundy. 

1.  The Auberge du Jeu de Paume is an estate in Chantilly that is a 24-minute ride from the airport. It’s a Relais & Chateaux property with a two-Michelin-star restaurant and a brand new spa. “The rooms look onto the gardens of the Château de Chantilly, which is truly splendid and which, in fact, houses one of the largest French Masters collections outside the Louvre,” says Jack. “The town of Chantilly itself is very lovely. Chantilly housed the Royal Stables, and there is still a superbly picturesque race course in the town. You can visit the Royal Stables and the ‘Living Horse Museum’ quite apart from visiting the château and gardens. And nearby is the equally pretty town of Senlis, well worth heading to for lunch and a stroll.”

2. The Château d’Ermenonville, close to the town of Senlis, is also a 24-minute ride from the airport.  (Take a taxi or have the hotel send a car to the airport to pick you up.)  Located in a forest, it works “for a grandiose quiet night in a château complete with moat,”  says Jack.

Should you feel like a little exercise between long flights, Jack can send a guide, with bikes for you, for an afternoon of biking in the Senlis area, through rolling countryside and the royal hunting forests. That way you’re sightseeing and exercising simultaneously–a nice way to spend a stopover.

3. Should you want to pop into Paris after all, stay just inside the Périphérique (the city ring road), in the 18th arrondissement (Montmartre) or the 20th, since these locations are only a 20-minute taxi ride from CDG.  “I like the Hotel Particulier Montmartre,” says Jack. “You reduce your travel time to CDG compared to a downtown hotel by anything up to 40 minutes at high-traffic times (i.e., when you’re leaving for your morning flight back to North America).  For a one-night stay, it can be fun to be up in Montmartre in particular because people often don’t want to dedicate a whole Paris stay to that neighborhood, but for a final night are happy to be a little out of town, especially with the added benefit of an easy departure.”

4. If you opt for the 20th arrondissement, “to experience a less touristy part of town,” Jack recommends staying at Mama Shelter.  “From both the Hotel Particulier Montmartre and Mama Shelter, you can get directly onto the Périphérique, avoiding all city traffic.”

For imaginative travel solutions in Paris or anywhere in France, connect with Jack Dancy via this trip-request form (so he knows you’re a WendyPerrin.com traveler).

Enjoy your stopover!

United Airlines Business First class

How to Find the Best Flight with your Frequent Flier Miles


Wendy, is there someone you recommend to make airline reservations using frequent flier miles? I have a ton of United miles and American Express Membership Rewards points and am looking for someone to figure out the best way for me to use them. We want to fly to Europe this summer in business class.



Francis, I get this question at least once a week. There are a few mileage-award redemption advisory services, but I’ve always sworn by Gary Leff, whose Book Your Award service, geared to travelers who want to fly in first or business class, has been put to the test by thousands of my readers over the years.

Gary is the blogger behind View From the Wing, a co-founder of the frequent-flier community MilePoint.com, and a one-time hilarious guest in a Colbert Report skit. His partner at BookYourAward.com is Steve Belkin, another mileage magician and the founder of Competitours, an Amazing Race–type travel company.

I’ve known Gary and Steve for years. Between them, they can figure out any first-class or business-class mileage ticket you need, taking into consideration your personal requirements (date range, maximum number of stops, etc.) and your available bank of miles, credit-card points, and other loyalty-program points. (And they’ll help you find more if you come up short).

They know which airlines offer the best award-seat value for which destinations. They come up with flights and routes that require fewer miles than you thought you were going to have to spend or that provide a few welcome layover days in a destination you thought you’d have to skip. And, if that’s not enough, once you’ve used your miles, they’ll teach you how to replenish your bank for your next trip. Their flat fee is $150 per ticket. They’re also insanely busy helping people like you so, if you do reach out to Gary and Steve, tell them I sent you.

Rosewood Mayakoba

The Resort I Chose for My Working Vacation: Rosewood Mayakoba

We’d all like to spend our vacations blissfully unplugged, but the reality is that most of us can’t. TripAdvisor’s just-released Working on Vacation Survey found that 77% of U.S. respondents have worked on vacation in the past year, with 91% checking email and 42% creating and editing documents while on vacation.  I’m one of that overworked group, and that’s why I’m forever on the look-out for that holy grail of the 21st century:  An exotic yet close-to-home escape where I can accomplish two conflicting goals—work and vacation—simultaneously. When every second with your loved ones counts, you want a resort that enables you to be so efficient that your work cuts into your precious bonding time as little as possible. And, so that you don’t resent being tied to email, you need a desk with a view and a beach with Wi-Fi.

That’s why I chose Rosewood Mayakoba—on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, a 40-minute drive from the Cancun airport—for my family vacation this summer.  We just got back and, in fact, this was my third trip to Rosewood Mayakoba.  I’d gone twice alone on business for Condé Nast Traveler—see My New Favorite Tropical Beach Resort and 7 Special Touches That Every Hotel Should Have—and each time I could tell that the resort would fit my family’s needs perfectly. I finally made it back with Tim and the kids, and I was right: The combination of tropical jungle setting, wildlife, water sports, and a complimentary supervised kids’ club–all just a four-hour non-stop flight from home—meant that they could get a vacation they loved while I got what I needed as well.

Rosewood Mayakoba Beach Club pool

My 10-year-old playing (while I was working) at one of Rosewood Mayakoba’s three pools.

Here’s why Rosewood Mayakoba is a resort to consider when you’ve got no choice but to work on vacation:

* You’ll find free, fast Wi-Fi on the beach, at the pool, and everywhere else.

Cocktail while working

Deadlines go down better with fruity cocktails.

I’ve been to a lot of tropical resorts and have spent untold hours wrestling with tech hassles.  But at Rosewood Mayakoba there’s Wi-Fi throughout the property, indoors and out. You need log in only once, upon arrival, and you need never enter a password. It just works, wherever you go. (The resort’s butlers carry iPads and use the Wi-Fi system too.)


* There’s even Wi-Fi in the car that picks you up at the airport.

This means that upon landing in Mexico, during that dead time between airport and hotel, you can use your phone to check email without worrying about expensive roaming charges. (To avoid such charges throughout your stay at Rosewood Mayakoba, keep your phone in airplane mode and keep your Wi-Fi turned on.)


* When you’re too busy to leave your room, you can still enjoy a pool.

plunge pool laptop

Each room is a freestanding suite-style bungalow that comes with a private plunge pool.

Need a quiet space for a conference call?  You can seal yourself off from noisy kids by closing the door to the living room or bedroom, or you can move to your terrace or even your plunge pool.


* You get a desk with a view.

Should you opt for working in the air-conditioned indoors, the only thing separating you from a water-and-palms view is floor-to-ceiling glass.


* There’s a never-ending supply of complimentary coffee and fruit to sustain you.

Rosewood Mayakoba fruit

Every room comes with a bowl of fruit that is replenished daily.

Each room has a Nespresso machine too—and unlimited complimentary bottles of water.


* The supervised kids’ club is free and open every day from 9 to 5.

Rose Buds

My boys loved the counselors in the Rose Buds kids’ club.

Yes, there’s someone to watch your kids so your spouse can get a well-deserved break. My boys are now 10 and 12 and, even though the Rose Buds children’s program is used mainly by younger children, they enjoyed it enough to spend quite a bit of time with the group, taking ecotours in the lagoon, painting ceramics in the clubhouse, etc.  After signing them in to Rose Buds once—at the start of our stay—I never had to leave my desk to sign them in or out again. They could come and go as they pleased—and, of course, they were old enough to wander around the resort on their own.


* Each guest gets a bike.

bike path

My 12-year-old heading to breakfast.

Each bungalow on the sprawling property is connected by winding “roads” designed for walking, biking, or riding in golf carts. This means you live in serene seclusion, yet there’s no long walk to wherever you need to go (e.g., the beach club, the spa, the sushi restaurant) because you can zip there by bike. Even when I had to work all day, I still got precious family time during our morning family bike rides to and from breakfast.


* The resort’s app saves you time. 

Wherever you are on the property, you can use it to check the menus in the restaurants, order room service to be delivered at a particular time, or ask your butler (yes, butler) for help with whatever you need.


Now, I’m the first to acknowledge that Rosewood Mayakoba is a splurge. The price of an entry-level “room” (again, a freestanding bungalow with a view of water and palms) ranges from $465 in low season (July–September) to $675 in high season (approx. December 15–April 15).  My family went in low season—specifically, August, when the weather was surprisingly lovely (breezy, with little rain, and not much hotter or more humid than New York City). The resort was kind enough to provide complimentary accommodations to my family; I paid our airfare, meals, activities, and other expenses.  In keeping with my standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on Rosewood’s part, nor was anything promised on mine. This truly is one of my favorite resorts—for either a family or a romantic couple (it works equally well for either)—which is why I’m writing about it: I want to make sure you’re in the know.  As mentioned, this was my third trip to the resort, so I feel confident I can give you a fair evaluation of the experience.

I have a lot more advice to share based on my trip, including why going in August is a smart idea (hint: it’s the perfect moment to swim and snorkel with whale sharks), so stay tuned, but meanwhile, if you have any questions, feel free to ask below.