Tag Archives: hotels

Sunset over Vancouver Airport’s Fairmont Hotel.

Why Extend a Long-Haul Trip for a Stay at an In-Airport Hotel? We Tell You.

Have you ever extended a long-haul trip so you could take a travel respite along the way? My list of favorite, strategically located airport hotels—either as a first welcome to the countries I’m visiting, or as a way to savor the journey if headed to somewhere beyond—is growing. That’s because airport hotels are changing to better suit the needs of more demanding travelers.

It used to be that the price you paid for the convenience of lodgings near your airport was a basic experience, nothing more. Today, there are more full-service options that are just a shuttle bus ride away. However, despite the so-called convenient location of these hotels, the shuttle bus experience has not, by and large, received an upgrade. When I was at the Westin Los Angeles Airport last fall, I waited some 25 minutes for the shuttle, and the ride included stops at other hotels along the way. It was an extra hour in transit that I had not planned for.

Lobby's sunken lounge in TWA Hotel, JFK Airport.

The sunken lobby lounge in the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport. Photo: Teijo Niemela

Here’s what’s interesting. In a welcome evolution of near-the-airport hotels is a category that incorporates lodgings that are actually attached to a terminal—or a short walk away.
Better yet, many of them, like the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport, the Sofitel at London Heathrow, and the Grand Hyatt at Dallas Fort Worth, are not only full-service but also offer extras like beautiful spas, top-notch restaurants, and rooftop pools.

Carolyn in the TWA Hotel's pool looking at the parked airplanes.

Our reporter, Carolyn, in the TWA Hotel’s rooftop pool.  Photo: Teijo Niemela

These hotels are not meant to replace a stay in the city center, no matter how easy it can be to hop on a train or bus and be downtown in minutes. More importantly, they serve as a comfort point on a long-haul trip, when you’re just passing through. On a recent connecting flight to Korea’s Incheon International Airport, a stay at the Dallas-Fort Worth Grand Hyatt had a great view of the airfield—and a good meal and great rest broke up the tedium of the 13-hour-plus commute to Korea. When headed to the U.K. this spring for a trip to the Isle of Wight, a post-red-eye sleepover at the Sofitel London Heathrow, which has marvelous restaurants and a gorgeous pool and spa, was a great way to adjust my time clock and rest up for the journey ahead.

The indoor pool at Sofitel London Heathrow.

The pool at the Sofitel London Heathrow. Photo: Sofitel London Heathrow

Since in-airport hotels are accustomed to guests arriving at all hours (they tend to staff up on housekeeping for longer stretches and can flexibly turn a room around), they may not be as restrictive about check-in times as normal. It helps to have status at the property you choose.

And one more tip: Make sure the in-airport hotel you choose is close to the terminals you are flying in (and out of) or that it has easy train service between them. When flying home from the Isle of Wight trip, I chose the Hilton Garden Inn instead of my favorite Sofitel, simply because I was flying out of Terminal 3.  (The reward? The lovely property had a fantastic rooftop bar with indoor and outdoor views that spanned all of Heathrow.)

One other thing about walkable airport hotels: You will likely pay extra for the convenience. For me, it’s worth it.

The gold studio room at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel.

The gold studio room at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport. Photo: Fairmont Hotels

Some of the best experiences we’ve had in our travels included breaking up a long flight to Africa via a 15-hour layover at the Oryx Airport Hotel at Hamad International in Doha. We loved the spa and the lengthy pool, and, because we were in transit, we dined elegantly at the Al Mourjan Business Lounge. The added advantage: The hotel is located airside, so there’s no need to go through security again when catching your connecting flight.

Other favorites on long-haul travels include the Hilton Helsinki Vantaa Airport, when we’re headed to the Nordic countries or onward to Asia. The Crowne Plaza Changi Airport in Singapore, the Hilton Munich Airport, and Amsterdam’s Hilton Schiphol Airport are also super-comfy and located within, or an easy walk from, the terminal. You’ll find more top airport hotels here, listed by region.

Not every international airport has caught on to this trend. On a recent trip from the Caribbean island of St. Maarten to Philadelphia, tough connections meant a night at the Miami airport. Mind you, I’ve long used the Pullman Hotel outside the perimeter as my go-to spot. Last year, on a rushed trip with a bad connection from St. Maarten that gave me six hours overnight at MIA, I opted for the in-terminal option. Indeed, the Miami International Hotel, in the airport’s E Concourse, was a disaster. Its in-bathroom sink had a big hole in it (the water poured onto the floor). Carpets were moist, there were threadbare towels, and, frankly, I didn’t feel safe. Never again.

Fortunately, this has been a rare disappointment. Which makes me wonder: Do you have a favorite hotel that offers respite from long-haul flights? Or is there one we should avoid? Tell us about it in the comments.


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The Post Office cabin at Stevenson Ridge in Spotsylvania, Virginia

How I Choose Hotels for Road Trips During Covid

We slept in this historic cabin in Spotsylvania, Virginia, just a few miles off I-95 and close to Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield.
Stevenson Ridge is a wedding and events property, but with no weddings or events happening, we saw nobody there during our overnight stay.
Stevenson Ridge has nine 18th- and 19th-century cottages and cabins set around a pond.
There's Tim relaxing in our cabin. That's a wood-burning fireplace.
In a pandemic, it helps to have a dining table for take-out food.
The hotel left us a doggie blanket, bowls, and treats for our dog.
There's a better view of the kitchen area.
Stevenson Ridge calls this cabin "The Post Office" because it was rumored to be an in-home post office.
Those steps lead upstairs to the loft bedroom.
Here's the loft bedroom.
We also really appreciated the hotel's contact-less check-in and check-out process. We felt safe.
Tim was very impressed with the 19-inch-wide boards, a sure sign of the cabin’s age.


A coronavirus-related change in my travel M.O. that won’t change back, once this pandemic is over, is how I choose hotels for road trips. No longer will I settle for soulless highway chains where I must wait in a lobby line, squeeze in close to others in an elevator, or sleep in a room with an iffy ventilation system and windows that don’t open.  Instead, I’ll choose old-fashioned inns with separate cabins or cottages. These give you a private entrance, windows and sometimes balconies that you can leave open for fresh air, a kitchen area and/or dining table for when you bring in a take-out dinner, and often a contact-less check-in and check-out process as well.  Researching hotels for road trips lately, I’ve been surprised by just how many such hotels with cottages or cabins exist out there. And I’ve been thrilled by how they can turn an otherwise tedious highway trip into an escape to a different world.

Here are three ways to find such places along your route (and I realize that these strategies might work better on the East Coast, where I am based, than out West):

Pinpoint historic areas you’ll be driving through and look for traditional inns there. Pull up your route on Google Maps and zero in on older accommodations near historic landmarks and parks. Such traditional establishments often have cottages, as well as outdoor dining on porches and in gardens.

Look at wedding venues along your route. There are many charming estates used for weddings that have a main house and separate cottages—and, because weddings and other events are not happening nowadays, these places are empty. You can look up wedding properties by state and region on websites such as theknot.com or wedding-spot.com.

Search for waterfront lodges and inns near your route. Look on a map app for any rivers, lakes, and other waterways—as well as marinas—you will be passing. You’ll often find hotels with standalone waterfront cabins, as well as outdoor dockside dining, with socially-distanced tables and a fresh breeze. Even if you’re not sleeping there, you can enjoy lunch al fresco with a view.

This past week, when I needed an overnight stop for a road trip south on I-95, I found a place that fit all three criteria.  I decided to look near Fredericksburg, Virginia—because it’s a historic city with several Civil War battlefields nearby.  I punched “historic hotel cabins cottages near Fredericksburg Virginia Civil War landmarks” into Google, to see what options might pop up within reasonable distance of my driving route, and found Stevenson Ridge, a few miles off I-95, near Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield.  It’s a wedding and events property, with nine cabins and cottages from the 18th and 19th centuries set around a pond.  I phoned the hotel, asked which cabin might be particularly suited to two travelers with a dog, and booked the cabin called The Post Office, rumored to be a former in-home post office.

Check-in/check-out was touchless from start to finish:  All the paperwork was done by email, our key was in our room when we arrived, and throughout our stay we never came close to, or even saw, another human being. The spacious and comfortable two-room cabin cost only $175 for the night (plus $25 for our dog) and was so atmospheric that we almost felt like we were sleeping in a museum exhibit. With our dog!

Enjoy the slideshow of what we discovered so close to a major highway, and if you have any similarly pandemic-friendly hotels to recommend near interstates, please share them in the comments so we all can benefit.


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covered gazebo dock stretching into lake in tennessee at Blackberry Farm resort

How One Family Is Doing Multigenerational Travel During Covid

This traveler got this trip by starting with The WOW List. For a safe, smart, extraordinary trip, go to The WOW List, find the best destination specialist for you, then click his/her CONTACT button to reach Wendy’s questionnaire.


In pre-Covid times, Susan and David Nethero traveled about once a month, both for pleasure and for work. They’d usually fly: India, Africa, the Caribbean. But in these times, the Atlanta-based couple has switched to locations reachable by car, as a safer alternative and so that they can spend time outside the stress of the city with their grown children and young grandkids. Until now, Mrs. Nethero told us over the phone, “The number of times we’ve taken road trips in the last ten years is maybe four or five—not many.” That M.O. has changed this summer. She and her extended family recently returned from two getaways that they tried to make as safe as possible. We were curious how they did it and what their experience was like.

First, a note: While we at WendyPerrin.com do not encourage travel at this time, we believe it is possible to travel responsibly during this pandemic. We have done so ourselves—and we trust our community of global citizens to make smart choices for themselves and the people they’ll encounter. While most travelers want to wait until there is a vaccine for their next trip, some have asked us to help them travel safely and responsibly now—and we are happy to provide the intel and support they seek. We answer their questions every day at Ask Wendy. And we request their post-trip feedback as part of our effort to provide you with a realistic and useful view of the travel landscape right now. Thank you to Susan Nethero for talking to us about her family trips and sharing information we know will be useful to other travelers.

Why did you want to travel now?

Eight of us were supposed to go skiing in March in Salt Lake, and that had to be canceled. Then we were supposed to go to the Turks and Caicos in May, and that had to be canceled too. So everyone was chomping at the bit to go somewhere. That’s why we went to Blackberry Farm in Tennessee in June. They had just opened back up again, so there were a few restrictions on services, but it was a great experience, and they accommodated us in every way. [Editor’s note: In fact, the Netheros enjoyed it so much that Susan and David are headed to its sister property, Blackberry Mountain, at the end of August.]

What did you enjoy most at Blackberry Farm?

I thought this was extraordinary: They arranged for private counselors for our grandkids because their usual camp was suspended—and they did that for free. The kids made tie-dye shirts and milkshakes and did really fun things. And at night, Blackberry Farm arranged for babysitters so the kids didn’t have to sit through a long dinner and drive their parents crazy. The babysitter took them out in a golf cart, introduced them to the cooks and everyone in the kitchen, and they made cookies.

And we did two experiences. First, we did a farm experience where we fed the goats and lambs and picked eggs out of the chicken hut. Blackberry Farm raises high-end dogs too, and they had a whole litter, so we got see these amazing puppies. We also did a nature experience, and that was even more fun: We put on tennis shoes and went in a stream with a naturalist. We saw baby trout and had little nets to catch crawdads and fish. Then we walked up the stream and they showed us wildlife all around the stream. Those kinds of nature experiences are always really illuminating.

They kept surprising us. For instance, when they brought our car back to us, it was washed and all vacuumed out.

When we came back from that trip, we thought: What are we going to do for Fourth of July?

Were you looking for another place you could drive to?

Yes. We reached out to a travel specialist whom Wendy had recommended to us to see if there were some attractive driving trips we could take on the Southeast Coast.

Within minutes we received about five different ideas. They recommended a place in the Florida Panhandle, but we had been seeing pictures of all these kids on the beach and we thought that looked scary. We wanted privacy. Another option was Sea Island in Georgia, but we’d been there before. Another idea was The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, in South Carolina, but they didn’t have our dates available, housekeeping won’t come into the room to clean during your stay, and they were giving people time slots at the pool.

Then we remembered we had stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, one time, so we asked about it. And even though it was Fourth of July and it was last minute, they were able to get us an oceanfront suite.

Were you worried about going to Florida?

If you looked at where the coronavirus issues were in Florida, it was more in the south, west coast, and Panhandle, so we were isolating ourselves a bit.

Who traveled with you to Florida?

Eight total: David and me; David’s brother and his wife; our adult children; and two grandchildren (ages 5 and 1).

“The people at the Ritz can’t do enough for you,” said Susan Nethero. Photo: The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

What was the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island like?

You would have thought the whole place would be filled, given it was Fourth of July weekend, but it was not full.

At the hotel everybody wore masks. We felt completely safe, even though we were using the elevators. They had a spa and we walked in one morning and they were able to accommodate us, and we had one of the best facials we’ve ever had. Their adult hot tub and sauna were not open, but we understood that. They were just trying to be safe.

They had activities for the kids that were really cute, and overall we felt like the social distancing was pretty good, except it was hard at the pool. At the pool there were tons of kids and dogs—a lot of dogs; we were surprised. We used the beach quite a bit, and if we said we needed five lounge chairs, they’d have it all set up waiting for us, and they put a good amount of distance between groups. Even when we went in the water, we had space. They did room service and the rooms were immaculate. We did bike rides and there was no extra charge for the bikes.

They have a five-star restaurant, and it had a limited schedule, but they were able to get us in for a five-course tasting meal that felt like ten courses because they kept bringing us more stuff.

We had chocolate on our pillow every night, and another time the GM came over and talked to us about what it’s been like for them. The people at the Ritz can’t do enough for you. There wasn’t anything we asked where they weren’t like, “Sure, we can work that out.”

Did the dining and social-distancing measures feel safe?

For breakfast, they had a buffet set out, but they had people serving it to you, so that was a nice way to do it. They opened up an area so that more people could sit outside. On the Fourth of July, they attempted an outdoor BBQ, but when they got some weather reports and thought they might not be able to manage the flow of traffic, they canceled that. Instead, they set up a BBQ you could order from the table.

Every night they had s’mores down at the beach. It was not very crowded. There were a lot of children there too. I will say—and we experienced this at Blackberry too—that guests moved up the time of their eating because they ran out of things to do.

Guests wore masks at the Ritz. At Blackberry Farm they didn’t, but that was back in June, and we were outside and distanced so much there. At Blackberry, they had a family pool and spa pool. And whenever you walked into a building you put on a mask. The rooms at Blackberry are cottages—not attached to anything. So we took two side-by-side cottages that were joined in the middle for our daughters, and my husband and I took a separate cottage.

What are you thinking about next?

We did ask our WOW List specialist if she could look into the new Aman resort in Nevada. My husband and I are not worried about flying—although we certainly wouldn’t go to a hot spot like Los Angeles—but the Aman is another three-hour drive from either Phoenix or Las Vegas.

We would be glad to travel to the Caribbean islands, but they have restrictions and testing, and God forbid you end up there and you get tested and it turns out you have it. Do we want to get quarantined and stuck there? But it’s problematic in the U.S. too. Like, we even thought, let’s drive to New York—but it’s a long way, and they’re clamping down on visitors.



We can help you figure out how to safely plan your own trip and direct you to the right travel specialist for your needs. Write to us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Two teenage boys with masks on in business class of a United airplane during coronavirus

Our First-Hand Accounts of What It’s Like to Travel Now

Like many of you, I am certifiably stir-crazy right about now. I live in New York City, and I haven’t ventured farther than six miles from my apartment in four and a half months—and that’s just on long walks. So last Thursday, I found myself in the same boat as all the other grounded travelers who showed up for our latest Zoom chat: eager to hear aboutthe essential trips that Brook, Wendy, and Wendy’s husband, Tim, recently took. Not only because I am starving for some vicarious travel, but also because I want to hear reliable first-hand accounts from people I trust—experienced travelers who pay attention to the kinds of details and questions I’ll have when I’m ready to travel again myself. That’s the whole point of our Zoom chat series—to cut through the noise and share the travel intel that’s most relevant to you…and, we hope, soothe some of that restlessness and stoke future dreams of safe adventures.

If you didn’t make it to our “What It’s Really Like to Travel in the U.S. Now” Zoom chat, we’ve collected some of the highlights and tips below. Don’t miss our next get-togethers. On July 16, we’ll talk about smart family travel (including some of our favorite past trips and what those might look like going forward); and on July 23, air travel experts will forecast the near-future of flying. Sign up using our RSVP form, where you can also let us know what other chats you’d like to see and how we can help keep your travel brain inspired until you’re ready to hit the road again. In the meantime, stay safe! —Billie

What it’s like: In the car

Sunrise in Spartanburg, S.C. Road Trip, Wendy Perrin Covid-19

Sunrise in Spartanburg, South Carolina, June 23, 2020

Wendy: “It used to be that on a road trip, the place you stopped to get gas was the same place you got snacks and used the restroom. Now those three things need to be done in three different places. The convenience stores attached to the gas stations had ‘mask required’ signs but no one complied. So instead we used the bathrooms at state welcome centers—they were clean, spacious, and often touchless. To get food, we went to drive-throughs or found out what restaurants were ahead of us on the highway, then we’d call ahead and do curbside pick-up.”

Read more

What it’s like: At the airport

Two teenage boys walking through empty TSA airport security during coronavirus

The normally packed security lanes at Newark airport were empty when Tim flew. Note the social-distancing markers on the floor.

Brook: “I had to hand over my boarding pass and ID, I was not able to scan those myself. There were big jugs of sanitizer before and after, and all staff was wearing masks. It was easy to social distance at the airport. It didn’t have that empty apocalyptic feeling but it was noticeably empty, so it was easy to stay away from each other. I told my son to keep his hands in his pockets to keep him from touching anything.”

Tim: “At Newark airport we wore gloves because we knew we’d be going through security and handing papers to people. Once we got through, we took our gloves off because they’d gotten all sweaty. The airport reminded me of a casino at ten in the morning: Yeah, there are a few people there, but it’s pretty empty and not the same scene.”

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What it’s like: On the plane

Two teenage boys with masks on in business class of a United airplane during coronavirus

Because of the layout of this 787’s business-class cabin, Tim felt the last row was the safest.

Brook: “My parents bought us business class. That’s not normally how I travel, but we all felt the financial investment was worth it. My son and I flew United on a 757 with the upgraded Polaris class, so the seats were separate private pods. I originally chose the last row of the cabin to be farthest from the flight attendant and closest to the door. But when I got to the airport, I spoke to the gate agent (through Plexiglas) and had him move us to a row that was otherwise empty.”

Tim: “We also splurged on business class—in a United 787—and took the back row so we could be the last on the plane and the first off. We never walked past anyone; we just got on and got in our seats. We did not use the lavatory. We wore masks and also tried goggles. They didn’t work very well; they fogged up. So on the return flight we wore Face Shields in addition to the masks. Leaving the plane, everyone got up and wanted to leave at once. So even though the plane was only a third full, that final moment was problematic and made us uncomfortable.”

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What it’s like: Getting to/from the airport

empty Avis car rental lot at SFO airport San Francisco California during coronavirus

SFO’s normally full Avis rental-car lot had very few cars available.

Tim: “In California, we had reserved a rental car at SFO. There were five people in front of us at Avis, and two people behind the counter, and it took us an hour and a half to get our car. First they said they had no cars available. (Apparently they’re selling off some of their fleet.) Then they said it was taking longer to clean the few cars they do have. So factor in a lot of time when picking up a rental car. Also, leave more time for air trains; they may be running on a slower schedule.”

Billie: “I’ve taken five rideshare trips over the past few months in NYC. Four out of five times, the driver had installed a protective barrier between the front and back seats (usually a custom-fit Plexiglas wall, but one time it was a taped up shower curtain), and in every case, the drivers opened the windows and were patient while I wiped everything down before I got in. Lyft and Uber both require that passengers and drivers wear masks. If you’re not wearing one, the driver can refuse to let you in and cancel your ride; likewise you can cancel the trip for health safety reasons if you are not comfortable.”

What it’s like: At hotels

Flamingo Resort hotel clean and dirty jars for pens during coronavirus

The poolside bar at the Flamingo Resort separated used pens (for signing bar bills) from unused ones.

Tim: “For our nights in Santa Rosa, we picked an older hotel I’ve known for years (The Flamingo Resort) because it had an upstairs balcony with a sliding glass door, and we knew we could keep that open at night, to keep the room ventilated. I gave Charlie a pack of wet wipes, and he wiped everything down (the rental car too). The TV remote was already in a plastic bag, but we wiped it down too. We left the windows open, and did not have the staff come in while we were there. Having the balcony worked out well. We put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door the entire time we were there, and I would go find Housekeeping and trade in towels. Everyone inside the hotel wore masks, but around the pool everyone took them off and stayed socially distant. There were also about a dozen dogs around the pool, which was interesting.

Then we spent a week camping in the Mendocino National Forest. I was pleasantly surprised how militant they were—even at the little general store deep in the woods—about masks and social distancing.”

Read more


Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Hotels Adapt to the Covid-19 World with New Cleanliness Campaigns

Hotels around the world are introducing myriad branded campaigns to reassure guests that they’re taking steps to protect them from the coronavirus outbreak. Some are testing out robots as housekeeping staff or creating rooms that clean themselves. Most, though, are doubling down on the basics. From international five-star boutique brands to near-ubiquitous domestic chains, many hotels and resorts are announcing inspiringly-named plans to expand their cleaning procedures and re-evaluate guest interactions.

While opening dates, guest limits, and legal regulations vary by country and state, there are many similarities among these plans, such as more frequent overhauls of public areas, wipes and sanitizer stations throughout properties, sealed plated meals, digital check-ins, and the removal of pens, remotes, and other shared items from rooms. But the most notable commonality is that hotels want them to be highly visible to guests. The hope is that if visitors can see proof of cleanliness—and understand the steps being taken by staff members in that vein—they’ll feel reassured. That’s why most have branded their protocols with a strong-sounding name, partnered with globally respected public-heath advisers, and publicly detailed their plans on their websites.

Below, we’ve compiled many of the safety and sanitization programs introduced by major accommodation brands around the world. As of yet, there is no global certification process for cleanliness; however, some countries have introduced voluntary certification programs, and we’ve listed those too.

It remains to be seen how well any of these plans will actually be carried out at each individual hotel—so please let us know in the comments what you’re finding at these properties if you stay at any of them.


Accor (which includes Banyan Tree, Delano, Fairmont, Orient-Express, Raffles, and Sofitel)

Th Accor group unveiled its newly branded ALLSAFE standard, developed in conjunction with Bureau Veritas (a 200-year-old international company that specializes in testing, inspection, and certification). A detailed description of the ALLSAFE standards are available on Accor’s website; they include measures such as providing guests with sanitizer, wipes, and masks; guest temperature checks; front-desk partitions; contactless check-ins; capacity limits in bars and restaurants when re-opened; and mandatory staff training at each property. Accor has also partnered with AXA insurance to provide telemedicine consultations and access to AXA’s network of medical professionals.

Aman Resorts

Aman has partnered with Diversey (a company that specializes in sanitation and maintenance products and services) to enhance its cleaning procedures based on guidelines from the World Health Organization, as well as from the local authorities at each location of their 37 international properties. The company promises increased staff training and thorough sanitization, although specific protocols may vary from property to property based on a country’s rules and guidelines.


Anantara resorts are one brand in the Minor Hotels company based in Thailand, where the Tourism Authority of Thailand has launched a certification process (see below). These plush properties vow to up their sanitization efforts, social distancing plans, and contactless services (including airport transfers, check-in, dining, and fitness), and are consulting with Ecolab, a U.S.-based water, energy, and hygiene technology services company, on new procedures. In keeping with the culinary experiences and cooking classes that have long been a signature part of the Anantara brand, properties are also focusing on immunity-boosting cuisine.


Avani, like Anantara above, is part of the Minor Hotels group. In addition to digital check-in and check-out, Avani is setting up sanitization processes for luggage and incoming supplies. It’s also looking into sanitization technologies, such as UV sterilization and copper anti-viral coating for keys and other high-touch items, and HEPA-grade air purifiers. After room-turnover cleaning, each room will be sealed for a 24-hour waiting period before the next guest can check in. Avani has also said it will review its third-party partners (transport, tour services, etc.) to make sure they meet the brand’s standards. The number of guests at gyms will be limited and socially distanced, and there will be a mandatory waiting period between groups. As for staff, the procedures vary by country when it comes to frequency of temperature checks; in general, masks are required. In a lighthearted twist, Avani is encouraging its workers to decorate and personalize their masks, an initiative it is calling “Smile Through the Heart.” You can download a PDF of all the new rules in this AvaniSHIELD program here.

Cleaning of Canopy Hilton Hotel, Friday, April 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo by Will Newton

Some hotels, like Hilton will provide post-housekeeping seals on doors and the ability for guests to open their rooms with their own phones. Photo: Will Newton/Hilton

Best Western

Best Western says it has been using UV sterilization wands to clean high-touch items in rooms since 2012, as part of its I Care Clean program. The COVID-19 upgrade to this plan is called We Care Clean. In addition to increasing social distancing in public areas and at check-in, the program outlines specifics such as: Removing unnecessary items like decorative pillows and bed scarves from guest rooms and instituting a waiting period of 24 to 72 hours between guests during which the room (and even its hangers) will be disinfected. Read the full plan from Best Western. Best Western is also one of several hotel brands that has agreed to follow the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s (AHLA) new initiative for best practices in the U.S. hotel industry (see USA, below).

Four Seasons

After repurposing the Four Seasons New York into accommodations for healthcare workers, the brand is implementing changes across its properties via the introduction of its Lead With Care program, with input from Johns Hopkins Medicine International. The details include a hygiene officer at each property, hourly cleaning of public areas, rooms disinfected daily, a-la-carte restaurant service with digital menus, health-focused employee training, and in-room amenities kits with masks, sanitizer, and wipes. The program is overseen by a special COVID-19 Advisory Board, made up of hotel leadership and representatives from Johns Hopkins Medicine International.

Hilton (which includes Conrad, Curio, Embassy Suites, and Waldorf Astoria)

Launching in June, Hilton’s program is called CleanStay with Lysol protection. As the name implies, the effort is in partnership with the makers of Lysol and Dettol (a company called RB). Staff from the Mayo Clinic’s Infection Prevention and Control team will serve as consultants on quality assurance, training, and new approaches. In addition to what’s becoming the standard safety upgrades (e.g. contactless check-in, guest-accessible disinfecting wipes in elevators and other high-traffic spots, more frequent cleaning of public spaces), Hilton will also introduce its CleanStay Room Seal on guest-room doors, to indicate to guests that no one has entered the room since it was cleaned. That cleaning is said to be upgraded too, with a focus on ten high-touch areas for disinfection (remote controls, handles, light switches, etc.) and the removal of amenities such as pens, paper, and guest directories. Hilton is made up of 18 brands, which have a total of more than 6,100 properties.

Hyatt (which includes Andaz and Park Hyatt)

Hyatt’s plan, called the Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment, sees the chain working with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council to earn GBAC Star accreditation. This quality mark—overseen by a branch of ISSA, the cleaning industry’s global association—denotes facilities (hotels, medical facilities, planes and trains, schools, and more) that meet high standards for cleaning, disease prevention, professional training, and public safety. By September 2020, every Hyatt property is supposed to have at least one trained Hygiene Manager onsite to enforce these new protocols, which will include enhanced and more frequent sanitization, hospital-grade cleaning supplies, protective masks worn by staff, and social-distancing guides in public areas.


The Langham Hospitality Group’s list of safety steps includes more frequent disinfecting of public areas (especially elevator buttons, door handles, and handrails) and sanitizer dispensers or bottles added to high-traffic areas. They’ll also be taking temperature readings of all staff before each shift and requiring guests to fill out a form detailing their recent travels. In restaurants and bars, chefs will wear face masks and single-use disposable gloves, tables will be disinfected between diners, and all public surfaces (e.g., door handles, reception desk, credit card machines) will be sterilized every 30 minutes. Spas and fitness centers will implement disinfection every half hour, sterilization of spa equipment after each guest and again overnight, and temperature readings for all spa guests (along with a health declaration form), and there will be no more hot or cold towels handed out.

worker using electrostatic sprayer to clean hotel escalator for coronavirus covid safety

Marriott is one of several hotel brands introducing the use of electrostatic sprayers to disinfect high-touch surfaces. Photo: Marriott

Marriott (which includes Edition, Le Meridien, Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, and Westin)

At its more than 7,300 properties around the world, Marriott says it will be using electrostatic sprayers to disperse CDC- and WHO- recommended disinfectants on high-touch surfaces and public areas, testing UV light technology to sanitize room keys, increasing social distancing by removing or rearranging furniture in lobbies, adding hand-sanitizer stations throughout properties, providing staff with gloves and masks, and offering contactless check-in and room service via guests’ phones. The initiatives will be overseen by the new Marriott Global Cleanliness Council, comprised of hotel staff and various experts, including an infectious disease specialist, a food microbiologist, a food-and-water-safety specialist, and the head of Purdue University’s School of Hospitality & Tourism Management.


After closing its domestic properties in March, MGM Resorts will begin reopening on June 4 with the Bellagio, New York-New York, and MGM Grand and the Signature. The brand’s strategy is simply called the Seven-Point Safety Plan, and it outlines employee temperature checks and health screenings (and self-screening for guests); mandatory masks and PPE for employees and a request that guests wear masks in public spaces (provided free of charge); physical distancing through floor guides, Plexiglas partitions, and signage; heightened cleaning procedures, sanitization of high-touch surfaces, and the addition of hand washing stations; reviews of heating and air conditioning systems to ensure air quality; new response protocols if a guest or staff member is sick (in addition to medical personnel on staff); and digital amenities such as contactless check-in and digital food menus for guests’ personal phones. When it comes to how to keep guests safe in MGM’s casinos, they’ll be asked to limit their drinking and completely avoid eating—in order to minimize the time when they’re not wearing masks. You can read the full details of the plan on the MGM website.

handwashing stations at MGM Resorts hotels for coronavirus safety

MGM Resorts will install hand-washing stations like these mock-ups. Photo: MGM Resorts

Montage International

Montage announced a two-pronged approach to easing any covid-related stress a hotel guest might feel. In terms of housekeeping, they say they’re increasing the frequency of sanitization and deep cleaning for high-touch areas; incorporating electrostatic sprayers and UV wands into that effort; introducing social distancing design in restaurants, bars, lounges, gyms, pool areas, and other public areas; and providing hand sanitizer and facial coverings to all guests. The other prong is virtual medical care: Montage has partnered with One Medical to provide each guest with a 30-day membership to One Medical’s digital health services via video chats, messaging, and an app. (The hotel group’s U.S.-based staff will each receive a year-long membership.)


The “Omni Safe & Clean” initiative follows CDC guidelines and American Hotel & Lodging Association recommendations (see USA, below). Those include contactless services, single-use room amenities, plated and individually sealed foods, public areas (including pools and spas) marked and re-arranged for social distancing, and housekeeping seals placed on rooms after each cleaning. Each of the brand’s properties is also supposed to adhere to local and/or federal mandates as required.


Partnering with Ecolab and Diversey, and following guidance from the CDC, WHO, and local authorities, Rosewood has rolled out its Commitment to Care Global Health and Safety Program. Lobbies, public bathrooms, elevators, and other public spots should see increased cleaning and disinfecting, and air filters and air conditioning systems should get more frequent treatment too. Rosewood is exploring new sanitization technologies such as electrostatic sprayers, foggers, and ultraviolet-UVC light. When legally allowed, guests and staff will have their temperatures screened when they enter the hotel. On the inside, guests will benefit from contactless services (check-in/check-out, in-room dining) and receive amenity kits with face masks, wipes, and sanitizer.


Sandals beach resorts have instituted Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness, an 18-point plan that starts when guests land at the airport: The usual Sandals and Beaches private arrival lounge will now have hand sanitizer and complimentary mask, and the private-vehicle transfer will be stocked with more PPE and sanitized between trips. When they get to the resort, guests will have their temperatures checked (anything 99.5 degrees or less gets you the green light). From there, they will see assurances of cleanliness such as daily replacement of all linens, post-cleaning seals on the doors, and bellmen/butlers who spray disinfectant on both sides of door handles when leaving the room. Bathrooms will be cleaned every half hour, restaurants will have hand sanitizer at entrances, pool chairs will be sanitized daily and separated by six feet or more, and guest temperatures will be checked again before they can use the spa or fitness centers. If anyone is not feeling well, there are medical personnel onsite.


Following recommendations from the CDC, Shangri-La has posted a list of the ways it is approaching COVID-19 safety. Some examples: Each guest’s laundry will be handled in individual packaging, public washrooms are cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectants, guests are asked to fill out health and travel-plan forms, incoming luggage is disinfected, temperature screenings take place at entry points, limos are disinfected between each use, special disinfectant floor mats are placed at entries to clean people’s shoes, and all pools, whirlpool baths, saunas and steam rooms are closed.


Wyndham is one of several hotel brands working with the ALHA (see USA, below) to create and follow best practices for the U.S. hotel industry. Specifically, they have drawn on the expertise of Ecolab, a US-based water, energy, and hygiene technology services company, and the CDC to launch its Count on Us program. This means that all of Wyndham’s 6,000 U.S. properties should be introducing measures such as handing out wipes with room keys at check-in, placing complimentary travel-size hand sanitizer in each room, providing more frequent cleanings, and increasing social distancing in public areas.



In April, the home-sharing service announced it would be launching two tools that hosts can use to safeguard their rentals for guests. Both are optional. One is the Airbnb Cleaning Protocol, a learning and certification process for hosts that recommends enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Guests will eventually be able to identify the listings enrolled in this program via a call-out on the website. Hosts who don’t opt into the Cleaning Protocol can use the Booking Buffer, which enables them to block out a 24- to 72-hour waiting period between guests. (The CDC recommends a 24-hour waiting period between guests.)


Similar to Airbnb, the vacation-home-rental service VRBO is trusting its hosts to provide safe environments for their guests. To make that easier, VRBO (which is owned by the Expedia Group) is providing hosts with info on cleaning and disinfecting based on information from the WHO and CDC and created in consultation with the Vacation Rental Management Association (a trade association) and Cristal International Standards (a quality-control company for the hotel industry). Hosts can then showcase their cleaning processes and safety measures on their listings pages (e.g. if they use disinfectant to clean or if check-in and check-out is contactless).


Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism just announced a “safe and clean certification program” for tourism businesses including hotels, malls, and more. The specifics and standards of the process have not yet been released, but hotels will be the first group to undergo certification, followed by other tourism attractions and organizations.


Although Britain isn’t ready for travelers yet (and Prime Minister Johnson recently announced a 14-day quarantine for incoming visitors), its national tourism arm, Visit Britain, has already announced it is developing a quality mark to denote hotels and other tourism sites that adhere to certain COVID-19-related safety standards. What those standards will be has not yet been decided.


The national tourism board of Portugal, Turismo de Portugal, launched a “Clean & Safe” certification for hotels and tourist sites on April 24. To earn the validation, the hotel (or other company) must sign a Declaration of Commitment to certain hygiene and cleaning processes informed by the country’s Directorate-General of Health. Participation is free and optional, and Turismo de Portugal will carry out audits of those who opt in.


The Singaporean government has created the SG Clean certification. Hotels, restaurants, hawker centers, shopping malls, and cruise terminals that adhere to a list of criteria will earn the quality mark, and many already have. You can see a full list of all certified establishments at sgclean.gov.sg.


The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has announced a certification plan called “Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration: SHA.” To earn the certification, establishments must adhere to COVID-19 safety standards set by the Ministry of Health and other official public-health institutions. The process and criteria are currently being established and will focus on ensuring hygiene and sanitation while also maintaining local culture and interaction between communities and tourists.


The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) is the industry trade group for hotels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and hotel management companies. Based on input from the CDC, the hotel industry, and experts in medicine, science, and public health, the organization launched the Safe Stay initiative, a set of suggested standards aimed at making U.S. hotels safe for guests. The best practices include enhanced cleaning methods, social-distancing policies, and the use of approved sanitization supplies. Although Stay Safe is a voluntary program for now, you can check the AHLA website to see which hotels are choosing to adopt it. The ALHA’s goal is to change U.S. hotel industry norms and create an official certification process.


This article was originally published May 22.

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empty beach and pier at Sandals Montego Bay

Is This Hotel Safe? Smart Things to Ask About Before Making Plans

By this point in the coronavirus lockdown, the thought of getting out of your house for longer than the time it takes to go to the socially distanced supermarket probably sounds like pure heaven. But the prospect of checking into a hotel may not be exactly the Eden you’re dreaming of. The good news is that all over the world, hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals are starting to roll out concrete plans and procedures for making their properties as safe as possible, and we expect these efforts to set a new standard for the industry…eventually.

In the meantime, if you are starting to think about a future trip, whether it’s for this summer or next year, there are questions you’ll want to ask the hotels you’re considering so that you can make an informed decision about how comfortable you’ll feel during a stay. Here are five areas to investigate before making any hotel plans:

Rooms that open to fresh air

When Wendy had to take an essential road trip from New Jersey to Georgia (as detailed in “What a Road Trip During Coronavirus Is Really Like”), she looked for hotels where fresh air could flow freely through the rooms. “Your best bet may be older hotels that have either freestanding cottages or rooms with balconies where you can leave the balcony door open, letting in fresh air throughout the night,” she wrote. “Look in areas where you might find historic inns or sprawling old-fashioned resorts with individual bungalows.”

Contactless guest services

Check-in. Room service. Requests for more towels. During any hotel stay, there are so many points of interaction between guests and staff—so make sure the hotel you’re choosing has options for avoiding or limiting these. Some, like Marriott, are going so far as to enable all of these services via your own phone. Others, like MGM Resorts and Accor hotels, are installing partitions at the front desk.

Masks, gloves, wipes, and sanitizer

Not only should you check if the hotel staff are required to wear masks and gloves (and whether they are provided with that equipment), but also check if these items are available to guests too. Four Seasons is introducing in-room amenities kits with masks, sanitizer and wipes. Wyndham hotels are handing out wipes at check-in with your key and stashing complimentary travel-size hand sanitizers in each room. Still others will make masks available for free when guests ask for them; so find out the policy and whether that equipment is actually in stock before you arrive.

Public areas

You’re likely to see more hand sanitizer and wipe-dispensing stations in hotels’ public areas (MGM Resorts properties are even adding hand-washing stations)—and that’s what you want. It not only shows that the company is making an effort and following established public-health recommendations, but it makes it easy for guests and staff to comply—and that keeps everyone healthier. You’ll also want to find out how your hotel is handling potentially crowded areas, such as the front desk (Are there partitions? Social-distancing signs and marks on the floor?), fitness centers or spas (Are they open? If so, are guests being temperature-checked before entering? What is the disinfecting process between users?), and elevators and public washrooms (How frequently are they being cleaned, and with what materials?). Don’t forget to ask about shared cars that are being set out for airport transfers and other guest chauffeur services. Shangri-La hotels disinfects limos between each use and limits the guests who can share a ride. What is your hotel (or the third-party service they use) doing in that regard?

Guest-room cleaning

Your hotel room will truly become your sanctuary in a group environment like a hotel, so find out how it’s being safeguarded for you. How often will it be cleaned? With what type of materials and technology? Hilton has started using a CleanStay Room Seal on room doors, to reassure guests that no one has entered the room since it was cleaned. In many hotels, the whole cleaning process has been upgraded too, with a focus on sanitizing high-touch areas and items (remote controls, handles, light switches etc.); the removal of amenities like pens, paper, and guest directories; full changes of linens every day; the testing of UV sterilization wands; and possibly even electrostatic sprayers to disperse disinfectant. Ask for details about what your hotel’s cleaning staff will do in your room.

Restaurants and bars

Depending on the country and state, a hotel’s restaurants and bars may or may not be open—so that’s your first question. If they are open, how is the hotel handling food safety? Four Seasons, MGM, and many other hotels now have digital menus accessible from your own phone. If a restaurant is open, it will likely have capacity limits, and you’ll want to ask how that will work and whether they’ve rearranged furniture to keep people apart. Ask about the kitchen staff too: What protective gear are they required to wear, and what new safety procedures have been implemented to keep food safe? We’ve heard of properties offering plated meals in sealed packaging, more packaged to-go options, and expanded room service menus and timing. Keep in mind that not all hotels are closing their buffets and breakfast rooms, and that while they are likely reconfiguring how those communal dining areas work, the decisions will vary by location because of local, state, and country regulations.

Pools and beaches

Pools and beaches are two of the biggest draws for a warm-weather getaway, especially if you’re traveling with kids. And the good news is that the current CDC advice says, “There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas. Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.”

So first things first: Find out if they’re even open, because some hotels are keeping those public areas off limits. If the water areas are open to guests, inquire about the safety precautions being taken. For instance, at Sandals resorts, beach and pool chairs are being placed six feet apart and sanitized every morning, and again after guest changeovers. Will the hotel you’re considering do something similar? Ask them about their plans to handle social distancing, the sanitization of chairs, and interactions with pool/beach attendants. Are they limiting the number of guests who can use pool or beach areas at one time? And if so, how will reservations work for those slots? Keep in mind that access to public beaches, and whether you can actually sunbathe or linger on them, is dictated by state, county, and local directives, so research the latest info on state and locality websites.

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Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka

This Beach Resort Figured Out How to Connect with Local Culture

The beach is only a small slice of the experience at Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka.
The beach is only a small slice of the experience at Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka.
fishing boat at Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Local fishermen deliver fresh-caught fish to the beach daily. Hotel guests help pull in the boat.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The hotel has a “coconut guru” whose job is to climb to the tops of 100-foot-tall swaying palms, prune them, and cut the coconuts down. It’s like watching a circus act. He does it daily. He’s the most physically fit 57-year-old I’ve ever seen.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The “coconut guru” brings his haul to the pool, where the coconuts are chopped open and served with straws as poolside drinks.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The zoo comes to you. Monkeys roam freely—and they’re very entertaining. One night we left our balcony door open while we were out, and a monkey broke in and filched the bananas from our fruit basket. (The other fruit was left strewn all over the floor.)
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The hotel has a fleet of tuk-tuks for taking guests wherever they want to go in and around Tangalle.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
One of the resort’s chefs took us to the pier in Tangalle to show us the fish market where he shops for seafood.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The boats here are extremely heavy. My sons were drafted into helping the fishermen at the pier haul their boat ashore.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
On the roads it’s not unusual to encounter a herd of water buffalo, or a flock of ducks, or sleeping dogs, or an entire family on a motorcycle.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
The chef took us to rice paddies and vegetable markets so we could pick up supplies for a cooking class. He picked fruit off roadside trees so I could taste it and try to guess what it was. This was tamarind (which I never would have guessed). It was pretty tart.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Back at the hotel, with the ingredients we’d bought at the markets, we had our cooking class and learned how to whip up lunch Sri Lankan-style. The number of spices they use in each dish is impressive.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Coconuts are a big part of Sri Lankan cuisine, and this is how you grind one.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
We loved Kanishka, our resort’s resident “experience guru.” He’s thoughtful, caring, and very proud of his country. He knows everyone in the area, so he was able to introduce us to the variety of people we asked to meet.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Kanishka took us to temples so Doug could get info for a school project on Buddhism that was due about a week after our trip.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
This is how you get to the 3rd-century temple that sits atop a 670-foot-tall rock.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Atop the sacred rock temple, Doug received a blessing.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
In one village, Kanishka introduced us to a family who invited us into their home so we could see how they live. We left them with a few dollars (enough, it turns out, for rice for their family for a month) and a couple of Luci Lights—inflatable, solar-powered, re-usable lights that last a long time and never need batteries.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Bath time at the lake.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
When we were curious to see how the local ceramic pots are made, Kanishka took us to visit a family of pottery makers. These women demonstrated how to throw a pot and showed us their kiln. We asked to buy this pot with a broken lid. They begged us to take one with a perfect lid, but we preferred this one with character.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
There were a lot of kids in the pottery makers’ family compound. Charlie brought smiles when he picked up their hula hoop.
Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
After long days of adventuring, it was nice to come back to our hotel beach for things like this private candlelit dinner.



All too often, big beach resorts wall travelers off from their country’s culture. That’s why many of us opt for small inns and guest houses, assuming they’ll make it easier to dive into the local scene.

When I was headed to Sri Lanka, though, small inns were not going to cut it. Not with teens in tow and Wi-Fi for work a necessity. We needed a pool, a beach, easy food options, and other conveniences and facilities that are hard to find in a developing country—unless you’re at a big luxury resort. At the same time, we refused to be trapped in a bubble; we planned to spend most of each day adventuring around Sri Lanka and immersing ourselves in the culture.

Luckily, we ended up with the best of both worlds—on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, at the Anantara Peace Haven Resort, built on a former coconut plantation in Tangalle. It was such an unusual blend of comfort and authenticity, in fact, that I’m writing this article in hopes that other beach resorts will take note and get inspired.

Opened in December 2015, the Anantara in Tangalle is one of the first big beach hotels ever to be built in Sri Lanka, a still-unspoiled tropical-island nation that has suddenly become hot and, consequently, suddenly has plans for a wave of hotel construction over the next few years. That’s why I wanted to go now—before the country gets overbuilt. Our goal was to see lush landscapes, taste exotic flavors, get close to wildlife, visit villages and temples, and meet as many interesting people as possible—all during my children’s one-week school break.

Anantara made all of this happen and more—because it’s on a mission to serve as a gateway to the local culture. To see how, click through the slide show above and on the videos below. And if you’re thinking about a trip to Sri Lanka yourself and looking for advice, click to Ask Wendy.

Every morning local fishermen arrive on the beach at the Anantara Peace Haven Resort to deliver their catch. Guests help pull in the boat and choose the fish they’d like the chef to prepare for them later that day.

Since the kids love wildlife, the resort arranged an excursion to an elephant orphanage and to Udawalawa National Park. Check out this elephant who gave himself a bath mere feet from us.

This colorful vegetable market sits on the road between Tangalle and Udawalawa National Park. Note the absence of other tourists—something we experienced a lot in Sri Lanka. I’m glad we went when we did!


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

pool view at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort mexico

Where Was the WendyPerrin.com Team Last Week?

This year’s Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit was held at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort, a beachfront all-inclusive in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The large complex consists of three sections (Zen, Ambassador, and the adults-only Grand Class), and we got to experience all of them, along with the resort’s eight restaurants and its spa. Lest you think we were slacking off amid all these palm trees and decadent meals, rest assured that we didn’t spend more than a few minutes at the beach. Contrary to the vacation vibe of the photos below we actually spent all our time working with the Trusted Travel Experts of the newly announced 2017 WOW List to make your next trips even better. But thanks to invigorating panel discussions with our extended team, and the hospitality of the Grand Velas staff, this busy weekend was still a lot of fun.

Here’s a tour of what Wendy, Brook, Jill, and I saw, did, and ate while we were there.

A room in the Zen building of Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

A room in the Zen building of Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Billie Cohen

The first night, we all stayed in the Zen building, which has no beach access and is set amid the mangroves. Even though Zen has the smallest rooms of the resort, they are still quite large, have big bathrooms, and boast outdoor patios overlooking plenty of greenery. Tip for families: There are more connecting rooms in this building, and the kids’ club is here (a teen club is located in the Ambassador section).

Grand Velas Riviera Maya hat and basket Mexico

A big floppy sunhat and a pretty woven beach basket. Now if only I had time to lay out on the beach. Photo: Billie Cohen

The resort has plenty of the usuals when it comes to amenities: L’Occitane soaps and shampoos, loofahs, and a free mini bar (this is an all-inclusive after all). But the perks I was most surprised by were the beautiful woven sun hats and beach bags. Handmade nearby in Leon, Mexico, out of 100% cotton coated with resins and enamels, the glam hat has a super wide and wavy brim—very helpful for keeping the sun out of your eyes and any paparazzi at bay. The hats are complimentary for VIP guests and those staying in Presidential Suites; the bags are in every room and are free to use during your stay. Both are available for purchase at the resort’s boutiques.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya cenote Mexico

A real cenote was incorporated into the hotel’s grounds. It’s now fed by an irrigation system and swimming is not allowed. Photo: Billie Cohen

The rooms are accessed via a raised, covered wooden walkway that makes you feel like you’re deep in the quiet jungle. There’s even a restored ancient cenote (though you can’t swim in it).

The Zen pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

The Zen pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Billie Cohen

You’re not too remote from the resort’s amenities, of course—a few minutes’ walk takes you to a very pretty multi-level pool, the casual restaurant Chaká, or the spa. A shuttle van zooms guests over to the beach (maybe four minutes away), and it was our experience that we never had to wait more than a minute or two for a ride.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya herb garden in Mexico

Mint, verbana, and other herbs for the resort’s restaurants are grown right here. Photo: Billie Cohen

The hotel grows its own herbs for use in its various restaurants. Stroll along a path that winds past the Zen pool and you’ll find a miniature-golf course and a greenhouse.

Trusted Travel Experts share their best practices for helping guests have extraordinary trips.

Trusted Travel Experts share their best practices for helping guests have extraordinary trips. Photo: Tim Baker

Zen is also where the conference center is located and where we spent most of our time. The resort hosts many weddings too.

grand class suite at the grand velas riviera maya mexico

Wendy’s Grand Class suite. Photo: Wendy Perrin

A Grand Class suite terrace at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort

A Grand Class suite terrace at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort. Photo: Wendy Perrin

pool view at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort mexico

The view beyond Wendy’s laptop, at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort. Photo: Wendy Perrin

Ambassador and Grand Class are the resort’s two beachfront buildings; the main difference is that Grand Class is adults-only and the rooms are slightly bigger and have private plunge pools. But the Ambassador pool is the largest pool; it has many chaise longues, some in the sun and some comfortably under palapas. White-shirted servers wander around making sure you have drinks and snacks, and the Azul restaurant (which hosts a huge breakfast buffet) is on the left in the above photo.

colored rice in shape of WendyPerrin.com logo at grand velas riviera maya hotel Mexico

I came back to my room one night to find our website’s logo, made out of rice! Photo: Billie Cohen

Knowing who we were and why were there, the resort staff went out of their way to make us happy, with surprises like this one: our logo made out of colored rice that showed up on the beds one evening, and our logo on the telephone screens. But even random staffers I passed in random hallways stopped what they were doing to say “buenos dias” or help me figure out where I was going.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Bistro food, Mexico

Even a simple vegetarian sandwich with fries was delivered to our table like a work of art. Photo: Billie Cohen

Guests can eat at any of the eight restaurants on site, ranging from the casual buffet of Azul to the AAA four-diamond, French-influenced menu of Piaf. Tip: Wine and cocktails are included in your room rate (though some wines and liquors cost extra), and so is room service…which tastes even better when eaten on your beachfront terrace.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Frida restaurant Mexico

Named after the artist Frida Kahlo, the Mexican-themed restaurant Frida does pretty well in the art department itself. Photo: Billie Cohen

All of the restaurants have two things in common. First, as soon as you sit down, a server will ask about any food allergies so that the chefs can customize your meal (and they did a good job of this; I am vegetarian with several food sensitivities, and I ate pretty well). Second, all of the food presentation is just beautiful. The chefs here take the “eat with your eyes first” mantra very seriously, and plates were artfully composed and then decorated with swoops, drizzles, and dots. Not that any of that beauty kept us from eating. The food was sometimes fussy (and the multi-course, molecular-gastronomy tasting menu of Cocina de Autor was hit or miss) but, for the most part, the food was very good.

taco and tequila tasting on the beach at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

Right around sunset, the hotel arranged a tequila and taco tasting on the beach. It was a nice way to end our summit. Photo: Billie Cohen

Over the course of the weekend, we had the chance to experience a few special activities that the resort can arrange for guests or groups. One was what they call “Picnic in Paradise,” a gourmet lunch on the beach—but it rained the day ours was scheduled, so all the charcuterie, sandwiches, and cakes were moved to a presidential suite. We did get to experience a taco-and-tequila tasting on the beach, however: a sprawling buffet of savory Mexican treats, including grasshoppers, and a table each of tequilas and mezcals. This was a hit.

spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya is designed to look like a cenote. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

Brook tested out the spa. She reported back that the private men’s and women’s sections of the spa were designed to look like a cenote, the water-filled sinkholes that this part of Mexico is known for.

spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico. Photo: Brook Wilkinson Photo: Brook Wilkinson

She took the spa’s signature “water journey.” Recommended as a complimentary service before any spa treatment, starts with a circuit of showers, saunas, and steam rooms.

The spa hot tubs at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

“The water journey ends with plunges in the side-by-side hot and cold jetted tubs,” Brook reported back. “The better to get your muscles primed for that massage.”

ocean view from a suite at the grand velas riviera maya mexico

View from Wendy’s balcony. Photo: Wendy Perrin

Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know. 

A Tip for Finding Cheaper Hotel Rates

We recently heard an interesting hotel hack from a reader, about how to find cheaper rates: Sometimes if you make two separate back-to-back reservations, it’ll turn out cheaper than if you book one. Here’s what our reader Jerry Huller had to say:

I subscribe to Wendy’s newsletter and want to pass on a travel tip: If staying at a hotel over a long weekend, consider pricing individual nights to see if you can get a cheaper rate.

My wife and I are planning to stay at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa, CA, in April. On the hotel website, I priced a three-night stay arriving on a Friday and leaving on a Monday. The price was $252.10 per night (for a View King room with the AAA rate). Then I decided to price just the Sunday night and found a price of $234.10 per night for the same type of room. Then I went back and priced just the Friday night and Saturday nights, and got the cheaper rate of $234.10 per night. Then I went back and priced all three nights and again got the higher rate of $252.10 per night.

It’s cheaper to make two back-to-back reservations than one three-night reservation.

Have you ever tried this?  Let us know if it worked, and share your own hotel tips below.


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.

Serenity Pool at the Four Seasons Maui.

Best-Value Hotels in North America’s Hot Spots

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:

Disney World

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

Read Michelle’s Insider’s Guide to Disney World, Orlando, and contact her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Maui, Hawaii

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

Read Jay’s Insider’s Guide to Maui,and contact him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

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

Read Sheri’s Insider’s Guide to the San Juan Islands, and contact her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

The Four Seasons Seattle

The Four Seasons Seattle. Photo courtesy Steve Sanacore.


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

Read Sheri’s Insider’s Guides to Seattle, and contact her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Utah’s National Parks

The Castle, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Photo: National Park Service

The Castle, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Photo: NPS Photo

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.

Mexico City

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

Read Zach’s Insider’s Guide to Mexico City, and contact him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

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

Read Zach’s Insider’s Guide to Puerto Vallarta, and contact him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

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

Read Zach’s Insider’s Guide to the Riviera Maya, and contact him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

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

Read Marc’s Insider’s Guide to British Columbia, and contact him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

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.

Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia

These Four New Lodges Offer a Rare Glimpse of Northern Namibia

Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia
Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia. Photo: Tino De Njis/Namibia Exclusive
Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia
Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia. Photo: Tino De Njis/Namibia Exclusive
Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia
Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia. Photo: Tino De Njis/Namibia Exclusive
Omatendeka safari lodge, Namibia
Omatendeka safari lodge, Namibia. Photo: Greg Wright Architects/Namibia Exclusive
Omatendeka safari lodge, Namibia
Omatendeka safari lodge, Namibia. Photo: Greg Wright Architects/Namibia Exclusive
Elephants at Namibia's Xaudum Lodge
Elephants at Namibia's Xaudum Lodge. Photo: Namibia Exclusive
Namibia's Xaudum safari Lodge
Namibia's Xaudum Lodge. Photo: Greg Wright Architects/Namibia Exclusive
Namibia safair. Photo: Olwen Evans/Namibia Exclusive
Sheya Shuushona safari camp, Namibia
Sheya Shuushona safari camp, Namibia. Photo: Piers L'Estrange/Namibia Exclusive
Sheya Shuushona safari camp, Namibia
Sheya Shuushona, Namibia. Photo: Piers L'Estrange/Namibia Exclusive


A newcomer to the safari scene is making some of Namibia’s wildest country accessible with the opening of four small luxury lodges in remote northern regions. The lodges, designed by architect Greg Scott and constructed of native materials, are surrounded by spectacular scenery—boulder-strewn desert, red sand dunes, soda lakes. Far from conventional tourist routes, they provide rare access to such treasures as a river valley that is home to the endangered black rhino and a national park populated by some 3,000 elephants.

Namibia Exclusive Safaris is the brainchild of Vitor Azevedo, a native Angolan who came to Namibia as a refugee at age 12. Its mission extends beyond wildlife conservation and includes helping pastoralists and small farmers live sustainably on their ancestral lands. The company has developed equitable partnerships with local constituents organized into conservancies, and its programs give visitors a unique glimpse into the lives of people such as the Damaras, pastoralists who speak a click language. The first lodge, Sorris Sorris, opened in August 2015.

Perched atop granite boulders in a rocky desert landscape, Sorris Sorris has only nine guest rooms (like all the lodges), an outdoor pool, and panoramic views of the Ugab River and Brandberg Mountain, Namibia’s tallest peak and the site of hundreds of rock paintings. The river’s ecosystem provides habitat for the black rhino, the desert elephant, and the desert-adapted lion. In addition to nature drives, sightseeing here is done by hot-air balloon.

Omatendeka, at the headwaters of the Hoanib River, boasts a 360-degree view of plains and tabletop mountains. Natural springs attract lions, elephants, and the endangered black rhino, as well as zebra, oryx, springbok, giraffe, and eland. Activities include guided nature walks, game drives, and watching the animals at the waterhole outside your bungalow door.

Located inside Khaudum National Park, Xaudum is surrounded by Kalahari sand dunes covered in an acacia forest, habitat for an estimated 3,000 elephants, as well as antelope and the rare wild dog. The nine guest rooms are connected to public areas by raised wooden walkways.

Sheya Shuushona, on the edge of Etosha National Park, overlooks a vast saltpan that changes color with the season, from snow white to pink to turquoise. The pan becomes a lake in the rainy season, attracting flamingos, storks and cranes. The nine guest rooms can accommodate 18 guests at a time.

For more information or help planning a trip, contact Cherri Briggs of Explore, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts.


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.

The Four Seasons Bora Bora is a honeymoon destination, but the pool couldn’t have been more kid-friendly. by Travel Babbo

What Really Makes a Hotel Kid Friendly

Listen up hotels! I’ve stayed at a lot of you, and some of you are definitely more kid-friendly than others. I’ve written before about things that could be improved at specific hotels (the Sonnenalp in Vail, the Mauna Lani in Hawaii and the Four Seasons Bora Bora), but since readers of my Travel Babbo blog have given me feedback as well, I want to create a comprehensive list of everything you need to do in order to be a kid-friendly dream hotel. If you already meet the criteria on this list, please get in touch with me! I really, really want to find the perfect hotels and resorts for families. And if this list does not represent things that you currently do, on behalf of families everywhere, we would love for you to implement them. Without further ado, my dream hotel checklist:

1) Rooms that can accommodate two parents with two, three or four kids. I don’t expect every room to be able to do this, but it would be great if hotels had at least a few rooms designed for families. And if your rooms can accommodate only four people total, please have connecting rooms! It’s not convenient to split up when we’re on vacation together. And it’s really not convenient when we’re given two rooms two floors apart, as happened at the ACHAT Plaza Zum Hirschen in Salzburg.

Mauna Lani hotel in Hawaii by Travel Babbo

At the Mauna Lani in Hawaii. The patio of one of our connecting rooms. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

2) Easy booking for families of five or more. Go to any hotel website and click on Reservations. Now tell me if it’s clear how many people their rooms can sleep. Still looking for a site that provides that information up-front? So am I. On most hotel sites it’s difficult to find out the maximum number of guests per room, but then they expect you to know that figure before searching for reservations. A lot of hotels have at least some rooms/suites that can accommodate five or six people. But when you go to a website like the Grand Wailea‘s and try to get a room for two adults and four children (an option in their drop-down menus), you immediately get an error message stating that no rooms are available and that six guests “may exceed the occupancy limit.” So it’s up to you to guess whether that means that there aren’t any rooms that meet your guest numbers or any rooms available at all. It’s then back to the search screen to try again with multiple rooms and different numbers of adults/kids in each room, now guessing as to how to divide up the family into two rooms.

I would LOVE for hotels to have a note on their booking screens that details the maximum number of people that their rooms can accommodate. As it is, I usually have to search through the room descriptions, and then more often than not I have to email the hotel to see if a “max of four people per room” includes small children. Basically, I want easier booking!

3) A family rate. If you’re going to ask us to split up into two rooms, connecting or not, please offer a discount for the second room. And please, please, please do not tie it to your highest rack rates that are never really charged to guests. I see this all the time. Hotels always have specials: bed and breakfast rates; fourth night free; seasonal promotions. Then sometimes they offer a family rate for a second room, but it’s never a discount off of the other specials. For example, the Four Seasons Bora Bora used to offer a fourth night free (which worked out to 25% off) or a second bungalow at 50% off. But if you chose the 50% off, you no longer received the fourth night free. So while it’s nice that they had a family rate, in actuality it worked out to roughly the same as the other specials, and nowhere near the 50% savings advertised since guests wouldn’t have been paying the full price anyway. (Math: A $1,000 bungalow discounted for a free fourth night, assuming you are staying four nights, means an average nightly rate of $750, or a 25% discount. Two $1,000 rooms for four nights with 50% off the second room means a total charge of $6,000, or, wait for it, $750 a night—the same as the other special. So there’s no real family discount, unless you are staying for a number of nights not divisible by four.)

I get that hotels have an economic incentive to maximize revenue and to only offer one discount per room. But what if you think of it as a marketing expense? If you provide families with better rates, that means happier parents who are more likely to make return visits. And when kids make multiple visits to a hotel growing up (our kids stayed at the Mauna Lani in Hawaii eight straight years), guess where they’re going to want to return with their kids someday?

4) Something at check-in for kids. Colored pencils. Coloring books. Beach balls. Beach toys. Stuffed animals. I’ve seen it all when checking into hotels, and our kids have loved all of it. When they get something at check-in, not only does it give them something to occupy themselves with and enhances the vacation, it also makes them feel welcome and it gives them a connection to the hotel.

St. Regis Aspen hotel by Travel Babbo

Stuffed bears from FAO Schwarz were a huge hit with my kids at the St. Regis Aspen. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

5) Proactive recommendations for kid-friendly things to do. It’s not always easy to find great lists of kid-friendly activities online. I would love to automatically receive a sheet or twofrom a hotel detailing the nearest parks, playgrounds, aquariums, kid museums, kid-friendly cooking classes and other local things that families have rated highly. It wouldn’t require more than a few hours of work from the concierge to create and maintain the list, and it would enhance the visit of every family. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I ask the concierge for ideas of local things to do with kids and the concierge directs me to the hotel’s kids club (yes, this has happened more than once).

My daughter sketching in the travel journal she got at check-in at the Westin Times Square by Travel Babbo

My daughter sketching in the travel journal she got at check-in at the Westin Times Square. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

6) A little extra space in the rooms. Families of young kids may need to set up Pack’n Plays. Most families have extra luggage. And there’s always going to be in-room down time when you don’t want to be crammed into the room with very little extra room. I understand that hotels can’t magically make their rooms larger, and I fully appreciate that historical hotels typically sacrifice space for character. I’m just saying that it’s great to have rooms that are a little more spacious.

7) A kid-friendly pool and hot tub. Obviously this isn’t applicable to all hotels. But if you have a pool and you want to attract families, have a shallow section in the main pool. And have either a separate hot tub for families, or allow kids to use the main hot tub without keeping it way too hot. Basically, look at your pool from the perspective of families and see if it’s somewhere that they would really want to spend a day, and where parents can let their younger kids play in the pool without necessarily being in there with them (but still supervising, of course). And please don’t force us to show armbands or room cards to get towels. At any hotel, big or small, I want to be seen as guests and not as room numbers.

8) A Kids Club that’s open all day with no extra charge. Please don’t make families pay $50–$100 a day, and commit to a whole day, for kids club activities. This is one of my favorite elements of Four Seasons and Rosewood resorts. Kids can get out of the sun and stop in and do crafts, play games or watch a movie when they want, or go on excursions around the hotel with club staff. Our kids usually don’t want to be there for more than an hour or two at a time, and we usually don’t know in advance when they’re going to want to do that, so flexibility on the part of the kids club is a must. Hotels can’t think of kids clubs only as places for parents to check their kids in for a full day; club rooms should also be areas for kids of any age to relax out of the sun for a little while.

Playing complimentary pinball at the Four Seasons Orlando Resort. by Travel Babbo

Playing complimentary pinball at the Four Seasons Orlando Resort. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

9) Easy food options for kids. I love when a hotel has a casual restaurant with a great menu and a (for backup) kids menu. Or if there is a nicer restaurant, have a casual section—maybe outside—for families. It’s great when the kids can run around a little while waiting for dinner to come, and always nice to have an option to pick things up and bring them back to the room if you don’t feel like dining out.

The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs by Travel Babbo

Enjoying wine while the kids run off and play at Ristorante Del Lago at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

10) An easy/inexpensive laundry option. At a lot of hotels the only laundry option is The List. You know The List—it’s in the closet attached to a plastic or canvas sack, and it indicates that the hotel will wash your pants for only $5 and your socks for only $2. That’s not family-friendly! Kids get dirty. Some hotels provide free washers and dryers, which we took advantage of at the Mauna Lani and Four Seasons Bora Bora this year. Others provide coin-operated machines, which is still fine. I’d love for more hotels to provide access to machines, or at least to have an option to have a load of laundry cleaned for a reasonable price—say $15. And knowing that you’ll have access to laundry at your hotel makes packing that much easier.

The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah in Bali has the most family-friendly laundry service that I’ve seen. The hotel will wash six things a day per person for free. Even when we forgot to place dirty clothes in the laundry bag in the morning, we would find them washed and folded for us that evening. How cool is that?

A kid-sized bicycle at the Sonesta Hilton Head. by Travel Babbo

A kid-sized bicycle at the Sonesta Hilton Head. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

11) Kid-sized things. It’s great when hotels have kid-sized robes for us in the rooms. And it’s also nice to have sinks at a height that’s good for adults but also reachable by kids. At most hotels our five-year-old can reach the sink, even if it’s on tip-toes, to brush her teeth or wash her hands. But we’ve been to some hotels where the kids are forced to (unsafely) turn over trashcans as improvised steps just to reach the sinks.

12) An overall kid-friendly vibe. Last, but not least, I want to feel like our (well-behaved) kids are welcome. You can be the nicest, most formal hotel in the world, and your staff can still treat kids like valued guests and not like potential nuisances. I love when staff members go out of their way to talk to our kids and ask about their vacations, or give suggestions of things to do the next day. This can be housekeepers or managers or pool staff—anyone who comes into contact with the kids. I’ve stayed at large resort hotels where the staff weren’t overly friendly, and at European city hotels where the staff just had great interactions with the kids and which, in turn, made it more fun to return to the hotel in the evenings.

Three kid-sized robes waiting for us at the Rosewood Mayakoba by Travel Babbo

Three kid-sized robes waiting for us at the Rosewood Mayakoba, in perfect lengths for my kids. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

Those are the top twelve things I’m looking for in kid-friendly hotels. What have I missed? What would you include? What hotels have you found that meet all of those criteria?


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.


Meet our writer

Eric Stoen, the founder of Travel Babbo, travels around the world constantly with his three kids. Wendy met him when he won Condé Nast Traveler’s Dream Trip Contest a few years ago and was so impressed with his travel savvy that she invited him to contribute to WendyPerrin.com.

Art in the lobby bar of the Dream Downtown hotel

Where’s Wendy? The Dream Downtown Hotel in NYC, Take a Look!

Greetings from the Dream Downtown hotel in NYC. Wendy and the rest of us on the team are gathered here today for our first Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit!

At this two-day conference, we’re getting together with the Trusted Travel Experts from Wendy’s WOW List to share information on what today’s sophisticated travelers want (that’s you) and how best to meet their needs. This summit is one of the ways Wendy ensures that every TTE on her WOW List is living up to your standards—and hers.

Check out the photos below for an insider’s tour of the hotel, and to see were we’ll be spending the next two days.

Lobby bar of the Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

Lobby bar of the Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

Art in the lobby bar of the Dream Downtown hotel

Art in the lobby bar of the Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

Close up of the beer cans used to make the flag. Photo: Billie Cohen

Close up of the beer cans used to make the flag. Photo: Billie Cohen

dream hotel scene

Just outside the lobby bar is a bright wintery window scene. Stairs from here lead up to the pool area. Photo: Billie Cohen

A view through a circular window onto the fake outdoor winter scene, Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

A view through a circular window onto the fake outdoor winter scene, Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

Dream downtown hotel suite

The living room half of a suite, Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

dream downtown hotel suite

The bedrom room half of a suite, Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

dream hotel mini bar

The mini bar has some nuts and candies repackaged in cute Dream canisters. Photo: Billie Cohen

"Variety Pack" by WhIsBe, in the Dream Downtown Gallery. Photo: Billie Cohen

Just off the lobby, the hotel has a small gallery. This is “Variety Pack” by WhIsBe.

"Miter" by Subodh Gupta, in the Dream Downtown gallery. Photo: Billie Cohen

“Miter” by Subodh Gupta in the gallery.

The rooftop pool area at the Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

The rooftop pool area at the Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

San Lorenzo villa rental, Dolomites, Italy

The Rewards of an Italian Villa Vacation in Winter

Le Ripe villa, Tuscany, Italy
Le Ripe villa, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
Le Ripe villa, Tuscany, Italy
Le Ripe villa, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
Le Ripe villa, Tuscany, Italy
Le Ripe villa, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
Via Lambertesca apartment rental, Florence, Italy
Via Lambertesca apartment, Florence, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
Via Lambertesca apartment rental, Florence, Italy
Via Lambertesca apartment, Florence, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
Via Lambertesca apartment rental, Florence, Italy
Via Lambertesca apartment, Florence, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
San Lorenzo villa rental, Dolomites, Italy
San Lorenzo villa, Dolomites, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
San Lorenzo villa rental, Dolomites, Italy
San Lorenzo villa, Dolomites, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
San Lorenzo villa rental, Dolomites, Italy
Outdoor whirlpool, San Lorenzo villa, Dolomites, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
La Civetta villa rental, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy
La Civetta villa, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
La Civetta villa rental, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy
La Civetta villa, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
Villa Maria Serena, Lake Como, Italy villa rental
Villa Maria Serena, Lake Como, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
Villa Maria Serena, Lake Como, Italy villa rental
Villa Maria Serena, Lake Como, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad
Villa Sola Cabiati, Lake Como, Italy villa rental
Villa Sola Cabiati, Lake Como, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad


How does a holiday in an Italian villa sound? Like a dream, if you ask us. Sure, the holidays are lovely no matter where you spend them because it’s always wonderful to be with family…but wouldn’t they be just a bit more wonderful if you were sipping Italian wine from the scenic backyard of your own Tuscany estate? Yeah, you know it would. That’s why we checked in with Mara Solomon, our Trusted Travel Expert for Large Italian Villas (four bedrooms or more), to find the best, most beautiful properties for all your holiday getaways. Start planning your Italian villa vacation now…

Thanksgiving in Tuscany

Le Ripe villa, Tuscany, Italy

Le Ripe villa, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad

“One of our favorite houses is Le Ripe, outside the village of San Casciano dei Bagni, a little jewel box of a medieval village that’s a 1.6 km walk from the house. The view is of all the hills that go up to Monte Amiata—it’s breathtaking. It’s a main house for eight with an adjacent building that brings you up to 14. You have working fireplaces, and the cook, Antonietta, is amazing. The owner of the house has also developed a lovely spa, and November is a perfect time to visit (so are December and January) because you can sit in 104-degree water and look out over the gorgeous countryside. The other reasons to come here for Thanksgiving are that airfare is cheap and you are deep into the autumn festival. You have fresh porcini, zucca, chestnuts—it’s a huge food time here and there are many simple quaint festivals to celebrate the harvest.”

Christmas in Florence

Via Lambertesca apartment rental, Florence, Italy

Via Lambertesca apartment, Florence, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad

“I love Florence for Christmas. They put these long, white banners over the streets with illuminated stars and snowflakes, and it’s beautiful. They don’t do the whole commercial Christmas here—you get together with your family and you eat. And there’s no better place for it. Via Lambertesca is the apartment I would recommend in Florence. It’s between the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo—there is no better location. It has five double rooms and comfortably accommodates ten people. It’s modern and gorgeous, and we have a terrific cook who can prepare a whole holiday dinner.”

Christmas or New Year’s in Milan/Lake Como

Villa Maria Serena, Lake Como, Italy villa rental

Villa Maria Serena, Lake Como, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad

“Milan is fabulous right now—so alive, so interesting, and the people are beautiful. As for where to stay, this is a contrarian view, but I recommend Lake Como. I was at Lake Como a few years ago in December and it snowed, and it was the most beautiful I’d ever seen it. We have three houses that have beautiful working fireplaces, and that are so sumptuous that you just want to relax indoors and enjoy. Plus, it takes no time at all to get to Milan from here—they’ve really improved the highways so it’s only about an hour, and we would arrange the car so you don’t have to drive.”

Winter Break in Venice and then the Dolomites

San Lorenzo villa rental, Dolomites, Italy

San Lorenzo villa, Dolomites, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad

“For a February or March break, I am an enormous fan of doing a city culture trip to Venice and then going two hours to the Dolomites for skiing, where you can do the Sellaronda ski loop of connected lifts and trails.

We have a beautiful house called San Lorenzo. It’s small and intimate with four rooms and three and a half baths, and it can accommodate ten people. It’s up in the mountains overlooking Val Badia, Val Pusteria, and Val Aurina. It’s really a retreat: You have a stainless steel heated outdoor whirlpool, you have a full indoor spa with sauna, you have a huge wood-burning stove, and you have people who cook and look after you and who are gems.”

Easter/Spring Break in Maremma, Tuscany

La Civetta villa rental, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy

La Civetta villa, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: Home Base Abroad

“April is pretty much the best time for getting a hit of spring in Italy, when it’s still bad weather back home on the East Coast. My preference for April is the Maremma region. There’s a microclimate here, where spring comes early. It’s not pool weather but it’s warm, colorful spring days, and after a long winter, we’re all just starved for that. It doesn’t work if you’re from L.A., but as a New Englander I’m especially drawn here.

La Civetta is one of our properties in this area. It’s five minutes from a cool little village where you’ll find a Croatian tailor who will make you a beautiful jacket in a week, for men or women. It’s also near another thermal bath that’s very natural, rustic, and wonderful.

In addition to this little tailor, there are also food shops—and this is wine country. All the big heavy-hitting wines—they’re from here. You’re driving by the vineyards as you come to the house. So anybody with an interest in wine could easily fill an April here. And it’s nice because this is not when other people are there. You pay nothing for your plane ticket, it’s not crowded, and it’s much easier to see the vineyards.”

Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.


Where’s Wendy This Week? In Marrakech, Morocco

Greetings from Marrakech!  It’s my fifth trip to the city that TripAdvisor named the best destination of 2015.  Each year I come to the Pure Life Experiences conference here to meet travel specialists from around the world whom you’d otherwise never find out about—from the guy in Cambodia who’s built the only luxury six-person boat on the Tonle Sap to the guy in Provence who can open up the normally off-limits top level of the Pont du Gard and the roof of the ancient Roman Theatre in Orange.

Each year in Marrakech I unearth a handful of potential new Trusted Travel Experts for The WOW List. Of course, before they can earn a spot, they must be road-tested. If you’d like to join my growing team of “testers”—longtime readers of mine who have taken several trips arranged by my travel specialists and thus have a good baseline for evaluating new ones—email me at info@wendyperrin.com. Or, if it’s just a vicarious trip to Marrakech you want, follow me on Instagram. Below are photos from just my first day, when I checked into one of my favorite places to stay in the medina, La Sultana.

Post-flight palliative courtesy of @lasultanahotels. Check out the tiny chair brought for my handbag so it needn't touch the floor (after spending the past 10 hours shoved beneath an airline seat).
La Sultana is comprised of five riads, each a different style. Here's the #Moorish #riad. @lasultanahotels #Marrakech
Not your average #hotel #pool. @lasultanahotels #Marrakech
zellige tiles in #Riad Saadia, reminiscent of old Fez. @lasultanahotels #Marrakech
Senegalese-style #Riad Scheherazade @lasultanahotels #Marrakech
#lush #courtyard, eh? @lasultanahotels #Marrakech
Not your average #hotel #spa. Show of hands: Should I go back to my laptop and meet my deadlines, or should I dive in? @lasultanahotels
My room at @lasultanahotels #Marrakech
More of my room at @lasultanahotels #Marrakech
Not your average #hotel #bathroom. @lasultanahotels #Marrakech
Bedtime! @lasultanahotels #Marrakech
One of my favorite #Marrakech #hotel rooftops, looking onto the Kasbah Mosque and Saadian Tombs. @lasultanahotels
#rooftop #breakfast #Marrakech @lasultanahotels


Follow me on Instagram to see the rest of my trip. I’m @wendyperrin!

An overwater bungalow in Doha.

Why Qatar Could Be Your Next Extraordinary Vacation

Last month I was in Qatar, checking out Anantara’s new Banana Island Resort. Ever since Doha was chosen to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar’s capital city has been attempting to rival Dubai as the Gulf region’s It destination. It’s succeeded in some areas (creating a top-notch national air carrier, attracting high-end hotels from all the big names—St. Regis, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Kempinski), and failed in others (the highly publicized FIFA bribery scandal related to the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar, and reports about the country’s human rights issues and the high number of migrant worker deaths).

I was in Doha in May, about two weeks before the FIFA arrests were made, and since I spent most of my time on the private Banana Island or at tourist sites in Doha, I didn’t see much about these issues first-hand. That doesn’t excuse them, however they pan out, but it does echo an experience that travelers have all over the world, no matter where we go: Unless we’re there specifically to explore difficult aspects of day-to-day local life, we don’t often get close enough to see them.

Certainly bribery, workers’ rights, and government abuse are not vices limited to the country of Qatar. Two weeks after my trip to Doha, I was in South Africa—and no one would ever say that that government always had the right idea about human rights. But it’s still an amazing place to visit and I would recommend it without hesitation (and I do in another article). A week after that, I came home to New York, where the wealth gap is almost as staggering as in Qatar and hunger still persists. And now there’s Charleston. And still, I would tell anyone that both of those cities are must-visit destinations (in fact, I’m a tour guide here in NYC). I don’t want to get too depressing, but my point is that no place is paradise. Even paradise. Sad stories of people being horrible to each other can be found everywhere—and that is part of the reason many of us travel: to find the good stories and the wonderful people and the amazing places and the eye-opening experiences.

When I came home, I felt that Doha was one of those eye-opening places worth visiting. It’s different (culturally, socially, in terms of gender roles, lifestyles, food, art and architecture)…and also so much the same (for example, brand names matter just like in any fashionable cosmopolitan city, and our group even stumbled on a Shake Shack and a Magnolia Cupcakes at a mall).

I greatly enjoyed my time in the city and at the Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara, where I was hosted. I met good people there who had interesting stories and cool talents, and who are working hard to make a luxury vacation spot for anyone who’s interested. Right now, most of who’s interested are locals of the Gulf Corporation Council countries (BahrainKuwaitOmanQatarSaudi Arabia, and the UAE); but Europeans are starting to arrive and the hope is that Americans will too.

Here are five reasons that struck me as to why Doha is definitely worth a visit.

1. At this moment in time, Qatar is changing fast, and it’s fascinating.

View of the city from the Museum of Islamic Art

View of the city from the Museum of Islamic Art

A peninsula country that sticks out into the Persian Gulf and is land-bordered only by Saudi Arabia, Qatar is all but surrounded by almost-fluorescent turquoise water. It’s very safe (virtually no crime), very modern, and very wealthy.

The country is a Muslim monarchy run by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (who peacefully took over from his father in 2013). The whole peninsula is only 100 miles long, with a population around 2.3 million. What I found fascinating is that only something like 12% of the population is actually Qatari, and the wealth of local Qataris is staggering. They have one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world (about $100,000 per head) and citizens also get free food and healthcare, all funded by the country’s wealth from natural gas. The rest of Qatar’s population is made up of expat professionals and migrant workers, many who’ve arrived in the past few years to help build up Doha for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Thanks to all the eyes on Qatar now, along with the government’s own agenda to make the city very visitor-friendly, the city is likely to change a lot over the next few years. If you go now, you’ll see that transition take place. As always, a good guide will be able to explain more about the social context and lift the curtain on some of the cultural complexities you’re not likely to fully grasp on your own.

2. Qatar is an easy introduction to the Middle East, and it’s easy to get to.

Qatar Airways has just added nonstop flights from Boston to Doha and will start direct flights from LAX in January 2016, making the city more accessible than ever. Like its fellow mid-east airlines, QA has raised the bar in business-class travel. The lie-flat seats are very comfortable, the food is very good, and as a result the flight turns into its own enjoyable part of the trip.

The airline is also trying to promote the city as an ideal stopover location—a place to add on a few days of vacation before or after a business trip, or in conjunction with another trip to the Middle East. The airport alone is worth spending a few hours in; there’s a pool, squash courts, and a spa.

The pool at Doha’s Hamad International Airport

The pool at Doha’s Hamad International Airport

3. Anantara has created an ideal place to stay.

Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara

Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara

Many familiar luxury hotel brands have staked out spots in Doha, but Anantara has created a pretty special retreat, on the private Banana Island, a 20-minute water taxi ride from the mainland. The taxi plies the waters all day long, and the port—more like a luxe hotel lobby—is a short distance from all the city’s main sites. This means you can duck into Doha for the day, visit the stunning Museum of Islamic Art, the lesser-known but equally fascinating Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the bustling Souq Waqif, and then buzz back to the resort for a relaxing evening of good food and long views of the sea. What’s interesting is that locals are coming in droves to the island on the opposite schedule: Anantara sells weekday evening packages that include water-taxi tickets and a credit at one of the resort’s restaurants. The nearly 250 daily takers aren’t required to stay overnight; instead, they get to enjoy the island as a night out.

One of the Anantara corner suites, where I stayed

One of the Anantara corner suites, where I stayed

For guests, the food options are available anytime. And most of it is really good. Six restaurants cover a range of cuisines, including an “American” diner called Ted’s (I didn’t even try it). More interesting are the Arabian options at Al Nahham (camel shawarma, giant grilled shrimp) and 14 kinds of hummus at Q Lounge (beetroot and walnut, fig, artichoke, beef bacon).

Grilled shrimp on a sword

Grilled shrimp on a sword

A lot is likely to be made of the fact that this is a dry resort—meaning, no alcohol—in order to follow cultural norms. But this seeming “lack” is anything but. Personally, I am not a big drinker, and I’m often disappointed that friends get to indulge in bright, fruity and interesting cocktails while I sip seltzer or some supersweet mocktail. Here, the nonalcoholic creations blow away any boozy concoctions you can imagine; they are their own delicious category. The driving force behind the creativity is the resort’s mixology director, Alexandre Hersent, who gave us a behind-the-scenes demonstration of how he prepares some of the molecular-gastronomy-inspired beverages, like the “Z daiquiri” of smoked apple juice with spice-infused honey, or his science-experiment twist on the city’s ubiquitous traditional lemon and mint drink. Hersent’s version (pictured below) has a semi-frozen ball of lemon and mint that pops open in your mouth. As usual with creative types, the limits seem to have made the food and beverage programs all the better here.

Lemon and mint drink, Anantara-style

Lemon and mint drink, Anantara-style

4. Once you’re back from the city’s sites, there are activities galore.

The pool and the sea beyond

The pool and the sea beyond

The Persian Gulf is so turquoise blue here, it’s enough just to sit on a balcony or patio staring at it. But for more active types and those with kids in tow, this resort is full of family-friendly activities: You can kayak, snorkel, get scuba certified, go windsurfing, or hit the surf pool. There’s a kids’ club with a giant indoor climbing-obstacle-course thing; a teen center with foosball, air hockey tables, and PlayStation nooks; a bowling alley; tennis courts; and a movie theater complete with buckets of popcorn.

For adults, there’s both a spa and a wellness center. Guests at the wellness center first see a specialist who determines their needs and then helps them choose from a suggested menu of holistic-health treatments like lymphatic drainage massages, infrared detox, nutritional consultations, and time in a zero-gravity float pod. You get the idea.

The wellness center’s zen garden

The wellness center’s zen garden

In a totally different part of the island, you’ll find the spa, where indulgences and pampering are the focus. Here, men and women divide into separate areas, and all have access to the usual high-quality Anantara menu of massages, facials, etc. The standout experience is definitely the hammam, where you’ll be soaked, steamed, covered in mud, massaged, exfoliated, and at the end doused with icy water. Invigorating to say the least.

The hammam

The hammam

5. Doha is safe and family-friendly.

Overall, Doha felt very safe. We saw families almost everywhere we visited, and observed a range of dress codes (though all conservative and covered). Shopkeepers were friendly, used to tourists, and just as ready to take our money as anywhere I’ve traveled.

Personally, I would recommend hiring a guide to take you through the city, not necessarily for safety reasons but more because, as with so many travel experiences, you will get more out of it if you have a plugged-in guide to talk you through the context and point out things you might not otherwise notice or understand.

The I.M. Pei–designed Museum of Islamic Art

The I.M. Pei–designed Museum of Islamic Art

The resort itself feels comfortable and secure. Everything you need is onsite, and the staff (who speak English and come from 60+ countries) are constantly interacting with the guests. You can’t pass anyone who works here without them saying hello to you; buggies regularly traverse the grounds to take you wherever you need to go; and I noticed good-service indicators like guest names and arrival dates listed on a whiteboard in one of the restaurant kitchens. What’s more, the lack of alcohol means you won’t run into any rowdy nightlife seekers, though the scene here is still lively; on weekends, guests stayed out late socializing and smoking scented shisha pipes at one of the restaurants overlooking the water.

Camels outside Souq Waqif; we were told they were the police department’s camels

Camels outside Souq Waqif; we were told they were the police department’s camels


* Full disclosure: I was hosted by Anantara and my flights, on Qatar Airways, were paid for. That said, Wendy and I don’t accept any travel experience we don’t believe will be up to our readers’ standards, and as Anantara properties have long been favorites of luxury travelers, and as the brand is quickly ramping up its presence in the Middle East, we agreed it was an ideal time to explore the tourism options here.

In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no expectation of coverage on our hosts’ part, nor was anything promised on ours. You can read our signed agreements with Qatar Airways here and with Anantara Hotels & Resorts here

Sean Murphy, Jetsetter editor in chief, in Cordoba, Spain

Inside the Mind of a Hotel Expert: Jetsetter’s Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy knows how to travel in style. As Editor in Chief of Jetsetter.com, he leads a team that focuses on luxury experiences and gorgeous hotels. In fact, they’ve just released their 2015 Best of the Best hotel awards—which curates the world’s top accommodations by essential categories such as Best for Foodies, Best for Romance, Best Pool Scene, and Best-Looking Guests.

So where does Sean travel himself when he gets out of the office? We had to find out. Here, he shares his most memorable travel moment, his trick for tackling crowded tourist attractions, and the surprising thing he always packs.

Most memorable travel moment:

Years ago, at the urging of a well-traveled friend, I made a summer pilgrimage to the not-so-easy-to-get to Greek Island of Patmos. It’s a ten-hour flight from New York to Athens and another all-day ferry ride from the port of Piraeus. You arrive on island in the middle of the night and as you enter the harbor, your eye is drawn to the illuminated Fortress Monastery of St John. It stands atop one of Patmos’s highest points and dominates the landscape. The house where we were staying was just under the monastery. It had a roof lounge with views stretching to the islands east and west shores. Upon arrival I made my way up to the roof just as the monastery lights were being turned off for the night, revealing the most extraordinary sky of stars I had a ever seen. I discovered too that if you looked hard enough and long enough, you could track satellites with your naked eye as they crossed the heavens. Even though I was exhausted from my journey and certainly in need of sleep, I stayed up most of the night amazed by the simple, but spectacular show overhead and have been madly in love with that island ever since.

Most embarrassing travel moment:

Ask my team at Jetsetter. We have an All Hands meeting each week. At this meeting it is a tradition that every new hire has to reveal their most embarrassing travel story. I’ve heard some frightening, hilarious and honestly worrying tales. But once you tell it, your secret’s safe with us. Mum’s the word.

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

Guide books. As an Editor in Chief of a digital travel site named Jetsetter you may think I know it all or use some digital device to arm myself with what I don’t, but I still like to carry a quality guide book, one that highlights cultural history and walks me through specifics. It helps me pass the time while on a plane, train boat, or during quiet moments when pulling out my phone seems just wrong. Plus, I don’t worry about the batteries running out and leaving me uniformed.

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

The Louvre, The Uffizi, The Prado, any well-know art museum with must-see art. I make it a point to visit these iconic museums whenever I visit a city despite the crush of tourist. The trick is to go early or late and make advanced reservations online. There is too much to see in the world to waste time in queues. Some guides (search my friends at Viator.com) offer group, after-hour tours of well-known museums for a premium price, but it can be worth it to see a Botticelli without bumping into a sea of selfie sticks.

Non-touristy spot people might not know about but should add to their must-visit list:

The desert, specifically the Sahara. I took a three-day journey into the Sahara once when visiting Morocco and discovered what Paul Bowles already knew. It is a magical place full of stillness and absolute silence. And “then there is the sky, compared to which all other skies seem fainthearted efforts.”

Name two indispensable apps you use when you travel:

I am a visual omnivore, so Instagram is an addiction. Google maps has come to my rescue more than once, especially when driving unfamiliar roads or navigating maze-like towns. And of course, I use Jetsetter’s App to book my hotels.

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

I am a fan of Tiny Atlas and its Travel Log. You get a true sense of place through their visual storytelling. It reminds me that one image, however iconic, should not be burdened with providing the whole picture. As well, I’m obsessed with A Hotel Life, Ben Pendole, who works for Ian Schrager’s Edition Hotels, has put together an impressive look into the world of the fabulously well-traveled. It reminds me that travel is supposed to be fun.

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

I gravitate to more visual feeds and honestly peruse Instagram more than Twitter, but I do appreciate the US Interiors’ twitter feed @Interior for its spectacular imagery. It’s making me rediscover and fall in love with America. Ruth Reichl’s, (former editor in chief of Gourmet) tweets remind me of the exquisiteness of well-crafted words @ruthreichl.

Name one way the travel industry can do better.

Stop commoditizing travel. My travel choices do not always come down to just price. They are mostly driven by the expectation of an exceptional experience, one that will stay with me, transform me in some way and remind me why I love travel. Help me decide by telling me a better story and please, keep it real.

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

Already the Internet and especially mobile has transformed travel by putting more information in the hands of the traveler. We can dream, plan, book, navigate and share our experiences in ways that were not possible just a few years ago. When I look toward the future, I see information and experiences melding even more. Whether it’s virtual reality providing a totally immersive preview of where I want to go or information digitally displayed to me in the moment when I need it most, I think future technology will give me the confidence of knowing. I must admit, however, this future causes me just a little angst. Intel is awesome, but I will not want to lose one of the greatest delights of travel: serendipity.

#jamon, jamon, jamon. #Madrid #Spain #travel #traveltransforms #travelinspiration #food #yum #jetsettering

A photo posted by smurphsup2 (@smurphsup2) on

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

I deeply and sincerely appreciate all your efforts on my behalf. Thank you.

To make friends, I always carry:

My insatiable curiosity.


As a celebrated amenity, TVs in hotel rooms.


Accessible outlets.

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

For all those involved, its better I don’t sing. That said, I have been known to hum Beethoven’s Ode to Joy while driving on the open road.

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

Mr. Turner. Mike Leigh’s film about the life the famed British painter J.M.W Turner I watched it on a flight to London (when I should have been sleeping) and found it quietly unsentimental, but also incredibly sad and remarkably sublime. After checking into my hotel, I ran straight to the Tate so I could commune with his work and pay my respects.

When I travel, I’m not afraid of:

The journey.

But I am afraid of:

Forgetting my passport.


Follow Sean and Jetsetter.com

Twitter: @smurphsup2 and @Jetsetterdotcom

Instagram: @smurphsup2

Grace Family Foundation relief work team

Just Back from Nepal: The 5 Things You Need to Know

Sanjay Saxena, founder of Destination Himalaya and a Trusted Travel Expert for Asia on Wendy’s WOW List, is just back from Nepal, where he went right after the April 25 earthquake to help with relief efforts. He’s going back in June, leading a multi-generational family tour. Meanwhile, here’s his report from the field:

  1. Kathmandu, Nepal, is open and ready for travelers

Saxena was relieved to see that the city has not been leveled—as he’d been led to believe by initial media reports. Life is returning to some semblance of normalcy, with shops and restaurants open for business. All of the tourist hotels remain open. Saxena even felt totally safe spending a night on the fifth floor of the Yak & Yeti.

  1. It’s the rural villages that are a disaster.

Eight days after the quake, Saxena delivered 10,000 pounds of rice and chura (a ready-to-eat mixture of rice, lentils, and nuts) to a region five hours outside of Kathmandu that hadn’t yet received any food aid. In these small villages, Saxena discovered, almost all of the houses were destroyed, and those left standing were uninhabitable.

“There is no doubt that Nepal is seeing an overwhelming response from the international community,” says Saxena. “While I walked around Kathmandu and drove in the countryside, I saw the flags of nations from Sri Lanka to the U.S. on supply trucks, temporary housing, and bulldozers. But while the capital city saw a fair amount of quick response, the overall infrastructure in Nepal is completely taxed and outside of medical evacuations, the outlying village areas have seen little to no aid at all.”

Life goes on around the rubble in Nepal

Life goes on around the rubble in Nepal. Photo courtesy Sanjay Saxena.

  1. Here’s where you can and can’t go.

Travelers will not be able to see the World Heritage Sites in Bhaktapur and Patan, as many of these temples and buildings have collapsed. The Shechen Monastery’s main assembly hall suffered some very dramatic cracks, but thankfully the structure held, as hundreds were inside attending a teaching at the time of the quake.

Trekking in the Langtang Himal (a popular area due to its easy access from Kathmandu) will be closed for the near future because of landslides. Trekkers to the Annapurna and Everest regions will certainly see the effects of the earthquake, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to travel there; they’ll still enjoy views of the majestic Himalayan peaks and the company of the wonderful people of Nepal.

Parts of Tibet and India have been affected. Inhabitants of several border towns in Tibet have been evacuated, and the roads closed to all but military relief convoys. Saxena expects the Tibetan Everest Base Camp area to open for travel in the next month, however the overland crossing into Nepal will be closed for the rest of this season, if not longer, due to landslides in the Zangmu gorge. India’s Himalayan border state of Sikkim felt the quake too, but all reports are that no major damage occurred to the infrastructure there.

  1. The quake has shown the true colors of many companies.

Upon arriving in Kathmandu, Saxena received a text message from T-Mobile announcing that all phone calls and data would be free while he was in Nepal. His traveling companions who are customers of other cellular services received no such offer, and several vowed allegiance to T-Mobile as soon as they returned home. Stories abound such as the one of Dolma Dhakhwa, the owner of a small carpet export business, who visited each of his weavers and gave them bags of rice and lentils, plus two months’ advance salary. Less compassionate was the management of Kathmandu’s Hyatt Regency, who forbade locals to sleep on their 35 acres (many Nepalis pitched tents after the first earthquake, doubting the structural integrity of their homes).

Truck-loaded with supplies for Kunchuk Village about 75km NE of Kathmandu

Truck loaded with supplies for Kunchuk Village, about 75km NE of Kathmandu. Photo courtesy Sanjay Saxena.

  1. Nepal needs your help.

Saxena’s travel companion on this trip to Nepal was longtime client Dick Grace of the Grace Family Vineyards Foundation. They focused their efforts on the rural villages and continue to do so now that they’re back home. Along with mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears, Destination Himalaya has set up a fund to help rebuild three severely damaged schools in Chyangba. This village of 600 people in the Solukhumbu district is home to most of the Sherpas that Destination Himalaya employs on its Nepal treks, as well as the Sherpas who have summited Everest alongside Breashears.

Saxena and Breashears have pledged to cover all overhead costs themselves and spend 100% of any donations directly on the school rebuilding. Moreover, they intend to design the schools to better withstand earthquakes in the future.

Donations can be sent via the Grace Family Vineyards Foundation and are tax-deductible. Checks should be made out to the Grace Family Vineyards Foundation (write “DH-Nepal Earthquake” in the memo line) and sent to 1210 Rockland Drive, St. Helena CA 94574, or you can donate via credit card on the foundation’s website.

Saxena says it’s important to keep Nepal on your bucket list and show support for the country by traveling there when the time is right again. “Tourism is essential to the economy in Nepal, as it’s the largest employer in the country,” says Saxena. “ I would urge you to keep Nepal on your list of must-see destinations, Having traveled to Nepal numerous times and taken scores of travelers there, the one thing that people always tell me that they remember most is not the dramatic sunrise on Everest or the exquisite details on the Bhaktapur temples, but the wonderful people of this mountain kingdom.

Sri Panwa, Phuket, Thailand hotel pool

Larger-Than-Life Hotel Pools

Note from Wendy: When I travel with my kids, an exciting hotel pool is a godsend. The more fun it is for them, the more relaxing it is for me. Adult pools never factored into my hotel decisions…until they started to become a property’s design showpiece and social center. Nowadays hotel pools may offer stunning views from a rooftop, transform into the hottest hangout at night, or be tucked into your own private villa.


By Jenny Adams of Yahoo! Travel

We know you are doing it. How do we know? Because we are doing it too. It’s normal to scour the Internet in cold weather, warming up mentally by staring at pictures of warm-weather resorts from Santorini to Santiago. Just the sight of a palm tree in sunlight or the razor’s edge of an infinity pool is enough to make us whip out our credit cards in the name of an escape from late winter’s freezing clutches.

If you need to get away, these hotels around the globe offer pools that certainly made us drool.

There’s an incredible, bird’s-eye view over the treetops at the Baba Nest at Sri Panwa in Phuket, Thailand. The Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver has an indoor pool that doubles as a glowing, Art Deco piece of art. New York City was not to be outdone by more tropical locations and opened a brand new, year-round pool at the Park Hyatt. The hotel pipes in music via underwater speakers, giving a whole new meaning to the term “swimmer’s ear.”

Several on this list are budgetary bucket-list experiences (we definitely drooled over the Iniala Beach House), but we’ve also found many that are as affordable as they are beautiful. Check out the hippie enclave Hicksville in Joshua Tree, Calif.! And, don’t forget your little ones, because we didn’t. Disney has a pool that kids from 9 to 92 will want to visit in 2015.

Sri Panwa, Phuket, Thailand

This family-owned resort (pictured above) is set atop a cliff overlooking Cape Panwa, surrounded by lush foliage, thick groves of trees, and an absurd number of infinity pools. There are 85 on the property! The Baba Nest is the crowning glory, where you can literally swim with the birds and enjoy 360-degree views of the Andaman Sea. Large, fluffy beanbags are set out around 5 p.m. for those who want to enjoy the vista without getting wet, and even if you aren’t staying at Sri Panwa, you can make a reservation for a spot on this roof deck by calling the hotel.

Fun Fact: If you want an infinity pool at your disposal 24/7, book a pool villa. As you swim, you get direct views into your master bedroom, which appears to float on a platform over the water. There are more than 75 villas featuring private pools at Sri Panwa, and prices start at $1,000 per night.


Belmond Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy hotel pool

Courtesy Belmond Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy.

Belmond Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy

Set at the highest point above the town of Ravello, this pool is an architectural masterpiece, seemingly suspended in the clouds. Swimming here provides an unparalleled view and breathtaking photo opportunities of the coastline below. Prices from $500 per night.

Fun Fact: The concierge can bring you an iPod pre-loaded with your choice of music and a fresh fruit appetizer. There’s also something called “an Evian vaporizer” for guests. Because when you’re in a pool, you definitely need to mist your face with European bottled water, right?

 Also from Yahoo! Travel: 9 Hotels with Amazing Private Plunge Pools

The Singular, Patagonia, Chile hotel pool

Courtesy The Singular, Patagonia, Chile

The Singular, Patagonia, Chile

Gazing out at the Last Hope Fjord in Puerto Bories, Chile, there’s no way one can help but feel tiny in the face of such awesome, staggering beauty. There is only wild, untouched coast and the snowcapped Patagonian mountains in front of you as you soak in this heated indoor/outdoor pool. It’s definitely an “edge of the Earth” moment.

Fun Fact: In a former life, the property was a early 20th-century cold storage plant. The owners transformed it into a luxury hotel, but they kept a few of the machines as a quirky, private museum collection inside the hotel. Rooms start at $350 per night.


The Park Hyatt, New York City hotel pool

Courtesy The Park Hyatt, New York City

The Park Hyatt, New York City

Debuted in August 2014, the hotel’s breathtaking, three-story aerie on the 25th floor features an indoor swimming pool, modern lines, bright blue water, and incredible poolside service. Those aren’t the only amenities you’ll find here. There are underwater speakers built in the pool walls and floor, and the exclusive soundtrack is specially curated by Carnegie Hall for the Hyatt’s pool. How classy is that?

Fun Fact: As part of the pool experience, guests can indulge in the hydrotherapy hot tub, decadent steam room, and private changing rooms. The starting price for a night’s stay at the hotel starts at $795, but this is one on the list you can enjoy even in winter.

Also from Yahoo! Travel: 10 Best Urban Pools 

The Iniala Beach House, Phuket, Thailand hotel pool

Courtesy The Iniala Beach House, Phuket, Thailand

The Iniala Beach House, Phuket, Thailand

This resort (open since fall 2013) was previously a private home. It was converted to a boutique hotel, offering only three villas and one penthouse. For the rooms and layout, owner Mark Weingard contacted his favorite designers from around the globe. No two rooms are alike. Each villa sleeps six and features a private, unique, infinity pool. Every pool on property faces a pristine stretch of the white sands of Natai Beach and the ocean beyond.

Fun Fact: It’s not cheap to carve out an escape here (villas start around $3,500 per day), but the included amenities are insane. You get daily spa treatments, free activities — like kayaking past herds of water buffalo in Phuket’s estuaries, Muay Thai kickboxing training, and guided mountain bike tours — and dinner at the property’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Aziamendi.


The Hicksville Trailer Palace, Joshua Tree, Calif. hotel pool

Courtesy The Hicksville Trailer Palace, Joshua Tree, Calif.

The Hicksville Trailer Palace, Joshua Tree, Calif.

Who wouldn’t want to pull off the highway for Hicksville? This trailer-park motel is a retreat for artists, from filmmakers to musicians, who come for the peace and fun peculiarity of spending a few days in a restored Airstream ($125) that’s powered by solar energy and has fast Wi-Fi for surfing. The pool is a welcoming attraction in the center of the trailers. Tiny, filled with saltwater, peanut-shaped and heated, it’s a one-of-a-kind place to collaborate on your documentary or have an impromptu jam session with total strangers.

Fun Fact: The Trailer Palace also offers a BB gun range, table tennis, a fire pit for s’mores, and archery. It’s like summer camp for adults, y’all.

 Also from Yahoo! Travel: Six Absolutely Insane Cruise Ship Pools

The Joule, Dallas hotel pool

Courtesy The Joule, Dallas

The Joule, Dallas

This pool has landed on many a list, thanks to its lofty location. The Dallas-based architecture group Architexas cantilevered it eight feet off the side of a Gothic high-rise building smack in the middle of Downtown. Swimmers can literally backstroke above busy city traffic. Room rates to stay here start at $250 per night.

Fun Fact: Valet parking is free here if you arrive in a hybrid vehicle.


Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada hotel pool

Courtesy Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Stretching more than 50 feet and heated to accommodate the fickle Canadian weather, this one doubles as a work of art thanks to classic Art Deco-styled lights in the pool floor. Based on the time of day or mood of the moment, the lights change color, creating a sensory experience for the swimmers. Natural light also streams in from the adjacent, outdoor restaurant, aptly named Reflections.

Fun Fact: You can stay at this Forbes five-star property for only $230 per night.


The Fairmont Montebello, Quebec, Canada hotel pool

Courtesy The Fairmont Montebello, Quebec, Canada

The Fairmont Montebello, Quebec, Canada

If you love the cold but still crave a great pool, check out Canada’s largest indoor option. Towering cedar timber surrounds you in this log-cabin-housed, 55-meter lap pool.

Fun Fact: Rumor has it that the architects designed this one to be a foot short of the Olympic length on purpose. This assured it would never been used by teams looking to practice and would always retain the peacefulness associated with vacationing in the mountains. Rooms start at $200 a night.


The Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville, N.C. hotel pool

Courtesy The Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville, N.C.

The Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville, N.C.

If you can’t afford to stay ($199 per night), it’s no problem. You can still experience one of America’s coolest pools by simply purchasing a day pass to the spa. The Grove Park’s swimming chamber is subterranean and encompasses an amazing 43,000 square feet. Built into the natural rock, there are caves, waterfalls, tunnels, rock walls, and arches to explore. It’s a sensory experience full of bouncing shadows and beautiful colored lights.

Fun Fact: The Omni Grove Park Inn has hosted many celebrated guests including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harry Houdini, Will Rogers, Helen Keller, and Eleanor Roosevelt.


Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida hotel pool

Courtesy Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Disney understandably spares no expense or sense of whimsy when it comes to pools. It was tough to pick just one. Sliding out of a giant clown’s mouth won us over in the end. The pool features an actual roller-coaster water slide, culminating in the carnival-themed, massive blue pool with a carousel bar and elephant statues that spray you with cold water. Rates are from $381 per night.

Fun Fact: At this resort, you can rent surrey bikes that seat two, four, or even six people. Take a cruise down the hotel’s iconic boardwalk.



This article originally ran on Yahoo! Travel

Baha Mar

It Hasn’t Even Opened Yet, but Baha Mar Is Already Transforming the Bahamas

Americans seeking a quick escape to a sunny tropical island will soon have a new option at their fingertips: A long-awaited $3.5 billion luxury resort development called Baha Mar is opening March 27 in Nassau, in the Bahamas. Nassau is just a three-hour flight from J.F.K.—and the resorts, on Cable Beach, are just a five-minute drive from the airport—so it will be an easy getaway for many in the Northeast. As I’m one of the only journalists who’s seen Baha Mar—I just happened to be passing through Nassau yesterday and went to take a look—I figured I’d share what I learned.

Baha Mar will have four swank hotels— the Baha Mar Hotel & Casino, a Grand Hyatt, a Rosewood, and a SLS LUX—as well as a 30,000-square foot ESPA, a 200,000-square-foot conference center, and more than 40 restaurants, bars, and shops. There will be 3,000 feet of white-sand beach, a Beachfront Sanctuary filled with sea creatures, and a reef you can swim to and snorkel at.

The development has already transformed Nassau—to build it, they had to move the prime minister’s office and two banks and reroute a road—but that’s nothing compared to the transformation to come. Nassau recently spent $410 million renovating its airport and building a gleaming new terminal, as it plans to grow airline service to the Bahamas by 400,000 passengers within the next year. There are even plans for flights from China.

Big developments on small islands usually make me cringe, but my tour guide—Baha Mar’s director of public relations Paul Turnquest, who was born and raised in the Bahamas and ran The Tribune newspaper there for years, says the locals are happy about Baha Mar because it’s bringing 12,000 jobs and a ton of economic opportunity to the island. “If you’re someone who makes straw bags, your bags could be chosen for one of the hotel gift shops,” says Turnquest. “Imagine the impact that this property will have on the lives of the people here. For many, this is the opportunity for them to be on a world stage.”

Will travelers come? Will they like it? We’ll find out after March 27. Meanwhile, here’s a first glimpse. (I was not allowed to photograph the areas still under construction—which is pretty much everything except the golf course and golf clubhouse.)


Have you been to the Bahamas? What’s your favorite resort there?

Point Vincente Lighthouse

The Biggest Hotel Group You’ve Never Heard Of

Terranea Resort, on a sweep of California coastline that feels far more secluded than it really is (LAX lies just 20 miles away), might be the state’s best-kept secret. Situated on 15 cliff-top acres fragrant with sage scrub, it has three swimming pools, miles of seaside trails, and a few hundred guest rooms with endless ocean views. Staff are gracious, the food is good, and the rates are much more palatable than at SoCal’s better-known pleasure palaces. Yet, unattached to a big-name brand, Terranea flies well under the radar. I’ve been a guest at the resort three times in its five-year history (the most recent stay just last summer), and after each visit I’ve been asked by even my most well-traveled friends, “You were where?” That suits me just fine; I prefer an air of mystery.

As it turns out, Terranea is part of an even bigger secret: Destination Hotels, which manages the property, is the largest independent hotel operator in North America, yet most travelers have never heard of it either. I learned about the company a few months ago, when I was invited to attend a travel-advisor conference at Terranea. Here’s what I know now: Based in Englewood, Colorado, Destination Hotels manages 43 hotels in 17 U.S. states and Washington D.C. A third of those hotels are owned by Destination’s parent company, Lowe Enterprises. More important for hotel-obsessed travelers like me, many of the properties in the company’s portfolio are little and not-so-little gems: charming, original, well-priced hotels in appealing destinations. The best of the bunch are those in the Luxury Lifestyle Collection, which promises high-quality service and a distinct sense of place. Some of them are well known—Santa Fe’s venerable Inn at Loretto, for one. Others, like the Woodmark, just outside of Seattle, are less so. Here’s a rundown of all nine hotels in the collection and a few of their standout qualities. Have you stayed at any? We’d love to hear your feedback!

Inn and Spa at Loretto, Santa Fe

Inn and Spa at Loretto, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Inn and Spa at Loretto, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Pretty as a picture: Modeled after the 1,000-year-old Taos Pueblo, the Inn at Loretto is said to be the most photographed building in Santa Fe. With its inspired Native American decor and focus on local artwork, the hotel wins travel magazine awards year after year, as does the spa, where, along with hot-stone massages and desert-sage scrubs, you can get your astrological chart read and your “soul path” clarified.


Palmer Clubhouse at La Cantera, San Antonio

Palmer Clubhouse at La Cantera, San Antonio

La Cantera, San Antonio, Texas
The soon-to-be newest addition to the collection, La Cantera was a Westin property until recently. The megaresort—it sits on 550 acres and has two golf courses, five pools, and eight restaurants—is currently closed while it undergoes a big renovation. It is scheduled to reopen in April 2015.


L’Auberge Del Mar

Poolside at L’Auberge Del Mar, California

L’Auberge Del Mar, California
A seaside boutique hotel in the heart of adorable Del Mar Village, San Diego’s tony neighbor to the north, L’Auberge has long been a favorite spot for romance-seeking couples, elegant wedding parties, and dog people (the hotel is famously pet-friendly as long as said pet is a “petite pooch”). It also becomes party central during the racing season—the Del Mar Racetrack is a stone’s throw away.


Royal Palms Resort and Spa

Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix

Royal Palms Resort and Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Another hotel made for romance, the Mediterranean-inspired Royal Palms dates back to 1929, when a New York moneyman (and nephew of J.P. Morgan) built his winter home at the base of Camelback Mountain. A few details from the original house remain—including the orange grove—but these days, guests stay in villas, casitas, or guest rooms, all scattered around the property’s gardens.


Stowe Mountain Lodge

Perfect skiing conditions at Stowe Mountain Lodge

Stowe Mountain Lodge, Vermont
Arguably the most famous—and best-located—ski resort on the East Coast, Stowe Mountain Lodge has 300-plus condo-style rooms (most have kitchenettes; several have two and three bedrooms) right at the base of the slopes. Skiing aside, the lodge offers all kinds of when-in- Vermont activities year-round, from ice climbing to furniture-making, as well as a spa that’s a destination in itself.


Terranea Resort, Palos Verdes

Enjoying the sunshine at Terranea Resort.

Terranea Resort, Palos Verdes, California (see above)


Vail Cascade, Colorado

Steam rising off the water at Vail Cascade.

Vail Cascade, Colorado
At the foot of Vail Mountain and on the banks of Gore Creeks, the 245-room Vail Cascade has knockout views from nearly everywhere you look. Most rooms come with fireplaces and patios or balconies, and the Atwater restaurant draws fussy foodies year-round. But the resort’s biggest claim to fame might be its three-story Aria Athletic Club, a far cry from your standard hotel gym.


Wailea Beach Villas Resort

A private villa at Wailea Beach Villas Resort

Wailea Beach Villas Resort, Maui
This luxury condo complex was named the No. 1 Hawaii Resort in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards. As Hawaiian hotels go, it’s on the small side—fewer than 100 guest quarters—but the accommodations have at least two bedrooms, and the biggest have five. Every unit comes with a kitted-out kitchen, wine fridge and all. And though there’s no spa or restaurant on the property, you can arrange for a private chef or an in-room spa treatment.


The Woodmark, Washington

A room at The Woodmark.

The Woodmark, Kirkland, Washington
Just outside Seattle, on the shores of Lake Washington, the Woodmark is part hotel, part yacht club. For those guests who don’t bring their own, the hotel has a mahogany yacht for two-hour spins around the lake. In summer, you can also rent kayaks, Jet Skis, or stand-up paddleboards. Back on shore, the hotel’s wine-centric restaurant, Bin on the Lake, pairs an impressive wine list (heavy on the local vintages) with some stellar lake and mountain views.


Have you stayed at any? We’d love to hear your feedback!

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!

Triple Creek Ranch

6 Ways to Make a Valentine’s Day Weekend Magical

This Saturday is Valentine’s Day—and the Monday after is Presidents’ Day. Many of us may be thinking about a last-minute long-weekend escape. As TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate, I’ve been sharing a lot of getaway ideas and strategies over on TripAdvisor’s blog and in its Wendy’s Travel Tips newsletter. Here’s an assortment of these tips, to help you maximize a mid-winter getaway.

Consider a Cozy Winter-Wonderland Retreat
Some lodges and ranches that you think of only for summer are awesome in winter, especially when you get to do activities you’ve never tried before. Think dogsledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, or even skijoring (which is like waterskiing, only on snow, with a horse rather than a boat pulling you). Here are six things to look for in a cozy winter retreat.

Choose a Hotel with an Incredible Indoor Pool
In wintertime, sometimes the smartest hotel feature to splurge on is a fabulous heated indoor pool with a panoramic view. Here’s how to find them.

Achieve Your Ideal Notion of Seclusion
Secluded doesn’t have to mean remote. One of my most romantic trips ever was when my husband surprised me with a night in a lighthouse on a tiny island in San Francisco Bay that barely anyone knows is there. Here’s how to pinpoint your perfect secluded getaway.

Find a Special Suite That’s Worth the Splurge
Certain jaw-dropping suites I’ve opted to splurge on—such as at Matakauri Lodge in New Zealand on my honeymoon—are sealed in my memory forever. Here’s how to know when a suite is worth the splurge.

Get Into an Impossible-to-Get-Into Restaurant
What to do when the restaurant you want for Valentine’s Day is fully booked? Here are tips for scoring a hot table on any Saturday night, wherever in the world you may be.

Make a Fairytale Place Even More Transportive
My first date with my husband (long before the aforementioned honeymoon) was in a medieval German castle. It was one of those heady travel moments that transport you to another place and time. Here’s how to create such moments.

I’d love to hear: How do you make romantic weekend getaways magical?


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.

Pool at the Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, Peru

How To Book The World’s Best Hotels

TripAdvisor recently announced its 2015 list of the best hotels in the world, and #1 is Gili Lankanfushi, the Maldives resort with the “No News No Shoes” philosophy. A tiny coral island with 45 overwater villas, it’s apparently the ultimate barefoot paradise. I’d love to go. So I reached out to Lindsey Wallace, my Trusted Travel Expert for the Maldives, who—like other Trusted Travel Experts on The WOW List—negotiates special pricing and perks. Lindsey’s rates at Gili Lankanfushi save travelers up to 38% off the best rates on the hotel’s website. Say you went to the hotel’s website and booked an 8-night stay from May 16-24. A Villa Suite would cost you $8,528. Lindsey’s rate is $6,000 and includes round-trip speedboat transfers from the airport and daily breakfast and dinner. Lindsey has blocked off villas in the best locations for his guests, of course. And you get even more VIP perks ($100 dining credit, free spa treatment, free upgrade on arrival, and early check-in/late check-out) if Lindsey knows you’re a WendyPerrin.com traveler (which he’ll know if you use my trip-request form).

The best way to book a five-star or four-star hotel depends on the type of trip you’re taking. If what you want above all is the lowest rate, book it online. You can now even book hotels on TripAdvisor, which compares prices across hundreds of sites to find you the lowest rate. But if you’re staying three nights or more and what you care most about is the best overall experience, from room selection to VIP amenities to enhancements such as private car transportation and an introduction to the location’s hidden gems via an English-speaking local insider, that’s when it makes sense to reach out to a Trusted Travel Expert. I’ll give you an example:

Say you’re headed to Budapest. The Four Seasons Gresham Palace is #4 on TripAdvisor’s list of the world’s top hotels. If all you need is a room, book it online. But say you’re planning to stay three nights. My Trusted Travel Expert for Hungary, Gwen Kozlowski of Exeter International, can get you three nights (including the hotel’s 22% tax), gourmet hotel breakfast daily, roundtrip private car transfers from/to the airport, and—if you use my trip-request form so she knows you’re a WendyPerrin.com traveler—an expert private guide for a three-hour overview walking tour of Budapest, starting at $516 per night (the price depends on your month of travel). If you were to book those components separately through separate sources, the quality would be inconsistent and probably inferior. (I say that because I have personally road-tested Gwen and her Budapest arrangements twice within the past year, and they are superlative.)

Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, Cusco, Peru

Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, Cusco, Peru. Photo courtesy Belmond Hotels.

Here’s another example: Say you’re headed to Peru. The Belmond Palacio Nazarenas in Cusco is #5 on TripAdvisor’s list of the world’s top hotels. My Trusted Travel Expert for Peru, Tom Damon of Southwind Adventures, has negotiated a 10% discount for his travelers who stay there two nights and a 15% discount for those who stay three nights. If all you want is the hotel, book it on your own. If you want the hotel combined with additional arrangements that will add up to a transformative experience of Machu Picchu, reach out to Tom. (To indicate to Tom that you’re a WendyPerrin.com traveler, contact him here.)

If you’ve got a trip in mind that uses five- or four-star hotels and you’re not sure the best way of booking them, just ask. And I’d love to ask you: What’s your favorite way to book hotels online, and why?

Wendy Perrin Paris France hotel room

A Classic Paris Hotel That’s Just as Charming as the Newbies

I’m just back from Paris, where the big travel news is the new wave of Asian-owned ultra-luxe hotels challenging the city’s five-star old guard. The Peninsula Paris just opened in August after a billion-dollar investment and joins two other properties built since 2010, the Shangri-La Hotel and the Mandarin Oriental, with the aim of pampering a fussy new breed of mega-rich international travelers from Asia and other emerging economies. Trying to keep up, the grande dames of the Paris hotel scene have been sprucing themselves up: The Bristol just finished a six-year renovation, the Hôtel Plaza Athenée a $268 millon facelift.

Well, I did not stay in any of them. Instead I chose a classic family-owned hotel that’s just across the street from the Peninsula (and a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe): the Hôtel Raphael. It’s quintessential Paris: an old-world mansion with a stellar concierge desk, a breakfast room out of a Parisian film, and a roof garden with panoramic views of the city. It’s even got a sister hotel, with a fabulous indoor pool you can use, a two-minute walk away. The pièce de resistance was this lovely room, fit for an empress (30-second tour shot with my iPhone):


Asian-owned hotels that cost upwards of $1,300 a night may be getting all the publicity these days, but classics like the Raphael shouldn’t be overlooked—and here’s my Instagram album to prove it.


My classic old-world home in #Paris. More than 60 movies have been shot here. #HotelRaphael

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

The #HotelRaphael’s rooftop terrace/garden/bar is closed for the winter, but I snuck up anyway. #Paris #TourEiffel

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

Every once in a while it’s nice to have a #mosaic in one’s #bathtub. :) #HotelRaphael #Paris

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on


The Hôtel Raphael was kind enough to provide me with complimentary accommodations. In keeping with my standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on the hotel’s part, nor was anything promised on mine. I simply adored the hotel–its intimacy, its old-world charm, the hop-to-it service shown by its polished yet warm staff—and so I want to be sure you know about it, as a convenient five-star alternative to the new $1,300-a-night hotels that are getting all the press nowadays. 

What’s your favorite hotel in Paris?

The view at Villa Miguel, Cabo, Mexico

How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental: Tips for Your First Time, or any Time

I’m a villa rental convert.

I wanted to do something special for my most recent birthday. But with a three-year-old at home, a weekend jaunt to Paris was not in the cards: Long flights are exhausting, and hotel stays can be tough, forcing us all onto a toddler’s sleep schedule. Plus, I wanted some time with my girlfriends. How to make it work? I hatched a plan to rent a house so that we could all spend a few days together, somewhere a bit exotic but with all the comforts and conveniences of home. We ended up with wonderful memories from our trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (which took place before Hurricane Odile hit the region in September; though the damage was significant, most hotels and villas have already reopened, including the place we stayed). Moreover, I came away with several valuable tips for first-time villa renters like myself:

Villa Miguel, Cabo, Mexico

My birthday dinner sunset at Villa Miguel

Know your destination’s neighborhoods—or find someone who does.
Cabo was a natural fit for our California-based group—a sunny respite for my friends mired in San Francisco’s summer fog—but I knew nothing about the area. So when I logged onto VRBO.com—a popular vacation-rental website—to start searching for a rental property, I was flummoxed by the options: VRBO’s 1,200 Cabo-area rentals are divided among Cabo San Lucas and the Los Cabos Corridor, then grouped by headings such as Costa Brava and Sirena Del Mar—all of which meant nothing to me. (I’d later discover that most of these are the names of neighborhoods or gated communities.) If I hadn’t finally thrown up my hands in defeat and called Julie Byrd, one of Wendy’s WOW List experts for villa vacations—Julie is the Cabo vacation-rental expert whom Wendy has been recommending to travelers for years—I might have booked a house in noisy, party-central Pedregal instead of in the family-friendly Cabo del Sol gated community.

Interestingly, many travelers who contact Julie Byrd with a particular villa in mind end up booking a different one based on her advice, most often because the location of the original house doesn’t fit their needs. If you plan to book a place without help from an expert like Julie—popular websites for this include VRBO, HomeAway, Craigslist, FlipKey, and TripAdvisor—make sure to familiarize yourself with the destination’s neighborhoods first. Sure, this is good advice for any trip, but it’s particularly important when renting a villa that may have been built originally as a private home without considering convenience for travelers.

Glean intel from online reviews.
These are full of essential information, especially if you read between the lines. You can figure out not just whether a villa is shabby or well-kept, but what kinds of travelers stay there and whether that beach you see in the photos is an easy stroll from the house or requires scrambling over a rocky path. (See these tips from an expert TripAdvisor reviewer on how to extract useful information from all those user reviews.)

Pool at Villa Cielito, Cabo, Mexico

The pool at Villa Cielito

Consider which hotel amenities are essential to your happiness.
Daily maid service? Wi-Fi? A full hot breakfast? Don’t skimp on what makes you happiest at a hotel. If making your bed and cooking your own breakfast each day doesn’t sound like vacation, know that there are staffed villas with every level of service—and corresponding price points. A different house we visited, Villa Cielito, had an indoor-outdoor living area with blockbuster ocean views that sparked destination-wedding fantasies among my girlfriends, but the bedrooms were generic and motel-like, without the knickknacks and local art that gave our own Villa Miguel a charming, homey atmosphere.

Dining and living room area at Villa Miguel, Cabo, Mexico

The dining and living room areas at Villa Miguel

Do some menu planning in advance.
I was initially attracted to the thought of cooking my own meals—until I realized the waste of time and ingredients involved for a trip as short as ours. Instead, I carried some granola and coffee from home, bought milk at a nearby grocery store, and spent the money we saved with our quick-and-easy breakfasts on a few splurge meals. Best of all was a catered dinner at our villa on the night of my birthday; my son never would have sat through a five-course meal at a restaurant, but here he was free to wander around with his toys while we dined at a relaxed pace.

Entry at Villa Miguel, Cabo, Mexico

Villa Miguel entryway

Stay a week.
I’d hesitate before renting a villa again for less than a week. Villas have a higher start-up cost than a hotel room but greater efficiency in the long run. It would have been more cost-effective to cook for ourselves if we could have bought and used a week’s worth of groceries. And the quirks that can make a private home so appealing—perusing the owner’s book collection, say—can take a while to discover. Similarly, don’t overextend yourself with activities. Julie Byrd advises clients to pre-book activities only in the extreme high season; travelers often discover that they want to spend most of their time relaxing at their villa, not snorkeling or mountain biking. And if you have a large group, it can take longer than you expect to get out the door, so don’t count on fitting in more than one event per day.

Choose your companions wisely…
Traveling with extended family or friends can make renting a villa cheaper than an equivalent hotel—especially if people are willing to share bedrooms, as we did—but make sure you’ll all travel well together, as there’s little privacy in a shared house. (If you’re doing the math, it’s only fair to compare a villa rental to a hotel suite because a standard room doesn’t offer space that you can share only with your fellow travelers, away from the hotel’s other guests.)

Beach entry pool at Villa Miguel, Cabo, Mexico

The beach-entry pool at Villa Miguel

…And cater to kids.
If our son’s not happy, we’re not happy; there’s nothing relaxing about a grumpy kid. An expert villa-rental agent (Wendy knows the best, so if you need a recommendation, ask her) will know which properties are best for little ones. If you’re going it alone, ask the villa owner not just whether the house is kid-friendly but what ages of kids have successfully stayed there; a two-year-old has much different needs than an eight-year-old. A property like ours, Villa Miguel, which was perfect for a toddler, would have been a death trap just a year ago (think wrought-iron railings and slippery stone staircases). Julie Byrd chose it for our group in part because of the beach-entry pool—which my son loved—and the easy access to restaurants at the two hotels in the same development.

Rent a car.
Except for city apartment rentals, in most cases you’ll need a car to explore the region around your villa. It’s a lot harder to call a taxi from your villa than it is to walk down to a hotel’s concierge and hire one. Make sure you’re comfortable driving in a foreign country.

Balcony at Villa Miguel, Cabo, Mexico

Balcony at Villa Miguel

Get a thorough walk-through of the property upon arrival.
I later regretted rushing our house manager through his 45-minute introductory tour. At the time, it felt like a waste on a 72-hour trip. Instead, we shivered through our late-night hangout sessions, not knowing how to adjust the living room air conditioner, and one of my friends was heartbroken to discover on our last morning that the glass doors to her balcony slid all the way back into the walls, opening up an entire corner of the room; had she known earlier, she would have slept with them open every night. Hotel rooms are built so that a new guest every night can intuitively find the light switch; private homes are not.


Disclosure: CaboVillas.com was kind enough to provide the writer’s three-night villa stay free of charge. In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on CaboVillas’ part, nor was anything promised on ours. You can read the signed agreement between WendyPerrin.com and CaboVillas here.

Cliveden House Hotel London

London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR


Hi Wendy,

We’ve got a 20-hour layover at Heathrow in spring 2015. We’ll be landing at 7 p.m. London time, and we fly out the next day at 3 p.m. We’ll be staying overnight and would love a good rest and possibly to see Windsor Castle. Do you think there would be time for this?  If not, what would you recommend near Heathrow for an enjoyable stay?




There are several historic manor-house hotels near Heathrow. I’d recommend you dine and sleep at one of them, then the next morning head to Windsor Castle—you might even stop to see Eton College and the Magna Carta Memorial as well—en route back to Heathrow.  That’s my kind of airport layover!

The expert on London Heathrow layovers is Jonathan Epstein of Celebrated Experiences, one of my Trusted Travel Experts for the United Kingdom. Jonathan lays out these options at various price points (with all rates inclusive of breakfast and taxes):

Cliveden House: This estate dating from the 1600s is the former home of Lady Astor. You’ll feel like you’re sleeping in Downton Abbey. It’s got 376 acres of extraordinary formal gardens and woodlands, including a maze. If you book through Jonathan, you get a guaranteed upgrade at time of booking, as well as an historic tour of the house. Rates start at about $625/night.

Pennyhill Park. This has a world-class spa and a two-Michelin-star restaurant, Latymer, that’s considered one of the best dining experiences in the U.K. Rooms are large and full of character. Rates start at about $450/night.

Great Fosters. This country house dating from 1550 was one of Elizabeth I’s hunting lodges and comes with exceptional Tudor gardens. Rates start at about $300/night, but if you book one of Jonathan’s preferred rooms in the Main House for about $400/night, you get a complimentary transfer to Heathrow.

The Runnymede-on-Thames. This is a contemporary riverfront four-star hotel with a spa and both an outdoor and indoor pool. You can even rent an electronic riverboat and drive yourself down the Thames. Rates start at about $200/night.

If you really want to get to Windsor Castle, I might suggest opting for Great Fosters. That’s because if you choose Cliveden you’ll want to spend your morning exploring the gardens, and at Pennyhill Park you’ll want to spend it in the spa. Wherever you stay, though, Jonathan can have a driver pick you up in the morning and take you to Windsor Castle and Eton College en route back to Heathrow. Beats staying at the airport Hilton or Sofitel, eh?

If you connect with Jonathan via the black CONTACT button below his photo on his Insider’s Guide here, you’ll be marked as a WendyPerrin.com V.I.P. traveler, and you’ll get the priority status and trip-monitoring service that go with that. Enjoy your layover!

a hotel room at Fogo Island Inn Newfoundland

How to Use TripAdvisor to Choose a Hotel

Note from Wendy: Peter Volny, a WendyPerrin.com reader based in Fountain Hills, Arizona, has traveled to 127 countries, doing extensive homework on TripAdvisor for most of those trips, and has posted nearly 400 reviews on the site himself. That combo makes him something of an expert when it comes to knowing how to use other people’s TripAdvisor reviews to plan a great trip. There’s an art to being able to quickly glean the best intel from such a massive collection of reviews, praise, complaints, and advice. So I asked Peter to share some of his most effective hotel-searching strategies.


I must be addicted to travel. I’ve now been to 127 countries and have already booked trips to another 12 so far for 2015. My wife and I have been very fortunate in life and stay in the best hotels and resorts, so perhaps we are more demanding than most, but I believe that the following tips apply to everyone, regardless of category of establishment. In fact, in the USA, we have stayed in motels that were spotless and wonderful, whereas some very expensive five-star hotels have left a lot to be desired. Here are my tips for using TripAdvisor to choose the best hotel for your particular needs:

Explore the different hotel filters.
Once my wife and I have decided on an area to visit (such as the six-week trip to Switzerland, Northern Italy and the Riviera from which we just returned), we go to TripAdvisor to research hotels. They break your hotel choices down by price, class, style, brand, neighborhoods, and even amenities, plus drop-down menus for each, which gives you many ways to select the one that suits you best. You can also see rates from Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Booking.com and Priceline.

Study the photographs.
Here you have two choices: the professional photographs supplied by the hotel, and those posted by guests. The ones supplied by the hotel may have been taken when everything was brand new—or staged and even retouched—whereas the most recent guest photos tend to be more currently accurate. Both are helpful, but look at as many as you can to form your own opinion. Sometimes we have reserved a sea-view room, then realized from looking at the guest photos that the hotel’s photos were taken from the rooftop with a long zoom lens. This is a personal thing, but my wife and I like stand-alone showers and hate those half-glass bathtub screens they use so much in Europe, and this usually shows up in guest photos but not in hotel photos. Cabinet and drawer space is another thing that hotels typically don’t show, but guests tend to show where there is enough space or it’s far too skimpy. In fact, guests tend to highlight deficiencies, which of course the hotel would never do.

Read the reviews—and consider who wrote them.
We look at several reviews before deciding. We also put more credence in reviews from other Americans, Canadians, or Australians, since their standards are similar to ours, as opposed to a review posted by someone from a country that may not be as developed. Similarly, we tend to discount hotel reviews from people who live in the same city as the property being reviewed, since we wonder whether those people are friends of the owner.

Consider the hotel’s own responses to reviews.
Finally, we always take into account whether and how the establishment responds to reviews, both positive and negative. A response indicates to us that the owner or manager cares what its customers are saying. Earlier this year we stayed at a place where we were very unhappy with aspects of the bathroom. The manager posted a response explaining the reasons and saying that he would look into rectifying the situation. Last month we stayed in a five-star hotel where there were several problems, one being that the waiters were astonishingly rude to the guests. The manager posted a response that denied these problems, indicating to us that they don’t care. Even if the guest is wrong, there is a polite and positive way to respond; if they insult the guest, this is a pretty good indication of the kind of service you can expect.

hotel des marronniers paris france

Wendy’s Favorite Small Hotels in Paris for 2014


Hi Wendy,

What are your favorite small hotels in Paris right now? Left Bank preferred. Budget generous but not outrageous.



Funny you should ask, Lary. I’m headed to Paris myself next month and need to book a hotel!

hotel duc de saint simon paris hotel room

The Hôtel Duc de Saint-Simon is one of my longtime Left Bank favorites. Photo courtesy Hôtel Duc de Saint-Simon.

One of my longtime Left Bank favorites—because it is well-located, charming, and a good value for your euro—is the Hôtel Duc de Saint-Simon, an 18th-century townhouse in the 7th arrondissement quite close to the Musée d’Orsay. A couple of four-star finds in the Saint-Germain-des-Près quarter are the Hotel d’Aubusson, in a 17th-century residence close to the Seine, and the Hotel de l’Abbaye Saint-Germain, an oasis near the Luxembourg Gardens. Another hotel I recommend in the 6th arrondissement—to those needing a budget-friendly three-star—is the Hotel des Marronniers, on a charming, quiet street dotted with art galleries. Rooms are small and the elevator tiny, but the garden courtyard is lovely for breakfast, and the hotel is just a two-minute walk from the Saint-Germain-des-Près Métro stop.

le pavillon de la reine paris hotel

Beyond the Left Bank, Le Pavillon de la Reine hotel is getting a lot of buzz. Photo courtesy Le Pavillon de la Reine.

Lary, next time you feel like branching out from the Left Bank, consider staying in Le Marais—a trendy neighborhood that is practically the new Saint-Germain-des-Près—at Le Pavillon de la Reine. A gem of a hotel right by the Place des Vosges, it’s getting a lot of buzz nowadays.

Readers, I’d love to hear: What’s your favorite hotel in Paris right now? And, since I always want to try new places, where should I stay when I’m in Paris in November?  Merci!

United Global First Class

Unexpected Ways to Use Your Frequent Flier Miles

I had the good fortune to spend this past weekend learning from some of the smartest frequent-flier mileage and loyalty-program bloggers out there, at the Boarding Area Conference (aka BAcon) in Las Vegas. For those not familiar, Boarding Area is a network of sites that share information, news, and advice for frequent travelers (from families to business folk); it was created by frequent-flier legend Randy Petersen (who also founded Milepoint, FlyerTalk, and InsideFlyer). And since I was sitting in a room all weekend with people who know how to get the most out of loyalty programs, I sought out some advice for the rest of us. We all know that frequent flier miles are more than just a way to earn free flights, but we’re not always sure when else to use them and what other perks are worthwhile. So here goes: four unexpected ways to use miles to make your next trip amazing.

1. Plan special events

“Airline miles and hotel points are often best used to book travel, but sometimes there are other ways to get big value out of them. We used SPG hotel points to get luxury box seats at a Cubs game at Wrigley field for my husband’s birthday one year and that made the trip to Chicago very special!”

—Summer Hull, Mommy Points


2. Put premium cabins within reach

“What many people don’t realize is how lucrative award tickets can be. Casual travelers tend to think of using their miles and points for domestic economy travel, but international premium cabins are more approachable than you might think, and don’t require that many more miles. I used 135,000 American AAdvantage miles per person to book Cathay Pacific first-class tickets for my mom and me for her birthday last year. That was an incredibly special experience—and something that wouldn’t have been possible for us without airline miles.”

—Ben Schlappig, One Mile At A Time


3. Upgrade your hotel stay

“Airline miles aren’t nearly as good for upgrades as they used to be (US airlines tend to charge cash—as much as $600 each way—in addition to miles for international upgrades) but hotel points can be a great way to upgrade. Hyatt is especially generous in this regard, charging just 6,000 points per night to confirm a suite when you pay a standard rate for a regular room.”

—Gary Leff, View From the Wing


4. Give someone an amazing gift

“One of the best ways to use miles/points is to give them to others by booking flights and hotels for them. To us this is one of the most rewarding uses of miles and points because we can share first-class flights and five-star hotels with family and friends who would never otherwise be able to experience luxury travel.”

—Daraius Dubash and Emily Jablon, Million Mile Secrets


5. Bring a friend on a business trip

“Autumn is peak time for meetings and conventions. It’s also a smart time of year to use your miles to bring a family member or friend along when attending one. Due to a decrease in demand for air travel during the fall “shoulder season,” it’s one of the easiest times of year to redeem miles at so-called “saver” rates. So redeem 25,000 miles and bring along someone special for a long weekend before or after that meeting in New York or Chicago or San Francisco. It’s a great way to spend some time together and have at least part of the trip subsidized by your company or client. ”

—Chris McGinnis, TravelSkills


In what unexpected ways have you used your miles? Tell us below.

Mamilla hotel Jerusalem Israel

A New Way To Get V.I.P. Treatment in a Hotel

As TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate, I share advice on TripAdvisor’s blog about how to pick the right hotel or room. But there’s a difference between wanting and actually getting. TripAdvisor can help—within its hotel reviews you can click on “See more room tips” to learn whether to request a certain room number or stay away from one—but when it comes to getting into a hotel that’s sold out, or getting upgraded to the one room with the panoramic view from the bathtub, for that you need the right human being with the right connections.

I’ve collected just such human beings on my WOW List. These Trusted Travel Experts have close, preferred relationships with the hoteliers at the destinations they specialize in. They suss out the best rooms at each property and make sure their travelers get them. They negotiate exclusive rates with V.I.P. perks. And they have pledged that WendyPerrin.com travelers will be the first in line for those perks, whenever and wherever possible.

In case you’ve missed my recent TripAdvisor posts about how to pick the right hotel and room, here’s a sampling.

Why You Should Choose a Hotel with an Amazing Rooftop
A panoramic rooftop that’s in the middle of all the action—and that has a pool, a bar, a breakfast area, or all three—comes with unexpected benefits that can transform a trip from just okay to extraordinary.

How to Pick a Room in a Palace Hotel
When it comes to historic European palace hotels, the reality often doesn’t live up to the fantasy. That’s because rooms can vary drastically and choosing the right one is tricky.

When to Stay in a Fashion Designer Hotel
In honor of this month’s Fashion Weeks in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, here’s my take on when to pick a hotel that is a couturier’s dreamy creation—and how to make your stay even dreamier.

How to Sightsee Inside Legendary Hotels
It’s often well worth incorporating a grand historic hotel into your sightseeing itinerary. Here’s how.

If you’d rather have a Trusted Travel Expert do all the work for you, choose the right person from my WOW List. The way to let that person know you’re a WendyPerrin.com V.I.P. traveler is by contacting him/her via the black CONTACT button on his/her Insider’s Guide.

And if you’ve gotten into an extraordinary hotel and room thanks to a Trusted Travel Expert, click to his/her Insider’s Guide and leave a review!

Bangkok Banyan Tree Thailand

Our Readers’ Favorite Hotel Rooftops in the World

Last week on TripAdvisor, Wendy wrote about the benefits of choosing hotels with amazing rooftops: the crowd-free views, the beautiful breakfast setting, the convenience of late-night sightseeing when jet lag wakes you up at three in the morning. That blog post covered the reasons why she loves a hotel rooftop, but we wanted to hear from real travelers about the where. So we put the question out on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram: What is your favorite hotel rooftop in the world? The answers and photos below are likely to inspire you to plan a trip right now.


The Standard Downtown LA Hotel rooftop pool

The rooftop pool and club at the Standard Downtown LA is a place to see and be seen.

The Standard Downtown LA is a cool rooftop spot for evening drinks, according to Facebook fan Elaine Travels—and we think it’s not just because of the view. The design-focused hotel tricked out its aerie with a red AstroTurf deck, outdoor fireplace, heated pool, sleek couches and loungers, and waterbed pods.

Reader Elizabeth Vail traveled to Lhasa a few years ago and fell in love with the view from the roof of the Shambhala Palace Hotel.

Instagrammer @hopeyouloveit hashtagged her way through praise for Banyan Tree Bangkok’s Vertigo and Moon Bar—and, looking at this photo, we can see why.

Jody Bear, founder of Bear & Bear Travel, left us a comment on Facebook: “Not only is First Hotel in Rome a cool, trendy hotel in a great location, but their rooftop/lounge is the place to be—think Nikki beach in the sky!”


the Mamilla Jerusalem Hotel

The rooftop restaurant at the Mamilla Jerusalem Hotel overlooks the Old City.

Susan Weissberg, a travel agent who specializes in Israel, loves the rooftop restaurant at the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem.

Bellevue Syrene in Sorrento

The Bellevue Syrene in Sorrento (a Relais & Chateaux property) has beautiful views from the pool, as well as from suites with their own private rooftop terraces.

Cookbook author Robyn Webb nominated the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet. She says “Looking at the lighted mosques from there, especially at night, is magical. On a balmy Turkish summer evening you feel like a sultan sitting on top of your grand palace!” Robyn also had a great experience at the Bellevue Syrene in Sorrento (a Relais & Chateaux property). There, she stayed in a suite with its own private rooftop terrace—with Mt. Vesuvius in her direct view.

Instagrammer @laurie_gery is a fan of another Relais & Chateaux spot, La Villa des Orangers in Marrakech. The rooftop pool area there boasts gardens, solariums, and a view of the Atlas mountains.


rooftop view at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

The Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende offers views of the town’s spires and bell towers.

The Rosewood San Miguel de Allende’s Luna Rooftop Tapas Baris lodged firmly in the memory of both Hope Smith (a Mexico travel specialist with Born to Travel) and George Alexandrou (of Alexandrou Travel Design). As George posted on Instagram, “Great view and ambiance. Plus the cocktails help.”

We know Becky Veith from her experience planning Caribbean vacations, but she answered our Facebook question with a spot in Italy. “A small three-star hotel in Rome called Albergo Del Senato,” she suggested. “It has fabulous views of the Pantheon and its Piazza Della Rotonda.”


Marriott's Grand Chateau Las Vegas

Marriott’s Grand Chateau Las Vegas has a rooftop pool escape from the busy nightlife below.

Reader Charlie Powell is a fan of Marriott’s Grand Chateau in Las Vegas, where the resort’s rooftop pool is a break from the desert heat.

The Soho House brand made our readers’ list twice: Katie Frederick, a honeymoon planner with a trip-envy-inspiring Instagram feed, is a fan of the Soho House New York’s rooftop pool. Another of our Instagram fans, Caroline Lempert, nominated Soho Beach House Miami.


Vibe Hotel Ruschutters rooftop pool

Travelers to Sydney can get a view of Rushcutters Bay from the rooftop pool area at Vibe Hotel Ruschutters.

The Vibe Hotel Rushcutters, in Sydney, is a favorite of Instagram fan @the_matthew_cull. The rooftop pool here overlooks Rushcutters Bay.

The two-level Sarab Rooftop Lounge at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa is a favorite Dubai hangout for @iscanebru. Guests can take in a view of the Arabian Desert while sipping cocktails and smoking shisha pipes.


What’s your favorite hotel rooftop?


InterContinental Hotel Hong Kong

Wendy Reveals Her Favorite Hotel Suite. What’s Yours?

In case you missed it, Wendy revealed her favorite hotel suite last week, in an article in Elite Traveler. Though she’s stayed in over-the-top rooms in hotels all over the world, Wendy is most impressed by the InterContinental Deluxe Suites at the InterContinental Hong Kong. “The colorful ships and traditional junks crisscrossing Victoria Harbour sail so close to your suite’s glass walls that you can practically reach out and touch them,” she told the magazine. “It’s one of those rare hotels where you can do the best sightseeing without even leaving your room.”

Wendy was one of many globetrotting VIPs interviewed by Elite Traveler for their picks (including Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and travel expert Peter Greenberg), and, not surprisingly, the selections included some impressive properties and rooms all around the world.

But we wanted to know what you think are the best hotel suites around, so we posted the question on Facebook and collected some of our fans’ answers and comments below. Several of the folks who responded are frequent world travelers and in the travel business themselves, so we were fascinated to find out their faves. If your top pick isn’t on this list yet, click over to our Facebook page and weigh in. We’d love to hear from you!


Paris Le Bristol Hotel Elysee Suite

The Prestige Elysée Suites at Le Bristol are the largest rooms in the Paris hotel.  Photo courtesy Le Bristol

The Prestige Elysée Suites at Le Bristol, Paris, were the top pick for Vicky McGlynn, Bermuda specialist with Vicky Bell Bermuda Travel. “I dream of our stay there and the living room filled with flowers,” she says.


Amankila Resort Bali

You’ll get your own private pool and a personal butler in the Amankila Suite at Amankila in Bali.  Photo courtesy Amanresorts

Pretty much everything in Bali is gorgeous, but Christy Camren over at Hager’s Journeys says her favorite suite for soaking up all that beauty is the Amankila Suite at Amankila. And her reasons are pretty convincing: “Stunning views, private pool with sunbeds and covered lounge areas, a butler… It’s like having your very own private compound in Bali.”


Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane Terrace Suite

The Terrace Suite in London’s Four Seasons at Park Lane opens onto a landscaped terrace.  Photo courtesy Four Seasons

Travel agent Linda Terrill named the Terrace Suite at the Four Seasons at Park Lane, saying “It’s fabulous and has an added benefit: It’s in London.”


Jumeirah Dhevanafushi resort Maldives

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi’s Ocean Sanctuary is its own private villa, with a pool, 24-hour butler service, and that beautiful Maldives view. Photo courtesy Jumeirah Group

Wendy first met Facebook fan Wanwisa Posner when Wanwisa won Condé Nast Traveler’s Dream Trip contest in 2008, after submitting a beautiful photo of Bhutan. Wendy planned that trip of a lifetime with the help of Maldives expert Lindsey Wallace of Linara Travel. So we weren’t surprised that Wanwisa’s favorite suite is in the Maldives: the Ocean Sanctuary Villa at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi (pictured). Back on land, Wanwisa also has a soft spot for Singita Lebombo Lodge in Kruger National Park, and who wouldn’t? The glass-enclosed lofts look out over the landscape (and game!) of a 33,000-acre park on South Africa’s border with Mozambique.


Singita Boulders Lodge South Africa

Singita Boulders Lodge is set in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Reserve, and the accommodations are like personal mini safari lodges. Photo courtesy Singita

Cookbook author Robyn Webb agreed with Wendy’s pick, but added “My fave, if it counts as a suite—well two, they are like houses!—are Singita Boulders in South Africa (pictured) and Qualia in the Great Barrier Reef area.”


Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris

The Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons George V in Paris is decked out with artworks, crystal chandeliers, fresh flowers and French chocolates.  Photo courtesy Four Seasons

The Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons George V in Paris earned the nod from marketing maven and former Robb Report editor Debbi Kickham for three good reasons. As Debi commented on Facebook, “It’s like Versailles, and it even has its own gym. And they restock the kitchen with French chocolates every day!”


Viceroy Anguilla Hotel Suite

The suites in the Viceroy Anguilla have ocean views and private plunge pools outside, and lots of space and clean design inside. Photo courtesy Christian Horan

Reader Marisa Chieco Christmas fell for the Viceroy Anguilla suites. And it’s easy to see why. An ocean view, a huge marble tub, a private plunge pool, and oh yeah, all of Anguilla surrounding you. Gorgeous.


Savoy Hotel London Staff in 1904

London’s Savoy hotel staff (seen here in 1904) have been hosting celebrities for more than a century. Star guests have included Katharine Hepburn, Winston Churchill, and Charlie Chaplin, all of whom have suites named after them.  Photo courtesy Fairmont

Author, blogger and global shopper Sarah Lahey agreed with Wendy’s nod to InterContinental Hong Kong and Peter Greenberg’s choice of the Peninsula Shanghai, but added “I also loved the Katharine Hepburn suite at The Savoy in London (even though her name was misspelled on the plaque outside the door!).”


What’s your favorite hotel suite? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook.


Wendy Perrin at Westin Europa Regina hotel Venice

Wendy Shares Hotel Upgrade Tips with Giada De Laurentiis

Who doesn’t want a free upgrade? Giada De Laurentiis asked me to reveal some of my best upgrade strategies in the latest issue of Giada Weekly, a digital mag available by subscription on the Web or iOS device ($.99 an issue or $2.99 a month). I’m a fan of Giada’s, so I recommend subscribing, but for those who aren’t onboard yet, here’s a sneak peek at my secrets:

How to get a better airplane seat:

Unfortunately, airlines don’t pass out upgrades the way they used to. You usually have to pay for one or become an elite member of an airline’s loyalty program (a feat that’s increasingly difficult to achieve). But if you’re flying coach, you can still get a lot of intel from two great Web sites. Before booking your flight, use Seatguru.com to find your plane’s seat map, which lists pros and cons of each seat on the plane. If you end up stuck in the middle spot, head over to ExpertFlyer.com, which will let you know when a better seat becomes available. Best part? Even though ExpertFlyer.com is a site you have to pay for, it provides seat alerts for free.

How to get a hotel upgrade:

Even people without elite status can use certain magic words to try for upgrades at hotels. One easy tactic is simply to let your hotel know when you’re celebrating a special occasion; luxury properties will sometimes go out of their way to make your experience a memorable one. Also keep in mind that it can be easier to get an upgrade on a Sunday night because the weekend leisure travelers have all left and the business travelers haven’t arrived for the week yet.

How to use social media to get upgrades or to fix a problem:

Many airlines and hotels are on Twitter these days (and increasingly more are on Instagram too), so they are watching what people are saying about them on those platforms. If you need help, complaining directly to a travel company on Twitter can often get results—for instance, if you asked for one thing, but got something very different. For a shot at an upgrade or special perk, consider spreading excitement about your upcoming trip on Twitter or Instagram, and include the hotel’s social media handle. This can work especially well for loyalty program members; if you let the hotel know you’re coming via Twitter, they might look out for you. It’s no big secret that they want to have great publicity on those platforms.

When to use a travel agent to help you get upgrades:

Some travel-planning firms are elite preferred partners of certain hotel brands, and in those cases, they get reduced rates or added-value benefits such as free upgrades, free breakfast, late check-out, resort credits, and other VIP perks. That’s one reason why finding the right travel agent can really make a trip special. So how do you find that all-star travel agent? Ask me!  A lot of readers have already reached out to me for direction, and I’m publishing answers to their questions right here on WendyPerrin.com. If you don’t see your particular need addressed, email me at questions@wendyperrin.com.

Thanks again to Giada and her team for inviting me to be a part of The Easy Upgrades Issue. You can follow her @GiadaWeekly, and, of course, stay tuned here and on my own Twitter and Facebook feeds for more secrets to smart travel.

What’s your best tip for getting an upgrade?

Sandpearl Resort Clearwater Beach Florida

Score Exclusive Savings at 22 Hotels and Resorts

Don’t you love an empty white-sand beach? My family loved this one at the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida, February 2012. 

Starting at midnight tonight Eastern Time, and continuing throughout the day on Saturday, June 21st, 22 hotels and resorts in Florida, the Caribbean, and Latin America will offer exclusive reduced rates in a Cyber Summer Travel sale. Five-star beach resorts will have suites available at half price, four-diamond resorts will cost just $99/night, and more. You can check out the special offers right now.  They are valid throughout the summer and, in some cases, through the end of the year. But the booking window is one day only: June 21st (the summer solstice).

The deals that really caught my eye are 50% off beachfront suites at Anguilla’s CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa; three nights free if you book four at St. Kitts Marriott Resort; and $129 nightly rates at the Lord Balfour in Miami’s South Beach. Even one of my children’s favorite beach resorts is included:  The Sandpearl, in Clearwater Beach, Florida (near Tampa), where we enjoyed a fabulously kid-friendly vacation two years ago.

Hope you scoop up something great!

Sandpearl Resort Florida beach volleyball

My kids played volleyball for days on the Sandpearl’s beach. It felt like playing on baby powder. Clearwater Beach, Florida, February 2012


Lobby of The Affinia Manhattan hotel
Nobody expects to see a space like this at 7th Ave. and 31st St. It's the lobby of The Affinia Manhattan.

7 New York City Hotels That are Convenient and Affordable


Hi Wendy,

A friend and his wife are going to New York City for their 25th anniversary. They want to see all the attractions, which will take them from the Statue of Liberty to the new Freedom Tower, and up to Central Park. What conveniently located Manhattan hotels do you recommend for someone with a budget of about $300 per night?


—Jack C.


Jack, as someone who grew up in midtown Manhattan and still spends most days of the week there, zipping uptown and down on the subway, I do have a few picks for hotels that are well-located for sightseeing, convenient to public transportation, and budget-friendly (for NYC, that is).  Given the tourist crowds that are expected to hit Manhattan over the next few months—New York City is, after all, the #3 U.S. destination for TripAdvisor travelers this summer—these options should come in handy.


In the Theater District: citizenM Times Square

This new 230-room hotel is the first stateside outpost of the Amsterdam-based hotel chain, whose motto is “affordable luxury.”  The lobby, referred to as “the living room,” features oversized art and is filled with books and magazines. Efficiency is the theme, with self-service check-in and check-out, a 24-hour canteen, and rooms that make the most of their limited space with oversized beds and smart storage (218 West 50th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues).


Near Fifth Avenue shopping: Viceroy New York

The 240-room Viceroy aims to bring a downtown vibe to its chic uptown location just a three-minute walk from Fifth Avenue’s most elegant shops and restaurants and the prettiest corner of Central Park.  The lobby has an Art Deco vibe; the restaurant and bar, Kingside, is a destination unto itself; the rooms are done in brown leathers, wood paneling, and brass accents. Doubles start at $305 if you prepay (120 West 57th St).


Near the Flatiron: Ace Hotel New York

This trendy 260-room hotel a few blocks from Madison Square Park is a magnet for locals, thanks to its Stumptown-Coffee-serving lobby bar and Michelin-starred gastro pub, The John Dory Oyster Bar. In a building dating from 1904, the hotel has an eclectic aesthetic that combines the historic mosaic tile floor and stained glass ceilings with oddities such as a graffiti sticker mural wall in the lobby. Room sizes vary drastically, from Bunk Bed to Loft Suite  (20 W. 29th St., near Broadway).


Near Columbus Circle: Hudson New York

Just five blocks from Lincoln Center, this Philippe Starck-designed hotel is still reasonably hip, even 14 years after it opened. Rooms are small; the focus is on the public spaces, such as the Sky Terrace rooftop bar, which is very popular in summer, and the Hudson Common, a beer hall and burger joint with nightly live music (365 W. 58th St., between 8th and 9th Avenues).


Near Pennsylvania Station: The Affinia Manhattan

This hotel is not in a pretty neighborhood, but it’s close to the transit hubs at Penn Station and Herald Square, yet still a few blocks removed from the noise and chaos of Times Square (and just a short walk to Macy’s and the Empire State Building). The hotel has an Old New York ambiance—with velvet couches and gold-plated elevators—and 618 modern, comfortable rooms (371 Seventh Ave. at 31st St).


At Grand Central Terminal: Grand Hyatt New York

It’s hardly a charmer, what with 1,306 rooms and a busy lobby, but it’s attached to Grand Central Terminal, making it one of the most convenient places to sleep in Manhattan. It’s got all the comforts of a large hotel: a 24-hour market downstairs, a fitness center, and just about any service you could need within easy reach (109 East 42nd St).


Near Soho shopping and galleries: The Nolitan

NoLita is a fun downtown neighborhood whose abbreviation stands for “North of Little Italy.” This hotel’s cozy lobby has a library, and its modern-industrial rooms have unfinished ceilings and wood-plank floors. Some even have floor-to-ceiling windows or balconies (30 Kenmare St.).



Kings Court, a four-star hotel in Prague

Great Deals at Prague’s Top Hotels (Plus an Extra for WendyPerrin.com Travelers)


Hi Wendy,

I read your post on How to Get Five-Star Service Without Paying Five-Star Prices and Secrets to a Better Hotel Stay.  I’m traveling to Prague, in the Czech Republic, August 10 to 15.  Where’s the best place to stay location-wise?  We booked the Art Deco Imperial but can cancel.




Paul, since you’ve read Secrets to a Better Hotel Stay, you know that one key to getting five-star service without paying five-star prices is to book through a destination specialist who has negotiated a special deal with the hotel that involves both a lower rate and value-added benefits. One such destination specialist is Prague expert Gwen Kozlowski of Exeter International, a firm that specializes in travel to Eastern Europe. “For me, location is everything,” says Gwen, “especially in a city like Prague where taxis can be unscrupulous.” Here are Gwen’s suggestions and the specials she’s offering in August (Paul, you might compare these with what you’ve been offered at the Art Deco Imperial):


4-star picks:

Pachtuv Palace: “The four-star Mamaison Suite Hotel Pachtuv Palace wins for location. It’s in the Old Town, right at the Charles Bridge, and it oozes ambiance, as it’s located in a series of restored Baroque buildings. Some rooms come with Castle views.  Pachtuv Palace offers 15% off their standard rates when guests stay a minimum of two nights or 20% off when they stay a minimum of three nights.  This means a three-night stay in a Deluxe Room with Castle View in August could be as little as $670 including tax (not including breakfast).”


Kings Court:  “This also has a great location. It has more standardized rooms, which means it’s easier to get twins and connecting rooms.  They also have an Executive Lounge (snacks, drinks and private check-in) and a nice pool – a rarity in Prague. It’s a good option for families. Basically, anyone staying three nights or longer receives 15% off our already great rates.  This means that a three-night stay in August in an Executive Room (club access) can be as little as $800, including tax and breakfast as well as Executive Club benefits.”


5-star picks:

Kempinski Hybernska: “This is my top recommendation for those who want a five-star experience that is more boutique and less expensive than the Mandarin Oriental or the Four Seasons. It’s in a beautiful old Baroque building in the Old Town, and most rooms are oversized or suites. We have two promotions running in August: One is a fourth night free in a Grand Deluxe Room or higher.  The other is a guaranteed one-category upgrade at the time of booking. And the two promotions are combinable!  This means you can book a Grand Deluxe Room, get the fourth night free and get upgraded to a Junior Suite.  A four-night booking during August with this promotion would be $1,500 total, including tax and breakfast.”


Mandarin Oriental Prague: “This is the top pick for the Mala Strana area–a neighborhood of twisting and winding streets that makes you feel like you’re in some kind of fairytale, away from most of the backpackers that fill Old Town.  A Mandarin Oriental hotel may seem like a weird choice for a city like Prague, but it’s located in a renovated monastery, and the spa is to die for.  Rooms are spacious and, while they do have a serene Asian aesthetic, there are splashes of color and artwork to tie the hotel into the city atmosphere.  Starting June 1, the Mandarin is offering a fourth night free, even for their least expensive rooms.  This means that a four-night stay in August in a Superior Room would be $1,700, including tax and breakfast.”


Four Seasons Prague: “The crème-de-la-crème of hotels in Prague is offering a third night free in its Renaissance Rooms, which have an historic feel and have all just been renovated in the past couple of years. This means that a three-night stay here can be had for $1,825, including tax and breakfast.”


All rates quoted above are based on two adults sharing a room, and Exeter International travelers receive VIP treatment, which can mean anything from additional upgrades to welcome amenities in the rooms and more. Gwen is also throwing in, just for wendyperrin.com travelers, complimentary private car transportation from the airport to your hotel—”so you can arrive in Prague without having to navigate the unscrupulous taxi situation.”  Thanks, Gwen!


The Mamaison Hotel Pachtuv Palace Prague

The Mamaison Hotel Pachtuv Palace Prague

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Get Exotic Luxury For Less in Southeast Asia


Hi Wendy,

My wife and I are interested in how to do exotic luxury travel on a reduced budget.  We’ve enjoyed a lot of far-flung adventures over the years, but we just bought a new house, so our pockets are a little emptier than usual. We are absolutely craving a trip to Southeast Asia and are trying to figure out how to pull something off.





You’re in luck, Adam, because Southeast Asia is one of those parts of the world where your dollar stretches far. It’s chock full of spoil-you-rotten hotels with relatively affordable rates, thanks to the combination of a low cost of labor and a culture that values the art of hospitality.  Your dollar buys a lot at the non-luxury level too: Skyscanner just named Vietnam, Bali, and Cambodia three of the world’s 10 best-value vacation spots of 2014.

One of my favorite Southeast Asia travel planners, Andrea Ross of Journeys Within Tour Company, is expert at orchestrating luxurious yet affordable itineraries (and she even writes her own Southeast Asia travel blog).  Here’s her advice–and how she does it:

1. Find seasonal promotions. “Right now Four Seasons is offering some amazing summer specials,” says Andrea. “If you stay three nights at their Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai, Thailand, you get two nights free at any of their other Thailand properties, including the Four Seasons Koh Samui beach property.  These deals won’t be available in high season, but if you don’t mind a little afternoon rain, or warmer temperatures, then going in shoulder season can be your best bet for getting luxury at a reasonable rate.”

2. Pepper your itinerary with boutique hotels that offer stellar service but also real value for the money. Andrea’s picks cost only $120 to $260 per night—hotels like Ariyasomvilla in Bangkok; 137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai, Thailand; Mekong Riverview in Luang Prabang, Laos; and Journeys Within Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. “These hotels are winning TripAdvisor awards and daily go above and beyond for their guests,” says Andrea.  “They also offer a window onto the history and culture of the locations they’re set in.”

3. Scrimp on your hotel in certain locations so you can splurge in locations where it matters more. “Splurge on your hotel at the beach, where you’re going to be spending more time in your room and using the hotel’s facilities. But when your schedule is packed and you’re going to be out and about—which is the case in Chiang Mai, which is a really fun town with lots of markets and restaurants and shopping—then luxury in your hotel isn’t necessary. In fact, often travelers in a luxury hotel will feel torn: They’ll want to get out and explore, but they’ll hesitate because they don’t want to leave the property.”

You can also read Andrea’s Insider’s Guide to Cambodia and her Insider’s Guide to Angkor Wat.

Who else has tips for getting exotic luxury on a budget in Southeast Asia?

Maia Luxury Resort, Anse Louis Beach, Seychelles

Secrets to a Better Hotel Stay

When TripAdvisor published its list of the ten hotels in the world with the best service, and I noticed that most of them are reasonably priced, I wrote How to Get Five-Star Service Without Paying Five-Star Prices and asked my friends on Facebook (frequent travelers, of course) this question: How do you get better service at hotels? When a problem crops up, how do you get it fixed, pronto?  I thought I’d share their strategies, as well as my own:

* “Tip the bellboy who delivers your bags to your room generously, and the rest of the hotel staff will hear about it in no time at all. That first tip with a big smile is the key.”  — Joe Yudin, WOW List Trusted Travel Expert for Israel

* “Make sure you speak to a person who can resolve the issue, and that varies from property to property.” — Sandy Ferguson,WOW List Trusted Travel Expert for Southeast Asia

* “Call the front desk, or the executive concierge (if you are on an executive floor), and explain the problem in a calm, respectful way. If that does not generate prompt attention, ask to speak with the hotel duty manager.” — Toby Saltzman, travelterrific

* “First rule: You get more bees with sugar than with vinegar. Keep your cool. Second rule: Be prepared to state what will make you happy. Know what you want in any negotiation.” — Charles Wolfe, Hurley Travel Experts


And here are my own tried-and-true tips:

* Book through a travel agent or destination specialist who has a close relationship with the hotel and sends it a lot of business. A travel agent who is tight with the hotel’s general manager and sits on the hotel company’s travel agent advisory board, for example, gets priority treatment (and extra perks) for his/her guests.  Should a problem arise, the hotel’s manager will likely rush to rectify it (for fear that the hotel could lose the travel firm’s business); if the problem doesn’t get rectified, the travel agent can intervene on your behalf.  (If you’re in need of the right travel specialist for a trip you have in mind and you’d like a recommendation, you may ask me here.

* Get a name to email. Look up the hotel on TripAdvisor, note the name of the manager or other employee who is replying to the negative reviews, grab his or her email address off TripAdvisor or from the front desk, and send him or her an email. Say that you’re at the hotel and are apprising him of your complaint so that he has a chance to rectify it before you get home and write your review.

* Take to Twitter.  Tweeting directly to the hotel—like this—can be the fastest way to get a problem solved, as hotels want to nip consumer complaints in the bud before bad publicity goes viral. Particularly helpful are @HyattConcierge, @Marriott, @SheratonHotels, @WaldorfAstoria, and @WHotels.

* Post photos to Instagram.  Some hotels—Four Seasons properties, for instance—monitor geo-tagged Instagram posts. If they note a guest is unhappy, they’ll take action to resolve the problem.

Rosewood Mayakoba resort butler

When you have a butler (like this one at Rosewood Mayakoba), it’s easy to get problems fixed. But what about when you don’t?

What are your strategies for getting better hotel service? Please share them below.