When we think of all-inclusives, we tend to think of beach resorts in Florida or the Caribbean. However, the newest trend is that hotels are using this “all in one” pricing strategy to attract travelers who are interested in knowing both how much their vacation is going to cost, and the ease of bundling all of the items that they wish to include into one price. Blackberry Farm, has been using this concept for quite some time with favorable results.
When I first went to an all-inclusive in the Caribbean, I recall thinking, why would I want to just stay at this resort; eat all my meals here; drink here? I want to explore and find out what the culture is, and what the island has to offer. Now, since I am forty years older, I just need a lounge chair and a good book, and yes that drink. So the idea of an all-inclusive is right up my alley.
Hotels and resorts have been slow to move in this area. There has been some “package pricing” that hotels and resorts have used to put together the room along with spa treatments or golf. However, today’s vacation traveler is interested in knowing that they can essentially have the same experience as those who travel by sea. They can arrive at their destination and know that all of the expenses are already paid for, and any other monies are just for non-essentials, and entertainment. This approach provides the traveler with a certain degree of freedom and knowledge of knowing that all is “taken care of.” However, some planning is required. Here are 5 tips that you will want to use.
Know What Is Important For You. Be clear on the types of things that you will want to have included in your pricing. Think of a cruise and what is normally included in their pricing, and what is not. Be willing to think “out-side” the box.
Look at Beach, Resort Areas as Location Possibilities. It might be easier to find a hotel that is doing all -inclusive pricing in such an area, than one that is in an urban center. However, if you are committed to going to a larger city, check the hotels that are your favorites, and see what they are already doing in this arena.
Be Willing To Present and Negotiate. The hotel of your choice may not have moved into this one-price market. However, when speaking with the manager, be prepared to have your top items ready to present to them, and ask if they could be “bundled” into a one price for the designated time (i.e. room for x nights, meals at any of their restaurants, spa treatment, 1 round of golf, theatre tickets). Have a long list, and be prepared to negotiate.
Know Your Budget. It goes without saying that you need to be aware of how much you are willing to pay for these services for the time period that represents your trip. Once again, think of it as “land cruising.” Are you willing to pay $2,500 pp, or more for a couple of days? As you consider your budget, just as in planning a trip on a cruise line, you will want to consider how many activities become part of your all-inclusive experience. You may want to start with simply room and meals and see how that works for you.
Assess How You Like It, and Provide Feedback. This is new territory for you and the hotelier. As you go on this journey, be willing to note how you have enjoyed it, what you would do differently next time, and send those thoughts to the general manager. You will be helping future travelers.
Be bold, find the hotel of your choice and contact them and ask… ” Do you offer all-inclusive rates?” And the process begins. There is nothing better than the ask.
Before I became a golfer, I was intrigued with golf resorts. It seemed as though the resorts had a particular panache that I liked. When my husband and I travelled, I would frequently select these resorts. What I discovered, even though I was not a golfer, was that I was never disappointed.
In recent years, golf has become more popular. Look at all the people who spend time watching golf matches on TV. As early as ten (10) years ago, that was virtually un-heard of, except by your grandparents. Now the sport is more lively, and the professional players are wearing sponsored clothing that makes them look “hip.” All of these changes has helped to re-define the hospitality industry, and to encourage hackers like myself to get out there and to keep trying, while staying in luxurious accommodations.
Here are some tips to consider when planning a trip to a golf resort. Remember, you don’t have to be a “player” just act like one.
1. Location, location, location. We have to admit that there are simply parts of the country and the world that are better suited to playing golf. Don’t limit yourself to Florida, Arizona, or California. You can find some of the most intriguing resorts with the best courses in the Carrbean, Portugal, Spain, and of course Ireland. (See the listing below. This is not meant to be a comprehensive listing, but a starting point for your consideration).
2.Determine the best resorts and courses for the area in which you would like to stay. This can be a bit tricky. In some cases, you can look at an outstanding resort, but when you read the fine print, it says that it has “access” to a nearby golf course. You will want to check and see the distance and whether or not the resort provides transportation. You will want to look at course statistics, and who designed the course. Also, just like everything else in the travel industry, there are reviews regarding the course. Make sure that you check those out prior to making your final decision.
3. Examine the resort amenitiesand activities This is important if you are travelling with a person who is not a golfer. You want to make sure that they are able to have fun, while you are on the course. Although amenities and services are listed, I suggest that you contact the hotel directly and speak with the concierge, who can make arrangements based upon the needs of your traveling partner. You will want to check out the number and types of restaurants that are on property. Identify what kind of reviews the restaurants receive. What type of pool (s) does the property have? Enquire about any concerts or festivals that will occur at the time of your visit, and make arrangements to enhance your visit.
4. Special Packages Often the resort will have special package rates for those who plan to play golf. You can find these special rates online. However, I have had greater success in contacting the hotel directly and letting them know that I wish to come for several days to play golf. Then begin to ask for what you want. I usually begin with a room upgrade. Ask if there is a special package rate for golfers. Determine what is part of the rate. Secure the package if you plan to play 18 holes every day; however, if you plan to play only 9 holes, you may find it better to go for an abbreviated package that you develop with the hotel. If the latter is the case, see if you can construct a package of x amount of rounds of 9 holes of golf, practice time, plus breakfast. Don’t be afraid to ask. You may be surprised at how well it turns out.
5. Schedule Tee-times in advance As soon as you have made your decision regarding the specific property, contact the ProShop to arrange for your tee-time, and/or training time. If you need to change it once you arrive, that is okay. I’ve seen too many people get very upset when they arrive at a location and cannot get onto the course at their desired time. Remember, you are not the only person on vacation. This is where a little planning will serve you well. Playing golf is always a thrill, but when you can do it at an outstanding resort, it is the icing on the cake. I have selected 10 resorts that are “over the top” in terms of their beauty, stylishness, service delivery, activities, and golf course ratings. They do not appear in any particular order. As you peruse the listing, I am confident that you find something that strikes your fancy.
It’s almost spring, and time to get started planning your next trip. How you elect to book your trip, may prove to be as important as your overall planning process. If you are somewhat flexible, and are willing to go with “packages”, then you may be in for a surprise. It’s called, booking with your wholesale retail stores. You may think that this idea is a bit outrageous, but I found that it has merits.
Major wholesale retail businesses like, Costco and Sam’s Club have gotten into this market. Costco has been doing it for several years, and Sam’s Club just entered the market in 2014. They work the travel services as they do all other services that they bring to their customers. Partnering with hotels, rental car companies, and cruise lines, they are able to bring together significant packages. I can hear the “saving bell ringing.”
I wanted to “test” this out. So I went to each of there websites, and inserted a point of travel. What I discovered was that Costco has good destinations from which to choose, but they are somewhat limited. There website is easy to Navigate, and if you already know where you would like to go, you can book airfare, hotel, and rental car as one package, or you can omit the airfare, and just do hotel and rental car.
Sam’s Club offers its customers more options in terms of destinations. Also, they have a feature that I really like. They illustrate your destination and the Sam’s Club price comparison. I liked this feature because it allowed me to instantly compare the value and the savings that I would receive. It saved a trip of having to close out and to go back and look at that information again. Either way, I think that you will be pleased with what the two retailers have to offer.
What if you are not currently a member? It may be worth it to you to obtain a pass, and look at the travel servies. Of course, you will be asked to become a member, but if you think that you are getting a good deal, the trip and the membership fee will be worth it.
It’s almost Spring. Get those vacation plans started.
Several years ago when the economy tanked, the notion of the “Staycation” became popular. People stayed at home, and found activities that they could do in their home town. That sounds like Sunday to me, with distractions. The purpose of a vacation, no matter how small, is to allow you to relax, reguvenate your mind and spirit, and to allow you to return to your family, friends and work group a refreshed being, ready to tackle the multiplicities of today’s challenges.
So, I started thinking. Why do we have to have the Staycation as currently defined? Why can’t we have an “Expanded Staycation”, one where we are able to move beyond the perimeter of our own dwelling, and instead, take retreat in a local hotel or resort, or drive to one that is within 3-4 hours? The drive itself will be part of the winding down process. The idea had endless possibilities. Instead of only one vacation a year that requires tireless planning, a person could have multiple Expanded Staycations throughout the year, that are purposed for family, girl friends, or special getaways for you and your spouse or special someone.
I selected fie (5) properties that are within an easy reach of metropolitan areas. Take a look at each location, and determine what strikes your fancy, and start planning your Expanded Staycation.
After a hard week, it’s time to call your spouse or significant other and say… “ Meet me in thecity.” And the place to meet and stay is Ink48, a Kimpton Hotel. This chic boutique hotel, in the heart of Manhattan, has everything that one might want or need to totally relax while enjoying the world’s cosmopolitan hub. You will not be far from some of the favorite activities, the theatre district, shopping, that make it such a draw. The hotel recognizes that the city is full of excitement and energy, and it aims to calm your spirit while giving credence to that foundation. Let’s start with its modern and open designed lobby area, which is referred to as “the living room.” Gee, I wish my living room looked like this. The living room, is not just a lobby, it is actually a gathering place for the hotel guests. Throughout the day, guests lay claim to comfortable chairs and couches to sit and read, or to meet with others in nicely grouped seating areas. So, it really is a living room. The guest rooms, with views of the Hudson River, add to the sense of tranquility, with a soft color pallet of naturals with hints of yellow and red accents, and yoga mats provided to help you start or end your day in the most peaceful manner. (This is a touch). For those who prefer pampering, the InkSpa is the perfect place to go. It is a full service spa, including hair salon. If you decide that you just want to have a great meal, look no further than the highly touted PRINT restaurant, serving farm-to-table menu selections. This is the place to come and experience a culinary delight. While on your Expanded Staycation, why not call some friends to meet you for drinks, and head to the 16th floor to the Press Lounge. This glass-enclosed space provides unsurpassed views of the city, while giving you the chance to relax, chat and get caught up. What a way to take in the city.
If you love art, and you wish to enhance your sense of culture and design then a stay at the 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati. Voted in 2014, #1 hotel in the mid-west by Conde Nast Traveller, it offers the perfect place for your Expanded Staycation. This boutique hotel is unique in that it has a rotating art collection and situated next to the Contemporary Arts Center, and across the street from the Arnoff Center, in downtown. Art relaxes the mind, body and spirit, and this hotel aims to please. Everything about it speaks to well thought out design, from the muted color scheme and minimalist design to the extraordinary lighting, which in itself is like an extension of the art that is displayed. As you go through the facility, you will find yourself stopping to stare and wonder for just a moment exactly where you are. The hotel has a very European feel to it. While at the 21c Museum Hotel, you need to make an appointment at The Spa at 21c. There, the staff provides rejuvenating treatments that revive you and make you want to return. After attending a cultural event at the Aronoff, or going through the Contemporary Arts Center, you may feel like getting something to eat. What better place than the Metropole, where you will find fresh ingredients served from the open hearth kitchen. It’s a great place to dine and has a fun atmosphere. The food is inventive, without being presumptuous. Weather permitting, perched atop the hotel is the Cocktail Terrace, where you can enjoy the view of the city and have specialty drinks. Now, it is time to return to your room, and enjoy the beauty and the simplicity of its design, and wish that some of the art was yours.
Not far from Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, or Lexington is French Lick Resort. This resort is spectacular. If you are looking for a place for the entire family, this is the resort to select. There is something here for everyone. No one is left wanting. The resort has two fabulous hotels, The West Baden Hotel and the French Lick Hotel. The hotels are different in that the West Baden is opulent, and the French Lick Hotel is more of a standard hotel that appeals to families and groups. The rooms in each of the hotels are quite nice by any standard, approximately 450 square feet. If you elect to stay at the West Baden Hotel, ask for a room overlooking its 200′ atrium lobby. Both hotels have their own restaurants, swimming pools, retail shopping, and spas. The spas deserve special mention. The spas at French Lick Resort are well known because of their mineral springs. It is said that they have “healing power”. There is a trolley so that guests may use to travel between the two hotels, although you can easily walk the grounds between the two. You can select activities to choose from such as horseback riding, bowling, wine tasting, cooking lessons, movie night, biking, hiking.There are a total of three golf courses. A new Pete Dye golf course, which will host the SPGA in May,2015. There is an 18 hole course, and a 9 hole links course. The latter is especially fun for families to play. There are walking trails, and a multitude of fine dining to casual restaurants on the property. There is a casino, which offers entertainment,and concerts featuring top national talent. At the end of your stay, you’ll discover that you still didn’t get it all in. That just means you have to return to French Lick Resort.
If you live in the Southwest, there are many hotels and resorts from which to select, but the one that stands out for me for an Expanded Staycation is theLoews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson. Rated by Travel and Leisure as one of the World’s Best Family Hotels, this resort has a lot to offer. Let’s start with the scenery, and the building architecture. As you can tell from the photo, the structure of the building blends in with its natural setting. Upon arrival, every aspect of what you see makes you say, “Wow”. The resort is meant to keep you engulfed in the beauty of the Sonora dessert while experiencing casual yet luxurious styled accommodations. The rooms are spacious by most standards (450 square feet), and are decorated in a neutrals, punctuated with white. If possible, try to score a room with a mountain view. Remember, you are there to relax. Walking paths abound,and along the way you’ll discover the 80′ waterfall and the butterfly garden. For those who wish more strenuous activity (not me), try the hiking and biking trails. The scenery is breath-taking. There are tennis courts, 2 glorious pools, and an adult only serenity pool. For those who remember to bring their clubs, there are 2 Tom Fazio designed golf courses. You will remember playing these courses in years to come. Take a “selfie” at hole 18 and send it to your friends with bragging rights. End your day at the Lakeside Spa. You’ll need it to work out the kinks from all that exercising. Try dinner at the Flying V Bar & Grille, and don’t forget the table- side guacamole, (the best I’ve ever had) and margaritas on the patio at sun set. Put your feet up, and think about how life is fine.
If you live in or around the LA basin, and you’re looking to get away to re-charge your batteries, why not go to Vegas. The Delano, Las Vegas is a sanctuary in a town filled with energy, entertainment and vices. It is considered a boutique hotel, although it is 43 stories high. What you receive at this large golden tower is unparrelled design and service. You certainly know that you have “arrived” when you step into the Delano. You can hear yourself saying… “Well Aw right, Aw right!” It’s an all suite hotel. The suites are very spacious (725 square feet) and beautifully decorated in muted natural tones, with their iconic floor to ceiling white flowing drapes. The ambiance is just what you need to feel relaxed and renewed. There’s an on-site spa to keep you in the mood. You will not find a casino in this hotel. If you wish to gamble, you will need to go elsewhere. If you are a foodie, then the Delano is your spot. Alain Ducasse has created a new venue called Mix at the Delano, an inventive restaurant, with chef Bruno Riou, which offers exquisite food and a significant wine selection (5,000 bottles). One might think this is the place for special occasions, but I would say that if you are there, then that is the occasion. The hotel also offers an elegantly decorated lounge for drinks, the Franklin Lounge, a great place for meeting friends or simply having a specialty cocktail. If you go to the Delano, don’t forget to pack your most fashionable outfit. Someone may want to take your picture.
It is the beginning of the year, and everyone is releasing their list of the top properties and restaurants. This includes travel magazines, travel sections of news papers, and anyone who routinely writes about the travel industry. Here are my top places to stay.
Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee. If you are looking for an exquisite resort, look no further than this Relais & Chateau located in the Smoky Mountains approximately twenty-five minutes from the Knoxville airport. This resort has everything that one could possibly want; award winning dining and wine service, one of the top spas in the country, golf, tennis, fly fishing, biking, walking trails, and a conference center. This is the place that you go to for a weekend to relax and get away from it all. The accommodations are superb. The cottages are decorated in a shabby chic style with working fireplaces, in case you elect to come in cooler weather. Each cottage has a front porch that is quite suitable for reading, talking, or people watching. Everything is top-notch at this resort, and you are treated like royalty. This resort has won almost every award in every major category. It makes other resorts seem as though they need to “catch-up.” However, royalty has its price. So get ready to pay to play.
The Grand Beach Hotel, Surfside, Florida This is an all-suite hotel. The design of which is breath-taking. The lines are clean and simple, using a color pallet throughout the facility of blue, white, and tan, with all the furnishings as white. The layout of the hotel is quite open, so upon arrival, you enter the lobby and are able to look straight through to a large open bar/ lounge area, pool and the beach. You see glass and trees everywhere, and at a glance, you are not sure if you are outside or inside. It is visually both relaxing and appealing. There are two pools on the first floor and one on the top floor for adults only. This one is particularly interesting with its view of the Miami skyline. The suites are spacious and furnished in light wood. Request an ocean front room. The amount of glass in the room provides a perfect backdrop to the light colored furniture. The service is impeccable. They make you feel as though you are staying at a residence rather than a hotel. Its close proximity to high-end shopping at the Bal Harbour Shops, makes this hotel a “must stay” in the Miami area.
The Hutton, Nashville, TennesseeIt is an absolutely gorgeous hotel that makes you feel as though you have stepped into someone’s well decorated home with an outstanding art gallery. The rooms, while small, are so well appointed that you want to take decorating tips from the designer. The bathroom with its waterfall shower is enchanting and romantic. This is the perfect hotel for the romantic weekend. A lively bar and good restaurant can be found on the first floor, and represent an excellent place to stop prior to returning to your room.
The Bohemian Hotel, Savannah, Georgia is simply magnificent. You check in at a small desk in the lobby that is manned by friendly staff who serve as front desk and your concierge, They are very knowledgeable of restaurants, events and all things, Savannah. One of the best features of this small beautiful hotel on the river is that the staff remembers your name and calls you by name as you come and go. It is a very personal touch. The rooms are nicely appointed with a bit of a masculine feel. Request a room on the front of the building so that you can watch people stroll by, and it is quieter than the more popular river side. The Bohemian has a roof-top bar, which is popular for daytime drinks or evening fun with friends.
Hotel Monaco,Washington, DC. This is a Kimpton Hotel, and it was formerly a bank building. The architecture in this hotel is stunning. The lobby is large, yet welcoming, and the rooms are stylish and comfortable. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. This is definitely a place to meet your friends or business associates. The Poste Moderne Brasserie, which was recently re-launched for the winter, is a a trendy spot that serves great meals and equally fine cocktails. You will not be disappointed. If you long to leave the hotel to discover other places in the area, you will not have any problems. The hotel is situated close to attractions and restaurants so that you will not spend all of your time calling Uber or hailing cabs. This is just what you want for a Washington, DC experience.