Hotels

Even more holiday fun at airports

Heading to the airport this holiday season?

You’ll find holiday decorations galore and, in many airports, a full menu of holiday entertainment and regular visits by Santa and his helpers.

HMSHost is doing its part with free tastings, contests, fun activities and photo booths at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport and Orlando International Airport where travelers can pose with holiday themed props and then instantly print out those pictures or share the images digitally.

On Thursday, December 14, look for the photo booth in Terminal 2 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Bonus activities scheduled include hot cocoa samplings, a cheesecake decorating contest, adult beverage tastings and other special holiday entertainment.

At McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, look for the photo booth in the Terminal 1 Baggage Claim Main Lobby on December 19 and in Orlando International Airport, be ready to pose in the Main Terminal Food Court on  Thursday, December 21.

Posing for a photo will not only be fun – it can save you money on an airport meal: anyone who gets their picture taken will get a chit for a 15% discount in participating HMSHost airport restaurants.

Details on how to win a $100 gift card for sharing your airport photo booth pics here.

Holiday hotel packages with dazzling extras

We’re spending the week at a hotel in Florence, Italy this week that (on our budget…) feels extravagant because not only does our room overlook a park, it is super comfortable and comes with a great breakfast buffet, afternoon tea and a complimentary Handy phone that helps us find our way through town.

But this package  we’ve  purchased fades in comparision to some of the unique and over-the-top holiday packages I found for a piece I put together for CNBC this past weekend that include extras such as trimmed trees, stuffed stocking and lots of bling.

 

There’s no charge to visit the Holiday Wonderland on view now through December 27 in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, but it will certainly make you hungry.

Decorations include three trees bedecked with a total of 9,500 French macarons. The hotel’s Bar Cocoa dessert boutique boasts to having constructed the world’s largest éclair tree, using 980 éclairs in glittery red, gold, black and silver.

Starting December 2, the Tucson-area Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain will begin serving meals at its Dine-In Gingerbread House in the resort lobby. The house seats six and is made with 400 pounds of flour, 100 pounds of ginger powder, 50 pounds of cinnamon, 250 eggs, and 10 pounds of nutmeg. Viewing is complimentary, but reservations are required for lunch and dinner. Cost: $200/$250 fee, plus meal costs. Nibbling on the edible walls not permitted.

 

Several packages offer built-in holiday cheer at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park.

The Holidays on the Fly Package offers the add-on options of a three-foot-tall tree to enjoy and take home ($50) or a six-foot-tall decorated artificial loaner tree, complete with lights, topper, skirt and ornaments ($150). For an extra $20, those who book the Snowman in a Box Package will receive a kit with a top hat, red scarf, coal eyes, buttons, pipe cleaner, authentic Chicago Oak Twigs and an organic carrot. Snow is not included, but the kits are available now through March 31, 2018.

And both friends and family can stay out of their holiday hosts’ hair by booking the Winter Fun package (starting at $154, plus tax, gratuity) which includes overnight accommodations and $25 dining credit.

Santa and Mrs. Claus welcome both adults and children to the much-loved Teddy Bear Tea ($94.33 $128 per person; $1500 for a Golden Table for 10) in the block-long lobby of The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which turns on its elaborate lobby lights and décor the day after Thanksgiving.

In Dallas, Texas, the Hilton Anatole transforms its lobby into Peppermint Park, complete with train rides, games, interactive entertainment, light displays, photos with Santa and more. Guests can book the “Breakfast with Santa” package, which includes a guest room, a holiday movie, and breakfast with Santa for up to two children and two adults or the Grand Holiday Experience package which includes the guest room, a holiday movie, breakfast with Santa, and two kids’ fun passes to all the Peppermint Park activities.

When Christmas Eve comes around there’ll be no need to bake cookies for Santa and leave them by the chimney if you’ve booked the Christmas Eve fantasy package at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa in greater Palm Springs, CA.

The resort’s December 24, 2017 package costs $15,000 and includes accommodations for six in the resort’s Governor’s Suite, a connecting room, a holiday dinner served by Santa’s elves, a private movie screening, bedtime stories with cookies and milk offered by elves, breakfast with Santa and a keepsake family photo. Also included: a decorated in-suite Christmas tree, $2,000 in shopping money, and limousine transportation between the resort and any airport (or home) within a two-hour drive.

For $100,000 per night (with a two-night minimum) the Bubbles & Bling package at the Lotte New York Palace is the most over-the-top holiday package we’ve found (so far).

The package includes round-trip helicopter transfers from any of the major NYC-area airports, overnight accommodations in the Jewel Suite one night and the Champagne Suite the next, extravagant in-room holiday décor that includes a decorated Christmas tree and stockings stuffed with gifts, and evening in-room entertainment by a local jazz duo.

The Jewel Suite includes a Martin Katz jewelry gift under the tree, while the Champagne Suite includes a decked-out bar cart with Martin Katz custom jeweled bottles. Also included in the package: a holiday-inspired food and wine tasting ‘experience’ and breakfast in bed.

Holiday guests who don’t choose the Bubbles & Bling package will still be offered a pencil and postcard at check-in so they can write a letter to Santa and receive a small gift and a personalized response during the daily Palace Hour (5-7 p.m. daily), where December treats include elaborate food presentations, surprise goodies and a life-size Molton Brown bath and body products advent calendar with free giveaways.

 

 

 

Souvenir Sunday: read an illustrated history of travel

Journey – an Illustrated History of Travel, published by DK in association with the Smithsonian Institution, arrived in the mail a few weeks back and our household has been leafing through it since then.

It’s a big coffee table-style book – 440 pages, in full color and pretty heavy – and is separated into 7 chapters, or “ages,” each tackling advances, experiences and the means by which humans have made their way around the world.

Chapters 1 through 3 tackle the Ancient World (including travel in ancient Egypt and the travels of Odysseus and Alexander the Great), travel that powered trade and conquests, including the travels of Marco Polo, and The Age of Discovery, when explorers set out to find “new” parts of the world.

Chapters 4 through 7 dig deep into the ‘The Age of Empires’, ‘The Age of Steam,’ ‘The Golden Age of Travel,’ and “The Age of Flight,’ with lots more achival images, historic maps, artifact images, bits of journals, and works of art.

I was delighted to find a spread on the Wunderkammern – or curiosity cabinets – that collectors began putting together in the 16th century to show off souvenirs such as shells, preserved animals, scientific and mechanical obects, and other odd tidbits they’d picked up on far off journeys or purchased from others who had gone on adventures.

The three voyages of Captian Cook are detailed, as are the inventions and inventors that brought the world flight.

There are sections on the rise of the manufactured souvenir, World’s Fairs, Grand Hotels, luggage labels, national parks, efforts to create maps that accurately reflect the world and parts of it, camping, Route 66, travel to every corner of the world, the Jet Age, space travel – and much, much more.

Towards the end of this big book there’s a section of biographies stretching from Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen, to Amelia Earhart, Thor Heyerdahl, Ernest Shackleton, and Amerigo Vespucci.

This one is a keeper and a good gift for anyone interested in travel or history.

All images from Journey – an Illustrated History of Travel.

 

Love the layover: Boston’s new Yotel

I’m a big fan of the Yotel chain, having stayed in their affordable, cruise cabin-inspired hotel rooms at London’s Heathrow Airport, at the Paris CDG Airport and in New York City.

Room are on the “cozy” side (“Premium” cabins at CDG start at 97 square feet) but have everything you need : free Wi-Fi, a flat screen TV, a cool retractable bed that turns into a sofa at the touch of a button, private shower and bathroom, work space, lots of power sources and cool lighting.

My most recent Yotel stay was at the brand new Yotel Boston.

Located in the super trendy Boston Seaport neighborhood, the Yotel Boston is on one of the first few stops of the (free!) Silver Line bus that goes into the city from the airport and is right next door to the station.

Rooms look much like other Yotel rooms, but have a few fresh twists. Layouts start at 152 square feet and include an updated bathroom layout with monsoon shower head and some creative storage and roll-out work surfaces.

The public spaces are charming as well.

Guests can have a drink or a meal at the lobby bar or duck into one of the work spaces for a quick meeting. There’s a well-equipped fitness room and an already very popular rooftop bar.

The Yotel chain started out as an in-airport amenity, and now offers short-stay cabins at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. In addition to the Boston Yotel, there is an in-city Yotel in New York and branches set to open in San Francisco and Singapore.

(My Yotel stay was booked at a media rate.)