Hotels

Travel Tibits: hotel packages to perk up your summer trip

Whether it’s a week at the beach or a weekend in a hip urban center, the hotel you choose can be a defining part of the journey.

Fluffy towels, oversized beds, luxury bath amenities and large, flat screen TVs with loads of free movies are nice basics, but a unique or over-the-top package such as the $30,000 Championship Experience package for golfers at The Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, CA, can transform a getaway into an epic adventure. Here are a handful of other experiences to consider booking this summer that I put together for a recent CNBC story

In New York: Martinis and Montauk

(Courtesy Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina)

Both New York City, with its theaters, museums and nightlife, and Montauk, offering parks and beaches on the iconic East End of Long Island, are popular vacation spots during the summer.  The Martinis & Montauk package gives visitors a chance to experience both.

The “deluxe” version of the package offers guests two nights in a suite in the Loews Regency New York Hotel and two nights in a Water View room at the Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina. Included are two round-trip transfers between the two properties via the Hampton Ambassador luxury bus service and vouchers for two Brooklyn Gin martinis at the Regency Bar & Grill. Rates start at $2519.

Be theatrical in New York

 

(Sofitel New York – credit: Getty Images/via hotel)

 The 72nd annual Tony Awards for this season’s Broadway theater productions are just over, but theater fans can extend the award-night vibe with a stay in the show stopping Tony Awards Suite at the Sofitel New York.

The suite has views of Manhattan’s skyline and is filled with theater-themed memorabilia and amenities, including a Tony song book, award-winning scripts, opening number photography, programs, invitations, Playbills from 1960 and beyond, and more. (Rates start at $2,000 a night; available through July 15, 2018.

Bed and baseball in Boston

(Courtesy Hotel Commonwealth, Boston)

Boston’s Hotel Commonwealth (the Official Hotel of the Boston Red Sox) offers several over-the-top “insider” experiences for baseball fans this season.

In addition to the Fenway Park Suite (Rates start at $700/night), which is filled with a bounty of baseball memorabilia and sports an outdoor terrace with view of the iconic ballpark, the hotel is offering two unique fan-experience packages.

The “Can You Believe It?” package includes a night in the Fenway Guest Room with views of the park, two game tickets in the State Street Pavilion Club seating, a pregame meet-and-greet with Boston Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione and the opportunity to call and record a historic play-by-play alongside Castiglione himself. (Package starts at $2995.00; a portion is donated to Red Sox Foundation).

The “Top Dawg Tonight” packages include overnight accommodations in a Fenway Guest Room, breakfast for two, two top-shelf night game tickets, a visit to the announcer booth for autographs and selfies with all-star second baseman, Hall of Famer and announcer Jerry Remy. (Rates start at $1499).

Shop with the chef in Denver

 

Denver’s Kimpton Hotel Born, adjacent to the revitalized Union Station in Downtown Denver, has just launched a package that includes a shopping experience with the chef from the hotel’s restaurant, Citizen Rail, to the Union Station Farmer’s Market next door. In addition to a cooking demonstration, a three-course meal and a Friday night hotel stay, the package includes pre-shopping mimosas and recipes to take home. (Rates start at $349 for double occupancy; available July 7, August 4 and September 8, 2018).

Rock out in the Pearl Jam suite (or the Beatles suite) in Seattle

 Pearl Jam Suite – courtesy Edgewater Hotel, Seattle.)

 The Edgewater, Seattle’s iconic over-the-water hotel where world-famous musicians ranging including The Beatles, Frank Zappa and Stevie Wonder have stayed, has a new suite paying tribute to the legendary Seattle-based band, Pearl Jam

Historic Pearl Jam tour posters adorn the room, which has an L-shaped couch and floor lamps activated by guitar pedals. Other amenities in the suite include wall graphics of Pearl Jam fans, a Pearl Jam-curated library of books, vinyl turn table and cassette players, set-lists from past shows, a state of the art sound system and loaner guitars and fenders amps. (Rates start at $2,000; 10 percent of suite revenues booked through August 10, 2018 will be donated to programs fighting homelessness in Seattle).

Not a Pearl Jam fan? The hotel also recently revamped it Beatles Suite with new Mop Top memorabilia, turntables, records and more.

Catch and cook in Oregon

 

(Courtesy Stephanie Inn, Cannon Beach, Oregon)

 The Stephanie Inn, on the waterfront in Cannon Beach, Oregon, offers complimentary daily classes for guests staying two days and a series of special for-guests-only“ Sojourns. The annual “What a Catch” excursion takes place this year on August 21 and includes a Columbia River salmon fishing excursion with a fishing guide and the inn’s chef, a box lunch, 5-course ocean-bounty dinner and a portion of the day’s catch shipped home. ($1299/per person; overnight accommodations not included.)

Not a fisher? The Stephanie Inn Sojourn: Inside the Mind of a Winemaker will take place October 4 and includes a 3-hour wine blending class at Adelsheim Vineyard, 2 bottles of your own blend to take home and a 5-course wine pairing dinner at the inn. (Price: TBA).

Marriott moments expansion 

In addition to selling hotels, Marriott hotels offers guests the opportunity to create their own packages through the recently expanded Marriott Moments program, which boasts more than 100,000 experiences that can be booked online. Offerings include everything from a scavenger hunt in Denver ($15) and a walking tour of London locations made famous in movies ($22) to a day in Paris that includes an Eiffel Tower dinner, a Seine River cruise and a Moulin Rouge show ($333) and a day of golf with a golf tour professional near San Francisco ($850).

Virgin Atlantic’s ‘secret’ Clubhouse hotel room

I didn’t get to spend the night, but on Thursday morning I did get to peek into this pop-up hotel room tucked into the corner of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow Airport.

Put together by Onefinestay, the hotel room has unique views of the airfield and, for those lucky enough to have been chosen this past week to spend a night, came complete with all the amenities of the attached Clubhouse lounge, including a personal butler, spa treatments, food service and a cocktail bar.

This is defintely the “Airport Amenity of the Week”

 

Harriet’s Hotel Stay: Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5

As an airport aficionado, I’m a big fan of hotels that are right in or right at-the-airport. So, when heading to London recently for a business event taking place near Heathrow Airport, my first thought was to stay at the Hilton London Heathrow Airport (connected to Terminal 4) or the Sofitel London Heathrow (at Terminal 5).

I’ve stayed at both hotels in the past and adore the convenience, but no favorable rates could be found, so this trip I decided to give the Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 a try.

Except for a bit of transportation inconvenience (more details below) I see why this hotel is especially popular with business travelers and why it gets so many repeat visitors.

The Welcome:  Arriving worn and weary well before official check-in time, I was expecting nothing more than a place to store my bags. Instead, check-in was a breeze, I was given helpful “what’s where” information, and I was in my room within 5 minutes.

The room:  I didn’t tour all room types, but my room had a super comfortable Hilton bed, complimentary Wi-Fi (no password hassles), a large flat screen TV, a speaker in the bathroom and both UK and International power plugs at the roomy desk.  There was even a cookie with the coffee and tea set-up.

Executive lounge privileges came with this room and I stopped by one morning for the complimentary breakfast and both evenings of my stay for the complimentary evening cocktails and canapes.

Hotel dining and amenities: In addition to a 24-hour fitness center, this hotel has a spa area with a don’t-forget-your-swimsuit hydrotherapy pool. For dining, there are two bars, a lobby coffee shop, and the Gallery Restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This Hilton hotel also has a surprise hidden treasure: Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen. Closed Sundays, I missed my chance to eat there, but now that I know its reputation and uniqueness (as a hotel restaurant, but also for London), I will make an extra effort to go back. Chef Cyrus Todiwala has an award-winning restaurant – Café Spice Namaste – in London proper and many of the signature dishes from that menu are offered at his popular restaurant at this Hilton, which draws locals and out-of-towners alike.

Getting there: Except for the hotels inside the airport, getting to any of the hotels near Heathrow can be confusing and time consuming. This is not one of the Heathrow-area hotels accessible by a free local bus, so an Uber or the Hoppa Bus (buy tickets in the terminal before you board to save a pound each way) is the best way to get back and forth from the airport. Call or email the hotel ahead of time for  instructions and study the Hoppa timetable so, like me, you don’t dawdle and miss the bus by two minutes on a cold night and have to hang around at the bus stop for an extra half hour.

(I received a discounted media rate for my stay the Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5; opinions are my own.)

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.