travel

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).

Sydney, Australia is full of clowns

Business class seat or not (and thank-you again, Qantas for the business class seat), if your journey from home to your destination take 20 hours or more you want some ‘wow’ on the ground.

And Sydney, Australia is delivering.

A hike along the sandstone cliffes from Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach, in the suburbs of the city, was “surftastic.”

And Luna Park – a 1930s-era amusement park on the northern shore of Sydney Harbor – was filled with classic rides, great arcade attractions and plenty of clowns.

 

More soon.

Alaska Airlines opens its first east coast lounge – at JFK

Alaska Airlines has opened it first airport lounge on the East Coast. This one is at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on the mezzanine level of Terminal 7.

I’m hoping to visit this lounge soon, but accordong to Alaska, this lounge features “a living room-esque design” with multiple seating areas, Starbucks-trained baristas, a nice variety of complimentary fresh foods including oatmeal and yogurtbars in the morning, salad and soup in the afternoon and evening, and a wide-selection of microbrews, West Coast wines and signature cocktails.

The Alaska Lounge on the mezzanine level of Terminal 7 at JFK is accessible to Alaska passengers traveling through or out of Terminal 7 who have purchased a day pass, have a lounge membership, or are flying First Class.

World’s Best Airport? Changi clinches it again

For the sixth year in a row, Singapore’s Changi Airport has been named the World’s Best Airport by Skytrax, which tallied 13.73 million surveys covering passenger experiences in 550 airports worldwide for the 2018 World Airport Awards.

Changi Airport also topped the list for the World Best Airport Leisure Amenities and the Crown Plaza Changi once again took top spot in the World’s Best Airport Hotel category.

Vancouver International was named the Best Airport in North America and the Fairmont Vancouver Airport the Best Airport Hotel in North America.

Denver International Airport came in first for Best Regional Airport in North America.

The surveys ask travelers to evaluate airports in almost 40 categories, covering everything from check-in, shopping and dining to cleanliness, staff courtesy, entertainment, signage and WiFi service.

Here are the winners in just some of the many categories in this year’s awards:

The World’s Top 10 Airports

Changi Airport – Terminal 4

Singapore Changi
Incheon
Tokyo Haneda
Hong Kong
Doha Hamad
Munich
Chubu Centrair Nagoya
London Heathrow
Zurich
Frankfurt

Best Airports in North America

Vancouver
Denver
Cincinnati
Toronto Pearson
Houston
Atlanta
San Francisco
Dallas/Fort Worth
Seattle
Montreal

Best Regional Airport: North America

Denver
Cincinnati
Seattle
Halifax
Minneapolis-St. Paul
Phoenix
Detroit
Raleigh-Durham
Houston – Hobby
Toronto City

The World’s Cleanest Airports

Tokyo Haneda
Centrair Nagoya
Incheon
Taiwan Taoyuan
Singapore Changi
Tokyo Narita
Hong Kong
Zurich
Doha Hamad
Helsinki

The World’s Best Airport Hotels

Crowne Plaza Changi
Pullman Guangzhou Airport
Hilton Munich Airport
Fairmont Vancouver Airport
Sofitel London Heathrow
Hong Kong Sky City Marriott
Langham Place Beijing
Regal Airport Hong Kong
Sheraton Amsterdam Airport
Hilton Frankfurt Airport

Souvenir Sunday: a journey with “Luggage”

On my travels this week I’ve been toting a review copy of Susan Harlan’s book, Luggage, which is part of Bloomsbury’s charming Object Lessons series.

The slim book is travel-sized, but densely-packed and Harlan has stuffed it with stories and side-trips that touch not just on the actual history and development of suitcases, bags, trunks, carry-ons and valises, but on the role baggage plays in literature, art and films.

Remember Mary Poppins’ carpet bag?

“It contains all of her desires,” writes Harlan, and is a “powerfully enabling object” from which the nanny is somehow able to produce a lamp and a mirror (in the 1964 Disney movie) and, in the novel by P.L. Travers, everything from an apron to an armchair.

Poppins’ luggage was not only magical, notes Harlan, it gave her freedom. “She can come and go as the wind changes, which would hardly be possible with a steamer trunk,” Harlan writes.

In “Luggage,” Harlan tells us about her own collection of vintage luggage, a bit of how she and others approach packing and of her visit to to Alabama’s vast Unclaimed Baggage Center, which is not just a store but a tourist destination.

Along the way she unpacks the role and relationship baggage has to everything from home and gender to class, memory, loss and, of course, travel.

“The history of luggage is the history of travel: how we traveled, and why, and where, and what we have packed,” Harlan tells us at the beginning of this journey, “It is virtually impossible to think of traveling without luggage.”