Hotels

Holiday hotel packages to book now

Courtesy Peninsula Paris

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the marathon of gift shopping and holiday parties kicks in.

But the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve are also a great time to travel.

Here’s a round-up of holiday-themed hotel packages I put together for CNBC.

Courtesy Gaylord National Resort

A chef is whipping up Christmas yule logs and other holiday treats inside a life-size gingerbread house at the Peninsula Paris. More than 2 million holiday lights dazzle in the lobby decorations at the Gaylord National Resort near Washington, D.C. And the Hyatt Regency in Seattle has a package that includes two tickets to Enchant Christmas, boasting the world’s largest Christmas light maze.

Holiday-movie inspired stays

Courtesy Ivy Hotel

If you’re a fan of holiday-themed movies, you’ll enjoy these holiday movie-themed hotel packages.

In honor of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” first released 30 years ago, Chicago’s Ivy Hotel is offering the National Lampoon Christmas Vacation package, complete with ugly sweaters, a move -inspired suite and a holiday dinner. According to the hotel, “The only thing missing are the surprise RV guests.” Rates start at $399; no resort fees. 

The Whitehall Hotel, also in Chicago, has a “Home Alone”-themed family package. The guest room comes with two Turtle Dove ornaments by the same studio that designed them for the film; fresh-baked cookies, a jar of M&Ms and a framed photo of Buzz’s girlfriend. Room service will also send up a “Little Nero’s Pizza” served in the same box as the movie, Mac n Cheese, Pepsi, and an ice cream sundae. Available through January 5. Rates start at $184.

In Cleveland, Ohio, guests can book overnight stays at A Christmas Story House,  the location of the cult you’ll-shoot-your-eye-out holiday movie starring little Ralphie and his little brother Randy. The Bumpus House (the infamous next-door neighbor’s home) is available for rent as well. Holiday rates at A Christmas Story House start at $845/night; rates for the Hound Dog Haven Suite and the Stolen Turkey Suite in the Bumpus House start at $245 and $295, respectively.

Room with a tree

Courtesy Refinery hotel

In New York City, the Refinery Hotel’s Winter Spectacular Stay package includes a fresh Christmas tree and an assortment of decorations; hot chocolate, holiday cookies and other edible holiday treats; and a Gingerbread house decorating kit. Rates start at $579. During December, kids checking in with their families will be able to pick a treat from Santa’s gift-filled sleigh and all hotel guests can partake of the complimentary hot chocolate and cider chart. 

Hanukah, and igloo and a history lesson

Courtesy Watergate Hotel

The Watergate Hotel (famous for its role in the Watergate break-in incident of 1972 and the political unraveling it initiated) is offering a 3 or 8-night Hanukkah package; from $1,450 and $3,029 respectively, not include taxes and urban resort fees. Available December 22 through December 30.

Each package includes two connecting rooms, a bottle of Kosher Olive Oil and, for kids, dreidels, a book about Hanukkah, and Kosher, nut-free chocolate coins (Hanukkah gelt). Private car service to and from the National Zoo or National Mall is also included.

For those who want to mix history, whiskey and dinner in an igloo, the Tzell Travel Group has put together a $3,000/night package that includes a stay in the room used for the Watergate break-in (Room 204), drinks with the Washington police department arresting officers who discovered the break-in and dinner in a decked-out Christmas igloo. (More details at 212-624-2997 or RKunikoff@Tzell.com)

Stay in the city or go skiing? 

Courtesy Kimpton Nine Zero

Can’t decide if you want to stay in the city or go skiing? Two Kimpton Hotels in New England have buddied up with a package that offers both, with a bonus helicopter ride

The Skyscrapers to Slopes Package is for two guests and includes a two-night city stay at Nine Zero’s penthouse suite in Boston, a two-night winter wonderland experience in a Cottage Suite at the Kimpton Taconic Hotel in Manchester, Vermont and a private helicopter ride between the two locations.

Ski passes to Stratton Mountain, a private in-room yoga session and two 60-minute in-room massages are included as are a personalized cocktail experience, Vermont cheeses, a fire pit experience with s’mores and hot cocoa, breakfasts and dinners. Available through March 31, 2020. Rates start at $14,500; resort fees included.

Travel deals for Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Travel Tuesday

Skip the things. Grab travel deals on Black Friday/ Cyber Monday instead.

Here are some travel-related deals for Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Travel Tuesday to get you started on deal-shopping this season.

More deals to come!

Deals on getting from here to there

Look for Amtrak’s “Track Friday Sale,” to go live at Amtrak.com on November 29. Last year’s deal offered 30% off nationwide train travel well into the new year.

Many airlines will be offering discounts and flash deals.

To catch them, make sure to follow a few favorite airlines on Twitter and other social media sites and join their frequent flyer programs so you get email announcements sent to insiders.

Until December 2, Air France is offering current and new Flying Blue loyalty program members triple miles on most US to Paris flights purchased for travel December 7 to March 31, 2020.

Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus will offer $100 off on round trip economy fares and $200 off on round trip business class flights from the US and Canada to Europe booked between Tuesday 11/26 and Tuesday 12/3 for travel between January 1 and March 8, 2020.

Turkish Airlines is having a Black Friday “Friday Flyday” sale with discounts to various cities around the world.

According to Hopper, many other airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and TAP Portugal will likely launch sale offers on Cyber Monday or Travel Tuesday.

Airport lounge pass deal

Plaza Premium Lounges has a walk-in offer for holiday flyers.

From 5 a.m. November 29 through midnight on Monday December 2, travelers flying out of Toronto or Vancouver, B.C. can get 25% off a 2 or 3-hour lounge stay and 35% off 2 and 3-hour lounge stays in their airport lounges in Winnipeg and Edmonton.

Place to stay  

It seems that just about every hotel and resort is courting travelers with a Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Travel Tuesdays deals this year.

Savvy shoppers will be able to snag great lodging deals but pay attention to the fine print on the offers. Some deals are non-refundable, have blackout dates and narrow stay windows or other restrictions.

As with airlines, you can often get the best deals if you are a member of a property or chain’s free-to-join frequent-stay program. And, keep in mind that discounts often don’t apply to local and state taxes and resort and amenities fees, which can be quite steep at some properties.

Here are some offers that caught our attention:  

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort’s Cyber Deal, underway now through December 3, offers Honors Members up to 30 percent off a Hawaii vacation. Valid for stays Nov. 28, 2019 through June 30, 2020.  

For its ‘Black Friday Meets The Mile High’ deal at The Curtis in Denver, the hotel is linking its holiday booking deal to Denver’s elevation of 5280 feet. The hotel is offering discounted rates of $52.80/night for dates in December and January booked from Black Friday to Cyber Monday (11/29 – 12/2).

Virgin Hotels in Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas are celebrating Cyber Month. Discounts of up to 30% off best rates will be available December 2, 2019 through January 2, 2020 for stays between December 2, 2019 and June 1, 2020. As a bonus, each hotel will choose a winner each day to be upgraded to a penthouse suite.  

MGM Resorts properties in Las Vegas, including Bellagio, Aria and MGM Grand, have lined up Cyber Week deals up to 35% off regular rates, plus 5% more for M Life Rewards members, from November 25 through December 4, 2019. Look for many more offers Sin City offers on visitlasvegas.com.

Pacifica Hotels, which owns boutique properties on the Pacific Coast, will offer 40% off room rates during its Cyber Monday Sale. The hotel’s Passport Program participants get early access to the sale on Friday, November 29th. Sale covers stays from December 2, 2019 through March 14, 2020.

If you book on the HotelTonight mobile app, use the code HTDEAL25 between Monday December 2 and Tuesday December 3 (Cyber Monday/Travel Tuesday) to get 25% off one hotel stay.

And double-up on discounts at Hotwire’s mobile app with promo codes that can be used on top of discounted hotel bookings made between November 27 and November 29. Use code HWBF for $10 off $100 hotel bookings; HWBF40 for $40 off $300 hotel bookings and HWBF70 for $70 off $500 hotel bookings. On Cyber Monday (Dec 2), use promo code HWHOTDEALS for an extra 11% off $100 Hotwire Hot Rate Hotels.

Packages and tours

Botswana, Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, Photographing Elephants on a Game Drive

Cruise lines and tour companies will be also be floating special offers during this holiday shopping weekend.

Travelers looking to experience bucket list cruises destinations such as Antarctica, Alaska and Norway can take advantage of Hurtigruten’s deals of up to 50% off select 2020 and 2021 itineraries. Sale dates are November 27 through December 4, 2019, and include expedition voyages aboard the line’s MS Roald Amundsen, the first hybrid electric-powered expedition ship in the world.

Abercrombie & Kent’s Holiday Sale offers discounts of $1,000 to $3,900 on a wide variety of adventures to destinations such as Vietnam, India, Peru and Kenya. Their sale runs from 8 a.m. C.S.T. December 2 through 4 p.m. December 6, 2019.

Deals on attractions

While you’re grabbing airfare and lodging deals, be on the lookout for discounts on attractions and amusement parks in cities you plan to visit.

Now through December 8, 2019, use promo code “GIFT” to get an additional 10% off the deals and discounts to more than 50 theme parks, attractions, activities and dinner shows at Visit Orlando.

From Saturday, November 30 through Monday, December 2, use promo code CYBERMONDAY to save up to 15% on Go City passes, which offer discounted admission packages at popular attractions in more than 20 cities.

And in advance of the July 4, 2020 opening of LEGOLAND New York Resort, the price of the park’s highest tier annual pass, the Gold Pass, will be on sale for $99.99 instead of $209.99 from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.

The pass can’t be activated until the LEGOLAND New York park opens but waiting will be worth it. The pass not only offers year-long admission to this new LEGOLAND resort, but admission to more than 30 other Merlin Entertainment attractions around the country, including LEGOLAND resorts in California and Florida, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers, Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE Aquariums.

(My story about Travel Deals for Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Travel Tuesday first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different form).

Traveling with your pet?

Where to stay and play with your pup on National Dog Day

No bones about it. People love their pets and want to take them along when it comes time to travel.

That’s why so many hotels now offer pet-friendly guestrooms and are joining breweries, restaurants and other attractions to offer special packages and pup-themed parties open to all to celebrate National Dog Day on August 26.

Some events include freebies, discounts, activities and treats for pups and their people. Others will pass along donations to local animal shelters as well.

Here’s a round-up of some of the events I put together recently for CNBC:

Puppies and Prosecco in Colorado

The Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver is offering an in-room puppy-palooza as part of its Puppies + Prosecco Package August 23 – 26.

Guests who book the package will have 6-10 adoptable puppies delivered to their room, along with Prosecco and Italian nibbles from the Panzano restaurant. A Lifeline Puppy Rescue expert comes along to answer questions and take care of the puppies and 50% of each booking will be donated to the shelter. (Package price: Best Flexible Rate for Luxury Suite + $50; call 800-990-1303 to book).

All Mile High City dogs & their owners are also invited to celebrate National Dog Day at Denver Union Station, which is holding a free National Dog Day Yappy Hour in the Great Hall on Monday, Aug; 26th from 4 to 7 p.m. with dog-friendly vendors and treats.

On National Dog Day, the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek will be waiving its usual $150 pet fee and kicking off a pet-friendly package that include dog beds, food and water dishes, house-baked treats and a list of local hikes and dog-friendly dining options.

New York pup parties

In Brooklyn, New York, the William Vale will be offering 10% off room rates for all stays between August 23rd – 26th, 2019 and donating 10% of all proceeds to Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue. Canine customers will receive dog biscuits from District Dog, a bowtie from Hiro + Wolf and a toy from Wild One.

On August 25, the William Vale is also hosting a Tea Party and Dog Day Show, with categories such as best rescue, waggiest tail and best in show. Tickets: $25 per person (and dog) with $5 per ticket donated to the animal rescue as well.

On National Dog Day, August 26, pet portraitist Ben Lenovitz will be on site at the Moxy Times Square to create custom pet portraits. Portrait fees start at $80 and 50% of the proceeds will benefit pups at Muddy Paws Rescues.

Raise a pint with your pup

In Columbus, Ohio, the BrewDog Brewery has a full day of pet-friendly fun planned for National Dog Day on August 26.

A puppy pool party will feature craft beer for dogs, free doggie cupcakes for the first 100 pups to arrive, a make-your-own dog bow-tie class, and a dog agility competition. A groomer will be on site for free training and quick nail treatments as well.

The brewery is also offering “Supper with your Pupper,” a $25, 2-course meal that includes a a choice of menu items for humans and a dog beer and a pupcake for canine companions.

Virginia is for dog lovers

The Alexandrian, in the Old Town neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia will host a special National Dog Day event in the hotel’s courtyard on August 26 with a “Smooch a Pooch” kissing booth encouraging pup adoptions from Project Second Chance animal rescue.

The event will also feature pop-up dog training demonstration, games and treats for pups and their people, a prize wheel and watercolor pet portraits for purchase with 25% of the proceeds going to the animal rescue.

Cocktails with your canine

Guests who dine with their pups on the terrace of ADDiKT, the restaurant on the 15th floor of the W Miami, will receive one complimentary signature cocktail as well as complimentary dog treats on Monday, August 26th. The hotel is also offering a special Doggie City Guide at check-in that lists Miami’s top dog parks and pet-friendly restaurant hotspots.

Yappy Hours 

In Idaho, Hotel Ketchum will be offering complimentary upgrades for dogs (and their owners) on National Dog Day and donating 100% of all pet fees collected to its animal rescue partner, Mountain Humane. The hotel will also be hosting a Yappy Hour from 4-6pm with beer/wine for humans and treats for dogs.

The Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, CA will host its National Dog Day Yappy Hour from 4 to 7 p.m. on August 26 in the resort’s waterfront A&O Kitchen+Bar. Fido-themed cocktails for humans will be featured, along with tasty treats for pups, with a percentage of all sales to be donated to the local Newport Beach Animal Shelter.

And the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia is having its annual National Dog Day pup-fest on August 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. The event features free dog washes, caricatures, a photo booth and treats from Big Gay Ice Cream. The hotel’s Red Owl Taven will have a dog-themed happy hour on the patio with drink and snack specials, such as Hush Puppies and Greyhounds. The hotel’s shelter partner, Lulu’s Rescue, will be on site with adoptable pups.

Bonus tips for traveling with your pet year-round

Of course, National Dog Day isn’t the only time of year many hotels welcome guests to come by with their pets. Pet-friendly hotels welcome well-behaved dogs (and other animals) year-round, if pet owners observe some basic pet etiquette.

“Call in advance,” says Jorge Gonzalez, general manager of the Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston, “Request a guest room on the lowest floor or near an elevator for quick bathroom break access. And only travel with your furry companion if he or she is housebroken.”

Gonzalez also reminds guests checking into a hotel with pets to be mindful of other guest by keeping pets leashed and not leaving a pet locked in a guest room alone.

Out of respect to other guests that may have to listen to a lonely dog bark, cry or howl, “Take them with you to explore the city,” said Gonzalez.

Do you sleep well at hotels on the road?

Can you get a good night’s sleep in a hotel?

If you travel for business or pleasure, you likely spend a few – or many – nights at hotels. And, like many travelers, no doubt you are more loyal to one brand over others.

Free Wi-Fi, free breakfast and a generous points program towards free night stays may be important to you. But, according to the just-released J.D. Power 2019 North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index, what hotels really need to focus on are the quality of the beds.

The study found that while sleep quality is one of the most important components of a hotel guest experience, most hotels don’t deliver better-than-expected sleeping conditions.

“Delivering a superior sleep experience—from the quality of the bed, linens and pillows to the ambient sound and temperature of the room—is a huge opportunity for hotels to differentiate themselves from the pack and earn significant goodwill with guests,” said Jennifer Corwin, Senior Manager of Consumer Insights for Travel & Hospitality Intelligence at J.D. Power.

Here are some key findings of the 2019 study:

  • More zzzs, please: Overall satisfaction scores increase 114 points (on a 1,000-point scale) when hotel guests experience a better-than-expected quality of sleep.
  • The anatomy of a good night’s sleep: The top contributors to quality of sleep and, therefore, higher satisfaction scores, are comfort of bed; quietness of room; comfort/quality of pillows; room temperature; and comfort/quality of linens.
  • Satisfaction is higher when hotels offer extras such as such as white noise/sound machines, earplugs and robe/slippers.
  • Quality of sleep vs. the price of room: No surprise, really: the highest rate of better-than-expected sleep quality is in the luxury hotel segment.

The hotels guests love

These hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments:

Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton (for a fifth consecutive year)
Upper Upscale: Hard Rock Hotel
Upscale: Best Western Premier
Upper Midscale: Drury Hotels (for a 14th consecutive year)
Midscale: Wingate by Wyndham (for a fifth consecutive year)
Economy: Microtel by Wyndham (for a second consecutive year)

Is there a hotel or hotel brand where you sleep like a baby?

Let us know by leaving a comment below. And let us know if you travel with a sleep aid such as ear plugs, a favorite pillow or, perhaps, a stuffed animal.

Apollo 11 adventures

Hotels lure Moon-landing anniversary fans with Tang-tinged cocktails, Moon Melt massages, moonlight yoga and more

July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing and the first time human beings walked on the moon.

Celebrations and special events are taking place around the country – and in a story for Travel & Leisure – I rounded up some hotels joining in with special packages and Moon-themed experiences.

Here are some of the lunar-lodging packages from that list.

In Washington D.C., where the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with special exhibits and events from July 16-20, the legendary Watergate Hotel is offering a $4,000 a night Glamping in the Moonlight package from July 16- 24.

The Watergate package includes a one-night stay on the Top of the Gate rooftop bar in a Glamping Globe outfitted by Terra Glamping, a nightcap with Tang cocktails, s’mores and a house-made moon pie; a moonlit yoga class; the opportunity to name a star; sunrise breakfast, souvenir map of the constellations on July 20, 1969; and access to a top-floor suite. (To book, call: (855) 290-6832)

Dark side of the Moon cocktail

In Seattle, the NASA Apollo 11 command module, Columbia, and other artifacts from the Smithsonian’s Institution’s Destination Moon exhibit are on view through September 2 at the Museum of Flight. To celebrate, guests at the five-star Four Seasons Hotel Seattle will receive space-themed amenities, key cards and Moon-themed space toys, while guests at the Hyatt Regency Seattle will be greeted by a 20-foot-tall inflatable astronaut in the lobby. Both hotels have Apollo-11 themed cocktails as well.

Space Coast check-in

Along Florida’s Space Coast there are a long list of special exhibits and events at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at Merritt Island; an Astronaut Walking Pub Crawl on July 12 in Cocoa Village and, on July 13, an Astronaut Parade in Cocoa Beach and a free concert at Riverside Park at Cocoa Village. To celebrate, guests booking the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing package at the Quality Inn & Suites Cocoa Beach July 11-14 will receive commemorative t-shirts.

No problems in Houston

This Lunar Roving Vehicle trainer prepared astronauts for traversing the lunar landscape. Photo courtesy of Space Center Houston.

In Houston, home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, a host of hotels are offering moon-themed packages as well.

The most over the top is being offered by the Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston. The two-night, three-day package costs $10,000 and includes a round-trip private helicopter ride between the hotel and Ellington Field; a private lunch and guided tour of the Johnson Space Center with an astronaut; $300 food and beverage credit at the hotel and Grounding Ritual treatments at the hotel’s spa.

The “Love You to the Moon & Back” package at the Hotel Derek, includes a moon-inspired welcome cocktail, specially created moon chocolates, personalized horoscope, breakfast in bed and complimentary valet parking (Available July 1-31, Rates start at $189 on weekends, $259 midweek). 

During July, Houston’s Hotel Alessandra is offering a weekend package that includes an overnight stay, freeze dried ice cream, a NASA Archives coffee table book plus $50 food and beverage credit in the space-shuttle inspired Lucienne restaurant or chic Bardot lounge. (Rates start at $434).

At the space-themed Marriott Marquis Houston, July’s Mission to the Moon package includes a Moon Melt Massage and a $50 resort credit, which you might use towards one of the special “Over the Moon” cocktails. (Rates start at $454).

The Visit Houston website lists lots more Space City Month events and hotel packages as well tips finding cosmic cocktails like the Space City Sour at the Bayou & Bottle bar the Four Seasons Hotel – Houston that features a far out image of a man on the moon etched on the surface of the cocktail.