Shermanstravel Blog

Amenity Watch

Kimpton_0007_620x400

The Kimpton Hotel Group pioneered the boutique hotel concept in the U.S. when it opened its first property in San Francisco in 1981. Since then, its stylish hotels have popped up in 29 cities across the country. And there’s more on the way: Properties will open in Pittsburgh, Austin, Chicago, and even the Cayman Islands, to name a few, within the next two years.

With two hotels welcoming visitors in the “City of Brotherly Love,” we took the opportunity to check in at the Palomar, Kimpton’s first Philadelphia hotel, which which debuted in the Rittenhouse Square area in 2009.

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FPO_BUE_403It’s not uncommon for upscale hotels and resorts to offer guests extraordinary excursions and activities, but Four Seasons takes it to a whole new level. From dining center stage at a historic opera house to designing a custom pair of Lucchese boots, here are a few exclusive Four Seasons that we love dreaming about.

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Ocean House

These days, hotels are offering more extra perks than ever to tempt potential guests. Some go with a bottle of water, others throw in breakfast, and free WiFi is becoming more common than ever. Brands like Andaz and Kimpton also grant free minibar access (for reward program members). But when it comes to over-the-top treats, three properties have gone above and beyond in the generosity factor in lending luxury cars to their guests — allowing visitors to save while exploring their surroundings in comfort and style.

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delta studio

Are the days of being subjected to pre-selected movies in those tiny overhead screens on airplanes truly coming to an end? Within the past few months, several airlines have rolled out a bevy of new inflight-entertainment options. Many of these options are low-cost or completely free, leaving room in your budget to spring for an inflight beer.

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eva air - business class - lie flat beds - christine wei - 620

Last week, I flew 30 hours halfway around the world and back, just to spend 61 hours in Asia. Considering that I had to report back to the office the morning after the trip, it seemed like a great time to cash in all of my EVA Air miles and upgrade myself to business class from premium economy.

It was glorious.

I know I probably won’t be experiencing business class again anytime soon, but there’s no harm in dreaming. Whether you’re already scrounging together your points or just like to fantasize, here are five things I really loved:

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hiltonroomappYou select your seat when you make a flight reservation, so wouldn’t it make sense that hotels would let you choose your room? Hilton think so. The company has recently launched an update to its HHonors app that allows guests to pick specific rooms from a floor plan using their mobile device, making them the first hospitality company to do so. Hilton aims to offer this service at 4,000 hotels (covering 650,000 rooms) by the end of the year. Read more

CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa - 620It’s the last month of summer. Make it count with a memorable weekend away. Whether you crave an island vacation in the Caribbean or a few days steeped in American heritage, these last-minute deals for August (and beyond) will satisfy both your wanderlust and your thriftiness.

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catham bars inn farm - 620 - 2

While restaurants are constantly touting their farm-to-table ingredients, it isn’t often that diners actually get to see where their meals are coming from. But a growing number of hotels are giving guests a chance to peek behind the curtain, with working farms located right on property. Here, how four hotels across the country are incorporating a true “farm fresh” movement into their visitors’ stays.

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JW Guanacaste 7 - 620

Volcanoes and tropical rainforests are all well and good, but to get a taste of Costa Rican culture at its core, head into the countryside. That is, after all, where fiestas and horse parades came to fame. It’s where the only “traffic” might come from a feisty cow that’s strayed from its cattle, with a sabanero (cowboy) hot at its heels — where horseback actually is a popular mode of transportation, and where any local can howl exactly like the ubiquitous monkey clans that rove the trees.

If this sounds like a far-reaching haven, don’t worry. Along the northern Pacific Coast, Guanacaste is easily accessible via Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, serviced by 12 airlines from North America. (JetBlue, for one, flies direct from New York JFK from less than $400 roundtrip.) For an affordably pampering home base, check into JW Marriott Guanacaste. With its spacious rooms and tropical hacienda look — not to mention palatable off-season rates right now — it’s a fine extension of the laid-back, grounded spirit of the region.

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boutique hotels - the carlton - marriott autograph collection - new york city - 620

Stylish travelers, rejoice! Boring chains are going boutique.

In decades past, names like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, and Wyndham were the business travel stalwarts that were always reliable and comfortable–but nothing to write home about. That’s not enough for today’s travelers, whether leisure or business. These days, we seek something different, something unique to the place we’ve made the effort to visit. And the formerly cookie cutter giants have responded, looking to independent hotels for style and to local vendors for destination-specific amenities.

Which brings us to a new conundrum. A boatload of new portfolios have surfaced in the past few years, to the point where it’s become highly confusing. You’ve probably heard of the Autograph collection, or Aloft Hotels, or Even Hotels — but who in the world is who? To clear things up a bit, here’s a handy guide of the most notable brands to know now.

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KimptonKarma

InTouch, the already rewarding loyalty program from the Kimpton boutique hotel chain, has just evolved into a new Kimpton Karma Rewards program that rewards travelers for more than just staying at their hotels. Read more

MoltonBrown

Regardless of length, flights can wreak havoc on your beauty routine. With inflight humidity levels as low as 10-20 percent (compared to outdoor air which is over 35 percent), the airplane environment can cause lips to chap and skin to dehydrate.

There are several TSA-friendly beauty kits that contain several skincare and beauty solutions, at prices that won’t make you wince. Here are our favorites:

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By Brittany Jones Cooper for Yahoo! Travel

Business-class travelers are frequent fliers who know how to get the best out of their cross-country flights. They choose airlines by which one has the best reclining seats, in-flight entertainment, and food. But the true traveler knows that the real perk of flying business class is the bag of goodies that comes along with it. (Well, and the extra legroom.)

So before you book your next flight, check out this list of the seven best business-class amenity kits.

The Business Traveler: Best In-Flight Airline Amenity Kits

(Photo: Jet Blue)

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davidbowieis

The David Bowie Is exhibit, the first retrospective of the musician’s career, showed to sold-out crowds at its inaugural run last year at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition brought together more than 300 objects, including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, photography, set designs, album artwork, and rare performance material from the past five decades, and it’s headed for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (its only U.S. stop) from September 23 through January 4. Tickets  for the show are $25 and go on sale July 31, but demand has been so high that they museum has already released a limited number of advance tickets at a premium price ($100). Those tickets are no longer available, but this deal from the Thompson Chicago is.

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VirginBalloonThe storied Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland is celebrating its 90th birthday with the launch of an exclusive partnership with Virgin Balloon Flights to become the only Scottish hotel to offer guests hot-air balloon rides. For £2,100 ($3,595) groups of between ten and 16 can book a sunrise or sunset ride and get a bird’s eye view of the 850-acre estate and the surrounding countryside.

In the U.S., you can book hot air ballooning packages over Napa Valley at The Meritage Resort; over the Temecula Valley Wine Country at Pechanga Resort and Casino; over the desert floor at the Palm Springs Hyatt; over the canyons of New Mexico with El Rancho Hotel; or the Finger Lakes with Chalet B&B.

Take a look at our slideshow to get a bird’s eye view of some of these packages.

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