Shermanstravel Blog

Amenity Watch

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.

refinery hotel new york - 620Unless you’re traveling constantly, are ultra-loyal to a single brand, or love the comfort of a big name hotel, you probably haven’t had the opportunity to cash in on a hotel loyalty program.

Whatever the reason, it’s difficult for most leisure travelers to cash in hotel points the same way they would flight miles. More often than not, we brand-hop when it comes to accommodations and end up with a few scant points scattered across a half-dozen programs.

Those are precisely the frustrations that the new Expedia+ Rewards program, just re-launched today, hopes to dispel. First and foremost, it’s set up so that members can achieve status quickly. It also lets members enjoy a host of additional perks — and offers varied ways to earn points. The revamp comes at a sensitive time, too, when airlines are devaluing miles faster than you can type Expedia.com into your browser. Here’s more on how the new program works and why it might be a good choice for you:

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SolomarWineHourHere’s one hotel trend we love: free wine. Often billed as a chance to meet your fellow guests and say hello to hotel management, these informal mixers let you grab a drink before you head out to dinner, and save a few dollars. Here are some hotels, and hotel chains, that are looking to  make their guests happy by providing a happy hour:

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NorwegianAirShuttle

Last week, Norwegian Air Shuttle launched non-stop service between New York and London, as the first budget airline to fly the route since Laker Airways in 1977. And it’s not a huge surprise — the low-cost market is the fastest growing airline sector, with other budget carriers rumored to be keen on grabbing a piece of the transatlantic market, too. This is partly due to the emergence of more fuel efficient, economically viable, long-range aircrafts. Norwegian’s new long-haul routes to the U.S., for example, will run on the airline’s new 787-8 Dreamliner.

But the all-important question remains: How competitive will travel costs on these budget carriers’ transatlantic services be?

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Renaissance Hotel Santiago, Chile

If you think that DJ sets, mixology events, sleek common spaces, LEED certification, book signings, and lightening-fast internet don’t sound like hallmarks of most big-brand hotels, you’d be right. But the Renaissance hotels, owned by Marriott, are striving for a more boutique aesthetic these days. Of course, that means having to shrug off the stereotypes of outdated rooms, subpar restaurants, and uninspired common spaces that people associate with big corporate hotel chains. And that means making its newest properties less cookie-cutter and more bespoke than ever.

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MS Europa 2: Atrium, Reception.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which has been operating in Europe since May of 2013, is bringing their luxury ship Europa 2 to the United States this coming December. Accommodating 500 passengers in 251 spacious veranda suites, the ship is billed as one of the most luxurious cruises in the world. It offers the largest space-per-passenger ratio in the industry for a once-in-a-lifetime, intimate cruising experience — no closet-sized cabins or 45-minute lines to get to shore here.

But what does this opulent experience include? Here’s a look at the costs, amenities, perks, and more. And even better, we’ve included some information about a great deal on this ship’s inaugural sailing.

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HomeAway.Dome.Listing#338603vb - 620

It’s no surprise that vacation rentals have stolen the hearts of savvy travelers everywhere. Great savings, extra amenities, even the chance to get some local advice…what’s not to love? The fact that HomeAway has hit one million listings — making its inventory almost twice the size of other similar companies — just comes to show how this once-alternative means of accommodation is going mainstream. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up five affordable rentals that you can book this summer and beyond, for a taste of something different:

1. Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: $80/night
For the design enthusiast, this Costa Rican rental delivers on one-of-a-kind digs with a futuristic, geodesic design. Sleeping four to five with two bedrooms spread over two floors, this villa is less than a five-minute walk to Santa Teresa Beah and the area’s shops and cafes. We recommend getting out early to beat the heat, then settling in for an afternoon siesta if the rain hits. And, don’t worry, the AC units are well-equipped to keep you cool. 4-night minimum.

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Metropolitan by COMO

Miami might be steamy right now but, with this bumper list of new hotels, now is the time to enjoy off-season and introductory rates at the newly opened properties– or to start planning a trip around those that will be opening later this year and next.

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LongboatKeyFor many Americans, a winter trip to Florida is a yearly ritual. But many don’t realize that it’s worthy of a visit any time of year. While it’s hot throughout most of the country come summer, Florida boasts beautiful beaches and tropical tranquility. Even better: when you go off-season, you can indulge in the luxuries you might not be able to afford at in spring or fall.

The state’s two coasts are unique, each offering charm and beauty all their own. Pick a coast, grab a fantastic off-season deal at a luxe property, and then relax and enjoy the views, smaller crowds, and ocean breezes. Read more

Shard London

There’s been quite a bit of action on the hotel front in London recently, and across a wide spectrum of hotel types, too. Shangri-La at The Shard has been hogging most of the spotlight – it is the city’s tallest building, to be fair – but it’s not just luxury travelers that are being targeted by the new crop. On your next stay, you’ll find mid-range and budget options, and everything in between. Here’s a sampler of the four newest places that should be on your radar:

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