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As much as we appreciate hotel loyalty programs, accumulating points from just one hotel brand can feel like quite a slog, and a little uninspiring — who, besides the very frequent business traveler, wants the same brand experience each and every time they check in?
Just over a year ago, Preferred Hotel Group introduced a loyalty program, iPrefer, that honors stays at the more custom, bespoke hotels over the big box brands; it’s the world’s only loyalty program available at a global collection of truly independent hotels. Here’s how it works, and how you can join.
There’s no excuse like being on vacation to indulge in decadent dishes that you’d feel guilty about tucking into at home, right? Plus, eating local is part of the cultural experience of any destination. Here, five bizarre and over-the-top regional eats — and where to try them if you so dare:
By now you’ve likely heard about the controversy surrounding SeaWorld. As a result of the documentary film Blackfish, and its exposure of what animal rights advocates claim is mistreatment of the orcas used in SeaWorld shows, calls for a boycott of the marine mammal theme park chain have grown. The debate goes on: SeaWorld released an open letter stating that, among other things, their research on captive whales benefits those in the wild, but the Oceanic Preservation Society then rebutted the claims.
And there are signs that public opinion is turning against the theme parks. The company recently posted a 13 percent drop in attendance. If you the claims have gotten the better of your conscience and you’re looking for an alternative, here are seven places in North America where you see the same animals that you’ll find at SeaWorld, but in their natural habitats. Read more
The Hawaiian islands aren’t just about luaus, mai tais, and surfing. Each year they get more inventive with special festivals that showcase their signature brand of food and entertainment. Of course, any visit to Hawaii is brag-worthy, but if your visit coincides with one of these festivals, that’s even more hu’i hu’i (cool).
It’s no wonder zipline tours are more popular than ever here in the States. The sensation you get from ziplining feels like flying, and it’s a manageable way for all types of travelers (at all fitness levels) to join in an adventure activity. Some tours include guided hikes through lush landscapes before an effortless ride, while others shuttle you straight to the top. Ziplines can range from leisurely to speedy, catering to those who want to soak in the scenery, or get a rush of adrenaline.
Considering that there are currently more than 700 ziplines in the country, we’re not going to rank them all. But here’s a list of some classic rides – plus a few quirky ones to try:
Headed to Maui – perhaps for one of these fantastic hotel deals we highlighted this month? This beautiful island might be famous for its wealthy residents and spendy accommodation, but springtime offers a wide range of distractions for less. From marine fun, to golf, to happy hour, here are five ideas for a more affordable Hawaiian vacation:
All-inclusive resorts are great at keeping their guests busy. Included yoga classes and dance lessons are a fun way to spend a less-than-sunny day, and free-to-use kayaks and snorkeling gear can get you away from the pool and into the ocean. But many resorts also offer additional activities and day-trips that aren’t covered by the basic all-inclusive rate. (Usually the division between included and not lies with the type of activity. If the activity is “non-motorized,” it’s probably included. If it requires a ride off the property or a heavy piece of equipment, it probably requires an additional fee.) The good news? In many cases, that additional fee is worth it.
The eight itineraries listed below will give you a sense of what’s available, and how much these day-trips cost. And keep in mind that these are just examples to show you the breadth of resort offerings. There are many other resorts that offer similar excursions.
Between the killer waves, unbeatable seafood, and lush landscapes, the amazing islands of Hawaii manage to captivate pretty much every traveler who visits. If you’re considering a repeat visit of your own, now’s the time to start planning – each May, a tiny tourism lull between the end of winter and the start of busy summer means a significant drop in hotel rates. Our advice? Snap up one of these eight great deals, catering to a range of budgets, while you still can: Read more
Lots of budget travelers like to avoid renting a car in favor of taking public transportation, but in the case of Hawaii, that’s not necessarily the case. By securing a rental, you’ll be able to access points of interest on your own that can be costly to experience on a guided tour. Here are five “tours” that require nothing more than a set of wheels and a good map: Read more
Think New York City has a lock on the most expensive hotels in America, or glitzy South Beach? Think again. The highest hotel rates in the U.S. are actually in Hawaii. So far in 2013, guests have spent an average of $233 per night for a hotel room in Hawaii – that’s an increase of $27 over the previous year! With airfare costs on the rise, this can make for a spendy island getaway. But not all Hawaii hotels cost a fortune. Here are some money-saving tips so you can enjoy the luau (or the whale watch, or six hours of lazying in the sun with a view of Diamond Head in the distance) without worrying about how you’ll pay for it: Read more
Have you booked a trip to Hawaii for 2013 yet? On and off since late fall, we’ve seen jaw-droppingly low fares from Hawaiian Airlines, offering non-stop service to the 50th State. And they’re back again this week.
Depart from New York City and head to the Aloha State’s capital, Honolulu, for just $365, round-trip, taxes included. For a more laid-back vacation on the islands of Maui, Kauai, or Kona (The Big Island), add just $13. For less than $400, you could trade next week’s chilly New York forecast for Hawaiian paradise. Seriously. Read more
It’s that time of year. Jack Frost has taken his first bite out of winter and on the most dismal of days we start dreaming of leaning palm trees, swaying hula dancers, and any drink with an umbrella teetering on top. While driving or walking to work dodging sideways sleet, it’s settled, our dreams turn into plans, and our island itinerary is set: indefinite sun, never-ending beach strolls, and overflowing Mai Tais await. Having made the over-ocean journey to the Hawaiian Isles more times than I can count, may I suggest Maui as your your muse for a complete getaway that puts tropical before touristy and sand before scene. I’ve found two beachfront locations that fly under the radar of most visitors’ viewfinders.
Some hotels are merely a place to rest your head at night, but others hold fascinating tales of wartime refuges, remarkable wildlife, valuable art, and ghostly spirits that refuse to let go. Sign up to be amazed and maybe learn a thing or two on these exceptional hotel tours.
Until recently, most people had forgotten there was an air raid shelter underneath the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam. When staff discovered it during some routine work on the pool area, however, the hotel decided to excavate the bunker and restore it to its original state. Now, hotel guests can participate in nightly tours that highlight the shelter’s famous past residents – including Joan Baez, who recorded “Where Are You Now My Son” there in 1972 – and Hotel Metropole’s role during the Vietnam War.
An in-house historian leads groups through the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, each Wednesday through Saturday to reveal such nuggets as the unlikely origins of the hotel and President Calvin Coolidge’s preference to dine with the hotel staff during his visits. The tour costs $5 for guests, $10 for non-guests; alternatively, book the tour and a three-course lunch at Marchand’s Bar & Grill for $25.
I wish I were the type of traveler who could lounge by the beach or pool for seven days and love every minute of it. However, I need a bit of excitement on my vacations or I get bored. When I heard about a zip-line experience in Maui, I was excited to try it for the first time. Even before I left on my trip, I had visions of that zip-lining pig with a pinwheel in the Geico commercial yelling “Mauiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!”
The Skyline Eco-Adventures rendezvous spot was within walking distance of my hotel, the Westin Maui, which is offering great rates through June. Somehow I was the first one there, which never happens. I naturally didn’t read the release I signed, despite being a former attorney. I was also weighed on the spot, because if you aren’t heavy enough you won’t get enough speed to make it all the way across the zip-line. (Don’t worry, their scale is at least 10 pounds light because there is no way I lost weight after eating so much on my trip.) Read more
Hawaii is the ultimate seasonal paradox. Crowds flock there when the weather is bad… everywhere else. The weather on the islands, however, stays blissfully consistent year-round, so if you can manage a trip in the spring or autumn, you’ll likely face fewer people, and better prices.
A great hotel option this spring, especially for first-time travelers to the island, is the Westin Maui , which I recently had the opportunity to visit. Even though it’s situated on the island’s resort-dotted Ka’anapali peninsula, it’s a soothing break from the area’s tourist bustle, and allows easy- access to the rest of the island. With a lobby that opens up into an outdoor tropical garden – complete with waterfalls and squawking macaws – and a beautiful, ocean-facing pool area, the resort feels connected to the sweeping coast just beyond.
The best part? This property is offering some of the sweetest rates of the season right now, with rooms starting at $269/night through June. This is a nice deal, considering that other 4-star properties on this lovely strip of coast regularly cost $400 per night.
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