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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.
By Reggie Nadelson for Yahoo! Travel
The secret’s out: many of us break the rules on our vacations — and we have a lot of fun doing it.
OK, fess up. I know you’ve been a dedicated traveler. Determined, you have moved from country to country, seeing the best there is: the baroque beauties of Munich, China’s stone warriors, the Alhambra of Granada. You have tasted fried flies in Southeast Asia and fallen asleep from too much of that heavy borscht in Russia. You’ve scrupulously followed the advice of all the travel guides; you’ve done all the “must do’s,” seen all the “must sees,” and eaten all the “must eats.” As far as traveling goes, you’ve followed all the rules.
But what about [whisper] … the time you ate the cheeseburger in Copenhagen instead of sampling the latest gourmet capital’s broiled bees, or essence of oak, whatever that is? Or when you spent a weekend in Paris not examining Notre Dame’s stained glass but on the back of that handsome young Parisian’s motorbike? Or take my pal, who went to Rio with a girlfriend. Instead of seeing the sights, they spent a week holed up in a great hotel ordering caipirinhas, the fabulous Brazilian cocktails, from room service and listening to bossa nova and … well, I’ll have to draw the curtain here. But they are married now and he makes a fabulous caipirinha.
Blame it on Rio or Blame it on the Alcohol — one couple decided they’d rather look at caipirinhas than Rio’s attractions (Photo: adrivdm/Flickr)
Dangerous. Corrupt. Overrun by drug lords. Who, in their right mind, would travel to one of these places?
The below five cities are unfairly recognized as some of the worst places in the world. Some suffer from decades-old reputations as murder capitals or corrupt drug states — perceptions that aren’t necessarily true anymore. Others have gotten bad press that, again, doesn’t necessarily reflect the situation on the ground for travelers. So while many Americans still fear and avoid them, we think they’re beautiful travel destinations.
And if you’re headed to any of these destinations soon, our advice is simple (and the same that we would give for any trip): Do your homework and stick to well-trafficked areas.
There’s no way around the fact that Brazil’s major cities are going to be crowded in the next few weeks. And we’re not talking about morning traffic crowded — we mean 4 million extra bodies in a country that has a population of 200 million to begin with. Beyond the fact that hotel rooms are starting at $700 per night, you can also expect long lines, expensive meals, and a lot of inebriation in all the World Cup host cities.
Just thinking about it is making us tired, which is why we’re pointing you to other parts of the region, beyond Brazil’s major hubs. Once you’ve paid for your expensive visa, get out of town and enjoy:
Ever wanted to see all – and we do mean all – of South America’s coastline? Holland America’s newest Grand Voyage for 2015 will let you do just that. The 68-day journey will make a complete loop around the continent from Fort Lauderdale, with a few additional ports of call in the Caribbean, Central America, and, weather permitting, Antarctica.
In cities around the world, Carnival revelers party from mid-February through Ash Wednesday. As this year’s festivities wind down, here are ten excellent Carnival parties you can live through vicariously – or plan a trip for next year. Read more
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is still a year away, but when it comes to booking travel plans for Brazil, it’s never too early to start planning. Today, millions of soccer fans all over the world tuned in as FIFA made it official announcement about ticket prices (the projected on-sale date is still August 20). If you’re considering whether or not to attend the festivities next June, here are a few important questions you should be asking: Read more
It’s simple supply and demand. You don’t need to be an economist to understand that concept. And when it comes to hotel rooms in Brazil, tourists may soon find themselves on the right side of the equation. With the country playing host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup (that’s soccer, folks) and Rio de Janeiro welcoming the Parade of Nations in 2016 for the Summer Olympics, 259 new hotels and 43,827 rooms will be available to visitors in the next two years. While occupancy rates will be high during the two major, international events on the horizon, that’s a lot of rooms to fill after the crowds have left (and before they arrive, for that matter). That glut of accommodations stands to create fare sales that surely will benefit those looking to visit South America in the coming years. Read more
When it comes to navigating big foreign cities, it’s sometimes best to leave the what, where, and when to the pros. And if you are planning a romantic visit to South America – say, several nights in either Rio de Janeiro (shown at left, courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels) or Buenos Aires, paired with a beach escape or an Amazon/Iguassu Falls adventure – and you have a splurge-worthy budget, then consider putting your enjoyment in the hands of Blue Parallel (www.blueparallel.com). Plus, summer is about to bloom in the southern hemisphere, so the timing is ideal.
Founded in 2002 by Emmanuel Burgio, this award-winning bespoke travel company is based in the U.S. with an operations center in Buenos Aires. Burgio and his team craft custom itineraries featuring South America’s most luxurious accommodations and must-see sights – some of them, such as a private concert by a group of musicians from Buenos Aires’ famous Teatro Colon or a candlelit visit to the magnificent Compañía de Jesús church in Quito, Ecuador, not widely accessible to the general public. Add knowledgeable local guides, who are there when you want them (helping you circumvent traffic jams or expedite lines) and not there when you don’t (when dining à deux) and the effect is a seamless voyage, tailor-made to your needs and budget. Although with rates starting at $1,000 per person per day (all-inclusive, with the exception of international airfare and certain meals), nothing about the Blue Parallel experience is budget.
Rio de Janeiro is one of those iconic spots (shown at right; courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels) most couples dream of seeing one day – and if that day involves a romantic celebration, this city with not one but two famous beaches, Copacabana and Ipanema, delivers a dose of bossa-nova–infused amor. Each beach has a five-star hotel that’s ideal for a sexy splurge: Copacabana Palace and Hotel Fasano. And yet they couldn’t be more different. So, during a recent visit, I did a comparison.
Copacabana Palace A legend since 1923, this 243-room hotel, known affectionately as The Copa, has long reigned as the social epicenter of Copacabana Beach. Its iconic white façade (shown at left; courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels) and historic interior hark back to an era of elegance and have welcomed some of the past century’s top A-listers, from Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana to Will Smith and Gisele Bundchen (signed photographs of dozens of celebrities line the reception halls on the mezzanine level). With its high ceilings and distinctive murals, it’s a must for connoisseurs of grand old hotels, from $435/night.
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