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No Lacking for Luxury in Miami

The problem with planning a trip to Miami is not finding a hotel, it’s trying to decide on which one, as there are over 15 Virtuoso properties in the Miami area!  So during my 3 night trip in January, I was thrilled to visit several, so that I could understand how to match the right property to my client.

To the beach!

My home hotel was the Faena, centrally located on Miami Beach. If you like technology, then you’ll love this hotel, which doesn’t even have buttons in the elevator.  You enter your floor number and then a private elevator arrives to whisk you nonstop to your destination.Rooms have high tech toilets and central control panels for lighting.  My spacious junior suite could really be called a 1 bedroom as it had a door separating the living area.

The ‘wow’ factor:  a $16M gold-plated woolly mammoth on prominent display in the garden.

No guessing which hotel this is!

The Miami Beach EDITION, a Ritz-Carlton hotel, was a just a few minutes down the beach walk.  The rooms have a minimalist style, perfect for the beach.   Rooms in the bungalow section overlook the retro pool, and include bi-level loft suites with over 1500 sq ft of space for families.

My clients will enjoy their complimentary breakfast here.

I loved the lush grounds which offered plenty of shade, a lovely deck overlooking the main pool, an outdoor poolside bar, and sandy play area for kids.  The fun continues inside with a bowling alley and the smallest ice rink I have ever seen!  A great option for families with kids of all ages.

Parents will strike it big when the kids see this.

When you enter The Setai, you’ll want to stay here even before seeing the rooms, as the lobby lounge and restaurant are stunning.

I could have stayed here all night.

No worries, though, as this all-suite hotel offers spacious luxury suites with kitchens (starting at 600 sq ft), plus 3 infinity pools, and the best views in Miami Beach, since it was built before height restrictions were put in place.

The worst suite you can get at The Setai.

And the best, the 40th floor Penthouse with gorgeous panoramic views.

Upgrade your stay by booking into the Ocean Suite Tower, and you’ll get a 45 min spa treatment, beverages replenished in your suite daily, and complimentary valet parking and car service.

For travelers seeking a quieter beach location, then Acqualina Resort is your dream come true, on Sunny Isles Beach about 30 minutes away from Miami Beach.   It’s just as fantastic, but it’s a residential area without a oceanside promenade, so guests practically have the beach to themselves.

Watch the kids without getting sand between your toes!

Acqualina features some of the largest residential style suites available in the area, in up to 4 bedroom configurations, so it’s perfect for an extended family. And on property amenities include a beachfront grill only available to guests, who can dine by the water or by the pool.

I’d say “home away from home” but my home doesn’t look anything like this.

Suite dreams!

All ages will be happy with amenities including 3 oceanfront pools, the 20,000 sq ft ESPA spa, and AcquaMarine, an innovative ( and complimentary)  marine biology-based children’s program.

If you need me, I’ll be here.

My clients receive the following Virtuoso amenities at these resorts (and sometimes more) when I book their stay:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Breakfast daily for up to two in-room guests
  • $100 Hotel credit
  • Early check-in/late check-out,subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

My trip wasn’t all work and no play.  I got to enjoy an educational and yummy food tour…

When I saw this at the first stop on our food tour, I regretted having breakfast.

…then headed out to the Everglades with some Brownell Travel buddies to see alligators and ride an airboat.

You don’t have to tell me twice.

I highly recommend staying  long enough to enjoy some of the many fun activities Miami has to offer.  It’s important to book early, especially for peak periods like the holidays!

My 10 min of beach time at days’ end.


Back in Time in Boston

If you follow me on social media, you already know that I have the pleasure of visiting Boston several times a year because my son attends Boston University.  (And plays goal for the BU Club Ice Hockey team – Roll Pups!)

Visitors are steeped in history wherever they go in Boston, but this time I got some new history lessons in the Back Bay and Kenmore neighborhoods.

The Fairmont Copley Plaza is an institution in Boston, and you feel it as soon as you walk in the front door. It’s evident in the architectural details and photographs on the wall, and it’s no surprise the Fairmont is included in Historic Hotels of America.

A grand entrance!

If only I had a wide angle lens to capture all the details.

But rest assured, the rooms have modern amenities, and the junior suites are especially spacious! For something really unique, check out their Signature Suites!

Who says historic hotels have to have tiny rooms?

Virtuoso amenities for my clients are:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Full breakfast daily for up to two in-room guests, in OAK Long Bar & Kitchen
  • $100 Hotel credit
  • Complimentary Wi-fi
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

I toured the hotel with a staff member who pointed out many interesting features, such as the ballroom built during the Prohibition, the tracks in OAK from an old carousel, and autographed pictures of past Presidents and celebrities.

Can you guess what is hidden behind one of these panels?

Wish I could have seen this in person!

Especially dear to my heart are the hotel’s canine ambassadors. On my first visit, I got to meet Catie, who passed away in May. She was beloved by the entire city, and has been honored in many ways, including having one of the famous Duck Boats named after her. (It’s the white one with paw prints.)

Catie on the job in 2014.

We had less time for sightseeing on this trip, so we were struggling to with how to spend the few hours we had left. Then we remembered: Fenway Park offers tours! I am not a baseball fan at all, but even this appealed to me, because I have seen the famous landmark in many movies.

I was not disappointed. The tour was very interesting, as we learned about the history of the park, the team, and the neighborhood. There were gorgeous views of the Boston skyline, and the highlight was getting to sit on top of the Green Monster.

Gorgeous day, gorgeous view.

On top of the monstah!

My insider tip: Go on a game day. The Red Sox were playing the Toronto Blue Jays, so it was even more fun to experience the game day vibe around the stadium and see the teams warm up on the field.

For dining, we went to some old favorites like Luke’s Lobster and Flour Bakery. We also tried some new places including Audubon near Fenway, and La Piazza in Eataly.

Crab, shrimp, lobster AND chowder for those who can’t decide.

Don’t be scared away by the line at Flour, it moves fast & it’s worth the wait.

Nobody ever has to worry about finding a good place to eat in Boston, but you do need to make reservations very far in advance for weekends and holidays at popular restaurants!

I’ve visited all the luxury hotels in Boston, plus a few solid 4 star hotels, so I can help you find the best option for your trip, and share more of my insider tips.  Email me at suzette@suzettemacktravel.com, or use the Contact button in the top menu.


Why I Chose Mauna Lani Bay For My Hawaii Vacation

This summer our family vacationed on the Big Island of Hawaii. We had not been there in many years, so we were eager to go back now that the kids were old enough to do some of the more adventurous activities.
Zodiac snorkel tour
There are so many great resort choices that it can be quite overwhelming to decide where to stay.  And even though I had it narrowed down to a Virtuoso resort, there were four from which to choose. They are all unique in style, location, and amenities,and understanding these differences helped determine which was the best fit for my family.
I know we would have had a fantastic trip no matter where we stayed, but here are a dozen reasons we chose The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows.

1) The coral reef in front of the hotel offers easy access to great snorkeling.  And turtles are seen frequently near shore.

Maui visible in the distance
Coral in front of Mauna Lani
Getting underwater video of a turtle
2) Connecting rooms are practically guaranteed due to the number of them available.
Queen beds!

3) There are natural lagoons throughout the grounds, filled with fish, turtles, eels, and even a shark!

The resort was built around the original fishponds.
4) Their resort credit is one of the most inclusive in Hawaii, including use of snorkel gear, spa and gear rental discounts, 10% discount on lunch and dinner at two of the restaurants, self-parking, 30 min of long distance and international calls daily, wifi, cultural activities, and more.

Family favorite: Macadamia encrusted mahi mahi over fried rice
5) They are devoted to preserving the cultural history of Hawaii.  A self-guided tour over 27 acres of historic parks visits ancient shelter caves, petroglyphs, and a prehistoric fishing village.  Or guests can go on a tour with the resident historian.

Interesting history lesson about Mauna Lani
Petroglyphs hidden in plain sight
6) The Mauna Lani Beach Club is a easy walk or short shuttle ride away, offering a great swimming beach, another beachfront restaurant and more excellent snorkeling.
The Beach Club is visible in the top left,
an easy 10 min walk along the waterfront
7) It has authentic Hawaiian ambiance including a large,open air atrium with lush vegetation and ponds filled with their youngest turtles waiting for their turn to be released.  Kids gather to watch the turtles get fed in the afternoon.

What a welcome sight! Live music here each evening, too
8) The grounds are compact, so it’s easy to get from room to pool to beach to poolside restaurant and bar.   And there is plenty of lawn space and uncrowded beachfront with cabanas included in the resort fee.

View from our room (could see fireworks from here, too).
It was never hard to get one of these cabanas.
9) A quiet black sand beach is just a few minutes drive away within the resort complex, which also has great snorkeling.

Practically have the bay to ourselves
10) The Mauna Lani Resort shopping center has a full service grocery store, several restaurants, coffee and ice cream shop, Snorkel Bob’s, and complimentary activities like a weekly Polynesian hula show.

Lei making class!
11) They have a reputation for warm hospitality and great service. The staff is well-trained and genuine, they treated us like guests in their home.
Soon an attendant will be by with ice cream
12) And by timing our visit over the Fourth of July holiday, we got to experience their signature event:  Turtle Independence Day!  Young turtles raised in their ponds are released to the ocean in a traditional ceremony.  

This little guy is getting his freedom soon.

The days leading up to the event are fun and educational for families, as they can watch researchers measure and inspect the turtles to ensure they are ready for release. Children staying at the hotel are chosen by lottery to escort the turtles from the pond to the ocean during the ceremony.

Making sure this guy is big enough to have a fighting chance in the ocean.
The entire community comes out for this annual event. 
Let me go, let me go!

And did I mention the snorkeling?? 

My clients receive these Virtuoso amenities:

  * Upgrade one category at time of booking subject to availability

  * Daily buffet American buffet breakfast two
  * $100 resort credit 
  * Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Loco moco breakfast!
They also have five 2700 sq ft bungalows, great for larger families, multi-generational groups, or couples traveling together.  They all have two master bedrooms, a private kitchen, and plenty of living space. Outdoors is a 1,300 sq. ft. private terrace with a Jacuzzi and heated swimming pool.  And through Dec 20 they are offering one of the best all-inclusive values in Hawaii.
Spacious and bright living and dining area.
A lagoon provides separation from the beachfront path.
The Bungalow Inclusive Experience includes:
* Transportation to and from the airport and/or a premium rental car 
* Daily $500 Credit for Mauna Lani golf or spa 
* Pantry stocked on arrival with non-alcoholic beverages, fruits & snacks * Welcome bar set-up
* Daily afternoon amenity
* Breakfast, lunch and dinner for up to 6 guests (excluding alcohol)

Canoe House oceanfront dining 
A great sunset on our last evening
For assistance with planning a fantastic vacation to Hawaii, and to receive the Virtuoso amenities, contact me at suzette@family-treks.com.
There can never be too many sunset pictures!

Beating the Heat at The Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage

I recently traveled to the Palm Springs area for my nephew’s graduation.  My sister and I grabbed the opportunity for a one night girls’ getaway, and I instantly thought of the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage, a property I have been eyeing for a while. I have many clients who travel to this area to visit family, or attend events like the Coachella Music Festival.

Palm Desert
The desert is hot in summer, of course, but this particular weekend it was even hotter than normal, with temperatures around 115 by mid afternoon.   Now why would someone want to spend good money at a luxury resort in these conditions??  Would you do anything other than sit in your room? 
Note the time at the top

Well, in fact I learned that this is the BEST place to be when temperatures are soaring, for several reasons:

> If you are going to be stuck inside, why not be stuck inside a beautiful resort with an elegant bar and restaurant with views, or a spacious room with comfy beds?

Inviting seating area in the lobby

Indoor – outdoor decor
Lots of space in even the entry-level rooms

> Most homeowners’ pools are too warm to enjoy when temperatures soar above 100 deg.  But the Ritz Carlton’s pools were chilled, so they were refreshing, and after a quick dunk we were even comfortable sitting on the lounge chairs for quite a while.

Checking out the family pool from the poolside bar

> The resort had many outdoor shaded seating areas.  And while it’s still hot in the shade, it is cool enough to be tolerable. When you’ve been out in 115 deg temps, the upper 90’s feel relatively cool.

Outdoor bar seating
A quiet area in the shade around the corner from  the bar

> There are misters outside the rooms and around the pool, so you don’t even have to get completely wet to be comfortable.

Our private patio with misters and a shared firepit 
Sure doesn’t feel like it’s 115 now!
We were at the resort for exactly 24 hours, and we relished every minute.  We enjoyed a fantastic wine tasting while waiting for our room, hosted by a rep from Michael David wines. 
Big reds – yummy!
Ready for a group of locals to visit

Once in our room, we quickly changed and headed over to the quiet adult pool, with fabulous views across the valley.  

So peaceful!
Location, location, location!
We had to drag ourselves away for our dinner reservation at State Fare, and when I heard they were known for their hamburgers, I knew exactly what to order.  And my sister was happy to try the fried avocados that she had heard others rave about.  

It was as good as it looks.  And those fries!!
Guests dining at the steakhouse have a fantastic view of the valley
After dinner the temperatures had dropped to more reasonable levels, so we strolled around the grounds.   We knew the rooms on the west side were getting a great sunset view, as we could see the last rays glowing on the mountains across the valley.
Firepit rooms next to the lawn are perfect for families,
Never tired of the reflecting pool, which was always changing
Kids were playing lawn games as parents watched from their patios with fire pits, and some guests were eagerly waiting for the telescope to be set up for stargazing.   There were plenty of private spaces around the resort where guests could sit and chat.
Whimsical decorations
Bye bye sun, hello cooler temps!
The next morning we grabbed our coffee and found a quiet spot to read and enjoy the view, then took a tour of the spa.

Morning light
Great nighttime and daytime views from this spot
Another look at those firepit rooms
The co-ed lounge at the spa

For our remaining hours in paradise we hung out by the main pool, which was just steps from our outdoor patio.  After lunch, we relocated to our patio with the misters to enjoy our last few hours of our girls’ getaway. It was with great reluctance that we packed our bags and headed home.

Yummy poolside tacos!
Really, we have to leave?
When I book clients at the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage, they receive these complimentary Virtuoso amenities:

* Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
* Daily buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
* $100 resort credit
Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Yes, this breakfast is free for my clients!
And more breakfast around the corner (surrounded by wine)

So don’t be scared to head to the desert in summer.  It might turn out to be a really cool vacation!


Book London Now for Deals Later

There are some offers available right now for London, valid for travel throughout the year. Some expire next month, and others are limited to availability.  If you plan ahead, you can get a great deal with some of our favorite hotels and tour guides.
Combining traditional grandeur with modern freshness, the redesigned Victorian building is ideally located in the heart of London, facing the River Thames.  It is a short walk from many of the city’s major attractions, and offers an exquisite light-filled lobby, a spacious exterior courtyard, and the most breathtaking spa in London, housed across four floors.

The best spa in London
Annual Sale
Up to 30% off the best available rates. Must be booked by April 30.
Family Friendly Package
Two connecting rooms (if available at time of booking) or nearby, for one discounted rate.  Parents will receive a bottle of champagne, and children will receive a game console and some treats.  Valid for stays until Dec 30, 2016. 
Rooms average 485 sq ft

My clients receive Virtuoso amenities on these offers as they do when booking regular rates:
  • English Breakfast for two people per room,
  • Noon arrival (subject to availability),
  • Upgrade on arrival (subject to availability),
  • £85 Hotel Credit (once per stay)
  • Water and fruit
(Blackout dates and minimum stays may apply)

London’s quintessential luxury boutique hotel, a magnificent 19th-century architectural treasure centrally located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Each of the rooms, luxury suites, and long-stay apartments are dressed with fine fabrics, fresh flowers, antique furnishings, and rare artworks, plus 21stcentury technology. The hotel has two staff members for every guest, ensuring personal care to every detail.  Family friendly amenities include Mini bathrobes & slippers, a teddy bear book and a chocolate mouse on turndown, and even baby intercoms.

Every room is unique

Brownell Travel Exclusive Amenities:
  • $100 food credit per room per stay
  • Additional $100.00 food credit for bookings of two or more nights
  • English Breakfast for two each day
  • Upgrade on arrival (subject to availability)
  • Early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability)
  • Book a suite for 3 or more nights and get a one way airport transfer
  • Book an apartment for 4 or more nights and get a one way airport transfer

Spacious apartments for long stays

A beautiful townhouse dating back to 1843, enviably located on a tree-lined street in fashionable Knightsbridge (just a short walk from Harvey Nichols and Harrods). The hotel features its own private art collection, and all of the 28 guestrooms and suites are individually designed. Head barman Antonio Pizzuto has spent 40 years perfecting his art, and is known for the best martinis in London.

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!

Brownell Travel Exclusive Amenities:
  • Full English Breakfast daily
  • £100 Food Credit
  • Exclusive pair of member tickets to current exhibitions at The Victoria and Albert Museum with access to the members lounge. (These tickets are impossible to get!)
  • Afternoon tea for 2 on one day during their stay
  • Martini Master class
  • Upgrade on arrival (subject to availability)
  • Early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability)
  • Book a suite for 3 or more nights and get a one way airport
Authentic London townhouse in a residential neighborhood

Family Sightseeing Tours

Context Travel is offering 10% off family tours around the world if booked by April 30.  Client favorites in London include:
British Museum for Families
Join an archaeologist in the discovery of the British Museum: one of the largest repositories of ancient art in the world, and an amazing backdrop to a family-oriented exploration of the ancient world and its traditions, religions, and lives. Families will learn about how the museum was founded and how the passion for collecting is still alive today.  Using fun educational tools, they’ll pick a theme or a particular civilization and follow its development throughout time while navigating the museum.

Hands on learning

Tower of London for Families
Known for its feathered inhabitants, for its gruesome executions and its famous prisoners, the Tower is the site of intriguing stories that inspire and fascinates young visitors. Why do the ravens live in the Tower? Was the Tower really used as a zoo? Led by a specially trained family-friendly historian guide, the tour provides an interactive learning experience for children and introduces them to British history

Kids love the macabre!

Drawing London: A Hands On Art Workshop
A hands-on tutorial on how to engage and hone your powers of observation and expression, under the auspices of a professional artist and art teacher.  The tour starts at the artist’s beautiful flat, and while sipping a cup of tea, families are introduced to materials and a demonstration of some basic drawing techniques.

Anyone can be an artist

They can even arrange for a  a private tennis lesson on Henry VIII’s court!

Context regular tours are a good value even when not on sale.  And if you have 4 or more in your group it’s less expensive to book a private tour!

Contact me if you’d like more information, or are ready to book so that you get our exclusive amenities.

My clients love London!

Why JK Place Firenze is the Most Romantic Hotel in Florence

I had the pleasure of visiting JK Place Firenze on my trip to Italy last summer, and I was blown away by how unique and awesome it was.

As we approach Valentine’s Day, I found myself thinking about the hotel, how it would be an excellent for a honeymoon or romantic getaway.  Here’s why:

* Private and sophisticated –  LIke a home away from home with lots of private spaces.  There’s no lobby, you “check in” in the library.

* Great location –  On pretty Santa Maria Novella Piazza with a view of the church, convenient to the train station and shopping, and away from the heaviest tourist traffic

Do you like this…
.. or this?

* Romantic accommodations –  Only 20 rooms, all unique.   The Penthouse has a private balcony with a clear view of the Domo. 

Some have canopy beds
Chic but comfortable

* Spa access – Two minutes away is Olimpo SPA Steam Bath

Couples massage anyone?
* Pretty rooftop terrace – With daybeds to snuggle on after a long day of sightseeing.

Peace and quiet and fresh air
* The tiramisu – Some say the best in the city. 

They say the shortest distance to the heart is through the stomach.
Presentation is everything!
* The general manager – One of the most important features of any hotels is who’s at the helm. Claudio Meli is passionate about providing the best possible experience for his guests, and that attitude trickles down to every member of staff.  After talking to him for a short while, you’ll learn he’s a devoted husband and father, a true romantic at heart!

JK Place is also a great value when you book through a Virtuoso travel advisor and receive exclusive Virtuoso amenities:

– Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
– Continental breakfast daily for two
– $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit
– Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Breakfast at “home”

Are you ready to take your Valentine to Florence?? Then contact me!


The Best Luxury Resort Values in Hawaii

There are so many great resorts in Hawaii, how do you pick one? Hopefully this guide will help you find the best value for your money!

Oahu: The Modern Honolulu
A member of the Ritz Carlton hotel group, The Modern is cosmopolitan and chic, with a splash of Hawaiian whimsy.  It’s luxurious and intimate, yet has all the amenities one expects of a luxury hotel including spa, nightclub, and two pools.  The oceanfront location is close to great beaches, shopping, and restaurants.
If you book an ocean view room through a Ritz Carlton STARS agency, you are automatically upgraded to a Studio Suite if available, which has a king bed, sofa bed, and a private terrace.  And there are no resort fees, even high speed internet is included!

Modern rooms at The Modern Honolul

Insider Tip:  Several Daybed Experience Packages are offered which include unlimited use of a daybed for the entire day,a 3-5 course tasting menu, and wine or cocktails.  You can upgrade to add a 30 min couples massage.
Pearl Harbor
Kauai: St. Regis Princeville / Grand Hyatt Resort & Spa
Frankly, there are limited 5 star options on Kauai, so the rates don’t vary dramatically, and they offer the same Virtuoso amenities:  daily breakfast for two, amenity valued at $100, upgrade on arrival if available.  But they offer two different experiences.
The St Regis Princeville is perched on Hanalei Bay, boasting one of the most scenic views in the world, perfect for a romantic getaway.  The north shore is known for its spectacular unspoiled scenery, which is why many movies have been filmed here (and many celebrities have made it their second home).  It also offers some of the best adventure activities and snorkeling on the island.

Hanalei Bay

The Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa has a slight edge if traveling with young children, with its lagoon style pool and fun waterslide, plus they will guarantee connecting rooms in advance.  There is plenty of on-property entertainment, and a luau is offered twice a week.   It is not on a swimmable beach, but they have a sandy lagoon, and are only a few minutes from Poipu Beach.  The island’s south shore is a good location in the winter months, as the north shore beaches are not safe for swimming with the high surf. 

Grand Hyatt waterslide
The island is not that big, so no matter where you stay, it’s not a long drive to any activity or attraction
Insider Tip:  Take a snorkeling cruise to the Napali Coast in the morning, then drive up Waimea Canyon in the afternoon to get a birds’ eye view of the same coastline.

Napali Coast

Big Island: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows

This low key resort on a beautiful white sand beach is a lesser known gem, but guests tend to return over and over because of the great service and authentic Hawaiian ambiance.  Rates are some of the best for a resort of this caliber, and Virtuoso clients are upgraded at time of booking if possible, making it an even better deal.  Daily breakfast and $100 resort credit are also included in the Virtuoso amenity package. The resort fee is also one of the most inclusive to be found.

One of the nicest Big Island beaches

They recently announced the Bungalow Inclusive Experience which includes accommodations in a 2 bedroom bungalow, private roundtrip airport transfers (or a rental car), daily $500 spa or golf credit, and 3 meals a day for up to six people!  The bungalows are 2,700 sq. ft. including two master bedrooms, wet bar and full kitchen, and a large private outdoor space with jacuzzi and heated swimming pool.

Snorkeling with turtles is always a highlight

Insider Tip: Baby turtles are raised in salt water ponds on the property.  If you visit during the Fourth of July holiday, you can watch them be released into the ocean.

Maui: The Fairmont Kea Lani
This is not only the best value on Maui, but possibly the best value in all of Hawaii.  Suites command premium rates at most resorts due to limited availability.  But every room at the Kea Lani is an 800 sq ft one-bedroom suite!  With huge bathrooms, entry foyer for stashing gear, queen size sofa sleeper, wet bar, and spacious lanai, they are perfect for families.  Larger groups or couples traveling together will appreciate the space and privacy of villas near the beach, which have a full kitchen, dining area, and private plunge pool.
Virtuoso guests receive complimentary daily breakfast, $100 spa credit, and upgrade on arrival if available.

Two level family pool with water slide

Insider Tip:  If you have young children, book one of the twelve poolside suites which is just steps from the family pool. 

You may be thinking “What about Lanai?”  Well, you really don’t have much choice there, but what a choice it is!  The Four Seasons Manele Bay is re-opening on Feb 1 after a renovation, and they are celebrating with a 4th night free offer and guaranteed upgrade at time of booking (through April 30), exclusive to clients of Four Seasons Preferred Partner agencies. Four Seasons resorts are always a great value, because they include so much in the rates, such as internet, snorkeling gear, and the Kids For All Seasons program.

Four Seasons Lanai beach

If you’re ready to head to Hawaii then click here!

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai Announces Best Values of the Year

If you’re planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, you need to know about the great values being offered at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.  If you have flexibility in your schedule, you can time your trip to get the lowest rates of the year, a resort credit, and Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities if you book through me.
The absolute lowest rates of the year are for travel in September and October, if you book by June 30 for at least 5 nights.  (Other value dates are June 20 – 30 and November 7 – 20.)

Beautiful views from all the rooms

In fall, Ocean Golf rooms start at $645/night, and this deal can be combined with the Resort Credit Promotion, also requiring a minimum 5 night stay.  Here are all the dates the resort credit is available for the various room categories:
Suites – $1000 credit
Apr 20 – Jun 30, 2015
Aug 22 – Nov 20, 2015
Nov 28 – Dec 18, 2015
Ocean-View Room, Prime Ocean-View, Oceanfront – $500 credit
May 03 – May 31, 2015
Jun 20 – Nov 20, 2015
Nov 28 – Dec 18, 2015
Ocean-View Golf, Poolside, Partial Ocean-View – $250 credit
Aug 22 – Nov 20, 2015
Nov 28 – Dec 18, 2015
Lava rock shower!
Families can get 50% off a second room on these dates:
Apr 20 – Jun 30, 2015
Aug 22 – Nov 20, 2015

Nov 28 – Dec 18, 2015
And don’t forget that the Kids for All Season program, for ages 5-12, is complimentary!

Want to golf every day?  Then check out the Unlimited Golf package, which requires a 3 night minimum stay:

Unlimited daily golf for two guests with each night purchased, including access to the driving range and a shared cart, and daily buffet breakfast for two.

Apr 20, 2015 – Dec 18, 2015
Jan 03, 2016 – Apr 30, 2016

Having fun on the Jack Nicklaus
signature golf course
Children are welcome on the course, too!  Juniors 13-17 pay reduced fees, and kids 12 and under play for free, with a paying guest.

No matter what promotion or room type you book, as my client you also receive these exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities: 

  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per room
  • $100 food and beverage credit 
  • Upgrade based on availability at time of check-in
If you’d like to know more about the amazing resort, or would like me to find the best rates for your family, just send an email to suzette@family-treks.com.  My contacts will personally oversee your reservation to make sure you have an amazing room and an amazing time!

Wish you were here?


Starwood Luxury Collection Update (aka More Perks For You!)

I attended the Starwood Luxury Collection Showcase this month in San Francisco, hosted by one of the member properties, the historic Palace Hotel.  I got to speak with sales representatives from dozens of hotels and resorts around the globe, including Hawaii, Europe, South America, and even Dubai!

Some visitors from Spain

Three great beach getaways

Here are a few interesting facts I learned:
Le Meridien London has family rooms that sleep 4.  There are only a dozen of them so you need to book early!
St. Regis Deer Valley is not only offers quick ski in/out access to the slopes, but has a ski in bar.

Apres-ski in Deer Valley
The Phoenician and The Canyon Suites in Scottsdale has a 2 acre cactus garden on property with nature trails, and every Friday and Saturday at sunset they have a bird of prey show.  They also added Surge, a water spray playground last year.
The Canyon Suites (top left) have a private lobby & pool,
but full access to all Phoenician Resort facilities
St. Regis Istanbul just opened in March, has 3 pools, and is across from the city’s largest park, a great location for families.
St. Regis Bora Bora can arrange a very special wedding proposal.  They will fly you and your special someone in a helicopter over a beach where coconuts will spell out Will You Marry Me? 

Was the answer “Yes?”
Then you can conveniently plan your wedding before you leave!
The Greece Destination Program gives travelers reduced rates when they stay 7 or more nights in any combination of participating hotels in Athens, Costa Navarino, Mykonos, Santorini, and Eloundra.
Las Alcobas will open in Napa Valley within the next year.  All rooms will be at least 600 sq ft with balconies and outdoor fireplaces, located in a rural setting in walking distance to downtown St. Helena.
Now let’s talk about amenities! (One of my favorite topics to write about!)
In 2013, Starwood introduced Luxury Privileges, a preferred partner program, similar to Virtuoso, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, and Ritz Carlton STARS.  Brownell Travel is a member of all of these “by invitation only” programs due to its elite agency status.

So that means my clients will receive amenities when I book their stay at Luxury Collection properties, including: 
  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily breakfast for two
  • Welcome amenity value at $100
  • Complimentary in-room internet
  • Early check in and late check out, subject to availability
Additionally, there are occasional exclusive Luxury Privilege deals, such as 3rd night free being offered at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Orange County through May 31.

Beautiful SoCal sunset at the
family-friendly St Regis Monarch Beach

How do you get these amenities?  You don’t have to have any special Starwood status, or even a Starwood number (though I highly recommend you get one).  All you need to do is let me book your stay, and then I’ll ensure you receive the best amenity from any program applicable to that particular hotel.

Starwood has plans to add many more hotels to Luxury Collection over the next 5 years, so stay tuned here for the latest news.  

To find out how to get the most perks for your next getaway, send an email to suzette@family-treks.com.

LA’s Best Airport Hotel

When talking about “airport hotels” what usually comes to mind is a budget chain hotel with plain rooms, a shared airport shuttle, and continental breakfast (or if you’re lucky you might get steam table bacon and eggs).
Travelers making quick trips to a city want something close to the airport, and are used to compromising their standards for convenience.  But that isn’t necessary if traveling to Los Angeles, as there’s a hidden gem just 10 min from LAX! 

The Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey is a tranquil seaside hideaway only 6 miles from the airport where travelers can escape the hectic city pace.   And it packs many surprises for first time visitors. 

At first glance it looks like a typical city hotel, but once on property guests discover all the amenities of a full service resort:   the only waterfront swimming pool in Los Angeles, a beautiful lawn used for events and outdoor movies, an outdoor fire pit, 2 lighted tennis courts, a gym, and even bicycle rentals.    

And it’s only 1 mile from Venice Beach and minutes away from Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, so it’s a great option for business travelers who want to bring the family along. 

The proximity to LAX also makes it the perfect gathering spot for family members flying in for family events, holidays, or even a reunion.  I recommend booking a room on the exclusive Club Level for even more value, where complimentary drinks and snacks are offered several times throughout the day. It’s perfect for keeping those always hungry kids satisfied! 

For a quick trip, check out the Lavish Layover package: 
  • Overnight accommodations in a Deluxe guestroom or Club Level guestroom
  • Private roundtrip airport transfer to LAX
  • Early check-in or late check-out
  • $25 hotel credit

My clients will be upgraded on arrival if space is available due to our Ritz Carlton STARS status.

When booking regular rates, my clients will  exclusive Virtuoso amenities: 
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • A choice of:
  • a full day bicycle rental for two or 2 hours of tennis court rentals
And you don’t even have to worry about where to go for dinner, as they have a beautiful waterfront restaurant with fire pits right on the tables!