With February 14 right around the corner, many people are getting ready to proclaim their love and devotion to their special sweethearts. Candles are sure to be lit, cards exchanged, chocolates eaten and roses delivered on what is arguably one of the most widely celebrated holidays of the year. Valentine’s Day lands on a Sunday this year – a definite plus for romantic couples wanting to get away from it all for the weekend. Whether you crave to spend it near a pristine ocean, amid the hustle and bustle of city life, or within close proximity to a world-famous theme park, the sky’s the limit when it comes to finding a romantic destination that suits your preferences. Pack your bags and indulge in a memorable getaway to any one of the romantic hot spots listed below.
New York City: Before catching a Broadway show with your sweety, a leisurely stroll along postcard-ready Central Park sets a romantic tone for the day. If a romantic dinner is in the agenda, sparks will decidedly fly and palates will be delighted at the Top of the Tower Restaurant, housed inside the Art Deco Beekman Tower Hotel. The rooftop restaurant offers stunning views of the New York skyline, lending a panoramic backdrop for a wedding should you decide to exchange vows 26 floors high on Valentine’s Day. Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, and stores like Tiffany’s and Saks Fifth Avenue are minutes from the hotel, in case you wish to purchase jewelry or any other last-minute gifts.
San Francisco: Set sail into the sunset as you enjoy a romantic board ride under the scenic Golden Gate Bridge. Only minutes away is Hotel Nikko, whose 24-Hour Health Club features stress-melting men’s and women’s saunas and steam rooms both you and your special someone can enjoy. When you and your Valentine have worked up an appetite, you can savor EuroJapanese cuisine in the on site Anzo restaurant, after which you can enjoy a relaxing Shiatsu massage.
Phoenix: Phoenix enjoys 300 days of sunshine each year, hence the reason why it’s been dubbed the Valley of the Sun. If you and your partner plan to venture to Arizona’s sun-drenched capital, you can stay at Royal Palms Resort and Spa, which lies at the base of Camelback Mountain. If peace, tranquility and a closeness to nature are what you’re after, look no further: The hotel is set amid lush courtyards and gardens, boasts a Four-star Spa, and features rooms loaded with old world charm. Your partner might also be happy to know that Royal Palms Resort and Spa is a proud member of the Historic Hotels of America National Trust for Historic Preservation.
San Diego: There is no shortage of attractions in San Diego, whose history, records show, goes back at least 10,000 years. Couples can spend the day watching dolphins and whales leap from the water at SeaWorld San Diego, or strolling through Balboa Park – home to 15 major museums, world-famous art venues, and the San Diego Zoo. The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay, which enjoys an exquisite waterfront setting and is less than a mile away from the beach, features two sparking pools, two spas, and two restaurants from which you can dine the evening away. Adjacent to Sunset Park, The Dana Hotel is the closet property to SeaWorld San Diego.
Orlando: Orlando, home to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, offers couples the opportunity to lose themselves in all the fun and excitement such thrilling parks have to offer. The AAA Four-Diamond Celebration Hotel, only five minutes from Walt Disney World, gives a nod to the past with its 1900s Florida-coastal architecture while offering modern amenities such as high-speed internet access in all accommodations. What’s more, The Plantation Room – the waterfront hotel’s restaurant – has earned a AAA Four-Diamond award itself and was rated as one of Florida’s Best Places to Dine by Florida Trend Magazine.
Chicago: The Windy City, with storied sites and attractions including the imposing Willis Tower, historic Navy Pier and legendary Chicago Theatre, makes yet another great Valentine’s Day destination. Whether you prefer a lazy jaunt around Millennium Park or a look at the many exhibitions found inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, you can call it a night at the James Hotel, just footsteps away. Located on Ontario Street, right off the Magnificent Mile, the boutique property is near fine dining and vibrant nightlife in downtown Chicago. Rooms feature amenities such as fully stocked cocktail bars, bath products and dimmable lighting, all combining to set a romantic mood for an unforgettable stay.
Boo!! ‘Tis the season once more, when everything scary, silly and strange becomes really cool (and we’re not talking about the American presidential election). Happy Halloween everyone!! October 31 is fast approaching and the gross and ghoulish will be out and about, looking for candy and trying to scare the bejeezes out of you. Seeing it’s about that time, to relate tales from the crypt, who are we to not pander to the masses and give our very own chilling list of haunted hotels from around the world.
During our extensive research we were surprised to find that Europe and North America seem to have an inordinate amount of spirits who just don’t want to leave their former residences (though we’re thinking with the recent economic downturn, many may change their minds and finally move on). Even so, there are places to stay around the world where spooks and specters float in the night…. Here is our top 13!
The Nottingham Road Hotel (South Africa)
What’s the best way to keep good staff? Don’t let them leave. This hotel in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa has a barmaid who apparently decided the tips were just too good. The barmaid’s spirit has been known to move pots around the pub, open beer taps, ring a service bell (which was supposedly no longer in working order) and has even been attributed to deflating tires of certain guests. They were poor tippers of course.
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (USA)
There are so many haunted hotels in the United States, it was tough to pick just a few. We picked this one because it’s just so cool. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California is supposedly home to the ghosts or Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift. Marilyn is said to haunt a full length mirror that was once in a room she was known to frequent. Guests have reported catching glimpses of the blonde bombshell in the mirror as they pass. Clift stayed in room 928 while filming From Here to Eternity and guests have reported being able to hear him pacing and rehearsing his lines.
Buma Inn (China)
The Chinese take their spirits seriously, and this one at the Buma Inn in Beijing seriously wants revenge. Apparently a guest at the Inn was poisoned by the chef and subsequently died. The chef was so upset about it, that he then killed himself afterwards. The murdered guest is said to be seen roaming the halls forever in search of the chef, looking to inflict his revenge.
Breakfast Creek Inn (Australia)
According to the Brisbane Visitor’s Guide this Brisbane hotel is apparently known to almost the entire population of Australia. If that wasn’t weird enough, it’s apparently haunted as well. It was built in 1889 by William Galloway, the former Lord Mayor of Brisbane. One night, apparently drunk, he fell from a second floor window to his death in 1895. Having undergone many renovations since then, his ghost is said to have been seen and heard wandering the older, original portions of the hotel.
Toftaholm Herrgard (Sweden)
Once home to a baron this hotel in Toftaholm, Sweden is haunted by a young boy. The boy, a commoner, fell in love with the baron’s daughter. The baron disapproved and arranged for his daughter to be married to someone else. On the day of the wedding, the boy hung himself in the rafters. His spirit is said to haunt room 324 where the rafters once were.
Genting Highlands Resort (Malaysia)
Located just north of Kuala Lumpur, this popular resort and casino has apparently seen its fair share of suicides by those distraught after incurring gambling debts at the tables. Various visitors have related stories of seeing a man jump from the top of the hotel only to vanish before hitting the ground. It’s also said there are rooms in the hotel that are not available to stay in no matter what the occupancy level of the hotel because of the strong presence of otherworldly spirits.
Ballygally Castle Hotel (Ireland)
It’s a castle, therefore it must be haunted. The Ballygally Castle Hotel is haunted by Lady Isabella Shaw, who was imprisoned here in the 17th century for the horrible crime of giving birth to a daughter instead of a boy. So distraught, she apparently jumped to her death clutching her daughter. Her ghost is said to be heard wandering the halls, knocking on doors…while holding her crying baby. Creeeeepy.
Dragsholm Slot – Hotel (Denmark)
Another castle (go figure), this one located in Sealand, Denmark is home to three ghosts; the Gray Lady, White Lady and the Earl of Bothwell. The Gray Lady is apparently a maiden who was so devoted to the castle she returns nightly to check on the grounds. The Earl of Brothwell was captured here in the 1500’s and imprisoned in the cellar where he subsequently went mad and died, now forever to wander the halls. The White Lady is a daughter of one of the former owners who fell in love with a commoner. Her father found out about the illicit affair and imprisoned her in the castle. During renovations in the 1930’s a skeleton in a white dress was found behind one of the walls lending credence to the tale.
The Stanley Hotel (USA)
We like creepy movies, and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is as creepy as they come. Based on the Stephen King novel, King himself based the Overlook Hotel in his book on The Stanley Hotel in Park Estes, Colorado. The Stanley is said to be haunted by its original owner F.O. Stanley and his wife Flora. Stanley’s ghost has been seen wandering the lobby, bar and Billiard Room while Flora continues to play the piano in the Music Room. Guests have reportedly heard music coming from the room. When they open the door the keys are seen moving on the piano as well, but as soon as they go closer to investigate, the music stops.
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (Canada)
Set in picturesque Banff, Alberta the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is said to be haunted by a ghost bride. Legend has it that a bride was walking down the grand staircase to the lobby for her wedding reception. The “train” on her gown apparently brushed against one of the numerous candles used to light the lobby and caught fire. In her panic, she apparently tripped and fell down the stairs, breaking her neck. Her ghost has been seen wandering the halls still in her dress. Just more proof that eloping is the best choice.
The Savoy Hotel (India)
Famous as the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the Savoy Hotel in Mussoorie, India is apparently haunted by its former owner, Lady Orme. Murdered by sipping on some strychnine mysteriously placed in her medicine bottle, Ms. Orme’s murderer was never found. Her ghost has reportedly been seen aimlessly walking the halls of her old hotel.
The Langham Hilton Hotel (England)
An iconic hotel in the middle of London, the Langham is reputedly one of the most haunted hotels in the world, with as many as 7 different ghosts seen from time to time. Some of the ghosts are dressed in Victorian clothing, one of the ghosts is said to be that of a German soldier, another is said to be the ghost of doctor who murdered his wife and then killed himself, and the Emperor Louis Napolean III is said to haunt the basement. Room 333 is supposed to be the most haunted of all, in which a BBC reporter watched a specter appear from a floating, glowing ball, right in front of his eyes.
The Queen Mary (USA)
It’s a boat, a hotel and it’s haunted. How cool is that! The former luxury liner was bigger and faster than the Titanic in her day and was used to transport troops in World War II. Now permanently docked in Long Beach, California and converted to a floating hotel, the Queen Mary is reportedly home to various different ghosts. The boat has been the site of 49 deaths, so there could be a few ghosts to choose from. There is the sailor crushed behind Door 13 of the engine room, now seen roaming the halls only to disappear behind the very same door that killed him, there are the women in 30’s style bathing suits seen sitting around the first class pool (though the pool has been closed for decades) and there’s the little girl who drowned in the second class poolroom, often seen (and heard) in the area while clutching a teddy bear. There is apparently more, but we’re just too freaked out to continue talking about it.[Top]
If you have a new baby, you may be planning to have a baby baptism in the near future. Whether you are having a special Catholic baptism or the protestant version, called a baby dedication, having a reception after the event is traditional, giving you time to celebrate the event with friends and family members as well. When you are planning your baby baptism reception, you want to be sure to remember that this is a religious ceremony and you want to keep the solemnity of the occasion while still celebrating in happiness. So, to make your baby baptism reception a wonderful occasion, here are a few tips to help you out.
Tip #1 – Choose Appropriate Invitations – First of all, you are going to want to choose some appropriate invitations for the celebration. In the invitations make sure that you let guests know what church the baptism will be at and also where the reception will be held. There are many great designs that you can choose from; however, usually a more formal religious invitation is a great idea for this occasion.
Tip #2 – Pick a Great Location for the Reception – You’ll also want to make sure that you pick out a great location for the reception after the baby baptism. Of course you’ll want to be sure that your location is not too far away from the church where the baptism will be held. Consider using a church hall, your own home, a nice park, or even a nice restaurant for the reception. However, one important thing you need to keep in mind is the number of people who will be attending, so you pick a place that will be large enough for everyone.
Tip #3 – Offer Entertainment Options for Children Too – When you hold a baby baptism reception, there is a good chance that children are going to show up at the reception, so you need to be sure that you offer some entertainment options for the children as well. Consider having some games for the kids or even having a television set up with great kids’ movies to keep them occupied for a bit.
Tip #4 – Serve Tasty Food – Food is an important part of any baby baptism reception, but you have a lot of choices when you’re picking out the food. You can make the reception formal with a nice catered dinner, or even a backyard barbecue is appropriate. Even a nice buffet lunch, a brunch, or even just a small dessert reception will work. You can get as fancy or as low maintenance as you choose. Just make sure that the food you choose is tasty and presented in a nice fashion, and everyone will be sure to enjoy it.
Tip #5 – White Cake and Drinks for Toasting – It is traditional at most baby baptism receptions to have a white cake that has white frosting on it. You’ll want to have the baby’s name on it and perhaps even the date of the baptism as well. You may also want to consider having some drink available if you want to have toasting for the health and well being of your baby. If you don’t want to get too fancy with your reception, consider just serving the cake and the drinks for a simple, yet fun, time.
Tip #6 – Themed Party Favors – Themed party favors always make a great addition to any baby baptism reception as well. This way you can say thank you to your guests for coming with a nice favor that they can take home and enjoy. There are many great party favors that you can choose for the reception. Some great baptism reception favors to consider include Bibles, crosses, angels, candles, doves, and a whole lot more. Make sure that you pick out favors that your guests will cherish so they will remember the big day of your baby’s baptism.
So, if you are working to plan your baby’s baptism reception, keep these tips in mind. Follow these tips and you’ll have a wonderful reception that you and your guests will enjoy and remember for the years to come.[Top]
Michael Cottam, one of the founders of TheBigDay, offers advice on how to go about choosing where to go on your honeymoon.
So you’re engaged…congratulations! One of the most fun parts about getting married is planning that honeymoon trip of a lifetime. And if you haven’t even narrowed it down to a country, much less an island or a resort, don’t worry-many (if not most!) honeymoon couples are in the same boat.
Some couples start by leafing through travel or bridal magazines and looking for pictures that are appealing and romantic-you can do this, but you’re more likely to settle on the best-MARKETED destination rather than the best destination for your wants, needs, and style.
The following are questions you should ask yourself-it’ll help you figure out what your options are, and help you ask better questions of your travel agent…which will help you plan that perfect honeymoon.
When are you going?
Every destination has its high and low seasons-and this is typically a combination of weather and the times of the year that their tourists typically take vacations. Some destinations, such as Hawaii, have very little variance in their weather year-round; others, like the Caribbean have a definite hurricane season. Yet it’s important to know that the Caribbean is a very big place-and different parts have different hurricane seasons, and some parts of the western Caribbean really aren’t hurricane prone at all. Other destinations–such as Central America and Southeast Asia-have rainy or monsoon seasons. You really need to know the specific destination in order to have a feel for whether or not their “green” season is too “green” (rainy!) for you.
Also, ask yourself if you’re willing to delay the start of your honeymoon a couple of weeks or months. Summer months are very popular for weddings, as it tends to be easier for family and friends to get to the wedding; plus, if you’re having an outdoor wedding, the odds of good weather are more in your favor. However, this also tends to be the expensive (and sometimes more crowded) season for many honeymoon destinations. Giving yourself a month off after the wedding before leaving on your honeymoon can give you time to relax and wind down from the wedding, write your thank-you notes, and take advantage of the lower prices of what’s known as the “shoulder season” (between high and low season).
Travel time/vacation time
How much time off work are you going to take? And how much of it are you willing to spend on an airplane?
If you’re going on an African safari, you’re going to consume about a day and a half traveling each way from the U.S. This is fine if you’re going to be there a couple of weeks, but if those days are coming off your total of 7 days on vacation, you might consider someplace closer. And distance isn’t the only factor: how many stopovers is it going to take to get where you’re going? If you’ve got to land on a main island, then wait around for 4 to 6 hours for the “island hopper” flight to take you out to your remote private island retreat, that’s going to consume your vacation time too.
A great option, if it’s available, is a red-eye flight, where you sleep on the plane and wake up at your destination, saving a day of vacation time.
This is less of a problem than you might think. Unless you’re backpacking around some exotic country, you’re going to find people in restaurants, hotels, and the activity vendors all speak English. One bit of advice: try to learn a few words and phrases in the local language, as you’ll find you’re treated differently if you begin conversations with “hello” in their language, and show you’re willing to make the effort to get along in their country.
The big question! First, some statistics: the average U.S. couple spends about $3700 for their honeymoon package…and this doesn’t included expenditures once they’re at their destination. When considering a resort that’s NOT all-inclusive, take some time to research the area and find out what meals cost, what a snorkel trip costs, what taxis cost, etc. Tourist bureau sites are a good place to start.
Costs of excursions and meals can easily add up to much more than your airfare and hotel, and you need to be realistic and prepared for this. Consider staying at multiple hotels on your honeymoon-perhaps one or two nights at someplace really nice to start, then a more moderate property with perhaps less of a view for the remainder.
People, people, people
There are a number of important considerations here. First off, who else is going to be at your resort? Are most of the guests at the resort in your age group? Are they young and adventurous, or older and mostly interested in golf? Does the resort market to families-are you going to find a ton of kids splashing around in the pool when you’re trying to have a romantic, relaxing time? Is the bar going to be lively, with your kind of music? Are you going to feel right at home, or a bit out of place?
Next, let’s talk about density: do you prefer to be in the middle of the action, with lots of other happy honeymooners all around, or quieter and more secluded? Think about whether you want to be in a hotel with 400 rooms, or a resort with 40 private villas…the experience will be very different. And do you want to be waited on hand and foot, or left alone to explore by yourselves? Do you want to shop, maybe pick up souvenirs or local style clothes, or maybe some artwork? Maybe you want a mix: in Hawaii, popular combinations would include a few nights in the heart of Waikiki combined with a few nights on the North Shore…on Maui, perhaps a split between the Lahaina/Kaanapali area and the secluded Hana coast.
Finally, how much do you want to learn about the locals, their language, food, and culture? Generally, at the all-inclusive resorts, you’ll find yourselves with other tourists, separated from the local style. If you want to immerse yourselves in the local environment, perhaps consider a smaller hotel, farther from the main tourist areas.
History and culture
Do you enjoy visiting ancient ruins…centuries-old cathedrals…seeing native villages? The beauty of the art, architecture, and history of Greece, Italy, Scotland and Ireland, or Mayan civilizations can make for a fabulous honeymoon experience.
Europe is an obvious destination, but think also about the Mayans and Aztecs in Latin America…Buddhist temples in Bali and Thailand… Angkor Wat in Cambodia…Buddhist and Hindu temples in India. China is becoming a much more popular destination as well: consider visiting the Great Wall and seeing the Terracotta Warriors.
How sensitive are you to humidity and temperature? This can determine not only the destination, but also the choice of resort, as not all A/C systems are created equal. How close do you want to be to nature? I’ve stayed at fabulous safari lodges in Africa that didn’t even have complete walls…just mosquito nets to protect you at night. For some, this is a dream come true-for others it might be a nightmare.
How important is your living space in your hotel room? Do you feel claustrophobic easily? Do you like to lounge around in the morning, have breakfast in bed, or do you like to get up and out there exploring the island? Is a spa on-property important to you? Is a view of the ocean from your room important to you…enough to justify the higher price?
Also think about how you typically spend your day on vacation. If you go back and forth from the room to the beach, the pool, the restaurant, you might want a place with ground-level villas rather than have to get on and off elevators all the time. If you’re going to spend most of your days out exploring the island, this might not matter so much.
Are you going to want to go out dancing/clubbing? Or maybe see some native dances or performances? If you’re going to Hawaii, and you ARE looking for nightlife, you’ll probably want to think about Oahu or maybe Maui.
For Mexico, you should be thinking about Cancun or Cabo, rather than some of the more isolated resort areas. If you’re considering the Caribbean, the answer to this question might affect the island or region you choose as well. Music: what do you want to hear on your honeymoon? Mariachi bands, steel drums, reggae, or Hawaiian hula…what appeals to you?
How adventurous of an eater are you? How about your fiancé? Do you like to try the local food, try many different restaurants? Often resorts will have very good American and European menus, but for authentic local cuisine you’ll have to venture outside the resort.
All-inclusives and cruises often make fabulous food very affordable; if you’re not at an all-inclusive resort, the on-property restaurants are often pretty pricey compared to outside restaurants, and tend to be less authentic with respect to local/native cuisine. If your chosen resort is in or near a reasonably large town or tourist area, you may have lots of choice for dinner; if you’re secluded and isolated, it’s possible that you have no choice but to dine at the resort (and pay their prices, if it’s not included!).
In areas like Fiji and Tahiti, you’ll often find that while the resort isn’t officially all-inclusive, they do have a “meal plan” which covers food and sometimes drinks. Sometimes these plans cover just breakfast and dinner, which leaves you the option of trying the local cuisine and eating relatively inexpensively for lunch.
How about a safari in Kenya or Botswana? Or hiking in the Andes…maybe a trip to Macchu Pichu? Or a week on a rented sailboat in the Caribbean? How about touring Australia on a Harley? Maybe trek through the jungles of Costa Rica, observing monkeys and exotic birds? If these appeal to you, first thing you need to do is make sure they also appeal to your spouse! These kinds of trips create memories of a lifetime, and can be very affordable as well. Often, couples will want to combine an “adventure” trip with a few days relaxing at a beach resort-these kinds of combination packages can be put together for you by a knowledgeable travel agent, and give you the best of both worlds.
Do you and your fiancé scuba dive (or do you want to learn)? You’ll find that pretty much every tropical destination has diving and snorkeling available. Some will have scuba courses offered by the resorts, while other resorts will have partnered with local dive companies. If you love to snorkel, make sure your travel agent knows, so they can recommend resorts where the wave conditions tend to be good and there are good snorkeling reefs nearby so that there’s something besides just sand to look at. In general, a great surfing beach won’t be a great snorkeling beach!
Are you interested in going deep-sea fishing? It’s important to know what the fishing is like where you’re going. For instance, while you can take a guided fishing trip from any one of the Hawaiian islands, your chances of actually doing some CATCHING as well as fishing are substantially better on the Big Island!
Additionally, it’s important to talk to your travel agent about what kinds of watersports you want to enjoy. If you’re interested in jetskiing and parasailing, you’ll want to be in one place; if you want to kayak with the turtles, snorkel around the reef, you’ll want to be elsewhere. It’s also useful to know how far it is from your hotel to the best spots for your activities-you won’t want to spend two hours a day roundtripping from your hotel to your activities.
Here’s a quick look at some of the more popular destinations, and what they’re known for.
Fiji– great scuba and snorkeling, very friendly people, mostly villa-style beach bungalow accommodations in widely-separated resorts. Moderately expensive to very expensive. About 9 hours flying time from Los Angeles.
Hawaii- beautiful weather all year round, close to mainland U.S., amazing array of watersports and adventure activities. Not as much of a cultural transition for mainland Americans as many other destinations. Most hotels have 200-400 rooms; hotel density along beaches can be high. Excellent choice for a destination wedding, as prices are very reasonable for high quality and service. Inexpensive to moderately expensive.
Tahiti– great scuba and snorkeling, famous for overwater bungalows and phenomenal views. Resorts tend to be fairly far apart; very secluded and private. Expensive to very expensive; food, drinks, and activities can be very expensive as well. About 8 hours flying time from Los Angeles.
Mexico- Cancun/Cozumel nearly fully recovered from the past summer’s hurricanes, and much rebuilding has resulted in many upgraded resorts. High density of resorts on beaches in places like Cancun and Cabo. Great diving, watersports; some areas close to Mayan ruins. Recently, all-inclusive resorts have become common, and there are some terrific bargains to be had, especially at the moderate to more expensive resorts. A new trend we’re seeing is combining the traditional beach vacation with a few days inland at one of Mexico’s colonial cities, exploring the history and culture of old Mexico. Easy access from the U.S. Inexpensive to moderately expensive.
Caribbean- known for prevalence of all-inclusive resorts, especially in Jamaica. Huge range of cultures, styles, food, music. Great watersports and scenery, and not too long in the air from major U.S. cities. Cruises are a very popular way to explore multiple islands and countries in the Caribbean at a modest cost. Inexpensive to very expensive.
Europe – history, architecture, and great food and wine are big draws here. Airfare is less than you might expect, often sub-$500 per person roundtrip. Less of a beach resort destination, although areas of Italy, France, and Greece on the Mediterranean can provide the sun & surf element. Castles in Ireland and self-drive B&B vacations throughout the UK are popular, as are villa stays in France and Italy. In Greece, the Cyclades islands are very popular: Santorini with its submerged volcano, black sandy beach, and breathtaking sunsets…Mykonos with its blue-domed churches, whitewashed houses and beaches…and Naxos, the largest island with golden sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters, and the medieval capital of Hora. Honeymooners often combine stays on these islands with a visit to Athens. Many cruise options are available, allowing easy exploration of a number of Mediterranean ports in one vacation. Moderately expensive to very expensive.
Costa Rica & Belize – becoming very popular as eco-tourism destinations, these countries offer terrific beach resorts, watersports, diving and snorkeling, combined with jungle exploration and eco-adventures. Treetop resorts becoming popular here as well; and like Mexico, there are a number of Mayan ruins accessible in Belize. Belize also is famous for its barrier reef, and the scuba diving hotspot known as The Blue Hole. Relatively short flight from mainland U.S., combined with great value for the dollar at many resorts makes these two countries very hot for honeymooners.
Australia & New Zealand – enormous variety of things to do for the adventurous types, from Ayers Rock to the Great Barrier reef, Sydney and its renowned Opera House, Surfers Paradise. New Zealand has everything from geysers in Rotorua to jet-boating; hiking and skiing amongst tremendous scenery, and of course the famous Maori hospitality. We often suggest combining a trip to either of these countries with a stopover in Fiji or Tahiti as well. Long flight times (15 hours+ from Los Angeles) mean you’ll probably want to stay 2 weeks at the very least. Moderately expensive to expensive.
The Seychelles, Maldives, and Mauritius are all fabulous honeymoon destinations, although because of the flying time from the U.S. (around 30 hours), they’re more commonly visited by Europeans. Truly spectacular diving and scenery, great food and culture, and very friendly people. Hotels are much more spread out than Hawaii or Mexico-more like Fiji or Tahiti. Private island resorts are common, as in Fiji and Tahiti. Seychelles and Mauritius trips are commonly combined with a week or so in Africa on safari. Expensive to very expensive, even without the airfare (roughly $1500 to $2000 per person roundtrip from the U.S.).
Southeast Asia – combines terrific beach resorts with extraordinary culture and historical sites to explore. A relatively long flight from the U.S. (up to 20 hours depending on routing), but a tremendous value once you’re there. Thailand, Bali, China, Vietnam and Cambodia are all becoming very popular. Very inexpensive without the airfare; inexpensive to moderate with airfare.
Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile are becoming more popular, and offer a great opportunity to experience culture, wilderness and traditional beach resorts all in one vacation. The Amazon is a huge draw, of course, but also the culture and experiences to be had in Rio and Buenos Aires make for a very memorable and exotic honeymoon. The Inca city of Machu Picchu is certainly one of the most beautiful and enigmatic ancient sites in the world, perched in the Andes at over 9,000 feet in elevantion. Moderately expensive to very expensive.[Top]
If you want to travel to the Caribbean, cost may be a concern of yours. The Caribbean is a popular vacation destination; therefore, you might assume you would pay more. Luckily, there are many ways to save money. By opting for an all-inclusive vacation, you not only get a good deal, but the trip is easy to plan.
Despite the fact that all-inclusive Caribbean vacations are designed to get you the better deal and ease the stress of planning a trip, proceed with caution. All-inclusive travel packages and resorts come in different formats. You must make your choice wisely to ensure you truly get a good deal and have a great trip. What can you do?
Read all information pertaining to inclusions at all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. Due to the popularity of all-inclusive vacations, many hotels and resorts have jumped on the bandwagon. However, not all are true all-inclusive resorts. What should you look for? At the very least, an inclusive Caribbean resort will include the cost of room, food, drinks, snacks, and some forms of onsite entertainment. Airfare should be optional. This, however, is the bare minimum. Luxury and high-end resorts will also include the cost of qualifying airport transfers and tips. Generally, the more inclusions you get, the better the deal.
Familiarize yourself with all onsite eateries. This includes bars, cafes, casual restaurants, and fancy, sit-down restaurants. Quality resorts should have multiple choices. Be cautious of Caribbean hotels that add “all-inclusive” to their name and only have one onsite restaurant. Food and drinks are included in with your stay, but don’t you want more choices? You should. After three days, boredom may set in. You may find yourself looking at other offsite eateries. However, your all-inclusive Caribbean vacation included the cost of food, meaning you pay to eat twice. Don’t waste your money. Instead, opt for a resort that gives you choices.
Focus on the onsite activities and entertainment that is included. Once again, the best way to ensure you get a good deal on an all-inclusive Caribbean vacation is to closely examine the inclusions. The more you get, the better the deal. In terms of onsite activities and entertainment, focus your attention on what you personally want or need. For example, beach lovers should opt for an all-inclusive resort that lists beach-related activities, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and wind surfing as inclusions. You will use these activities. This is good, as you technically paid for them anyways. Available activities can also help you narrow down resorts. If you enjoy golf, opt for a resort with an onsite golf course, and so forth.
Familiarize yourself with amenities that cost extra. These are not inclusions; you must pay extra to access the service, facility, or take part in the activity. Examples include all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean that have onsite spas and golf courses. A golf resort may include the cost of green fees, but it is your responsibility to rent a golf cart and pay a caddie. As for spas, most services require an extra charge. Certain extras, such as day tours, spa services, and childcare services require an extra fee at most resorts. For that reason, don’t make it the deciding factor. Instead, use it to estimate the cost of your trip. By knowing which non-inclusions you want to take advantage of, you can estimate an ideal amount for extra money.
Once you found the perfect Caribbean all-inclusive resort, it is time to make your reservations. This is another important step. To save money and get the best deal, book your trip directly through the source. This is the online website of the all-inclusive resort in question. For example, if opting for a Breezes resort, visit Breezes.com. Third-party travel websites are ideal for traditional vacation packages, but not all-inclusive ones. You will get hassle free travel, less complications, and bigger savings by going directly to the source. All-inclusive resorts provide detailed information on their travel packages, including inclusions. Contact information is given in the event you have additional questions. Don’t take chances, book your all-inclusive Caribbean vacation direct.[Top]
Talk to the modest traveler as to where in the United States they would most likely want to visit and you are likely to hear Orlando, New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco. Big cities with big attractions have always been the staple of good, exciting vacations. For the lesser known vacation spots such as Arkansas, Texas and Illinois; is it possible to find as exciting a vacation? I ventured to find out the answer to this question; and what I found was a pleasant surprise to me.
Indian Harbour Beach, Florida is probably not the first, (or a last stop for most) when you venture to the sunshine state. Places like Daytona, Miami, even Key West take the bill here. Known as the ‘Greatest Little City in Florida”, Indian Harbour Beach is in Brevard County, Florida along the coastline, offering everything that a relaxing vacation epitomizes. Close to Orlando and to Kennedy Space Center it is a liaison between a quiet escape and excitement. Just minutes from the Melbourne International Airport, this spot is perfect for getting away from the everyday. I also have found the best hotel deal anywhere around Indian Harbour. The Lexington Hotel is offering a 3 day/2 night package for $97/nt. Including deluxe accommodations for 4 and a $20 credit to Doubles, their on-site restaurant, this is the classic definition of a “diamond in the rough”.
Another not so well known vacation spot is located in Illinois and has some of the most beautiful settings on the bluffs, high above the Rock River. “The Forest City” as it is beloved known; Rockford is an integral park of the Rockford metro area. Experience any of the 50 excellent national golf courses or stay in touch with nature with a tour of the Anderson Japanese Gardens, which has been ranked the top Japanese garden in North America. I was lucky enough to stay at the Cliffbreakers Riverside Resort which was located inside of 12 miles from loads of attractions, right on the Bluff overlooking the river. With prices starting at $129/nt, this is an affordable way to catch the wonderful sites of Illinois.
Of course, Illinois and Florida could be two places that vacationers might rank high on their list, but Arkansas? At first glance, I couldn’t believe that this was going to make my list of out of the ordinary places to visit, but then I found Hot Springs I started to change the way that I viewed this state. Hot Springs is the 10th most populated city in Arkansas and as the name inclines is known for national spring water. The city hosts a number of art shows such as the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and the Hot Springs Music Festival. Other events include the Hot Springs Jazz Festival held in September and the downtown Bathtub Races in the Spring. It holds the number 4 position of the “America’s Top 100 Small Arts Town.” They also have a Racetrack and Casino which, lucky for me, was located just one block from my hotel. Americas Best Value Inn has all the necessities that is needed in this town.
They say that everything is bigger and better in Texas; and I’m not one to argue with that line of thinking. My next stop brought me to the Lone Star State and into San Antonio. This live and vibrant city was like no other that I have visited and with its serene valleys and rolling, cedar-studded hills, it was no wonder why I fell in love with it as quickly as I did. I stayed right on the Salado Creek and enjoyed the feeling of history that this place took me too. With 300 days without rain, there is never a short list of outdoor activities. The Alamo is nearly impossible to forget as it is Texas’ top tourist attraction. The San Antonio Zoo, SeaWorld San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas are just a few of the other activities that this wonderful city has to offer. Shell Vacations Hospitality has all the information that you need to make a real life cowboy out of anyone!
My only stop in the great Northeast was in Newport, RI. You may be thinking if this should really go on this list of ‘unique destinations’ but I thought that it doesn’t get as much attention as some of its other counterparts; mainly because of the price associated with the mere mention of its name. With presidents being married there and others making Newport their “Summer White Houses” not only does it seem unattainable, there almost seems like nothing more to do then to tour the streets and look at some insanely expensive houses. But Newport has something for even the frugalist of travelers. Along with being filled with culture, the city of Newport has Cliff Walk, which is considered one of the most popular attractions. A 3 mile walkway that borders the shoreline and has been designated a National Recreation Trail; and for lovers of folk, country, blues music, the Newport Folk Festival is also hosted in Newport. If all this sounds like a big budget breaker, don’t fret. I found a great deal on a place to stay right in Newport just in time for summer. The Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina is everything that name implies. Close to all the activities and some of the best restaurants anywhere, this resort is one not to be missed. Use the Exclusive Corporate Number: DUN, and stay at this breathtaking resort for only $235.
Heading out west, another little known escape is Gunnison/Crested Butte, Colorado. With so much to do in this quaint Colorado town, Gunnison will keep you wanting more. Enjoy mountain biking and hiking up the peak of Mt. Crested Butte for one of the most spectacular 360 degree views you will ever see. My stay was complete when I located this wonderful deal of $160 for 2nights. It included ½ day of one of my favorite activities, rafting. For all its worth, this vacation certainly will inspire your passion for the Colorado Rockies.[Top]
During your visit to Asia, you get a chance to enjoy not only the spectacular sights but also the great cuisines of the various Asian cities. Singapore tops the best Asian restaurants list because of the innovation they offer in the form of providing the diners a chance to see the kitchen action, and thus communicate directly with the chef. Iggy’s in Singapore is the restaurant that is renowned to be the best in Asia. Other great restaurants in Singapore are Les Amis, Gunther’s, and Garibaldi.
The L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong is a great restaurant. The restaurant is very casual in its ambience, and allows the diners to see the preparation of their dishes. Moreover, the people are also allowed to compose meals in accordance with their appetite. Another very good restaurant in Hong Kong is Bo Innovation. Old Chinese methods of cooking are used in the restaurant. This restaurant offers great ambience with its chopstick shaped lamps and a cosy kind of lighting.
The Mozaic Restaurant in Bali, Indonesia is also a great one. It has a unique setting that is elegant, enjoyable and charming. The chefs are popular for their changing culinary creations all over the world. There are some very good restaurants that you can visit in Tokyo. For example, the Tempura Mikawa is a restaurant where seafood is prepared in the classic Edomae style. Other great restaurants in Tokyo are Bird Land, Ginza Harutaka, Nihonryori Ryugin, and the Teppanyaki Ukai-tei.
There are some restaurants in Beijing which are very popular all over Asia. The one considered best is Made In China which is in the Grand Hyatt. The dining room is in the open kitchen, and people can watch the preparation of their orders. Another very good restaurant in Beijing is the Ding Ding Xiang which has banquets that are concealed with beaded curtains.
Some very good restaurants are situated in Hanoi. The one that is considered best is Bun Cha. Another very good restaurant in Hanoi is Green Tangerine which has a terrace with alfresco setting. Verticale is another very good restaurant which offers very skilfully prepared French-Vietnamese cuisine.
Bukhara is a restaurant in Delhi that is considered not only the best in India, but is also one of the best in Asia. If you want to have a truly Eastern experience, you should go to Bukhara where you would have to eat your food with hands instead of utensils. Moti Mahal and Smoke House Grill are other very good restaurants Delhi.
Almost all the hotels that are amongst the best in Asia have open kitchens which enable the customers to see the chefs in action. The Blue Elephant in Bangkok is a restaurant that offers classis Thai cuisine. China Town and Chote Chitr are two other very good restaurants in Bangkok.
For authentic Malay cuisine, go to Bijan in Kuala Lumpur which offers traditional cuisine in an alfresco setting. The Senses is another great restaurant in the Hilton Kuala Lumpur. Other restaurants that are considered amongst the best in Asia are Robuchon a Galera and Antonio’s Fine Dining in Philippines.[Top]
A status symbol, Citibank credit cards come with supreme offers and reward schemes. The platinum cards offered by Citibank with American Express, MasterCard and Visa not only have wide-acceptance, but enable the cardholders to access exclusive services. However, these cards are only offered to individuals with exceptional credit rating and are often issued by invitation only.
Why go for Platinum Citibank Credit Cards?
Citi Platinum credit cards come with unmatched spending limits. In addition, loyal cardholders that make timely payments are offered the option to further increase their credit limits; thus, eliminating the need for carrying cash. Other exclusive services offered to Citibank Platinum cardholders include:
- Airport assist: Platinum car holders are eligible for special airport assistance, which includes baggage claim and transportation to the desired destination.
- Access to airport lounges: In case a flight has been delayed, a Citibank Platinum cardholder need not wait in cramped waiting area for hours. Instead, they can lounge in high-end airport lounges and enjoy special refreshments and entertainment options.
- Concierge service round the clock: A Citibank Platinum cardholder can ask for concierge service to guide them in a foreign nation, which includes helping with transportation arrangement. Moreover, this facility can be availed 24/7.
- Travel assistance: While traveling abroad, Citibank offers platinum cardholders complete travel assistance from airline ticket booking to hotel reservation. Moreover, they also aid in obtaining the best bargains.
Besides this, the Citibank Platinum MasterCard can select from two special card variants, Citi Driver’s Edge Options Platinum Select MasterCard and Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage World MasterCard. The former is an excellent option for individuals who drive long distances frequently, as it helps to earn one dollar on every 100 mile on the road, up to $1,000 annually. Whereas, the latter is a travel reward Citibank credit card.[Top]
Looking for the best Caribbean beach vacation? Hey, I love sharing the highlights of all the places I visit and learn about. Below you’ll find my top 10 picks for a great beach vacation with examples of what’s special about them. Then you can decide which one you think would be the best beach vacation in the Caribbean for your trip!
This place is for those that like a non-stop vacation with lots of restaurants, bars casinos. The beaches are gorgeous, the water is wonderful and it hardly ever rains. The scuba diving is awesome with great opportunities for photography. The fishing is pretty good too.
Your troubles will simply wash away in the soft island serenity of this great beach vacation destination. Brighton Beach is a great place to stay for your Caribbean beach vacation and the most popular here. If you want a little more privacy you can get secluded villas around the island. Taking that horseback ride on the beach will feel as if you’re in a movie and I would highly recommend trying it. Probably my second favorite beach vacation overall.
Turks and Caicos Islands:
Like long beach walks? At 12 miles long, Grace Bay is simply a phenomenal stretch of soft white sand with smaller luxury resorts, spas and great restaurants perfect for a beach honeymoon vacation. And the water color is the most vibrant translucent turquoise… I love it! Seems that many movie stars and rock stars like it too with several owning homes and vacationing here on some of the 8 secluded islands all with fantastic beaches. Turks & Caicos has long been a diver’s paradise with great deep-sea and bone fishing too! Taking the kids? Well, Beaches Resort consistently gets high marks as one of the world’s best family beach vacation spots.
Technically not in the Caribbean, but with so many beautiful beaches I had to add it to the best beach vacation list… it’s close enough. Paradise Island is great fun especially swimming with the dolphins, which is an experience of a lifetime. The diving here is fantastic because of the calm waters and enjoying the nightlife is all kinds of fun. For a secluded romantic get-a-way try the pink sand beach on Harbor Island.
British Virgin Islands & U.S. Virgin Islands:
Both make great beach vacations, especially for island hopping. Having a chance to easily enjoy not 1, 2, but potentially 3 islands or more each with it’s own charm make for one of the best beach vacation spots. Trunk Bay on St. John is particularly gorgeous and popular with calm waters and an underwater snorkeling “trail.”
A very entertaining destination with odd things like feeding iguanas grapes while dining at a restaurant. Definitely worth it for the pictures! Three islands in all, its another great place to island hop and enjoy waterfall climbing, extensive shark diving, and swimming with the stingrays and shopping, shopping, shopping.
Here is a place you can go for a cheap beach vacation and still enjoy all the splendid beauty of a Caribbean island. Have a great time scuba diving, swimming with dolphins, deep sea fishing and hiking. Fabulous beaches too!
A fun Caribbean beach vacation to tell your friends about. It’s the only area known in the Caribbean to have beautiful white sandy beaches deserted during peak season, which makes this a great place for couples to enjoy. Especially with activities that include windsurfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Oh, and if you love seafood, all I can say is, “The best chefs in the Caribbean!”
A honeymooners delight. Think jazz music, small island, secluded and intimate and that is St. Lucia. Beautiful beaches, lush tropical foilage, scenic mountains, spectacular sunsets and typically many great all-inclusive packages are offered. It all makes for a very seductive beach honeymoon vacation.
Hey, I could add a couple more since the Caribbean is full of beautiful and interesting places. Some may offer a little better snorkeling or fishing, larger or smaller hotels, more seclusion or more nightlife, but all are wonderful in their own way. You really can’t go wrong with these when planning and dreaming of your next Caribbean beach vacation![Top]