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Blogs

Blogs (4)

Why you should book your festive season getaway now

 

Sweating through another hot day longing for a cold drink in your favorite giant unicorn floaty, you may not have given much thought to your travel plans for the holiday season. There’s plenty of time for that, right? WRONG! Make no mistake, winter is coming. Before you know it, the leaves will be changing colors. Soon after, you’ll be looking back wistfully at those long summer days. If you start trying to plan a trip then, you could be frozen out.

 

The period around Christmas and New Year’s is absolutely the most in-demand time on the calendar. Everybody and their mother is tired of the stress of cooking, cleaning and accommodating guests. They’d rather head to the beach, let someone else do all the work and actually enjoy that time with loved ones.

 

The trouble is, there’s a limited number of places where the weather can be counted on. The people who were lucky enough to find rooms last year got the right of first refusal for this year. Many others have had their space booked since spring. Truthfully, you should have already started planning too. But if you act now, there are a few gems left in Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean.

 

 If you’re out of luck on land, or prefer hitting the high seas, a cruise could be your answer. Again, though, you need to act quickly, especially if you’re bringing the whole family and need multiple cabins. Virtuoso-preferred partners offer some great itineraries to celebrate in style. 

If all else fails, think outside the box. There’s a whole other hemisphere where it’s warm when we’re cold. South America, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, they all have nice weather as one year turns into the next.

It’s not especially warm in Europe’s heartland, though the Jetstream does keep things milder than many parts of the U.S., but a river cruise can let you catch the end of the beautiful Christmas markets along the Rhine and Danube. If you haven’t seen a European Christmas market before, they are a sight to behold. Plus, there’s plenty of mulled wine to help you keep warm, there are great Christmas dinners served on the river and you can ring in the New Year a few hours ahead of your friends. 

Whatever you do, start planning now. Otherwise, you may have to settle for what’s available rather than what you want. Or, you could be left out in the cold. 

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We hit the strip for Virtuoso Travel Week

The theme was “Travel Unites,” and that ethos was exemplified in the variety of religious symbols and cultural dress on display. While “Travel Unites” certainly means supporting the people in some of our favorite places when tragedy befalls them, it’s also about making personal connections with those you might on the surface have nothing in common with. Your experience could be exploring Jerusalem and sites holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims. It could be spending a day in a Maasai village and realizing that for all your differences, you and your hosts have the same basic needs and desires. Or it could be making a landing in Antarctica with a group of strangers you are now forever bonded to because you have done. For one week every August, what happens in Vegas goes worldwide. It’s Virtuoso Travel Week, when travel advisors and preferred partners from across the globe converge. This year, 5,693 from 103 countries gathered to learn and share the latest innovations in travel in order to make your next vacation the best yet. 

Virtuoso Travel Week is unlike any other travel event out there. It is a powerful synergistic network and dynamic that provides for insights, shared intellectual property, collaboration and development of best industry practices and seen incredible things together. 

Advisors strengthened relationships with preferred hoteliers, cruise lines and tour operators, ensuring our clients have wonderful experiences each and every time they go out into the world. While no one can visit every hotel and every country, the week allows advisors to build a knowledge base and take advantage of the vast resources of the Virtuoso network. A technology panel discussed how electronic itinerary builders have helped make complex itineraries easily accessible for travelers, and the hotel booking tool on the Virtuoso website that lets travelers select their advisor and make a reservation complete with Virtuoso-exclusive amenities in just a few clicks any time of day. 

Advisors strive to stay on the cutting edge of an increasingly digital trip-planning process so our travelers can relax and unplug. A new focus is on wellness, family and immersion travel. It’s all about putting aside the stress of everyday life to connect more deeply with yourself and your fellow travelers without a lot of distractions. 

Wellness travel doesn’t have to mean spending your vacation working out several times a day. It can be just be taking a break from the craziness of everyday life and giving your mind a rest. For example, Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Ariz., provides a bag to store all your technology safely away in and even makes up a little bed for your phone so it can have some much-needed down time.

Family travel puts an emphasis on designing itineraries to appeal to different age groups so that families have fun together without having to worry about the kids being bored or the adults’ interests being ignored. With the increasing popularity of multi-generational travel, it only makes sense to tailor trips to emphasize that bond. It is a rare thing to get an extended family all in one place, and that time is a precious commodity. These trips ensure that it is time well spent. 

Immersion travel takes adventurers into the heart of nature, with lodges that bland into their settings and offer a chance to deeply explore another land and culture. Travelers really get a taste of what life is like in a particular destination, not just seeing the tourist attractions, but being stitched into the fabric of a place, if only for a little while. 

Whether it is strengthening personal and professional relationships with partners in the industry or meeting new ones, discovering new destinations and experiences or learning about and applying new technologies, Virtuoso Travel Week packs a year’s worth of innovation into a week, allowing travelers to reap the benefits of working with a Virtuoso advisor.

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Top places to see next week's solar eclipse

Monday’s total solar eclipse will cut a path across the continental U.S. from the Northwest to the Southeast, a once-in-a-generation event. The path of totality is a band about 70 miles wide and will pass by a few major cities. While you’ll certainly have to fight traffic in the prime viewing areas, here are a few spots you can see the eclipse in style. Don’t forget your glasses!

 

Portland, Oregon

Virtuoso-preferred The Nines hotel is offering a solar eclipse package that includes tickets to the OMSI Planetarium, a map of the eclipse path and a blanket for maximum comfort while watching. From Portland, the sun will be 99.4 percent obscured. If that’s not enough for you, you can head out to wineries of the Willamette Valley and drink in the totality. Yes, the show will begin before 10:30 a.m. local time, but this is a special occasion.

 

Yellowstone National Park

The sun’s corona won’t be visible, as totality will range between 96-99 percent in the park’s boundaries. But what a great venue, surrounded by the stunning beauty of nature, and what better way to remind yourself of the enormity of time and space than to be among ancient geysers while watching a phenomenon that has captured people’s imaginations as long as people have been around. Assuming clear skies, most spots in the park will offer good views. The national park service advises visitors to arrive early to beat traffic and stake out a good spot, and to be mindful of wildlife crossing your path as you focus your attention upward.

 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Virtuoso-preferred Amangani and Four Seasons Resort are smack dab in the path of totality along with a prime location in the Tetons. The Sweetwater Gondola will be shuttling visitors 1,300 feet up to the Casper Restaurant for a watch party. Grand Teton National Park will have official viewing areas set up to make sure you don’t miss the action. Be sure to bring food, water and sunscreen if you’re heading to the park, as facilities are limited.

Nashville and Walland, Tennessee

Nashville -- home to Virtuoso-preferred Hutton Hotel and The Hermitage Hotel -- is the largest city directly in the eclipse’s path, and it’s a safe bet there will be songs written about the event in the Music City. There is of public viewing locations and city parks waiting with open arms. The partial eclipse will last almost 3 hours, with totality hitting at 1:27 p.m. Central time. While the sun will be back to normal by 3 p.m., the party will last well into the night, and the city tourism board has put together an official 14-song playlist featuring the likes of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” At Virtuoso-preferred Blackberry Farm in Walland, astrophysicist Michael McElwain will lead the observation and share stories from his time at NASA.

Charleston and Kiawah Island, South Carolina

On the eastern end of the eclipse’s overland path is beautiful Charleston, which will experience 100 percent totality. Virtuoso-preferred Belmond Charleston Place will have a VIP viewing area set up and an exclusive dinner featuring Dr. Jon Hakkila, a professor of physics and astronomy at the College of Charleston. Just to the south of Charleston, Kiawah Island will experience “only” 99.9 percent totality, but that’s more than enough to make the Great American Eclipse Float a great idea. Hosted by Virtuoso-preferred The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the float will have guests on kayaks and paddleboards head out to Captain Sam’s Spit with a team of naturalists from 1-4 p.m. Eastern, with the eclipse peak coming at 2:47.

 

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Top Zika-free Honeymoon Destinations

Who doesn’t love a wedding? Friends and family come together to celebrate love, have a feast and dance late into the night. But if you’re the bride or groom, just making it to your big day involves a lot of planning and stress. You have to pare down that guest list and make sure you’re having the right people sit together for dinner. All those little touches throughout the night that wow your guests don’t just happen. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. 

So it’s no wonder that after the ceremony and reception are over, you want to just hit the beach for a week and relax on an island somewhere with your new spouse. Of course, finding the right place for your honeymoon doesn’t just happen on its own, either. And with the spread of the Zika virus, even finding somewhere to relax has gotten more stressful for honeymooners who want to start families soon. Fortunately, there are still quite a few islands where you can spend a worry-free vacation that are Zika-free.

 

Bermuda 

Thanks to its unique position in the Atlantic off the East Coast of the U.S., Bermuda has managed avoid the spread of Zika that has reached many Caribbean islands. Though it’s a bit too far north to be a year-round beach destination, high temperatures average between 75 and 85 degrees from May through November. The beaches are gorgeous, flecked with pink sand, and there’s no shortage of water-based activities, including caves and shipwrecks to explore.

 

Hawaii 

You don’t even need passports for this one. With the variety of islands, you can make your honeymoon as active or slow-paced as you want. With an abundance of interisland flights that are less than an hour from takeoff to landing, you can island-hop with ease. So if you absolutely have to visit Pearl Harbor but then you want to get as far away from a city as you can, fly into Honolulu and spend a night there before heading out to one of the quieter Neighbor Islands.

 

French Polynesia 

Lagoons and mountains and endless beauty pretty much sum it up. Just saying the names of some of the islands -- Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea -- conjures up images of tranquility. These islands were tailor-made for getting away from it all. The protected lagoons make for calm, clear waters that wash your cares away and make you forgot all about your embarrassing cousin who tried to ruin the reception. One other bonus: The French brought their cooking techniques with them when they came to the Pacific.

 

Seychelles 

About 1,000 miles off the east coast of Kenya, the Seychelles pair well with a safari. The beaches are spectacular, the weather is consistently warm year-round and the locals love welcoming visitors. You’ll see plenty of things, including several bird species, you won’t find anywhere else on Earth. If you opt for cruising around the Seychelles, Virtuoso-preferred Crystal Cruises has a submersible available so you can even see things underwater you won’t see anywhere else on Earth.

 

Maldives 

Southwest of India, the Maldives consist of nearly 1,200 islands that collectively form the lowest-lying country in the world. The highest point is less than 10 feet, and white-sand beaches make up a significant portion of the topography of the islands, each with its own coral reef. While the resorts (including 10 that are Virtuoso-preferred) are designed with sustainability in mind, rising sea levels threaten to erase the Maldives from the map. So, unfortunately, you may not have many more opportunities to visit this idyllic paradise.

 

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