Living La Pura Vida

Costa Rica has always been a popular place to visit for US Travelers, but in recent years it has become one of the top destinations for which I receive requests! Daily flights from many US hubs (that are usually fairly short!) coupled with plenty of adventure, nature experiences, and pristine beaches– Costa Rica is definitely worthy of its hype. The icing on the cake is that the “Tico” People are also some of the nicest and most hospitable you will ever meet. If you want to experience the Pura Vida (as they say), look no further than Costa Rica.

Getting There:

There are two major airports in Costa Rica; San Jose (the Capital) and Liberia. San Jose is a great choice to fly into if you would like to visit the rain forest and Arenal Volcano area. Liberia is the right choice if you would like to visit the beaches of the famous Guanacaste region. Pro Tip: Fly into San Jose and out of Liberia if you are wanting to really experience the country.

Planning Your Stay:

As I mentioned previously, I usually recommend visitors split their stay in this gorgeous country. Spending a few nights in the Arenal area and then a few nights near the beach. I would plan to spend a minimum of 7 nights in Costa Rica to get a taste of both locations.

The Arenal Area:

Visitors love the Arenal area which is located about 2 hours from San Jose airport. This area immerses guests in the rain forest and the flora and fauna that Costa Rica is famous for. If you aren’t aware, Costa Rica is the most bio diverse country in the world! Visit coffee plantations, soak in hot springs, go zip-lining, explore “cloud forests”, and scout animals.

Where to Stay in Arenal:

Nayara Springs, Nayara Gardens, and Nayara Tented Camp- this property is great for those staying 3 nights or more as there are lots of restaurants and on property experiences to choose from. Nayara Springs is the adults only side of Nayara Gardens, which allows families. Nayara Tented Camp is their brand new section offering “glamping” in the amazing Costa Rican Rainforest.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • A la Carte breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom
    • $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
    • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa- The only property with natural hot springs flowing freely through the property, Tabacon is a hot spring and spa lovers dream!

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Daily Buffet Breakfast for two guests per bedroom, served in the Restaurant
    • $100 USD equivalent Resort Credit to be utilized during stay, applicable to Food & Beverage or Spa services (Not applicable to tours, souvenir store, spa retails products, transfers, minibar. Not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeem in full)
    • Unlimited entrance to the hot springs resort during the stay
    • Exclusive Access to Shangri-La Gardens for hotel guest 18+
    • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

The Beach:

Costa Rica is lucky to have two large coastlines to choose from– one on the Caribbean Sea side and the other on the Pacific sea side. While the Caribbean side of the country has an amazing culture of its own, I always recommend staying on the Pacific side– the tourism is more developed in this area, the water is warmer, and it is generally a safer area of the country. From Las Mareas all the way down to Tamarindo, there are tons of places to choose from and I would love to help you choose the best beach town for you!

Beach Resorts from North to South:

Dreams Las Mareas: At almost the border of Nicaragua, Dreams Las Mareas is the perfect choice for families looking for an all inclusive resort.

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo: This resort is hard to beat in terms of amenities, accommodations, area, and more. It is one of the most popular Four Seasons Resorts in the world for a reason– the common spaces are beautiful, restaurants amazing, and this area of Costa Rica has so much to do in a very small area. Pro Tip: Book a Canopy Suite and spend a few nights in a real life adult tree house. These are my most favorite rooms on the property!

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets)
    • For suite bookings, one complimentary round of golf per guest per stay (including club rentals)
    • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites, villas, and private residences)
    • Welcome note at check-in
    • Complimentary basic Internet in all guest rooms; complimentary premium Internet in all suites
    • Choice of USD100 Spa credit (not applicable to products) or USD100 golf credit

Andaz Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo: If you want to be in the Papagayo area, but are looking for a more modern vibe or your budget doesn’t quite stretch far enough to stay at the Four Seasons, the Andaz is an amazing choice. With some of the most beautiful entry level rooms in Costa Rica, you will be spoiled at the Andaz! And being only about 5 minutes drive from the Four Seasons, you still have access to the amazing restaurants and bars at both hotels (plus the most amazing golf course!).

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom
    • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of booking
    • Welcome amenity
    • Complimentary basic Internet in all guest rooms
    • $100 Resort Credit

Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica: If you are looking for an adults only, all inclusive resort in Costa Rica, Secrets is always a great choice. About a 20 minute drive from the Peninsula Papagayo area where Four Seasons and Andaz are located sits the Secrets Papagayo resort. The Papagayo area is only about a 25 minute drive from the Liberia airport, making it a super easy place to visit, and Secrets always presents an amazing value for its guests.

The Mangroove, an Autograph Collection: Looking for a boutique hotel at a great price near this exclusive Papagayo area? The Mangroove is your place!

The Westin, W Hotel, and Margaritaville: although I did not see this area, these three hotels all share a similar location in Playa Flamingo, about 45 minutes south of the Liberia airport and a popular snorkeling spot on the coast.

Calaluna Hotel & JW Marriott: These two properties are in the Southern part of the Guanacaste region in Tamarindo, one of the oldest and most famous beach towns in Costa Rica. Tamarindo is a lively city with lots of local and international travel, a huge beach with lots of beach vendors, restaurants, bars, and more. Tamarindo is also famous for surfing. I would choose this location for those looking for a lively local beach vibe or those wanting to learn/intermediate surfers. Choose Calaluna for a boutique hotel experience right in the city.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks- at the Mangroove, Westin, W, and JW Marriott, our clients enjoy perks like:
    • Complimentary Breakfast
    • Room Upgrades
    • Resort Credits
    • and more!

Have you been to Costa Rica recently? Is a trip on your horizon? Let us help you plan!

Saint Barths Destination Guide

I’ve been all around the Caribbean and Saint Barths, for me, takes the cake. The amazing restaurants, the gorgeous shops, the best hotels, the cleanliness of the island— for those looking for an island escape where they can get out of the resort and really have the island as their playground; I can’t think of a better place than St. Barths.

We just wrapped up a 10 night stay on and around the island; 6 nights we sailed on a luxury 75′ Catamaran “Sur L’eau” and for the last four nights we rested on land. I also had the pleasure of visiting most of the best hotels on the island and dining at many of the favorite “hot spots”. I plan to write a separate post about our incredible experience on Sur L’eau, but I wanted to recap our trip on land for this St. Barths destination guide— St. Barths is truly a world class destination with so much to offer, however you decide to experience it!

Getting to St. Barths

A wise person once told me, “you can’t get to paradise on a 747”. This is definitely the truth with St. Barths!

There are four ways to arrive– via hopper flight from San Juan, St. Maarten, or Antigua or via ferry from St. Maarten. My favorite way is via the Tradewinds flight from San Juan. Tradewinds is an amazing airline to fly with and their planes are so nice and well appointed for the 45 minute flight! Pro Tip: Add the VIP service to your Tradewinds flight to make traveling through a breeze!

Where to Stay

Eden Rock- St Barths

Why Stay Here? Travelers looking to stay in the middle of all the action will love Eden Rock St. Barths. In the heart of St. Jean beach, this is a perfect choice for those wanting something “fun and lively” in the best location. I also can’t get enough of the red and white everything.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks
    • Daily Full Breakfast for two people per bedroom, including buffets
    • Access to the best room booked in your particular category
    • One Category Room Upgrade at Time of Booking, based on availability
    • Complimentary High Speed Internet Access
    • Priority access to the hotel courtesy car
    • $100 USD Food and Beverage Credit once per stay for single night stay, $200 Credit for stays over 2 nights

Cheval Blanc

Why Stay Here? To me, Cheval Blanc is perfect for those wanting something distinctively French with understated elegance, in a superb location (right next to the action, but not quite in the heart of it), and someone who wants a beautiful, expansive beach to spend time on. Cheval Blanc is located on Flamands Beach, which is one of the largest beaches in St. Barths and is right next to St. Jean (where Eden Rock is located).

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Daily Full or A La Carte Breakfast for two guests per bedroom, served at the restaurant.
    • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay
    • Early check-in / Late check-out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Villa Marie

Why Stay Here? Design lovers will rejoice in this beautiful mix of plantation style architecture with fun patterns and eclectic accessories. Plus the views from this resort are simply the best. Perched on top of the hills above Colombier beach, don’t expect beach access from the resort directly, but coming mid-December 2020 guests will have access to Villa Marie’s all new beach club in the heart of St. Jean Beach.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Roundtrip Transfers
    • Daily Breakfast

Hotel Le Toiny

Why Stay Here? For those looking to be out of the hustle and bustle but still have access to some amazing on site restaurants and a beach club, Le Toiny is the perfect choice. Every room at this stunning hotel has its own private pool and with the hotel perched on the hillside, most of the rooms also have amazing views of the ocean. I would describe this as the most romantic choice on the island!

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Continental breakfast daily via room service
    • $100 USD Equivalent Food & Beverage credit, to be utilized during stay
    • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Le Barthelemy

Why Stay Here? For guests wanting a fun ambience, with a beautiful hotel infinity pool, rooftop bar, and one of the best spas on the island, Le Barthelemy might be for you!

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Daily Buffet Breakfast for two guests per bedroom
    • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay
    • Complimentary roundtrip private airport transfers
    • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Le Sereno

Why Stay Here? Guests looking for a vibe that isn’t quite as lively as Eden Rock but a little more lively than Le Toiny will love Le Sereno. From the gorgeous views from the restaurant and pool to the modern & clean decor of the rooms, its hard to think of a traveler who wouldn’t love this hotel. I also love this property for families with young children because the beach in this area is very shallow for quite a ways out. It’s also located on a Turtle Reserve, which makes for such fun while paddle boarding and kite surfing!

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Daily full breakfast, for two guests per bedroom
    • $100 USD Equivalent Resort or Hotel credit, to be utilized during stay
    • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Hotels to see on the next trip:

The Christopher– this hotel has amazing views and the largest pool on the island. Also, I’ve been told that it’s beachfront spa is not to be missed.

Hotel Barriere Le Carl Gustaf- located just above the popular Shellona Beach Club, this hotel is perfect for guests looking to be walking distance from all of the best restaurants and shopping in St Barths (this is the closest hotel to the main town of Gustavia) but still be surrounded by 5 star luxury. The beach here has one of the prettiest sunsets on the island and the sand is more “shells” giving it the name “Shell Beach”.

Hotel Manapany- this hotel is perfect for travelers who like to be surrounded by an environment that resembles nature.

Where to Dine

Bonito St Barths- for the best fine dining in the Caribbean, this is a restaurant you cannot miss. My favorite dishes are the Ceviche Bonito and the Mahi Mahi!

Le Tamarin- the gardens alone are a reason to visit this popular St Barths dining location. This is a great choice for families looking for a nice dining experience where the kids will be happy too. With lots of room to run and play (quietly) and a small kids room with toys and fun, everyone will be happy dining at Le Tamarin.

Black Ginger- for those who love Thai food, this is a gem on the island!

L’isoletta and L’isola- travelers looking to have a taste of Italy on St Barths will love these pair of restaurants! L’isoletta is a very moderately priced casual pizzeria owned by the famous L’isola, their fine dining sister restaurant.

Fish Corner– if you like ceviche, try Fish Corner for a casual lunch!

Beach Bars/Restaurants:

Nikki Beach- perfect to see and be seen and for the travelers that want to have a little more party in their beach club atmosphere

Shellona Restaurant- I loved the ambience here. It is a bit more quiet than Nikki Beach but still has a fun vibe with beautiful sunset views.

The Beach Club at Le Toiny- for a more sophisticated and quiet beach club vibe

What to Do

Shopping- the shopping on St Barths is the best in the Caribbean. Some of my favorite stores included Terra (for fun bright colored dresses and cover ups!), Pati de St Barths (for high quality souvenirs), Linge St Barth (for locally made perfumes), and KIWI St Barths (for moderately priced swimwear and cover ups).

Surfing- there is some good surfing on this island and some great instructors if you are looking to learn!

Kite Surfing, Paddle boarding, Snorkeling

Beach Hop! There are 14 beaches on the island and they all offer something unique. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Colombier- this is a hike to/boat to only beach and it is worth the trouble of getting to. The hike begins at Flamands beach and takes about 25 minutes. Easy hike, but I recommend wearing good shoes!
  • Flamands Beach- one of the largest and most expansive beaches on the island. Cheval Blanc is located on this beach if you want a refreshment!
  • St Jean Beach- this is the most “happening” beach on the island. Nikki Beach and Eden Rock are located on this famous beach, so you will not run out of things to do here. You can also spend hours watching the planes take off and land from the sand– it is an incredible thing to watch!
  • Lorient Beach- is perfect for surfers!
  • Grand Cul de Sac- this is a very unique beach– it is the windiest part of the island, so great kite surfing, but it is also a Turtle Reserve so guests looking to spot some wildlife will love this beach! I also love this beach for families as the water is quite shallow! (Visit Le Sereno or Le Barthelemy here!)
  • Toiny- another great surfing spot or a great beach to visit the Beach Club at Le Toiny and just enjoy the afternoon!
  • Gouvernor and Saline- these two beaches are local favorites. Choose between Saline which is a much larger beach with two sides– one better for families and the other for adults; or Gouvenor which is a bit more quiet but has very easy parking access- a rare find on this small island!
  • Shell Beach- located right in downtown Gustavia, Shell beach is fun for families looking to collect seashells or for guests looking to enjoy one of the best beach clubs (Shellona) on the island!

I’m headed back to St. Barths in January and would love to hear from you if there are any other favorites I missed on our last trip— what is your favorite thing to do on St. Barths?

Viva Cabo!

Los Cabos, Mexico has always been a popular spot, but since the borders reopened in June, it has never been more popular with my clients. Even though I’ve planned dozens of trips to the area, it had been quite some time since I last visited, so after our 3rd plan for our 10th anniversary fell through, I decided to regroup and plan a trip to the Baja Peninsula.

I love Mexico— the food, the resorts, the lower prices, easy flights, for me, it’s hard to justify the long flights to the beach elsewhere. The wonderful thing about Cabo is the plethora of things to do in this area from Surfing to ATVing, Deep Sea Fishing, Sunset Cruises to the famous Arches, beach parties, wonderful restaurants, hiking, biking, paddleboarding, you won’t get bored in Cabo.

Where to Stay

Las Ventanas al Paraiso

Why stay here? If you are looking for a sense of place with the very best in service and lots to do on site, Las Ventanas might be the place for you. Located in between San Jose del Cabo and Cabos San Lucas, this resort offers a quick 20 minute drive to just about anywhere.

Pro Tip: Book an Oceanfront Room to be closest to the Adult Pool.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Complimentary upgrade to an Oceanview Rooftop Terrace Junior Suite from an Oceanview Junior Suite for stays through December 19 upon booking (based on availability)
    • Daily Full American breakfast for up to two people per bedroom available via in-room dining or in the restaurant
    • An Oasis Experience inclusive of a Margarita & Taco Sampler from Taqueria (for up to two guests, per stay)
    • USD125 nightly resort credit until December 19 
    • Welcome note and amenity
    • 4 PM late check-out for stays through December 19 (based on availability) 

One&Only Palmilla

Why Stay Here? This resort is one of the only luxury resorts in the Cabos San Lucas area with a swimmable beach. Located between San Jose del Cabo and Cabos San Lucas, it’s a perfect location for those visiting both cities. It was also the first luxury resort in Cabo, making a distinguished choice for any travelers.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Upgrade on arrival to next room category, subject to availability
    • Daily Continental breakfast for two guests per bedroom
    • $150 USD equivalent Resort/Hotel credit to be utilized during stay
    • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

The Cape, a Thompson Hotel

Why Stay Here? For guests looking for modern luxury closest to the “Squid Zone” (as the Party Zone is most commonly known), The Cape is a perfect choice.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Daily Full breakfast for two guests per bedroom, served in restaurant or via in-room dining
    • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay 
    • Early check-in/Late check-out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Montage Los Cabos

Why Stay Here? Arguably placed on one of the most beautiful beaches in Cabo, the Montage is a dream for those loving beautiful beaches and dramatic scenery.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability (excluding Specialty Suites, Residences, and Casas)
    • Daily $70 USD breakfast credit per bedroom, available in the restaurant or through in-room dining.
    • $100 USD equivalent Resort/Hotel credit to be utilized during stay
    • Welcome Amenity
    • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-fi
    • For bookings in Specialty Suites*, guests will also receive complimentary one-way airport transfers (for up to 4 guests)

Grand Velas, Los Cabos

Why Stay Here? For those looking for a luxury all inclusive experience Grand Velas is the best. Your rate includes all of your meals, premium alcohol, activities, and more. Grand Velas is also a wonderful option for families looking to travel together as it has great Children’s Programs.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    •   Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Complimentary one-way private airport transfer 
    • $50 USD Spa credit per adult per stay
    • $100 USD food & beverage credit toward a private romantic dinner
    • Early check-in/late check-out**, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Zadun, a Ritz Carlton Reserve

Why Stay Here? I would recommend this property for guests looking for the newest accommodations still close to the Cabo “action” but far enough away to be out of the hustle and bustle. Most every room here has a private pool which is a huge perk as well. 24 hour per day butler service in all rooms and situated on one of the very best golf courses in Cabo. Also, for those looking to dine at Flora Farms and Acre during their Cabo visit, you can’t get much closer than Zadun.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Welcome Amenity
    • Complimentary Breakfast for Two Daily
    • $100 USD Hotel Credit
    • Complimentary Wifi
    • Early Check-in/late Check-out, based on availability
    • VIP status granted with in-person warm welcome
    • Welcome note from General Manager (or Hotel Management)
    • First priority on waitlists in sold-out situations
    • First priority for requested room category, bed type, rollaways and connecting rooms
    • Priority for complimentary room upgrade (based on availability upon arrival)

Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal

Why Stay Here? The WA Pedregal is another very famous resort in this amazing part of Mexico. With a completely different location than any other luxury hotel, Pedregal is situated at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula. The landscape of this area is mountainous and offers dramatic views.

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Breakfast buffet daily in Don Manuel’s for two guests per bedroom
    • $150 USD equivalent Hotel or Resort credit to be utilized during stay 
    • Complimentary VIP airport Lounge Tickets with all Beach Front Suite Bookings
    • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi
    • Double Hilton Honor Points
    • **For Bookings between now and December 17, 2021- Stay 7 Nights or Longer and receive 30% off!**

Esperanza, an Auberge Resort

Why Stay Here? Esperanza is often regarded as one of the top three resorts in the area. And in 2019 was named the #1 Hotel in Mexico by US News and World Reports. With 4 restaurants, 5 pools, a luxury spa, a great kids club, championship golf course, and the long standing history of being one of the top resorts in the area, you will not be disappointed at Esperanza!

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Breakfast credit of $35 per person for up 2 people per bedroom, per day. Credit is allowed in restaurant or room service
    • $100 USD Hotel & Resort credit, to be utilized during stay (Valid toward Spa in 2021)
    • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Four Seasons Los Cabos at Costa Palmas

Why Stay Here? For those looking for the newest accommodations in Cabo in the most up and coming area, Four Seasons might be the place for you. This resort is located in the East Cape, which is about a 90 minute drive from the heart of Cabo, but with a swimmable beach (a rarity in the area) and tons to do on site, the East Cape may capture your heart!

  • The Shameless Tourist Perks:
    • Daily American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in Estiatorio Milos restaurant (USD 120 value)
    • Complimentary round-trip airport transfers (USD 495 value)
    • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites and private residences)
    • Welcome note at check-in
    • Complimentary basic Internet in all guest rooms; complimentary premium Internet in all suites

Where to Dine

Flora Farms is a must for guests visiting! It offers delicious food and a unique and casual, but fun vibe. Don’t forget to bring mosquito spray!

  • Acre (near Flora Farms) offers a more upscale experience
  • Edith’s for authentic Mexican Food in the “Squid Zone”
  • The Office on the Beach- if you are looking for a party, look no further than the Office. Owned by the family who run’s Edith’s this beachfront dining experience is not to be missed!
  • Arbol at Las Ventanas

What To Do

  • If you are looking to do more than relax and enjoy the amazing resorts in this area, you will find just about everything under the sun in terms of activities and excursions; here are a few of my favorites:
    • Surfing
    • ATVing
    • Deep Sea Fishing – The Sea of Cortez is home to one of the most diverse areas of sea life in the world!
    • Sunset Cruise to see “Los Arcos”
    • Go Whale Watching (in the Winter Months)
    • Snorkeling
    • Scuba Diving
    • Golfing
    • Zip Lining

A Weekend in Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara area is considered The American Riviera. A city with beautiful beaches, amazing restaurants, unique architecture, and a much more relaxed pace than nearby LA. If you are looking for a California getaway, Santa Barbara is one of the very best places!

Our Girls Weekend Away!

We started the weekend off by checking into the beautiful Belmond El Encanto and spending the afternoon poolside. The views and the cocktails made for perfect post-flight place to soak up some Vitamin D!

For dinner, we decided to “dip our toes” into the famous Funk Zone, an area of Santa Barbara known for its restaurants, shops, and Urban Wineries. By recommendation of a friend, we chose to have dinner at Carlito’s Cantina. The Margaritas were amazing and I would highly recommend trying it out if you visit the area.

After dinner, we went back to the gorgeous resort and rested up for a busy Saturday!

Saturday morning we went took the short drive to the trailhead for Inspiration Point. This hike was easy (I would recommend for children over age 5) and has some of the best views in the area. It was a great way to start the day— approximately a two hour roundtrip excursion. Unfortunately, the fires in the area spoiled the view a bit, but I’m still so glad we did this!

After the hike, we freshened up, put our swimsuits on and headed toward the beach! Before swimming, we stopped at a local taco stand that I highly recommend — East Beach Tacos (I’m still dreaming of my Ahi Tuna Taco!).

We then hit the sand and waves at Butterfly beach! After strolling along this famous beach, we took a quick drive to Montecito to check out the Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort. I love the beach bar at the Rosewood Miramar and also loved how there are actually houses and restaurants directly on the beach; a rarity in California.

Saturday ended with another visit to the Funk Zone and Stern’s Wharf. I loved this area; I loved walking around, seeing the skaters in the skate park, watching the sail boats in the water! It was the perfect Saturday evening!

On Sunday, we started the day with Brunch at the hotel then ventured out to Los Olivos (about an hour from Santa Barbara) to check out this quaint little town and visit a famous winery in the area, Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard. The wine was amazing but note; if you want to do a tasting on the patio you must be 21+, however, you can order a glass of wine and sit in the yard if you have your family in tow. Side note: I realized on this trip that I have an affinity for taking photos of my cocktails (or wine) — I’m a complete sucker for a great drink with amazing views.

After the winery visit, we promised Keki a shopping trip. We went to the outdoor shopping area in Santa Barbara called Paseo Nuevo; I’m not sure I would recommend this for most visitors as most of the stores in this mall have locations elsewhere, but Keki was a happy camper.

We finished this day and our trip, just as we started it, poolside!

Where to Stay Santa Barbara

Belmond El Encanto– for guests wanting exquisite views and a unique sense of place. I loved this property for it’s romantic vibe, beautiful gardens, and casita style accommodations.

Four Seasons Santa Barbara– for guests wanting a sense of place right at the edge of Butterfly Beach.

Hotel Californian– perfect for those wanting to be right in the heart of the funk zone! Walk right out your door and be in the action of the best shopping and dining.

Rosewood Miramar Beach– if you are looking for the most glamorous hotel in the area, the Rosewood Miramar Beach is your place. The decor is so chic and the beachside bar made me wish I had packed my Sperry’s and shoulder sweater. This is also perfect for anyone who wants to have an accommodation right on the beach, it’s one of the only places I can think of in all of California that offers that kind of an accommodation!

San Ysidro Ranch– lastly, if you are looking for a romantic getaway with history, San Ysidro ranch is the place. John F Kennedy and Jackie honeymooned at this idyllic spot nestled in the hills overlooking the area. All of the unique cottages offer something different for everyone.

As a reminder, booking any of these properties through the Shameless Tourist offers you exclusive benefits (like breakfast and resort credits, room upgrades, etc!) and VIP status! We would love to help plan your next trip to Santa Barbara!

The Shameless Tourist Guide to The Rockies

I receive almost as many inquiries about where to enjoy the Mountains in the US as I do about beach destinations. With so many options to choose from and most friends having very strong opinions about “the best” place– how do you choose which option might be best for your family?

Before I list a little on each destination, I wanted to point out a few key factors I think everyone should consider before choosing their Mountain Getaway!

  • Location– Generally speaking, the easier the location is to get to, the more crowded it will be. The Colorado resorts closest to Denver, CO will certainly see more traffic than those farther away. I always like to use the saying “You can’t get to paradise on a 747.”
  • Price Point- Price is always a deciding factor in any vacation. There are definitely value, moderate, and luxury price point ski resorts and typically speaking the moderate and luxury ski resorts will have much more to offer guests outside of skiing. Luxury ski resorts will certainly have more hotel options, while most moderate resorts guests will rent homes or condos.
  • Ski Level- While most ski resorts will have a variety of ski terrain, it is important to consider the difficulty level of terrain when matching a ski resort to your vacation.
  • Time of Year- When are you visiting? There are certainly some ski resorts that have as much or more to offer in the summer than the winter. Conversely, if you are planning to visit in “early season” for skiing (i.e., mainly before Christmas), you might want to choose a destination with more average snowfall to make sure and avoid the early season conditions as much as possible (generally speaking, the further north, the more snowfall).
  • Vibe- What are you looking for? Great restaurants? A town with history? A great hotel at a great price point? A family friendly destination? An active summer scene? There is so much to consider when finding your perfect resort!

Let’s get to it! For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to focus on my favorite Moderate and Luxury Ski Resort towns and break them down into those two categories.

Moderate Resort Towns

Breckinridge- Only an hour and a half from Denver and with so much skiable terrain, Breckinridge, a historic charming mining town, is a favorite among local Coloradans and visitors. The lift lines and crowds, especially during peak weekends can be intense, but being able to fly in and out of Denver is very convenient for most families, especially during the winter months. Most guests will rent condos or homes in this quaint town with almost 3,000 skiable acres of various difficulty levels.

Copper Mountain- Being right off I-70 and also only an hour and a half from Denver, Copper Mountain is certainly heavily trafficked by “weekend warriors” looking for a quick getaway from Denver. But, with almost 2,500 skiable acres and a variety of terrain, there is something for everyone at Copper Mountain. The town itself is quite small; having the resort mostly focused on skiing.

Crested Butte- CB is located 5 hours from Denver and is surrounded by 1.7 million acres of National Forest, offering lots of outdoor activities like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, biking and more. Unlike the two resorts I’ve previously mentioned, it’s distance from Denver provides for shorter lift lines and a more “off the beaten path” experience. Worried about the drive? Fly into Gunnison airport for a quick 30 minute drive to this ski town.

Keystone- Another resort very close to Denver, Keystone has something for everyone and for more hours of the day. If you can brave the frigid winter nights, Keystone has the best night skiing program in Colorado! Little known fact: Keystone also has more skiable acreage that its close-to-Denver neighbors.

Steamboat Springs- For those looking for a moderate resort town with the most skiable terrain, lower crowds, and some of the best snowfall in the state, Steamboat Springs is the place. With over 3,000 acres to ski, an average snowfall of over 330 inches per year and lower crowds (being over 4 hours from Denver), it is a great destination. If you are into country music, the Texas Country Music Festival is held here every January. Worried about the drive? Fly into Hayden Airport nearby instead!

Taos- With the most skiable acreage of any ski resort in New Mexico (by almost double), Taos is my pick for best New Mexico Ski Resort. Need more than the 1,200 acres Taos has to offer? Taos is situated on the “Enchanted Circle” — an 83 mile loop that connects Taos with Angel Fire and Red River, offering skiers lots of variety.

Winter Park- The fourth of the great ski resorts near Denver, Winter Park is an excellent option for those looking to stay close to the convenience of DIA, while having a great ski experience. With over, 3,000 acres of skiable terrain at a variety of difficulty levels, what’s not to love?

Luxury Resort Towns

The below are my top picks for visitors looking for a Mountain getaway with great hotel and resort options, fine dining, spas, and more. Note that more moderate priced accommodations will be available in all of these resort towns, if you are looking for an amazing experience that doesn’t break the bank!

Aspen Snowmass

The city of Aspen, Colorado has a reputation that precedes itself– it is usually one of glamour and celebrities but I would venture to say that the reason it has such a reputation is because of the immense amount of activities to enjoy and the beauty of this area. With four mountains to enjoy for skiing, hiking, biking, and more, some of the best restaurants in the Rockies (in the country really), amazing shopping, Gold Medal fly fishing waters, paddle boarding, white water rafting, Art & Culture, you could never be bored (and the list goes on from here). Indeed, Aspen is actually one of only two Rocky Mountain towns in the US seeing more tourism in the summer than the winter. Just a short 20 minute drive down the road, Snowmass Village is the very family friendly neighbor, with the largest of the four ski mountains, a mountain adventure park, more restaurants, an ice skating rink, and a more affordable price point for families looking for larger spaces. Another perk of this area is the small ASE airport located just 10 minutes from town, making for an easy arrival/departure experience but still far enough from Denver (4 hours) to keep the crowds at bay. I have never had a client disappointed with their choice when they decided to visit Aspen.

  • Favorite Hotel Options in Aspen/Snowmass:
    • The Little Nell- For visitors looking for the very best in service and location, the Little Nell is the place. This Ski in/Ski Out property has exclusive access to some unique experiences on Aspen Mountain like the ability to get “first tracks” on the slopes, watch the New Year ring in from a Snow Cat with Champagne in hand, and more. This Relais & Chateaux Property has the best wine cellar in town and for those looking for a unique and unforgettable dining experience, try booking a private tasting in their cellar.
    • Hotel Jerome- For visitors looking for a unique hotel experience immersed in History, Hotel Jerome is the place. The first hotel in town was built in 1889 and has changed hand several times before it’s most recent ownership, Auberge Hotels and Resorts, making it one of the premier luxury properties in town. I love the elegant, but distinctly Western vibe of the property, nodding to the town’s rich history. Local’s love J-Bar, the casual dining option on site.
    • The St. Regis Aspen- The St. Regis is the largest of the luxury resorts in town, which creates more opportunities for onsite activities and family amenities. This resort is known as one of the best spas in the Rockies (make sure to block time to spend an afternoon here and if you are getting a massage, make sure to ask for the CBD Oil to be added to soothe sore muscles). During the Festive season, this resort offers so many amazing activities for families such as gift making, gingerbread house decorating, sleigh rides with Santa, and a favorite of mine– the reading of the Night Before Christmas by the “Big Man” Himself, on Christmas Eve. Because of the size of this property, it is more likely to offer promotions to those looking to travel this way from time to time, especially if you are staying 4 or 5 nights!
    • The W Hotel Aspen- Looking for a Girls Getaway or just a lively vibe? The W Hotel Aspen is distinctly W, with a very 70s color palette and decor along with rooms that have 4 queen bunk beds and a presidential suite that it out of this world. Right next to the Little Nell, and the only other Ski-in/Ski-Out Property in town, the W is the best priced luxury hotel in Aspen.
    • The Viceroy Snowmass- If you want to stay Ski In/Ski Out and have more of a beginner/intermediate ski level, the Viceroy Snowmass is the perfect option. I love this hotel for families as all of the accommodations are larger, most being residential style. This property is also the best priced luxury property in the Rockies, it is my #1 pick for the best value!

Beaver Creek

Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch

For those looking for family friendly ski resort, Beaver Creek is a great option. Nestled back a bit away from I-70, but still with very easy access to the highway and Vail ski area, Beaver Creek offers a ski in/ski out small village with almost 2,000 acres of skiable terrain. For families, I love their tradition of complimentary Cookies and Milk on the slopes. Airport: Vail/Eagle is a 30 minute drive, or about 2 hours from Denver International.

  • Favorite Hotel Options in Beaver Creek:
    • Park Hyatt Beaver Creek- The Park Hyatt is certainly the best option in the town of Beaver Creek. Ski In/Ski Out right in the village with easy access to all that Beaver Creek has to offer.
    • Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch- If you are looking for a larger family resort (that you might never want to leave!), the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch is located on the Western Side of the Beaver Creek Resort Mountains with it’s own ski lift, right out the back door. This resort has multiple restaurants on site, a pool and hot tub, a kid’s club, a spa, and lots of onsite activities as well as room sizes and suites to accommodate any family size.

Jackson Hole, WY

At the edge of Yellowstone National Park and just minutes from Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole has so much to offer. As I mentioned previously, there are only two ski resorts in the US that typically see more traffic during the summer months, one is Aspen, the other is Jackson Hole. With wonderful skiing, a great town, and of course one of the most famous National Parks in the world nearby, Jackson Hole should be on everyone’s list. Pro Tip: Jackson Hole is about 80 miles from the entrance of Yellowstone National Park, so I recommend splitting your stay if you are open to glamping or camping inside the National Park to really be able to enjoy your time.

  • Favorite Hotel Options in Jackson Hole:
    • Amangani- If you are looking for the Ultimate in Luxury and Seclusion, Amangani is the place. There are only two Aman hotels in the US and visitors to Jackson Hole are quite lucky to have such an amazing property in their vicinity!
    • Four Seasons Jackson Hole- What’s not to love about a Four Seasons? This ski-in/ski-out property is certainly a favorite for those looking to stay in luxury in the heart of the ski area.
    • The Caldera House- If you are looking for a boutique ski-in/ski-out property with larger accommodations for your family, the Caldera House is amazing! This property only offers 8 rooms, so they can offer finest in attention to detail while also having the wonderful location.
    • Hotel Jackson- For those looking to stay in the town of Jackson (as opposed to the ski area), Hotel Jackson is a wonderful luxury option. I especially like this option for guests visiting in the summer months who may not be accessing the mountains quite as often!
    • Under Canvas Yellowstone- For those looking to extend their vacation into the National Park and want an amazing glamping experience, check out Under Canvas Yellowstone. Located in West Yellowstone, Montana, this property is just 10 minutes from the west entrance of the park and allows guests to “camp” in comfort and luxury, with private bathrooms, fireplaces, and more.

Park City/Deer Valley, Utah

If you are looking for a luxury ski resort that is super easy to access, Park City is the spot. Located just 30 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport (a Delta Hub), this area has wonderful snowfall, lots of luxury properties where you can warm your ski boots, a charming town, and more. Park City and Deer Valley are just 20 minutes or less apart. In Park City you will find a charming village (more of a very long street!) with lots of great restaurants and shops. Deer Valley is where most staying in luxury properties will stay to ski, although both Park City and Deer Valley have lots of skiing nearby (however, lift tickets do not reciprocate between the two ski resorts).

  • Favorite Hotel Options for Park City/Deer Valley:
    • Waldorf Astoria Park City- the only luxury ski resort in Park City and one of the other best values for a luxury ski hotel in the US. The Waldorf Astoria was recently renovated and offers luxurious accommodations, a wonderful pool, and a great location just minutes walk from the Canyons area of Park City’s ski runs.
    • St. Regis Deer Valley- I love this option for families looking to be super convenient to ski school as you can simply whiz right down to Deer Vally Plaza/Snow Park Lodge via the Funicular. This hotel is ski in/ski out and has some wonderful commons spaces, a great spa, and more.
    • Montage Deer Valley- If you are looking for a “Winter Escape” with lots to do on property and away from the crowds, the Montage is the place for you.
    • Stein Erikson Lodge- If you are looking for the ultimate in luxury, attention to service and detail and the best location on the Mountain, the Stein Erikson is the place! Located in the Silver Lake Lodge area of the ski resort, you are perfectly situated to get anywhere you would like on the Mountain.

Vail, Colorado

Vail Village

Vail is world renowned for its European Chalet village charm, amazing back bowls for expert skiers, and the most skiable terrain in Colorado (over 5,000 acres). Located just about 2 hours from Denver International Airport (or 30 minutes from Vail/Eagle Airport), it sees heavy traffic during the winter due to it’s convenient location, but thankfully there are 3 distinct villages and mountain areas to “spread the love”.

  • Favorite Hotels options for Vail:
    • Four Seasons Vail- This is my number one top choice for Vail, because again, what’s not to love about a Four Seasons? This hotel is located right in Vail Village, in the heart of the town. This hotel has a modern, clean, “Four Seasons feel”.
    • The Sebastian Vail- Another great option at a bit better price in Vail Village, this option has several onsite restaurants, a spa, and more. This hotel has a very Colorado/Mountain Feel.
    • The Sonnenalp Vail- The last of the luxury resorts in Vail Village has excellent service and more of the Swiss Chalet feel that Vail is known for.
    • The Arrabelle at Vail Square- in the “Square” area of Vail, this is definitely a winner when it comes to service. Located just steps to the gondola, it is a perfect location in the Square area. The Arrabelle also has many multi-bedroom residences for families looking to enjoy space together.
    • Grand Hyatt Vail- If you are okay being a little further from the Square or the Village, the Grand Hyatt is an excellent choice for guests looking for luxury with budget in mind. This hotel has changed ownership several times in the past few years, but was also very recently renovated and has lots of onsite amenities.

Telluride, Colorado

The West meets Luxury Ski. For those looking for a Ski Town that resembles the “Old West”, Telluride is the place. This town is known for it’s “colorful history” following the mining boom as many outlaws passed through or called it home for a while. Located in Southwest Colorado, you would not want to attempt to fly into Denver and drive– I would recommend Montrose Airport, which is 45 minutes away or Grand Junction Airport, for a longer 2.5 hour drive. Telluride has also become a hot spot for summer travel with it’s numerous festivals and activities.

  • Favorite Hotels in Telluride:
    • Inn at Lost Creek- for someone looking for a boutique hotel (only 32 rooms) in the heart of Telluride, this is the best!
    • The Madeline Hotel & Residences- if you are looking for a resort with a little more to do in Telluride with all of the luxury, the Madeline is the perfect place.
    • Dunton Hot Springs– about 45 minutes outside of Telluride, Dunton Hot Springs is a romantic ghost town perfect for anyone looking for a secluded and unique mountain experience. Dunton Hot Springs is a collection of historic cabins turned into luxury accommodations. Onsite you will find three natural hot springs, a community house/bar with some of the most amazing food you will ever eat (and all inclusive!), a yoga studio, a library, and all of the mountain activities you can enjoy.

As a reminder, booking most any of the properties listed in this blog will put you at the top of the room upgrade list, complimentary breakfast, resort credits, VIP status, and more; and at the same rate as you would pay by booking directly with the hotel.

Do you have a favorite mountain town?

Navigating Walt Disney World in 2020

Walt Disney World is still the most magical place on earth and I feel like the luckiest girl on earth that I was able to visit the parks shortly after their reopening!

Many of my clients left on the books in 2020 decided to postpone their trips and I completely understand the hesitation to travel at the moment– with so much unknown it is difficult to plan and with so many changes to the Walt Disney World experience, many people are wondering; is is worth it? My answer is 110% yes and I’m here to tell you why!

Low Crowds: Never have I ever seen such low crowds in the parks. I travel to Walt Disney World at least twice per year; visiting each of the four theme parks and staying at a different resort everytime, and I really can’t stress enough how amazing it is to have the parks so empty. Disney is limiting the number of guests who can visit each day and this makes for the most magical experience. At the moment, there are no FastPasses, but they are not needed. We never waited more than 30 minutes for any attraction and were able to ride nearly every ride multiple times during our visit. Attractions that usually see a one, two, or even three hour wait on normal days have lines of 10-20 minutes. These low wait times meant more time enjoying ourselves, less stress, less rushing, and more time just having fun.

Limited Park Hours and Lack of Park Hopping: I know this may sound like a negative to some (and I even thought it was a drag before our visit) but these shorter park hours and necessity of choosing only one park per day, again made for more time enjoying ourselves, less stress, less rushing, and more time just having fun. I loved the late opening for Epcot and Hollywood Studios (sleeping in on a Disney trip had never been heard of before!) and the early closing for Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom (evening pool visits and time spent playing Uno in our room was so great!).

Character Sightings: This felt so nostalgic! I loved walking around the parks and spotting characters. In my opinion, it was more fun in a lot of ways than waiting an hour in line to say hello to a princess and take a photo! When characters start their “cavalcade” (as they are calling it) the park music changes, letting everyone know something exciting is coming! My favorite sightings were Alice and Anastasia & Drisella (Cinderella’s Step Sisters). Alice had a wonderful conversation with my daughter and we simply walked up to her– usually meeting Alice is a 45 minute commitment to a line at select times during the day. Anastasia & Drisella perched themselves on the balcony of Cinderella Castle and were advertising for a maid position, which was so funny. 100% of their former maids have become Princesses, in case you are interested in the job!

Safety: The safety measures put into place at Walt Disney World are unparalleled. From limited park attendance, to frequently cleaning all of the ride vehicles (every time we were in line for a ride they announced they were cleaning again!), to hand sanitizer (absolutely everywhere), to mobile food ordering, mobile dining reservation check in, thoughtful spacing of every line, and 100% of people wearing a face covering 100% of the time unless they are eating or drinking and stationary; Walt Disney World is certainly in a “World of their Own”. Because the Disney Company owns and operates all of the hotels, restaurants, dining, and experiences in their “bubble” they are able to create and monitor the safety precautions of every aspect of your vacation; something that is very hard (if not impossible) to do anywhere else.

Many of those immediately interested in traveling to this Whole New (Disney) World have asked— “How long will these low crowds last?”. Well, we honestly do not know. I know that for 2020 the park attendance will be greatly limited, but Disney can increase the number of park reservations at any time and they will not disclose this information when they do it. If you are wanting to go, my advice is to go as soon as you can and feel comfortable doing so. The amazing thing right now is that we do not need any advance notice to plan a wonderful trip, which is simply magical!

Travel in 2020

Wow, 2020, right?!  Like everyone else in the world, I really hope I never see another year like this one again.  From fear to anxiety, anger, sadness, loneliness, to pure insanity at times— I’ve felt the entire range of emotions that come with being a human being in 2020— put on top of it a Mom, Wife, Business Owner then ice the cake with the fact that my business is Travel and like many Texans, my husband is in Oil and Gas (sheesh!).  

My 2020 started out with plans to Disney Cruise in March, Nashville in April, and Africa in June; none of which happened, of course.  So here I am, sitting in my home like almost everyone else in America—dreaming of— where to next?  

If you had asked me “Where to Next?” in February I would have listed places like Argentina, Antartica, the Galapagos, or Bhutan but with the uncertainty of the world at the moment, everyone is looking to explore their backyards a little further.  I know personally places like Yosemite or Mackinac Island were on my list, but by no means were a priority, and suddenly they seem a whole lot more interesting.  While international travel is mostly off the table to many places, and those places that are allowing foreign entry can be a bit complicated. A good Travel Advisor can definitely help you manage the chaos, many people simply aren’t comfortable making commitments to travel abroad just yet.

So, where to?  What trends are we seeing?  Travel at the moment is a deeply personal decision and everyone has a different comfort level— while some people are not ready to go anywhere just yet, others feel the need to make memories with their families or make up for milestones missed while in quarantine.  Some people feel the comfort of knowing hotels are taking sanitation very very seriously, while others would prefer to rent a home to stay away from others (pro tip: You can have your cake here and eat it too!  There are many resorts throughout the US that offer home/villa rental where you can be alone while also having the comfort of knowing your room was cleaned to a tee— the hotel’s reputation depends upon it).  

Overall, the three biggest trends I am seeing in travel at the moment are driving distance vacations, National Parks trips, and visits to the favorite “small towns” in the US.   Places such as Napa, Santa Barbara, Seaside/Rosemary Beach, Aspen, Jackson Hole, and Park City are grateful to see tourism bouncing back this summer after a very, very rough few months.  As for the National Parks— in case you weren’t aware— there are 63 National Parks in the US— how many have you seen?  I know many people are checking some off of their bucket lists this year!

In fact, with most people looking to reschedule their Caribbean or European holidays to US soil, it’s been very difficult in some places to find availability due to the fact that hotels are not at full capacity and home rentals are almost not to be found.  Also to note, 2021 bookings for your favorite international destinations are also becoming scarce as nearly everyone booked for 2020 has had to reschedule for 2021— so my advice?  Plan early and make sure to book flexible rates so that you can rest assured your plans can change if need be.  Home rentals usually carry much more strict cancellation policies than hotels, so this is something to consider as well.  

On my personal list for travel this year is Walt Disney World (which reopens this weekend), Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado (Sand Surfing and Sand Sledding!), and Yellowstone/Jackson Hole (which has been on my list for many years, but I never made it a priority).  

Where are you thinking of traveling?  

Walt Disney World Reopening Plans

In an interview with CNBC in late April, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, Gary Kelly, was quoted to say that the future of the travel industry is basically in the hands of Walt Disney World. “Speculating on Americans’ impending return to air travel, and travel in general, Kelly referred back to the broader picture. In order for people to plan a trip, “They need to have something to be able to do when they get there,” he said. “So, Disney World needs to open back up. Restaurants need to open back up,” for example.”

While, I’m not sure that everyone is like me and already coordinating my masks with my park attire, the announcement of the reopening of Walt Disney World in July gave me a lot of hope! Here are the details about the safety and protocols the parks will be following.

  • July 11th, 2020- Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks will reopen with limited capacity.
  • July 15th, 2020- Epcot and Hollywood Studios will reopen with limited capacity.
  • Reservations to the parks will be required
  • Masks or Face Coverings will be required. “Relaxation areas” may be available for guests to use to temporarily remove their masks during their visit.
  • Upon the initial reopening, there will not be any parades, fireworks, or character meet and greets.
  • Characters may be visible from a distance and interact with guests.
  • Mobile ordering of food will be encouraged as well as digital menus for table service restaurants
  • Online Check In to the Resorts will be required (by passing the front desk).
  • Temperature screening will be required upon entrance of the parks.
  • Cashless payment is encouraged (Credit Cards or Magic Band Payment)
  • Park Hours may be shorter than usual.

While all the new guidelines are not quite “normal”, I’m excited for low crowds and to return to one of my favorite places on earth!

We will, of course, keep our clients updated as we know more!

Adventures by Disney

“Legendary Adventures. Storybook Destinations. A Different Kind of Magic.” Being an Adventures by Disney “Insider” (the term used for repeat guests), these group tours are truly a different kind of magic. I know many might be shy to try this type of trip- a set itinerary for a set length of time, with other people you probably don’t know. Today’s traveler is different from the traveler in past decades where group travel was more accepted as the best way to see a particular city, country, or region. I truly believe that it really still is the most efficient way (both in cost and time) to experience a country to it’s fullest and this post will help explain why! If going on an Adventures by Disney tour hasn’t been on your radar before, it should be!

Welcome Reception

The Disney difference is so apparent in their tours. Each day and detail is filled with learning mixed with fun; which is just as great at capturing the attention and intrigue of children as it is adults. At the welcome reception the first night or morning of the tour, you are gifted with a lanyard to start your “pin collecting” journey! With Germany having an evening reception, we also were treated to a glass of bubbles!

The second day of our Adventure through Germany included a longer bus ride to Neuschwanstein Castle. This is something I’ve always wanted to see, but I know many travelers might shy away from an excursion that includes a 2 hour drive, each way, from the major hub of Munich. Adventures by Disney always makes these longer bus rides fun, with lots of snacks, fun projects (like Origami), trivia quizzes, and even performances from the guides!

Speaking of guides, Disney only picks the best and most interesting ones. On every Adventures by Disney Tour, each group has two “Adventure Guides,” one from the US and the other who is local to the country you are visiting. These two guides are with you throughout the duration of your trip and I’m not sure they ever sleep! They are constantly working to make sure the guests are happy, on time for whatever might be next, stress free, and having the best and most magical trip ever.

On top of the Adventure guides, on many days you may also have a “Local Guide” who adds their flavor to the destination or place of interest. I can’t say enough about the local guides or the Adventure Guides chosen, it completely makes the experience.

Another Disney difference is hands on experiences. It is so much fun to be a part of the local culture and learn different skills or simply immerse yourself in the culture instead of hopping from monument to monument, museum to museum! A few of my favorites from Germany were beer tasting at the oldest brewery, learning Graffiti Art in Berlin, making Pretzels in Rotenburg, and visiting a few of the most famous beer/dance halls!

At the end of the trip, I made new friends and countless memories. In 8 nights, we were able to see so much of Germany due to the seamless planning. At the end of every train station or bus ride, there is a team (or Adventure guide) to collect luggage and whisk it all away to your next destination. In Southeast Asia, the guides take care of visas, checking guests into the internal flights, again, luggage collection, and more. It saves so much time and this service is something that even with an amazing Travel Advisor and tour company, would be difficult or extremely pricey if doing on your own!

Adventures by Disney operates over 60 different itineraries on 6 continents. They have a wide array of choices to suit your needs from Adults Only Departures to Short Escapes, Cruise add-ons, and more!

The Shameless Tourist is hosting an exclusive webinar to learn more on April 23, 2020 at 8PM EST and we would love to have you join along in the fun. Lead by one of Disney’s Adventure Guides, you can get a taste of what Adventures by Disney is all about. Please use the contact form today to join us!

A Week in London

2020 is here and I have vowed to be better about my blog posts, I have a lot of travels to catch up on, but thankfully, I always take good notes of my travels to share!  Be on the lookout for new posts, but I apologize, these may not be in the best chronological order!

Christmas 2018: I woke up and my husband gave the best gift to me– a long weekend trip anywhere I would like.  Anyone who knows me knows; this was the best possible gift I could have received. With my husband not able to always go go go as I do, his time away with us is really a gift in itself.  Also, if you notice the title of this blog post “A Week In London”, I might have stretched this long weekend gift to the max!

We arrived on our long haul journey on June 2nd and went straight to our first hotel stop, the Stafford.  The Stafford is located in St James and the entrance is on a very quiet street, which is so nice feeling as though you are in the middle of everything, but also somewhat away from the London Traffic.  The location is prime and the hotel is idyllic.  Soaked with history and having one of the largest wine cellars in London, feel free to host a small (or large) dinner party in the massive Air Raid Shelters under the hotel. I love the newly renovated Carriage House Rooms and the American Bar is famous in the city!

After checking in, we made a bee line for “Sketch,” one of the most famous tea rooms in the city with it’s multiple themed rooms, hip ambience, and infamous bathrooms, it’s been a must on my list for years.

We finished the evening with the London Eye Champagne Experience. This fun offering is just a bit more than the regular tickets and provides a glass of champagne and Fast Track entry to the London Eye. Before hopping aboard, we also visited the Eye Lounge nearby to grab an extra glass of champagne while we waited! Also noted that they provided Keki with sparkling cider instead of Champagne!

Day Two Started with a train and trip to Windsor Castle! St. George’s Cathedral is beautiful and was a fun sight to see soon after the Royal Wedding of Harry and Megan. It’s also so fun to ride the train for the quick 30 minute trek outside the city. Why see Windsor? It’s most certainly one off the easiest castles to see in London.

This afternoon, the rest of the group appeased me after we bid adieu to our guide and changed trains at least 4 times to see King’s Cross. We finally arrived and while it is a very cool train station, note: Platform 9 3/4 is simply a plaque outside a gift shop in the terminal and is no where near the actual Platform 9 or 10. Regardless, we got a great photo op!

We finished the big first day with a couples Date Night. We found a great sitter who took Kennedy to Hamley’s (Basically FAO Schwartz of London) while we toured the Egerton House Hotel, drank Martini’s (and learned to make them), and ate dinner at the Oldest Restaurant in Town; Rules. The Egerton House is the perfect hotel for someone looking for a boutique property with exceptional service. With only 28 rooms, it feels very quaint and personal.

On day three, we took a walking tour through London, visiting the various neighborhoods, seeing Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, exploring the Borrough Market, and ending at Westminster Abbey. I definitely recommend dining at FISH! when wandering the Borrough Market– I love Fish and Chips and this place is delicious.

Day Four was a long trek to Stonehenge, which I have always wanted to see! It’s about a 2 hour or so drive from London to Stonehenge and there isn’t much on the way in either direction. I often combine Stonehenge visits with the Cotswolds for my clients doing a multiple destination stay in the UK, but for this trip, we just wanted to focus on London, making this a day trip for us. It was great to see, but it’s a one and done for me personally. We also stopped at a cute traditional English Pub (The Boot Inn in Wadsworth) on the way back, which was certainly a wonderful experience!

This afternoon, we checked into the second hotel of our stay at the Brown’s Hotel, the oldest hotel in London and a staple in Mayfair on one of the poshest street’s in the area. The decor in the common space feels like a perfect mix of traditional British decor with modern British art and patterns. The Rooms were quite modern, however, bright and cheery. I especially loved the details for children’s amenities including personalized “princess” sheets, a stuffed animal, a book (about the hotel!), a child size umbrella, and of course a small robe and slippers.

This evening we booked a Flytographer Session with Rajeesh and I have to say he might be my most favorite Flytographer I have met thus far!

The Next Day was Kennedy’s Birthday, so we took the day to do fun things, starting with Harrod’s, which is a must for any trip to the city! Of course, we started with the toy department, which has it’s own “Toy Concierge”. It being her birthday, we decided to call upon the concierge for birthday guidance. It was certainly an experience that my daughter will never forget. A hundred Great British pounds later, I finally pulled Keki from the store and we went on to the Princess Diana Memorial Park. This park is the most amazing child’s playground with Pirate Ships, lots of places to play and imagine.

This afternoon, we toured the World Famous Goring Hotel, the “Queen’s Hotel” which is where Kate Middleton stayed the night before she married Prince William. The hotel is simply exquisite with beautiful rooms that make the perfect setting for any British holiday, careful attention to detail (the wall paper is hand painted), the best concierge and service, and the best address in London– Belgravia just around the corner from Buckingham Palace. We had a special tea party at the hotel for Keki’s Birthday and it was the perfect way to spend a special day!

On our last day in the city, we took advantage of the Brown’s Hotel House Car (the beautiful Bentley!) and took the short drive to Fortnum and Mason, the Queen’s Grocer to explore this fun store. I love fancy grocery stores and this is quite the fanciest I have ever seen!

Afterwards, we went to lunch at the Mayfair Chippy, my favorite Fish and Chips Shoppe we stopped at. Make reservations though, it books up!

After lunch, I toured and stopped by several other famous hotels including Claridge’s, The Corinthia, and the Hamyard. All had something different to offer, but I adored the common spaces (especially the spa and restaurant) of the Corinthia, along with the room quality and views. The Hamyard has a much more hip feeling with bright colors, a bowling alley, and a fun vibe. I also love the Soho area where it is located.