The Sunshine State Travel Spree

Earlier this month, Stephanie and I set out on a mad dash to see some of our favorite properties on the South Atlantic Coast of Florida into the Keys in a 4 night, 13 hotel “shopping spree.” By Day 4 (honestly by Day 2!), we were exhausted, but we learned so much– and isn’t that the point of using a Travel Advisor? So many people can tell you a great place that they have been, or sometimes more importantly– where not to go, but a great Advisor can point out the differences between the best properties, telling you why you should choose one property over another. When you are looking for the perfect place to celebrate a milestone, school break, or just a hard earned getaway– make sure you have an advisor on your side who is helping to guide you to the best property for YOU! Anyways, here are a few of the properties we visited on our “Travel Spree!”

Eau Palm Beach

We started our “Travel Spree” in Palm Beach, staying the night and touring Eau Palm Beach.

Why Stay Here? Spa lovers and Decor enthusiasts will rejoice in this property! Honestly, I don’t know if I have seen a more “fun” spa than Eau Palm Beach– take time to enjoy the amenities of the common spaces before and after treatments. I also love the decor of the rooms, they are so perfectly tasteful, feeling very “Palm Beach” with splashes of color and Mid-Century Modern. Families will also love their great kids club!

Pro Tip: Book an Oceanfront Lanai Terrace Suite and have access to all of the amenities of a Pool Cabana right out your Suite Door!

The Shameless Tourist Perks:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Breakfast for two guests per bedroom
  • $100 USD Resort/Hotel credit to be utilized during stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

The Breakers, Palm Beach

Why Stay Here? There is really no better word than “iconic” for the Breakers Palm Beach. This resort is steeped in history and very much put South Florida on the Tourism Map for the United States. It is truly a history buff’s (like me) dream, having evolved so many times over the past 100+ years it has been in place. The amazing thing about this hotel is that it is still family owned and operated after all of these years! To put the icing on the cake, the family takes no money from the hotel each year, placing all of the profits back into the hotel for renovations, expansion, and employee benefits. Anyone wanting a historic property or a place to go with lots to do on site (with still impeccable service), will love the Breakers.

Pro Tip: If you want the best of the best service, book a Flager Club Room!

The Shameless Tourist Perks:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Signature breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom served in The Circle or The Beach Club Restaurant
  • $100 USD Resort/Hotel credit to be utilized during stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach

Why Stay Here? Looking to stay close to Miami but still out of the South Beach area? If you want some of the largest rooms and a resort atmosphere, Acqualina might be right for you! With their iconic Red and White outdoor decor, you are bound to have a glamorous South Florida Getaway at Acqualina!

Pro Tip: If you are looking for the Ultimate in Privacy, Acqualina has very small floors (sometimes with only 4 rooms per floor). If you have a larger group, it is easy to book an entire floor to yourself!

The Shameless Tourist Perks:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily a La Carte Breakfast for two adults, per bedroom
  • $100 USD Spa Services credit, to be utilized during stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-F

Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club

Why Stay Here? Stephanie says I have a love affair with Four Seasons Hotels– she isn’t wrong. I’m completely smitten with the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club. It perfectly combines my love of history, modern elegance, and luxury all in one beautiful property. Being a Luxury Travel Advisor, I always look at hotels with a discerning eye– how crowded is it? How is the vibe? What is unique about this property? Location? Room quality? And finally, what is the price point for all of these factors? While this hotel is certainly on the high end of the spectrum for price point, it was one of the only hotels we saw over spring break that was almost completely booked up and did not feel extremely busy, which to me, speaks volumes. This hotel is also an icon North of Miami and it has been graced by the presence of greats such as Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill, and more.

Pro Tip: Book a room in the Cabana Tower for a Room with a Private Cabana attached! Or if you can’t swing a stay here, make sure you at least take time to visit their famous Champagne Bar, you won’t regret it!

The Shameless Tourist Perks:

  • Daily full breakfast for two people per bedroom, served in a hotel restaurant or through In-Room Dining 
  • Hotel/Resort Credit* (based on room category booked):
    • Guest Rooms: USD 100 credit per stay
    • Suites and Specialty Suites: USD 200 credit per stay
    • Private Retreats: USD 200 credit per bedroom per stay
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in
  • Complimentary standard Internet in all guest rooms and premium Internet in all suites

1 Hotel South Beach

Why Stay Here? Are you looking for an Oasis in the middle of South Beach? Close to everything but the feeling that you are a million miles from the hustle and bustle? The 1 Hotel might be the right choice for you. With some of the largest and most beautiful rooms in the city, a rooftop bar and pool, multiple restaurants, a beach club, and a focus on wellness and your “day life” (as opposed to your “night life”), the 1 Hotel certainly made us feel right at home for our one night stay during our journey.

Pro Tip: Don’t miss the gym here! It’s the largest hotel gym in North America.

The Shameless Tourist Perks:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Full American Breakfast daily for two per bedroom
  • $100 USD Hotel credit to be utilized during stay
  • Early check-in is subject to availability
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out for Premium Suites and Penthouses with all other room categories subject to availability
  • VIP Welcome Amenity
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

The Miami Beach Edition

Why Stay Here? If you want a hotel that embodies everything Miami, The Edition Hotel is your place. From the Mid-Century Modern Decor (and even remnants of its history!), to the nightclub, glitzy lobby, bowling alley, and ice skating rink, the Edition certainly screams Miami in all the best ways.

Pro Tip: Book a Bungalow Room (are you seeing a Pro Tip Pattern for South Florida?!)

The Shameless Tourist Perks:

  • Welcome Amenity
  • Complimentary Breakfast for Two Daily ($60/daily Value)
  • $100 USD Hotel Credit
  • Complimentary WiFi daily
  • First priority on waitlists in sold-out situations
  • Early Check-in/late Check-out, based on availability
  • First priority for requested room category, bed type, rollaways and connecting rooms
  • VIP status granted with in-person warm welcome
  • Priority for complimentary room upgrade (based on availability upon arrival)
  • Welcome note from General Manager (or Hotel Management)

The Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne

Why Stay Here? Looking for a Florida Keys vibe just 20 minutes from the Miami airport? Look no further than the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne. With a laid back ambience, great on-site shopping and dining, and plenty of water fun for all, this hotel fits the bill for many personalities.

Pro Tip: Book a Cabana at the pool during your stay! The elevated platforms and personal service are well worth it!

The Shameless Tourist Perks:

  • Full Breakfast Buffet for two people daily in Lightkeepers Restaurant
  • Welcome Amenity
  • $100 USD Hotel Credit
  • Complimentary WiFi daily
  • First priority on waitlists in sold-out situations
  • Early Check-in/late Check-out, based on availability
  • First priority for requested room category, bed type, rollaways and connecting rooms
  • VIP status granted with in-person warm welcome
  • Priority for complimentary room upgrade (based on availability upon arrival)
  • Welcome note from General Manager (or Hotel Management)

Baker’s Cay Resort

Why Stay Here? If you are looking for a VIP Experience in Key Largo, which is the closest true “key” to Miami, Baker’s Cay is definitely the spot for you. With a dedicated team to assist our clients in making sure they are welcome and feel at home here, you will have the personal attention to detail and service that really makes a difference in a getaway. This hotel was recently refurbished and was beautifully decorated in doing so!

Pro Tip: Wanting Peace and Quiet? Book a Hammock View Room. Want to be in the middle of all of the action and with the most breathtaking ocean views? Make sure to book a Waterfront Room!

The Shameless Tourist Perks:

  • VIP Status
  • Personalized Welcome Amenities
  • Exclusive access to the onsite Guest Coordinator who can assist with just about anything!

Playa Largo Resort & Spa

Why Stay Here? If you are wanting a hotel with a large pool and lots of common amenities in Key Largo, Playa Largo might be the right choice for you! Personally, I feel like families will love this resort because of it’s common spaces and large beach area.

Pro Tip: Make sure to take part in their nightly Sunset Party at the beach!

The Shameless Tourist Perks:

  • Welcome Amenity
  • Complimentary Breakfast for Two Daily
  • Complimentary WiFi daily
  • Early Check-in/late Check-out, based on availability.
  • VIP status granted
  • Priority for complimentary room upgrade (based on availability upon arrival).
  • Welcome note from General Manager (or Hotel Management)

Little Palm Island

Why Stay Here? Looking for the only true luxury property in the Keys? Look no further! Little Palm Island is about a 30 minute drive and a 10 minute boat ride north of Key West. It is truly a paradise on this tiny island where the room accommodations, common spaces, and restaurant are all pristine!

Pro Tip: Our Favorite Room Category is the Island Romance Suite which has a private outdoor soaking tub! Book early and through the Shameless Tourist to make sure your suite is assigned to the most private location and best view.

Ocean Key Resort

Why Stay Here? Looking for the resort with the best location on Key West? Ocean Key Resort is located just at the end of Duval Street, the most “happening street” on this small island! While the lobby is very pretty, the rooms do need a little bit of updating.

Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort

Why Stay Here? If you are looking for a resort on Key West with a large pool and great places for the kids to run around, Casa Marina might be the spot for you! Again, it’s worthwhile to note that the rooms here are in need of updating but we found the common spaces at Casa Marina to be a bit more accommodating to families than Ocean Key.

Do you love South Florida and the Keys? Drop us your favorite tip below!

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!

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!

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

My daughter and I embarked on our annual Mother Daughter Disney trip this year in July, and as any good Travel Advisor would do, we experienced new things and stayed at a resort which we had visited but never stayed at.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is located in the Magic Kingdom Area of the Walt Disney World property and is the only deluxe resort in that area that is not on the monorail.  This makes the price point significantly lower, generally speaking, but still has easy boat access to Magic Kingdom, so it is a great value for a lot of families.

 

Favorite things about this property:

  • The Restaurants- Whispering Canyon (casual dining option) is a really great time and Artist’s Point (signature dining option) is truly amazing
  • Location and Price Point- For a Deluxe Disney Resort in Magic Kingdom, it’s hard to beat the price point of Wilderness Lodge.
  • The new Copper Creek Villas and Cabins- the newly renovated Copper Creek Villas and Cabins are located within Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and the new decor does not disappoint.

Drawbacks:

  • Standard rooms are smaller at this property than many of the other deluxe resorts.
  • Not being on the monorail, should you want to dine outside of the parks it is difficult to visit restaurants other than those on property.
  • The pool area was a disappointment to me.  The water features and even small size of the main pool would make me shy away from this resort during the summer months.

 

Have you stayed at this Disney property?  Would love to hear your thoughts!