Laura Freeman

Laura Freeman

Monday, 26 November 2018 14:52

The Trip Trotter's Ultimate Guide to Dubai

Having trouble getting back into work mode after Thanksgiving? Check out our YouTube Video, "The Trip Trotter's Ultimate Guide to Dubai." While we can't guarantee that it will make you want to work, it will make you want to travel. Remember, there's still a day left on our Small Business Saturday $50-off sale!

Dubai is one of the hottest destinations in travel and great for couples, girls trips, bachelor and bachelorette trips and even for the family. We've compiled our ultimate guide to traveling to Dubai. For help planning your trip to Dubai, send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

     Dubai photos

Wednesday, 31 October 2018 17:08

LIVE OUT YOUR CINDERELLA FANTASY

After Christmas, the winter is cold, long, and dull. There's nothing to look forward to except the faraway springtime. Wintertime in Vienna is ball season! I can design you the ultimate Viennese Ball itinerary, complete with Viennese waltz lessons, ball gown and tuxedo rental, hair and make-up, and arrival by horse drawn carriage.

Arrive by horse and carriage

Photo credits: Life Ball © WienTourismus/Christian Stemper (bottom left), Vienna Opera Ball @ WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud/Couture Vivienne Westwood Vienna (top three)

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 20:26

This Pass Is Your Answer To All Your Ski Needs

Like to ski? The Epic Pass is a great way to save money while experiencing trails around the world. Hurry, this pass is only available for a limited time and increases as we get more into the season.

The Epic Pass 2019

Did you know that are a one stop shop to book your custom ski trip? From the basic lift, equipment and accommodation to luxury rentals with a private chef, we can help with all of your ski needs. 

DID YOU KNOW THAT I AM YOUR ONE STOP SHOP FOR SKI 3

Tuesday, 02 October 2018 15:50

It's Time For Mexico!

IT'S TIME TO PLAN YOUR WINTER WARM WEATHER GETAWAY

Last week, we attended the ILTM Americas (International Luxury Travel Market) Conference in Mayakoba, Riviera Maya, Mexico. We toured 28 (!!) resorts between Cancun and Tulum. We visited all sorts of resorts; all-inclusives, boutique hotels, adults only resorts, and family friendly resorts. We were super impressed with how far these resorts have come from the corny stuff-your-face-with-fried-food stereotype. That being said, all the resorts were different. We can help you identify the right resort for your needs and travel style! 

Tulum

Monday, 20 November 2017 18:45

Nayara Springs: Secluded Heaven in the Sky

One of the perks of being a travel advisor is that I get to travel to a lot of incredible destinations to scope them out for my clients. After all, the best way to sell something is to have seen it firsthand. Not only do I get to see and experience what is offered, but I also see the other people and get a feel of the overall vibe. You may absolutely love the look and amenities of a hotel or destination but certain elements- that are often not so visible- can turn what you think will be a dream vacation into a nightmare. For instance; if the resort throws raging parties every night and you like to have a quiet sleep at 10; if you need to be constantly connected, but the Wi-Fi is iffy; or if you have a hard time walking and the property is spread far out over a hill; it may not be the best fit. Navigating these less obvious elements is one of the myriad of reasons to use a travel agent.

When I got invited to spend a few nights checking out Nayara Springs in Costa Rica, I jumped on it. Not only was Costa Rica on my short list of countries to visit, but Nayara Springs holds an impressive number of awards, including: #1 luxury hotel in the world Trip Advisor 2016 and 2017, the #1 Resort in Central America by Travel & Leisure 2016, #1 Spa in the World by Conde Nast Traveler 2016, 50 Best Resorts in the World by Conde Nast Traveler, One of the Most Romantic Hotels in the World by Trip Advisor 2017, and 100 best hotels in the world T+L 2016.

Pool at Nayra Springs Pool at Nayara Springs

Located in the Arenal Volcano National Park, snuggled by rainforest, Nayara Springs creates an exclusive private getaway miles away from the rest of the world. It’s so private that the zika mosquitos weren’t invited! Well...in truth, this area of Costa Rica doesn’t have Zika due to the elevation and the volcanic air.

Views of Costa RicaWalkway through Nayara

There are two hotels on property; Nayara Springs, which is adults only, and Nayara Resort and Spa, which is family friendly. Each hotel has their own check-in, restaurants, and facilities. Guests 16 and over can walk freely between the two properties. The hotels are spread over a hillside so there are distances- and some hills- to walk to get from place to place. You can, however, call for a staff member to pick you up in a golf cart.

Both hotels are built in a villa concept; all rooms have individual entrances and a private outdoor area with an outdoor shower. The rooms are large! The Casita Deluxe, the entry level category in the resort side, is 850 sq ft! Villas in the Springs side are a whopping 1500 sq ft, which is admittingly 4 times the size of my New York apartment. The bathrooms are humongous with ample closet space. Couples don’t just have his/her sinks, but full sink areas. 

Room at Nayara SpringsRoom at Nayara Springs 

Villas at Nayara Springs come with all of the standard 5* amenities and also some unique surprises, including free mini bar (not alcohol), free international calling and free laundry. The laundry service is incredible. I sent my dirty clothes out in the morning and everything came neatly folded and sealed in plastic bags. For the first time my suitcase felt less stuffed coming home than when I left! And yes, there’s Wi-Fi throughout the property that really works!

Laundry at Nayara Laundry at Nayara

The outdoor space is truly special. Each villa has a large patio with a day bed, table and chairs, and a hammock. But that’s not all! Each villa also has its own private thermal hot spring plunge pool…with jets! All outdoor patios are surrounded by over 1000 flowers, so yes, bathing suites are optional. Rooms on the Resort side have a hot tub instead of the pool. While they are nice the pool is 100% worth the upgrade.

Nayara Springs Villa Nayara Springs Patio

I spent most every free minute on my patio, even taking my breakfast there. The surrounding vegetation creates a very private slice of heaven. While you can hear the voices of other guests when they walk by, the resort is very quiet. Even at capacity, the resort doesn’t feel full. There are always open cabanas and seats at the swim up bar. While the property is great for groups, it’s not a place where you interact with others and make friends. Guests tend to keep to themselves, enjoying the time with those they came with.

Swim up bar at Nayara Nayara Resort Pool

The staff is unbelievable and very friendly. When the inevitable bug came in my room, a staff member came within two minutes of me calling them. The Costa Ricans are so warm and friendly and were very much concerned with me enjoying my stay. Unlike many resorts, their service felt genuine- not like they were waiting around for a tip.

Cocktail Bar at Nayara Nayara Springs Cocktail Bar  

While there are a ton of adventure activities outside the property, if you’d like to stay put there are still a number of fun things to participate in from taking a cooking class to planting a tree to encourage the sloth population to grow (there are currently about 10 that live on property.) My favorite activities were the mixology class and the coffee class. Even as a non-coffee drinker, the coffee class was fascinating. We learned about the production of coffee beans, the traditional method of pouring coffee in Costa Rica, and sampled several different varieties.

Activities at Nayara Planting trees and cooking classes at Nayara

If you like to stay active there is a gym, but I recommend taking a yoga class in the outdoor yoga pavilion instead. The pavilion feels like a treehouse in the sky, creating a very zen-like aura. My favorite part of every yoga class is corpse pose at the end, but the live guitarist and singer make this corpse pose extra special.

Yoga at Nayara Springs Yoga Pavillion at Nayara Springs

After your workout, reward yourself with a massage at the spa. Treatment rooms are outside, surrounded by the green of the rainforest. I spoiled myself with a deep tissue massage and I can honestly say that it was one of the best massages of my life. As an avid spa-goes, I don’t give that title lightly.

Spa at Nayara Springs Spa at Nayara Springs

There are several dining options, ranging from buffet to fine dining, and the food was good and diverse. The drinks were absolutely incredible. There’s a vast cocktail list and all the drinks are creatively presented. There’s even a wine bar with automated pouring. I enjoyed trying all of the South American wines that I’m not familiar with. We even got a bachata lesson from the staff.

Drinkings at Nayara Drinks at Nayara 

If you’re looking to make your trip a bit more romantic, you can book Besame Mucho. Besame Mucho is a Moroccan-style private dining pavillion, which comes with personalized waitstaff.

Besame Mucho Aerial view of Besame Mucho

I truly enjoyed my time at Nayara and left feeling relaxed and pampered. While my body left a bit heavier, my mind left much lighter! I look forward to returning and having a little romance at Nayra of my own.

 

Synoposis:

Good for: Couples, adventure lovers, coffee fanatics, those looking to relax, and groups. While it is family friendly, the vibe and activities are much more adult friendly.

Bad for: Party animals, those looking to meet friends, those looking for constant activities.

Starting Price point: Casita Deluxe (Nayara Hotel & Resort)- $390/nt, Springs Villa- $750/nt

Special amenities that you get when you book through me: $100 Spa Credit, and upgrade/early check-in/late check-out based upon availability.

 

Contact us to book today!

Friday, 10 November 2017 18:38

Learning to Relax: Round Hill, Jamaica

I am a city girl. When taking online quizzes like, “which country should you travel to next?” or “what’s your travel style?” I always end up with some sort of cosmopolitan destination. I love walking aimlessly through city streets, trying all the food, and- of course- people watching. Always on the go.
But I’m learning how to relax.

It’s a funny concept: learning to relax. Relaxing seems like something that should come naturally, an ability that we’re inherently born with like breathing. But for most people relaxing is hard! There are thousands of books, apps, workshops, and guided meditations yet still most people would say they struggle in this area.

Working by the pool in Round HIll

I had the opportunity to visit Round Hill Hotel and Villas, located in Montego Bay Jamaica, for three nights at the end of October. It’s not a big secret that a good travel companion is worth their weight in gold and can make or break a vacation, so when none of my trusted travel companions could make the trip, I decided to go solo. I’ve traveled on my own before but never for this long and only to cities, never to a resort. Would I feel lonely? Bored? Would all the honeymooners make me depressed and miss my boyfriend at home? I had no idea. But what I did know is that working on the beach would be far superior to my windowless cubicle.

jfk to mbj

The flight from New York to Montego Bay is surprisingly short and fabulously direct. Round Hill is just a half hour cab ride from the airport so you can easily go from grabbing breakfast at the airport to savoring lunch overlooking the ocean, cold beer in hand.

Round Hill Villas

Built on a sugar-turned-pineapple plantation, Round Hill Hotel and Villas is a historical boutique hotel comprised of 36 beachfront rooms and 27 villas. Designed by Ralph Lauren, the rooms are traditional but airy- exactly the blue and white preppy that you would expect. The villas, on the other hand, are all privately owned and individually designed, though they incorporate Lauren’s stylistic vision. Some villas have private pools. Those that do not are close to the resort’s pools and have oversized terraces and lawns. The villas range from 2 to 5 bedrooms, making them perfect for families. Each of the bedrooms has an individual entrance so they can also be sold as separate rooms. The villas come allocated with 3 private staff members, including one that can cook breakfast.

Round Hill Plunge Pool

Ralph Lauren himself owns two of the villas, which are not available for guests to stay in unless he is on property. He’s not the only famous name who has frequented the property; Prince Harry was recently best man in a wedding and it was rumored Paul McCartney was visiting during my stay. The cocktail bar is full of photos of the resort’s many famous guests. John F Kennedy even wrote his inauguration speech in villa 25.

Round hill villa eating

None of the rooms in either the hotel or villas have televisions. You must be thinking; a single girl goes to a resort on her own with no TVs! She must be SO BORED! The absence of television was a conscious choice by the hotel to get guests to truly relax. Should you really need to see the big game, you can head over to the Pineapple room. There’s also a library if you’d like to print your boarding pass.

Though Round Hill is rated the #1 hotel for families in the Caribbean, it’s definitely a family-friendly resort and not a family-centric resort. It’s the perfect place for adults who have kids, but hate other people’s kids. There were no children screaming, running around, or splashing in the pool. In fact, because children spent most of their time in their villa’s pool or the free kids club, I hardly saw children at all. Babysitting services are available for an insanely low rate of $10/hr so parents can enjoy dinner off property if they’d like.

Farm to Table Round Hill

Being a smaller property, the chef has the opportunity to create quality meals instead of the massed produced buffets typical of an all-inclusive resort. Round Hill created the largest organic garden (of this type of establishment) in Jamaica, the products of which the chefs incorporate into their dishes.

While there are several places to eat throughout the day, dinner is hosted at only one location per night. Twice a week dinner is served in the farm-to-table fine dining pavilion, other nights it’s served on the more casual seaside terrace or as a beach bbq, complete with music, dancing and bon fires!

terrace dining at round hill

Though there aren’t a lot of structured activities, like there are at a traditional resort, I still found plenty of things to do to occupy my time. In addition to the traditional free non-motorized sports, like kayaks and paddle boards, Round Hill offers a daily free glass bottom boat ride. Also complimentary is a shuttle which takes you to the local craft market, Hip Street and downtown Montego Bay.

My days were spent reading or working on the beach or by the pool, or enjoying cocktails at the beach bar. Even when the resort is full, there’s always choice seating available on the beach so you don’t have to rush out at the crack of dawn to throw down a towel. You can also visit the spa or fitness center.

Working on the beach in Jamaica

At four pm it’s time to join the other guests in the cocktail bar for a daily complimentary high tea. Based on the villa concept of the property, one would think that Round Hill is a very private keep-to-yourself resort. And while it certainly can be if you want, most guests are chatty, warm, and eager to meet new people. High tea is just the start of the social activities. The hotel also hosts a cocktail party at the pool bar for guests to mingle and share their newfound knowledge of the island.

Round Hill beach Bar

What makes Round Hill so special are the people that it attracts. Most people I met come annually, giving a sense of family and acceptance. At lunch one day I met a family with three small children from Australia. Each one of their children was born in a different country and we spent hours talking about our lives and the adventures we take. After dinner one night, a wedding group at called me over to enjoy after dinner drinks with them. Suddenly it was 2am! At the cocktail party, I met a Canadian/Swedish couple and a single Greek man. Our conversation spilled from the party to dinner, where we emptied several bottles of wine.

Round Hill is definitely not for everyone. It’s very small; there’s no swim up bar, and definitely no nightclub. It can seem a bit quiet. If you like a lot of scheduled activities, you may be bored. But if you truly just want to relax, can create your own fun, and don’t like overwhelming large hotels, Round Hill is fabulous. It’s not all inclusive, but you are able to charge everything to your room so you don’t have to carry cash. Not having an all-inclusive plan encourages guests to go off property and try local restaurants.

Sunset over Round Hill Jamaica

 

It was a truly relaxing experience. I found freedom being on my own schedule with nobody’s needs to look after but my own. I was able to be alone when I want, to be social when I want, and to eat when I want. After four days, I felt like I was walking on a cloud. As I walked through the Montego Bay airport to my gate all the little things that typically annoy me when I fly didn’t faze me in the slightest. While I know that I can’t just escape for 4 days whenever I feel stressed out, the reset definitely put me in a better position to come back and tackle my life and its stressors.

 

Good for: Families, groups, couples, history buffs, those looking for a quiet, relaxing experience
Not good for: Party lovers, those looking for a lot of onsite activities, those looking for a large resort
Price point: low season starts at $429/nt, high season starts at $959/nt
Special features: Complimentary glass bottom boat
Amenities that you get booking with me: Daily breakfast for two, $100 food and beverage credit, welcome amenity, and upgrade/early check-in/late check-out upon availability. Guests booking suites for a minimum of two nights also receive a $100 spa credit.

Happy Wellness Wednesday, everyone! Today, we're featuring an incredible package from the luxurious Miraval Resort & Spa in Arizona. For those of you not familiar with Miraval, it is an award winning destination resort & spa nestled in the Santa Catalina Mountians. Through innovative and creative treatments and programs, Miraval's mission is to create and build balance within their client's lives. Hurry! This package must be booked by July 18, 2017! Contact us to book! 

Wellness Wednesday Miraval

Happy Wellness Wednesday, Folks! To celebrate our Wellness Travel Certification, we're giving our clients a fabulous new wellness travel offer every Wednesday! This week, check-out this amazing package from Waldhaus Flims Grand Hotel & Spa in Switzerland! 

 Waldhaus Flims

Thursday, 03 November 2016 00:00

France: The Perfect 30th Birthday Getaway

When I was 12 years old, my grandmother took me to Paris. I had never left the country before and from the moment that we arrived at Charles de Gaulle, I was smitten. I walked the Champs Elysee like I owned it, ate pigeon during a dinner cruise on the Seine, and even went to the Moulin Rouge. Clearly, my grandma wasn't the normal bake-you-cookies type.

My Grandma and I during a di

That trip not only cemented my love of travel, but my love of France. France is my favorite country in the world and I continuously find myself wanting to return to. As I get older, my interests change, which makes each trip fundamentally different; like I'm visiting a completely new city and a dear old friend at the same time.

My Grandma and I during a di

This year I turned 30 and I wanted nothing more than to spend my big birthday in the city that changed my life for the better. I never win prizes, so when I went to a travel agent event at the French Consulate in New York for the Palace Hotels, I never in a million years expected to be the grand prize winner of two business class tickets on Air France, two nights in a suite at the Mandarin Oriental, and 4 nights at the Byblos St Tropez. With tears of joy streaming down my face, I called my mom  and asked her to spend two weeks with me in France.

After months of anticipation, we were finally at JFK waiting for our flight. The lovely folks at Air France flew us over on business class, so we waited in the lounge for our flight. Waiting in the lounge is night and day compared to waiting in the terminal! It's much quieter and you don't have to fight over a seat- plus the Wi-Fi is significantly stronger. If you have a long layover, I highly recommend trying to buy a day pass, which some airlines allow. I find that I often spend the same amount of money at a bar in the regular terminal waiting for my flight that I would on a pass. At least in the lounge I can take a shower.

Air France Lounge

Our flight departed at 11pm. Air France allows business and first class passengers to eat their meal in the lounge before the flight to maximize sleeping time. The menu was created by David Boulud and was a far cry from the typical notorious air plane mush. After enjoying our fill of lobster, beef tenderloin and several glasses of champagne, we boarded Air France's Boeing 777 with the new business class.

Air France Flat bedAir France Flat bed office

This plane offers business class passengers their own private compartment that combines an office, restaurant table, and an adjustable flat bed. Even though we checked our luggage, we appreciated all of the storage space so we could spread out. A delightful French flight attendant greeted us with a glass of champagne and helped us understand how to use our seat.

The 180 flat bed was perfect for sleeping and I loved all the adjustments that you could make. Unlike the gauze square "pillows" in coach, we were given a down comforter and soft plush pillow. There were a bunch of movies and TV shows to watch, but I knew that I needed to be well rested. I chose a glass of wine from their delicious French wine list to pair with ONE TV show. No sooner was my wine finished then my eyes shut. The next thing I remember was a gentle tap on my arm and a soothing French voice whispering, "we are landing;" the complete opposite of being shaken awake in coach!

Air France business classAir France entertainment

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle at noon the following day and our driver met us promptly at arrivals to take us to our hotel. Usually, I take a 7 or 8pm flight to Paris, arriving at 8am or 9am. However, I really enjoyed taking the later flight; by the time that we arrived at our hotel our room was ready and we could check in. The late arrival also was better for my jet lag as we only had half a day to trudge through before going to sleep at a time in Paris.

We had a great experience flying Air France. While the airline is plagued by a reputation of delays and strikes, once aboard, the French hospitality prevails.

Continue to follow my travels through France over the next couple of weeks! I'm so excited to share with you all.

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