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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Non-vacation Vacation



Before we get started...lets peruse good ole Webster's Dictionary and refresh our memories of what the word "vacation" actually means.  Go ahead...I will give you a minute if you want to look it up yourselves.  While you are doing that, I will fill everyone else in on what Webster has to say.

Vacation

1) a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday

2) freedom or release from duty, business, or activity

3) a part of the year, regularly set aside, when normal activities of law courts, legislatures, etc., are suspended

Now I thought most adults and even most younger children had a pretty good grasp of what the word meant, but from I am seeing these days from friends, peers, family members etc is telling me that our Country has totally lost the notion of what it really means to take a vacation.

Families pack up once, maybe twice a year (if they are really lucky) and head out on vacation and one of the absolute must-packing-items is a small laptop.  Well most won't call it a laptop but instead will call it a "smart phone."  But let's be real.  That device you carry in your pocket that now requires its own sub-packing list (i.e. charging cords, portable chargers etc) is in all reality a mini laptop because it does pretty much the same thing a laptop can do.  It sends and receives email.  It can access files.  It has everyone's database installed for the most part.  It edits pictures and can post to all social media outlets.  Oh...and to ensure you stay connected to your work, it rings and dings even while on vacation in foreign countries thanks to international cell plans and sim cards.

So imagine for a moment sitting on a tranquil beach somewhere in the South Pacific.  Palm trees are swaying.  The crystal clear blue seas are lapping up on the beautiful white sand beach.  Got a visual? Now picture everyone sitting on that beach with their laptops open and everyone is typing away.  Quite a sight it would be, eh?  If we actually saw a bunch of people doing that while surrounded by such beauty and tranquility, we would be flabbergasted by such people who can't seem to get away from their work long enough to enjoy some time reflecting on more important things in life and letting their brains and their bodies truly vacate.  If you really want a horrible visual...imagine those same folks with their laptops open and their spouse and children are sitting their being ignored during a time when the family was supposed to be enjoying some time away together.  

Well lets do some self-examination real quick.  There is nothing different between the person sitting on vacation with their laptops open and the person sitting in that same spot staring down at their smart phone all the time.  All the smart phones have done is make it less conspicuous when people are spending their days on vacation wrapped up in work and what is going on back at the office or home.

It's sad, but we have become a nation that no longer truly understands the importance of taking time away from work.   Recent studies have shown that there is even a horrible trend that is being called "vacation shaming."  Co-workers and bosses are shaming those who actually try to take off their allotted vacation time as if it is some less-than-honorable thing now to want to spend quality time with those who should mean more to you than your work.  The shaming should really be going the other direction, right?.  Why are we not shaming the ones who think work is more important than family and health and spiritual wellness?

This non-vacation vacation trend has been getting worse and worse as the years go by and, for some reason, it is more of a US trend.  Other countries have long recognized the need for time away from work and balance in their life.  Countries like France.  The French receive around 30 days of vacation.  Guess how many they actually take on average?  If you guessed 30 you were correct.  Germany also gets around 30 days off of work and they take an average of 28 of those days off.  Finland, Austria, Italy all have around the same number of days off and the majority of the workers take almost all, if not all of the paid time off of work.

Where are we here in the USofA?  We are WAY down the list...almost dead last in fact.  We get an average of 15 days off of work and most only take 12 of the 15.  Some will act as if that is something to be proud of.  But lets also see where we are on another list.  We are third only to India and China when it comes to anxiety, depression and drug&alcohol use.  Go figure!  We wear this work honor badge like it is something to be proud of while our society suffers from mental stress and disorders.  What relieves stress and anxiety?  Balance in life can lead to a much less stressful and anxious life.  Balance meaning taking time to focus on other things than just work and jobs.

Many no longer allow themselves to be free from duty or business.  Many no longer suspend work to go find rest and recreation.  Too many sacrifice the things that hopefully last longer than some job such as their family or their spiritual life. Too many are wasting the precious moments they have with their spouses, kids etc while they bring work with them on the very thing that is supposed to be a break from work and stress and anxiety...that thing we used to call...vacation.

So what happens to us if this trend continues?  If more and more of us decide work is more important than being "present" with those we care most about, what happens to our mental and physical health? Ask yourself a question.  If you were to become ill due to stress and anxiety at work and you were hospitalized, how many of your co-workers or bosses would be there at your hospital bedside?  How important would that job really be if you Dr gave you bad news about the state of your health?  Would you say, "excuse me Dr, but I need to check my email real quick before you continue with your prognosis."?

That is where a lot of you are headed if things don't change.  You sit there now engrossed in your phones never giving your brain and body a chance to rest and recoup.  You sit there ignoring what is around you while you check texts, emails, voicemails etc and all the while your body and mind and family are begging you to stop.  Meanwhile your mental and physical health is declining as is your life expectancy.

So stop.  Stop and take a look around you for Pete's sake.  Stop and ponder what is really important in life.  Stop before you regret the moments lost, moments you will never ever get back.  Stop and take a real vacation for a change.  Your body, mind and soul and for sure your family will appreciate you for doing that.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Travel: A True Gift

This month's post is brought to you by one of H&K Luxury Travel's travel consultants, Amber Dixon.  She is a great resource for family vacation planning and we are proud to have her as a guest writer for our blog.  Enjoy her insights and tips.

As a parent it is so easy to get caught up in the day to day grind of school, homework, activities, cooking and laundry – not to mention making sure you are raising your children to be decent, productive human beings.

One of the greatest gifts I have been able to give myself and my children has been one on one travel. I was recently in New York City with my middle son, Thomas, and it was the best trip ever. Just the two of us – no siblings, no spouse, just us. We were able to focus on the things that Thomas likes to do, move about the city more quickly than if we had more people in tow, and he had my undivided attention. But the greatest part of traveling one on one with one of your children is that you learn things about them that you didn’t know before – like the simple fact that Thomas likes kid shows that aren’t animation and wanted to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie.

Traveling with kids – no matter how many – always brings unique challenges and you can make the most of your vacation by making some simple choices and thinking ahead.

1.  Choose Your Flight Times Wisely
Do as I say, not as I do. We live a couple of hours away from the closest large airport so when we travel as a family we generally pick a late morning/early afternoon flight so that we don’t have to wake up and get everyone ready at the break of dawn. I chose an early morning flight for our one on one trip to New York City which required us to leave our house before 6 am. That was a mistake. Thomas was tired by the time we got to New York City and we spent most of the first day just hanging out and had an early bed time. A later flight would have allowed us to sleep later and be more adventurous our first day in the city.

2.  Let Your Kids Do Weird Things
Thomas loves pigeons. When we were in Washington Square Park there was a man who was feeding and holding pigeons. Now, this is not normally something I would encourage my children to do because it seems ridiculously dirty.  But I could tell Thomas really, really wanted to hold and feed a pigeon as he stared longingly as some other kids joined in. So I handed him a few dollars to donate for the bird seed and he had the absolute time of his life with those pigeons!

3.  Consider Your Kids Interest
Maybe the most important thing to consider when traveling with kids is what they are interested in. No matter where you travel if your days are full of only things that interest you as the parent then your kids behavior is going to be less than ideal. Thomas loves candy so we made several stops at candy stores, including Dylan’s Candy Bar. We also took into consideration that Thomas loves dance, drums and was interested in seeing the One World Observatory when planning our days. We also chose to see STOMP off-Broadway and Thomas belly laughed throughout the show because it fit his taste in entertainment and humor perfectly.

4.  Be Flexible
When traveling with kids even the best plans need to be tweaked. One of the things we wanted to do was eat at the Cookie Do restaurant that has recently become a viral sensation. But, due to the weather (it was cold and rainy) I knew that no one would be happy to wait in the two hour line. We also spent more time than I would have preferred playing in Central Park but at the end of our trip that was exactly what Thomas needed to do before traveling home.

So take your kids to explore new places! It is one of the most precious gifts you can give your children and yourself.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Europe Without The Long Flight

Has visiting parts of Europe been on your bucket list for years, but you can't pull the trigger because of the time it takes to get there and the length of trip needed to do it right? Maybe the overall cost of a European vacation has you unable to make the decision to give it a go.  Well I have some great news for you.

I have this little secret that I am about to share with you so let me have your undivided attention and listen closely.  What if I told you that you can see 16th Century architecture, pastel colored buildings similar to those on Italy's Amalfi Coast,  piazzas similar to those in Rome, and have the culinary experience that matches that of Barcelona or Paris, but you only have a 3 to 4 hour flight and half the budget you might think you need? Would you be in for that?  Who wouldn't, right?  But there are tons of travelers here in the US that ignore this hidden gem and opportunity every time they make their vacation plans simply because...its in Mexico.  That's right, Mexico!

Let me formally introduce you to one of my favorite travel destinations in the whole wide world...San Miguel de Allende.  San Miguel who you say? San Miguel de Allende.  This beauty of a city is located in the hill country in what I refer to as the central, lower half of Mexico.  Its a little over 160 miles northeast of Mexico City and about 75 miles or so from Leon (airport code BJX) which is the airport most travelers fly into when visiting the area. The distance from the airport is not a bad thing.  The mountainous scenery between airport and San Miguel is beautiful and worth having your camera at the ready during the drive. Plus, you won't have any of the beauty of San Miguel spoiled by the noise of airplanes landing and taking off.

After you skirt the outer edge of Guanajuato (another amazing historic city) and venture through a couple of smaller villages on the drive, San Miguel finally reveals itself and you can't help but feel a little emotional.  You have officially stepped into an era when things were simpler and life was about friends and family and shared meals and faith.  The cobblestone streets are all the proof you need to prove this place is special and amazingly preserved and protected from major tourism and commercialization.  Residents here don't look to escape to another part of the world after graduation.  They realize what they have and what they have is very very special.

Our hotel of choice for this experience was the Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada.  It is a gorgeous property which was once an old hacienda now converted into a luxury boutique hotel. While the layout is not a traditional hotel design, the grounds are beautifully landscaped and rooms are elegantly yet simply decorated.  The check in desk, main bar and restaurant are situated in a way that you feel like you have entered someones luxury home after walking through the front door.  You feel stress and the outside world disappear.  Is this a bunch of hyperbole you ask? Trust me when I say it is not.  This hotel captivated me as did San Miguel. Tip:  Upgrade to the deluxe junior suite.

Another hotel visited during our stay was the fantastic Rosewood San Miguel de Allende just a few blocks from the Belmond.  This is a bigger hotel and not as close to the main squares of San Miguel but it would be hard to say its not equal in all other aspects of luxury accommodations.  The rooftop bar offers one of the best (if not the best) views of San Miguel.  It's a must do at night.  And it is closer to more of the local residential areas of San Miguel where you can venture into the nearby park on the weekends and see families enjoying some play time or watch a local pick-up game of soccer or basketball.

So you have reached San Miguel, you have checked into your beautiful hacienda and now you are ready venture out.  Make sure your camera phone is fully charged before you do because you will want to snap a pic at every corner.  As you make the first corner from the Belmond towards the main square, you get the first glimpse of historic La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, the parish church of San Miguel.  It is a magnificent sight.  My recommendation is to grab a seat on one of the many park benches around the square that faces the church and sit and take it all in and listen for the ringing of the bells.  Stop in one of the pastry shops on the many side streets that shoot off of the main square and sit and enjoy seeing what old Mexico was really all about.

But don't stop there...as you stroll the streets you will stumble upon many of the other squares and churches that makes this city a dream location for those that love historic architecture.  The Templo de San Francisco and the Nuestra Señora de la Salud Church are must sees and each are surrounded by beautifully manicured trees and squares.

Once you start walking...you will see that you are somewhere special.  The quietness of the side streets pour into the lively squares where you can sit and savor great food while listening to a musician take you back to the 16th and 17th century by their simple strumming of a guitar.

Are you a foodie?  If so, you have to come to San Miguel.  The menus are diverse.  Fresh seafood is brought in daily from the Pacific and the local chefs take pride is their using of ingredients indigenous  to the area.  You can enjoy everything from shrimp tacos to pork belly sandwiches to the best ceviche found on the face of the planet accompanied by the best wines from the mountainous regions around San Miguel.  

Into shopping?  Some of the best boutique clothiers in the world can be found in San Miguel as well as skilled and world renowned artisans selling their hand made, hand painted crafts.

So can you see why I titled this blog the way I did?  San Miguel offers everything that most major destinations do all throughout Europe and is much much easier to get to for those of us here in the U.S.

So are you ready to see the jewel of Mexico?  We sure hope so because you will not be disappointed that you decided it was ok to go to Mexico and forgo the beach.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Are We Earmarked?

Are you an earmarked agency? We, as professional travel planners, get that question a lot from potential Disney-bound vacationers.  New clients, who are out perusing the internet for "sound advice" when it comes to their future WDW getaway, get all sorts of recommendations when it comes to what to do or what not to do.  But one of the bits of advice we witness a lot is, "only work with an authorized Disney vacation planner."  When an agent or agency touts that they are an "authorized Disney vacation planner," they are saying that they are also a "Disney earmarked" agency.

Disney gives that status to agencies that produce over a certain amount of dollar volume in a given period of time.  Disney does not announce what that volume is, but once you hit it, Disney may then reach out to that agency and invite them to be earmarked.  For some agencies, it is their goal to become earmarked because it then gives them the right to officially claim themselves to be "authorized" by Disney to sell Disney vacations.  But therein lies the confusion to the general public.

An agency that is not earmarked is NOT selling Disney illegally etc., yet the term "authorized" carries with it a certain connotation that anyone not earmarked should not be selling "official Disney vacations."  As it is with most of my posts, I try to cut through the double-talk, fluffy, mamajahambo and speak clearly and honest.  And just so you don't think this is some self-serving post, I want you to know that I am speaking on behalf of a lot of travel agencies that are great at what they do and who sell Disney vacations frequently, yet are not "earmarked."  A good travel consultant who sells Disney vacations will have done two or more of the following:

1) They will have taken and passed Disney's specialist training that every earmarked AND non-earmarked agency has access to.  I and a lot of other agents and agency owners have multiple certificates showing completion of that course from year to year hanging somewhere in our offices. 
2) They will have visited one or more of the Disney destinations (i.e. WDW and DL) personally on their own vacation time.
3) They will have taken a Disney cruise at some point along the way
4) They will have stayed at every level of resort that there is at WDW and/or DL (Value, Moderate, Deluxe etc).

What I mentioned above is what any travel professional can do in order to properly equip themselves to plan and sell Disney vacations to their clients, regardless of being earmarked or not.

So let me repeat again, assuming someone does two or more of the above, the difference between an "authorized" (earmarked) Disney vacation planning agency and any other professional agency is the volume of sales that agency produces for Disney.

My agency is an earmarked agency.  But we focus our expertise on a broader range of destinations than just Disney.  I like it that way and will keep it that way.  I like to be able to help clients with destinations such as Universal Orlando, Mexico, the Caymans, Japan, Hawaii etc in addition to helping plan Disney-related vacations.  But I am also proud of the fact that I have a team of agents who rival any agency's Disney experience and knowledge. We collectively have stayed at every onsite resort.  we have collectively ate at every onsite restaurant.  We have sailed on the Disney Dream, Fantasy, Wonder and Magic.  I don't care how many conferences someone attends, nothing replaces first hand experience when it comes to Disney vacation planning.  Are we experts at planning Disney vacations? Yep.  And so are a lot more agencies out there who may or may not be "earmarked."

So when choosing a professional vacation planner for your next Disney vacation, don't let fluff and titles make up your mind of whom you should use.  Simply ask if they know a lot about Disney and if they have personally been before and then go with the person that you know, like and trust.

Questions?  Comments?


Friday, October 28, 2016

When To Buy Your Airfare

This article may NOT contain the answer you are looking for, but I do hope it clears up some of the confusion and misinformation that is floating out in cyberspace when it comes to the best days and times to buy airfare for your upcoming dream vacation.

First, here is a fact about airfare prices,  they fluctuate on almost a minute by minute basis.  The fluctuation is due to computer algorithms that set prices based on the number of seats still available on a certain flight.  As seats sell, prices change.  Its good ole supply and demand, plain and simple.  There are a lot of detailed articles out there trying to give more detail into why prices are so different for the same flight on any given day, but it all boils down to economics.  If a flight is a popular route, you can count on the fact that prices will reflect it (i.e. supply and demand) and that won't matter if it is on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc.

Second, we get asked all the time whether it is cheaper to fly on a Tuesday vs a Friday etc.  The answer still goes back to supply and demand.  It very well may be cheaper because a lot of business travelers leave out on Sundays and Mondays and come back on Fridays or Saturdays.  But keep in mind that airlines know this and the number of flights reflect the busier days and routes which brings up the issue of availability and the number of connections.

Third, what you see when it comes to the published fare may not be the real cost of flight.  For example, you bought a ticket on "ABC Airlines."  Then when you went to choose your seat, the only available seat for the price was a middle seat near the back bathroom.  So you see that the seat is in an awful location but you also see there are other seats that you can upgrade to for the everyday low price of $60.   So you waited until Tuesday to buy that airfare that was $30 lower but ended up paying $60 more for a seat you actually want to sit in.

So with all of this said, here are the factors that should play into your decision of when you want to buy your airfare:

1) How committed are you to the trip?  If your trip dates are set due to vacation schedules and you are set to a certain departure and return date, you should consider buying your airfare as soon as you can. I say that because if your vacation destination is a popular one, the good flights (good times and connections) can sell out while you wait to see if the fare is going to drop $20 to $50.

2) Single vs multiple connection flights.  Let's assume there are no direct flights between where you are and your destination so you will have at least one connection.  You need to weigh the importance of the number of connections as well as the layover time.  Waiting to buy on a certain day of the week and at a certain number of days before your trip can put at risk losing the best connection and layover times. Was it worth the difference in airfare if you now have to stop at 2 different airports before reaching your final destination?  Each connection carries its own risks such as the chance for bags to get lost or issues with weather or airplane equipment.  The money you might save may seem insignificant if you spend the first two days of your vacation in the same clothes you started in.

3) Time of year.  if you are flying to a destination that is popular during a certain time of year (i.e flying to Europe in June or July), the prices will not only change rapidly, but again, flights can literally sell out.  The direct flight you wanted from Chicago to Rome not only could be sold out, but the longer connecting flight may also now cost more because you waited.

Let me summarize by telling you how we consult our clients when it comes to purchasing their airfare.  If we know that the client's dates are set and we know that destination is a popular one for that time of year, we always encourage them to buy as soon as possible with only a few exceptions.  We advise them to consider the single vs multiple connection.  We help them see that taking the last flight out may appear cheaper but it may not be worth it if that flight is canceled and there are no longer anymore options out that night.  We make sure sure our clients see that the cheaper flight may have a layover until the next morning which means there will be an overnight hotel stay which also now adds to the cost.  We make sure our clients know that if it is important that they are seated together, then we need to grab the flights and seats when we can to make sure that happens.

So do you see that waiting to buy airfare on a certain day or picking days of the week that you think will be cheaper may not be the best choice?  Its not a simple answer of "always buy on Tuesday because its cheaper."  Let professionals help you understand the pros and cons of waiting or not waiting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Making the Right Travel Decision


Any consultant worth his or her salt, seeks to provide their clients with the best possible information so their clients can then take that information and make the best decision possible.  Making right decisions, for the most part, relies on having the correct information ahead of making that decision.  We rely on experts in certain fields to provide us with that correct info whether its health related, financially related etc.  We don't turn to friends who have not been to medical school to advise us on how to treat some health ailment. We don't rely on someone who has never worked on a car engine to help us determine how to fix our broken down car. We don't take advice from financially broke friends on how to better invest our money.  The same logic should apply when someone is wanting travel advice.  Turning to non-professionals can sometimes render bad decisions because the non-professional information was flawed and possibly even incorrect.

We see this a lot in the field of professional travel consulting.  We hear of travelers being encouraged to take a cruise solely because a passport is not currently needed for a lot of cruises.  But that information is only partially correct and may lead travelers to make the wrong decision for them and their family.  We have clients come to us and say they only want to visit 2 of the 4 parks at Walt Disney World because a friend said they didn't think the other parks had enough for small children.  Again, that is not a factual statement.  Similarly we have had clients say they don't want to visit a destination like Universal Orlando Parks and Resorts because too many of the rides have a height requirement of 50in or taller.  Clients were ready to not consider that option based on that one friend's comment.  The friend's comment was incorrect.   Many discount the idea of Mexico being a vacation destination based on friend's comments about safety in Mexico.  99% of the time, those friends are not stating facts but only passing on news stories that are also not stating facts. These are just small examples of how wrong information and opinion can alter a family's vacation plans.

It is our job to help clients sift through the gobs of opinions and counter some of those opinions with simple facts so our clients can make the best decision possible for what is right for them, not for their friends. We can help clients see that having a passport is still highly encouraged even when taking a cruise for a variety of reasons.  We can help clients see what is offered for all ages at every park that makes up Walt Disney World and then let the clients decide how they want to spend THEIR time.  We can provide actual ride heights showing that the majority of the attractions at Universal Orlando are under that 50in requirement.  We can even provide actual crime statistics that show Mexico is safer than places like the Bahamas, Jamaica. Punta Cana etc for tourists.

We have opinions too.  Clients come to us for our opinions.  But even our opinions are based one what we factually know about a destination or certain type of vacation. This is why we take the time and spend the money to travel to the places we sell.  We can then offer facts, personal experiences and opinion which gives our clients the best possible info so they can weed through the hoards of options and make the right vacation choice.

So the next time you get an opinion from someone who is NOT a professional travel consultant, reach out to us or find a professional who is a right fit and trust their skill and knowledge. It could make the difference between an ok vacation and a great vacation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple

As a first timer to New York City, I wasn’t sure what to expect…I mean sure I have heard plenty about it and my husband has been several times and LOVES it.  But this mountain loving open space seeking girl isn’t exactly super excited about all the tall buildings and city life.  So to say I was a bit worried I might not love it is an understatement.  BUT, it was truly fabulous!  There are so many fascinating things such as the sheer number of Starbucks in a 10 block radius, or the number foreign languages I heard…but what stood out the most is the number of people ALWAYS around…not matter what part of town you are in or what time of day…there are so many people.  In a good way – mostly.  ;-)

When starting to plan our trip I did what any good travel consultant does…research.

When it came to trying to figure out where to stay, there were so many great choices of course.  But we landed on a new hotel that has a totally different approach to hotel living.  We stayed at the EVEN Hotel near Penn Station.  The reason I wanted to check it out is because it has a unique opportunity for the hotel guests.  Each room has a workout space in it equipped with an exercise ball, yoga mat, exercise bands and loads of workout options from a booklet to multiple workout channels for you to  turn on.  From the catchy slogans on their signs to the water bottle for us (to be more green) this place impressed me the most by their outstanding service.  Some of the best service I have ever had at a hotel to be honest.  They have a healthy option restaurant, Cork and Kale, for breakfast, dinner and on the go meals.  Of course this type of hotel wouldn’t be complete with a 24 hour fitness center with more equipment for you to use to make certain you can stay healthy while traveling!

Since we chose to stay there, I made sure to get over to a couple other hotels so that I can see which room I will stay in next time I visit.  The first stop was the JW Marriott Essex House.  WOW.  What can I say?  Luxury feel, fabulous location, amazing views of Central Park and the city, great restaurant and bar, the list is long.  What stood out the most you might wonder?  The size of the rooms!   Even the standard room is quite big for New York hotels.  Plenty of space to move around, ample storage for your luggage - you don’t ever feel cramped.  The overall vibe of the hotel was really nice, not pretentious, but rather a pretty affordable luxury hotel.   The ballroom is remarkable for your next wedding or other event  - where you will always be the ONLY event going on in that space, not matter how big or small.  We dined in the restaurant and were impressed by the food and wine selection as well the ambiance.  If you want to buy a table for breakfast the morning of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you can enjoy a fabulous meal while watching the parade cruise by your table.  You will even have street access if you prefer that.  It would definitely be great to go back there for that event.  To sum it up, you just can’t go wrong with this luxury hotel.  The JW Marriott Essex House – a must!

One other hotel I wanted to check out was the Lotte New York Palace Hotel – it is right across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Another fabulous location with great city views as well as views of the famous historical St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  This luxury hotel is another gem of New York City.  The attention to detail and the thought behind each finish is truly amazing.  The standard rooms and suites are also quite large with several great options for families or multifamily travel.  There are a few options to have a cocktail at, a breakfast lunch/coffee place, and a restaurant that will be serving breakfast only soon with lunch and dinner to come in the months ahead.  The most interesting place to get a drink there is Rarities.  This place is essentially a drinkable museum.  You must have a reservation to get in, but once you are in, you can try liquors and wines that have some amazing story behind them and were likely purchased at an auction.  It truly is a “rare” find.  You do not have to stay at the hotel to have a drink there…just be sure you get your reservation made in advance!  My absolute favorite place in the hotel though is the Jewel Suite.  A 3 story room with your own personal elevator, outdoor patio with fireplace and hot tub as well as plenty of tables and chairs to sit around while enjoying the stunning view of the city.  Jewelry designer Martin Katz helped create this stunning room with his jewels showcased in the room for you to enjoy.  This room has multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, an office that is too pretty to work in really, and the most amazing gathering area with the 3 story windows for you to take it all in.  This suite is only matched by one other suite in town – and happens to be right next door in the Champagne Suite.  A much more masculine room, but the same amazing views and features, the completely different décor including much darker wood finishes.  This suite will not disappoint the Dom Perignon lover with the displays of Dom around the room and the glass chandelier that was made to look like champagne bubbles in your glass.  Yes, the attention to detail is unmatched.

So many things to do and see in NYC and too many to try to list here in this blog.  One of the most unexpectedly interesting things we did was the Rockefeller Center Tour.  I had no idea it was going to be mostly outside and all about the 19 buildings that make up Rockefeller Center.  Who knew?  Our tour guide was amazing and just the right amount funny!  We learned a ton and were in awe most of the 75-minute tour.  It is worth it if you haven’t done it.  Some must-do’s in my opinion would be to visit the 911 Memorial, walk the financial district, get to the Top of the Rock and for the romantics out there, take a carriage ride with your sweetheart through Central Park.  That is just the beginning of things to do over a long weekend in the city that never sleeps.

 New York is known for great food…and it did not disappoint.  We had dinner at Minetta Tavern – a great spot in Greenwhich Village that seemed filled will locals.  It’s been around since 1937 and for good reason.  They are known for their Black Label Burger, but have a wide range of options from Roasted Bone Marrow to King Salmon and so much more.  Great wine list, excellent Martini, and impeccable service.  If you decide to go, be sure to make reservations a few weeks in advance!

We also hit David Burke Kitchen in SoHo.  My husband has been there for dinner a few times so we had planned to have brunch there, but ended up doing breakfast, which was amazing!  Best French Toast I have ever had!  Most unique Bloody Mary we have come across – but the hubs says it was amazing!  You can’t go wrong with anything you order any time of day!  Reservations are ideal.

Of course we hit the random pizza joint on the street to grab a slice and it was great! 

One more place to note that we hadn’t planned on going to but SO glad we did is Patsy’s Italian Restaurant New York.  It is a family run restaurant that has been there since 1944 in the Theater District in Midtown Manhattan.  From the moment you walk in the door you are greeted with fabulous service and likely to see at least one of the family members.  They have only had 3 chefs – the late Patsy himself, his son Joe, or Joe’s son Sal (who has been running the kitchen for the past 29 years).  The best service we have ever had, some amazing Italian food and we even got to see Tony Danza dining at his regular table.  And yes, we made eye contact but I did not bother him.  ;-)  This restaurant is a must!  And you will want to have a reservation there also!     

If you have the opportunity to go to the Big Apple for the first time or your 10th time, there is always something new to see or a restaurant you haven’t hit.  Needless to say, his first time visitor will be back!
(Article contributed by Jamie Eldridge, H&K's adventure travel expert.  You can see her profile by clicking on this link H&K Luxury Travel)