A few weeks ago, before this COVID-19 pandemic had us all homebound, my husband and I snuck up to Lake Tahoe for a couple days’ skiing at Northstar California ski resort and The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe.


If you’re not based in the Bay Area or within driving distance of Tahoe, you’ll want to fly into Reno-Tahoe International. From San Diego, it’s a quick one hour twelve minute flight on Southwest Airlines. From the east coast, it’s a little trickier since Reno is a small airport. Out of NYC’s JFK, JetBlue operates seasonal direct flights a few days a week. Otherwise, you can make an easy connection on American Airlines through Phoenix or on Delta through Salt Lake City.

The Lake Tahoe area is quite large; the coastline of the lake itself has a 72 mile circumference, and there are a variety of ski resorts to choose from, all positioned various distances from the airport. For this trip, we stayed in North Lake Tahoe and skied Northstar, which is just about an hours’ drive west from the airport. If you plan to hop around to various ski resorts, I’d recommend renting a car for the most flexibility. If you’re planning to stay put at Northstar and enjoy the Ritz and the nearby town of Truckee, I’d recommend just getting airport transfers, as the parking prices are quite steep and it works out to be about the same cost (if not cheaper!). We used Reno Tahoe Limousine and they were great!


The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe is a ski-in, ski-out lodge located mid-mountain at Northstar. I stayed here once before in the autumn and while we loved the mountain setting, at the time we wished it had been a bit closer to the lake (which is the main draw for this area spring through fall). That said, in the wintertime this hotel is the *perfect* location. You are literally on the mountain, they have a ski rental shop on-site, and a slope side ski valet that will store your skis, poles and boots overnight. Once you finish breakfast, it takes about 10 minutes to get dressed, geared up, and ski down to the nearest chairlift. The convenience is just so incredible – it takes all the hassle out of skiing!


As far as ski mountains go in the Tahoe area, Northstar is one of the more family-friendly options. It’s not massive, not insanely steep and has a nice mix of blues and blacks to please any range of ski levels in your group or family. They also have a wonderful ski school and tons of private lessons with pick-up right from the hotel (if you’re staying there). While views of the lake are fairly limited to one peak, you do still have them! And there is a small snow tubing facility on the mountain as well.

Heavenly, on the south side of Lake Tahoe, and Squaw Valley, on the west side of Lake Tahoe, are next up on my Tahoe to do list!!


The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe is as fabulous as Ritz Carlton’s come. The rooms are well furnished with all the amenities: juliet balconies, gas fireplaces, deep soaking tubs, robes & slippers, oversized King beds and seating areas, as well as plenty of storage space for your bulky ski clothes. I also love the combination of rich wood and warm-toned fabrics that perfectly accent the snowy winter backdrop and give you all the cozy ski lodge vibes.


For this most recent stay, we opted for King rooms on the Club Level of the hotel, and I cannot recommend this enough, especially if you are skiing with a group. First off, the spread they put out five times a day is everything you could ever want. The breakfast buffet is not just a bagel and fruit – they have eggs, sausage, pancakes, and even an omelet station on Sundays. It’s the perfect “ready-to-go yet hearty” breakfast option when you’re looking to get up, fuel up and hit the slopes. At lunchtime, you can escape the crowds and overpriced food on the mountain and cozy up with a bowl of soup, a salad bar, sandwiches and freshly made quiche in the lounge. (Bonus – you can then easily go back to your room to add or shed a layer if needed before heading back out!). Between meals, they offer numerous snacks – popcorn, trail mix, nuts – and a never-ending supply of cookies. In the evening, they set out hors d’oeuvres, and post-dinner, they have your sweet fix waiting for you. To top it off, all day there is an (all inclusive) self-service bar with wine, beer, soft drinks, prosecco, liquors and even cordials in the evening.

So while in the summer or fall, you may be out and about exploring more, for a ski trip, you’re relatively on site, which makes the club lounge incredibly convenient. And honestly, the incremental cost is worth it for the value. I also love that the lounge can serve as a meeting place for a group or family that are staying in multiple rooms.


We kept things fairly easy on this trip, so aside from all the “free” meals we ate in the Club Lounge, we also enjoyed dinner at:

  • Manzanita – Located in the hotel, modern American cuisine with a steakhouse vibe.
  • The Living Room – Spread out in the main lobby around the large central fireplace; the casual comfort menu is perfect for a more chill evening.
  • Pianeta Ristorante – Quaint and cozy Italian spot in Truckee with delicious homemade pasta. *Tip: If you don’t rent a car, the Ritz has a complimentary shuttle to and from Truckee on the hour.

Now that we’re at home for the foreseeable future and most ski resorts are closed for the season, I am so grateful that we were able to squeeze in this ski trip last month. I highly recommend Northstar and the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe for a luxurious and stress-free ski trip. Please contact me if you’d like to plan a stay for 2021!


I first heard about the coronavirus in early January, when news started emerging from China about a highly contagious virus that we knew little about. It felt like the next Ebola/Zika/SARS scare – while frightening, it was far from home and easy to avoid. I quietly thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have any clients traveling to China within the next few months and went on my merry way.

Fast forward a few weeks and the virus had started spreading throughout Asia. Travelers planning to visit Asia over the next several months were uncertain… the infection rate outside of China was so low and there were no travel warnings for other Asian countries; it felt like the media was over-emphasizing the threat to capitalize on our own fear and tendency to panic. Fast forward another few weeks and Italy became a second hotbed for the disease. Suddenly all my clients traveling to Italy over the next few months (a lot more people given the popularity of Italy for spring break and summer vacations!) felt concerned… should they still go? Was it safe? Was the virus contained to just northern Italy? What would happen over the next few months?

I continued to walk my clients through the facts – sharing CDC travel warnings, WHO advisories, news and updates from suppliers on the ground – as well as options on how we could postpone or cancel trips and by what date in order to minimize financial penalties. This stage was challenging for two reasons: (1) the future was so uncertain – we were getting new information daily, and often the hysterical coverage in the media was in direct contrast to the calm and matter-of-fact updates and policies we were receiving from partners and companies in impacted countries and (2) insurance was no help… This latter part was perhaps hardest for clients to hear yet also understandable especially in light of the current situation we’re in now. Most travel insurance (unless premium Cancel For Any Reason coverage is purchased) does not allow cancellation of a trip for fear of a viral outbreak – this is excluded under the force majeure clause. Of course, this type of unprecedented and unexpected situation is exactly why travelers want to purchase insurance to protect their trip, but if it were a covered reason to cancel, the insurance companies would likely now be bankrupt. This post isn’t meant to delve into the ins and outs of insurance though so I won’t go into too much more detail here.

Every morning for the past several weeks, I have woken up and hoped to see better news, to feel a turning point coming – the uncertainty and anxiety among so many travelers was palpable and it was turning my fun job into an incredible stressful one. Every time there was a further restriction, I kept thinking… “This is it, this is the bottom, it can’t get any worse.” When Trump instituted the European traveler ban and the sports leagues cancelled all major events, I honestly didn’t think there was anything left to cancel. But apparently I was wrong…

Now here we are and most of us have had our lives completely upended. In the beginning, the travel industry felt disproportionately impacted by this global health crisis – there was fear of the virus itself and then fear of quarantine and being unable to get home that had a lot of people reconsidering their trips. But now, we’re all in the same boat. I don’t think there is a single person or business I know of that hasn’t been severely impacted by the virus we’ve come to know as COVID-19. We’re told to stay at home, restaurants are closed, bars are closed, travel plans months in the making are put on hold… and we have no idea when this is going to end. It feels unbelievable – not only because none of us have been here before, but because the enemy is invisible. We look outside and we see sunshine and a beautiful day; we step outside and everything is closed and eerily silent and empty. The panic now has spread from fear of dying to fear of quarantine to fear of unknowingly spreading the virus to someone we love (someone who is older or immune-compromised and may actually die from it, or at least be extremely ill) and now to fear that we are not prepared medically for an appropriate response. There is talk of a shortage of hospital beds and ventilators… we’re hoarding toilet paper of all things!

On September 11, 2001, I was in high school on Long Island. I had friends with parents working in the city, some in the Twin Towers. The terrorist attack felt like it happened in my backyard. We all left school early. We tried to donate blood but the blood banks were full. Soccer practice was cancelled for a week due to the smoke and dust blowing out from Manhattan. It felt incredibly scary… and as if everything else we had been worried about before (that upcoming English test, whether your crush liked you back) was all inconsequential. But a few weeks later, after the funerals and complete shock of the incident started to subside, we went back to our daily lives. Planes took off again, we returned to work and school. For a lot of us, life was put into perspective, but slowly we got back to “normal.” This situation is different…. we have no idea when we’ll be able to go back to work, or go out to eat, or hop on a plane to see our family, let alone reschedule that bucket-list trip we were planning for the better part of a year. For those that rely on variable income – there is fear over making ends meet and when the next paycheck will come in. For those that have a stable income, there is still fear over the stock market and how the volatility over the past weeks will impact retirement plans or even job security. No one is immune to the pandemic evolving in front of us – whether a wedding had to be postponed, income is lost, a family member gets sick, or a myriad of other things – we all had life going on and now we have to put it all on hold.

While the situation has left me with a lot of anxiety and stress, I can see a sliver of a silver lining. In a society where we are constantly connected and on the brink of burnout, grasping at every new wellness trend for a break, the universe has now forced us to take one. We officially have permission to stay at home, read a book, cuddle up with our loved ones, and feel grateful for the little things in life that we have. I also hope that when we come out the other side of this situation, we’ll be stronger for it. Like 9/11 – we came together, there were stories of incredible heroes and sacrifices of humanity… we can do that now.

Once I have the last of my client and personal trips cancelled through early May, I’ll be ready for a break myself – to read a book, binge watch a good show, take my dog to the beach and just spend some quality time with my husband. And when things start to return to normal, I’ll be itching to get back on a plane and explore the world, as I’m sure will so many of you. I pray that the extreme measures we’re taking as a society will help us to move swiftly through this frightening time.

Virtual hugs to you all!



Imagine you have planned the trip of a lifetime – a family cruise to Antarctica. You booked the trip months in advance; you have every detail memorized and you’ve looked at the cruise line’s instagram a thousand times, picturing yourself in each and every photo (OK maybe that’s just me!). But seriously, you have all the gear including that extra telephoto camera lens, you’ve learned every type of penguin… and then, a day before your flight, your son gets the flu, or you break your leg… and you can’t go on the trip… your bucketlist adventure that you’ve been saving up for and planning for years! 

This is where travel insurance comes into play. It’s not a fun topic – it’s complex, there’s a lot of fine print and it only helps you in [insert crises here] scenarios that you don’t even want to think about in the first place. But insurance is a necessary evil – it’s there for our own protection. We know this and understand it when it comes to our health, our homes, our cars… so why are we so reluctant to protect our investment in our precious vacations, our time off?

Now I’ll admit to you, before becoming a travel professional, I didn’t always purchase travel insurance. But now, with the stories I’ve heard and instances I’ve dealt with for clients personally, I always, always recommend that clients consider travel insurance for every trip and in fact, more often than not, I purchase a policy for my own travel as well. 

Here’s a true story to give you an example of something that actually happened to clients of mine that you probably never thought might happen to you. My clients were headed to Africa for their honeymoon – a trip of a lifetime – Cape Town, safari, the coast – 2.5 weeks to kick off a lifetime of marital bliss. We had every detail planned down to their dinner every night. Then, two days before their departure date, the airline they were flying announced a strike… and cancelled their flight to Africa – the only direct flight option available from their departure city. Now, in order to avoid losing the first few days of their honeymoon (or cancelling all together!), our best bet was to get a refund from Airline A and rebook them on Airline B – this time a connecting flight through Europe. The good news was that they could still leave everything as planned for their honeymoon. The bad news was that the new tickets (purchased 2 days before departure) were double the cost. As you can imagine for a honeymoon, this was already a pricey trip and this huge last minute flight cost was causing a lot of stress and anxiety. Enter our preferred insurance partner, Travelex, with whom my clients had purchased a full coverage policy. By the time they returned from their honeymoon, they had a check for $12,000 waiting for them in the mail – fully covering the incremental cost of the last minute flights. Now if they hadn’t had this policy, they wouldn’t have seen a dime of this money, and perhaps, if money was really tight, would not have even been able to move forward with this alternative plan and would have been forced to delay or cancel their honeymoon with no recoup on the costs. Now this is not a situation we think of often, maybe ever. But the reality is, these things happen!! Even if insurance only comes into play on 1 out of every 10 trips, that’s still worth it in my opinion. 

Now, hopefully I’ve convinced you that insurance is important and should be considered with every trip. The next step is to evaluate your options and to fully understand what’s covered and what’s not. Here’s what you should consider when evaluating travel insurance:

1 – Where are you going? Are you staying local or traveling far abroad? Is this a safe country or one that’s prone to unrest?

2 – How much did you spend on the trip? Are you prepared to sacrifice that money if something happens? 

3 – What’s the fine print? Look at everything you’ve booked for your trip – flights, rental car, hotels – what is the cancellation policy on each item? What penalty will you incur if you cancel or change your booking last minute? Again, are you prepared to sacrifice that money?

4 – Do you have cancellation coverage on your credit card? Many premium credit cards have some level of trip cancellation coverage included with your annual fee. Check the fine print on this – what is covered and for what reasons? How does this compare to a third party insurance provider? It’s also important to note that even if you do have a cancellation coverage clause under your credit card plan, your credit card typically does not include protection for other unexpected travel expenses – lost baggage, medical expenses abroad, trip interruption, etc. – all things that are covered under a traditional travel insurance policy. So it may make sense to purchase a smaller travel insurance policy for coverage in these areas with cancellation covered under your credit card company. 

There are many great travel insurance companies to consider, but our preferred partner is Travelex and I’ve been really pleased with their offering. You can review their full policy with a quote from me, but there are a few things I’d like to call out here:

  • The insurance premiums for Travelex are a function of travelers’ age and trip cost. So in order to pull an accurate quote I need to know your birthday. Travelex offers all Travel Edge (ATLAS + VALISE) clients their advanced policy for the cost of their basic policy. Another great value, is that children (under 18) are covered completely for free when traveling with a parent (one free child per paying adult), which is amazing for families!
  • It is really important to read the fine print when it comes to cancellation coverage. If there is an illness of someone in the traveling part and they have a Doctor’s note preventing them from travel, or death of an immediate family member, you can cancel your trip for a full refund. If you simply decide not to go due to a minor issue or inconvenience, that would not be a covered reason unless you purchase the “Cancel for Any Reason” add-on. This comes at a premium cost and allows you to cancel your trip for any reason up until departure date for a percentage back on all non-refundable costs (Note that the percentage refund varies by state). In order to include this add-on you must purchase your policy within 21 days of making the deposit on your trip. As of writing this post, the CFAR add-on is no longer available from Travelex for NY residents.
  • You can really purchase travel insurance at any point prior to departing for your trip, the only instances where timing comes into play are if: (1) you want to purchase the ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ premium, (2) you have a pre-existing medical condition that needs to be covered for cancellation reasons or (3) you want to be covered in case of supplier bankruptcy. In all three cases, the policy must be purchased within 21 days of making the deposit payment on your trip
  • Regardless of what level of coverage you purchase for cancellation, the advanced policy covers up to $50,000 worth of medical expenses incurred abroad (over 100 miles from your primary residence) during your travel window. This is a huge safety net and peace of mind if anything unexpected does come up while you’re traveling.
  • When purchasing the insurance, you also have the option to add additional rental car coverage (some countries excluded) and to add an “Adventure Sports” option which would cover accidents from many adventurous activities you may enjoy on a luxury vacation (example: ziplining in Costa Rica, whitewater rafting in Canada or bungee jumping in New Zealand). Depending on your trip, you may consider adding these options. 
  • As I said, credit card coverage typically does not cover much beyond some level of cancellation protection. With a traditional third party travel insurance provider, you’ll be covered for trip interruption, lost baggage and many other unexpected things that can happen on a trip. For instance, if your bag is lost and you need to purchase new clothes and toiletries for a few days… or if you miss a connecting flight and have to pay for an extra night at a hotel in some city you didn’t expect to spend the night in – those would all be reimbursable expenses through your policy.

Two special cases to discuss:

  • Medjet – Medjet is not insurance, its an annual membership program that offers you hospital-to-hospital medical transfers if illness or injury occurs during travel over 150 miles from home. While travel insurance typically transports you to the “nearest acceptable facility” if “medically necessary,” a Medjet Member is transferred to their home hospital of choice, regardless of medical necessity, for the cost of the membership and nothing more. You may also be surprised to know that Medjet memberships are fairly affordable. A family can purchase a Medjet membership for 1 year for just $399. This gives additional peace of mind that should something happen abroad, you can be transported to your home hospital for no additional cost. Please contact me to inquire about applying for Medjet membership at special rates. 
  • Coronavirus – I’ve been meaning to write this blog post about insurance for a while and it wasn’t meant to cover coronavirus at all. But with the recent “crisis” going on, I know there is a lot of confusion out there and so I wanted to mention how travel insurance comes into play specifically with coronavirus. The fact of the matter is that fear of a viral outbreak is not a covered reason to cancel your trip. This is covered under the force majeure clause that is typical in most insurance policies. If you purchase the “Cancel for Any Reason” premium coverage (within 21 days of your deposit) then you could cancel and receive a percentage refund on the cost of your trip (again varying by state). In general, I am seeing that tour operators and suppliers truly step up in situations such as this, waiving change fees to the extent possible for any concerned travelers that want to postpone their trip. Were you to travel and become sick or hospitalized on your trip, then your travel insurance policy would still help with the associated medical expenses.

Now I must remind you that I’m not an insurance expert! The above is what I’ve learned from working with travel insurance in my professional capacity and is meant to be a helpful, yet not comprehensive guide. Please do contact me with any questions about travel insurance or if you’d like to see a quote for your trip. Or you can feel free to reach out to any travel insurance provider for more information.

For additional information on travel insurance and top providers, Consumer Advocate also has a great resource available here.


Napa and Sonoma are some of the most beautiful areas in California. While known for their excellent wines, this area just north of San Francisco has a plethora of resorts, lovely spas, incredible cuisine, and a variety of other activities to enjoy in between wine tastings. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing getaway.


From San Francisco or Oakland airports, it’s just about a 2 hour drive north to wine country, depending on where you’re headed. If you live in San Diego, LA or other close cities, there is a small airport in Santa Rosa that has regular direct flights.


There really isn’t a wrong time to go to California wine country. Peak season is June through November, but keep in mind that the summer (July & August) can often get quite hot (some days will have highs in the 90s) and the fall (especially October) has a risk for fires. For the best value, don’t discount winter (December – March, excluding holidays). You’ll find cooler temperatures and some rainier days at this time of year, but the hotels and wineries are still open and there are far fewer crowds as well as some great deals. For the best weather, May and September are generally pretty spectacular!


This is an age-old question and there’s really no right answer here… my advice is simply to combine them both!! Sonoma County is massive – larger than the state of Rhode Island – and home to over 1,600 wineries. It is also closer to the coast and so offers a wider diversity of activities (hiking, coastal drives, paddle-boarding). In Sonoma, you’ll also find a lot of family-owned wineries that have been passed through generations. Over in the much smaller Napa Valley, you’ll find a bit more of a social scene with a higher volume of Michelin starred restaurants, and some exclusive wineries.


On my recent trip, we stayed at two very different but equally fabulous Virtuoso properties.

First was The Farmhouse Inn, a family owned boutique hotel in Sonoma County. With just 25 rooms in small cottages, the property feels intimate and homey. You’ll also find a lovely boutique spa, an outdoor pool and hot tub, and a Michelin-starred restaurant on site with farm to table cuisine. There are a variety of room types but I had the opportunity to stay in one of the King Deluxe rooms which have a gorgeous farmhouse luxury style. The rooms are spacious with large walk-in closets, massive jetted bathtubs, heated floors in the bathroom and outdoor patios with indoor/outdoor fireplaces.

Aside from exclusive Virtuoso amenities, there were a couple reasons why I LOVED this resort:

  • No resort fee; free parking! (When you get here, you relax. No nickel and diming!)
  • Lots of little personal touches (complimentary bath bar amenities available in the reception area or delivered to your room, glass of wine (or two!) at check-in, homemade chocolate chip cookies at bedtime, etc. etc.!)
  • Extensive team of 5 concierges and wine partner program: The concierges will help you plan your full Sonoma itinerary, including complimentary tastings and enhanced experiences at 25 hand-selected winery partners. This is a tremendous value!!
  • Complimentary 1 hour wine tasting hour daily

This hotel is perfect for:

  • Couples looking for a romantic retreat
  • Wine lovers looking for unique and boutique wineries to discover
  • Foodies who love a good farm-to-table dining experience
  • Adventure seekers that may want to incorporate some hiking, paddle-boarding and other activities into their wine country itinerary

Farmhouse Inn has a year-round 4th night free promo for Virtuoso clients, which is amazing! So please contact me to plan your stay!

After our stay at Farmhouse, we headed to Meadowood Resort & Spa over in Napa Valley. This “grand dame” of the valley is part of the Relais & Chateaux portfolio, just outside of St. Helena. The 85 rooms are nestled in various cottages across a 250 acre estate so it has a much larger and woodsy feel. On-site you’ll find several pools, tennis courts, a fitness center, a brand-new state of the art spa, a 9-hold golf course, croquet, hiking trails and several dining options, including a 3 Michelin star restaurant. While the room types vary widely, it’s hard to go wrong, as every room has a King bed, private terrace and fireplace. Many rooms also have the option to connect to a shared living space, creating little villas – perfect for groups or families. I had the opportunity to stay in a 3-bedroom Hillside Suite and the large family room and kitchen area was perfect for our group. Yet when we wanted to retreat to our rooms for privacy, we couldn’t hear the others at all and enjoyed our own private entrances.

There are a couple reasons as well why I really loved this hotel:

  • The spa treatment rooms are all suites with their own bathroom, locker and changing areas ensuite – no communal locker rooms. 60-minute treatments are booked in 90 minute slots to allow plenty of time to enjoy your suite, and all treatments start with an aromatherapy steam shower.
  • The on-site sommelier can host a variety of tastings, including a sensory evaluation which we did, and a lesson in champagne sabering! Highly recommend both of these.
  • A lot of activities are offered on-site from tennis to golf, croquet to cooking lessons.
  • No resort fee; no parking fees!
  • Wine connoisseurs and collectors can visit the exclusive Promontory Winery
  • Meadowood offers delectable picnic lunches for wine tasting days

This hotel is perfect for:

  • Groups and multi-generational families looking for a communal space to gather, along with the amenities of a 5-star resort
  • Families or couples looking for a wider variety of resort-style amenities offered onsite
  • Foodies looking to dine at the bucket-list-worthy (and nearby) French Laundry or The Restaurant (onsite)


We also had the opportunity to visit a couple of different vineyards on our trip. They were all so unique and different!

  • Flowers Vineyard – Flowers wine has been on the map for quite some time and they are well known for their Pinot Noirs, but their tasting space is brand new and should be in an Architectural Digest magazine. In the warmer months, they have incredible outdoor space as well. They offer food pairings with their wine tasting and their chef is an absolute star. Highly highly recommend!
  • Lambert Bridge Winery – The beautiful barrel room or private cellar are the perfect cozy spot on a cooler day, but this winery also has a lovely picnic area out front for warm weather. Their wine cannot be purchased unless you become a club member (or someone in your group does) which makes this a unique opportunity to try some exclusive wines.
  • Promontory Winery – Located in Napa Valley and owned by the Harlan family (who own Meadowood), the scenery when you enter this newly opened tasting room is jaw dropping. The tasting ($200 per person) is a full-on experience with a tour of the wine making facilities and the chance to try some incredible (and very expensive) Cabernet Sauvignons with an unbelievable view over Napa Valley.
  • Gamble Family Vineyard – In stark opposition to Promontory, we visited this lovely family-owned winery with a tasting room located in a historic farmhouse among the vines on the valley floor. A totally different vibe but equally enjoyable and so, so charming.

I’d love to help you plan your next getaway to California wine country. Please contact me to get started!


Welcome to the roaring 20s! But seriously, I have a feeling this new decade is going to be a good one. Kick it off right by starting with some epic trips in 2020. Here’s a quick guide to 20 places that are on my radar right now.

  • Austria – I just went to Austria this past October and absolutely fell in love with the country. The cities are so opulent and fabulous (hello champagne for breakfast!) and the countryside is just jaw-dropping. This summer marks the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth and the 100th year of the famed Salzburg Festival. Any classical music enthusiasts or lovers of the arts? This is your year to go to Austria!
  • The Arctic – Expedition cruising is the new black and major cruise lines are launching luxury expedition ships left and right. What that means is that the polar regions are getting more and more crowded; and since many of these areas are tightly regulated in terms of traffic, now is the time to go before it gets busier. While Antarctica is an epic trip, the Arctic is a bit more accessible with 7-10 day itineraries offered out of Oslo, Norway. I am actually going myself this summer with Silversea and could not be more excited!
  • Costa Palmas – Never heard of it? I don’t blame you. Costa Palmas is the new hot spot on the Baja Peninsula – just north up the eastern coast from Cabo San Lucas. Think swimmable beaches, beautiful marinas, fewer crowds, and some brand spankin’ new resorts, including the recently opened Four Seasons Los Cabos at Costa Palmas and the (coming soon) Amanvari.
  • Hawaii (Big Island) – One of the most exciting hotel (re) openings of 2020 is the beloved Mauna Lani on Hawaii’s Big Island. After its acquisition by Auberge Resorts, the property underwent an extensive $200 Million renovation. 90% of the resorts’ rooms have an ocean view and private terrace so you’re pretty much guaranteed a good room. After the volcanic eruption in 2018, tourism to the island is still on the rebound and the reboot of this beloved and iconic hotel is sure to help.
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  • New Zealand – I’ve planned several trips to New Zealand in the past few months and I’m loving re-living our honeymoon. Seriously though New Zealand was one of the most spectacular and special places I’ve ever been and I cannot wait to go back. Everything from the scenery, to the food, to the people to the wine – it’s just perfect! And to make things even better, there is now more non-stop service to New Zealand from LA (on American) and a new non-stop flight from New York launching in October 2020!
  • Paros, Greece – Of course you can’t go wrong with a trip to the Greek Isles but some of the hotspots (*cough* Santorini *cough*) have gotten so crowded, especially during the peak summer months. In 2019, Paros hit the map as one of the newer must see islands in the archipelago and that’s in large part due to the opening of Parilio this past July. Part of the Design Hotels portfolio, this 33-suite gem has a lovely pool and beautiful beaches. Plus the island is full of locals, not tourists, giving you a more authentic feel.
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  • Bhutan – Bhutan has been on the top of my list forever. It’s just a bit hard to get to, but one of these days I’ll be there!! 2020 is a great time to get to this tiny mountain country now that Six Senses has made its debut. Four Six Senses lodges opened in 2019 with a 5th set to open in 2020. A perfect trip would involve a circuit of these lodges, coupling wellness with adventure in the world’s happiest country.
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  • Canyon Ranch, Woodside – Speaking of wellness, the Queen Bee of wellness resorts, Canyon Ranch, opened its latest property, Canyon Ranch Woodside, just a few months back. Located south of San Francisco, this latest venture takes a “retreat” approach to Canyon Ranch’s tried and true methods, with nutritionist approved meals, daily activities, a state of the art spa and plenty of time to relax & disconnect. Plus I love the look of their treehouse style suites!
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  • Namibia – This country is like the new cool kid on the block when it comes to Africa. While I wouldn’t necessarily choose it for a first time trip, this is the perfect destination for a second or third visit to the continent. You can easily combine safari with sand dunes for a truly unique vacation. One of the most interesting hotels is the Shipwreck Lodge on the Skeleton Coast – the rooms look like old ships that wrecked in the desert!
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  • Australia – Australia is all over the news right now and its heartbreaking to see what has happened to the landscape and wildlife there with the recent bush fires over the past couple of weeks. That said, Australia is an extremely large continent and the majority of its iconic tourism destinations (Uluru, The Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, etc.) were unaffected by the recent fires. In 2020, I think that Australia will need tourism support more than ever to help fund the restoration and rebuilding of the impacted areas.
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  • South Africa – South Africa is such a diverse destination and you can fit several totally different experiences into one trip. Of course there is the art and history of Cape Town, and the iconic safari in the Sabi Sands or Kruger… but you may also consider spending a few days in the stunning winelands of Franschhoek or even escaping to the De Hoop Nature Reserve along the southern coast.
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  • Virgin Gorda – Another returning gem, Rosewood Little Dix Bay has officially reopened in Virgin Gorda after an extensive 4-year renovation. Dating to 1964, the resort was originally opened by conservationist Laurence Rockefeller and was purchased by Rosewood in the early 1990s.
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  • Mendoza – South America’s wine country is perfect for a combination of adventure, relaxation and good food & wine. Plus there are some incredible hotels in the region. Last year, I wrote a guest blog with my tips for visiting Mendoza on my friend La Matera’s site.
  • Belize – Costa Rica has been hot for years and years, but people are finally starting to talk about one of its lesser known neighbors, Belize. While a very small country, Belize packs a punch with jungle experiences, diverse wildlife, beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins and, of course, some fabulous hotels. Most notably, Leonard DiCaprio’s much anticipated eco-resort, Blackadore Cay, is set to open this year.
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  • Egypt – Tourism in Egypt really slowed since the 2011 revolutions, but in 2019, we started to hear some buzz on this destination again. In 2020, the Grand Egyptian Museum will open in Giza, becoming the largest archaeological museum in the world. The museum will house a complete and permanent collection on the renowned King Tut. History and archaeological buffs – there has never been a better time to visit this incredible country.
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  • Kyoto, Japan – Japan has been all the rage for several years now and 2020 will be even hotter with the summer olympics coming to Tokyo! But Kyoto is really stealing the scene with several new hotel openings (ahem Ace Hotel Kyoto, Park Hyatt Kyoto & Aman Kyoto) either in recent months or coming soon.
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  • Indonesia – Aqua Expeditions has been running luxury boutique river cruises in off-the-beaten path destinations like The Amazon and The Mekong rivers for years. With luxury, all suite accommodations, incredible food, and truly adventurous locales, this isn’t your typical river cruise. Their latest product, Aqua Blu, expands beyond the rivers to the seas of Eastern Indonesia. This explorer yacht is perfect for visiting some of those remote locations like Bali, Komodo Island, Raja Ampat and the Spice Islands. It’s particularly great for scuba divers as the ship is equipped with gear, but non-divers will also enjoy kayaking, snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding.
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  • English Countryside – European cities are wonderful but in my opinion the countrysides are underrated. Though a bit more complex to plan (you’ll need to rent a car or hire a driver-guide), the quaint towns and boutique hotels found in the countryside of England are the perfect place to escape. We just spent an incredible week in the Cotswolds and it was every bit as romantic and relaxing as we’d hoped!
  • Montana The Resort at Paws Up has been on my travel list forever and for good reason: they have an unbelievable property in the heart of Montana, with rustic luxury style accommodations, delicious food and tons and tons of activities. But we have a new excuse to head to Greenough, Montana coming this summer, and it is Paws Up’s new venture – The Green O, set to open in August 2020. This adults only all-inclusive property shares the same incredible food and activities as Paws Up but is set in a remote woodsy setting – perfect for couples looking for a true escape and some time in nature.
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  • California Wine Country – Ok this is a bit of a biased one as I’m currently sitting in my gorgeously appointed suite at The Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma county and tomorrow, I set off to Meadowood in Napa Valley. However, California wine country is such a perfect (and easy!) escape within the US – and not just for wine lovers. Aside from stunning hotels, beautiful countryside and incredible food & wine, you will also find plenty of opportunities here to hike, bike, whale watch from the coast, and of course, relax at the spa or pool.
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I’d love to help you plan some incredible adventures in 2020! Please contact us today to get started!


Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, with planes taking off or landing every 45 seconds! As an entry point into Europe, many US travelers will pass through Heathrow/London on their way to other destinations – either in Europe or further abroad, such as Africa. As a result, I often recommend to spend a night or two in London at the start or end of one’s trip in order to break up the travel time. And for those who have visited London many times before, heading in and out of the city for a short stay isn’t all that appealing.

Enter Great Fosters. Part of Alexander Hotels, this stunning country estate has historic rooms, a Michelin starred restaurant and beautiful grounds to enjoy, and is located just 15 minutes’ from Heathrow airport. A stay at this property would be lovely on any occasion but I am particularly drawn to the convenience of its location. I can’t envision a more idyllic spot to recharge after a long flight or combat jet lag!


An estate is known to have existed at this location in Surrey since the Middle Ages and a portion of the original moat is still in tact today. While the history of the home through the centuries is quite lengthy, there are a few highlights worth noting in this short post, including a royal crest of Queen Elizabeth I located above the main porch and dating to 1598. The manor first became a hotel in 1930 when it was purchased and refurbished by Sir Harold Sutcliffe. The following year, Queen Mary visited the property and the famed Ascot Ball was held at the hotel, solidifying its place in modern history. In 2018, the Sutcliffe family sold the property to Alexander Hotels, who manage the estate today, along with four other historic manor hotels.


Currently, the estate houses 43 rooms, some of which are newly added and in a more contemporary style, attractive to business travelers who may be utilizing the estate’s conference facilities. In my opinion, the highlights of the hotel are the historic suites – 7 uniquely designed rooms in the main house. I personally had the chance to stay in Panel II. When I arrived on a stormy night, the dark wood paneling and four poster bed with rich velvet fabrics felt so traditionally British – I love when you can arrive to a place and feel you’ve stepped back in time a bit. I also had the chance during my stay to tour several other historic rooms and my personal favorites were the Queen Anne Suite and the Tapestry Suite.


The Estate Grill is the main dining facility, offering traditional British fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. For a splurge, treat yourself to dinner at The Tudor Room, the hotel’s intimate Michelin-starred restaurant featuring cuisine by head chef Tony Parkin. The 20-seat dining venue serves a delectable tasting menu for dinner three nights a week (Thursday – Saturday) and for lunch four nights a week. Before dinner, you may opt to enjoy afternoon tea in the living room, or a cocktail in the hotels’ bar or on the terrace.


As mentioned above, the grounds of the estate are partially surrounded by an original moat. Within those bounds you’ll find numerous English gardens that are lovely to stroll through and in warmer weather you can enjoy the outdoor heated pool or a game of tennis. For rainier days, you may opt for a spa treatment in the comfort of your room or simply to enjoy a good book by the fire.

All in all, this romantic country estate nods to a bygone era, offering the perfect respite to renew your energy at the start or end of a big trip. And the proximity to the airport makes it all too convenient! I would also just note that Great Fosters is quite popular for weddings, so weekends during peak periods tend to book up quite far in advance.


If you don’t already have the “Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter” on your bucket list, now’s the time to add it. This attraction in Leavesden (just outside of London) is where they filmed the majority of the movies. The former studio now houses full sets, costumes, special effects, and so much more. Fans of the franchise will see the wizarding world brought to life, while also learning some of the behind the scenes secrets for creating magic in the films. On my last trip to England, we finally had the chance to visit the studio and it was a dream come true!

Here are a few essential things to know before you go.

Buy your tickets in advance. While the studio is large, only a set number of tickets are sold per day. And with school field trips and tour groups in the mix, tickets do sell out far in advance. Make sure you purchase tickets online here well before your trip.

Ticket types. From individual to family to group tickets, there are a variety of options to choose from. There is also the choice to purchase just a ticket or a package ticket that includes a digital guide and a paperback souvenir guide. Personally, I found the audio guide to be a bit overwhelming during the tour as there was quite a lot to read as well. If you want to purchase the souvenir guide separately (instead of bundled with your ticket), you can pick it up in the gift shop after your visit.

Getting there. If you have a rental car, the easiest option is to drive yourself and park (for free) in the lot just outside the city. If you’re based in London and don’t have a car at your disposal, you can opt to take the train from London to Watford Junction, followed by a 15 minute shuttle bus. Read more about these options here.

Plan for 3+ hours. As mentioned, the space is large! There is so much to see and explore! You will need at least 3 hours to visit the full space. If you would like to take part in any of the simulators or other special videos, you’ll want to allot more time. And as there is so much information, you may want to break in the middle for a rest and lunch or a snack. If coming from London, I’d really plan for this to be a full day excursion.

Look out for special events. We were lucky enough to visit during Christmastime where many of the sets were decked out for the holidays. The studio also has fun events around Valentine’s Day and Halloween so be sure to check the schedules well in advance if you’d like to visit during these times!

Have fun! Entry is timed at regular intervals with an intro and a short movie shown to each group before entering The Great Hall. Due to large numbers of people, this first part can feel a bit too crowded, but after the intro and movie, visitors move through the attraction at their own pace and start to spread out. Be patient and just enjoy yourself!

This was such a fun day and there is really something for everyone! I loved the costumes while my husband loved learning about the special effects and which magic effects were computerized versus physically constructed. Our favorite however, was truly the sets – they really just brought the world of Harry Potter to life before our eyes.


London is one of the larger cities in the world, and as such, travelers have a plethora of options to choose from when it comes to accommodations. On my last trip to London, we spent a night at The Kensington Hotel in leafy Kensington. Part of the Doyle Collection, this property is made up of 8 historic townhomes dating to the Victorian era. The property evokes the sense of staying in a friend’s posh home in London – with cozy fireplaces, an open and inviting lounge area and friendly staff.


Kensington is the perfect neighborhood for visitors looking for a local flavor. A bit removed from the more touristy areas like Piccadilly Circus, the hotel is still conveniently within walking distance to many museums, Hyde Park and Kensington Palace, making it a quiet yet agreeable home base in London.


Though it hardly feels like it, the hotel has 146 rooms and suites. As with many older properties, the room lay-outs and color schemes vary from room to room, with some featuring more traditional British decor and others a more modern, refreshed design. While some rooms have balconies, others have floor to ceiling windows, and some of the newer rooms even have clawfoot tubs right in the bedroom – perfect for a romantic escape!

Those looking for a more unique accommodation will love the signature suites. The Knightsbridge Suite is a stunner with a more modern design, large balcony and two fireplaces, but I actually slightly prefer The Brompton Suite with its more ornate decor and subtle safari theme. Of course, there is the option to combine both suites to create a small apartment style dwelling – ideal for families or groups.

Notably, the hotel also offers several “family suites” – a rarity in many European cities! These are slightly larger rooms with a bit more living space and 2 King sized beds, offering a comfortable and more economical option for a family of 4.


The main lobby area of the hotel is an open lounge that feels like an intimate living room, with a variety of plush and cozy seating areas, several fireplaces and the option to stop at any time of day for a cup of coffee/tea or even a light bite. In Town House restaurant you can enjoy a lovely breakfast with both buffet and a la carte options. In the later hours you can dine here for lunch or dinner, but the true stunner is their afternoon tea, which currently features pastry molded into the famous landmarks of London – a real treat!

In the evening, when you return from exploring the city, pop in to the famous K Bar, reminiscent of a private members club, for some excellent craft cocktails.


Aside from the warm and inviting atmosphere, the well-appointed rooms and plethora of dining and lounging options, what really sets this hotel apart is the service. The staff is incredibly friendly and welcoming. They left some unbelievably thoughtful and unique touches and amenities in our room that made us feel right at home. I was so pleasantly surprised and appreciative to see this sweet photo they left for me of my puppy Deacon!!

I highly recommend staying at The Kensington during your next trip to London and would love to help you plan! Please contact me to get started.


You’ll find gift guides these days for every type of person, including avid travelers. But while many of those items seem cool and would make fun gifts, I never quite find myself going through with the purchase – whether I would actually use it always seems to be in question. For this gift guide, I’m sharing the items I actually pack and use on every trip! These gifts will be guaranteed to please the seasoned travelers in your life.

1 – Briggs & Riley Luggage – I know that everyone is on the AWAY train but I personally prefer soft luggage and Briggs & Riley is my favorite. These durable suitcases have plenty of pockets to stow all your belongings for a trip. And while these bags are an investment, they come with an unconditional lifetime warranty. I have the Spinners (carry-on and checked) and love them!

Photo Source: Briggs & Riley

2 – Packing Cubes – These are inexpensive and would make a great stocking stuffer – Amazon has a ton of options. I use these for every trip. They’re particularly great when you’re headed to two different destinations/climates on one vacation, as it allows you to easily segment your items so you can partially unpack at each place!

Photo Source: Amazon

3 – Passport Case – A must for international travel. So many options out there it’s hard to go wrong, but I love a subtle design such as this or this.

Photo Source: Anthropologie

4 – Inflatable Neck Pillow – Another non-conventional choice! So many people are passionate about their travel neck pillows. I personally like an inflatable option as it takes up less room in your suitcase on the remainder of your trip.

5 – Travel Journal – Ever since I was little, I’ve kept a handwritten journal of all my travels. I love reading these years later to relive the memories – sometimes they evoke even more than a photo. Rifle Paper products are some of my favorite and they have a range of designs to choose from. I’m loving this one!

Photo Source: Rifle Paper Co.

6 – Reusable Water Bottle – They never give you enough water on the plane in those tiny cups so I always bring my own bottle and fill it up at the airport before take-off. My favorite one is by Liquid Hardware – keeps colds cold and hots hot, seriously forever!

Photo Source: Liquid Hardware

7 – Lots of Pouches – I have pouches for literally everything – it helps me stay organized, especially while traveling. Mark & Graham has some great options that can be personalized.

Photo Source: Mark & Graham

8 – A Light Scarf – The plane can be hot, it can be cold – it’s a toss up these days, so I always have a light scarf with me. Keeping your neck warm makes a big difference. My favorite one is from Kate Spade (similar one here).

Photo Source: Kate Spade

9 – Kindle Paperwhite – Obviously a kindle is much more packing friendly than several hardcover books! And the lighting features make this an ideal choice for those who may have trouble with jet lag.

Photo Source: Amazon

10 – Herschel Laptop Sleeve – These Herschel laptop cases protect my computer without taking up too much room. I have the Heritage Sleeve in the Silver Birch Palm design and always get compliments!

Photo Source: Herschel

11 – Portable Phone Charger – My new iPhone’s battery life is incredible, but for those with older phones, a portable charger is a must.

Photo Source: Amazon

12 – Juice Plus – Traveling means you’re interacting with new germs on a daily basis. It also means you may not be eating as healthy as usually do. No one wants to get sick on vacation, so I always pack my Juice Plus. These capsules are made of freeze dried fruits and vegetables. Each daily dose is the nutritional equivalent of 30 different types of produce!

13 – Comfortable Walking Shoes – I always pack my New Balance sneakers, and typically also a pair of Tom’s (loving these since they look like chic loafers!). I recently splurged on a pair of Rothy’s loafers and have to say I’m very happy with these as well.

Photo Source: Rothy’s

14 – Kiehl’s Hydration Essentials – These products are the perfect size for traveling and will keep your skin hydrated on those long flights and varying climates!

Photo Source: Kiehl’s

Happy Gifting!!


Just two hours outside of busy London, you’ll find The Cotswolds, an area of lush meadows and rolling hills, dotted with quaint villages featuring the famous, golden-colored Cotswold stone. The Cotswolds region is a perfect destination for travelers searching for a quintessential English countryside escape.


We flew into London and picked up a rental car at the airport. While you could opt to take the train from London to Bath or Gloucester (taking a taxi or transfer from there), it’s lovely to be able to explore the Cotswolds at your own pace with the freedom of a vehicle. So if you’re comfortable enough with driving on the wrong side of the road and navigating narrow lanes, then this is the way to go. Another great option would be to hire a private driver for a couple of days.

From London, we drove to our first hotel in Cheltenham, at the northwestern part of the Cotswolds. On the way from London, we stopped in at Oxford for a bite at The Kings Arms (the oldest pub in Oxford, dating to 1607!), a quick walk around town to see the architecture and a self-guided tour of the Divinity School of the Bodleian Library (featured in the Harry Potter films as the hospital wing).

Once in Cheltenham, we checked into Ellenborough Park, a stunning manor house with a Great Hall dating to the late 1400s. The current iteration of the hotel opened in 2011, but was refurbished just recently in 2017. The property has 62 rooms, and many amenities for guests, including a fine dining restaurant, a bistro, swimming pool, fitness center, boot room and easy access to the nearby Cheltenham racecourse.

After checking in, we enjoyed a delicious and cozy meal at The Horse Box, Ellenborough Park’s 5-star country pub.


After a wonderful night’s sleep, a delicious breakfast with farm fresh eggs, and a quick stop in at the spa, we took off to explore some of the famous Cotswold towns. Our first stop was Bourton-on-the-Water, otherwise known as “The Venice of the Cotswolds” due to the river that runs through the town. One of the interesting attractions to see here is The Model Village – a complete replica of the town, built at 1/9th the scale! You will also find a lot of cute gift shops here that are great to peruse.

Next, we drove north to Stow-on-the-Wold, another adorable village. This one featured more art galleries and gourmet food shops which we enjoyed walking through.

Lastly, we drove up to Broadway, known for its broad main street – originally used as the main carriage way from London. You’ll find loads of cute shops and restaurants here so it’s a great stop for lunch. We popped in to The Bakehouse for a flatbread and a drink.

After our touring for the day, we returned to Ellenborough Park for a lovely afternoon tea in the main hall by the fire. And later in the evening, we enjoyed an incredible dinner at the formal restaurant, aptly named The Restaurant.


The British are big into horse racing and Cheltenham, where Ellenborough Park is situated, actually has a large race course. The main event is in March, but in November, they host the November Meeting – a 3 day event that draws people from all over the UK. We were fortunate in that our visit to Ellenborough Park aligned with the races and so we went one day. The really nice thing about staying at Ellenborough Park is that they are so close to the racecourse and they offer complimentary shuttles to guests staying over racing weekends – so you don’t have to deal with parking or Ubers, and can get dropped off right at the gates of the course.

While a bit chilly, this event was really great fun. We did a little betting (although no winning), enjoyed some food and drinks, and experienced great people watching. I particularly loved seeing all the British equine fashion and their great fall hats!

This evening, we ventured into the town of Cheltenham for dinner at Muse Brasserie – a fusion restaurant serving up a mix of Indian and French cuisine. It was innovative and delicious and a welcome break from the British fare we had been enjoying.


This morning, after our final breakfast, we bid farewell to Ellenborough Park, and drove south to the city of Bath. This is a beautiful city and one could really spend even a few days here, as with Oxford. But we just stopped for a couple hours and visited the ancient Roman Baths. Back in the 1st century, when the Roman Empire extended into the British Isles, they found a natural hot spring at this site and constructed a temple and traditional roman bathing complex. The Roman settlement of Aquae Sulis was later built around the sacred site. As centuries went on, this ancient roman site was eventually built over, only to be rediscovered and excavated in the late 19th century. Audioguides are complimentary with your ticket and offer a wealth of information about the construction of the site, how it was used and the types of people that visited there. This was really fascinating and I highly recommend it.

From Bath, we continued just a bit north to Castle Combe – a quintessential Cotswold village used as the filming site for the original Dr. Doolittle movie. Here you will find another lovely estate, called The Manor House. My parents actually stayed here many years before on their honeymoon, so we decided to stop in for Sunday Lunch at the on-site, restaurant, Bybrook.

After lunch, we headed to our home for the next two nights, Whatley Manor, a Relais & Chateaux property with just 23 rooms and suites. This property was truly fabulous and I am already planning to come back as soon as possible. Aside from the beautifully furnished rooms, they have an extensive spa, a private cinema, numerous common rooms, a brasserie and a 2-Michelin starred restaurant, The Dining Room.

After taking a bit of time to unwind and relax in our room, we headed down for dinner at The Dining Room. The experience began with cocktails and some nibbles in the lounge. We were then escorted into the kitchen (!!!) for the next part of the experience – some bubbly (to celebrate their recent 2nd Michelin star!) and three amuse bouches while we watched the chefs prepare our meal. This was such a fun surprise and an amazing way to start the evening. Next, we headed into the dining room itself where we enjoyed the rest of our prix-fixe dinner – each dish more innovative and delicious than the last – the whole meal was completely divine.


For our last day in the countryside, we just relaxed at the hotel. The sun was shining and it was a gorgeous fall day. After our 3-course breakfast, we borrowed the bikes and went for an hour ride through the countryside.

After our exercise, we enjoyed some much deserved spa time – swimming in the indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool, and using the sauna and steam rooms, before I went in for a treatment.

Later, we enjoyed an incredible afternoon tea and then watched a movie in the private cinema (complete with popcorn!), before sneaking back to the spa for one more swim before dinner in Grey’s Brasserie. It was a 10 out of 10 day, and the perfect way to close out our trip to the Cotswolds.

We really had the best time exploring this region of the English countryside. In 5 days, we really just scratched the surface and I can’t wait to come back here and explore more. The Cotswolds are a beautiful place to visit year-round and I would love to help you plan your next trip there!