TRAVEL WEEK RECAP: MY FAVORITE UNIQUE & SURPRISING HOTEL AMENITIES

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I recently spent 5 days in Las Vegas for Virtuoso Travel Week. Those 5 days included over 220 meetings with partners from around the world. With so much information being thrown at you, things inevitably start to blur together. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “we have XX many rooms and they start at XX square feet”. So what really made the event worthwhile and special was learning about a lot of the surprising and unique amenities that many of my partners are offering guests. Keep reading for a round-up of some of my favorites!

  • Ritz Carlton Vienna – Rooftop Christmas Market. Christmas markets are all over Europe, but this is the only one on the roof of a hotel!
Image result for ritz carlton vienna rooftop christmas market
Source: Ritz Carlton
  • Armani Hotel Milano – 10% Discount at the Armani store. Perfect for fashionistas looking to do some shopping on their trip.
AHM Welcome Area
Source: Virtuoso
  • Thompson Nashville – $5 Oyster & Chambong Happy Hour Special. How Instagram worthy is this happy hour special? And what a deal too!
Source: Thompson Nashville
  • Belmond Cadogan Hotel – Morning Milk Delivery. Remember the good old days when the milk man came to your house every morning? Well it’s still reality at this posh new London address.
Main Entrance
Source: Virtuoso
  • Sunset Key Cottages – Breakfast in a Picnic Basket. Every cottage at this Key West resort has a wrap-around porch and in the morning, guests will step outside to find a “Rise and Dine” breakfast basket of freshly baked breads and fruit waiting for them.
Source: Sunset Key Cottages
  • Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay – Bagpipes at Sunset. Despite its location in Northern California, this resort has a real Scottish feel with its golf heritage and sunset bagpiper.
  • Heckfield Place – In-House Cinema & Popcorn Machine. I love a private cinema but the screening room at Heckfield place is next level! With a regular schedule of films and documentaries, guests can self-serve from the popcorn machine outside and catch a flick almost any time they want.
Source: Heckfield Place
  • Baglioni Hotel Regina – Vintage Fiat City Tours. Car buff? Book a stay at the Baglioni Hotel Regina in Rome and you can tour the city in a vintage Fiat 500.
Fiat 500 tour in Rome
Source: Baglioni Hotel Regina
  • Loews Seattle – Virtual Golf. Seattle can be pretty rainy most months of the year, but you can still practice your swing at the Loews hotel with their indoor virtual golf simulator.
Source: Loews Hotels
  • The Shelbourne – Genealogy Butler. As I noted in my last post, genealogy tourism is on the rise, especially in England, Scotland and Ireland. The Shelbourne hotel in Dublin has hired its very own genealogy butler to meet the demand.
The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin Amenities
Source: The Shelbourne Hotel
  • Equinox Hotel – Sleep Science. The brand new Equinox Hotel at Hudson Yards in New York is the latest venture from the Equinox team, but they are the first to declare this is not a “gym hotel.” Instead they’re distinguishing themselves with a strong focus on sleep science. Rooms are “Dark. Quiet. Cool.” with “total soundproofing, next-generation blackout blinds, and integrated technology for effortless personalization.” They even have a sleep coach available to consult with guests.
Image result for equinox hotel room
Source: Equinox Hotels
  • Badrutt’s Palace – Snow Polo. You thought polo was only for warm weather? Think again! Badrutt’s Palace in Switzerland showcases snow polo on the frozen lake in front of the hotel every winter.
Source: Badrutt’s Palace
  • Ashford Castle – Lego Butler. This magical castle hotel is on everyone’s bucket list and kids will love it too with plenty of family-friendly touches including their very own lego butler.
lego butler at ashford castle
Source: Ashford Castle
  • Kokomo Private Island – Manta Ray Adoption Program. This past summer, Kokomo Private Island in Fiji launched their manta ray conservation program with a unique adoption angle. Guests can purchase a tag and track their adopted ray throughout the course of its life.
A large manta ray being viewed by divers at Kokomo Private Island Fiji
Source: Kokomo Private Island Fiji

VIRTUOSO TRAVEL WEEK RECAP: TOP TRENDS IN LUXURY TRAVEL

I just returned from five very full days in Las Vegas for Virtuoso Travel Week. For those not familiar, Virtuoso is an invitation-only network of luxury travel advisors and vetted travel partners (hotels, cruise lines, airlines, and tour operators) that helps facilitate personal relationships among the top players of the travel world. While Virtuoso hosts networking events and conferences throughout the year, Virtuoso Travel Week is the big shebang with over 6,500 global professionals in attendance. During the week, I had approximately 220 meetings and attended 17 events! With such a large volume of information to digest in such a short timespan, it was easy to glean some key trends that I’m seeing for the next level of luxury travel. Here are my top takeaways:

  • The Check-in Process is being Revamped. Luxury hotels are realizing that no one wants to start their vacation doing paperwork and talking about money. Guests want to relax and hotels want them to feel as if they’re coming home. So the boring part of the check-in process is increasingly being handled in advance of arrival with the necessary details and paperwork finalized in the weeks leading up to the trip. The new check-in process involves a glass of champagne, a casual chat in a lounge or even in your room, and a short tour of the hotel.
  • Expedition Cruising isn’t just for Antarctica. When you think of cruising, you may picture hopping around the Caribbean isles in a floating city or leisurely drifting down a European river. But these days, it’s all about expedition cruising. Avid cruisers and non-cruisers alike are looking for ways to reach the most remote areas of the earth without sacrificing for luxury. It seems every major cruise line is now expanding their fleet with expedition liners and adding more adventurous itineraries to their calendars. And it’s not only about Antarctica – you can take expedition ships to cruise the Chilean fjords, to see polar bears in the Arctic and even to temple hop around Japan.
Source: National Geographic
  • Genealogy Tourism is on the Rise. For the past 5 or 6 years, we’ve all been spitting into a tube to learn more about our ancestry. If you’re like me, and can trace the majority of your DNA to the British Isles, you may want to participate in the boom of genealogy tourism in that region. Throughout Ireland, England and Scotland, genealogy is becoming an increasingly popular focus for travelers. Whether it be a full trip or just a half day excursion – hotels and tour operators offer a variety of packages to help you trace your family line and visit sites significant to your heritage.
  • Spas and Wellness Amenities are Now the Norm. I laughed when one hotelier told me she’d been challenged by another advisor not to say the word “spa” in her 4 minute pitch. As a wellness specialist myself, I’m thrilled to see that spas and wellness features are now becoming a standard at hotels around the world. I don’t believe that wellness needs to be the sole focus for a trip, but rather it can easily be incorporated in a small way into any vacation. While many properties may just be capitalizing on this latest trend, they’re still filling an essential need. We go on vacation to relax and unwind from the stress of every day life, and what better way to do that than at a spa?
  • The 3Ps: Private Plunge Pools. If you’re a new island or beach-focused hotel, you better be sure you have private plunge pools in all of your rooms. This amenity is now becoming a signature for many beach resorts. While guests may want to spend a few hours lounging at the beach or a larger resort pool, who doesn’t want to take a quick morning or evening dip from the comfort of their own room?
  • Treehouses Aren’t Just for Kids. Remember how cool it was to have a treehouse in your backyard? These days, adults are reliving their childhood fantasies with treehouse accommodations at resorts around the world. Check out this list from Travel & Leisure for the top treehouses you can stay in.
Source: Virtuoso.com; Photo by Primland Resort
  • Hotels are Standing Out with Unique Amenities. Stay tuned next week for a full list of some of my favorite unique and personalized touches that I learned about at Virtuoso Travel Week. I’m so excited that hotels (and even cruise lines and tour operators) are starting to take it up a notch with surprising amenities and offerings. When it comes to luxury, there are plenty of hotels that can offer a stand-out room, 5-star service and gourmet food, but to me, its the little touches that truly make a stay memorable.

SAN DIEGO GUIDE: WHERE TO STAY

There are plenty of great hotels to enjoy for a stay in San Diego, but I have a few favorites that I think work best for certain vibes and occasions.

TAKE ME TO THE BEACH: Hotel Del Coronado. This National Historic Landmark and San Diego icon dates to the late 1800s. While this is a perfect option for history lovers, the hotel’s biggest appeal is its proximity to the beach. Somewhat surprisingly, there aren’t too many resorts in San Diego with direct beach access, and the beach at the Del is wide and picture perfect. So if you’re after playtime on the sand and gorgeous sunsets over the Pacific, this is the place to be. The hotel also offers plenty of dining options, family-friendly activities and a spa. Don’t miss the famous Sunday brunch in the Crown room. For those willing to splurge a little, I recommend the “Beach Village at the Del” which sits just adjacent to the historic building and offers more spacious, luxury accommodation and a private pool area, concierge and club room. 

ALL ABOUT THOSE CITY VIBES: Pendry San Diego, the first hotel opened under the Pendry name (operated by the Montage Group) is located in the Gaslamp district of downtown San Diego. The Pendry brand is all about hip, urban chic, and caters to a slightly younger crowd than Montage. Yet you’ll find here the same level of service you’d expect from any Montage. The location downtown means you can easily walk to many restaurants and bars, as well as grab a quick Uber to San Diego’s main attractions like the Zoo or Balboa Park. Yet, this urban hotel still has many features of a resort – several different restaurants, as well as a rooftop pool, fitness center and spa. 

FOR FESTIVE OCCASIONS: While there are plenty of reasons to stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, the old world luxury and elegance of the property makes it perfect for holidays and special celebrations. In the wintertime, the Fairmont features a winter village of sorts, complete with fire pits and s’mores, champagne bars and even sledding for the kids (with snow!). In the summer, they have weekly fireworks shows and BBQs on Fridays.

FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY: The Park Hyatt Aviara located in North County in Carlsbad has something to offer for everyone in the family. Golf enthusiasts can hit the links while wellness gurus can enjoy the award-winning spa and fitness programs. And kids will love the Camp Hyatt Aviara Kids Academy. In the summers, they have fun extras like movie screenings by the pool and wood-fired pizza nights. The location up North also means it’s ideally located near Legoland and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. 

GOLFING THE DAY AWAY: Any serious golfer is familiar with the famous Torrey Pines golf course and so they would naturally want to stay at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. The original property dates to 1961 but an almost complete renovation in the early 2000s brought it to where it is today. The California Craftsman style architecture has a real “lodge” vibe with dark wood paneling, crackling fireplaces and beautiful stained glass panels. While the golf course is public, guests of the hotel get priority access to the best tee times. 

FOR THE GARDEN LOVER: Ok I’m biased because I got married here, but the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe (just East of Del Mar) is one of the most idyllic settings you’ll find. Smaller than some of the other resorts I’ve mentioned, the property’s 80 rooms are spread out on the grounds in different casita-style buildings. There are 3 different decor themes – from country chic to farmhouse glam. Along the meandering paths you’ll find beautiful aged trees, hidden rose gardens, and flowering jasmine. I also love that you can walk just across the street into the quaint little town of Rancho Santa Fe to pop-out for a coffee or a pastry. 

ROMANTIC GETAWAY: Another more boutique resort up in Rancho Santa Fe is Rancho Valencia. While the style of resort is similar to the Inn, this Relais & Chateaux property has a more private and romantic feel. For one, the grounds are tucked away in horse country. For two, the 49 rooms are all hacienda-style suites, with large living areas and private patios – perfect for a romantic sojourn. And as part of the Relais & Chateaux brand, you know you’ll find incredible cuisine.

SAN DIEGO GUIDE: WHERE TO EAT

NORTH COUNTY

  • Veladora Coastal Ranch – Located at Rancho Valencia resort, this fine dining restaurant infuses Mediterranean cuisine with California coastal influences.
  • Jake’s Del Mar – There are a few restaurants located directly on the beach, and Jake’s is one of them. Serving up fresh fish with a Hawaiian flare, save room for the Hula Pie for dessert.
  • Viewpoint Brewing Co. – San Diego is well known for its craft beer scene and newcomer Viewpoint Brewing has a great location in Del Mar, right on the San Dieguito lagoon with a huge open air space. When it comes to beer, go for a flight to try different options, but don’t miss the food either – this isn’t your average brewpub fare. Definitely order the mac & cheese and the pork belly bites.

LA JOLLA

  • Herringbone – This Californai coastal restaurant is perfect for groups who want to share a lot of small plates with interesting flavors and fresh ingredients. I also love the decor at their La Jolla outpost which really brings the outside in.
  • Puesto – This taco hotspot has several locations in San Diego now, but La Jolla is the original. The taco options are extensive and are made from scratch daily, as are the guacamole and margaritas.
  • George’s at the Cove – A mainstay in La Jolla for its Pacific Ocean views, George’s has 3 different levels. Level 1 – California Modern – is the fancier and most expensive option, but the food is divine. Book early to get a table by the window and watch the sunset during dinner.
  • A.R. Valentien – Located at the iconic Lodge at Torrey Pines, this French-inspired restaurant focuses heavily on seasonal fare. It’s perfect for special occasions and even offers outdoor seating with views over the famous golf course.
  • Prep Kitchen – The La Jolla location of Prep Kitchen has only a few tables inside, but I much prefer to dine outside in the small courtyard under the heaters. The menu here is very innovative and changes frequently.
  • Wayfarer Bread & Pastry – Located in Bird Rock, this bread & pastry bakery is perfect for a Saturday morning scone or a gourmet sandwich. And on Wednesdays, they have pizza night which is a must-have.
  • Wheat + Water – Another Bird Rock favorite, Wheat + Water features wood-fired pizzas, salads and small plates to share, along with plenty of local brews on tap.

DOWNTOWN

  • Juniper & Ivy – Founded by Top Chef All-Star Richard Blais, Juniper & Ivy is probably my favorite restaurant in all of San Diego. The dishes are all so unique and playful. Juniper & Ivy’s take on the yodel is legend and the flavors change with the seasons. We’ve dined here a few times, but my favorite was when we sat at the dessert counter and watched the pastry chefs prep their creations while we ate.
  • Herb & Wood – Just down the block from Juniper & Ivy is another Little Italy hotspot featuring an indoor/outdoor space, quality cuisine and market fresh ingredients.
  • Crack Shack – Completely different from the above two options yet in the same neighborhood, the Crack Shack is a casual order-at-the-counter establishment serving fried chicken and egg fare. The outdoor space is fun with corn hole and other lawn games available adjacent to the picnic tables.
  • Kettner Exchange – Featuring Progressive American cuisine, this restaurant in Little Italy has a really cool space, fun for date night or a group outing.
  • Ironside Fish & Oyster – A large selection of raw bar options along with small plates and fresh catches of the day.
  • Cowboy Star – Solid steakhouse fare with a Western flare.
  • Mister A’s – Tucked away at the top of a tall office building, this restaurant has the best views of the San Diego skyline. Dine outside under the heat lamps and watch as planes fly over the city lights. Perfect for a romantic date night.
  • Lionfish – Located in The Pendry Hotel in the gaslamp district, this seafood restaurant has gorgeous design details and an interesting dessert menu that shouldn’t be skipped.

BEACHES

  • Breakfast Republic – Now with several locations in San Diego, I frequent the one in Pacific Beach which is located just a block from the beach. Entrees here are massive, and they have some delicious pancake and french toast flavors.
  • Sushi Ota – Located in a shopping mall off a main road just outside of PB, it’s difficult to even get a reservation at this traditional Japanese sushi spot. Chef Ota was born and raised in Japan and takes pride in serving the freshest fish you’ll find in San Diego.
  • Baked Bear – Custom-made ice cream sandwiches. No other explanation needed.
  • The Patio on Lamont – Pet-friendly indoor/outdoor restaurant that serves brunch and happy hours daily.
  • JRDN – Pronounced “jordan,” this restaurant is located just across the boardwalk from the beach, in the Tower 23 hotel. The fresh, modern atmosphere matches the food, which includes contemporary takes on steak and seafood.
  • Crushed – Another great brunch spot! This place is always packed so come early and order a mimosa flight.
  • Hammond’s – Gourmet ice cream from Hawaii. You can get a cup or a cone or even a mini cone flight to try several different flavors.

There are so many amazing restaurants in San Diego! So just as with my “What to Do” Guide this is by no means a comprehensive list, but just a few of my top recs for any visitors. Enjoy!

SAN DIEGO GUIDE: WHAT TO DO

About a year and a half ago, I moved across the country from the tall buildings and hustle and bustle of Manhattan to the sandy beaches and chill vibe of San Diego. There was definitely an adjustment period, but I have to say it wasn’t a particularly hard one. San Diego is known for its perfect weather, gorgeous coastline and excellent Mexican food. In the next three blog posts I’m going to share with you my best tips on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in “America’s Finest City.” This is in no means a fully comprehensive guide, but just some of my favorite recommendations!

ALL ABOUT ANIMALS

  • San Diego Zoo – The San Diego Zoo is most well-known for its pandas, who unfortunately just returned to China this past Spring. But there is SO much more to see at this zoo, which houses 3,500 animals of 600+ species. The San Diego Zoo was also a pioneer in open-air exhibits and continues to develop new and exciting ways to showcase and educate about diverse animal species around the globe. Similar to other zoos, proceeds from admission tickets also support conservation efforts on the ground.
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park – I mentioned the San Diego Zoo’s pioneering approach to open-air exhibits, but the Safari Park takes it to the next level. Located North of the city, visiting this 100-acre park will feel like you took an exotic trip to the African savanna without hopping on a plane.
  • Seaworld – Though Seaworld has been under a lot of scrutiny in recent years, it is still one of the major attractions in San Diego. The orca show is focused on how learnings from captive animals have helped scientists’ understanding of these creatures, allowing us to better support them in the wild. Plus, there are a ton of other aquatic animals to see, as well as some rides.
  • Visiting the La Jolla Seals & Sea Lions – My favorite time to visit the resident population of seals and sea lions in la Jolla is during “pupping season” in the spring. It’s so cute to see those little babies sunbathing on the rocks! La Jolla Mom has a really fantastic guide on the best places to visit these amazing animals.
  • Whale watching cruises – San Diego is a great spot for whale watching! With chances to see migratory and resident pods of Gray whales and Blue whales, as well as Humpbacks, Pilot Whales, Fin Whales and even Killer Whales. Whale watching cruises depart year-round from downtown San Diego. One of the best operators is Hornblower Cruises.

HISTORY

  • USS Midway – This aircraft carrier museum is massive and a must-see for any Top Gun fan!
  • Old Town – Though a bit touristy, Old Town is still worth a visit. Dating to 1769, Old Town San Diego was California’s first settlement and still retains a lot of the historic charm with old buildings featuring Spanish-style architecture. Come here to shop for souvenirs, enjoy some hearty Mexican food, and experience living history programs.
  • Gaslamp Quarter – The Gaslamp Quarter is the heart of downtown San Diego. The Victorian architecture speaks to the history of the area, but today the real attraction is the nightlife – with plentiful bars, clubs and restaurants around, as well as many hotels.
  • Cabrillo National Monument – This monument explores the discovery of San Diego by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Visitors can learn all about Cabrillo’s life, as well as the 16th century exploration industry. This is also a great spot to whale watch from land.
  • Hotel Del Coronado – While I’ll mention this hotel again in my “Where to Stay” guide, the history of this property is so rich that it’s worth mentioning here as well. Built in 1888, this National Historic Landmark is the second largest wooden structure in the United States. Made famous in the film, Some Like it Hot, the hotel is an icon in San Diego. Even if you don’t stay at “The Del” (as it’s referred to locally), I’d recommend coming for a cocktail by the sea, or for its famed Sunday brunch.

THE ARTS + SPORTS

  • La Jolla Playhouse – One of the things I thought I’d miss most about NYC was the world-class theatre right at my doorstep. However, the Playhouse is a breeding ground for Broadway and features about a half a dozen shows a year (a mix of plays and musicals) with enormous talent. Tip: Don’t miss the chocolate chip cookies at the concession stand!
  • Padres Game – No explanation needed here, but I do love the fact that the stadium is right in the heart of the city.
  • Del Mar Racetrack – Del Mar, in North County, is horse country and going to the race track is a San Diego tradition. The racing season in Del Mar runs from mid-July through Labor Day and then again from early November to early December.

GET OUTDOORS

  • Hike Torrey Pines – This State Reserve is famous for its rugged coastline and Pacific views. There are plenty of hiking trails to choose from and you can even walk down to the beach.
  • Go Surfing – Surfing is California’s favorite pastime and you will find no shortage of enthusiasts in San Diego. There are plenty of surf shops offering classes and lessons but if you’d rather just spectate, head to any ocean pier and you can watch locals take on the waves.
  • Mission Bay Boating – Mission Bay is a man-made saltwater lagoon just south of Pacific Beach. The area is massive and with calm waters, its the perfect playground for water sport rentals – from paddleboarding, to jetskis, pontoons and speedboats – you can find almost everything here!
  • Beaches – This is an obvious one, but the top beaches central to San Diego are: Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, La Jolla Shores and Coronado.
  • Biking – While everyone is scootering around these days, I’m still partial to my old fashioned beach cruiser. The boardwalks by the beach are perfect for biking!

7 TIPS TO STAY HEALTHY WHILE TRAVELING

  • Pack your vitamins!​ Personally, I swear by Juice Plus+. Made with freeze dried fruits and vegetables, a handful of these capsules every morning powers me with the nutrients of dozens of fruits and veggies. When you’re on the road, your daily consumption of fresh produce likely declines, and Juice Plus+ is the perfect way to boost your immune system and energy without packing your entire fridge with you. If you’re interested in trying, you can learn more ​here​!
  • Find an on-the-go workout routine.​ When traveling, I definitely don’t crush the same workouts I do at home, but I love to find a way to sweat at least a couple of the days I’m gone. ​Classpass​ is a great option for city trips, because you can swap your location with the tap of a button and try out a local class. But if you’re not a ClassPass member, just find a local studio and do a drop-in – many of them offer a discounted (or free!) rate for your first class, and “out-of-towner” packages ideal for an extended stay. I also love, love the ​Tone It Up app​ for quick and easy workouts you can do in your hotel room at any time!
  • Pick up some quick dry leggings.​ As much as I love packing in a sweat sesh on vacation, I hate packing my sweaty workout clothes with me throughout a trip. So, whenever I travel, I always pack my ​Booty By Brabants​ leggings. At one size fits all, the material on these leggings is super stretchy and dries quickly – perfect for the plane to the gym. Plus they are flattering on literally everyone. Get yours here! (pictured above!)
  • Pack your reusable water bottle. ​Plane travel can be super dehydrating. Plus when you’re on the go, you’re likely drinking a lot less water than you do when sitting (and sipping) at your desk all day. I have so many reusable water bottles, but my favorite is the ​Liquid Hardware​ vacuum insulated water bottle that I got from my stay at Amangani last year. It keeps cold cold and hot hot for so, so long. I usually pack this in my bag and fill it up at the airport before boarding – that way I have plenty of water to sustain me on the flight.
  • Try local healthy food spots.​ Healthy, real food is so IN right now. Which means when you’re traveling to a new city or location for work or for fun, it’s not all about trying that oversized ice cream sundae or local burger joint. You can research the trendy health spots for your destination and check them out – a great way to explore local favorites while still maintaining your healthy habits. And healthy doesn’t mean it’s not delicious!
  • Get Outdoors.​ Whether you’re in a city or at a resort, going for a long walk or jog is a great way to get in a lighter workout while getting out and seeing the sights. Sometimes on vacation, I don’t feel like doing a traditional workout in the gym, but easily rack up 5 miles walking around a city without even trying. If your location isn’t conducive to walking or jogging, look for other outdoor active options like kayaking, paddleboarding, snowshoeing, skiing, etc.
  • Book some time at the spa. Healthy isn’t just about exercise and eating right. Today we consider “wellness” to have many different meanings, and that includes taking care of ourselves. On vacation, you deserve that extra hour of sleep, a long hot bath, and some relaxing spa treatments. Stress takes such a toll on our well-being – not only mentally, but also physically. Taking care of your mind and your body will do wonders for your overall health.

WHERE TO SPEND FESTIVE 2019

Here we are in the beginning of July – ready for beach days, backyard BBQs and lots of ice cream. But believe it or not, it’s time to start thinking about the holidays. With work slowing down and kids on break from school, festive season is one of the most popular times of year to travel. To avoid limited availability and high pricing, it’s best to think ahead! Here are some of my favorite ideas for Festive 2019:

BEACH RETREAT: COSTA RICA

A lot of families will head off to the Caribbean or Mexico for some R&R over the holidays, but Costa Rica is a great alternative. The beaches on the Pacific coast are pristine, with great surfing and plenty of activities. For families looking to mix in some adventure with their beach retreat, you can easily include a few days in the rainforest or a trip to the Arenal volcano.

SKI VACATION: ZERMATT

Snow can be a bit tricky in December – you never know if you’ll have a foot of powder or be skiing on ice. But Zermatt, in the Swiss Alps, is fairly reliable when it comes to early season snow. The snow depth in Zermatt at the beginning of the season has averaged 5+ feet over the last 8 years. Plus, Zermatt is easy to travel to via train from Zurich or Geneva. And once you’re there, you needn’t worry about a car in this quaint, pedestrian village. Bonuses: Views of the famed Matterhorn, cheese fondue, and Swiss hot chocolate!

QUINTESSENTIAL CULTURE: THE COTSWOLDS

I have a hard time imagining a more idyllic Christmas than one spent in the Cotswolds in the English countryside. With just a hop over the pond, you’ll live out your Downton Abbey dreams – attending horse races, shooting sporting clays or practicing falconry, and sipping spiced tea in the afternoons by the fire. Not to mention, you’ll get to enjoy all the delicacies of a traditional English Christmas – from Yorkshire pudding to mince pies!

WILD ADVENTURE: LAPLAND

If seeing the Northern Lights is on your life list, then head to Lapland in Northern Scandinavia. Though sunlight will be limited, there’s plenty to do – from polar plunges to Finnish saunas, mushing with huskies to searching for reindeer, snowmobiling to ice fishing – you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime. And the chance of seeing the majestic Aurora Borealis dance through the Arctic night sky is pretty high!

We have plenty more ideas on unique places to spend the holidays. We’d love to work with you on a memorable vacation – please contact us here to start planning!