About Travel Features Syndicate

Karen Rubin is an eclectic travel writer who has been spanning the globe for more than 30 years reporting on interesting, intriguing people and places to explore for magazines, newspapers and online. She publishes Travel Features Syndicate in newspapers and online including examiner.com, Huffington Post and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate and blogs at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. "Travel is a life-changing and an interactive experience that mutually benefits travelers and community." Contact Karen at FamTravLtr@aol.com. 'Like' us at www.facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Just Ahead Voted Among Top 5 Best New Travel Apps

Just Ahead (http://www.justahead.com/), an award-winning smartphone app for road tripping through national parks, was recently voted a top five Best New Travel App by USA Today 10 Best readers. USA Today’s 10Best.com provides users with original, unbiased and experiential travel coverage of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the US and around the world.

 

This distinction wraps up Just Ahead’s first full year of producing distinctive GPS-guided smartphone audio tours of this country’s most dramatic landscapes. To date, Just Ahead has concentrated on narrations on the lore and not-to-miss features of national parks in the West. It has produced 13 audio tours covering 15 national parks and monuments, and is gearing up to extend its coverage nationwide. Scheduled for early 2016 release are Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, Petrified Forest National Park and Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, and South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, and Badlands National Park. 

In addition to the USA Today honor, Just Ahead has been named Best Travel App by the North American Travel Journalists Association and Best App by the editors of Sunset magazine.

The Just Ahead mobile app turns an Apple or Android smartphone into a hands-free audio guide to the most beautiful places on earth by delivering professionally written and narrated audio tours to vacationers who want an informed travel experience as they drive.

Just Ahead utilizes GPS technology to know exactly where drivers are on the road, and delivers stories and maps relevant to their exact location. The groundbreaking app points out not-to-miss features while also helping drivers avoid getting lost. It suggests directions and tells drivers why they should turn or not, what they should do after a turn, and the best direction to take if there are multiple route options.

A satisfied user had this to say about the app and tour guide, “LOVE this idea! It’s like you went into my brain and pulled out something I never even knew that I wanted but now can’t think to live without.”

Just Ahead guides are currently available for the following National Parks: Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Zion & Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands & Arches, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain. Many additional park and road-trip guides are in production.

The Just Ahead app is a free download available through the Apple App Store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android), and each destination guide is available as an in-app purchase. Guides range from $7.99 to $9.99 and include a free trial and free guide updates.

Just Ahead’s award-winning audio guides work without an Internet connection or phone service and use a smartphone’s GPS to deliver hands-free, customized audio tours based on a vehicle’s location. The guides and built-in maps also provide helpful suggested directions, and offer more points of interest and stories than any other GPS audio travel app. Ideal for families, Just Ahead’s audio guides help create shared experiences, conversations, and memories that will last a lifetime. The Just Ahead app is a free download, and each destination guide is available as an in-app purchase that includes free guide updates.

For more information, visit www.justahead.com.

 

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Newly Launched Triller App for iPhone Lets You Turn Vacation Experience into Celebrity-Quality Music Video

Triller™, a game-changing music video maker app for iPhone®, lets you turn your vacation experiences into a celebrity-quality music video you can instantly share.

Just in time for the family vacation season, what a way to engage children in their experience, creating their own celebrity-quality music video on their iPhone! Launching today, Triller™, a game-changing music video maker app for iPhone®, can be downloaded today for free on the App Store℠.

(PRESS HERE to download today for free on the App Store℠)

Triller is the first of its kind, allowing users to create lip sync videos for their favorite songs with an editing algorithm that uses intelligent audio and facial analysis to decide when to cut. Music fans simply pick a song, choose a section of the song, and shoot a few video takes. Then with the push of a button, Triller edits the takes together to create a stunning music video.

PRESS HERE to watch a preview of the app.

Triller is the creation of award-winning music video director Colin Tilley, — director of videos for Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Jason Derulo, Lil Wayne among others – who helped design Triller’s beautiful filters and its editing algorithm, and app developers David Leiberman and Sammy Rubin (creators of Mibblio®, the first interactive musical storybook, and the chart-topping Disney Frozen: Karaoke).

Rounding out the Triller team is Matt Graham, President of BRND MGMT and manager of major pop artists such as Cody Simpson.

“With Triller, you don’t have to be Colin Tilley to make a music video that looks like it was shot by Colin Tilley,” said Leiberman. “The app truly democratizes the music video creation process. Whether you’re hanging in the park with friends or an artist on tour, Triller makes it easy and fun to create great-looking music videos.”

Triller lets you make celebrity-quality music videos with your iPhone. With auto-editing technology powered by a proprietary algorithm, the app takes the hard work out of making a music video so you can just focus on being creative and having fun.

You simply pick a song, select the portion of the song you want to use, shoot a few takes, and with the tap of a button you have produced your own celebrity-quality music video starring yourselves which you  can share instantly with friends and family right from inside the app.

Not only is Triller easy to use, but it offers infinite creative possibilities with stylish filters, zooming capability, and even the power to tweak the video’s edit to the individual’s liking. Once users create their videos, they can either share publicly to social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, share privately to their friends via text message or WhatsApp, or just save to their camera roll.

Artists like Alli Simpson are already using Triller as a tool to make music videos more easily, and social media stars such as Selfie C are sharing videos set to their favorite songs with their Instagram followers.

“My editing friends and I always knew the iPhone was gonna lead to some kind of game-changer in video editing,” said Tilley. “Triller is it, and I’m really excited to be involved.”

Triller is available for free on the App Store. For more information, visit www.triller.co.

Follow Triller on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vine to stay up to date on new versions, featured videos and the latest contests.

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Vakast Introduces Personalized Concierge Service for Online Vacation Home Rentals

Villa Cristina is a charming 2 bedroom house in Sorrento, Italy, which can be rented for $206 per night

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.— Vakast, an online travel agency with the largest inventory of vacation rentals, has introduced a Concierge program offering 24/7/365 live customer support and assistance for its guests and VIP members worldwide.

Billed as a “virtual concierge with a human touch,” Vakast aims to bridge the gap between a traditional hotel concierge and a virtual assistant by recommending and booking amenities and activities anywhere its guests travel.

“Our clients are requesting expert guidance in creating personalized, authentic experiences, which has been lacking in the vacation rental industry to date,” said Monique Berry, COO, Vakast. “Our goal is to take care of our guests by providing services to meet all of their travel needs. Whether our members need concert tickets or want to try shark diving, Vakast’s Concierge team can tap into trusted resources across the globe, eliminating the time consuming process of booking from multiple sites or agencies.”

Working with its integrated, proprietary database, the Vakast Concierge team can assist with arranging a range of services, from the expected to the exotic, in the categories of Food & Drink, Home Services, Spa/Beauty, Entertainment, Entertainers, Activities, Classes, Mail Service, and Professional Referrals. Whether members are planning a special event or traveling for business or pleasure, Vakast’s Concierge team is trained to find top and highly rated service providers worldwide.

Vakast works with dozens of industry partners to pull vacation rentals all over the spectrum, from condos to castles. Partners include HomeAway, HouseTrip, Wimdu, Villas of Distinction and many other smaller firms, giving Vakast a wide breadth and range of offerings. Vakast has access to 1.5 million properties in 196 countries They are the only vacation rental aggregator to have a full staff of travel specialists working 24/7 to help guests not only book their vacation rental, but any other travel needs they might have.

The Vakast Luxury line pulls only the most exclusive villas and estates – but you can find plenty of budget-friendly apartments, condos, and homes on the site as well with pricing starting at $100 per night.

Examples of properties include the incredible Black Rock Estate in Lahaina, Maui: http://www.vakast.com/myproperty/160000037/

Villa Cristina, a charming 2 bedroom house in Sorrento, Italy, which can be rented for $206 per night: http://www.vakast.com/myproperty/32005911/

This beautifully decorated 2 bedroom lot in Venice, CA is perfect for a trendsetter’s getaway: http://www.vakast.com/myproperty/50017992/

Vakast’s Concierge service is available free of charge for one week prior and through the duration of a trip booked via Vakast.com. For ongoing assistance, Vakast offers a range of membership packages to provide clients with day and night year round access to their team of trained specialists, whether the member is home or on the road.

Vakast Concierge Membership plans include:

Vakast Premier (VP) Concierge

Length of Coverage:  One Year

Membership Required:  Yes

Cost:  $300 ($25 every month)

Services:  All

Perfect For:  Frequent travelers, corporations, families, groups and gifts.

Terms:  Transferrable up to five pre-appointed travelers.

Cancellation allowed prior to six-month renewal period.

 

7 Carat Concierge

Length of Coverage:  One Year

Membership Required:  Yes

Cost:  $150 ($75 every six-months.)

Services:  All

Perfect For:  Families, groups, business and overseas travelers.

Terms:  Non-transferrable. Cancellation allowed prior to six-month renewal period.

 

30/30 Concierge

Length of Coverage:  30 days

Membership Required:  No

Cost:  $30 (one time fee)

Services:  All (excluding Airline bookings)

Perfect For:  Families, groups, business and overseas travelers.

Vakast Concierge is available now by calling (855) 397-0180 or visiting http://www.vakast.com/.

 

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HotelsByDay Introduces Mobile App to Book Intra-Day, Short Hotel Stays in US Cities

HotelsByDay has introduced an app to enable travelers to book short-term, intra-day stays at hotels in New York City and other major cities © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

NEW YORK  – A new travel technology company, HotelsByDay, has launched aiming to facilitate booking flexible, same-day hotel stays in top U.S. markets. The technology provides access via mobile app on I-Phone and Android, and online, to short-term rooms available in New York City, Chicago,  Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, which new cities  added every month.

The service is geared to business and leisure travelers to work comfortably,  refresh after a long flight, enjoy a daycation in a luxury hotel or to simply upgrade from the crowded coffee shop to a business class experience.

Intra-day rooms – that is, staying between check out and check in time – can be booked via mobile apps for Android and iPhone or through the website HotelsByDay.com.

“Prior to HotelsByDay, there was not an easy or affordable way to book an upscale hotel for less than a day,” said HotelsByDay co-founder Yannis Moati. “Younger travelers want spontaneity and instant access to last-minute bookings via their mobile device. The HotelsByDay app offers a sleek and easy way to peruse and find a hotel tailored to each individual traveler’s needs, from free WiFi and a spacious desk to a posh rooftop pool and bar.”

Founded by an experienced team of hotel and travel technology leaders, HotelsByDay has uncovered a sharing economy opportunity that benefits the hospitality industry by marketing clean, empty rooms to mobile travelers.  Defined as the time between early check-outs and late check-ins, the intra-day segment is an estimated $20 billion global market. In the U.S. alone, 23 percent of hotel rooms are empty each night, and 11 percent more are available for intra-day bookings due to early check-outs/late check-ins. That results in 34 percent of all U.S. hotel rooms being available for intra-day stays.

The HotelsByDay app offers a sleek and easy way to find and book intra-day stays in 3-, 4- and 5-star hotels in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.  HotelsByDay will add intra-day inventory in Los Angeles, Miami and Fort Lauderdale in March, with San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, and Charlotte soon after.

The HotelsByDay mobile app uses geo-location to display intra-day rooms based on the user’s location.  The easy-to-book interface means a last minute reservation is only seconds away.  Users can browse hotels by time available, location, amenities and price. Intra-day stays are generally morning, mid-day or afternoon and range from four hours to eight hours depending on hotel availability. Travelers also have the option of booking up to two months in advance via the app or website.

Top use cases include:

Business Travelers in need of a quiet, private room to:

  • Work remotely from on a business trip
  • Participate in a conference call in a secure environment
  • Prepare for a presentation
  • Recover and refresh from a red-eye flight
  • Work or nap while waiting for a late night flight
  • Work in between meetings
  • Shower and change after a run while on the road

Leisure Travelers and Day Trippers:

  • Family travelers in need of a quiet room for kids to nap or simply downtime
  • Shoppers in need of a place to rest and/or store purchases
  • Eventcationers in the city for a concert, gala, or sporting event who need a place to freshen up and change
  • Cruisers needing a place to rest pre- and post-cruise
  • Place to rest while waiting out a long layover
  • Oasis for a staycation

The short-term bookings can be made via mobile apps for Android and iPhone, or online at HotelsByDay.com.

 

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Historic Hotels of America™ Launches Romance Super Site, Guide to Getaways, Weddings, Celebrations

Jekyll Island Club, Georgia, a member of Historic Hotels of America which has just launched a super site dedicated to romance © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

WASHINGTON, DC- Looking for a weekend getaway or a romantic vacation or a destination wedding? HistoricHotels.org/Romance is your source for romance inspired travel and heartfelt ideas. Use Historic Hotels of America as your guide to plan a luxury retreat, a garden wedding, or a romantic night out on the town. From romantic escapes to reunions, weddings to honeymoons and of course, anniversaries, Historic Hotels of America turns romantic celebrations into life’s most cherished moments. With over 260 historic hotels, inns, and resorts, Historic Hotels of America is home to the largest collection of romantic hotels. When history meets romance, nothing can be sweeter.

Historic Hotels of America has launched its all new romantic escapes e-guide, featuring more than 150 pages of new and expanded content highlighting its most romantic historic hotels, more content and destinations continue to be added. From romantic getaways to reunions, weddings to honeymoons and anniversaries, the new HistoricHotels.org/Romance puts romantic historic hotels and destinations in the spotlight, turning romantic celebrations into life’s most cherished moments. HistoricHotels.org/Romance has a number of inspirational sections for travelers to peruse the site’s many romantic escapes, including:

Romantic getaways. Historic Hotels of America has romantic inns, hotels, and resorts that blend history, luxury, and location into the ultimate destination, perfect for weekend getaways or vacation stays. Home to one of the world’s largest free-span dome, the West Baden Springs Hotel (1902) in French Lick, Indiana is an architectural wonder and just one of many marvels that will take your beloved’s breath away during your stay. This hotel has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark French Lick Springs Hotel (1845), also located within French Lick Resort boasts a spa that offers the best in tranquility, the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing treatment with your loved one. Travelers can select from more than 30 romantic hotels in the upper Midwest.

Grand Hotel (1887) on Mackinac Island, Michigan is the ideal location for a couple to steal away for a romantic getaway. In addition to the hotel’s five-course dinner served in the Main Dining Room, the Woods Restaurant, an opulent Tudor mansion accessible only by horse-drawn carriage, nestled in the wooded interior of Mackinac Island.

Weddings. Ambiance, architecture and history blend to create a storybook wedding. In Paso Robles, California where orange rays streak through lush gardens, your wedding photos will be works of art thanks to the Paso Robles Inn’s (1891) breathtaking gardens. With a number of outdoor wedding venues to choose from, couples can exchange their vows next to a babbling brook, then dance the night away at a fireside patio reception. Select from more than 19 romantic hotels in California.

Eureka Spring, Arkansas is often known as “The Wedding Capital of The South.” The 1886 Crescent Hotel’s (1886) picturesque location atop West Mountain and its proximity to Thorncrown Chapel make the hotel one of the most photographed wedding ceremony and reception sites in the contiguous six-state region.

Honeymoons. Create the honeymoon experience of your dreams and sweep your new bride or groom off their feet. Historic hotels are the perfect backdrop to set off on your newlywed celebration. The Caribe Hilton San Juan (1949) is the perfect locale for your romantic honeymoon with tranquil waves lapping at the shore of the secluded beach and seductive trade winds swaying into exotic gardens. Guests will come to understand why this AAA Four Diamond award-winning San Juan beach resort is the perfect backdrop for a honeymoon, or select from four romantic hotels in Puerto Rico.

As Waikiki’s only true destination resort, Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort Honolulu (1955) has everything newlyweds will need for the most romantic honeymoon including breathtaking beaches, luxurious accommodations, fine dining, scenic views, and fun activities. Or select from the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa (1901), the first lady of Waikiki, or The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort (1927) the pink palace of the Pacific.

Celebrations. Take time to celebrate life’s special moments. From engagement parties, anniversary getaways and life’s other important celebrations, Historic Hotels of America has just the right setting to commemorate your important milestone. The Lord Baltimore Hotel (1928) in Baltimore, Maryland is the ideal setting for an engagement party, bridal shower, or anniversary party. With a great city-center setting, The Lord Baltimore is the perfect location for all of your out-of-town guests with attractions and shops mere steps away. The French Kitchen sits at the top of the lobby’s grand staircase in the historic mirrored Versailles Room, and focuses on market-driven interpretations of classic French bistro fare, perfect for your special party or event. Travelers can also select from over 28 romantic hotels in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia region.

Reunions. Family history is born out of love and strengthened when those roots are cherished. For this reason, historical, romantic settings lend way for great family reunion inspiration. One of America’s most scenic routes, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect setting for romantic drives and family adventure. Winding through North Carolina, this scenic highway boasts hazy mountains and colorful woodlands, idyllic for a family reunion getaway. The Green Park Inn (1891) in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, is a reunion favorite with generations of history peaking in the High Country mountains. Choose from over 12 hotels in the Carolinas.

“This is a year-round campaign launching in time for Valentine’s Day. Romance is not just one day a year, it is year-round at our historic hotels,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Director, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “Love stories are breathless moments that stand the test of time. Write your next chapter at one of the many Historic Hotels of America, where ambiance, architecture, and history blend to create timeless romance. Historic Hotels of America is the largest collection of the most romantic hotels anywhere. Whether you’re courting, celebrating, rekindling, or reminiscing, we have the romantic escape for you.”

From booking a romantic getaway with your stunning sweetheart or planning the next family reunion, take a look on HistoricHotels.org/Romance where Every Day is Valentine’s Day at Historic Hotels of America.

Historic Hotels of America® is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation® for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels. Founded in 1989 with 32 charter members, today, Historic Hotels of America has more than 260 historic hotels. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 44 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated properties.  More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, visit HistoricHotels.org.

To receive the free Discover & Explore e-newsletter each month with advance notice about Insiders Savings, special discounts, epic package, and up and coming events in historic hotels in 30 countries, plus free or reduced rate admission to historic and cultural sites, click here.

To view the Historic Hotels of America 2015 Annual Directory eBook, click here.

 

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Not Just for Valentine’s Day: From Paris to Prague, Phuket to Palm Beach, Romance is in the Air

Jekyll Island Club, Georgia, an island retreat, is a member of Historic Hotels of America © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Romance, like beauty, is clearly in the mind of the beholder. And while we mark romantic occasions with chocolates, flowers, teddy bears, even jewelry, it is a feeling, an experience, ephemeral and effervescent. Travel evokes that same kind of excited sensibility, being together in some new (romantic) place. What could be more romantic than whisking away to Paris or Prague, Phuket or Palm Beach. So here are just a sampling of travel treats – and a suggestion: if you can’t actually get away for Valentine’s Day, the promise of a getaway, and all that anticipation that is evoked, is romance itself.

Here are some ideas to inspire you:

To find a romantic place for your getaway, you can’t go wrong with Historic Hotels of America, a membership organization of hotels and resorts  which tend to be the grand dames that have distinct personalities, character, and a very special sense of place and sensational ambiance. Also, they tend to hearken back to an era of style and service. The website, www.historichotels.org, has a whole section on “Romantic Getaways” (historichotels.org/romance).

For example, Cavallo Point (dating from 1901) in San Francisco, California, a sustainable luxury hotel, known for its green living. Resort amenities include shuttle service to San Francisco and Sausalito, morning yoga class, access to Healing Arts Center & Spa and outdoor meditation pool, daily afternoon wine hour, and valet parking.

Also: The Heathman Hotel-Portland, Oregon (where we stayed, and which is set right in the heart of the city’s cultural center, but more to the point, The Heathman Hotel-Portland served as one of the settings in the popular and romantically themed 50 Shades of Grey book and has many extravagant and romantic services and packages available for guests with romance in mind); Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York, one of the last remaining Gold Coast mansions; the Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods, NH (stay and ski free); The Vinoy Renaissance, St. Petersburg, Fla.  Another on my list of favorites is the Jekyll Island Club Resort, on a Georgia island (island destinations have particular romantic appeal). The list goes on and on.  You can get ideas for romantic getaways and destinations at historichotels.org/romance.

Established over a century ago, Relais & Châteaux (www.relaischateaux.com) is an association of some of the world’s finest hoteliers, chefs and restaurateurs that has set the standard for excellence in hospitality by emphasizing holistic experiences. Relais & Chateaux member, Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa, is on the Ontario side of Niagara Falls, which once was the world capital for honeymoons and romance. To find Relais’ most romantic locations and packages, visit www.relaischateaux.com/en/sejours/romantique.

As a group, you can’t go wrong with Kimpton Hotels, which pioneered and continues to set the standard for boutique hotels. The group currently has 62 hotels and resorts in 26 cities in the US, including the charming Hotel Monaco in Washington DC, and nine boutique hotels in San Francisco, where the company began. Special touches include free WiFi (standard), a nightly hosted wine hour. complimentary use of bikes, and if the love of your life is your pet, Kimpton accommodates them too at no extra charge (kimptonhotels.com).

Small Luxury Hotels of the World

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday this year, there is no better excuse to surprise loved ones by whisking them off on a romantic weekend. Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) offers a whole host of specially-designed packages around the world. For those that aren’t able to get away for the actual day, there are plenty of other special Valentine-themed treats at SLH hotels. Here’s a selection of some of the packages that are still available; for more Valentine’s ideas, visit slh.com):

Carmo’s Boutique Hotel, Ponte de Lima, Portugal: Sitting in the oldest town in Portugal, Carmo’s Boutique Hotel is an intimate and stylish residence where you can experience the traditions, cultural heritage and romance of the beautiful Minho region. SLH’s two night Romantic Saint Valentine’s Getaway at Carmo’s features Portuguese cuisine, fine wines, candles, spa treatments and other romantic surprises. The package, valid Feb. 13-15, includes breakfast and evening meals including a gourmet Portuguese dinner with matching wines-and a traditional candlelit meal with live music and a champagne toast. It also includes two aromatherapy massages an in-room hot bath ritual and access to the pool and Jacuzzi at Carmo’s spa.

Hôtel Juana, Juan Les Pins, on the French Riviera: Nestled amidst a pine tree forest and just steps away from the Mediterranean, the Art Deco styled Hôtel Juana is wonderfully understated and ideal for a romantic getaway, close to both the beach and the chic town of Antibes. SLH’s Sweet Valentines package allows couples experience the glamour and romance of the French Riviera with a night’s accommodation, a Valentine dinner in the hotel’s trendy new restaurant “Bistrot Terrasse”, homemade chocolates on arrival and breakfast the following day.

The Ampersand Hotel, in London’s South Kensington is serving a dedicated Valentine’s Afternoon Tea in the romantic setting of the hotel’s Drawing Room, with freshly baked white chocolate heart-shaped scones, savory gougères and a selection of other romance-inspired sweet pastries. Throughout February, The Ampersand is also inviting guests to personalize their pillows with a special message or image for a unique Valentine’s gift. The hotel will print a design of your choice onto two crisp white pillows, ready to surprise your other half when they’re about to lay their head for the night.

Château de l’Ile, Strasbourg, France: For the archetypal Valentine’s treat in a 19th century castle, complete with an extravagant French candlelit meal, live music, indulgent spa treatment and plenty of Champagne, look no further than Château de l’Ile. The enchanting castle sits in parkland on the banks of the sleepy River Ile and is a wonderful setting to while away a romantic few days. The one night Romantic Valentine’s Break offered by SLH includes a four course dinner of exquisite local French fare with Champagne and live music, half bottle of Champagne in the room, buffet breakfast and a spa treatment in the Asian Villa spa, which also has a sauna, Hamman and swimming pool.

L Hotel Seminyak Bali, Indonesia: The focus at L Hotel Seminyak Bali is on ultimate relaxation, rejuvenation and re-energizing, making it a peaceful retreat to spend some quality time with a loved one. With SLH’s Valentine Package, guests will experience a Balinese massage and special Indonesian dinner in the cozy restaurant Lola, featuring the aptly-named Love Bar for an intimate after dinner cocktail. Every guest is assigned a personal butler on arrival, dedicated to servicing their every need during their stay, while guests on the Valentine package will also receive special romantic gifts and amenities in their room.

The Bannister Hotel, Samana, Dominican Republic: Nestled between the mountains and the sea on the Samana Bay coastline on the north east of the Dominican Republic, the intimate Bannister Hotel has a two night My Funny Valentine package that offers couples an automatic upgrade to a Deluxe Ocean View Suite, breakfast each morning at the hotel’s Le Deauville Restaurant, and a three course romantic dinner with a glass of sparkling wine at the Café del Mar.

Anticavilla Hotel, Cuernavaca, Mexico: Romance is the theme of the month at Anticavilla Hotel in the heart of Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City, which has special Valentine’s menus at its Maikiki Spa and at its VerdeSalvia restaurant. The specially-curated spa menu for couples offers guests side-by-side massages in the candle-lit private couple’s suite with an ‘antioxidant’, ‘relaxing’ or ‘activate your senses’ package. The packages include a full body chocolate exfoliating massage and antioxidant facial.

The Chesterfield Hotel, Palm Beach: Sitting along the palm-lined boulevards of Florida’s elegant Palm Beach, the historic Chesterfield Hotel offers couples the perfect combination of beach, city, nightlife and award-winning dining for a Floridian romance. SLH’s Lover’s Escape package at The Chesterfield Hotel includes a bottle of Champagne, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a single red rose on arrival, a romantic turndown with rose petals and candles, and English breakfast the following morning.

What a View! Bavaria’s Sightsleeping Hotels

Bavaria’s collection of Sightsleeping® hotels are a new option in experiential travel, where arts and culture are as important in the hotel where you stay as they are in the destination you visit.

Membership in this exclusive collection, which is under the aegis of the Bavarian Tourism Organization, is based on agreement by a jury of art experts, professional designers, journalists and tourism experts based on their aesthetics. Their motto: “Sleeping with an eye for art”.

“Sightsleeping® stands for a new type of travel, in which the hotel experience plays a central role. You are as you sleep. The arts are your muse,” explains theme manager Kristina Nagl.

For example, you can stay in a castle hotel like Burg Wernberg; a design hotel like the InterContinental Berchtesgaden; or a traditional Bavarian style like Hotel Maximillian.

Included among Bavaria’s Sightsleeping Hotels is the 12th century castle, Hotel Burg Wernberg (photo supplied by Bavaria Tourist Office).

Included among the Sightsleeping Hotels is the 12th century castle Hotel Burg Wernberg. Painstakingly restored and furnished with all contemporary luxuries, each room is individually appointed with antiques and designer furniture. The picturesque courtyard, the romantic chapel and the elegant ballroom draw visitors to the castle, which is part of Relais & Chateaux. Burg Wernberg’s gourmet ”Kastell“ restaurant of Michelin star-awarded chef Thomas Kellermann is the epicurean heart of this hotel. A short walk from the castle is the ”Gedankengebäude“ – the contemporary seminar building created by the Milan based designer Michele de Lucchi with its airy wood and glass construction stands in sharp contrast to the ancient walls of the castle. The castle is set in the heart of the Upper Palatinate forest nature reserve. Golfing fans need only to travel just a short distance from Burg Wernberg to the Schwanhof golf club which has an 18-hole landscaped course designed by the US-Open champion Jerry Pate.

Staying at the Landhausvilla Eichholz is like sleeping in a 21st century “Russenhaus”. This Sightsleeping-Hotel is noted for its wonderfully atmospheric rooms and suites with paintings by Gina Feder adorning the walls and sculptures in the Karl-Förster garden, which dates back to 1935. Enter one room and you will be met by Antoni Tàpies, in another you will be greeted by a print by Tom Wesselmann. Exhibitions, readings, concerts, painting and sculpting courses are staged. Adjacent to the Art-Hotel am Eichholz is Feder’s art gallery in Murnau displaying  paintings, sculptures, photographs, objets d’art in wood, glass and ceramics by international artists. Art lovers will also enjoy trips to the Murnau castle museum, the Münter Haus and the Buchheim Museum in Bernried. The lakes around Murnau, the amazing panoramas of the Upper Bavarian mountains and the Zugspitze itself  provide artists with plenty of inspiration.

So far, there are 43 hotels in the collection. The Sightsleeping® jury meets each year to decide which new candidates to admit. Information about Sightsleeping® hotels, events and a downloadable catalogue are available at http://www.bavaria.us/sightsleeping-hotels-bavaria.

Seven Most Romantic Hotels in the Czech Republic

Walking in castle gardens, dinner in a gazebo lit only by candles, a top wellness center where pampering is the order of the day. The Czech Republic is inviting you to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the spirit of undying romance.

Prague – rustic-style luxury under Prague Castle: The 4-star Romantik Hotel U Raka offers a fusion of luxurious facilities with the romance of the streets of Old Prague. The intimate atmosphere of the hotel built in a rustic style is enhanced by an open fire in indoor and outdoor areas, a garden full of herbs and the luxurious, but cozy room interiors. The history of the building U Raka, of which the hotel is part, dates back to 1739, when stables were built there. The whole area of the hotel is a registered historic landmark and captivates with its unique atmosphere and location in the heart of Prague. The hotel has an art gallery (www.romantikhotel-uraka.cz/en/).

Aristocratic tradition in the castle chambers of Central Bohemia: The ecological five star castle hotel Chateau Mcely offers an elegant castle interior, wine cellar from the 17th century and spa. 23 castle hotel rooms and suites, the patio restaurant Piano Nobile (winner of the national competition for the best restaurant) and the castle park with an outdoor jacuzzi and sauna house are used by romantics and lovers of luxury wellness holidays. The hotel also offers specially adapted children’s apartments for princesses, baby baths, tea parties and picnics held in the park or alchemical mixed drinks according to medieval recipes (www.chateaumcely.cz/en/)

Renaissance romance in the heart of Český Krumlov: One of the most extraordinary boutique hotels in the Czech Republic with the poetic name Rose, is situated in the building of the former Jesuit college from the 16th century and the local university. The hotel features original Renaissance elements, ancient frescoes and paintings. The Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav and the Oscar-winning director Miloš Forman as well as former president Václav Havel, have stayed at the hotel which opened in 2000. Steeped in the heritage of the Rosenbergs, the hotel is located in the heart of the historic center of a city registered on the UNESCO list of cultural heritage and offers a wellness center with spas built along the lines of spa healers with wooden vats, where it is recommended to pamper your body in peat wraps. (english.janhotels.cz).

Ancient romance in the heart of the city of the Hussites: Hotel Nautilus, a boutique hotel named after Captain Nemo’s submarine, is located in the heart of South Bohemian Tábor surrounded by a landscape dotted with ponds. The spacious rooms with antique furnishings, , oil and acrylic paintings and the stained glass door panels look directly on to the square Žižkovo náměstí. Enjoy Valentine’s Day romance in the region of lakes and ponds and pamper yourself on silken cushions. In the hotel spaces, 380 million old fossils and over 180 million year old limestone tiles, that adorn the bathtubs in hotel rooms, are preserved. On Valentine’s day, have a toast with the local wines offered from the New and Old World (www.hotelnautilus.cz).

Virtuous privacy on the border of Bohemia and Moravia: Halfway between the two largest cities in the Czech Republic, Prague and Brno there is a small village called Počátky, surrounded by two dozen ponds. Summerhouse of St. Adalbert preserves the atmosphere of the so-called First Republic, between the first and second world war), a  haven of luxury for romantic souls escaping the city bustle. It offers 11 exclusive suites and rooms with original antique furnishings with modern elements – large bath tubs placed directly in the bedroom, four-poster beds, original renovated tiled stoves and armorial decoration in the rooms. A stylish atmosphere is also provided by the local restaurant offering contemporary dishes. In nearby Počátky you can also visit Saint Catherine Resort with an extensive spa and wellness center, including massage cabins, steam baths and saunas built according to the principles of pilates, which is practiced daily there, along with yoga (www.svatyvojtech.cz, www.katerinaresort.cz/en).

Luxurious getaway for romantics: The wooden cottages standing on the edge of the deep forest of the Moravian-Silesian Beskids are the ideal choice for romantic adventurers, who seek maximum comfort. The cottages Orlí hnízdo (Eagle’s Nest), Vlčí doupě (Wolf’s Lair) and Medvědí skála (Bear’s Rock) are located on the edge of the forest under the highest mountain in the Czech Republic and can accommodate up to ten people, including children, who can experience a real adventure in the surrounding woods. The fully equipped dining room, home theater connected to a game console, a passive fireplace with a meat smoker, private jacuzzi and sauna provide the guests with every comfort. Let yourself be beguiled by a romantic stay in the unspoiled countryside of the Moravian Beskids (http://chaticka.eu/).

For more information, visit www.czechtourism.com.

TripAdvisor’s Most Romantic Hotels

TripAdvisor has just come out with its 2015 Travelers’ Choice Awards for Top Hotels.. The list is based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected in a single year from TripAdvisor travelers worldwide and feature winners in eight categories, including top hotels for romance:

Top 10 Romance Hotels in the United States

1.       Inn on Oak Creek – Sedona, Arizona

2.       Desert Riviera Hotel – Palm Springs, California

3.       Hotel California – Palm Springs, California

4.       Bardessono – Yountville, California

5.       Wentworth Mansion – Charleston, South Carolina

6.       Old Edwards Inn and Spa – Highlands, North Carolina

7.       Olea Hotel – Glen Ellen, California

8.       Orchid Key Inn – Key West, Florida

9.       The Wine Country Inn – St. Helena, California

10.   Belamere Suites – Perrysburg, Ohio

Top 10 Romance Hotels in the World

1.       The Place Luxury Boutique Villas – Ko Tao, Thailand

2.       Riad Noir d’Ivoire – Marrakech, Morocco

3.       2Inn1 Kensington – Cape Town, South Africa

4.       The Old Rectory Hotel – Martinhoe, United Kingdom

5.       Akademie Street Boutique Hotel – Franschoek, South Africa

6.       La Fortuna at Atitlan – Santa Cruz La Laguna, Guatemala

7.       Anastasis Apartments – Imerovigli, Greece

8.       The Dairy Private Luxury Hotel – Queenstown, New Zealand

9.       La Minerva – Capri, Italy

10.   The Clarence Hotel – Portsmouth, United Kingdom

To see all 8,151 winners of the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards for hotels go to: www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Hotels. Travelers can also follow the conversation on Twitter at #travelerschoice.

More Romantic Getaways

Eau Palm Resort Manalapan, Florida, is reimagining “Palm Beach” luxury with a combination of indulgence and playfulness © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com)

For a grand resort stay and the most indulgent spa experience anywhere, choose the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa which has re-imagined a “new-fashioned” Palm Beach experience with touches that are both unexpected and playfully indulgent. For winter, receive a resort credit of up to $600 for stays through April 19, 2015. (Eau Palm Beach, 100 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan, Fl 33462, 800-328-0170, eaupalmbeach.com).

French-Inspired Weekend Escape to the Westgate Hotel, San Diego:  Valentine’s Day brings out the creativity in hoteliers. For an over-the-top amorous escape, look no further than the The AAA Four Diamond-rated Westgate Hotel, an iconic property in the heart of downtown San Diego designed to rival the mythical palaces of Europe. The glamorous French-inspired locale is offering three getaway packages including the extravagant $3,300 Etre Amoureux package which features a private chef and in-room butler! All packages include an exquisite suite, a romantic four-course dinner for two complete with wine pairings and of course all the traditional Valentine’s Day trappings: roses, chocolate and champagne. (See www.westgatehotel.com/events-promotions/special-events/valentines-day-events, visit www.westgatehotel.com, call 619-238-1818).

La Réserve Paris Hotel and Spa just opened by La Réserve Hospitality Collection following two years of fastidious work by more than 120 artisans. The 40-room hotel and spa,  designed by Jacques Garcia, occupies a Haussmannian mansion previously owned by the designer, Pierre Cardin, off the Champs-Elysées at 42 Avenue Gabriel, tucked away in the 8th Arrondissement – a stone’s throw from the Palais d’Elysée and Place de la Concorde – with views of the Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais, Pantheon, and Luxor Obelisk. La Réserve Paris is a serene escape from the bruit de fond of France’s capital city. Interiors of the 26 spacious suites (including four Presidential Suites) and 14 rooms that pay homage to the chic style of the Belle Époque. The large rooms feature period antique furniture, rich fabrics, regal colors, and muted lighting. It also offers a private lounge, bar, courtyard, smoking parlor, library, and a seasonal French restaurant Le Gabriel, helmed by Jérôme Banctel, former Chef du Cuisine of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Senderens. Suites include personal butler service, and in-room wine coolers.The spa consists of three treatment rooms, gym, sauna, and a 52 foot indoor pool. The treatment menu features the world-renowned Swiss anti-aging treatment, Nescens.La Réserve Paris Hotel and Spa, 42 avenue Gabriel, 75008 Paris – France,  +33 1 53 70 53 70, hotel@lareserve-paris.comwww.lareserve-paris.com/en.

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TripAdvisor Names 2015 Travelers’ Choice Awards for World’s Best Hotels

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives was named the Top Hotel in the World and The Langham Chicago the #1 hotel in the United States, in the 2015 Travelers’ Choice awards. TripAdvisor®, whose travel sites are accessed by 315 million travelers a month, announced the winners.

The 13th annual awards showcase 8,151 winning properties worldwide, covering eight regions around the globe. Travelers’ Choice award winners were determined based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected in a single year from TripAdvisor travelers worldwide. The hallmarks of Travelers’ Choice winners are remarkable service, quality and value.

“TripAdvisor’s community of millions of travelers has helped us highlight some of the very best hotels from around the world,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “The Travelers’ Choice list of thousands of award-winning properties is perfect to inspire travelers as they think about their 2015 travel plans. From opulent, luxury hotels to budget-friendly B&Bs, those looking for an accommodation can research, compare prices and book a Travelers’ Choice property on TripAdvisor, or any other hotel that meets their travel needs.”

Travelers’ Choice awards take into account the quality and quantity of traveler reviews and opinions and traveler ratings specific to each award category. While these are the favorite hotels of travelers around the world, there are some great bargains available when booking on TripAdvisor. The average nightly rate of Travelers’ Choice award-winning Top Hotels on TripAdvisor is $357; Bargain is $91; B&Bs and Inns is $136; Family is $250; Luxury is $482; Romance is $539; Service is $467 and Small Hotels is $563.

A recent survey of TripAdvisor travelers revealed 82 percent of U.S. respondents feel Travelers’ Choice award recognition is important when considering a hotel.

Top 10 Travelers’ Choice Hotels in the U.S:

1. The Langham Chicago, Chicago, Illinois – 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $442. Least expensive month to visit: January ($347)

Since its opening in September 2013, this elegantly modern hotel has impressed TripAdvisor travelers with its commitment to service, luxury, and beyond. Guests praise its 316 spacious rooms that overlook the Chicago River, Mediterranean-inspired Travelle restaurant, and 22,000 square-foot Chuan wellness facility. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “This hotel is simply the best; every effort is taken to make you feel appreciated and comfortable. You are treated like royalty throughout your entire stay.”

2. French Quarter Inn, Charleston, South Carolina – 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $465. Least expensive month to visit: January ($360)

Located in the center of historic Charleston, this 50-room boutique hotel combines the warmth of Southern hospitality with old world elegance for a memorable experience. Guests will feel pampered by the classic, warm décor in shades of red and gold, as well as the host of complimentary snacks and beverages. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “The location is perfect, the rooms immaculate, the wine and cheese, cookies and other surprises were awesome. I could not have had a better night in Charleston.”

3. Bardessono, Yountville, California – 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $805.Least expensive month to visit: December ($545)

In the heart of Napa Valley, travelers are invited to immerse themselves in contemporary luxury at this sustainable LEED certified hotel. Each of the 62 guestrooms can accommodate private in-room spa treatments, while the rooftop pool allows guests to unwind under the California sun. Guests won’t have to travel far for an exquisite meal, as the on-site Lucy Restaurant and Bar offers mouthwatering local fare. “Everything about the Bardessono is wonderful. It is peaceful and quiet. It is beautiful. The service is perfect, with every staff member making clear that their goal is to be helpful,” noted a TripAdvisor reviewer.

4. The Grand Del Mar, San Diego, California – 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $602. Least expensive month to visit: January ($507)

Located within the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, this 249-room Mediterranean estate boasts a state-of-the-art spa, outstanding restaurants and boutique shopping. Outdoors, guests can lounge by the adults-only relaxation pool, hike along the trails surrounding the magnificent property, or hit the links at the championship golf course. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “The Grand Del Mar is the perfect oasis for mind, body, and spirit. From the moment you arrive, the entire staff treats you like royalty, and the facility is elegantly lavish in all the best ways.”

5. Old Edwards Inn and Spa, Highlands, North Carolina – 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $312. Least expensive month to visit: March ($228)

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Old Edwards Inn and Spa offers European-style luxury in a tranquil, rustic setting. Guests will enjoy endless recreation exploring nearby hiking trails, lakes, and waterfalls, while the renowned spa invites travelers to kick back for some world class pampering. “The rooms are beautifully appointed, complete with automatic fireplaces and extra jets in the shower. The staff was friendly and responsive; a truly relaxing place in beautiful surroundings,” added a TripAdvisor reviewer.

6. The Oxford Hotel, Bend, Oregon – 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $370. Least expensive month to visit: January ($306)

 Downtown Bend, just steps from shops, art galleries and world-famous micro-breweries, this “eco-chic” boutique hotel blends luxury, ambiance and outstanding service in all 59 rooms. The premier Cascade Suite comes with a kitchen, large living area, and balcony with sweeping views of the mountains, while the smaller Terrace Suites offer an exclusive King bed and a luxurious bathroom complete with a steam shower and soaking tub. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “Very centrally located, accommodating as well as super kind and friendly. So nice to be right in the hub and still have peace and quiet.”

7. 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville, Bentonville, Arkansas – 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $251. Least expensive month to visit: February ($224)

Boasting 104 rooms designed by architect Deborah Berke, this boutique hotel is also a contemporary art museum that displays curated rotating exhibitions, dynamic installations and live art events. The inviting accommodations feature high ceilings, custom furnishings, and large windows, while maintaining a warm, residential vibe that TripAdvisor travelers rave about. “Details matter and the 21c Museum has them figured out. Check-in is fast, the rooms are very comfortable. The service exceeded any reasonable expectation,” noted a TripAdvisor reviewer.

8. Villas of Grand Cypress, Orlando, Florida – 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $387. Least expensive month to visit: August ($240)

Offering world class amenities, spectacular accommodations, and lush, manicured grounds, this luxurious resort is located within walking distance of a premier golf course. Travelers can also visit nearby amusement parks for a day of fun in the sun, or enjoy a game of tennis or a dip in the pool at the property’s facilities. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “Our villa was spacious, clean and very modern. The bathrooms are beautiful, the beds super comfortable, and the kitchen well-equipped. It was so nice to be able to stay in a villa together rather than separate hotel rooms with no common area.”

9. Tivoli Lodge, Vail, Colorado – 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $327.Least expensive month to visit: May ($147)

Located between Vail Village and Golden Peak, where skiers head onto the mountain, the 66-room Tivoli Lodge is a fantastic option for travelers. Most rooms come with a fireplace and stunning views of the snow covered peaks, while amenities include a fitness center, two outdoor hot tubs, and complimentary fresh baked cookies, hot chocolate, cider and tea. “The rooms are spacious and first-class. The views are breathtaking. The staff was superb. I can honestly say it was one of the finest lodging experiences I have ever had,” noted a TripAdvisor reviewer.

10. The Inn at Lost Creek, Telluride, Colorado – 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $295. Least expensive month to visit: May ($203)

Peacefully surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, this luxury slope side hotel offers 29 charming suites and three studios in the heart of Mountain Village. After a day on the slopes, guests can warm up by a roaring fireplace, or venture out and explore the nearby shops and restaurants. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “From the well-appointed rooms with spectacular views, to the private rooftop Jacuzzi, and the tasty breakfast, this place has it all!”

Additional Select 2015 Winners:

Top Hotel in the World – Gili Lankanfushi Maldives, Lankanfushi, Maldives     2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $1,733

Top Luxury Hotel in the World – The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand     2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $274

Top Luxury Hotel in the U.S. – The Langham, Chicago, Chicago, Illinois     2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $442

Best Bargain Hotel in the World – Lawton Court Hotel, Llandudno, Wales    2015 average nightly rate: $117

Best Bargain Hotel in the U.S. – SeaCoast Inn, Hyannis, Massachusetts     2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $181

Best Hotel for Families in the World – Cavallino Bianco Family Spa Grand Hotel, Ortisei, Italy   2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $646

Best Hotel for Families in the U.S. – Woodloch Pines Resort, Hawley, Pennsylvania   2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $507

Best Hotel for Romance in the World – The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $274

Best Hotel for Romance in the U.S. – Inn Above Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona     2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $203

Top Small Hotel in the World – The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand   2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $274

Top Small Hotel in the U.S. – Palm Springs Rendezvous, Palm Springs, California    2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $230

Best Hotel for Service in the World – The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $274

Best Hotel for Service in the U.S. – Hotel California, Palm Springs, California     2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $139

Best B&B and Inn in the World Millgate Bed & Breakfast, Masham, England  2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $119  

Best B&B and Inn in the U.S. – The Welsh Hills Inn, Granville, Ohio     2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $140

To see all 8,151 winners of the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards for Hotels go to: www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Hotels. Travelers can also follow the conversation on Twitter at #travelerschoice.

TripAdvisor manages and operates websites under 24 brands, collectively accessed by 315 million a month, enabling travelers to plan and book their trip. It offers more than 200 million reviews and opinions covering more than 4.4 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions. the sites operate in 45 countries, including China.

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CellarPass Partners with Yelp to Expand Online Reservations for Wine, Brewery Tastings, Tours

CellerPass, an online reservations system for winery, brewery and distillery tasting rooms and special events, has just announced a strategic partnership with Yelp.

CellarPass, an online reservations system for winery, brewery and distillery tasting rooms and special events, has entered a strategic partnership with Yelp.

With CellarPass, anyone searching for wineries, distilleries and breweries can – with a couple of clicks on their desktop, tablet or mobile device – book tasting experiences and tours 24/7.

Visitors experience all of the benefits familiar to regular CellarPass users, including real-time availability, instant confirmations, and reminder emails, all without ever leaving the Yelp site.

The marketing partnership marks the first integration of a reservation-based platform into Yelp’s new transaction platform, and is a major milestone in the growth of CellarPass.

“This partnership is a tremendous enhancement to our service – it gives our CellarPass member destinations immediate exposure to Yelp’s more than 150 million visitors each year,” said CellarPass co-founder Jonathan Elliman.

In addition to booking with CellarPass through Yelp, now visitors can also have food delivered with the integration of EatStreet, ChowNow and Ordr.in, and book hotel stays through Hipmunk.

Launched in 2010, CellarPass is a leading real-time tour, tasting reservation and ticketing service that offers easy and free access to confirmed tickets and reservations, online or through popular mobile iOS app and mobile-friendly website.

CellarPass enables beer, wine and spirit-lovers to search experiences at the most in-demand destinations in the United States,  plan their visits via CellarPass’ preference-matching search tools, make reservations and, with the guidance from the CellarPass iOS app, navigate to the destination or special event on time.

CellarPass is national although most of the wineries presently are in California, and in New York.  Other areas are being added.

For tasting rooms, CellarPass provides a robust guest management platform for promoting their events to a nationwide audience while connecting with their guests in ways that enhance the visitor experience and build long-lasting relationships.

Follow CellarPass on Facebook at http://facebook.com/cellarpass and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cellarpass. The CellarPass Reservations App is available for download in the Apple App Store and on the company’s mobile-friendly website at www.cellarpass.com/mobile.

 

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Search Engine LagiSatu.com Launches App with Muslim-Friendly Hotel Features

A new app from hotel meta-search engine LagiSatu.com is the first to include MuslimStars rating system. Available for free download at the iTunes and Google Play store, it offers a database of thousands of hotel deals in more than 83,000 destinations. LagiSatu.com compares over 650,000 properties across 83,000 destinations worldwide for users at the accelerated touch of a button.

The service also integrates a proprietary Muslim Stars hotel rating system rendering it the world’s first mobile app to incorporate a Muslim friendly hotel feature.

Compatible with iPhones, iPads, and optimized for iPhone 5, the app is available in several languages including English, Arabic, Indonesian and Malay. Known for a constantly updated stream of superb accommodation deals and detailed listing information, LagiSatu has partnered with juggernauts in global travel including Agoda, Booking.com, Expedia and Airasiago to offer a seamless hotel booking service, from Bangkok to Bora Bora and Manchester to Malaysia.

Developed by a fusion of Malaysian and Austrian travel experts, the LagiSatu team is fronted by Faeez Fadhlillah and Juergen Gallistl. “LagiSatu was the very first travel search engine to come out of Malaysia so it’s fitting that we’re also setting the standard in the fast paced travel app market,” Faeez said,

“The LagiSatu app for iPhone and iPad takes all of the headaches and much of the time out of browsing a never-ending range of sites to source low prices and great deals. Travel can be stressful but booking a room should not be! We’ve taken this philosophy mobile with the launch of the app and focused on helping users sift through relevant hotels, streamline results and pick the perfect property in next to no time. Now people can search our endless options at their own convenience; waiting for the bus, sitting on the train or even as they are setting off on another trip!”

The app analyses hotel providers and creates a shortlist of suggested choices based on the user’s desired destination, dates and amenity preferences. Users can even decide how they want their results to appear for optimum convenience. Ideal for those attempting to source the latest affordable deals, travelers can easily locate suitable options thanks to handy details such as local transport links and user ratings. Travelers can also familiarize themselves with their destination before they arrive, calculate their savings, see the distance between their hotel and a variety of other attractions and points of interest.

To download, visit

iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lagisatu.com-hotel-search/id930903036?mt=8

Android:https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lagisatu

www.lagisatu.com

 

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Japan Tourist Office Introduces New Travel Guides in Conjunction with Expansion of Bullet Train to Hokurku

Kanazawa City, Japan

While celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Shinkansen (Bullet Train) on October 1, the Japan National Tourism Organization has confirmed that the extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen service will open on March 14, 2015.  The Japan National Tourism Organization has launched a new region-focused destination websites of Hokuriku, which hosts collections of Japanese arts and crafts and regional flavors that are unique to Japanese culinary culture.

This extended Shinkansen line runs through the toughest routes across the Japan Alps, which preserved the region’s culture and local craftsmanship less changed for many years, and made Hokuriku a gem of Japanese traditional beauty.  In order to meet the demands for tourism information of the area where the train operates, JNTO has launched a Hokuriku specialized website in the JNTO’s North America website along with an introductory page.  This website shows tourism attractions, historic landmarks, and local culinary and cultural experience in the detailed map for international travelers.  Hokuriku has been receiving an increasing number of foreign travelers who look to beauty of Japanese art and traditional crafts, as the number of international visitors to Japan marked the record high in the first half of 2014, and JNTO is hoping this website to be a momentum of international tourism in Hokuriku.

Although Hokuriku has been known and visited by US travelers, there was no region oriented information for Hokuriku. But once the new Bullet Train starts connecting Tokyo and Hokuriku in just 2 1/2 hours, a rapid growth of tourist traffic expected in the region, and JNTO has decided to put together comprehensive guide.

The website showcases sample itineraries to Hokuriku, covering cultural interest such as crafts, sake and food, all of which are what Hokuriku has been influencing the traditional Japanese culture as the key elements.  Supplementary websites are also linked from this website for details of specific landmarks.

JNTO is also expecting more frequent traffic to many other attractions: Specifically, the gateway to some hidden ski mountains of Myoko is one of the Bullet Train stops, with a spectacular Zen-like wooden dome in the station.  Echigo-Tsumari, one of the hot springs towns in the area, is a playground of contemporary artists from the world, who demonstrate unique art installations in the traditional ryokan facilities that welcome artsy travelers looking for timeless Japanese town with the touch of art.  The town’s Echigo-Tsumari Art Field hosts international art events and projects as frequent as every year, including a Triennale event that have been pioneering contemporary art scenes in Japan since 2000.

Kanazawa is the largest city in Hokuriku, and has places that are familiar from postcards and travel books:  Kenroku-en Garden is one of Japan’s three best Japanese gardens, with distinctive seasonal beauty year around.  Thinly snow-covered cobble stone streets are in the city’s historic Higashi-Chaya District lined with traditional townhouses and tea houses, where visitors almost feel time-travelled back in the feudal era. Kanazawa’s history is filled with arts and crafts thanks to the art-inspired local feudal leader, the Maeda Family.  To this day, Kanazawa still maintains the artist spirit and produces contemporary art scenes that inspire Japan’s modern architecture and design.

Many of the region’s products are gaining popularity in the US market, and Hokuriku brewed sake is particularly famous.  Recently a sake expert and a sake sommelier have developed a sake specialized tour from the US to Hokuriku, and the trip goes behind the scenes of sake breweries as well as the traditional sake craftsmanship.

With the growth in number of US visitors to Japan in the first half of 2014, the JNTO is maintaining the momentum for tourism promotion in the US market with less known regional attractions and cultural experiences that will become much more accessible from major cities like Tokyo and Osaka with the new extension of Hokuriku Shinkansen.

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