River Cruising: For Those Who Wish to See The Sights At A More Leisurely Pace

I’ve never been one to take a cruise; however each time I receive a brochure from   Viking River Cruises, the leader of the pack in this industry, I have to admit that it seems enchanting. There is something about the slow pace of it that is remarkable. You can see the sights, and appreciate the beauty of the land, while still staying in generous and luxurious quarters, and having the time to disembark and take tours that provide you with an opportunity to experience the culture, not just see it.

Normal cruising always sounds like so much fun from all of my friends who use it as their preferred vacation mode. They talk about the food, the dancing, the activities. However, much of the time, they admit that they stay aboard because it is a “hassle” to  disembark. Tours are expensive and crowded. With river tours, it is more like being at a luxury hotel with all the services, coupled with immersion cultural experiences that are tied to the locations that you visit, all for an all-inclusive pricing, including the cost of tours.

Travelers who use river cruising come from all over the world. Consider what dinner conversations might be like with your other travelers on the river cruise? Oh, you can still have bar service 24/7, and dancing. Loads of activities, or just sit back, read, enjoy the sites and get ready for another immersion class. Oh, I think I’ll do that cooking class, or go to the wine tasting. Okay, the wine tasting wins.

There are several river cruise companies from which to choose. All of them offer approximately the same services, with travel throughout the rivers of Europe. The following article published in the Huffington Post, provides the details of the companies and their approaches.

So, for those of you who just love cruising… add river cruising to your travel portfolio. I think you might see me on the Danube.


If You See Tulips, It Must Be Spring

After such a long winter, I think all of us are longing for the first blush a Spring. I looked into my yard and saw daffodils peaking their heads up through the frozen ground. In the article that follows, Laura Pearson, Orbitz Travel Blog  has provided 8 places where you can go to find beautiful reminders that Spring is finally here. The locations are all over the world. They are enchantingly gorgeous this time of year.

If you can’t make it to any of these spots, then try going to your local park to take in the spectacular view of how the landscape changes our view of the world. Or take a trip to Asheville, NC to visit the Biltmore Estate. The gardens there are definitely worth seeing. But if you prefer to start your day with a casual view of what the season may have to offer, then start with these photos and descriptions offered in the article.  It will bring a  smile to your face, and let you know that we have entered a new season. One where the warm glow of the sun shines on your face, filling the air with a sense of newness and possibilities. Oh, how I love Spring.


21c Museum Hotel Opens in Durham

The 21c Museum Hotel Group has done it again. This time opening a contemporary design hotel in downtown Durham, NC. This makes it fourth (4th) hotel with this fast growing boutique hotel group, that knows how to cater to its ever-growing audience. Using the same format that has been used with its other hotels,  they adapted a famous city structure, the Hill Building, located at 111 N. Corcoran Street in downtown Durham (919.956.6700) The Hill Building, originally built in 1937, brings together contemporary design with historic Art Deco.

There are two things that you can count on with this hotel: a beautiful hotel experience (the combination of contemporary art with the restored building), and a great dining experience at the Counting House restaurant.  So, if you are in the Research Triangle area, this is definitely the place that you will want to stay, at least for a while. Read more details in this release.

March 16, 2015 – 21c Museum Hotels announces the opening of its fourth property in downtown Durham (111 N. Corcoran Street; 919.956.6700). 21c Durham is an adaptive reuse of the Hill Building, one of the city’s most iconic structures originally built in 1937. Bringing new life to the building, the property mixes contemporary design with historic Art Deco details and offers 10,500 square feet of contemporary art exhibition space open free of charge to the public, a 125-room boutique hotel and Counting House restaurant. “Downtown Durham is energized with art, culture, education and a dining scene that has been recognized as one of the best in the South,” said Steve Wilson, CEO and Founder of 21c Museum Hotels. “21c Museum Hotels is about contemporary art, warm hospitality, local food, and community. We strive to build not just great places to eat, drink and spend the night, but cultural centers that help reinvigorate urban areas. The revitalization efforts underway in Durham have produced amazing results and we aim to enhance those efforts as we open today and to offer an additional resource for art, social engagement and civic conversations.”

Art at 21c Contemporary art is at the heart of the 21c experience. The company was founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, contemporary art collectors and preservationists who believe in the power of innovative and thought-provoking art to transform communities. 21c Durham presents rotating solo and group exhibitions, site-specific installations and a full roster of cultural programming curated by Museum Director Alice Gray Stites. The property features seven permanent site-specific installations integrated into a variety of spaces around and within the building. Collectively titled Reflecting Transformation, these works reference nature, technology, economics, politics and entertainment to illuminate the evolution of the past into a future-focused present. Works include Duke Riley’s It Will Warm You Twice, a large-scale mosaic made of cigarettes and mini cigars that references the ubiquitous role that tobacco has played in the development and history of Durham, as well as the decline of its influence. Other artists featured are Andrew Erdos, Astrid Krogh, Ned Kahn, Claire Shegog, FUTURERETRIEVAL (Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis) and Leslie Lyons and JB Wilson. The property’s inaugural exhibition Pop Stars! (on view through August) is a multi-media exploration of popular culture a decade and a half into the 21st Century featuring more than 100 works by an international group of artists. Appropriating images and practices from celebrity, commerce, science, politics, religion, sports, and technology, these artists illuminate recent shifts in how culture is being created and consumed. Featured artists include Sanford Biggers, Wang Du, Nick Cave, Ebony Patterson, Mickalene Thomas, Deitrich Wegner, Robert Wilson, Adriana Duque and José Maria Cano. Docent tours of current exhibitions and site-specific installations are offered free of charge to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:00 pm.

Meetings & Events The property’s museum space doubles as meeting and event space, and can accommodate a wide variety of events from board retreats and intimate cocktail parties to a reception-style wedding for 350. The Main Gallery, located in the old banking hall, offers a dramatic background with original wood paneling, terrazzo flooring, velvet drapery and LED globe chandeliers. The Vault, located in the historic bank vault on the lower level, offers a unique and immersive experience featuring lounge seating, a site specific art commission, and historic vault door and safety deposit boxes.

Guestrooms 21c Durham offers a variety of guestroom types featuring original terrazzo flooring and abundant natural light. Art Deco windows and steel accents are married with a simple materials palette in grey tones and copper details. The 21c Suite, a one bedroom suite occupying the entire 15th floor, features custom designed furniture, an expansive private terrace with a soaking tub, en suite bathroom with standing shower and double vanity sinks, powder room and wet bar. Rates for a standard double start at $199. Hotel Packages To celebrate the opening of its newest property, 21c is offering a selection of packages designed to help guests experience Durham like a local. Introductory packages include: · The Brewery Package allows guests a chance to experience Durham’s thriving beer culture. The package includes: o 21c Faves local brewery guide o Bar snack + local beer tasting for two at Counting House restaurant o Beer book from the 21c Museum Shop · The Durham Double Feature encourages guests to explore Durham’s arts and culture scene with a visit to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The package includes: o Two tickets to the Nasher o A $100 credit towards dinner at Counting House o Two ‘Do Not Feed The Art’ t-shirts from the 21c Museum Shop.

Restaurant The property is also home to Counting House, a modern restaurant and lounge helmed by Executive Chef Josh Munchel. A showcase for high-quality seasonal ingredients, Counting House presents a global perspective on regional dishes and celebrates North Carolina’s rich heritage of fresh seafood with menus that feature rotisserie and roasting techniques. The bar and lounge is a welcoming place to taste innovative house-made cocktails, sip aperitifs, sample local craft brews, and explore bourbon and wine lists. Counting House occupies a space that was originally the Ellis Stone department store. Designed by Deborah Berke Partners, the space aims to fully engage diners by bringing the constant buzz of activity in its open kitchen into full view, with a chef’s table nearby offering a front-row seat for curious and culinary-minded guests. The interior also features a graduated ceiling starting with soaring heights of 23 feet and gradually lowering toward the heart of the restaurant, enhancing the space’s intimate character. The restaurant also features site-specific contemporary art installations and rotating exhibitions.

Write a Winning 200 Word Essay, and Win a Bed & Breakfast in Maine

Yes, you read it correctly. There is a B&B that is on the market, not for money, but for anyone who wishes to write a 200 word essay, and include a $125 fee.  It is a 200 year old inn that sits on 12 acres, and is worth nearly $1million dollars.

To win this contest, you have to be willing to write a powerful essay that will standout from all the other entries. If you love to write, this could be an outstanding opportunity for you to flex your writing muscles, and demonstrate your passion for why you wish to be the owner of this  B&B.

Even if you don’t wish to participate in the contest, it is still fun to think about it. B&B’s are romantic, and they take us back in time to when we didn’t need to be  connected to equipment, but instead enjoy the company of others, while appreciating the beauty of our surroundings.

Read the details in the article posted yesterday in the Money section of Today. Get your thoughts and tablet fired up. Who knows… you could be the lucky winner. Just remember to invite me, since I passed this information along to you.


Dining Alone: The Joy of Solitude


After being on the road for many years, the concept of dining alone is not something I ever quite got accustomed to. I always felt a bit self-conscious and nervous. Why? I asked myself. I am a perfectly confident person, but there is something about entering a restaurant alone that makes me feel uneasy.

One day, while having lunch with some friends, I noticed people who entered alone. As each guest  arrived at the hostess station, the hostess blurted out  ” Table for one!”  You could hear that screech across the room. I am positive that the hostess didn’t mean to do anything improper, but, I could tell each time, that the person felt embarrassed. So, it made me think. Why do diners need to feel embarrassed about dining alone? First of all, a decent percentage of the population is single, and so dining alone should not carry the stigma that it once  did.  We have to be able to change with the times, and make dining alone something that is part of our ever changing culture.  Here are 5 tips for making it work for you.

1.  Insist upon a good table, preferably one next to a window. Use the window location to do some serious people watching. Watching others as they pass by the restaurant gives your eyes something to focus on, and usually, you will be entertained by what you see.

2. Don’t allow anyone to seat you next to the kitchen or bathrooms. Even if the restaurant is crowded, stand your ground on this one. If you sit at a poor table, it will make you feel as though you are being punished for coming alone. This will ruin an otherwise pleasant dining experience.

3. Engage the hostess in conversation as you are being seated. This is a small trick that tends to work well. Say something nice and pleasant. Even give a compliment. You will be surprised at how it improves where you are seated.

4. Order all the food and drinks at once. Sometimes servers feel that 1-top tables are going to be a waste of their time. They have to stop at the table multiple times to get the order, and to bring the food and the check. Therefore, to ensure great service, tell the wait person you need a few minutes. When they return, order everything that you may want, including drinks and dessert at once. The server will love you for that, and you will get great service.

5. Have your smart phone ready.  It is now considered totally acceptable for people to go to restaurants and not speak to one another as they are texting, searching the web or even talking on the phone. Therefore, you can simply “join the crowd” and pull out your smart phone and read the paper, look at emails, or whatever you choose to do. Try to avoid talking on the phone though. I still find that to be gently annoying.

If you follow these tips, you might realize that eating alone isn’t as bad as one might think. With practice, you may start to enjoy the solitude.

Consider a Golf Resort for Your Next Vacation: 5 Tips That Will Assist You in Planning

Photo courtesy of: Loew's Ventana Canyon Resort
Photo courtesy of: Loews Ventana Canyon Resort

Before I became a golfer, I was intrigued with golf resorts. It seemed as though the resorts had a particular panache that I liked. When my husband and I travelled, I would frequently select these resorts. What I discovered, even though I was not a golfer, was that I was never disappointed.

In recent years, golf has become more popular. Look at all the people who spend time watching golf matches on TV. As early as ten (10) years ago, that was virtually un-heard of, except by your grandparents. Now the sport is more lively, and the professional players are wearing sponsored clothing that makes them look “hip.” All of these changes has helped to re-define the hospitality  industry, and to encourage hackers like myself to get out there and to keep trying, while staying in luxurious accommodations.

Here are some tips to consider when planning a trip to a golf resort. Remember, you don’t have to be a “player” just act like one.

1.  Location, location, location. We have to admit that there are simply parts of the country and the world that are better suited to playing golf. Don’t limit yourself to Florida, Arizona, or California. You can find some of the most intriguing resorts with the best courses in the Carrbean, Portugal, Spain, and of course Ireland. (See the listing below. This is not meant to be a comprehensive listing, but a starting point for your consideration).

2.Determine the best resorts and courses for the area in which you would like to stay. This can be a bit tricky. In some cases, you can look at an outstanding resort, but when you read the fine print, it says that it has “access” to a nearby golf course. You will want to check and see the distance and whether or not the resort provides transportation.  You will want to look at course statistics, and who designed the course. Also, just like everything else in the travel industry, there are reviews regarding the course. Make sure that you check those out prior to making your final decision.

3. Examine the resort amenities and activities This is important if you are travelling with a person who is not a golfer. You want to make sure that they are able to have fun, while you are on the course. Although amenities and services are listed, I suggest that you contact the hotel directly and speak with the concierge, who can make arrangements based upon the needs of your traveling partner. You will want to check out the number and types of restaurants that are on property. Identify what kind of reviews the restaurants receive. What type of pool (s) does the property have? Enquire about any concerts or festivals that will occur at the time of your visit, and make arrangements to enhance your visit.

4. Special Packages  Often the resort will have special package rates for those who plan to play golf. You can find these special rates online. However, I have had greater success in contacting the hotel directly and letting them know that I wish to come for several days to play golf. Then begin to ask for what you want. I usually begin with a room upgrade.  Ask if there is a special package rate for golfers. Determine what is part of the rate. Secure the package if you plan to play 18 holes every day; however, if you plan to play only 9 holes, you may find it better to go for an abbreviated package that you develop with the hotel. If the latter is the case, see if you can construct a package of x amount of rounds of 9 holes of golf, practice time, plus breakfast. Don’t be afraid to ask.  You may be surprised at how well it turns out.

5. Schedule Tee-times in advance  As soon as you have made your decision regarding the specific property, contact the ProShop to arrange for your tee-time, and/or training time. If you need to change it once you arrive, that is okay. I’ve seen too many people get very upset when they arrive at a location and cannot get onto the course at their desired time.  Remember, you are not the only person on vacation. This is where a little planning will serve you well. Playing golf is always a thrill, but when you can do it at an outstanding resort, it is the icing on the cake. I have selected 10 resorts that are “over the top” in terms of their beauty, stylishness, service delivery, activities, and golf course ratings. They do not appear in any particular order. As you peruse the listing, I am confident that  you  find something that strikes your fancy.

10 of the Best Golf Resorts 

Book Next Vacation While Shopping at Costco or Sams Club?


It’s almost spring, and time to get started planning your next trip. How you elect to book your trip, may prove to be as important as your overall planning process. If you are somewhat flexible, and are willing to go with “packages”, then you may be in for a surprise. It’s called, booking with your  wholesale retail stores. You may think that this idea is a bit outrageous, but  I found that it has merits.

Major wholesale retail businesses like,  Costco and Sam’s Club have gotten into this market. Costco has been doing it for several years, and Sam’s Club just entered the market in 2014. They work the travel services as they do all other services that they bring to their customers. Partnering with hotels, rental car companies, and cruise lines, they are able to bring together significant packages. I can hear the “saving bell ringing.”

I wanted to “test” this out. So I went to each of there websites, and inserted a point of travel.  What I discovered was that Costco has good destinations from which to choose, but they are somewhat limited. There website is easy to Navigate, and if you already know where you would like to go, you can book airfare, hotel, and rental car as one package, or you can omit the airfare, and just do hotel and rental car.

Sam’s Club offers its customers  more options in terms of destinations. Also, they have a feature that I really like. They illustrate your destination and the Sam’s Club price  comparison. I liked this feature because it allowed me to instantly compare the value and the savings that I would receive. It saved a trip of having to close out and to go back and look at that information again. Either way, I think that you will be pleased with what the two retailers have to offer.

What if you are not currently a member? It may be worth it to you to obtain a pass, and look at the travel servies.  Of course, you will be asked to become a member, but if you think that you are getting a good deal, the trip and the membership fee will be worth it.

It’s almost Spring. Get those vacation plans started.


Tipping Apps Now Available

Determining the tip is often an awkward moment. We find ourselves trying to talk with friends, while attempting to determine in our head what the correct percentage is, while at the same time, evaluating the level of service. That may be a lot to do when engaged in conversation.   More often than not often, I’ve noticed that people just appear to “give up” and put down a number that seems appropriate. In fact, they may even remark about it saying… ” I hope this is right.”  This leads to over-tipping or under-tipping. Neither of which is good.

Now, there are apps available for download, which can provide you with exactly what you need in terms of determining the best tip.  These apps are easy to use, and take the pain out of the process. Anything that is easy to use, means that it will be used frequently. Some apps  even calculate tips for tabs that are being “split”. Now, that’s a crowd pleaser!

You just may want to add one of these to your smart phone. Certainly, I don’t want to catch you in a restaurant with your calculator.


5 Hotels/Resorts to Set Your Sights On for a Re-defined Staycation


Several years ago when the economy tanked, the notion of the “Staycation” became popular. People stayed at home, and found activities that they could do in their home town. That sounds like Sunday to me, with distractions.  The purpose of a vacation, no matter how small, is to allow you to relax, reguvenate your mind and spirit, and to allow you to return to your family, friends and work group a refreshed being, ready to tackle the multiplicities of today’s challenges.

So, I started thinking. Why do we have to have the Staycation as currently defined? Why can’t we have an “Expanded Staycation”, one where we are able to move beyond the perimeter of our own dwelling, and instead, take retreat in a local hotel or resort, or drive to one that is within 3-4 hours? The drive itself will be part of the winding down process.   The idea had endless possibilities. Instead of only one vacation a year that requires tireless planning, a person could have multiple Expanded Staycations throughout the year, that are purposed for family, girl friends, or special getaways for you and your spouse or special someone.

I selected fie (5) properties that are within an easy reach of metropolitan areas. Take a look at each location, and determine what strikes your fancy, and start planning your Expanded Staycation.

Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotel
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels

After a hard week, it’s time to call your spouse or significant other and say… “ Meet me in the city.” And the place to meet and stay is Ink48, a Kimpton Hotel. This chic boutique hotel, in the heart of Manhattan,  has everything that one might want or need to totally relax while enjoying the world’s cosmopolitan hub.  You will not be far from some of the favorite activities, the theatre district, shopping, that make it such a draw.  The hotel recognizes that the city is full of excitement and energy, and it aims to calm your spirit while giving credence to that foundation. Let’s start with its modern and open designed lobby area, which is referred to  as “the living room.” Gee, I wish my living room looked like this. The living room, is not just a lobby, it is actually a gathering place for the hotel guests. Throughout the day, guests  lay claim to comfortable chairs and couches to sit and read,  or to meet with others in nicely grouped seating areas. So, it really is a living room.  The guest rooms, with views of  the Hudson River, add to the sense of tranquility, with a soft color pallet of naturals with hints of yellow and red accents, and yoga  mats  provided  to help you start or end your day in the most peaceful manner. (This is a touch). For those who prefer pampering, the InkSpa is the perfect place to go. It is a full service spa, including hair salon. If you decide that you just want to have a great meal, look no further than the highly touted PRINT restaurant, serving farm-to-table menu selections. This is the place to come and experience a culinary delight. While on your Expanded Staycation, why not call some friends to meet you for drinks, and head to the 16th floor to the Press Lounge. This glass-enclosed space provides unsurpassed views of the city, while giving you the chance to relax, chat and get caught up. What a way to take in the city.

Lobby. Photo courtesy of: 21c Museum Hotels
Lobby. Photo courtesy of:
21c Museum Hotels
Photo courtesy of: 21c Museum Hotels
Photo courtesy of: 21c Museum Hotels

If you love art, and you wish to enhance your sense of culture and design then a stay at the  21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati. Voted in 2014, #1 hotel in the mid-west by Conde Nast Traveller, it offers the perfect place for your Expanded Staycation. This boutique hotel is unique in that it  has a rotating art collection and situated next to the Contemporary Arts Center, and across the street from the Arnoff Center, in downtown.   Art relaxes the mind, body and spirit, and this hotel aims to please.  Everything about it speaks to well thought out design, from the muted color scheme and minimalist design to the extraordinary lighting, which in itself is like an extension of the art that is displayed.  As you go through the facility, you will find yourself stopping to stare and wonder for just a moment exactly where you are. The hotel has a very European feel to it. While at the 21c Museum Hotel, you need to make an appointment at The Spa at 21c.  There, the staff provides rejuvenating treatments that revive you and make you want to return. After attending a cultural event at the Aronoff, or going through the Contemporary Arts Center, you may feel like getting something to eat. What better place than the Metropole, where you will find fresh ingredients served from the open hearth kitchen. It’s a great place to dine and has a fun atmosphere.  The food is inventive, without being presumptuous. Weather permitting, perched atop the hotel is the Cocktail Terrace, where you can enjoy the view of the city and have specialty drinks. Now, it is time to return to your room, and enjoy the beauty and the simplicity of its design, and wish that some of the art was yours.

Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resort
Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resort
Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resorts
Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resort

Not far from Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, or Lexington is French Lick ResortThis resort is spectacular. If you are looking for a place for the entire family, this is the resort to select.  There is something here for everyone. No one is left wanting. The resort has two fabulous hotels, The West Baden Hotel and the French Lick Hotel. The hotels are different in that the West Baden is opulent, and the French Lick Hotel is more of a standard hotel that appeals to families and groups. The rooms in each of the hotels are quite nice by any standard, approximately 450 square feet. If you elect to stay at the West Baden Hotel, ask for a room overlooking its 200′ atrium lobby.  Both hotels have their own restaurants,  swimming pools, retail shopping, and spas. The spas deserve special mention. The spas at French Lick Resort are well known because of their mineral springs. It is said that they have “healing power”.    There is a trolley so that guests may use to travel between the two hotels, although you can easily walk the grounds between the two.  You can select activities to choose from such as horseback riding, bowling, wine tasting, cooking lessons, movie night, biking, hiking.There are a total of three golf courses. A new Pete Dye golf course, which will host the SPGA in May,2015.  There is an 18 hole course, and a 9 hole links course. The latter is especially fun for families to play. There are walking trails, and a  multitude of fine dining to casual restaurants on the property. There is a casino, which offers entertainment,and concerts featuring top national talent. At the end of your stay, you’ll discover that you still didn’t get it all in. That just means you have to return to French Lick Resort.


Photo courtesy of: Lowes Hotels
Photo courtesy of: Loews Hotels

If you live in  the Southwest, there are many hotels and resorts from which to select,  but the one that stands out for me for an Expanded Staycation is the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson. Rated by Travel and Leisure as one of the World’s Best Family Hotels, this resort has a lot to offer. Let’s start with the scenery, and the building architecture. As you can tell from the photo, the structure of the building blends in with its natural setting. Upon arrival, every aspect of what you see  makes you say, “Wow”. The resort is meant to keep you engulfed in the beauty of the Sonora dessert while experiencing casual  yet luxurious  styled accommodations. The rooms are spacious by most standards (450 square feet), and are decorated in a neutrals, punctuated with white.  If possible, try to score  a room with a mountain view. Remember, you are there to relax. Walking paths abound,and along the way you’ll discover the 80′ waterfall and the butterfly garden. For those who wish more strenuous activity (not me), try the  hiking and biking trails. The scenery is breath-taking.  There are tennis courts, 2 glorious pools, and an adult only serenity pool. For those who remember to bring their clubs, there are  2 Tom Fazio designed golf courses. You will remember playing these courses in years to come.  Take a “selfie” at hole 18 and send it to your friends with bragging rights.  End your day at the Lakeside Spa. You’ll need it to work out the kinks from all that exercising. Try dinner at the Flying V Bar & Grille, and don’t forget the table- side guacamole, (the best I’ve ever had)  and margaritas on the patio at sun set. Put your feet up, and think  about how life is fine.

Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts
Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts
Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts
Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts

If you live in or around the LA basin, and you’re looking to get away to re-charge your batteries, why not go to Vegas.  The Delano, Las Vegas   is a sanctuary in a town filled with energy, entertainment and vices. It is considered a boutique hotel, although it is 43 stories high.  What you receive at this large golden tower is unparrelled design and service. You certainly know that you have “arrived” when you step into the Delano. You can hear yourself saying… “Well Aw right, Aw right!” It’s an all suite hotel. The suites are very spacious (725 square feet) and beautifully decorated in muted natural tones, with their iconic floor to ceiling  white flowing drapes. The ambiance is just what you need to feel relaxed and renewed. There’s an on-site spa to keep you in the mood.  You will not find a casino in this hotel. If you wish to gamble, you will need to go  elsewhere. If you are a foodie, then the Delano is your spot. Alain Ducasse has created a new venue  called Mix at the Delano, an inventive restaurant, with chef Bruno Riou,  which offers  exquisite food and a significant wine selection (5,000 bottles). One might think this is the place for special occasions, but I would say that if you are there, then that is the occasion.  The hotel also offers an elegantly decorated  lounge for drinks, the Franklin Lounge, a great place for meeting friends or simply having a specialty cocktail.  If you go to the Delano, don’t forget to pack your most fashionable outfit. Someone may want to take your picture.

5 Tips When Using Airbnb

There have recently been a number  of stories about the Sharing Economy, and the leader in this growing travel space is Airbnb. (Read more at the end of this article). It’s a trend, but is it meant for everyone? Is it meant for you? I wanted to find out if it was meant for me.

I wasn’t  familiar  with Airbnb, until speaking with a friend who had just returned from two weeks in Europe. She showed me photos of where she stayed in Paris, and I became excited about the possibilities,but thought, that was Paris. What types of properties will I find here in the United States? Am I ready to stay in someone’s home?

Airbnb is easy to navigate; but after spending a bit of time on the site, I discovered a few things that I could do that would help me get closer to what I wanted for my vacation. Most of the properties  are ones that people are using for investment purposes. They range from the basic to the extravagant. It was fun to look at the pictures, but first I had to determine, where I wanted to go. I selected Montreal.

The inventory of properties that the site displayed for Montreal was tremendous. The best thing about Airbnb is that you are getting a lot more space, (in my case an entire apartment) for less than the cost of one night stay in a good hotel. The excitement started to build. I must have spent a couple of hours on the site. I was like a kid with a new toy, moving about the site, looking at the pictures and imaging myself in the location. After almost wearing myself out, I settled upon a modern apartment with a garden. The idea of a garden just seemed too good to pass up. I could envision myself having morning coffee, and drinks in the evening. That’s the magic of Airbnb. They sell the “fantasy” of where you are going to be staying. If this works out, who knows, it may be difficult for me to go  back to a stodgy hotel. Actually, not really. I still need access to a great restaurant, spa and a golf course. But using the sharing economy does offer an alternative that should be explored and used from time to time. Here are my tips for using the site.

1   Know what type of property you want. Use the filters The site has individual homes, condos, villas, apartments all for sharing. It is essential before you begin that you have an idea as to the type of property best fits your travel needs. I recommend spending some time within the category that you select, and then further narrowing your focus. For example, you may decide that you want a condo, but you don’t want to be in a high-rise building. Or, you want to be in a house with a garden or back yard, or across from the beach. Make sure that you complete the section on amenities, particularly if you are looking for parking, or fitness areas

2.   Scrutinize the photos  The photos are what “sell” you on the property. You can tell the owners who have used a professional service for the photos from those who took their own photos with their phone and uploaded to the site. Look at each photo carefully. Are there things in the photo that seem out of place, or strange? I have seen nice properties where  dirty laundry appears in the photo. Ok, what’s that about? I’m not your mother coming for a stay. The photos tell a story about what you might expect so examine them with a watchful eye.

3.  Carefully screen the reviews The reviews are the lifeblood of the Airbnb business, but make sure that you read as many of the reviews as possible, even the negative reviews. I tend to look closely at the reviews that talk about how the unit was managed, its cleanliness, its furnishings,etc. I pay very close attention to any review that speaks negatively about the area in which the unit/house is located, or its general appearance. Any mention of bugs or untidiness is a definite “no” for me, no matter how many positive reviews exist. Pay attention to traveler’s experience with parking or amenities at the location. Look for signs of whether or not there were issues with travelers using services, such as swimming, gyms, or gates, if a gated community.

4.  Pay attention to the Owner Profile & Reviews The Owner Profile provides you with a glimpse of  the owner and their background, but the key information comes from the owner reviews. When you are reading reviews, you will see a number of comments about the owner. From the reviews, you will get a sense of the owner’s involvement in the property, their personality, and general character. This is all important because you want to make sure that the owner’s personality and style is one that matches yours. For example, there are some owners who greet guests with flowers, stay to show them around, and generally make themselves available.There are others who leave a key with a designated person, and a list within the venue of contact numbers. Both forms of communications may be operating at the extremes for your particular taste. Find the style that is best for you and fits your needs.

5.  Check the total fees  What may appear like a deal, may not be a deal at the end of the transaction. That is because the total may include fees for housekeeping, lodging, etc. These fees tend to vary by location and type of property. So check the fee before you hit that “submit” button.

Read how Airbnb is making it easier to click to that perfect spot that most closely fits our dream vacation. It is gathering data on our preferences. Read more about how the company is using data in an effective way. http://www.businessinsider.com/airbnb-data-analysis-2015-2