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Month: February 2024

Hotel Review: La Réserve Hotel and Spa Paris

Diego Travel Hotel Review

La Réserve Hotel and Spa Paris

An Insider’s Address Just Off the Champs-Elysées
MARIA DIEGO

One of the best kept secrets of in-the-know travelers who frequent Paris, La Réserve Paris Hotel and Spa is the Parisian address you want on your radar. With 40 rooms and suites, this boutique hotel is the smallest of the famed Palace hotels of Paris. Refined without feeling pretentious, elegant without feeling stuffy, every detail of your stay is thoughtfully looked after and ultra-personalized.

I’m embarrassed to admit that La Réserve had not been on my radar, prior to an invitation to a travel industry event, in which I was invited to stay at this luxury hotel for four nights. With very little prior research before my stay, I can now say that I have never enjoyed myself more in the City of Light than I did while staying here.

The essence of La Réserve is the combination of warm hospitality from its attentive, yet unobtrusive staff, and the cozy, yet ever-so-chic venues like the Duc de Morny Library and the irresistible Bar Le Gaspard. I found myself returning to my newfound home away from home each evening, exhausted after long days of meetings, yet not wanting to retreat to my suite. Instead, I found myself a velvety-tufted seat alone downstairs enjoying the background buzz of French chatter, live music softly playing in the next room, and the cozy warmth of a crackling fireplace. The bartender managed to get it just right each time I told him to surprise me. After the first night of a midnight solo dinner of filet de bœuf with sauce au poivre, the waiter greeted me every subsequent night with a warm smile and a heavily-accented, “The usual?” I’m hard-pressed to think of a more romantic hotel in Paris, or one that makes you feel so at home.

Perfect For: Romantic Getaways | The Business Traveler Who Wants Personalized Service | Families | First-Time Visitors to Paris | 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-Time Visitors to Paris | Anniversary Trips

La Réserve Hotel and Spa Paris

La Reserve Paris

Location:

48.8696988,2.3132448

Florida Keys

La Réserve Hotel and Spa Paris

Midway between Avenue Montaigne and Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées, La Réserve Paris – Hotel and Spa overlooks some of the city’s key sights: the Eiffel Tower, the Pantheon, and the Grand Palais. It’s located on the Right Bank of Paris, in the 8th arrondissement.

La Reserve Paris Location

Vibe:

It wasn’t long into my stay before I realized that the well-traveled, and well-heeled guests staying at La Réserve were not your typical first-timers to Paris. Perhaps they’d tried the Hotel George V or The Ritz and wanted something a little less flashy and a lot more discrete.  Perhaps they appreciated the gesture of the extra phone charger left in the room when they had forgotten theirs at home, without ever needing to ask.  Perhaps they all had a mutual understanding and respect for discrepancy and the shared values of the art of sophisticated travel.  Guests seemed they type to appreciate the old-world butler service, where your suitcase is meticulously unpacked, and your shoes are shining when you return to your room after a long day of sight-seeing and shopping.  I loved this subtle sheen that illuminates every surface of your experience at La Réserve.

During my stay, there was a president of an unnamed country staying at the hotel, along with his large team of security and staff.  Even though it is a small property, their presence did not take away at all from the experience of other guests.  The only nuisance was that the street was closed off by French policy, so was inaccessible to taxis or car services.  The friendly bellman saw to it to personally accompany me the block over to hail and taxi for me, and to carry my bags upon my return. It was very apparent during every moment of my stay that their team truly cares and gets to know their guests, which in turn creates a repeat customer, lending itself to that home-away-from-home feel.

ACCOMMODATIONS:

La Reserve Suites Photo Courtesy La Reserve Paris

The entry level room at La Réserve is quite spacious by Paris standards, boasting 430 square feet. All rooms and suites come with an Italian marble bathroom with double basin sink, bath tub with separate walk-in shower, which bath amenities in the signature La Réserve scent (it might just be worth a stay only to snag a bottle of this heaven scent)! Beyond that, there are 12 different room and suite categories, with 25 of those being suites. Some look onto a leafy and quiet courtyard, while others have panoramic views of the Eiffel Tower. My favorite was the Grand Palais Suite, a palatial suite of 2,153 square feet that sleeps six people. In 1900, the Grand Palais had been built to magnify “French art” at the World’s Fair. Today, this suite also pays tribute to a proud French heritage, with its authentic Napoleon III furniture, its antiques lovingly collected over the years, as well as its historical or contemporary works bridging the centuries. You can have it as your own, and enjoy the stunning views of the Eiffel Tower from your private balcony with personalized butler service.

La Reserve Paris Rooms Photo Courtesy La Reserve Paris

Beyond the main hotel, La Réserve also offers Paris apartments, which are perfect for those longer stays or when you’re traveling with the whole family or large group of friends. From 1 bedroom to 4 bedroom options, these apartments in Paris come with a dedicated butler, 24/7 concierge service, valet and indoor parking, 24/7 security, dedicated housekeeping to take care of your daily shopping, laundry and ironing, a gourmet welcome amenity and daily breakfast served in your apartment. I get many requests for apartment stays in Paris, and La Réserve apartments are quite possibly my favorite selection.

Plan my trip to Paris

FOOD & BEVERAGE:

  • As I mentioned in the introduction to the hotel, the culinary experience at La Réserve Paris Hotel and Spa is perhaps at the forefront of your stay and a large part of your unforgettable experience. Even the locals frequent the restaurants, as I witnessed myself each night. While each day I opted to have breakfast on the patio of my room, which is always included with your stay when you book with Diego Travel, the options were endless and authentically delicious.

  • Restaurants La Reserve Paris

  • Restaurant La Pagode Paris

  • Led by the Michelin two-starred Executive Chef Jérôme Banctel, Le Gabriel offers a three, seven or nine-course menu, which is great to share amongst friends or for that special celebratory dinner with your loved one. La Pagode de Cos is the more casual and contemporary option, prepared by that same Michelin team. I already mentioned the library and bar in my intro, but it’s important to note that all spaces can be privatized, which I also witnessed with the presidential stay during my time there.

ACTIVITIES:

  • One of my confessions as a travel advisor is that I am my own worst travel planner. As I always prioritize my clients’ travel needs, I rarely anticipate my own and find myself with unsettled plans wherever and whenever I travel. I suppose it was my own way of testing out the Clefs d’Or concierge service that La Réserve provides to their guests, but I nonchalantly passed by the desk one morning on my way to meetings to request a highly-sought after appointment at a nearby designer boutique. Before 10 AM, I had a text message to my phone, confirming my pre-opening appointment at the famous Chanel on 31 Rue Cambon. Now that’s magic!

  • Chanel

  • Paris Seine River

  • The activity options in Paris are endless and will totally depend on what you’re into – art, culinary, history, fashion, cycling, etc. Typically, I pre-plan my clients’ trips to Paris with a full itinerary of these activities, tailoring each day to their personal needs. However, if you’re just booking your hotel stay with me, I wouldn’t hesitate to use their concierge team to provide exceptional and unique Paris experiences.
  • Another key point I was thoroughly impressed with was their ability to curate your stay, whether you are traveling alone, with a romantic partner or with young children. They customize your welcome amenity each time, and provide personal details and offer activities according to you.

  • Plan my trip to Paris

    Plan my trip to Paris

WELLNESS:

The spa at La Réserve offers a 16m indoor pool that is heated to a comfortable temperature year-round, along with a hammam, fitness studio and 3 treatment rooms. While on the smaller side, the emphasis again is on personalization. They offer personalized fitness instructors and can personalize your facial to best suite your needs, using Swiss anti-aging beauty products from Nescens.

La Reserve Paris Pool-Photo Courtesy La Reserve

What  Sets  It  Apart:

Isla Bella Beach Resort Marketplace

If I haven’t made my point yet, this hotel is all about the personal touch, and making you feel comfortable and at home while at the same time being elegant, sophisticated and Parisian chic. I don’t know if it was just because I was so tired every night from working, but I don’t think I have ever slept in such a comfortable bed. I actually dream of returning to Paris, just to sleep here! While the room, furnishings and finishes were classically beautiful, I think what set it apart was truly the level of service that their team provides.

Isla Bella-Diego Travel Guide

Diego Travel Loves…
La Réserve receives our vote for the most romantic hotel in Paris. From its central yet quiet location, to its lush finishes like silk walls, velvet drapes, and brocade taffeta, the romanticism is an endless experience at this Paris hotel. I also love that there are many interconnecting options for families, which is hard to come by in a historical building such as this one. The authenticity of the La Réserve experience is second to none.

Isla Bella Beach Resort Marketplace

How Much Does it Cost?
Rates start around 1,600 Euros per night for the Prestige Room, which again, based on size, is comparable to a mid-level room at any other hotel. During high season, that same room can go for 2,800 Euros per night. Some suites can go for 21,000 Euros per night. As a member of Virtuoso, our clients receive exclusive access to promotional rates, as well as daily breakfast, a $100 hotel credit, and priority upgrade with your stay. We also have a personal relationship with the hotel, where we can assist in hand-picking the right accommodation for your special time in Paris.

Diego Travel Extras at La Reserve Paris

Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:
  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Full Breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom
  • $100 USD equivalent Resort credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Complimentary round-trip airport/train private transfers in an E-Class Mercedes
  • Early Check-In / Late Check-Out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Welcome box for new Diego Travel clients with custom trip planning

    Book La Reserve With Perks

    Diego Travel Insider Tips:

    Utilize the insider access of the concierge. They will recommend local eateries, entertainment, and the last-minute key to Chanel when needed!

    Some suites include a selection of 30 refreshments in your in-room bar.

    La Reserve Paris-Photo Courtesy La Reserv

    LETS SET UP A CALL


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    Hotel Review: Isla Bella Beach Resort

    Diego Travel Hotel Review

    Isla Bella Beach Resort

    A Barefoot Luxury Resort in the Florida Keys
    MARIA DIEGO

    One of the best ways to experience the Florida Keys, Isla Bella Beach Resort is a 199-room resort that is located between Islamorada and Key West, just at the threshold of the iconic Seven Mile Bridge. Completely renovated in 2020, Isla Bella sets a new standard for modern luxury resorts in the Florida Keys, and provides a one-stop shop for your perfect beach vacation.

    Perfect For: Families | Weddings | Multi-Generational Families | Bachelorette and Bachelor Parties | Couples | Boaters | Divers | Fishing

    ISLA BELLA BEACH RESORT

    Isla Bella

    Location:

    24.70539615,-81.1195734631537

    Florida Keys

    Isla Bella Beach Resort

    Only a 1-hour drive (or 45 miles) from Key West International Airport (EYW) or a 2 hour 30 minute drive (or 115 miles) from Miami International Airport (MIA). We recommend renting a car, and when possible, flying into Key West and out of Miami.

    7 Mile Bridge

    Vibe:

    We traveled to the Florida Keys frequently, since my parents lived there for 15 years.  Isla Bella Beach Resort was a welcome addition, as the Keys were sorely lacking in luxury hotel options.  Aside from Little Palm Island, which is adults only, Isla Bella Beach Resort is one of only a handful of resorts that we recommend to our clients traveling to the Keys.

    While this is a nearly 200-room resort, the property is expansive, particularly for the Florida Keys, sitting on one mile of waterfront.  One thing to note is that the Florida Keys does not have any natural beaches, so any sandy beaches you find will have rock retaining walls or be man-made.  Fortunately, Isla Bella Beach Resort has a beach where you can wade into the water.

    With the new renovation, Isla Bella Beach Resort is a premiere beach resort in Florida and the Florida Keys.  With its 5 oceanfront pools, there is a spot for everyone, whether you want to remain with an adults-only vibe, or join the kid-friendly areas of the resort.

    The rooms and common areas are light, white and bright, with blue nautical accents that are perfect for the tropical blues of the Keys.

    ACCOMMODATIONS:

    Isla Bella Rooms

    There are 14 different room and suite categories at Isla Bella Beach Resort, ranging from oceanfront balcony rooms to luxe beachside suites.  They also have a myriad of connectivity options, so when traveling with multiple families or kids, there is something for everyone.  When booking with Diego Travel, we can advise you not only on what room category will be best for you, but also where you’ll be most likely to get upgraded. 

    Isla Bella Accommodations

    We always love the beachside rooms, as you have a larger terrace and direct access to the beach and pools, whereas when you are in a balcony room, you will need to access through the hallway and elevator or stairs.

    FOOD & BEVERAGE:

    • The Florida Keys is not particularly well-known for its cuisine.  A lot of fried catch-of-the-day and a concentrated interest in beverages often referenced in Jimmy Buffet songs, my expectations weren’t high for the food offerings at Isla Bella Beach Resort.  However, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and variety of meal options.   

    • Isla Bella-Restaurants

    • Isla Bella-Food and Beverage

    • Mahina is their Polynesian-inspired and main restaurant, where I loved the Hawaaiian Style Ahi Poke and their crafted cocktails (for me, a mocktail!) at the bar that overlooks the ocean.  They also recently opened a new dining outlet, Sushi Cabana, that seats 55 underneath outdoor palm trees and umbrellas. 

    • The Marketplace is another eatery that provides grab-and-go snacks, drinks, and goodies to take home.  In this 5,000-square-foot open floor plan building, you can grab breakfast and schedule your day’s plan at the Watersports Activity Center, which is conveniently located right on property.

    • Isla Bella-Marketplace

    ACTIVITIES:

    • One of my family’s favorite things about the Florida Keys is getting out on the water. I always tell people that if they’re visiting the Florida Keys for a great beach, they’ve selected the wrong destination.  The Florida Keys is unparalleled for domestic boating – snorkeling, fishing, sailing, scuba diving, kayaking and even stand up paddle boarding in the Florida mangroves.

    • Isla Bella-Boating

    • Isla Bella-Activities

    • Aside from watersports activities and lounging by the pool, we always recommend a day trip to Key West and one to Islamorada.  Clients who book their hotel stay with Diego Travel to use our custom trip planning to create a bespoke itinerary or read our Florida Keys Destination Guide for our dining and activity recommendations for the Florida Keys.
    • Isla Bella also offers an on-property activities schedule that includes fun things like beachfront yoga, sandcastle building, and gelato happy hours.  They also have activities for the adults like paint & sip for those 21 and up.

    • Plan My Trip To Isla Bella

      Plan My Trip To Isla Bella

    WELLNESS:

    The spa at at Isla Bella Beach Resort is light and airy, and they offer a full treatment menu from massages to facials.  They also have a special place for brides and bridal parties to get ready before a destination wedding.  The 4,000-square-foot spa has 5 treatment rooms with a steam room located in both the men’s and women’s locker rooms.  While next to the spa, they have a 1,000-square-foot fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment.

    What  Sets  It  Apart:

    Isla Bella Beach Resort Marketplace

    This resort truly makes it easy!  The on-site marina is super convenient, so that you don’t have to drive off property to get to a boat.  In Islamorada, most resorts will require a short drive to a nearby marina, but I really like the fact that Isla Bella’s boat charters are right there. 

    For families, Isla Bella is ideal for its room configurations.  No other property in the Florida Keys compares, and some rooms even have a kitchenette for those extended stays when you want to have some meals ‘at home.’  Rooms have a fresh, clean feel, which you don’t get at a lot of other properties.

    Isla Bella-Diego Travel Guide

    Diego Travel Loves…

    In addition to everything already mentioned in this article about the Florida Keys, we love that this resort is a great destination for those who want a Caribbean vacation without needing a passport.  From the occasional steel drum bands you’ll find in the Keys, to the outdoor, laid-back easy vibe it offers, you can have a great sunshine-filled vacation without breaking the bank or leaving the country. 

    Isla Bella Beach Resort Marketplace

    How Much Does it Cost?

    Rates start as low as $295/night for the entry-level rooms, but during high seasons can go up to $1500/night.  The good news is, as a member of Virtuoso, our clients receive exclusive access to promotional rates, as well as daily breakfast, a $100 hotel credit, and priority upgrade with your stay.  If you’re considering staying at Isla Bella, email us (hyperlink) to ask if there are any exclusive offers that are not available to the public.

    Isla Bella Resort

    Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:
    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Daily Breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom, served in the restaurant
    • $100 USD equivalent Resort credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
    • Early Check-In / Late Check-Out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi
    • Exclusive offers not available to the public

    Book Isla Bella With Perks

    Diego Travel Insider Tips:

    Request rooms somewhere near the middle blocks. You’re far enough away from the main building to avoid the noisier areas, but not too far away to walk to the main restaurants and marina. 

    You can do a guided run on the newly opened pedestrian stretch of the bridge that spans 2.2 miles. The guide has lived in the Keys for 14 years and while you run or jog together, he can provide insight to his favorite recommendations for the Keys. 

    The cabanas are worth the splurge!  You’ll have poolside service and includes a Pelican cooler with drinks (8 alcoholic, 4 non-alcoholic, and 4 popsicles). The cost is $550 from 9 AM to 6 PM and accommodates up to 4 people.

    Isla Bella Pool


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    The Florida Keys

    The Florida Keys

    Why Your Next Vacation Should Be in The Florida Keys
    MARIA DIEGO

    February 3, 2024 

    The Florida Keys are made up of 5 main keys that start at Key Largo, followed by Islamorada, then Marathon, then the Lower Keys and finally Key West. To drive from Miami to Key West takes about 3 hours, so all the Keys can be covered in one trip. The Florida Keys have had recent renovations to Little Palm Island and Cheeca Lodge & Spa and notable additions to the luxury hotel lineup over the last five years including Isla Bella Beach Resort, Tranquility Bay Beachfront Resort and The Islands of Islamorada.

    Perfect For: Romantic Getaways | Honeymoons & Anniversaries | Fishermen | Scuba Divers

    The Florida Keys Family Travel Guide

    SS Truman

    Getting There

    Fly: From 1.5-3 hours by car from Miami International Airport MIA) or fly into Key West International (EYW). Alternatively all of the keys are accesible by private yacht or sailboat..

    Recommended Stay: Weekend getaway to one week.

    Elevation: 0 feet

    Best Time of Year to Visit: March to November

    The Florida Keys
    • 24.9780,-80.5497

      Isla Morada

    • 24.7110,-81.0897

      Marathon

    • 24.6237,-81.4007

      Little Palm Island

    What to do

    The biggest misconception about the Florida Keys is that there are plenty of sandy beaches. I hate to break it to you, but there’s not! The Keys are all about getting out on a boat for fishing, snorkeling, cruises and exploring marine and wildlife. The nightlife can be pretty great too, if you visit at the right times of the year.

    • Snorkeling

      From Key Largo to Key West, the dive spots in the Florida Keys are numerous and plentiful with fish and protected sea life. With dive spots like Hens and Chickens or Looe Key, your best bet is to go with a guide that can take you to a spot where you will see the most fish while snorkeling. Also, there are spots better suited for children if you’re traveling as a family. We also like taking stand up paddle boards with a few masks and snorkels and swimming in shallow areas in the bayside.

    • Fishing

      There are seasons for catching lobster and certain types of fish, and they have to meet size criteria prior to catching them. The local Coast Guard will pull you over and check your cooler, measuring each and every fish – it’s happened to us on more than one occasion – so unless you’re an experienced fisherman with a boat in the Keys, it’s best to leave it to the professionals and hire a company that specializes in fishing while you visit. An expert fishing captain will be able to take you to the right spot whether bottom fishing or trolling, and the Keys is a whole lot of water to take a shot in the dark.

    • Sunset Cruises and Sailing

      Another option if you’re not a huge fan of fishing is sailing or a sunset cruise. I am the black sheep in my family because I am the only one who isn’t a huge fan of spear fishing, free diving and line fishing. I usually stick to the boat, unless the water is over 80 degrees or I’m getting too sea sick from rough seas to stay on the boat. Then I go in for a swim. What I love most about boats is riding at sunset, especially on a calm day. If there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss while in the Florida Keys, is catching a sunset from either a boat or the view at Pierre’s or Morada Bay (more on that later).

    • Marine & Wildlife Sanctuaries

      If you love animals or are traveling with children, youre not going to want to miss a visit to a Wildlife Sanctuary.  While there are too many to count, the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area offers a hammock forest, coastal rock and mangroves with hiking, cycling and paddling trails.  The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in Key Largo and the Turtle Hospital in Marathon are two other must-sees and personal favorites.  Plus, each time you visit one of these places, the entry fee goes toward their maintenance costs so that you can help continue their mission.

    Where to Stay in The Florida Keys

    Little Palm Island

    Little Palm Island

    I wrote a whole blog on Little Palm Island because it’s just that special of a place. Little Palm Island is the only private island resort in the United States and an adults-only hotel, perfect for a weekend getaway, a honeymoon, or to celebrate an anniversary. With 30 suites that dot the perimeter of the island, every suite has a gorgeous ocean view. The resort just underwent a massive post-hurricane renovation and now features all-new cozy, romantic suites. The impeccable attention to every detail in its design is reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway and his era.

    What you get when you book with Diego Travel:

    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Daily Full breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom, served in restaurant or via in-room dining
    • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
    • Early Check-In / Late Check-Out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

    Promotions Available for Diego Travel Clients:

    Stay 4 nights and pay for only 3 nights!

    *Book by February 29, 2024, for stays through December 26, 2024. Exclusions and blackout dates apply.

    Isla Bella

    Isla Bella Resort

    Isla Bella Resort is a new property featuring 199 oceanfront suites. It’s very rare to find a resort with all ocean views, but Isla Bella did it beautifully. With a name meaning Beautiful Island, what more would you expect? The rooms and suites are spacious and airy, decorated bright white with accents of coastal blue. They come in a variety of options, from one and two-bedroom guest rooms to suites with a kitchenette, making an extended stay very practical. What I love most are the first floor rooms that have direct access to the oceanfront sand and pools. You have your own oceanfront porch where you can sit outside, read a book, and watch guests ride back and forth on the property bicycles. These ground floor options also allow for social-distancing, as you wouldn’t need to enter through common areas like the hallways or elevators.

    Isla Bella’s property is large, with a “town square” area that consists of a large marketplace with a cafe, the spa, conference space, and retail shopping with the cutest beach and resort wear and any pool toys and floaties your kids might need. One of the coolest things about Isla Bella is its Watersports Activity Center. Like I mentioned earlier in the blog, if you haven’t gotten out on the water, then you haven’t experienced the Keys. Isla Bella offers all the water sports right there for your convenience with brand new boats, fishing equipment and even jet ski and kayak rentals. They are top-notch professionals and I highly recommend a stay here just to make use of this amazing water sports center.

    What you get when you book with Diego Travel:

    • Priority upgrade to next room category at check in, subject to availability
    • Daily Full breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom, served in the restaurant
    • $100 Resort Credit, Per Stay
    • Priority early check In & late check out, subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

    4th Night Free on Premium Rooms in the Florida Keys

    Isla Bella Beach Resort & Spa is excited to extend Diego Travel clients a 4th Night Free Promotion, on select premium guestrooms & suites, valid for stays through December 19, 2024!

    Tranquility Bay Beachfront Resort

    Tranquility Bay Beachfront Resort

    Far from the crowds and tourist traps, yet within reach of the area’s best attractions, Tranquility Bay is a tropical escape situated in 12 waterfront acres in the heart of the Florida Keys.

    Located one mile up the road from Isla Bella. Tranquility Bay offers a laid back vibe and an excellent alternative to vacation rentals. The property offers mostly 2 & 3-bedroom water/beach front Townhomes with full kitchens. The resort features 3 pools, minigolf course, beach bar and one of Marathon’s most popular restaurants, Butterfly Café.

    What you get when you book with Diego Travel:

    • Discounted Rates

    • Daily $30 Food & Beverage Credit

    The Cloister at Sea Island

    The Islands of Islamorada

    The Islands of Islamorada are in the heart of downtown Islamorada, close to the best restaurants and shops. I toured them prior to completion and let me tell you, these luxury private villas are guaranteed to be the place to stay in the Florida Keys. Each 3-story private villa has 3 spacious king bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms plus a fourth bunk or twin room. 11 of the villas come with an elevator and the open floor plan with full kitchen, dining and living room look out to the ocean. Swoon!

    The Palm Beach area owners were thoughtful in not only the interior design, but the exterior design and landscape architecture. Each villa has privacy from the others, while all guests can enjoy communal spaces like an open beach, pool, and the Ocean House bar. Soon to be completed will be a restaurant and a new area of smaller 1-bedroom beach villas. I can also help coordinate docking your boat at their private marina during your stay. You’ll have direct ocean access to get out there fishing early each morning!

    This is the perfect chic destination to come with the whole multi-generational family, for an extended family vacation. Each unit has a two car garage and wash machine/dryer, so it’d be easy to stay for a month or longer. Heck, I think I might just move in.

    Ocean residences

    Cheeca Lodge & Spa

    Cheeca Lodge & Spa is one of the better known resorts in the Florida Keys and with good reason.  With an expansive ocean view, a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, spa and now 5 pools, they make it easy and convenient.  The rooms vary widely from golf course view rooms to ocean-front suites, so tread with care and definitely use a travel advisor (that’s me!).  The in-the-know professionals know which rooms to ask for, with one suite in particular that stands out from the rest.  And no, I’ll never tell!  I reserve that suite for Diego Travel clients.  It’s also important to know that only the golf course view rooms are pet-friendly, so if you are planning on traveling with your furry family member, be sure to book this room. 

    Cheeca Lodge & Spa recently purchased oceanfront casitas and bungalows, formerly part of The Moorings property.  These exclusive villas have their own pool, tennis court and beach (yes, actual beach!  On of the few real beaches in The Florida Keys and private too).  Two of these two-bedroom villas are beachfront, while the others are set back further on the property.  The great thing about these casitas is that guests have access to all of the amenities and restaurants at Cheeca, but guests at Cheeca do not have access to this area.  So, think of it as your semi-private VIP area but with additional resort amenities to enjoy like more pool options, golf, restaurants and of course the spa.

    What you get when you book with Diego Travel:

    • Upgrade upon arrival if available
    • Daily complimentary breakfast for 2
    • $100 resort credit
    • Early check-in/late check-out

    Book Your Florida Keys Hotel With Perks

    The Georgian Room

    Where to eat?

    • Key Lime Pie

      Let’s not beat around the bush and get straight to the good stuff – what the Florida Keys is best known for – key lime pie!  You may even want to taste-test your way down the Keys.  My kids and I are gluten-free, so I’d start my list with Key West Key Lime Pie Co.  They ship too!  Other Key West notables are Pepe’s Cafe and Old Town Bakery. 

      Further up the Keys is a locals’ favorite at the Green Turtle Inn, and whether you’re getting the key lime pie on the menu or anything else, you just can’t go wrong.  They are the same owners of the nearby Kayo Grill and SushiKayo Grill and Sushi, that has The best sushi I have had in the Florida.  Back to key lime pie though…A final mention is either of Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen’s two locations near Key Largo.  The key lime pie is to die for!

    • Fresh Fish and Seafood

      When you’re not eating dessert first, you may want to choose the catch of the day off of every menu.  Atlantic’s Edge at Cheeca for a fancier dinner with killer views or Islamorada Fish Company are two favorites for a fresh catch.  Some more casual, only-the-locals-go spots can be found at the Cuban restaurant Habano’s on the Creek (when you’re starving and coming back in from a fishing trip), Made 2 Order Cafe (another pull-up-in-your-boat for a quick lunch), or the Galley Grill between Key West and Little Palm Island. 

    • Restaurants With a View

      If the view is what you’re after, which you should be in the Keys, then you can’t miss these spots.  Hit Morada Bay or Pierre’s for their monthly Full Moon party – it falls on the Saturday nearest to the full moon of each month.  With a sunset view and an area of sand to party post-dinner, you can’t miss this monthly event.  Latitudes at the Westin in Key West has beautiful sunset views as well.

    Plan my trip to the Florida Keys

    A Few of My Favorite Things

    The Florida Keys

    The Florida Keys is different for everyone. Depending on if you want a resort that you land at and never leave, or your prefer to venture out and spend little time at your hotel, will determine the area that is right for you. My family has had a home in the Florida Keys for 15+ years, so the amount of time I’ve spend exploring each Key gives me an advantage while planning travel that is perfect for you.

    Islamorada of The Florida Keys

    My family’s home is located just north of Islamorada, in Tavernier. Islamorada happens to be my favorite spot in the Keys, just because I like the combination of bayside and oceanside boating there, and the array of top-notch restaurants and fun little shops. I’ll never forget bumping into Martha Stewart at Ocean Gardens where you can find Hemingway-era nautical antiques and a vast collection of hard-to-find shells. My dad wasn’t shy and struck up a conversation with her about the Florida Keys and what she loves about visiting. She told us that Ocean Gardens is always a must-see, so there you go!

    Location

    Key Largo is about one hour south of the southern most part of Miami, while Key West takes a full 3 hours to reach. So to drive from the northern-most key to the southern-most key takes about 2-2.5 hours, depending on traffic. The roadway is a 2-way lane, so holiday weekends can see traffic back up for hours. Locations are described by the locals as being at Mile Marker “__”, with the Key West starting at Mile Marker 0 and working its way up. So when you stop to ask for directions and you’re told, it’s at MM 87, you’ll know in which direction you need to head. It’s only North or South in the Keys!

    Activities

    Aside from the daytime activities I already listed, you can’t miss watching a sunset with a live band playing in the background. The Keys food is known for being fried, unhealthy, and yummy, and the drink menu plentiful. So plop yourself down at a bayside restaurant somewhere along the strip (my favorite is Pierre’s, at MM 82), order a drink, and relax. It’s also the perfect spot for a small destination wedding, which I can help you plan! Other activities I love to do with the kids is feeding the tarpon at Robbie’s, visiting the Turtle Hospital in Marathon  and Theater of the Sea for swimming with the dolphins and educating them about marine biology.

    Beyond The Keys

    Because of our network, Diego Travel clients get added amenities to many of the Florida Keys hotels and resorts. Depending on whether it’s your first time or tenth time to the Keys, we’ll make sure to plan your stay based on your needs. We love to combine a trip to the Florida Keys with Miami, the west coast of Florida with stops at places like Marco Island, Naples, or Captiva, or even a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth at Disney World in Orlando. Contact us to help plan your next Florida vacation to elevate your experience, VIP your travel, and make the most of your time at each destination.
     


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    Tips for Booking Your Clients’ Pet Vacations

    Travel Market Report
    September 19, 2023
    By Briana Bonfiglio

    Pet owners love their furry friends and hate to leave them behind when they travel. But while bringing a cat, dog, or other animal along on vacation may sound enticing, some pains come along with it. This can be where travel advisors come in to work out practical solutions and manage clients’ expectations for traveling with a pet. 

    This part is first and foremost, and it means to know your stuff. Every single airline, hotel, and destination (if traveling to another country) has different policies regarding pets. Airlines have limits on the size and breed of the animal, as well as whether they can be in the cabin or need to be in a crate. Hotels, if they allow pets at all, also have restrictions for pets and may or may not allow guests to leave the animal unattended in the room. 

    “Call around to the properties and ask those questions,” Maria Diego, a travel advisor at Departure Lounge, told TMR, in terms of what advisors can do when booking travelers with pets. “It’s important to know what their particular policies are.” 

    Although traveling with a pet has its challenges, certain destinations are particularly pet-friendly and great for dogs. Diego said more of her clients began bringing their pets on domestic road trips during the pandemic. 

    In one case, a client brought their bird along for the ride to Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico – and had very particular requests. 

    “I had a client who traveled with her 26-year-old love bird who had certain temperature and human dietary requirements,” Diego said. “[The bird] could only eat filet mignon and carne asada – those were her two meals. I had to call the hotel and see if the room could be climate-controlled and if the chef could cook those things. She also had to have a balcony room for the bird to get fresh air.” 

    Diego recommends standalone accommodations near nature preserves or beaches that allow dogs and other pets. Her personal favorites are San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, California, and the Montage Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina. 

    Read the Travel Market Report Article

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    Balancing Motherhood and a Career in Travel Isn’t Easy, But These Advisors Make It Work

    Travel Age West
    March 21, 2022
    By Mindy Poder

    Being a travel advisor is the best career for a working mother. Or, is it actually the worst?

    According to the IRS, independent contractors (ICs) decide “what will be done and how it will be done.” For many moms, this kind of flexibility is a necessity.

    “Prior to working as a travel advisor, I worked remotely on a company that I started with my husband in 2008, which was a Mexico-based tour operation,” said Maria Diego of Diego Travel, an independent affiliate of Departure Lounge. “I needed a career that would allow me the flexibility to always put my kids first, especially because at that time, my husband was still traveling to Mexico every week.” 

    Ultimately, travel advising is a job that lets moms be in the driver’s seat.

    “You can put as little or as much into this career as you want,” Diego said. “You are in control of your schedule, and how you allocate your time for both work and family life.” 

    Diego admits that setting boundaries so that work did not negatively impact her time with her family was difficult for her, but concedes that this is the plight of most working mothers.

    Read the Travel Age West Article

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    Pro Tips For Finding All Your Lost Airline Luggage

    Pro Tips For Finding All Your Lost Airline Luggage

    Forbes 
    July 16, 2022
    By Christopher Elliot

    If an airline loses your checked luggage, how do you find it?

    Don’t rely on the airlines’ unreliable luggage handling systems. That’s the advice of travel professionals like Maria Diego, owner of Diego Travel. She’s been advising her clients to buy a tracker like an AirTag and tuck them into a side pocket.

    Diego speaks from experience. Her airline lost her husband’s surfboard on a recent trip to Melbourne, Australia.

    “After we waited an hour and a half, the baggage desk person had no idea where his surfboard was,” she remembers. But thanks to an AirTag attached to the surfboard, Diego showed the agent the location of the board.

    “They got a hold of the right person to have it put on the plane the next day. Had we not had the AirTag, there’s a huge chance the entire trip would have been ruined for him,” she adds.

    She sticks to three insurance companies: Allianz, Travel Guard and Travelex. “They’re my three main go-tos for travel insurance,” she says, “but each company offers different levels of coverage.” 

    Now comes the hard part: matching your insurance needs to one of the policies you’re considering.

    “There is no one size fits all,” she says.

    She’s right. Even if you work with a travel agent — and this is worth repeating — you need to take the time to pore over the boring fine print on each policy.

    Read the Forbes Article

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