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Hotel Review: Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel, Montecito

Hotel Review

Rosewood Miramar Beach

A luxury beachfront hotel with modern residential beach living in Montecito, on the Southern California Coast
MARIA DIEGO

Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel in Montecito is located on the oceanfront with views across the iconic California coastline. With 160 rooms, 26 beachfront units and exclusive residential suites, the Miramar Beach hotel combines easygoing Californian beachfront living with luxury style and attention to detail throughout.

Perfect For: Small families | Honeymooners | Romantic Getaways | An escape from the city

  • 34.4204,-119.6302

    Rosewood Miramar

  • 34.4261,-119.843

    Santa Barbara Airport

Rosewood Miramar Beach Location: Miramar Beach Hotel is located just eight minutes south of Downtown Santa Barbara.

Getting to the Rosewood Miramar Beach:The resort itself is only 15 minutes from Santa Barbara Municipal Airport which has direct flights from major US hubs including LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and Denver. It’s also a great option to include on a California Coast road trip if you plan to visit the area around Santa Barbara, it’s around a 2 hour drive from LA.

Book Rosewood Miramar with Diego Travel

Vibe: Miramar means ‘to behold the sea’ and the name truly does reflect this stylish coastal resort where there is so much attention to detail in every aspect of the decor, the amenities and the experiences available. Being the only truly oceanfront resort in Montecito, your arrival feels like a moment of calm washing over you. Away from the traffic, the city and the rush of daily life, the resort encompasses oceanfront living to give you a luxurious yet home-away-from-home feel.

Accomodations: Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel boasts 160 rooms. The resort has 26 units on the beach, two beach house suites, and beach studios, as well as rooms and suites with ocean or garden views. The Hotel is choosing to limit their maximum occupancy to 70% for the rest of the year, so you can be sure your care is the top priority when you visit.

With 124 rooms on the property, you can choose from rooms overlooking the ocean or the gardens. Beach house guest rooms and studios are located on the beachfront with spacious rooms and private patios decorated in a light-airy coastal style that’s perfect for a relaxing retreat. Bungalow guest rooms offer views of the beautifully manicured gardens and lawns.

Lanai Guest Rooms are in the two-story Lanai House and have rooms of varying sizes for up to four guests. They also offer the choice of garden or mountain views.

An alternative to Rooms is their studios, which are slightly bigger than the Beach House rooms and give you the option of an additional 3rd guest with beachfront views.

Bungalows include the Bungalow Suites with a private courtyard, Garden Bungalow suites with private terraces and garden views, or Lanai Suites with large windows and private terraces. The bungalows all come with private entrances and offer you space and amenities beyond those of guestrooms and include luxurious and spacious parlors and fireplaces for up to four guests. The bungalows are particularly popular with honeymooners or for special anniversary trips.

Located on the beachfront with uninterrupted ocean views and with just two Beach House Suites available, these oceanfront suites are hugely popular. At 960sq ft, with relaxed indoor and terrace decor and accommodating up to 4 guests, the suites are a way to make your stay truly special with the beach on your doorstep.

The Ambassador Suite offers panoramic ocean views and is the largest accommodation option available at 1,885sq ft. The suite can accommodate up to 4 guests with living rooms, a dining area, a private kitchen, a king-size bed and a large private terrace overlooking the lawn and with full views of the ocean. Located on the second floor of the Manor House, you’re just five minutes walk from the beautiful Miramar beach.

Rosewood Miramar Rooms Overview

Rosewood Miramar Rooms

Rosewood Miramar Bathroom

Rosewood Miramar Bathroom

Caruso’s Restaurant Montecito

Food & Beverage: There’s no need to venture far thanks to the incredible six restaurants and food options at Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel. Caruso’s is Rosewood Miramar’s most gourmet option. Our meal on our first night was here and the food was beyond incredible. As was the ocean view dining at the restaurant.

For something more casual, the Miramar Beach Bar at the property is great for cocktails and light bites throughout the day. There’s also the Cabana Bar which is perfect for poolside refreshments.

The Manor Bar is the resort’s sophisticated evening option with dark wood-panel interiors, a formal bar and luxurious seating, creating a cozy evening atmosphere for drinks after dinner.

There’s also something for the kids too, with the popular Scoop Shop right by the pool area!

Wellness: Rosewood Miramar Beach is the only 5-star Forbes spa in Santa Barbara, so you’re guaranteed a luxurious retreat when you choose to stay here. In fact, most people do choose to stay for at least 3 nights to really soak in the rejuvenating, coastal calm of the resort. As well as the Sense Rosewood Spa, the resort wellness centre also offers a fitness studio, sunrise yoga and adult-only pools to relax and restore you on your trip.

Rosewood Miramar Spa

Rosewood Miramar Beach Activities

Things to Do in Montecito:The Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel offers a range of family-friendly experiences such as family beach yoga, falconry experiences, family movie nights and the Explorer Club for kids.

The resort offers countless activities and excursions for adults too which are perfect for romantic getaways and special occasions like tastings at the gourmet restaurant Caruso’s or sailing the Santa Barbara Coast on a private charter cruise. If you’re looking for something more active, the hotel also offers frequent pop-up events, hiking excursions and surf excursions which can be booked upon request during your stay.

The resort retail experience is another amenity hand-selected by the hotel to bring luxury upscale brands to their guests. With regular pop-ups like the Dior Summer Collection, alongside boutiques like The Webster, shopping is part of the experience at Rosewood Miramar Beach.

What  Sets  It  Apart: When we finally had the opportunity to visit this summer, I knew our stay in Montecito and at the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel would be the highlight of our California coastal road trip. Developed by Caruso, the hotel is of course stunning, with elements throughout that show the time and attention to detail that’s given to all their properties.

The hotel is also child-friendly and you’ll often find a lot of families staying for the weekend. Weekdays are more popular with couples for romantic getaways, honeymoons or anniversary trips.

Everything about the Miramar Beach Hotel is personalized for the comfort of their guests. These are some of our favorite parts of the resort:

  • Forbes Five-Star Rosewood Spa
  • Scoop Shop ice cream and candies is a kids’ favorite of course!
  • Family-friendly pools next to the Scoop Shop
  • Adult-only pool with rentable cabanas
  • Lincoln House Cars (one yellow, one pink!) to take you anywhere you need to go in a three-mile radius of the hotel
  • Six restaurants and bars
  • Bocce Ball courts and shuffleboard
  • A coffee cart on the beach
  • Kayak and Hobie Cat rental from the beach club
  • Retail boutiques including Christian Dior and The Webster
  • A 24/7 guard to assist guests with crossing the train tracks which operates a train several times a day

Rosewood Miramar Beach
Rosewood Miramar Beach Vibe
Rosewood

How Much Does the Rosewood Miramar Cost? The cost varies depending on the accommodation option you choose. Prices start from $1,600  per night for garden view rooms. While an Ambassador Ocean View Suite starts at a nightly rate of $13,000.

Diego Travel Loves:

The wait for a luxury beachfront hotel of this calibre has been worth it to see the easy luxury that Rosewood Miramar creates for their guests. From the soft cream to light blue furnishings that emulate the ocean on your doorstep, to the variety of amenities for all ages and groups, Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel is effortless luxury. 

Rosewood Miramar
Beach at Rosewood Miramar Montecito

Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:

  • Exclusive Rosewood Elite Amenities
  • Complimentary one category upgrade upon arrival, based on availability
  • Daily USD30 breakfast credit for up to two people per bedroom
  • $125 Sense Spa credit per stay
  • Welcome note and amenity from the Managing Director on behalf of Diego Travel
  • Diego Travel Welcome Box for First-Time Clients

Rosewood Miramar Beach Insider Tips:

You can request one of the Beach House Studios which are further from the restaurant. By booking with Diego Travel, we can choose the specific room you wish to be placed in for your trip.

Hotel Bel-Air garden

Summary of Our Stay at the Rosewood Miramar Beach in Montecito, California:

When I heard that Rosewood Hotels opened the Rosewood Miramar Beach in the heart of Montecito in 2019, I was ecstatic because it would be the area’s first truly beachfront resort with rooms on the water.

Rosewood Miramar Beach in Montecito California

My husband and I had been visiting the area for years due to work obligations and family living in the area, so we couldn’t get there soon enough. Santa Barbara is one of my favorite destinations in the world, especially for it’s casual California surfer meets upscale hippy chic vibe, so I mapped out our itinerary from morning to night with activities like shopping, dining and time for the beach.  Pulling up to Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel feels like stepping into a European resort. The bellmen and valet greeted us and addressed us by name from the start. The sales director met me straight away along with two other colleagues and made us feel at home. We arrived prior to check-in time, so they had one of our rooms ready for us, so that the kids could immediately change into their swimsuits and head for the beach, while my mom and I ditched them to hit the shops. And speaking of shops, the hotel itself has a few of my favorites, including the pop-up shop by Christian Dior, which was absolutely stunning, a personal favorite – Brunello Cucinelli, Goop by the famous Gwyneth Paltrow, and The Webster, which also has a location in Miami Beach. Another on-property favorite is the James Perse store, which cannot be missed for travel basics like comfortable lounge pants and basic tees. However, I had been eyeing hitting my favorite series of stores by Wendy Foster that have locations in Santa Barbara, Montecito and Los Olivos. Speaking of Los Olivos, while we didn’t have time on this trip to spend some time in Santa Ynez Valley, I always suggest to my clients who love wine and horses to split their time between that region, just an hour north of Santa Barbara.  

Dior Boutique Rosewood Miramar Beach

After a day of shopping, and the kids has their fill of the pool and beach, we met for dinner at Caruso’s, the formal beachfront restaurant that offers a truly fine dining experience that really transports you to Europe.  The experience was impeccable, and the food was delicious…and if you’re in the right company, stop for drinks at the bar just before dinner.  Post-dinner, we were happy to let the kids run free on the sprawling grassy lawn while my husband and I leaned back in some of the white adirondack lawn chairs, people and star gazing while we talked.  While an intimate wedding was going on while we were on property, it really didn’t take away from our experience, as the property is so large that we wouldn’t have even noticed had we not walked by the dancing bride and groom and a roomful of infectious laughter and live music coming from the Manor Bar on our walk back to our bungalow.

Caruso’s Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito CA

I would be remiss not to mention the experience of the service itself at Rosewood Miramar Beach.  Everyone addressed us by name, and the welcome amenities for myself and the kids went above and beyond. (No, I’m not spoiling the surprise, because when you book with Diego Travel, you’ll also get spoiled by these amenities). One evening, the bath tub wouldn’t fill so we determined there was something wrong with the stopper.  Within minutes, a man arrived and quickly replaced the bath tub stopper.

Rosewood Miramar Beach Turndown Service

The grounds are beautifully landscaped and have special touches throughout, which makes your stay there feel magical.  We really didn’t want to leave the property at all, and  spent very little time going out to eat at outdoor restaurants like Bouchon and Jeanette’s, and visited the Santa Barbara zoo – my favorite because it’s small enough to not be too tiring for the little kids, yet with beautiful views of the ocean, especially from the giraffes.

Santa Barbara Zoo

Some of the things we did not have time for, but I would have loved to plan, is the bespoke beach picnic that the hotel will set up for you on the beach.  I also would have loved to have time to charter a boat ride to sail along the Santa Barbara coast, but we ran out of time.

Let’s go to Rosewood Miramar

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Montecito Country Mart in the Rosewood Miramar’s cute yellow vintage car – they have a pastel yellow, pink and blue one and are available to drive you to any location within Montecito on a first-come, first-serve basis.  My kids loved this experience!  They also love the bocce ball and shuffle board and kept themselves busy with that while I got in quick last-minute trip to the spa for a massage.  Hey, someone has to research!  The massage was phenomenal, and while it’s small, the areas are pristine and decorated in the perfect way that Rick Caruso appointed the rest of the resort.

Let’s go to Rosewood Miramar

Whether you’re planning a romantic weekend getaway, a longer summer vacation or a California coast road trip, the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel is a great option for families, couples or special occasions. Our stay at Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel was truly special and we only wish we could have stayed longer – I highly recommend a minimum 3-night stay, but if you truly want to do it all in Santa Barbara and Montecito, you’ll need a little longer. Contact Diego Travel today so we can help you book your perfect Montecito vacation, and add Rosewood Elite amenities and the VIP touch to your stay.  

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Hotel Review: Hotel Belmond La Samanna

Hotel Review

Hotel Belmond La Samanna

A Luxury Boutique Hotel on the Caribbean Island of Saint Maarten or St Martin
MARIA DIEGO

Belmond La Samanna is perched above one of the most amazing beaches in the West French Indies of the Caribbean and made up of 83 villas, cottages and suites. Recently renovated in 2020, Belmond La Samanna is a quiet, peaceful retreat overlooking beautiful sunsets and sparkling turquoise ocean waters of the Caribbean sea. 

Perfect For: Small families | Honeymooners | Romantic Getaways | A Quiet Escape | A Stopover for Multi- Caribbean Island Vacation

18.0552,-63.1386

La Samanna

Location: Spelled St. Martin or St. Maarten, it is a Caribbean island in the northeast section of the Caribbean islands, about 190 miles east of Puerto Rico.  The flight from Miami to St. Martin is about 3 hours.  The flight from New York to St. Martin is about 4 hours.

Getting There: St. Maarten is one of the easier Caribbean islands to arrive to, with non-stop flights from airports such as Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, New York and Newark.  The island is a hub to fly on to St. Barts or Anguilla, so you may want to consider adding an extra couple of nights to your vacation in order to experience Belmond La Samanna.

La Samanna Vibe

Vibe: The vibe at Belmond La Samanna is very laid back, much more so than its neighboring island of St. Barts, where the scene is to see and be seen. While the crowd at Belmond La Samanna is very chic, it’s less champagne popping and people watching, and more book reading and lounge chair lazing. There’s not a lot to do at the resort, unless you count a small spa, a tennis court and a tough decision between pool and beach activity enough. If you’re looking for more than that plus a boat outing, than St. Martin may not be for you.

Accomodations: Belmond La Samanna ranges from 83 deluxe ocean view rooms and suites to 8 3- and 4-bedroom villas and cottages. Because of these larger accommodations, it is ideal for families to come with grandparents, cousins, and even nannies. We saw more than two families during our stay that included aunts and uncles, many children and grandparents. The private pool villas have their own private wraparound pool, which is nice if you are just looking for privacy.

  • La Samanna Rooms

  • Bathroom La Samanna

Cocktails at La Samanna

Food & Beverage: The restaurant, Corail is where breakfast is served each morning, as well as lunch. Breakfast is served buffet style, or items can be ordered a la carte. Service is slow, as to be expected from a Caribbean island, and food was hit or miss. The most memorable item on the menu was the pineapple, which was probably the best pineapple I’ve ever had in my life. The hotel did offer gluten free bread as well, which is always a pleasant surprise at these small boutique island hotels. Other items like salt and butter were imported from France, so a simple breakfast of toast with butter and jam were very much enjoyed!

Baie Longue bar is the perfect spot to catch the sunset while sipping amazing cocktails, and the beachside restaurant La Plaj was very similar in feel to St. Barts. Finally, for dinner the option is L’Oursin, where everyone gathers for the more formal nighttime meals.

Wellness: The spa at Belmond La Samanna is small yet inviting. They also have a boutique next door that sells natural locally-made products like essential oils and soaps. The sun is so strong that it was the first time in a long time that we all got sun burns, so I had to make a trip to the spa for after-sun care products.

La Samanna Relax

St Martin Cave

Things to Do around the Island: If you’re visiting for more than 2 nights, I recommend chartering a boat to take you to explore the local beaches and different islands. The concierge provides great recommendations, but we booked with a charter company that was about half the price, and our captain a Frenchman, born in France but raised in Sint Maarten who could have been a model on the cover of GQ. I’m not giving away my secrets, but I’ll be happy to book him for you when you plan your trip to St Martin with me!

I suggest an 8 hour charter – even though it seems like a long day, it goes by quickly and allows you to stop for lunch at Yellow Beach on Pinel Island.  The highlight of our day was our stop at Tintamarre, or Flat Island, where we collected sea glass and played in the water in this little island paradise.

What  Sets  It  Apart: There is no other property in St Martin or St. Maarten that even compares remotely close to Belmond La Samanna, and the beach is one of the best and most secluded in the Caribbean. The other hotels are more like 2 to 3 star hotels, and the island in general is very poor, particularly after being destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017. However, it still has a very French vibe, so if you want to feel worlds away and like you’re in the French Riviera, without having the budget for St. Barts, then St. Martin is a fantastic alternative. I love that all the rooms are direct ocean views, and what a beautiful ocean it is…. While the beach is very steep, the sand is beautiful, and most people lounge in the sun from morning until evening with no complaints. So, if you’re looking for a relaxed and dreamy place to lounge with the crashing sound of waves, this could be the ideal Caribbean resort for you.

La Samanna St Martin
Belmond La Samanna

How Much Does Hotel Belmond La Samanna Cost? This island resort closes seasonally, and staff go over to Italy where they work in the Belmond properties of Positano and Portofino. Due to this, Belmond La Samanna doesn’t really have a low season. Rates vary from about $800 per night plus taxes and fees for an entry level room to about $6,000 per night for a 4-bedroom villa.

Diego Travel Loves: The chic updated décor mixed with the traditional island building is the ultimate in barefoot luxury.  Unpretentious yet refined, Belmond La Samanna is the perfect blend of island life with French style.  I loved the soft coral pink and white striped umbrellas and the blue and white color palette in the rooms.  The people at the resort are not stuffy, and care enough without being in your face.  Remember that you’re on island time, and you’ll be snoozing to the sound of the crashing waves in no time.

La Samanna
La Samanna Inclusions

Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:

  • Belmond Bellini Club
  • Complimentary breakfast for two daily
  • Complimentary room upgrades on arrival, based on availability
  • For any $5,000 booking, receive a $500 gift voucher to be used for any new Belmond product (train, barge, or hotel or resort) of at least $2,500.
  • Fully flexible hotel or resort credit up to $200 per stay
  • Complimentary upgrade at check-in
  • Free internet access
  • Personalized in-room welcome amenity
  • VIP recognition by property management and staff
  • Waitlist priority for high demand properties or experiences

    Belmond La Samanna Insider Tips:

    If centralized air is important to you, this is not the hotel for you.  Like many small island hotels, rooms are cooled on mini-splits, so be sure to request a room with a mini-split that doesn’t blow directly onto the bed.  When you use a travel advisor, it’s these kind of details that are taken care of for you, as well as getting premiere choice in room location.  Even though La Samanna is located in one of the best beaches in the island, a boat trip is a must to discover St Martin’s hidden gems.  Over “Festive Period” or Christmas to New Years Eve season, be sure to book well in advance.  It’s a popular spot for holiday vacation!

    Tintamare Island

    Summary of Our Stay at Hotel Belmond La Samanna:

    After receiving an invitation for a 3-night stay for 2 to Belmond La Samanna, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity, even though I was in the midst of a literal hurricane in my work and personal life.  My family was selling our home, our kids were changing schools, and work had never been busier since the start of the pandemic.  I was quite literally fried and spinning my wheels, working 20 hours a day and scrambling to get our home packed up.  We had two weeks until closing, and I turned to my husband one night while we were falling asleep and asked, “Why don’t we go to St. Martin this weekend with the kids?”  He agreed, and less than 48 hours later, we were on the plane after getting our negative Covid tests.  The flight is easy, the hotel picked us up from the airport, and honestly, it was a much-needed work trip where I actually disconnected and recharged my batteries.  

    La Samanna Restaurant

    Because Belmond La Samanna is a one-man show in St Maarten, I didn’t have the pressure to do multiple site visits like I normally do on work trips.  I truly took the three-night trip to be present with my husband and kids.  We watched them as they body surfed and tumbled down the steep beach, on repeat for hours on end.  I read a good book.  I worked minimally.  And we took an unforgettable boat ride where I thought to myself, “How did I get so lucky?”  I have my dream job, with my dream family, and while it’s not always glamourous traveling, St. Martin offered me time to slow down and appreciate the moments that are…and boy, Belmond La Samanna sure made me feel pretty glamorous. 

    Hotel Bel-Air Pool

    Looking around, it felt like the crowd was primarily babymooners, with very pregnant bellies walking the soft sand on the beach.  I loved that it was such a peaceful environment and really lent itself to just disconnecting and relaxation.  If you’re in the mood for a gorgeous beach, a good beach novel that you can dive into, and reconnecting with the one you love, then let’s start planning a trip to St Martin. 

    La Samanna Beach

    If you have any questions about visiting St Martin or any other Caribbean Island for that matter, I’d be happy to answer them or help you book your stay so that you get all the added value mentioned above. Plus, once you travel VIP style with Diego Travel, you’ll never want to leave home without us again.  You can get in touch with us on our Contact Us form, to get started on planning your next trip right now!

    La Samanna Beach Restaurant

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    Belmond La Samanna Sunset


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    Hotel Review: Hotel Bel-Air

    Hotel Review

    Hotel Bel-Air

    A Luxury Boutique Hotel and Hollywood Icon Tucked into the Bel-Air Foothills
    MARIA DIEGO

    Hotel Bel-Air is an iconic Hollywood boutique hotel made up of 103 rooms and suites, set on a 12-acre private oasis tucked in between the mega mansions and sprawling compounds of the Bel-Air elite. Famous actors, actresses and industry moguls find reprieve in the privacy of the hidden bungalows, each one with its own unique distribution and décor

    Perfect For: Small families | Honeymooners | Romantic Getaways | A Quiet Escape | Discrete Meetings

    • 34.0938,-118.449

      Hotel Bel-Air

    • 33.9417,-118.41

      Los Angeles International Airport

    Hotel Bel-Air Location: Bel-Air is located just west of Beverly Hills, just east of Brentwood, and entirely in the Santa Monica Mountains.

    Getting There: LAX, or Los Angeles International Airport, is a major hub and chances are if you‘ve traveled internationally, you’ve flown through this airport. Bel-Air is located about X miles from LAX, which can vary in time depending on the infamous Los Angeles traffic. My rule of thumb is to always allow an extra hour for every thirty minutes you expect to drive, as you never know when you’re going to come up against an unavoidable LA traffic jam.

    Hotel Bel-Air Entrance

    Vibe: The hustle of LA slips away the moment you turn onto the neighborhood streets entering into Hotel Bel-Air. As the valet greets you, a footbridge carries you into the most magical of gardens, with over 100 different types of plants and 4,000 trees on property. Naturally, the guests at Hotel Bel-Air speak in hushed voices, stroll slowly through the quiet property taking in the sounds of chirping birds, and discretely glance around to see who’s who around the pool and courtyard restaurant, Wolfgang Puck’s at Hotel Bel-Air. While the element of Hollywood glamour seeps from its veins, the expectation to respect the peace and privacy of others is the unwritten law.

    Accomodations: Hotel Bel-Air has 105 guest rooms, with 55 rooms and 48 suites, which can be configured between 1-6 bedrooms. When you book with Diego Travel, an independent affiliate of McCabe World Travel and member of Dorchester Collection Diamond Club, the entry level room would be a Deluxe with Patio, as our clients receive an automatic upgrade at the time of booking. Because every room has a unique configuration, it is best to speak with me about what you are looking for so that I can guide you to the best fit. The Hotel Bel-Air’s sales manager’s favorite room category is the Bel-Air Suite because you get a huge amount of value for the rate. I had the chance to tour most room categories, and also had a private tour of the Herb Garden Suite and the Swan Lake Suite. The Herb Garden Suite has a full kitchen, a spectacular living room with soaring and ornate wood-beamed ceilings, and a glamourous bedroom, walk-in closet/dressing room, and large marble bathroom perfectly suitable for prepping for the Oscars. The Swan Lake Suite was my favorite and would be my top pick for a honeymoon or romantic getaway. The suite is largely feminine with blush pink undertones throughout, a plush velvet sofa in the living room and the bedroom walls adorned with delicate butterflies, as if floating overhead as you sleep. The white marble bathroom has a floral mosaic motif on the walls. My favorite part of Swan Lake is the exterior courtyard and hot tub, which is very large and has pool loungers, sitting chairs and an outdoor dining table. I didn’t get to see the Grace Kelly Suite or the Presidential Suite, but those are other great options, all with the ability to connect to other rooms. It is important to note that many guests fall in love with a particular room number, since each one has a unique configuration, décor and setting. While they cannot guarantee a particular room number, they will certainly do their best to accommodate your request or get you into one most similar to your request. Using a travel advisor will absolutely help you get preferential treatment when it comes to getting your room request.

    Bathroom at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort

    Rooms at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort 2

    Rooms at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort 2

    Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel-Air

    Food & Beverage: Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air offers modern California cuisine (think fresh farm to table) with a Mediterranean influence. The breakfast menu, which is included with your stay when you book with Diego Travel, includes a massive selection of fresh juices and health shots, apparently something that the Hollywood crowd subsist on. If you’re looking for something more hearty, their avocado toast was to die for. We ordered dinner to our suite one night, where we ate outdoors around the fireplace on our patio in total privacy. As our family is gluten-free, Hotel Bel-Air provided the yummiest gluten-free cookies we had tried in a long time.

    The Bar & Lounge offers a tucked-away spot that evokes the feeling of old Hollywood glamour mixed with the coziness of home.

    Wellness: The spa at Hotel Bel-Air is small and minimalist, and offers the basics in treatments such as facials, massages and manicures and pedicures. Due to Covid, the amenities like steam room/sauna were closed. While I didn’t have a treatment during our stay, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this hotel if you’re looking for a comprehensive spa treatment plan or spa retreat. However, if you’re looking for a treatment to reduce jet lag after jet-setting around the world, then Hotel Bel-Air spa offers the perfect antidote.

    Spa at the Bel-Air

    Bel-Air

    Things to Do in Bel-Air: If you’re old enough to remember the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, then you’ll probably understand what I’m talking about when envisioning what there is to do around the Hotel Bel-Air. You are within a 10-15 minute drive of Beverly Hill’s famous Rodeo Drive, but also the posh areas of Brentwood, Melrose, and the Hollywood Hills. You’re also a stone’s throw from UCLA, so if you’re planning on visiting campus, this hotel will be ideally located for you and your family. The area has some of the world’s best shopping, dining, and sight-seeing in the city, with great museums such as LACMA, The Getty and Griffith Observatory, to name a few.

    What  Sets  It  Apart: I’m not sure there is another property quite like the Hotel Bel-Air in all of the United States. Perhaps in Europe you’ll find similar properties, which brings me to my point of what sets it apart. Even though you’re in the middle of it all in one of the largest and most sprawling cities in the world, the Hotel Bel-Air transports you to a European dream with the foliage, the gliding swans, the trickling water, and the chirping birds. This quiet, relaxing oasis where you’re chances of spotting an A-lister are high, are what sets it apart.

    Rooms at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort
    Bel-Air Pool

    How Much Does Hotel Bel-Air Cost? Rates vary greatly depending on the room category. Entry level rooms can start as low as $695, whereas the Presidential Suite and Herb Garden Suite start at $4,500 for a nightly rate.

    Diego Travel Loves: Los Angeles gets a bad rap for being the city of hustle and a concrete jungle, but Hotel Bel-Air couldn’t be more opposite. It truly is a respite from the world outside of Bel-Air’s boundaries, so if what brings you to LA keeps you on the go, reserving your stay at Hotel Bel-Air will definitely disconnect you and get you ‘away from it all’ at the end of each day. I love the location because you’re perfectly situated between the beaches of Santa Monica, Malibu and Venice Beach, yet close to Brentwood, UCLA, and even downtown Los Angeles.

    What we love about the Bel-Air
    Extras you get booking with Diego Travel at Hotel Bel-Air

    Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:

    • Dorchester Collection Diamond Club VIP Status
    • Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability
    • full breakfast for up to two people (excludes alcohol and caviar)
    • $100 hotel credit credit per stay for rooms and Jr Suites and daily hotel credit of $100.00 USD for suites, to be applied to the final bill
    • Welcome Amenity
    • Diego Travel Welcome Box for First-Time Clients
    • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

    Hotel Bel-Air Insider Tips:

    There are no double queen or double rooms at Hotel Bel-Air. They have only king beds and twin bed configurations, with queen pull-out sofa beds in some rooms. In every room category, there are certain units that have slightly larger square footage or a preferred patio or room distribution. When you book with Diego Travel, you’ll get preferential access to these as well as getting your automatic upgrade at time of booking. Also, the main hotel pool used to be a horse ring, so the junior suites surrounding the pool are converted horse stables.

    Hotel Bel-Air garden

    Summary of Our Stay atHotel Bel-Air:

    On a recent trip to San Diego to visit family, we had to make a quick trip up to Los Angeles for a doctor’s appointment. I had always been intrigued by iconic hotel legends like the Hotel Bel-Air and the Beverly Hills Hotel, but had never visited either of them. The Dorchester Collection team was the most responsive and accommodating to all of my requests, which is always a good indication of the level of service you’ll receive once you’re on property.

    Hotel Bel-Air California

    Our family decided to turn the visit into a mini-vacation, so I was joined by my parents, husband and all three kids. The connecting Canyon suites we had were perfect, and rather than just a door connecting them, we had an entire stair well between the two, which meant there is total privacy, yet we’d still feel close enough had we only been traveling with the kids. Each patio had its own hot tub and fireplace, perfect for chilly California evenings.

    Hotel Bel-Air Pool

    Upon arrival, I was of course slammed with work, so I set up my remote office on the suite’s spacious desk/office area to work for 20 minutes while the rest went ahead to the restaurant for lunch. When I went to catch up to them, the thing that struck me most was the design of the restaurant! While some tables are front and center, the majority of them are booths, tucked back and divided by both perfect foliage and curtains. Let’s just say it took me awhile to find them at a tucked away table. Again, if you’re a well-known celebrity and just want to have a meal in peace, it’s immediately clear why they love this place.

    Bel-Air Lobby

    The property feels intimate and there isn’t much to do for kids. The gardens are large enough to run around and explore for a day or two, but if you’re looking for a family-friendly, kids-club style resort, this is not it. While our kids weren’t the only ones making a splash at the pool, I did feel quite conscious of other guests’ book-reading and quiet conversations going interrupted by my three kids. Oops! The good news is that we didn’t stay long on either day of our stay at the main pool because we enjoyed our ‘villas’ so much, we didn’t want to leave!

    Hotel Bel-Air

    When comparing this property to the Beverly Hills Hotel, which I will cover in another article, I would say that this is the lesser kid-friendly of the two, and truly perfect for adults looking for quiet, to be left alone, or to have that important business meeting. It was the perfect respite to the overcrowded LA streets and perfect ending to our days of doctor visits, walking and shopping, and eating out on the town.

    Bel -Air Plunge Pool

    If you have any questions about staying at the Hotel Bel-Air, I’d be happy to answer them or help you book your stay so that you get all the added value mentioned above. Plus, you might just love the experience of traveling celebrity-style with a VIP status, that you’ll never want to travel without Diego Travel again!

    Design My Trip!

    Hotel Bel-Air LA


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    Hotel Review: Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort

    Hotel Review

    Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort

    A Top Luxury Resort Located in the Heart of Cabo San Lucas
    MARIA DIEGO

    Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It is a 115-room resort that offers a myriad of room configurations that range in size from 1 bedroom to 4 bedroom suites or homes with kitchen and laundry rooms. The resort is built into the rocky cliffside of Pedregal, yet has a wide sandy beach with beautiful ocean views. The nice thing about this resort is that every single room has an ocean view

    Perfect For: Large families | Groups of friends | Multiple families wanting their own space but wanting a perfect setting to be together | If you need a kitchen + washer/dryer | Honeymoons and anniversaries

    • 22.8745,-109.9117

      Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal

    • 22.9489,-109.939

      Cabo San Lucas International Airport

    Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Location: Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal is located within Pedregal. The center of Los Cabos, and a short distance into town to visit bars, restaurants and other things to do. However, you may never want to leave your resort, once you drive through the grand entrance to the resort – the only tunnel in all of Mexico that runs through the rocky cliffside of the mountainous cliffs that make up Pedregal. After an extensive replenishment of its shoreline, Waldorf Astoria Pedregal now has a wide sandy beach to enjoy walking, beach dinners and evening bonfires. Unlike other beaches in Los Cabos, there is a pounding shorebreak making the beach at Pedregal not swimmable most of the time.

    Getting There: Cabo Mexico flights are easy and convenient, with many non-stop options from cities in California like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, as well as Chicago and Dallas. From Los Cabos International Airport or SJD, it is about 45 minutes drive, and the resort provides its own private cars for your transfers at an additional cost, which are included when booking some exclusive promotions with Diego Travel.

    Vibe at Pedregal Los Cabos

    Vibe: A fellow travel advisor recently described Waldorf Astoria Pedregal as “Scottsdale meets Cabo,” which I thought hit the nail on the head. It has a fun, lively, cocktail scene with lot of day-drinking and chic, nighttime vibes. For those that want to hang with the family can do so, and if you’re adults-only wanting privacy, then you can do that too. However, I saw a lot of couples hanging poolside, cocktails in hand, or chatting during after-dinner hours while enjoying the lively entertainment around the resort.

    Accomodations: Waldorf Astoria Pedregal has 115 rooms, including three residences that are located five minutes up the hill by golf cart. Every single accommodation at the resort has ocean views, and a spectacular view at that. There are many categories that range from ocean view rooms, to one bedroom suites, to beachfront suites and villas, to three 3-4 bedroom cliffside residences located just five minutes from the main resort. My favorites were the beachfront one or two-bedroom suites or Presidential suites, just because they are literally on the beach with their own pool and fireplace. How nice would it be with the kids to have that convenience?!

    • Rooms at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort 2

    • Bathroom at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort

    • Rooms at Sunset at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort 1

    Food at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort

    Food & Beverage: One of the best things to do in Cabo, Mexico is eating and drinking of course. Who doesn’t look forward to tacos, guacamole and margaritas on their beach vacation?

    While each area in Mexico has its own cuisine, Cabo has some of the best farm to table culinary options as well as fresh fish and seafood from the Pacific Ocean. Don Manuel’s is a great option for breakfast, lunch and dinner – you’ll have breakfast included with your stay when you book with Diego Travel! The Beach Club and Crudo have convenient poolside bites, because let’s face it, lounging poolside and drinking Coronas can really work up an appetite.

    Waldorf Astoria Pedregal has arguably the best restaurant in all of Baja California in El Farallon, built into the rocky cliffside and overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. Service and food were excellent, but the ambience cannot be beat in any location in Cabo. We were invited to have cocktails on a newly opened sandy space, just beneath the restaurant’s location, to enjoy a private party with stellar sunset views. Ask me about renting this space for a special occasion like an anniversary dinner, proposal or pre-wedding cocktail.

    As a final note, I am gluten-free and I’m also allergic to shellfish, so I’m always in tune to my clients’ dietary needs. As someone who takes it very seriously, this resort is on it when it comes to dietary restrictions and allergies. Every meal I felt sure that my gluten-free needs were being met, and they had the most amazing gluten-free options for meals and desserts!

    Wellness: The spa at Waldorf Astoria Pedregal Los Cabos cannot be missed, and was worthwhile to book at least one treatment during your stay. While I would say the focus is to be on the beach, poolside, or eating at any of its amazing restaurants, the spa offers an indoor retreat from the sun and its own shaded pool, complete with waterfalls and over-the-water treatment rooms. Every treatment begins with a ceremony of cleansing the feet (foot massage included).

    Reserve at least half a day for the spa, as it was quite impressive and would make an amazing activity for your girlfriends getaway or a bachelorette weekend. Or, if you’re like me, and traveling without the kids for the first time in awhile, you’ll want to park yourself in this spa and stay there.

    Aside from the spa element, the resort offers sunrise yoga classes, and features special weekends with guest speakers or events like shamans and wellness gurus.

    Spa At Pedregal Los Cabos Resort

    Things to do In Los Cabos

    Things to Do in Cabo San Lucas: From marine life to mountain trails, golfing, farms and wine tasting, Cabo has something for everyone. Most people go to Cabo to relax in a luxury setting with excellent service and food amidst a beautiful view and gorgeous resorts. But if you’re adventurous enough to get yourself up from the pool or the beach, you should reserve a day out on the water for deep sea fishing or a day to golf, if that’s your thing.

    What  Sets  It  Apart: Maybe one of the coolest things about Waldorf Astoria Pedregal Los Cabos, besides the amazing suites with stunning ocean views, were the dual sunrise/sunset views each day. They are worth waking up early in the morning for sunrise yoga and dining in the evening at El Farallon.

    Rooms at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort
    Sunset at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort

    How Much Does Waldorf Astoria Pedregal Cost? During September, the hottest month in Cabo, Mexico, the lowest rates begin at $550 for their entry level suite, and go as high as $1800 in high season. All suites have an ocean view, so they really don’t have your typical “entry level.” The large 4-bedroom homes can range from $2,500-$5,000/night plus taxes and fees.

    Diego Travel Loves: The color palette of terracotta against the ocean blues, the way every room has a pretty great ocean view (if you reach out, I’ll walk you through which ones may have more obstructed views), the welcome bottle of tequila, and the stunning setting of El Farallon. During a special margarita tasting, we learned they make their own in-house rose-colored hibiscus salt to rim the glasses, which you can request at any time (they even offered to make us some to take home)!

    Colors At Pedregal Los Cabos Resort
    Welcome Amenities at Los Cabos Pedregal

    Extras You’ll Get with Diego Travel:

    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Breakfast buffet daily in Don Manuel’s for two guests per bedroom
    • $150 USD equivalent Hotel or Resort credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
    • Complimentary VIP airport Lounge Tickets with all Beach Front Suite Bookings
    • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability
    • Complimentary Wi-Fi

      Access to exclusive promotions such as:

      Stay 7 days or longer and get 30% off your rate

        • Complimentary Champagne and Salt tasting experience at The Champagne Terrace at El Farallon. 
        • Roundtrip luxury airport transfers for San Jose de Cabo Airport (SJD)
        • Complimentary Private Chef One Night Per Week (excludes alcohol)
        • 20% off treatments and purchases at Waldorf Astoria Spa
        • 20% off Food & Beverage
        • Complimentary daily access to the kids’ club for 2 children
        • Complimentary Butler Service
        • Free Clothing pressing
        • Reliable high-speed wi-fi
        • Technical computer support for remote working/learning
        • Designated learning room

      Waldorf Astoria Pedregal Insider Tips:

      This luxury Cabo resort offers a ton of flexibility with accommodation configurations for large groups or family vacations.  With options to adjoin rooms, and ranging in size from one bedroom to 4-bedroom vacation homes, they are sure to have an accommodation that will work for you and your family.  The ground floor Dos Mares junior suites have hammocks and the upstairs ones have fire pits.  It’s details like these that make having a travel advisor extra crucial, so that I can ensure you get the exact fit for your needs.  Also, there is a favorite for a honeymoon suite and another suite category that was my personal favorite, but you’ll have to reach out to me to find out more!  

      Beach at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Resort

      Summary of Our Stay atWaldorf Astoria Pedregal Los Cabos:

      I was honored to be invited to participate in this familiarization trip (better known as a FAM trip in the travel industry) to Waldorf Astoria Pedregal Los Cabos.  This amazing beach vacation was for three nights, to a destination that I knew little about.  I had been only once before, a few years prior, but did not have a chance to see any of the hotels and resorts I had been dying to see in the area of Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas.

      Views from Pedregal Los Cabos Resort

      The entrance to the resort is stunning, as you drive from the Cabo airport to your hotel, you arrive via a welcoming tunnel that is the ultimate way of letting you know you have arrived.  Upon arrival, I immediately went to lunch with a group of fellow luxury travel advisors and travel industry partners.  Over the next three days, we had a complete tour of the resort and saw every imaginable room category, had a margarita tasting with the aforementioned pink hibiscus salt-rimmed glasses, a glowing beach dinner under the twinkling stars with a fireworks display in the distance, and followed by a late evening surrounding a beach bonfire while we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores.  The hotel staff was so accommodating to my gluten allergy, they even brought me special gluten-free graham crackers so that I didn’t have to miss out.

      Todos Santos Mexico

      On our second day, we spent the entire day seeing local spots like a blanket weaving factory, a local farmers market (where I bought my husband the most amazing dried mango with chili piquin), and the town of Todos Santos, home to the famous Hotel California.  It was fun shopping and supporting the local artisans who have been so devastated by the global pandemic and hit to the tourism industry.

      Our third day was reserved for the spa and relaxing by the pool, getting to know each other better and talk all things travel.  As I’m constantly working on the go, I did spend the better half of the day in my own suite on my terrace overlooking the ocean as I worked from my laptop to plan client trips.

      Night at Pedregal Los Cabos

      The final night we had cocktails and a fabulous dinner at the popular El Farallon.  If you’re planning a trip to Cabo, even if you don’t plan on staying at the resort, I do recommend booking a dinner here.  They give priority reservations to in-house guests of course, but if you’re able to get a table, it’s a must for a Los Cabos vacation.  

      Throughout the weekend, I was able to learn so much about the resort, the travel industry in general, and different ways in which I can make your vacation better for when you do decide to travel to Los Cabos, Mexico.  I am so grateful to my partners at Hidden Doorways and Waldorf Astoria Pedregal for this amazing opportunity to get to know the resort so well, and I’m so excited to work with them to VIP you on your next vacation south of the border!  If you’re planning to go without reaching out to me, I guess my only question would be, “Well, why wouldn’t you?”

      Design My Trip!

      Pedregal Los Cabos Resort Outside


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      Blackberry Farm Vs. Blackberry Mountain

      The Difference Between Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain

      A Diego Travel agency and Virtuoso client favorite domestic destination has always been Blackberry Farm and more recently, Blackberry Mountain – two luxury resorts in the Great Smoky Mountains of Walland, Tennessee.  If you are undecided between which of these Virtuoso and Relais & Chateaux properties might be right for you, we are here to point you in the right direction.  In addition to helping our clients navigate the differences between these two luxury resorts, as a proud affiliate of McCabe World Travel, we also offer our clients the following benefits:

      • 5% off published rates
      • $50 spa credit
      • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
      • Priority room upgrade when available
      • Personalized trip planning to make the most out of your vacation
      • Custom Diego Travel welcome box with goodies for new clients

      Both Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain are the perfect destinations for a wellness and spa weekend, a girlfriends getaway (see our blog on our moms’ trip to Blackberry Farm), a domestic honeymoon, or even a large family vacation, so how do you make the choice of which one is best for you?  Well, just keep reading…

      Getting There

      The pastoral Tennessee farm is situated on a 4,200-acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains, just 25 minutes from the Knoxville airport, also known as McGhee Tyson Airport or TYS, or you can drive 2.5 hours from Asheville, 3 hours from Nashville, or 3.5 hours from Atlanta.  The two sister properties are located just 30 minutes apart, with Blackberry Mountain sitting at an elevation of 2,800 feet.

      How to Get to Blackberry Farm & Blackberry Mountain

      • 35.6864,-83.8656

        Blackberry Farm

      • 35.7431,-83.7659

        Blackberry Mountain

      Why you should plan a trip to:

      Blackberry Farm

      • There are 68 accommodations/rooms at Blackberry Farm
      • Rooms range from a queen Historic room in the Main House to multi-bedroom homes
      • Blackberry Farm includes breakfast, lunch and dinner
      • Home to The Wellhouse at Blackberry Farm (spa) for re-centering
      • Activities include cycling, horseback riding, hiking, boating, water and paddle sports, fly-fishing, bird-watching, sporting clays, carriage rides and archery

      Blackberry Mountain

      • There are 18 large cabins and 6 traditional cabins and multi-bedroom homes at Blackberry Mountain
      • Rooms range from a watchman queen cabin to a 5-bedroom private home
      • Blackberry Mountain includes breakfast and dinner, but lunch is not included in the rates
      • Home to Nest, the naturopathic spa focused on self-discovery
      • Activities include diverse hiking options, destination picnics, fitness classes, rock climbing, camping, mountain biking, sporting clays, tree climbing, fly-fishing, boating, water and paddle sports

      What Is The Highlight at:

      Blackberry Farm

      The renowned Relais & Chateaux Foothills Cuisine at Blackberry Farm is literally farm to table and every meal is a savory and indulgent feast for the senses. If you are looking to relax with not much more activity than say, an epicurean adventure, then Blackberry Farm is the right place for you. They have James Beard award winning dining at The Barn, in addition to The Dogwood and The Main House. Summer opens up more opportunities for al fresco dining options and tasting the 30 plus varieties of tomatoes on offer from the gardens.

      Blackberry Mountain

      The elevated property on the mountaintop is the prime spot to disconnect from your devices and reconnect with your loved ones. In fact, the Watchman Cabins don’t even have televisions. The resort offers a peaceful retreat or an epic opportunity for adventure. Its wellness focus translates to its meals, its activities, its service and its spa treatments. You’ll find everything from aerial yoga, rock climbing, Raku pottery classes, and nature retreats (a la forest bathing).

      Who Should Visit?

      Blackberry Farm

      It’s ideal for large, traditional family gatherings, with special events and concerts scattered throughout the calendar each year. Guests of the farm, or as they like to refer to them, friends of the Farm, tend to return year-after-year, with the draw of seeing their favorite performing artist, or taking a special course, or partaking in a special hobby. It’s not just the unparalleled hospitality that is the hallmark of the Blackberry brand, it is the experience that makes the vacation. Finally, you can’t miss the farmstead tour and a visit to see the Lagotto Romagnolo puppies, or better known as truffle puppies. These cuddly and delicious little teddy bears have a 6-year wait list to purchase one. And while I haven’t gotten myself on the list, I’m seriously considering it. The puppy visit makes the visit to the farm completely worth it!

      Aside from large families, Blackberry Farm is really ideal for intimate weddings and honeymooners alike. The property is so expansive and the accommodations offer so much privacy, that even at full capacity, the resort never feels crowded. We have planned small and large celebrations, and work collaboratively between you and the Blackberry team to make your event unique to you. If you feel overwhelmed about putting together your destination wedding, don’t hesitate to reach out to see how we can transform your vision into reality.

      Blackberry Mountain

      While you’ll find everyone from families with small children, to couples celebrating their anniversary, to newlyweds on their honeymoon, what sets the Mountain apart is that you won’t see much of anyone else if you don’t want to. The point is to disconnect from the everyday grind and dive into your health and wellness to truly emerge more centered, more in tune with nature, and hence, more relaxed. All while challenging yourself as much, or as little, as you’d like with the plentitude of mountain adventure activities

      Need Help Deciding Which One Is Right For You?

      We are always here to walk our clients through questions, itineraries, and custom trip planning. If you really can’t decide which property you’ll enjoy more, then we say why not enjoy both?! You can easily spend a few days at each, but keep in mind that during peak seasons, there may be minimum stays at each. We also recommend booking at least six months in advance to get your preferred date, and more if you are planning a large group vacation or a wedding. You can Contact Us us to start planning your next escape to Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain. We can’t wait to make your stay extra special!


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      What to Expect While Traveling During the Pandemic

      Ready to Travel?

      What to Expect While Traveling During The Pandemic

      MARIA DIEGO

      Since March 2020, the world was dramatically changed by the global pandemic. The travel industry was virtually shut down overnight, with hotels, suppliers, and travel agencies scrambling to stay afloat while also processing refund after refund for clients who were unable to travel. Upon reopening, hotels have struggled with ever-changing government restrictions, balancing supply and demand, and meeting the expectation of the customer with so many variables that affect the overall customer experience.

      In this blog, I’m going to outline what it’s like to travel during this global pandemic based on my personal experiences at seven hotels and resorts in the last three months. My clients have also provided feedback on dozens of hotels and resorts with varying experiences related to social-distancing, health and safety measures, and services provided (or not provided). The travel industry has gone through a radical shift in very little time, so everything from airlines to hotels to tour operators will continue to transform over the coming years to adapt to this new reality. I hope this feedback serves to guide you and your family as you plan future travel, and set your expectations correctly so that you can make the most of travel during this most unusual of times.

      5 Things to Remember Before You Travel

      1. Expect the Unexpected

      Ive always felt the best travelers are those who know how to roll with the punches.  This has never rung more true than when traveling during the Coronavirus pandemic. As a professional travel planner and owner of the luxury travel agency, Diego Travel, an independent affiliate of McCabe World Travel and part of the worlds leading Virtuoso travel network, I like to plan out every detail of my clientsvacations.  That way, from the moment they leave their homes until the moment they arrive back again, they have a pretty clear vision of what to expect from their laid-out itinerary.  That doesnt always mean that everything goes according to plan, so I am always available to help my clients make any necessary changes and adjustments to work through the unexpected. 

      In the past, rolling with the punches might have meant accepting a flight cancelation with grace and the challenges that come along with that, or changing a tour date due to rainy weather.  All of these circumstances are generally out of everyones control, but having a travel advisor to rely on is the best way to arrive to a quick resolution.  Today, those punches might feel a lot more frequent and a lot harder to deal with, which makes it especially important to work with a travel advisor, so that you are not left wasting your precious vacation time scrambling to work things out on your own. Having said that, my recommendation is that anyone traveling during this time should go into their trip with an open mind and positive attitude so that you can enjoy and make the most of your trip even when encountering the limitations of travel during these unstable times.

      Bummer! Kids club is closed

      2. Set Flexible Expectations Prior to Departure

      Every state and every country has different travel restrictions and guidelines to follow during the age of coronavirus.  Now more than ever, I am advocating to use a travel professional to plan your travel.  Dont rely on your cousins feedback who visited last month.  A big buzz word during this global pandemic has been fluid.  The rules and regulations are fluid and change on the daily, and sometimes hourly, basis.  So book your travel plans with someone who can coach you on not only what to expect, but also what testing youll need, when youll need it and where to get it.

      Dont want to get tested in order to travel?  Thats fine, there are still plenty of options that your travel advisor can help you explore.

      Now, choosing your destination is only half the battle.  Each state has different policies for indoor dining, mask-wearing policies, allowed activities (like spa and gym), thereby affecting the functionality of hotels and resorts.  Youll want to be fully aware prior to making your plans of what will be available to you and what will not.  Are you OK with not having limited activities for children and no kids club? If the spa is unavailable, are you okay with that? What about indoor dining?  If the answer is no, then we had better look elsewhere.

      Aside from the hotel policies themselves, another factor to consider are other guests and their general behavior.  I have anecdotal feedback from multiple clients that hotel guests in Georgia and South Carolina behave differently than hotel guests in California.  Thats not to say there is a right or wrong, but you have to decide what you feel comfortable with in order to fully enjoy your vacation time. One of the advantages of using a travel advisor is that we can go over the nuances in the travel experience from one destination to another or even hotels within the same destination.  Another suggestion is to read my blog Ready to Travel, which guides you on 5 ways to travel safer.

      Expect limited dining option while traveling in the age of COVID

      3. Check Destination Policies at Time of Booking and Again Prior to Departure

      Policies are changing daily, not just by the hotels themselves, but due to state and county Coronavirus regulations.  In one such instance, housekeeping was provided at the time of booking, but by the time the guest checked in, the service was no longer being offered.  Its also possible that travel requirements change, and the last thing you want is to be taken by surprise when you arrive to the airport.  

      In July, we visited three beach resorts in Laguna Beach, California, all offering a pretty unique experience when it came to Covid-measures.  Because California was not allowing indoor dining at that time, the hotel that was most affected by these restrictions was the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point.  All but one of their restaurants offered no outdoor seating, with 180blu being the only option for outdoor patio seating at high tables that were more appropriate for bar food than for gourmet dining.  Their solution was to have all other food and beverage orders placed through private dining, and then delivered in take-out boxes to your choice of Raya, their indoor restaurant space with wide ocean views, or to your hotel room.  For many, this could be cumbersome and uncomfortable after a multi-day stay at this resort.  While I loved the location of this resort, its restrictions made the stay quite challenging in a number of ways.

      By contrast, the Montage Laguna Beach had two outdoor dining restaurants, plus poolside dining, which made it feel like a hotel stay reminiscent of pre-Covid times.  The property itself is a much more indoor/outdoor living feel than the Ritz Carlton, however even here dining options were somewhat limited.

      At all of the properties we stayed at, including the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, Montage Laguna, and the Monarch Beach Resort, Diego Travel clients receive daily complimentary breakfast for 2, a $100 hotel/spa credit, plus a priority room upgrade when available. These additional amenities are combinable with whatever promotion the resort offers, and often times we have access to exclusive promotions for Virtuoso partnerships.  Not to mention booking with a Virtuoso agency guarantees our clients are given the VIP treatment that they deserve!

      Checking into a hotel the age of Covid-19

      4. Be Patient and Practice Empathy

      After the travel industrys economic decimation, we have proven our resiliency in an industry that few people understand unless youve been in it.  Millions of people were laid off or furloughed, and when travel began to return, hotels struggled with rehiring staff and maintaining margins that might lessen the costly blow of a property that had zero income for months on end.

      I gently reminded my clients, especially those who traveled to a hotel within weeks of reopening, that it would be an imperfect stay, but certainly filled with people who were trying their hardest to steady a sinking ship. I expect that service may not be up to par to what luxury travelers had come to expect pre-Covid.  I also expect that the issues we will see in the coming months as the world begins to open up will take time to correct themselves.  The travel industry will take time to heal the deep wounds it has been dealt.  So I would just ask all travelers to be patient and gracious during this unsteady recovery, and support small businesses when you can. If you know a travel advisor, use one. Tip generously to the waiter whos dashing between four tables to keep all the customers happy and fed.  Frequent boutique hotels or consider upgrading your room to a suite.  Our industry is one based on customer service, and I have never experienced a more collaborative and supportive group of people who will bend over backward to make their customer happy.

      Networking during Virtuoso’s anual conference

      5. Relationships Matter

      The emergence of online travel agencies (OTAs), such as Expedia, Booking and others, in the early 2000s was the most historically significant thing to happen to the travel industry.  It transformed the way the consumer purchased travel, making it incredibly easy for everyone to directly book flights, hotels and tours. As these OTAs became more and more successful they merged and grew into the two juggernauts that now control most of the online travel industry under the guise of their many subsidiaries. Did you know that Expedia controls Travelocity,  Hotels.com, Orbitz, Trivago, VRBO, etc while Booking controls Priceline, Kayak, Open Table, etc? The power that these OTAs now have has come at the expense of not only travel providers such as hotels and tour operators by dictating exorbitant commissions but also at the expense of travelers who have to pay more so that those same travel providers are able to afford paying the commissions demanded by the OTAs. By working under a different model, Virtuoso travel agents have cultivated strong and lasting relationships with hoteliers and service providers, that allow us to work with our travel partners to go above and beyond for our clients.

      Were in the relationship business,says Matthew Upchurch, the CEO of the Virtuoso network, the premiere consortium for travel agencies, suppliers and hotels.  It is the emotional capabilities that make us irreplaceable.”  While an online booking may look like an easy way to book travel, it is not the best means to the end result.  This has never been more true as it is today, when constant changes in policies demand a human connection. If you dont believe me just ask anyone who has spent hours trying to deal with a change or refund from an OTA. My job as a Virtuoso advisor is not just to know my clients and understand what they value, but also to maintain a relationship with the other side – the hotels and suppliers.  In this way, when I book my client with the sales manager at Montage Palmetto Bluff for example, Heather knows my clients value the view over proximity to the restaurants (or vice versa!), they get an automatic upgrade at time of booking, and the general manager greets them by name when they walk into the lobby.  

      Gone are the days when OTAs have the leg up on better value.  The hotels shell out exorbitant commissions to these OTAs, so its a better business model for the hotel itself to work directly with travel advisors and travel agencies, particularly those who work with highly-valued clientele like Diego Travel clients.  As a proud affiliate of McCabe World Travel, our preferred partnerships with brands such as Four Seasons, Belmond, Rosewood Hotels, Ritz Carlton, and many more luxury brands, offers access to exclusive rates and value-added amenities.

      10 Things to Expect While Traveling in the Age of Coronavirus

      • Reduced airline and airport staff
      • Health and temperature screenings at some airports
      • Limited flight routes and schedules
      • Obligatory use of masks while at the airport and throughout the flight
      • No food and beverage service onboard
      • Limited bellman, room service and housekeeping services
      • Outdoor dining only at some destinations and limited menus and restaurant options
      • Limited access to restaurants, gyms and spas
      • Limited services such as kids club or group classes
      • Significant changes or limitations to group tours

      Don’t forget to practice social distancing while traveling during the pandemic

      A Note on Travel in 2020 and Beyond

      To summarize, these changes to travel are ever-changing and no one knows if they will be here to stay or when things will go away.  How long will the word quarantine be a part of our everyday vocabulary, or how long will we all be required to wear masks in public?  Nobody knows, though I wish I had a crystal ball.  All I know is that those of us who work in travel are committed to getting the world back to it, even if the speed at which is comes back is more of a sputtering rather than a full-speed ahead.  As you look ahead to your vacation days for the rest of 2020, or  begin to plan the momentous trip youre looking forward to for 2021 to make up for lost time, heed my advice on this one.  If you’ve never experienced the professionalism of a well-planned vacation by a travel advisor, or havent used a travel agent since the 1980s, now is the time to venture into a relationship that you wont regret.  Research to find an advisor that understands your needs, takes time to get to know you, and has relationships with the global market.  It may just be the best relationship you establish for 2021.


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