Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Winter Travel Tips

Flying from Central New York is always a gamble, but in winter it’s especially so. With very few non-stop flight options and smaller commuter aircrafts more prone to delays, its no wonder flying can feel like a crapshoot sometimes. Here are a few tips to improve your odds when flying in winter.

1. Book the earliest departure of the day. This is always true regardless of the weather because the plane should be ready and waiting to depart from the night before. Subsequent flights must arrive from other cities and turn around for your departure, increasing the possibility of delays.

2. Avoid booking the last flight of the day whenever possible. Unless you don’t mind spending the night at the airport, only book flights with back-up options.

3. Book sufficient layovers. Give yourself an hour or two to change planes so there’s a cushion to accommodate delays due to de-icing aircraft. Avoid 30-minute connections (regarded as ‘legal’ by the airlines) at all costs.

4. Choose your routing carefully. Avoid connecting in the snow-belt hubs if you can change planes in a warm-weather hub instead, even if it adds a little flying time to your trip. Chicago, New York and Philadelphia are much more likely to have weather delays than Washington D.C., Atlanta or Charlotte. Never, ever land in Denver during winter unless it’s your destination.

5. Choose your airline carefully if you’re on connecting flights. So-called discount airlines may only have one hub and won’t put you on another airline when there’s a problem. If that hub has weather issues, it could be DAYS (instead of hours) before you are re-accommodated.

6. Be prepared for delays. Cruisers take note: Don’t miss the boat! If you must be there, go the day before.

7. Use a travel agent. Shameless self-promotion aside, let us do the work for you. We can control your air schedule and advise which airline, connecting city, layover timing are best for your dates, and still get you the best value. An experienced player has a much better chance of beating the travel-snafu odds.

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's not too late to book holiday travel!

Believe it or not, there is still some availability for holiday travel. Luxury resorts have been sending me updates almost daily with the room categories and dates they still have available. Cruises also have staterooms available for the holidays with some attractive pricing. Let someone else do all the cooking and cleaning this year so your family can enjoy a stress-free holiday together.

Remember, the gift of travel is always welcome. Gift certificates for travel services are a great way for you offer hard-to-buy-for friends and family the flexibility to plan their own getaways. Many travel agencies, hotel chains and cruise lines are offering gift certificates which can be used for future travel.

Now that snow has finally arrived to NY, it's time start making your winter travel plans. Air service has expanded to the Caribbean this year, making more islands more accessible than ever before. Many new resorts have opened, and existing resorts have upgraded their facilities. There are still some Early Booking incentives out there which may expire after the New Year.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa review and slideshow

*Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa
Antigua is a beach-lovers paradise, and this resort has a lovely stretch of powdery sand. This week marks the Grand Opening of the new Mediterranean Village, an all-suite resort-within-a-resort. The rooms in this section are very attractive, especially the bathrooms (whirlpool tubs for two, separate shower with designer fixtures, marble vanity with his and her sinks). The older Caribbean Grove section of the resort has the original rondovals, as well as garden cottages with newly refurbished Deluxe rooms.

Sandals Halcyon Beach St. Lucia review and slideshow

*Sandals Halcyon Beach
This charming three-star resort is a great value considering the exchange privileges (Stay at one, play at three). Only 169 rooms and low-rise architecture offer an intimate experience, and the beach is one of the nicest on the island. The landscaping creates an enchanting garden-of-Eden effect with hammocks for two hidden among the flowers. It’s a quiet, laid-back resort good for couples desiring simple island pleasures.

Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort review with slideshow

*Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort
Set on a peninsula, you can see the water from almost every room at this resort. The new Rondoval Suites are fabulous with two whirlpool tubs (one inside and one outdoors by the private plunge pool); but even some of the more modest room categories were appealing. A long ribbon of beach with green mountains in the background, 6 restaurants and 6 bars, and a variety of land and water sports make this an ideal Caribbean All Inclusive.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sandals Regency St. Lucia Golf Resort & Spa review with slideshow

*Sandals Regency St. Lucia Golf Resort & Spa at La Toc.
This is the most luxurious Sandals resort in St. Lucia with the most amenities: 9-hole golf course, full-service spa, the island’s largest pool, etc. Unfortunately, the cove beach was made smaller by the 2007 hurricane season. Sunset Bluff, a resort-within-a-resort, is my personal favorite here. Perched high on a cliff and isolated from the main resort, it feels intimate and exclusive, and the views are sublime. Imagine your butler serving you champagne in your private pool as you enjoy the sun setting into the Caribbean…

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

St Lucia

St. Lucia, Day 2, 4pm.
Wake up call at 6a, dip in my private pool. Get ready, breakfast and then the race began. Tour the Sandals Regency La Toc Golf Resort & Spa, then went to Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort for tour and lunch. Next was the tour of Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort, then back to Regency for a 1-hour beach party (which I'm spending in the lobby on the laptop). Beautiful islands, wonderful resorts. Whew, am I tired. Flight back to Newark departs at 5pm. Back to work tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Caribbean junket

Sept 25, 2007 4:45am
Here I am at the Newark Airport, checked in for my flight to Antigua. This is definitely the most absurd travel agent trip ever: one night, two islands, four resorts. I doubt I’ll even have time for a swim.

After work yesterday, I drove to Newark and stayed at the fabulous Fairfield Inn & Suites. It was fine: hot shower, comfy bed, nice front desk guy, and no hideous bed spread. 3 hours of sleep, the alarm went off at 3am. Such a glamorous life! The Security line hasn’t even opened yet.

First stop is Antigua to check out the Sandals Grande Antigua, especially the new Mediterranean Village.

2:30pm, Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa.
Toured this large resort at break-neck speed, and inspected a dozen room categories (photo tour to come). The new Mediterranean Village is impressive; but the Caribbean Village is still special (gotta love the parrots!). I especially love the Med Village bathrooms: jacuzzi tubs, and shower heads as big as dinner plates. Extra time was spent deciding which rooms with private plunge pools I would prefer, in case inquiring minds want to know. Red Lane Spa has very attractive treatment rooms for couples. The lunch buffet at the Barefoot CafĂ© restored me; but it was hard to choose punch or coffee (so I had both, of course). Antigua has a lovely beach, and the water is crystal clear. We are leaving for St. Lucia at 3pm…

11pm Sandals Regency La Toc Golf Resort & Spa, St. Lucia.
We landed in St. Lucia at 7p and arrived at the resort a bit after 8p. Dinner was at 9p and now the band is playing rub-a-dub versions of 50's classics. Tomorrow's itinerary is just as frantic as today: non-stop from 7:30am until the plane takes off. Luckily, my "Honeymoon Oceanfront One Bedroom Villa Suite with Private Pool" makes a quick dip possible before passing out. Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Hotel news

My first month as an independent travel consultant was a success! Clients have been supportive, and Linden Travel is wonderful. The airline response to the change is what's most startling. Suddenly, it's a lot easier to get my clients what they want.

In the hotel industry, Marriott has signed a deal with Ian Schrager to create a brand of boutique hotels. Schrager, a hipster from way back (co-founder of Studio 54 and Palladium), is said to have invented the boutique hotel concept in 1984 with Morgans in NYC. According to Travel & Leisure, he "single-handedly re-invented the hotel as a site of electrifying cultural significance" (yay him!). Since then, dozens of hotel chains have sprung up to fulfill our desire to stay in fabulous, unique hotels notably Kimpton Hotels (which actually started in 1981) and W Hotels (launched by Starwood in 1999).

Looks like Schrager will have autonomy in the design, concept, and marketing/branding aspects of hotel development and then hand off the management of the completed hotels to Marriott. Hopefully, that'll translate into sensational hotels with consistent service and up-keep. Better late than never, Marriott.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Big News!

I have exciting news to share with you. As of today, I will be affiliated with Manhattan-based Linden Travel as an independent consultant running my own travel business in Ithaca, New York. As such, I will now be in a position to offer you the very best value, service, support and connections.

It’s the best of both worlds: You can continue to work with me and support a locally owned business — Serino Travel Services, Inc. — while having the security and confidence of working with an established New York agency. All your payments and air tickets will be processed through Linden Travel.

Linden Travel has been in business since 1969 with sales of more than $100 million. Linden’s volume generates influence with travel providers, which will help me to get you the best access and service possible. Linden is a member of the Virtuoso Network, the industry’s leading leisure travel network, and I am now a Certified Virtuoso Agent. A network of the top 1% of travel agencies, Virtuoso has relationships with the top hotels, resorts, spas, cruise lines and tour companies to provide you with incredible values and rare experiences — from complimentary upgrades and amenities, to special recognition and privileged access.

Now I have all the tools I need to offer you even better service:
• The most sophisticated technology in the industry;
• Full content availability for more airlines, including internet fares;
• Negotiated, private rates and promotional rates such as AARP and AAA;
• A state-of-the-art quality control program to monitor your itinerary and fare proactively;
• A global network of contacts so I can arrange customized and unique experiences for you anywhere in the world;
• Access to a 24-hour hotline for emergency travel services.

I’m looking forward to helping you with your future travel plans.