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January 13, 2009

Deals at Top Ski Lodges This Winter

Post_hotel_spa The Post Hotel & Spa in Lake Louise, Alberta, was rated the #1 ski hotel in North America by Conde Nast Traveler readers.

by Wendy Perrin

If I weren't bound for the Caribbean next month, I'd be phoning one of the ski-vacation specialists over at largest seller of mountain travel in North America and my favorite source for ski deals--and hitting the slopes.

Since there's such a huge array of ski mountains and lodges to choose from, I thought it might help if I pointed you to the best deals available right now at the top ten ski hotels chosen by the discriminating snow hounds who read Conde Nast Traveler. (For the full results of our 2008 Ski Poll, including the top 20 ski resorts and top 50 ski hotels, plus a Q&A with former World Cup mogul pro Caleb Martin, click here). Note what a great deal Canadian lodges are right now:

1. Post Hotel & Spa, Lake Louise, Alberta Get a fourth night free for stays from February 16 through May 18. Rack rates start at $275, depending on date of stay. Book directly through the hotel by calling 800-661-1586.

2. Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre, Whistler, B.C.  If you book by January 31 through the hotel's site, you get the equivalent of your fifth night free: You get 10 percent off a three-night stay, 15 percent off a four-night stay, or 20 percent off a five-night stay, through April 25, subject to blackout dates.

3. Four Seasons Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Get a fourth night free through April 5. If you go before Jan 28, this deal knocks the standard room rate of $395 down to $296/night for a four-night stay.

Continue reading "Deals at Top Ski Lodges This Winter" »

November 21, 2008

A Caribbean Christmas, Anyone?

Sandals_st_lucia The Sandals Regency La Toc on St. Lucia.

by Wendy Perrin

If you're looking to get away for Christmas but haven't made plans yet, you're in luck. Thanks to the troubled economy, a surprising number of rooms in warm-weather locales are still available for Christmas week, some at significantly reduced prices, and many at all-inclusive properties.

One all-inclusive deal you might consider comes from Sandals Resorts. Sandals is advertising "up to 55% off regular rack rates" at 12 of its properties in the Caribbean, for travel through December 26 of next year.  To vet what appears to be a good deal, we phoned Sandals three times, pretending to make a reservation at each of three different properties for a 7-night stay starting Sat. Dec. 20 and ending Sat. Dec. 27. We learned that the greatest savings are for the most expensive room categories, but there are still good prices available even for the cheapest rooms. Here are the prices we were quoted for an all-inclusive week:

Continue reading "A Caribbean Christmas, Anyone?" »

November 20, 2008

Super Hotel Deals on Priceline

Hyatt_regency_maui You could pay $340 for a room at the Hyatt Regency Maui . . . or you could get it through Priceline for $130.

by Wendy Perrin

With so many empty hotels aching to fill rooms these days, Priceline's opaque bidding tool can yield even lower rates than usual.  As I've said before, the way to avoid overbidding is to check out Bidding For Travel first:  It tells you which hotels Priceline users have recently gotten in which neighborhoods and at what price, thus providing a good sense of which hotel you'll likely end up in and how little you can bid for it.

Yesterday a quick search on Bidding For Travel turned up these amazing rates that travelers recently got through Priceline:

$115 at the Sofitel Beverly Hills, vs. $355 if you book through the hotel's web site.

$85 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, vs. $210 through the hotel's web site.

Given the glut of hotel rooms in Hawaii, there are scads of dirt-cheap digs even at top beach resorts, such as:

Continue reading "Super Hotel Deals on Priceline" »

November 12, 2008

Four Seasons Deal: Third Night Free

Four Seasons Aviara
On sale: Four Seasons Resort Aviara, North San Diego
Photo: Four Seasons

by Wendy Perrin

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts make a big deal about the fact that they never discount their room rates. So it's a big deal when the company decides to offer a complimentary third night for every two paid nights at 33 of its properties. (Remember I told you big hotel values would be coming this winter?)

The participating Four Seasons properties in the Americas are: Atlanta, Austin, Aviara (North San Diego), Boston, 2 in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, 3 in Los Angeles, Mexico, Miami, New York, Palo Alto, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Scottsdale, Seattle, St. Louis, Toronto, and Vancouver. The participating Asia/Pacific properties are: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Macau, Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore, and 2 in Tokyo.

As for how Ritz-Carlton is responding to the global economic slump, here's the scoop.

October 22, 2008

Best U.S. Resort is a Big Surprise


by Wendy Perrin

The resort that was voted #1 in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler readers in our just-published 2008 Readers' Choice Awards is the 29-room Kenwood Inn and Spa near Sonoma, California. This knocked my socks off for two reasons. First, this hotel came outta nowhere: 2008 was the first year readers could even vote for it, and in its first year of eligibility it shot straight to the top. Second, the tiny town of Kenwood is practically in my in-laws' backyard.  I've spent many a July 4th in Kenwood's town square, where festivities have included a "hometown parade," a pancake breakfast, and even the World Pillow Fighting Championships (which I won't bother describing here because they have to be seen to be believed; suffice it to say that all pillow fighters end up slathered in mud from tip to toe).

I've never set foot in the hotel myself but will now try to swing by the next time I'm in town. Have any of you stayed there?  If so, I'd love to hear what's so special about it.

Continue reading "Best U.S. Resort is a Big Surprise" »

October 17, 2008

Rates Slashed at Ritz-Carlton Resorts

The_ritzcarlton_key_biscayne by Wendy Perrin

There's a silver lining to the country's economic meltdown: Hotel deals. Remember I was telling you that properties in the U.S. and nearby will be offering deals this winter the likes of which we haven't seen since post-9/11?  Well, Ritz-Carlton has just lowered room rates and relaxed minimum-stay restrictions for its Florida, Caribbean, and Mexico properties for the peak upcoming Christmas/New Year's holiday season.  One traveler we know has already saved $350 per night.

This move is highly unusual and highlights just how badly luxury hotels will need to fill rooms this winter and how steep the sales will be. It also means there are still plenty of rooms available for those holiday weeks that are normally sold-out this late in the year. At the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida, for instance, holiday rates start at $209. At the Key Biscayne property (pictured at left) rates start at $369, with a $100 resort credit if you book this month. Neither property is imposing length-of-stay restrictions this year.

I heard about this from Terry McCabe of Altour, one of my favorite travel agents and a Caribbean specialist on my list of the world's best travel planners, published annually in Conde Nast Traveler.  Top travel agents like Terry who belong to Ritz-Carlton's STARS program get extra perks for their clients.  Say you want to go to the Ritz-Carlton Cancun: If you book a deluxe room through a STARS agency, you get a $200 resort credit; you get a $300 credit for all Club rooms and suites. And the Reconnect package -- which includes daily buffet breakfast for two and a $100 daily resort credit in the rate -- is available for all room categories.  Happy Holidays!

One last tip: Before booking any hotel or resort stay this fall/winter, be sure to read my October Perrin Report on where you'll find the best deals, how to nab them, and how to negotiate for more. This is the year you've got the power.

September 17, 2008

Hello From Chicago

I'm in a room that looks a lot like this (minus the killer view), on the 16th floor of the Westin Chicago River North.
Photo: Westin Chicago

by Wendy Perrin

Just a quick note to say it pays to belong to Starwood Preferred Guest. My SPG gold status got me upgraded to the Executive Club floor here, which means I get free Wi-Fi, a desktop iMac that I'm using at this very moment, complimentary access to the gym (which, of course, I have no time to use), and free breakfast in the club lounge tomorrow morning. True, my room looks onto a parking garage (which is why I used a pretty photo from the hotel's Web site rather than shooting a pic myself), but I do get a glimpse of the river and the occasional tour boat floating by.

If you're cynically thinking that the upgrade must have something to do with the fact that I'm with Conde Nast Traveler, I can assure you that it doesn't: There are three other Conde Nast Traveler staffers in this hotel, and none of them got upgraded (I'm the only one with an SPG membership). I think it helped that I was friendly and enthusiastic with the check-in agent. When he asked if I'd ever stayed at this hotel before, and I said no but I'm looking forward to it, he said he was upgrading me not only because of SPG but because he wanted me to enjoy my first stay at the hotel and come back next time I'm in Chicago. Love a smart front-desk staff!

September 11, 2008

Nabbing Deals at Top Hotels & Resorts, Part 3


A third-night-free deal at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole puts the room rate at $233 per day.

by Wendy Perrin

Some hotel industry analysts predict that this fall and winter may see a decline in hotel occupancy greater than what we saw after the terrorist attacks seven years ago today.  Why the current trouble filling rooms? You can blame the 10% to 15% cut in domestic airline flights (that's 180,000 fewer airline seats daily!) combined with a glut of new hotel rooms and a sluggish economy. 

All those empty hotel rooms are, of course, great news for the consumer looking for bargains! Check my posts of yesterday and the day before for my first six tips on how to get the most value for your dollar at luxe properties this fall and winter. Here are the final five:

*Before booking a hotel package that includes free extras, do the math.
Add up the monetary value of the free components that you know you will use (meal credits, spa treatments, activities, etc.). Packages that include additional free nights usually represent some of the best opportunities to save. Any package that comes with a club floor upgrade can represent a substantial savings too--especially if you're traveling with children. At Ritz-Carlton properties, for instance, staying on the club floor--which normally costs a premium of $100 to $200 per day--means access to perks including a club lounge that serves meals, snacks, and drinks all day and well into the evening. There's no reason why a family of four can't stay on the club floor without ever having to eat in a restaurant. Whatever package inclusions a hotel promises, "make sure the value is worth it," warns Joe Brancatelli, publisher of JoeSentMe and business travel columnist for  "On top of a lot of good deals, we'll see a lot of bad deals masquerading as good deals."

*Don't hesitate to negotiate. Consider which components of your stay matter to you, and when you're on the phone with the reservations staff (click here for why you should phone), request them. "If you don't like what's included in a package, ask the hotel to substitute something else," advises Vivian Deuschl, Ritz-Carlton's vice president of public relations.  "There's no harm in asking if you can substitute a tennis session for a spa treatment. The worst that can happen is they'll say no."  Sean Hennessey, CEO of Lodging Investment Advisors, points out that hotels will also be "more willing to waive extra fees if you make an argument to the front desk." For instance?  "You could say, 'I don't want to pay a resort fee for towels and use of the spa because I didn't use the towels or the spa."

*If you're celebrating a special occasion, say so. Don't be shy about letting the reservations manager know ahead of time if it's your honeymoon, an anniversary, a birthday, or any other special milestone. Hoteliers want to make such occasions memorable so you'll return someday--and so you'll tell your friends and they'll come too.

Continue reading "Nabbing Deals at Top Hotels & Resorts, Part 3" »

September 10, 2008

Hotel & Resort Values This Fall & Winter, Part 2


La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa in Santa Fe, N.M, is one of 94 luxe members of Leading Hotels of the World that will put a limited number of rooms on sale for only $19.28 on October 1.

by Wendy Perrin

This fall and winter are expected to bring steep savings at hotels and resorts in the U.S. and nearby  (the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico).  Yesterday I shared the first of my tips for how to get the most value for your dollar. Here are more:

*Include a Sunday night in your stay.
Many hotels get Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-through-Friday traffic from business travelers, so there's a big void on Sunday night," says Brian Hendricks, marketing director of Quikbook, the hotel consolidator that offers discounted rooms--mainly at non-chain hotels--in large U.S. cities. Instead of going for Friday and Saturday nights, he advises, book Saturday and Sunday or Sunday and Monday.

Continue reading "Hotel & Resort Values This Fall & Winter, Part 2" »

September 09, 2008

How to Nab the Best Hotel and Resort Deals this Fall and Winter


Promotional discounts at the all-inclusive Sandals Grande Antigua bring the daily room rate for a 6-night stay from $752 down to $343.

by Wendy Perrin

If you've been waiting for several years now for some honest-to-goodness deals on hotel and resort stays, well--hallelujah!--your time has come. This fall and winter are shaping up to be rife with hotel and resort values in the U.S. and destinations nearby.

That's what happens when an economic slowdown coincides with a flood of new hotels (planned when the economy was better) and a 10 to 15% cut in domestic airline flights. The resulting prospect of empty rooms is causing "a lot of anxiety among hotel operators and owners," says Scott Berman, principal and hotel analyst for Pricewaterhousecoopers. "There's no doubt that there will be more deals this winter than in the past"--especially, he says, in the six-week window between New Year's and President's Day. "The weakening economy is likely to create a huge opportunity for consumers," agrees Sean Hennessey, CEO of Lodging Investment Advisors, who recommends waiting till as close as possible to your travel dates to book your room, since the longer you wait, the more deals there will be.

We've gotten a glimpse of the coming steep price reductions in the form of Expedia's Half Off Hotel Sale, the company's largest-ever hotel promotion, with more than 170 hotels offering 50 percent off stays of four nights or more. Although five of the participating hotels are 5-star properties, most top-of-the-line resorts will not be comfortable slashing rates but will be eager to reduce your bill in other ways--say, through free additional nights, free upgrades, free meals, and/or free spa treatments--in order to get your business.  "It's a buyer's market again," says Joe Brancatelli, publisher of JoeSentMe, the online bible for business travelers. "Last year they had the hammer. This year you've got the hammer."

So precisely how should you wield it and where should you strike?

Continue reading "How to Nab the Best Hotel and Resort Deals this Fall and Winter" »

April 17, 2008

Hitting the Hot Spots in NYC

The winners of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine's Behind-the-Scenes Hot List Experience at DB Bistro Moderne in Manhattan, April 17, 2008.

by Wendy Perrin

Three great travel tips came out of my lunch earlier today with Mike and Paula Hlastala, the charismatic and incredibly nice Seattle couple who bid for, and won, this year's Behind-the-Scenes Hot List Experience. The Hot List Experience is a trip to New York City that includes two nights in your choice of Hot List hotel (one of the properties on the magazine's annual Hot List in our May issue), dinner at your choice of Hot Table, entry to the magazine's Hot List party happening tonight at Mansion--including access to the party's VIP area, where the celebs hang out--and lunch with yours truly. 

The hotel Paula and Mike chose? A new Kimpton property called 70 Park Avenue in Murray Hill, where they checked in earlier today. The restaurant they chose for dinner tomorrow night? Market Table in Greenwich Village. As for lunch with me today, we chowed down on chef Daniel Boulud's signature $32 hamburgers--sirloin burgers, actually, filled with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffle--at his not-so-new but still hot (and close to my office) midtown bistro.

Of course, I had to ask Mike, who runs a Seattle real estate development firm called Othello Partners, and Paula, the stay-at-home mother of their two children who plans all the family trips, what travel secrets they've gleaned so far during this New York City jaunt. Three excellent tips came up:

1. Flying JetBlue? Get one of the seats up front with extra legroom.
The magazine paid $25 extra per flight so that Mike could get one of JetBlue's Even More Legroom seats, with a pitch of 38 inches. On some flights these seats cost only $10 extra. Mike says they're well worth it: He's six feet six, and the extra legroom is the reason he was able to sleep on his red-eye last night. (Paula flew into town a couple of days earlier.)

Read on for the two other tips.

Continue reading "Hitting the Hot Spots in NYC" »

September 25, 2007

Top Hotel Secrets

Wouldn't you love to get upgraded to this?  Conde Nast Traveler readers gave Budapest's Four Seasons Gresham Palace a perfect 100 score for its rooms (see our 2007 Gold List).

By Wendy Perrin

Last week I shared a few of the top 30 travel secrets compiled by yours truly for our 20th Anniversary issue. For all you non-subscribers out there, here are a few more. These are the hotel-related tips that have garnered me the most thank-yous from Conde Nast Traveler readers over the years:

How do you get the cheapest hotel room?
When you don't need a specific hotel, use Priceline in conjunction with Bidding For Travel, which tells you how much to bid by showing you what bids Priceline has accepted recently for hotels matching your criteria. If the hotel postings at Bidding for Travel are only for dates or in neighborhoods that you don't want, you'll have to use another tactic: Calculate how many times you can rebid on Priceline if your initial offer is rejected. When Priceline rejects a bid, it lets you bid again only if you wait 72 hours or change a parameter of your request, such as the zone you've selected. Bypass that 72-hour wait by adding a zone that has only hotels of a lower quality than the level you've chosen. Say you request a four-star hotel in a city where three zones have no four-star hotels: You can rebid three times immediately without risking ending up in a zone you don't want.

How do you get into a sold-out hotel?
Find out when cancellation penalties set in for the date you want to arrive, then call the property on the morning of that day. You can scoop up rooms made available by people who've just canceled.

More strategies after the jump.

Continue reading "Top Hotel Secrets" »

March 31, 2007

Where To Stay In Puerto Vallarta

Hacienda San Angel in Puerto Vallarta
The terrace of the Celestial Suite at the Hacienda San Angel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Photo courtesy of the Hacienda San Angel.

by Wendy Perrin

Question from reader LSheppard:

"My friend and I will be visiting Puerto Vallarta in May and are looking for a VERY upscale resort that isn't for just couples or families.  Any recommendations?"

Lucky you. You'd probably feel VERY pampered at the Four Seasons Punta Mita, located 26 miles (45 minutes) north of Puerto Vallarta.  If you need to be closer to town, consider the Hacienda San Angel, which was on Conde Nast Traveler's Hot List in 2005, or Casa Velas, which is adults only but not couples only. Buen viaje!

March 13, 2007

Seeking Caribbean Wedding Spot

Beach at Caneel Bay, St John
The beach at Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Photo: Caneel Bay Resort.

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader Jmsangel:

"We are looking to get married in an intimate 3- to 5-star boutique resort on an island in the Caribbean.  The wedding attendance should be around 40, so we'd like to keep the room rate reasonable or have accommodations nearby for those on tighter budgets.  Do you have any suggestions?  The ceremony could be at the hotel or at another scenic spot on the island."

Continue reading "Seeking Caribbean Wedding Spot" »

March 12, 2007

Successful Italian Monastery Stay

By Wendy Perrin

We love feedback!

I just heard from reader Deanna DellaVedova, who wrote to The Perrin Post a couple of months ago requesting advice for staying in a convent in Italy. Deanna was headed to the town of Manopello to trace her family's history. 

At the time, another reader suggested Deanna use the Monastery Stays booking system.  Deanna reports that the system worked like a charm. 

She enjoyed her stay at Santurio Volto Santo and says she's "very happy to have been successful in tracking down [her] family heritage."
The Santurio Volto Santo.

Deanna also sent in snapshots of the bedroom and bathroom at the monastery, which is located in the hills of Italy's Abruzzo region.



It's always great to hear back from readers, so please keep your comments and follow-ups coming! 

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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