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7 Airport Food Trends That Will Make You Love Your Layover

Posted by Caroline Costello on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pop-Up Indoor Park (Photo: Heathrow Airport)

As a general rule, I hate airport food. But once in a while, a culinary gem appears between the Starbucks and the Burger King, elevating terminal eating with the fresh, the organic, the artful plate garnished with sweet tomato chutney and a sprig of mint. I'm happy to report that such finds are becoming increasingly commonplace. Travelers passing from gate to gate are no longer considered a captive audience, forced to consume whatever's available. From food trucks to farmers' markets, airports are offering more enjoyable choices to hungry flyers. These awesome airport dining trends—some brand-new, some old but solidly growing—will take your next airport culinary experience to new heights.

Food Trucks

What's the airport's answer to food trucks? Food carts, of course; they're more practical for indoor use. Whatever the vehicle, it's about time that locally owned food trucks brought their portable, fun street fare to the terminal (which needs all the fun it can get). Popular Portland, Oregon, food truck KOi Fusion opened a cart at Portland International Airport this month. The Asian-fusion truck, which serves tacos, burritos, and kimchi quesadillas at locations around the city, has set up shop, cart-style, before the security checkpoint at PDX. Next to KOi Fusion, you'll find the mobile version of Michelin-starred chef Andy Ricker's Pok Pok restaurant. The carts will operate on a six-month rotation, so look for new setups if you're heading through Portland International after spring.

Local Flavors

This isn't a new thing, as you probably know. Airport restaurants have been riffing on local culinary specialties for quite a number of years. At this point, it's rare to find a major hub bereft of restaurants serving popular regional foods. But there are noteworthy newcomers to the town-to-terminal food scene. We're not talking about weak facsimiles of local specialties; these are authentic homegrown food brands with established community followings. Here are just a few examples: Caplansky's Delicatessen, an old-school deli in Toronto's Little Italy, has just opened a location in Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson International Airport. You can take your Reuben to go and make your seatmate either jealous or annoyed with the smell. Noted Denver hot dog spot Steve's Snappin' Dogs has come to Denver International's B Concourse this year. And look for an outpost of The Country Cat to open at Portland International in early 2015. 

Farmers' Markets

Imagine picking up something fresh, seasonal, and good for you moments before a flight, instead of a pile of stomach-turning, greasy lo mein on a plastic tray. Thanks to the Berkshire Farms Market at Boston Logan, which opened in spring, flyers can grab made-to-order smoothies from South End Buttery, just-baked Iggy's bread, or home-brewed Fire Cider in Terminal B. These days, you'll find market-style operations at several other airports, too. The restaurant group that operates Logan's Berkshire Farms Market is called Tastes on the Fly, and it also runs the popular Napa Farms Market in San Francisco International's Terminal 2. And in June, Los Angeles International Airport welcomed an outpost of the Original Farmers Market to Terminal 5.

Airport Restaurant Month

It's Airport Restaurant Month! The first-ever Airport Restaurant Month, in fact. Right now, this October, travelers can get special meals for special prices at participating restaurants in the U.S., just like a typical city restaurant week. Twenty airports have signed up for the program and are offering multicourse menus for between $17 and $25. Those costs don't include alcohol, but recommended wine parings will accompany most menus. This program was set up by restaurant operator HMSHost; see the full list of participating airports on the company's website.

Pop Up Restaurants

Hallo Hello, a restaurant that encourages strangers to share meals with one another, opened a pop-up location at Copenhagen Airport that ran for four weeks in September. On Restaurant Day last August, Helsinki hosted pop-up versions of local dining joints in four sites around its airport. London's Heathrow was the fleeting home of a pop-up ceviche restaurant in the airport's Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. We smell a trend. With ever-changing crowds of travelers passing through, plus plenty of space for retail and dining across terminals and airline lounges, airports are prime settings for pop-up dining venues. These events are typically short-lived, so it's difficult to plan ahead for attendance. But stumbling upon a really cool temporary eatery while passing through a terminal would be quite the culinary win, I think. Many of the pop-ups are announced on airport Twitter pages. Keep your eyes peeled and your smartphones at hand.

High-Tech Restaurant Tables

Do you prop up your laptop beside you whenever you sit down for an airport meal? Well, you're in luck. A handful of airport restaurants are installing iPads at their tables. The purpose of these flat-screened dining companions: You can read the menu, check your flight status, and even order and pay for your food via the touch-screen device. According to a report from the Washington City Paper's blog, restaurants under construction in Reagan National Airport's Terminal A will feature iPads at tables. Denver International is also getting this innovative upgrade at dining establishments in Concourse C by mid-December. I hope we can succeed in not getting ketchup all over the screens.

Onboard Picnics

Lots of airports offer to-go meals for in-air consumption. London Heathrow, however, is taking the takeaway concept to new levels—the grab-and-go has gone gourmet. Passengers can purchase prepared fine-dining meals at 118 restaurants at Heathrow, including that famous contrivance of Gordon Ramsay, Plane Food. The program offers a virtually unlimited range of takeaway options for travelers, and prices vary wildly. You can grab a sandwich at Pret and pay just a few pounds. The King Seafood Platter at Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar, by contrast, costs £145.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Delicious Airport Fare That Will Make You Love Your Layover.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at


7 Special Perks for Social-Savvy Travelers

Posted by Caroline Costello on Tuesday, October 14, 2014

(Photo: Simone Becchetti/Getty Images)

Travel providers lure social media stars with special perks, discounts, and freebies nowadays. Check-ins on Foursquare or Facebook, tweets, retweets, and Instagram posts are traded as currency in exchange for loyalty points or discounted rates. In most cases, the more followers you have, the larger your reward. But even an everyday traveler with a less-than-impressive fan base can leverage tweets and likes to save money on travel.

Many of these influencer promotions come and go. Last year, American Airlines gave complimentary airport-lounge passes to passengers with high Klout scores. In 2012, United ran a promotion bestowing airline miles upon Foursquare users who checked in at airports. Official tourism boards often run limited-time offers on sites like Pinterest and Facebook; follow your favorite destinations to keep an eye out. For the best offers that you can use now, I've focused on active promotions, many of them permanent (or at least semi-permanent) loyalty or reward programs that compensate social media activity.


(Photo: Hotelied)


Here's the premise behind just-launched booking site Hotelied: "Taste makers"—folks with heavy social media followings—receive customized discounts on hotel stays. Hotelied does the dirty work by negotiating cheaper rates for online influencers. You link your social media accounts to the site, and Hotelied asks hotels to give you reduced rates based on your popularity. The company's website puts it plainly, if tactlessly: "Hotelied recognizes the fact that not all travelers present the same value to hotels and provides hotels with a platform to specifically target and customize their offerings to their most desirable traveler segments." The notion of straight-up linking customer value with social media clout is disturbing; apart from that, Hotelied might make some sense for travelers who spend a lot of time on sites like Twitter or Facebook. The largest discount available is 50 percent, yet Hotelied doesn't specify how many followers a person must accumulate before getting half off a stay.


(Photo: 8 Hotels)

The 'Instagram Hotel'

The 1888 Hotel in downtown Sydney is known as the "Instagram Hotel" thanks to the property's willful spotlight on the culture of snapping and sharing, in addition to the tangible rewards it offers social media connoisseurs. Its well-designed guest rooms are clean, graphic, and picture-perfect—ideal for Insta. Guests with more than 10,000 Instagram followers are eligible to receive a complimentary overnight stay, and Instagrammers who share property pictures tagged #1888hotel are entered to win a free night. If you like being the center of attention, this really is your place. 1888 has a "Selfie Space" with a special backdrop in the lobby. Give your selfie the hotel's signature tag and your image will appear on a screen near the reception desk. Smile and say "me"!


(Photo: teamstickergiant via flickr/CC Attribution)

Foursquare Freebies

Foursquare, the location-sharing app that allows users to virtually check in, blast their activity to friends, and trade tips about visited spots, is a terrific resource for travel coupons. Businesses around the world, from hotels to restaurants to attractions, offer discounts or perks via the app. (Users are awarded points and special badges for check-ins; discounts are often offered to those with points.) In the past, airlines have offered lounge access to avid Foursquare users. Although big-ticket Foursquare promotions from travel providers aren't as common today as they were a few years ago, there are still deals to be snagged. Right now, for example, Boston's Midtown Hotel offers free parking and Wi-Fi to guests who check in with Foursquare. Discover more up-to-date offers for various destinations by using the search tool on the Foursquare website or app.

It's important to note: Be careful about sharing check-ins on Foursquare when traveling. As a rule, it's unsafe to divulge up-to-the-minute location-based data on social media. You don't want the world knowing that your home is unattended and that you're on vacation. Use your Foursquare privacy settings wisely.


(Photo: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.)

Starwood's SPG Program

Starwood's loyalty program SPG offers Starpoints for enrolled travelers who link Facebook or Foursquare pages with their Starwood accounts then post check-ins to Starwood properties. You can redeem your Starpoints for hotel stays, flights, merchandise, and other stuff. There are a lot of strings attached, though. To get the points, your property must be offering a special check-in promotion during your stay. You can't book through a third-party booking engine such as Expedia or Orbitz; those bookings don't count as "eligible stays." And sometimes you might need a confirmed reservation to get the points—it all depends on the specific promotion. Check Starwood's Facebook or Foursquare pages to see what kinds of check-in promotions are available.


(Photo: m01229 via flickr/CC Attribution)

Marriott Rewards Plus Points

The social media angle of Marriott's rewards program is very similar to that of SPG. Connect your rewards account to your social pages, perform a "qualifying social action" (known to humans as a tweet or a Facebook or Instagram post), and earn points. Marriott Rewards points can be redeemed for stays at Marriott properties worldwide. Marriott has a handy little chart that tells just how many points a person will get for each post; see it here. A social check-in on Facebook, for example, is worth 25 points. Guests can even earn points for retweets, likely destroying any illusion of authenticity in the realm of personal social media accounts. If your Facebook friend begins obsessively posting about Marriott using the appropriate corporate-approved hashtags, you'll know why.


(Photo: Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants)

Kimpton Karma

Through Kimpton's new rewards program Karma, hotel guests can earn points for room upgrades, free stays, and other perks by spending money at Kimpton properties—and also by Facebooking or tweeting about Kimpton. It's a free program, and members get complimentary Wi-Fi and a $10 minibar credit during each stay, so it's worth joining whether you're a social media user or not. Unfortunately, though, Kimpton rewards for social media activity are not exactly guaranteed. Though Kimpton says you "might earn some additional Kimpton Karma love" through social media shout-outs, no real promises are made. And no language in the loyalty program's terms and conditions states a quid pro quo of points for posts. I get the feeling that having large numbers of followers will up the likelihood of Kimpton taking notice of your posts.


(Photo: Aloft Hotels)

Tweets as Tips When the Bellhop Is a Robot

You might run into a waist-high, screen-faced robot gliding around the halls of Silicon Valley's Aloft Cupertino Hotel. This robotic bellhop is called Botlr. Botlr accepts tweets as "tips" when performing menial tasks like bringing snacks or a toothbrush from the front desk to a guest room. Although Botlr doesn't care how many followers you have (for now, at least), the robot embodies the newfangled social-posts-as-currency model. You'll even save a few bucks by tweeting via Botlr's touch-screen face instead of having to hand actual money to an actual working person.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Seven Special Perks for Social-Savvy Travelers.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

7 Shameless Ways to Get an Upgrade

Posted by Caroline Costello on Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Want an upgrade? The key is availability: All upgrades are based on it. They're also, largely, based on loyalty status. But even if you do belong to your airline's or hotel's loyalty program, you're still competing with countless other travelers for the same upgrade. To rise above the pack, it'll take smarts, a strategy, and (dare we say it) shamelessness. Here are seven brazen ways to angle for an upgrade from an airline or a hotel.


(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Give Your Airline Crew a Little Treat

Do: Gift something small and inexpensive to the gate agents or flight crew. Make them like you with inexpensive presents. Globe-trotting charmer Johnny Jet, a master of the art of schmoozing flight attendants, is a major proponent of this strategy. One of his not-so-secret secrets: handing out chocolates. Mr. Jet offers this advice in his Tip of the Day: "I almost always bring two boxes of chocolates—one for the gate agents and one for the flight attendants, because both can make or break your trip. When you hand the chocolates over, do it with a big smile, be genuine, and don't look for anything in return."

Don't: Assume a quid pro quo. As Johnny advises, never directly ask for anything while distributing a gift. Airline crew are prohibited from accepting gifts as bribes. Small tokens like candy or snacks are good; anything more expensive is probably a bad idea.


(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Speak Their Language

Do: Demonstrate your foreign-language skills when appropriate. We've seen a room upgrade go to a fellow traveler in Mexico when she flaunted her fluency in Spanish. Initiate a friendly conversation with a hotel clerk in his or her native tongue, ingratiate yourself with the staff, and you just might receive a complimentary room upgrade. Even if you're not fluent, learn a word or two. Staff will appreciate a "hello" or "thank you" in the resident language. Make an honest attempt to have a sincere conversation.

Don't: Loudly and clumsily speak a few words of the local language to staff, expecting a shower of upgrades in return. A powerful voice volume will not demystify your clumsy attempt at a foreign language.


(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Say It's Your Birthday

Do: Be obvious about the day you were born. You could, when checking in for your flight or hotel room, happily mention, "It's my birthday!" Wear a pointed hat and shake some maracas for the full effect. There's nothing wrong with a little self-celebration. Seriously, though, the elusive birthday upgrade has been known to happen now and again. We've heard of passengers (usually with some kind of frequent-flyer status to begin with) receiving birthday upgrades sans any effort to draw attention to the fact. Evidence of your birthday is, of course, printed on your boarding pass. And your ID. And your Keep Calm It's My Birthday shirt.

Don't: Lie. The chances your deception will be exposed are high. We'll say it again: Your birthday is printed on your ID.


(Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte)

Say It's Your Honeymoon (or Anniversary)

Do: Excitedly tell your booking agent that you're on your way to your honeymoon vacation. Bring proof if possible: Offer the flight attendant an extra favor from your wedding as evidence and incentive. Wear your "I'm the Bride!" T-shirt. Maybe you won't get a pair of first-class boarding passes, but at the very least, you might receive some free Champagne.

If a honeymoon upgrade at your hotel or resort is what you're after, be sure to bring a copy of your marriage license. Many resorts offer complimentary honeymoon upgrades but require proof of marriage.

Don't: Lie. Airline employees and front-desk clerks aren't stupid. I'd venture to guess that flight or hotel staff has a good gauge for who's on a honeymoon and who's only faking.


(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Slip the Hotel Staff Some Cash

Do: The cash bribe is a decidedly shameless activity, but there's a slick way to do it. When paying for your stay, hold twenty bucks (give or take) in your hand with your credit card and smile politely, asking whether any room upgrades or well-located rooms are available. Your front-desk clerk will get the hint. This is more effective in some places than others, of course, so it's important to proceed with caution. In Las Vegas, for example, kickbacks for cash are more likely to be tolerated, especially if you're a guest who has a good play history with the hotel. At other properties, your front-desk agent may be risking his or her job by accepting a small bribe. Be careful, be respectful, and read the situation carefully.

Don't: Bribe an airline worker. Chocolates are one thing—but airline employees who accept cash bribes can lose their jobs. Don't even try.


(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Bribe a Fellow Passenger

Do: Offer the guy with a better seat $100 to switch spots. This isn't illegal. There aren't any clear airline policies prohibiting flyers from paying other passengers for seat swaps. There's even an app, believe it or not, called AirrTrade that facilitates seat buying and selling among passengers. You may do this, if you want.

Don't: Have high expectations or be anything other than extraordinarily polite. Passengers are under no obligation to accept your bribe. Some folks might even be offended by it.


(Photo: via flickr/CC Attribution)

Show Your Loyalty

Do: Flaunt your unofficial status. Signing up for a hotel chain's loyalty program isn't exactly shameless. But advertising your unfailing loyalty to a boutique property that doesn't have a loyalty program is a bit bolder. Returning to a B&B for the third time? Write an email to the owners. Mention that you've been there a bunch of times. Tell them how much you love their property. If appropriate, write a good review. Send the link to the owners and congratulate them on a job well done. Show that you appreciate your stay, and your hosts just might show you a little appreciation in return, whether it's in the form of a room upgrade, coupons, or even just free bottles of water by your bed. Better yet, you can feel good about sharing some positive thoughts with your fellow humans.

Don't: Threaten to write a bad review if you don't receive an upgrade; anyone who does this should have their hotel privileges revoked for life.

(Lead Photo: Izabela Habur/Getty Images)

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Seven Shameless Ways to Get an Upgrade.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

The Ultimate Foliage Report Resource for 2014

Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, September 26, 2014

Peak foliage is entirely dependent on the weather. Ideal conditions for seeing beautiful foliage vary from year to year, so there's no way to pinpoint in advance the prime days to see the changing leaves. In many places, though, state tourism boards, local bloggers, and park rangers keep close tabs on local foliage conditions. If you know where to look, you can get up-to-the-minute information on exactly when and where to see the most vivid fall landscapes.

Below, I've linked to every foliage report I could find for the 2014 season, categorized by region. Some places don't have their updates up yet—especially the more southern locales. Check out Facebook and Twitter pages for national or state parks and destinations for more information. Make a call to a state park or national park and speak with a ranger. The National Forest Service used to operate a foliage hotline, but I called it today and a recorded message said that the information is up to date as of October 2013; that's no good. If it comes back to life this season, we'll let you know. Stormfax posts a list of foliage hotlines in the U.S., but I haven't called them all, so I can't promise they're up to date. You can also check out the following resources:

  • Here's the Farmer's Almanac, which predicts when peak foliage-viewing days will happen in 2014.
  • The Foliage Network is a free service that collects and analyzes data from its own "foliage spotters." It appears to be up to date.


The official New Jersey tourism website doesn't appear to offer foliage reports as of yet. You can see current images of the leaves changing in the state on the NJ Hiking Fall Foliage Forum.

Here's the 2014 foliage report for New York.

Pennsylvania's official tourism website says the state's foliage reports are "coming soon." Check this page for updates.


There are no foliage reports as of yet on the official Indiana tourism website. Brown County Indiana's tourism site, however, displays a pretty cool leaf cam.

Iowa's Department of Natural Resources posts fall color updates here, but they haven't started yet.

Michigan's official tourism site offers this page with a fall color map, and invites travelers to sign up to receive up-to-the-minute foliage reports via email.

Here's North Dakota's foliage report.

Ohio's foliage reports begin October 1.

See Minnesota's North Shore report here.

Missouri's fall-color updates were posted on the state's Department of Conservation site last year, but that page hasn't been updated for this season yet. Check back.

Find Wisconsin's foliage report on

New England

See the Connecticut foliage report on the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website.

September 10 marks the "official" launch of Maine's fall foliage season. Expect the most colorful conditions in Maine at the end of September and into the first week of October. See reports on the Maine Foliage website.

Massachusetts operates live foliage feeds throughout the state. View them on the state's InstaFoliage website.

Here's an up-to-date report for New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Here's Vermont's report. The leaves have already begun to change in Vermont.

West Coast

Visit the Oregon Fall Foliage Blog for this season's reports, or get updates via Facebook.

The California Fall Color Blog is a fantastic source for recent photos and updates.


Utah has a Web cam and a leaf-peeping blog, and offers foliage alerts on the Utah Fall Colors site.

Wyoming offers an overview of where to see the leaves changing on the Wyoming Office of Tourism site.


Alabama doesn't appear to have a 2014 foliage report as of yet, but the state tourism board posts an indicator of when peak peeping happens here.

Arkansas foliage reports begin September 25 on the Arkansas tourism site.

Find Georgia's leaf watch, which kicks off in October, here.

Foliage reports for Kentucky will be posted on the Kentucky Tourism website beginning in October. Expect peak foliage to happen around mid- to late October.

North Carolina representatives say reports are "coming soon;" check back later on this page. Likewise, South Carolina's foliage reports have yet to appear. You can see last year's here; let's hope the site will update this information soon.

Oklahoma's leaves become most colorful in late October, according to the state's tourism website. No reports are available yet, so check back for future updates.

Tennessee's report is not up yet, but you can watch for it on the Tennessee tourism website. Additionally, find a Gatlinburg 2014 foliage report here.

Foliage reports for Arizona and New Mexico are available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service site. The department predicts peak viewing will happen in mid- to late October.

I couldn't find a Texas foliage report online, but according to various sources, the leaves will be at their most colorful in mid- to late October. The Lost Maples State Natural Area website has a foliage report, which will receive updates beginning in October.

Virgina's foliage forecast starts October 1; check back here for updated reports.

West Virginia's foliage updates start in late September. You can check the West Virginia State Parks website for updates, or call 1-800-CALL WVA for reports by phone.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title The Ultimate Foliage Report Resources for 2014.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

Top 5 Off-Peak Destinations for Fall 2014

Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, September 19, 2014

After August—generally the biggest travel month of the year—summer's annual dispatch of surf-loving, guidebook-toting vacationers packs up and heads home. With peak season over, folks bid good-bye to crowded beach towns and coastal cities, leaving travel providers with plenty of guest rooms, beaches, and restaurants to fill this fall. The following five spots are on our radar, thanks to their attractive off-peak pricing and super seasonal attractions.


(Photo: The Cottages & Lofts at The Boat Basin)

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket is one of our favorite off-peak beach destinations. Autumn in Nantucket brings so many special seasonal activities that one could argue the island's true peak should fall when the leaves do. Restaurant Week, from September 28 to October 4, bestows bargain-priced gourmet meals on fortunate patrons, with three-course dinners priced from $25 to $45.

Better yet, get your fresh seafood straight from the source—for free! October also kicks off recreational scallop season. Beginning the first of the month, folks are permitted to harvest the mouthwatering mollusks right from the beach.

Cook up some pan-seared scallops in your kitchen at The Cottages & Lofts at The Boat Basin. We found rates as low as $328.33 per night for a two-bedroom cottage with a kitchen and a deck that overlooks the water on Swain's Wharf. Comparatively, the same room is, on average, several hundred dollars more per night during the high summer season. This is the standard pricing structure at Nantucket properties. At the Chapman House, for example, rooms start at $319 per night during summer and drop as low as $119 per night come fall.

You can also snag discounted fall ferry tickets to Nantucket, depending on the operator. The Steamship Authority cuts one-way rates for automobiles from $68.50 in summer and early fall to $43.50 beginning November 1.


(Photo: Blue Haven Resort)

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

The Turks and Caicos islands have a reputation for luxury. Bruce Willis and Mariah Carey reportedly have homes here. And lavish beachfront resorts far outnumber budget-friendly hotels. The good news is that in fall, you don't have to spend like Bruce Willis to have an awesome vacation. This is a less crowded, more upscale Caribbean destination set firmly off the beaten path, where alabaster beaches are free of those hectic armies of plastic chairs and towels, no matter the season.

Get the royal Turks and Caicos experience at Joe Six-Pack prices with an off-peak stay on Providenciales, the main tourist center of the islands. Airfares to Providenciales drop sharply during fall months. As of press time, JetBlue is offering flights from New York to Providenciales for $134 each way for select Saturday departures in November; compare this to February fares displayed on Kayak, which run roughly double that. Hotels, too, are markedly more affordable in fall. Autumn deals abound, and standard rates are usually lowest for summer and fall stays. At the beachfront Blue Haven Resort, rates for the cheapest garden-view room start at $300 nightly through December 19, then spike as high as $450 per night for stays during winter months.

In addition to pleasing prices, expect balmy temperatures. As the summer heat wanes, average daily temperatures hover around 75 to 85 degrees.


(Photo: Dan Queiroz via flickr/CC Attribution)

Miami, Florida

Miami does a lot to court fall travelers. There's Miami Spice, an extended restaurant week that covers the full month of September. Car aficionados can geek out at the Miami International Auto Show or attend the NASCAR Ford championship race in November. And, of course, the beaches and nightlife don't lose their allure when summer ends.

For further incentive, consider the savings. If you're flying, it's often cheaper to get to Miami in fall than in winter. We found flights on American from Boston to Miami in January for as little as $277 each way, compared to the cheapest fares we found for mid- to late-March departures, which came to $342 each way. It's the same story with United: Our search yielded Chicago-to-Miami nonstop flights for $516 round-trip in November; fares jumped to $573 for the same trip in February. If these airfare differences seem trivial, consider the costs if you're traveling with a family or even as a couple. Sixty bucks a ticket can really add up.

Let's look at sailings out of Miami's cruise port. Sure, this isn't technically a Miami-centric thing to do, but if you're in town and you want to tack a long-weekend getaway onto your trip, you'll save a ton by planning a sailing during fall. Norwegian, for example, runs a three-night Bahamas sailing (Friday through Monday) out of Miami. Prices for this sailing start at $469 per person for an inside cabin in March, compared to $219 for the same cruise in November.


(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Algarve, Portugal

Portugal's Algarve region—a beach destination along the country's southern coast—draws huge crowds of mostly European tourists during summer. Similar to the French Riviera, the Algarve offers quaint historical towns, picturesque beaches, and, during the high season, a hard-partying club crowd. Yet a quieter mood develops here after the summer-holiday throngs have returned home.
Autumn sees a more serene Algarve, with bare beaches and bargains galore. And if you're after more of a culture-centric European vacation instead of an oceanside escape, the Algarve's cathedrals, castles, and cobblestoned villages will meet your needs in spades.

Consider Four Seasons Country Club, TripAdvisor's number-one-rated hotel for stays in the Algarve. Rates at this assemblage of 96 villas, which are rented by the week, start at €1,170 (about $1,510) in July and August and drop to nearly half that price—€610 (about $788)—in November and December. That's huge. Similarly, rates at popular B&B Duas Quintas drop to €75 (about $97) per night in fall, compared to €95 per night (about $123) during summer.

Can you still hit the beach in the Algarve during fall? Maybe. In early fall—September and October—its Mediterranean climate yields mild, summery weather. Those of you dead-set on surf and sand should plan an earlier fall vacation.


(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Whether you want to watch whales or the autumn leaves, to bike through Tudor neighborhoods or barhop around waterfront pubs, you'll find that Victoria doesn't lack for fall fun. One of our favorite new attractions to see in Victoria this fall is the Float House, which bills itself as the largest floatation center on earth. Book a 90-minute session in one of the center's five tanks filled with water and Epsom salt and float your stresses away.

Another great stress buster: the thought of all the money you'll save when you visit Victoria in autumn. Between sunny summer and ski season exists a great opportunity for budget-minded travelers: the off-peak fall period. Rates drop at hotels and B&Bs. And museums and restaurants get a little less crowded. At Abbeymoore Manor, a B&B in a historical 1912 mansion, low-season rates for stays between October 20 and December 18 start at $159 CAD (about $145). During high season, rates start at $229 CAD (about $209). Again, at the luxurious Villa Marco Polo Inn, rates start at $185 CAD (about $169) during the off-peak fall season and rise to $250 CAD (about $228) in summer.

It's cheaper to stay there, and it's probably cheaper to get there, too. We ran some test dates through Air Canada's booking system and found November midweek flights from Los Angeles to Victoria for as little as $174 each way. In June, the cheapest fares we spotted for the same trip came to $273 each way.

Nantucket, Cobblestoned Streets During Fall (Photo: Getty Images)

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Top Five Off-Peak Destinations for Fall 2014.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

7 Shameless Ways to Make a Flight Comfortable

Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, August 15, 2014

(Photo: Ed.ward via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

There is no shame in correcting the indignities of coach-class flying by way of an offbeat travel product. If an item makes your flight more comfortable, it's worth using—even if it makes you look a little silly in a public space. With that in mind, here's a list of travel products that get the job done, in spite of their (sometimes) goofy appearances. Below are seven shameless ways to make your flight a little more comfortable, from booze-filled flasks to foldable footrests.


(Photo: Betabrand)

The Sweatpants That Supposedly Look Like Regular Pants

Trick humanity into thinking you're not a slob with comfy soft pants that have been designed to look like more respectable outside-the-house pants. There's a version for men from Betabrand that are eloquently called Dress Pant Sweatpants. These Dress Pant Sweatpants, made from French terry, will deceive anyone who can't spot the difference between plainly dissimilar types of fabric. There's also Pajama Jeans (read our review), the classic infomercial legwear that fits like your favorite knit PJs, yet looks like your favorite knit PJs dyed a jean color.


(Photo: Magellan's)

The Butt Pad

This is a thing, I guess. I haven't seen anyone use this product before, so I can't offer empirical data on the popularity of seat cushions and other items meant to support a flyer's posterior. I'd venture to guess that, in light of the uncomfortable contortions to which the legs and necks of coach flyers are subjected, measly padding under the butt is comparatively not so unpleasant. But Magellan's has an entire section for seat cushions in its in-flight-comfort category, where it sells an inflatable version that promises to "cushion your ride" and "provide support." And SkyMall sells a gel-filled one that costs a lot of money. So this must work for some folks.


(Photo: Eric F Savage via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

The Wearable Blanket

Why is a wearable blanket better than a traditional one? Good question. I don't know the answer to that. But for some people, it seems, the strange fusion of clothing and bedding that is The Slanket or the more elegant Pajancho reaches the apex of comfort. Clearly, you don't have to bother with rearranging the thing after you get up and go to the bathroom; I guess that's a plus. You could also wear it around the airport if you're comfortable with public humiliation.


(Photo: European Sleep Works)

The Less Embarrassing Travel Pillow

I've curated a list of more socially acceptable travel pillows. These are not conversation starters. These are normal-looking travel pillows that will have a neutral effect on your personal cool factor. First there's the oxygen pillow, a small, white latex foam number that converts into an easy-to-carry bundle. The Magniflex Sushi Pillow is a more expensive option, but it becomes an even tinier bundle when rolled up.


(Photo: Studio Banana)

The Embarrassing Travel Pillow

For the truly shameless, a range of creatively designed, weird-looking travel pillows is available. These are products that would make even your Captain Kirk pajamas set cringe. They may allow you to get more comfortable, but they will not help you win first prize in any popularity contests to be held on the aircraft. There's the notorious Ostrich Pillow, which slips over your entire head and makes you look like a praying mantis. Then there's the telephone-shaped Travelrest, my personal favorite and one of our best-reviewed items of 2012. I received some judgmental looks while inflating my Travelrest on a plane; I'm happy to report that this had no bearing on the efficacy of the pillow.


(Photo: Magellan's)

The Footrest

Some aircraft seats come with little metal fold-down footrests. Some don't. So for petite passengers whose legs dangle above the floor, compressing their upper thighs into the seat, a footrest comes in handy. You could just put your feet on your carry-on bag, which is what I do. Or you could buy a special product. Here is a little fold-up plastic one from SkyMall. Also, Magellan's sells a squishy inflatable one called the Business Class Foot Rest, as if the only thing that stands between the economy experience and upper-class bliss is an inflatable PVC cube.


(Photo: Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge via flickr/CC Attribution)

The Flask

I'm not a doctor. But I'd argue that the best way to get more comfortable on a flight is to have a drink or many drinks. Alcohol relaxes the muscles, boosts the mood, aids sleep, makes you cooler. To get in on the action, book a flight that serves free drinks to economy-class passengers (Alaska and Hawaiian come to mind) or go the Charlie Harper route and tote a hip flask. This 3.5-ounce flask is the perfect size for post-TSA booze consumption.

Drink responsibly! Plenty of water will stave off dehydration. And too many gimlets could result in a police-inflicted Tasering, which is not a comfortable way to end a flight.


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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Shameless Ways to Make Your Flight More Comfortable.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

Is It OK to Go Barefoot on the Plane?

Posted by Caroline Costello on Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In an airplane cabin, among recycled air and tightly packed passengers, unpleasant body odors are a cause of great torment. Smelly feet are top offenders. If you have ever been stuck next to a passenger who made himself a little more comfortable by removing his grungy sneakers and airing out his sockless, sweaty extremities, you will likely agree with my take on this issue: It is not OK to go barefoot on a plane.

Denial is the prime source of the problem here. Folks with smelly feet never seem to realize that they have smelly feet. Most people, excepting the uttermost shameless among us, would avoid shoe removal if they were aware that their feet reeked.

But even if you are sure that your feet are indisputably pristine and smell-free, keep them covered. The sight of strangers' naked feet bothers a lot of people. It's unsanitary to put uncovered soles on airplane surfaces. And, most importantly, bare feet are banned in aircraft cabins. In most U.S. airlines' contracts of carriage, you'll find a small stipulation that says airline staff can remove you from the plane if your feet are exposed. For example, here is American's rule, under "Acceptance of Passengers."

The airlines' bare-feet ban provides an easy fix for passengers stuck next to shoeless offenders. You could politely ask a seatmate to re-shoe, or you could try to blast foot odors away by way of the overhead air vent. But if all else fails, alerting a flight attendant to the situation should solve the problem.

On the other end, I've thought of some solutions for those who want to remove their shoes on planes. These are obvious fixes to most of us, but maybe these ideas could help some of the more shoe-averse flyers:

* Bring packable slippers. Travel-supply stores sell slippers to take on the road, but, really, they're not all that different from regular ones. Pliable, soft-sided slippers are pretty easy to stuff into the side pocket of a suitcase.

* Socks exist. Wear them. Throw a sock ball into your carry-on if you're wearing sandals on the plane.

* No socks or slippers in your carry-on? If you're sitting in coach on a long-haul flight, politely ask a flight attendant if there are extra pairs of socks or slippers available on the plane. Many first- and business-class amenity kits contain socks or slippers, and a friendly attendant might be willing to bend the rules a bit to help you keep your feet cozy and covered.

What do you think? Is it OK to go barefoot on a plane?

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Is It OK to Go Barefoot on the Plane?

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

Hotels with the Best Views in America

Posted by Caroline Costello on Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California (Photo: Preferred Hotel Group)

A perfect view is a priceless hotel amenity. It allows you to enjoy a perspective of a landscape or monument that's, for the time being, yours alone. You get to maintain a visual connection to your destination even after you've retreated to your room with a bottle of wine and the room-service menu. And it affords the opportunity to take some pretty impressive pictures without battling crowds of camera-wielding tourists.

Some of the greatest views of America's most spectacular sites—the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, the rugged beaches of California's Central Coast—are available from the guest rooms of hotels. Here are 10 U.S. properties that overlook superb vistas and offer guests a picture-perfect point of view.


(Photo: Ian A Gratton via flickr/CC Attribution)

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park, New York City, New York

New Yorkers are knee-deep in marvelous views, from teeming Times Square to the high-flying city skyline to the emerald-green expanse of Central Park. But at The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park, telescopes in harbor-view rooms help you get a special perspective on one of America's icons: the Statue of Liberty. One of two Ritz-Carlton properties in New York City, the Battery Park Ritz property is located about 100 yards from the harbor, giving guests an unobstructed look at Ellis Island. Plus, the port for Statue of Liberty tours is a stone's throw away.


(Photo: Grand Canyon NPS via flickr/CC Attribution)

Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The astonishing views are what draw many to the rim of the Grand Canyon. So why not stay in a place that's as close to the powerful landscape as you can get? The Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim is the only lodging inside the park that's located at the North Rim. (This means you should book your stay far in advance.) The lodge consists of cabins and motel rooms; the prime spots to book are the cabins close to the rim of the canyon. For best results, be sure to ask for a cabin with a North Rim view.


(Photo: Hotel Vitale)

Hotel Vitale, San Francisco, California

The Golden Gate isn't the only San Francisco bridge worth looking at. Last year, an enormous installation comprised of 25,000 LED lights was hung on the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Oakland. The Bay Lights make up the world's largest LED sculpture. And Hotel Vitale, which sits on the San Fran waterfront across from the Embarcadero promenade, offers guests perfect Bay Bridge views. When booking your stay, ask for a bridge-view room. You'll get to see the Bay Bridge sparkling with more than a mile of glittering lights from dusk until dawn, right from your room. Some guest rooms also offer views of the Ferry Building Marketplace along the Embarcadero.


(Photo: Preferred Hotel Group)

The Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport, Rhode Island

Enjoy a view fit for a gilded-age baron in … where else but the former home of a gilded-age baron. There's little argument that this gorgeous historical property offers the best ocean views in Newport. The Chanler at Cliff Walk, a mansion constructed in the 19th century by Civil War-era congressman John Winthrop Chanler, is the only hotel located on Newport's celebrated Cliff Walk. It's perched directly on the trail that snakes between the Atlantic Ocean and a sequence of ornate gilded-age manors. Grab an Ocean Villa to enjoy unforgettable views of the ocean and the historical town of Newport directly from your room.


(Photo: Far View Lodge)

Far View Lodge, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

This hotel's name says it all. The only lodging available inside Mesa Verde National Park, Far View Lodge sits amidst miles of arid sagebrush-blanketed wilderness on the Colorado Plateau. All rooms at the lodge have private balconies from which guests can stargaze, search for wandering Rocky Mountain elk, black bears, or coyotes, or simply enjoy the rolling cuesta landscape that seems to extend forever.


Corner Executive Suite (Photo: Swissotel)

Swissotel Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

This Magnificent Mile property affords views of the best of both Chicago worlds: Lake Michigan and the city skyline. Certainly, the finest viewpoints are available via Swissotel Chicago's corner king rooms; these accommodations have wide windows that allow guests to enjoy full views of water and city in two directions. Need an excuse to work out? The property's fitness center, located on the 42nd floor, also offers panoramic Windy City views.


(Photo: Ryan Harvey via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona

Tucked amidst the multihued red rocks of Sedona, Enchantment Resort has a well-deserved reputation for stunning views. The property is located on 70 pristine acres at Boynton Canyon, where a mix of forest, desert, and canyons forms a unique and visually stunning ecosystem. Trails are accessible for those who want to explore the extraordinary natural setting. Or you can order room service from one of a handful of on-site restaurants and dine on your own private terrace in full view of the Sedona scenery. For the best perspective, request a room with a view of the canyon face or a room on a higher floor.


(Photo: Four Seasons)

Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay, Lanai, Hawaii

The secluded Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay is one of just a few hotels on Lanai, so you won't see any other properties from your window; that equates to pristine, unobstructed views of red lava cliffs and blue ocean. Even if you don't snag a room with an ocean view, you won't have to worry about getting stuck with concrete high-rises in your visual field. There's not a bad view in the house: You might have a view of the sea. You might have a view of the property's lush tropical gardens. Either way, you'll be hard-pressed to spot any signs of commercial development from your accommodations on this calm, quiet island.


View from Peak House Guest Room (Photo: Preferred Hotel Group)

Port Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California

At Post Ranch Inn, secluded cliff-side dwellings offer expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. Take in the sea view from a private porch, a living room warmed by a crackling fire, or a roomy jetted tub positioned before a wall of glass. (The windows facing the ocean hang above a steep incline, which supplies the requisite privacy for large-windowed bathrooms.) You'll also find amazing views in the property's restaurant, Sierra Mar, where walls and floors made entirely of glass extend over the sloping cliffs, creating the perfect visual setting for an unforgettable meal.


(Photo: brianandjaclyn via flickr/CC Attribution)

Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park, Montana

It's generally agreed upon that Many Glacier Hotel offers the best views of all the lodgings in Glacier National Park. And what views they are: Lake-facing windows at this Swiss-style property provide a flawless perspective on glacier-carved mountainous landscapes. See the jagged peaks reflecting onto the clear water of Swiftcurrent Lake right from your room. But book early. There are only a handful of hotels within the national park, and lake-facing accommodations fill up especially fast.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Hotels with the Best Views in the U.S.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

JetBlue to Phase Out the Check-in Process

Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, July 18, 2014

JetBlue is shaking up the check-in process as we know it.

The low-cost U.S. carrier will eliminate the online or airport check-in requirement for passengers flying in Even More Space seats starting immediately. The airline is calling this "automatic check-in." JetBlue plans to offer a check-in free experience to more of its passengers by 2015.

Instead of having to check in online or at the airport within 24 hours of departure, Even More Space flyers will now get an e-mail from JetBlue that contains their boarding passes—simple and easy. So if you don't have any bags to check and you've booked an Even More Space seat, you can just show up at the airport and go to the gate with your boarding pass. No checking in required. Better yet, passengers with the JetBlue app on their phones can use e-boarding passes at select airports, no printing necessary. (The email JetBlue sends will give details on all of these options.)

According to Blair Koch, JetBlue Vice President Commercial and Shared Development Services, "The idea of asking customers to jump an additional hurdle before their flight is an increasingly antiquated concept. By having the right systems in place, we can remove this step, and even help identify and prevent issues that can hinder customers from fully enjoying their travel experience."

Eliminating one more hassle in the flying process is a step in the right direction. It's one less thing to remember. Some carriers already offer an automatic check-in option; Lufthansa is one example. The German airline gives flyers the option to select an automatic check-in when booking flights. A few other international carriers provide automatic check-in, but JetBlue is the first U.S. airline we know of that is beginning to offer this option for its passengers.

JetBlue's current plan for Even More Space flyers is just a trial. Although automatic check-in will likely save money for the airline by helping to cut airport-service costs, we'll have to wait and see if the scheme is here to stay.

Are you onboard with JetBlue's new automatic check-in system?

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(Photo: Angelo DeSantis via flickr CC Attribution)

Gorgeous Hotel Bathrooms Around the World

Posted by Caroline Costello on Monday, July 14, 2014

Big Sur Cabin at Glen Oaks (Photo: James Hall)

The bathroom is arguably the heart of any hotel room. Whether serving as a respite from frenetic city streets or as a romantic spa-like sanctuary for two, the hotel salle de bain can make or break a stay. With that in mind, we're paying homage to some of the best. Discover deep copper soaking tubs, swaths of marble, beautiful views, and soothing rain showers in these unforgettable hotel bathrooms.

While a few of these properties fit firmly in the luxury category, we've left expensive presidential suites and Las Vegas penthouses off the list. These hotels are, for the most part, within reach of the average traveler's budget.


(Photo: Jade Mountain)

Jade Mountain, Soufriere, St. Lucia

Chromatherapy (a healing method that uses light and color to soothe and balance) whirlpool tubs are the highlight of the huge bathrooms at Jade Mountain. Grab a glass of Champagne and relax in full view of St. Lucia's most famous vista: From the large pedestal-mounted tubs, which are partially in the open air, bathers can enjoy the sight of St. Lucia's storied Pitons. These very special bathrooms also have spacious six-head rain showers and double sinks.


(Photo: Tree House Lodge)

Costa Rica Tree House Lodge, Punta Uva, Costa Rica

The bathroom of the Beach Suite at the nature-focused Costa Rica Tree House Lodge looks like something built for a mermaid. Sand-colored stone forms a double shower and a large central Jacuzzi. Colorful stained-glass windows filter rays of sunlight into the vast room. A giant seahorse statue perches on the edge of the deep tub. Tropical plants flourish. It's surely a fun fantastical space in which to wind down after a day of hiking in the surrounding rainforest.


(Photo: Amangiri)

Amangiri, Canyon Point, Utah

The designers of Utah's Amangiri clearly kept the dramatic environs in mind when they dreamed up this ethereal property. Fittingly, windows abound, as the resort sits among the colorful mesas of Southern Utah. The gorgeous bathrooms of the property's Mesa-View Suites contain deep tubs stationed in front of tall windows overlooking the magnificent landscape, which takes on rose and gold hues when the sun sets and rises. Two-person rain showers, green limestone tiles, and locally sourced artisan bath products enhance the experience.


(Photo: The Yeatman Hotel)

The Yeatman Hotel, Porto, Portugal

A copper tub with unparalleled World Heritage-site views sits in the appropriately named Bacchus Suite at The Yeatman Hotel. Here, the wide Jacuzzi rests steps from a freestanding fireplace, a rotating bed, and a private double terrace. While relaxing in the deep, round soaking tub, turn one way to take in views of the River Douro and the ancient cityscape (a World Heritage site), then turn another direction to face the warming fire. Now those are what we call options.


(Photo: The Louise)

The Louise, Barossa Valley, South Australia

Want to stargaze under an invigorating veil of warm water? Shower under the stars in the Australian Outback. In Marananga, South Australia, guests at The Louise can cleanse in private outdoor showers beneath sunny or starry skies. The lodge's Stonewall Suites are outfitted with unique open-air rain showers, plus en suite bathrooms with two-person spa tubs and additional indoor walk-in rain showers. This remote food-and-wine-focused resort is nestled among thousands of acres of olive groves and vineyards in the Barossa Valley, a popular Australian wine region.


(Photo: The 1900 Inn on Montford)

The 1900 Inn on Montford, Asheville, North Carolina

Although an image of the bathroom of the Fitzgerald room has gotten a lot of attention on Pinterest, we also love the pretty and enormous bathroom of the Cloisters room at The 1900 Inn on Montford. In addition to the remarkable tub in this 1,300-square-foot guest room, there is a six-by-eight-foot rain shower that is enclosed by etched glass and has seats for those who wish to take a steam bath. There are even speakers in the shower!


(Photo: Hotel Particulier Montmartre)

Hotel Particulier Montmartre, Paris, France

Wash away your cares in the attic of an old, elegant French mansion. Each artist-designed room at this Parisian boutique hotel is unique. And each room, of course, has its own twist on luxury bathing. Our favorite: Hotel Particulier Montmartre's top-floor deluxe suite, artistically named "Curtain of Hair." The loft space in the attic of this once-private mansion offers priceless panoramic views of Paris. And a beautiful Napoleon III claw-footed bathtub, which sits smack in the middle of the suite, affords bathers the suite's magnificent Parisian city sights. For privacy, head to the en suite bathroom, which contains a shower and has a sliding door.


(Photo: Hotel 1000)

Hotel 1000, Seattle, Washington

When you arrive in your guest room at Seattle's Hotel 1000, you'll notice a regular-looking spacious bathtub. But this isn't just any bathtub. It's a "fill from the ceiling" bathtub. In the property's luxe rooms, a glass wall divides the main room from the bathroom, where, at the touch of a button, water flows from the ceiling into a very roomy freestanding pedestal tub.


(Photo: Mainport)

Mainport, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Private saunas, sweeping views, spacious bathing areas, and sleek, minimalist design—Mainport's guest rooms have it all. The property's sauna and spa rooms, in particular, wow with over-the-top bath and spa amenities. In addition to availing of walk-in showers, mirror-mounted TVs, and Jacuzzis, guests get to relax in the soothing steam of their own private saunas.


(Photo: James Hall)

Glen Oaks Big Sur, Big Sur, California

An affordable Big Sur property with unforgettable guest cabins and bath facilities, Glen Oaks Big Sur is as unpretentious as it is luxurious. At the lodge's Big Sur Cabin, two outdoor soaking tubs sit side by side in front of a fire pit in a private courtyard. A forest of skyscraping redwoods rising above the courtyard's wooden fence creates a breathtaking scene. To put it simply, this setup allows you to take a bath next to your favorite person in the middle of a redwood forest. Better yet, Glen Oaks is one of the more budget-friendly options for accommodations in the area.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Gorgeous Hotel Bathrooms Around the World.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

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