WHERE TO NEXT?
There is a good reason the newsletter is late today. It’s taken me 7+ hours to write it! The last three days I’ve been in New Orleans at the annual Brownell Academy travel conference. It seems crazy that it’s taken me this long in life to visit this fun and vibrant city! For this week’s Highlight below I am sharing some of my and my colleagues’ favorite places in New Orleans.
Brownell Academy is my favorite conference of the year because I am surrounded by 120 colleagues and 100+ partners (a few in photo above) from around the world. Over the course of 2 1/2 days I had 70 meetings, networking breakfasts, learning lunches and so many impromptu conversations with many of my favorite people – partners covering all 7 continents, hoteliers from Aman, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Rosewood, Belmond, Rocco Forte and luxury yachts brokers. These are the people who help me create magical adventures for you and I’m so grateful for their partnership and friendship.
There is no doubt in my mind this event is worth the time invested to be here (which ended up being an extra day because my flights changed after I booked them). This week’s newsletter has been the longest I’ve ever spent creating a newsletter for you because I had so much I wanted to share.
I know you will enjoy knowing some of the many takeaways and insights I’ve learned:
- last minute holiday availability
- a new travel hack for using your Marriott Bonvoy or American Express points to book rooms (and have me book and oversee your reservation)
- new non-stop flights to far flung destinations
- lots of hot new hotel openings
- exclusive experience ideas from around the world
First I’ll share a photo from one of my Japan partners. This gives you an idea of what it’s really like during cherry blossom season in Japan. It’s like being in Rome on the Spanish Steps in July. Not ideal and definitely not luxe! If you want to plan a trip to Japan for the cherry blossom season, I won’t say no, but I will make sure you go in with your eyes open and expectations set.
Japan in cherry blossom season…
We heard from many hotel and yacht charters that there is still availability for festive/new years across many warm weather destinations. I am no longer doing custom trips for this holiday, but if you are interested in a resort stay, there are still options:
- BVI yachts and catamarans
- Puerto Rico, Punta Mita, Antigua, Cabo, Riviera Maya, T&C, St. Kitts, Anguilla, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.
- Necker Island in the BVIs, Richard Branson’s private island which is only available via full buyout most of the year, has a select few weeks that you may get just one room (due to a last minute cancellation), including this year between December 11 and 26th.
More to Share:
- Looking for an authentic experience in a tropical destination? Charter a phinisi – a local yacht in Bali or Raja Ampat. Along with your local Indonesian crew, swim with whale sharks and manta rays, learn from your on-board naturalist guide and luxuriate in paradise.
- The SkyNest on AirNewZealand flights from NYC and Chicago in 2024 will give you the option to nap in the sky in one of their bunk bed pods, for a fraction of the cost of a business class seat. If you are flying business class, consider the SkyNest for your teenagers.
- If you are dreaming of an adventure to the South Pacific, I loved how one of my partners characterized the difference between Fiji, Maldives and Tahiti…
- Fiji is culture over luxe (great for families*)
- Maldives are luxe over culture
- Tahiti is a mix of both!
*In Fiji my favorite resorts provide 1:1 nannies for all kids 6 and under – all included in your rate! Your kids get the same nanny every day.
- Several of my favorite Paris hotels give my clients guaranteed early arrival to their room and an upgrade at time of booking. That is a win/win!
- One of the main travel insurance providers I work with now includes adoption, attending childbirth (“grandparent benefit”) and delayed last day of school from snow days as covered reasons for cancellation!
- For my more intrepid clients, some areas of the world that are great for self-drive itineraries include northern Spain, Iceland, Scandinavia and Ireland.
- Have you seen the Reluctant Traveler with Eugene Levy? I have not, but I heard from several people that his show on Finland is terrific and will inspire you to want to visit. You can fish at midnight in the summer!
- Don’t go to Florence June 28 and 29 2024! The Tour de France will be there and it will be crazy!
- I love planning safaris, and if you haven’t read my article on what goes into planning a custom safari, check it out here. I love to help demystify what’s important and one of things that has a big impact on your experience is the type of places you stay. My partner from Africa and I talked a lot about how the experience compares in private concessions and National Parks. Some of the drawbacks of national parks include: bigger crowds and more safari vehicles, you can’t drive off road to get closer to wildlife, there are no opportunities to be active, no night drives and regulated hours that the park is open. Sometimes there is a reason to stay in a national park – like the Masai Mara because the wildlife density is so great, but we will always help you figure out what the ideal places are for your family based on your interests.
- In the Peruvian Amazon there are several boats you can take for a 3-7 night trip on the river. They vary in luxury level and what is on board. Aqua Expeditions is my favorite company. The most luxurious boat includes large staterooms, full gym, spa, pool table, infinity plunge pool and laundry service. It is a great add on to a Machu Picchu itinerary.
- The One & Only Mandarina (near Punta Mita, Mexico) has one of the absolute best kids clubs in the world. The 42,000 square feet club was designed by a Hollywood set designer! With a butterfly sanctuary and fun educational nature and wildlife programs, you get guilt-free drop offs for your kids while you enjoy adult time. I am going to check it out in person in December and look forward to sharing more.
- You can hike the full Camino de Santiago in Spain (or a part of it), without roughing it! We’ll create a custom itinerary with 4 and 5* hotels.
- If you have been cruise-weary (ie you don’t think cruising is for you), there are a few ideal boats I recommend to test it out. First the Four Seasons Explorer, a “floating resort” with just 12 cabins, scuba diving, snorkeling and other adventures. It’s booked like a hotel room, with just a 2 night minimum. It’s all inclusive and so luxurious! Now sailing around Palau.
- Next, Explora Journeys – the “floating hotel” for the modern generation. On board there is a steak house, sushi bar, Michelin star chef, pickleball court, 1/2 basketball court, extensive gym and fitness programming, 4 pools and 64 pool cabanas, nightly live music, DJs and trivia, Dyson hair dryers and Frette linens and ports of call ranging from the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and South America. Their all inclusive pricing includes all gratuities, wifi, excursions, dining and drinks. I may be trying it out myself this summer in Croatia.
- The chosen location for the new season of the White Lotus – Four Seasons Koh Samui, Thailand!
- I learned an exciting travel hack to use Marriott Bonvoy and American Express points for higher category rooms at Ritz Carlton, St. Regis and other Marriott hotels! Reach out if you are interested in learning more.
New Airline Routes
- Non-stop from SFO to Christchurch, NZ starts December 1 on United (allowing you to now fly direct from the US to the South Island!)
- Non-stop on United from Newark to the Algarve in Portugal starts in May.
- Bora Bora – new night flight times out of LA eliminate the need for a forced overnight in Papeete!
- Non-stop NYC to Naples on Delta next year.
- Non stop Miami to Tortola 2x/daily on American Airlines making it easy to get to Rosewood Little Dix Bay.
- Tulum Airport will hopefully finally open in March 2024.
New Hotel/Resort/Lodge Openings
- SHA Wellness is opening in the Yucatan, Mexico. Their original destination in Spain is a favorite of professional athletes, royalty and celebrities.
- The King of Morocco, who owns Royal Monsour in Marrakesh, is opening RM Casablanca and RM Tumuda Bay in Morocco.
- La Fantaisie, a new Paris boutique hotel in the 9th, opened in July. I wouldn’t choose it for a first visit to Paris, but if you have been before and want to venture to a new neighborhood, check it out.
- Hana Maui, a resort at the end of the Road to Hana will be undergoing full renovation opening again in 2025 as an Alila branded property. I love the idea of combining this property with a resort stay in Wailea.
- The Peloponnese in Greece has a new Mandarin Oriental, W Hotel (my colleagues just stayed at both last month) and a Banyan Tree coming in 2026. Nearby is the Amanzoe, giving you so many luxurious options to choose from.
- One & Only Aesthesis – opens in 3 days.
- One & Only Kéa Island – this new resort is located on an authentic island, where many Athenians have summer homes. Their villas with private pools are cliff side with spectacular views and only a 45 minute ferry from Athens. Opening in April 2024.
- Yves St. Laurent’s private villa is now a luxurious boutique hotel. Villa Mabrouka– Opened in June on the edge of the kasbah in Tanjier. Read why Town & Country calls it a must-stay destination.
- The Mandarin Oriental Zurich is re-opening after an extensive renovation in December 2023.
- Mandarin Oriental Mayfair is opening in London early 2024. Its residential, apartment-like feel will welcome you into my favorite neighborhood in London.
- The Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection is building 7+ new yachts.
- Upcoming Virgin Hotel openings – Miami and Denver.
- Firmdale, the owners of one of my favorite NYC hotels, the Whitby, is opening a new hotel in NYC. It is called the Warren Street Hotel and will be located in Tribeca. I can’t wait to see it!
- Raffles Boston opened in September. Their residential feel, indoor lap pool, butler service for all rooms and two level speakeasy, Blind Duck (opening in 2 weeks), are many reasons to visit on your next trip to Boston. Read all about it here.
- Aman is launching a sister brand, Janu, which means soul in Sanskrit (Aman means peace). The first one will open in Tokyo in February and includes 60,000 square feet of wellness space!
- Aman is also partnered with Rosa Alpina in the Dolomites and it has been closed for an extensive renovation with an opening date set for next winter.
- The eagerly awaited rebuild of Southern Ocean Lodge in Australia will finally reopen next month!
- Belmond opened the completely redone Maroma in the Riviera Maya, Mexicoin June. This was one of my favorite hotels before the renovation, and I did a hard hat tour in May. I can’t wait to see it!
- Dorchester Collection hotels are opening the Lana in the exclusive One Palm area of Dubai in January 2024.
- Eleven, one of my favorite outdoor adventure lodge companies, has taken over Winterlake Lodge in Alaska and is transforming it into even more of a remote adventure mecca.
- The new Ritz Reserve property, Nekajui, in Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica will be opening in late 2024. Followed by the opening of the Waldorf Astoria Guanacaste in 2025.
- Kasbah Tamadot – a beautiful resort I visited last year in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, is rebuilding from the earthquake damage and they are adding 6 new 2 bedroom riads that will be opening mid-2024.
A Sampling of Exclusive Experiences
- In Colombia enjoy a 10 course dinner at a table set for you and your friends inside a beautiful professional theater. Each course is paired with a song played by the Philharmonic orchestra. For something less formal, opt for a private villa with local musicians.
- In Asturias, in northern Spain, go on an adventure with a local shepherd to meet his flock, learn about his process for creating the tastiest cheeses and explore the cave where his cheese is aged.
- Take your teenage daughter shopping with a local designer in Greece. Talk about styles and fabrics and then she’ll undergo a fitting for her perfectly tailored prom dress to bring home.
- In Morocco go shopping with a local designer and then visit fabric shops to select your favorite pattern. She will design and make a tailored kaftan for you and it will be delivered to your hotel before you depart Morocco.
- As you return from exploring the Cape of Good Hope, south of Cape Town, stop just before sunset in a picturesque spot for a Champagne toast and spectacular views.
- Take a foodie tour of Barcelona with our favorite food journalist, giving you insider access to the hottest places owned by his friends in the city.
- In Madrid explore the city with our favorite lifestyle guide who will take you to the Queen’s favorite designer boutiques. Not just to the retail shops! You will go down into the workshops, maybe even seeing a fashion shoot. He not only knows high fashion, but also the very best vintage stores, sunglass shops and artisan studios.
- While in Dublin enjoy a private dinner in the home of a famous celebrity Irish chef with a big personality.
- If you like getting your hands “dirty,” spend a week volunteering on an organic olive oil farm in Croatia. Your mornings will be spent doing farm tasks and the afternoons exploring the island.
- Learn to make cheese in a Swiss mountain hut at 7000 feet. The last bit of the journey requires a walk to get to the remote destination. See the cows milked (or help if you wish), help the cheesemaker make the cheese and sign the rind when you are done. Six months later it will be shipped to your home (if you live in the US that’s complicated!).
- Access tickets to the sold out Chanel exhibition in London. As a welcome amenity at our preferred hotel, you get both a Masterclass on how to make a perfect poured martini and a traditional afternoon tea.
- If you are wanting a real adventure in Australia, we will get you the perfect guy. James Castrission, a real life adventurer with two Guinness World Records, including kayaking unassisted from Australia to NZ. He is one of the many guides who have “real” day jobs and only exclusively guide for my partner’s clients in Australia.
- In Japan meet local families who are farmers – go to their homes, cook together and learn about the Japanese culture and spirit.
- Delta’s VIP Select service. I am 100% all in on experiencing this! If you have a tight connection in certain US airports, this is the answer to making your flight with zero stress. Right as you exit the door of the plane – while you are still on the jet bridge, you are escorted down the stairs outside to the tarmac where your Porsche and driver is waiting to pick you up, drive you to your next plane and you walk up the stairs to the plane’s door to board. It’s that simple.
- In Costa Rica we will curate an Amazing Race style adventure for your family or friends near the Arenal Volcano. You are split into teams. First up a 30 minute hike, followed by a kayak in Lake Arenal to an island. When you arrive a nature scavenger hunt awaits you. By then you’ve worked up an appetite for lunch, so you take a break to enjoy the lack of competition for a few minutes. Then hop on a bike for a 30k (non hilly) route and finish up by flying through the air on a zipline. What do the winners receive? You’ll need to do it to find out!
This week’s inspiring articles include the 30 most exciting destinations to visit in 2024, desserts going viral in London, Botswana with kids and luxurious safari destinations for 2024.
The informational articles include shorter wait times for passports (my son’s came in 3 weeks), in demand travel experiences and the 5 travel lessons learned over 50 years by the founders of Lonely Planet.
- This week’s highlight – New Orleans
- Where to Next? Relais San Maurizio
- Articles to Inspire+Inform
New Orleans is full of energy and excitement! I can’t imagine what it’s like during Mardi Gras. This weekend The Saints hosted the Bears in football and I saw more Bears fans than Saints fans.
Riding down in the elevator of the Four Seasons, I twice bumped into someone who I learned was Tiki Barber. He is a CBS sports announcer and was here for the game. We chatted a bit and it turns out his brother lives next to one of our friends and he has two kids playing football in the Ivy League. Just the night before one of his kids played at the Dartmouth game where I spent my evening tailgating. I’ll admit I didn’t actually know who he was at first, but now that I do, I’ll enjoy watching the games more that are on my family’s TV (Trevor and Jason are both in fantasy football leagues).
On to New Orleans…
The food, the live music, the hotels, the weather, the sunrises, the history – there is so much to love about this city! For this week, I’m going to share a bunch of my and my colleagues’ favorites in the city…
Muriel’s – Creole cuisine, Sunday brunch
Dakar Nola – Senelagese food with modern twist
Luke – oysters and other seafood. I ate here last night and it was delicious!
Cafe Du Monde – for beignets. Go to the original!
Shaya – Modern Israeli food
Arnaud’s – Jazz Bruch on Sunday’s with flamed table side Bananas Foster
Cochon – Cajun southern cooking
Wanting to be active? Take a walk or run on the waterfront, rent a bicycle or go on a bike tour
Plan a trip to New Orleans for a fun getaway this winter!
📷 Four Seasons New Orleans
📷 The Chloe
🌟 Our clients recently spent time traveling through Northern Italy. During their time in the Piedmont region, they stayed at Relais San Maurizio. Upon their return they shared, “What an amazing resort!!! We LOVED IT!!!!! From the tranquil grounds to the luxurious spa, to the amazing views, to the outdoor gym, to the Michelin star restaurant, to a wonderful breakfast every morning…we were in heaven!”
Why is Relais San Maurizio so special?
- The hotel is a restored 15th century monastery in the beautiful Italian countryside. Each room or suite is unique and you can browse the pictures on their website to pick your exact room.
- The Michelin-starred restaurant Guido da Costigliole is in the cellars of the monastery, with original vaulted ceilings and walls. The outdoor terrace overlooks the vineyard all the way to the Alps. This beloved restaurant serves Piedmont cuisine in a modern way with ingredients sourced from the surrounding area.
Do as much or as little as you like:
- The spa has relaxing views of the lush green hills. Offerings include salt caves with salts from the Dead Sea, grape based treatments and a bio-sauna with herbs from the botanic garden.
- The gym is outside and overlooks the valley below with sunset views if you time your workout right.
- Take a cooking class with the chef and learn traditional recipes of the Piedmont region. Follow it up with a wine tasting in the cellar.
‼️ Don’t miss…… truffle hunting in the forest with a professional truffle-hunter and his dog. Along a scenic trail you will see a see a fresh truffle emerge from the ground. What is better than to taste it on the field with some cheese and a glass of wine
📷 Relais San Maurizio
Reach out to plan your trip to
The 24 Best Places to Travel in 2024, Virtuoso
Seabourn Unveils Expedition Itineraries for 2025-26, Luxury Travel Advisor
These desserts are going viral in London right now, Lonely Planet
I Hated Winter Until I Learned to Ski, Outside Magazine
White Lotus Filming At Four Seasons Koh Samui In Early 2024?, One Mile at a Time
Botswana with kids, Lonely Planet
Luxury Lifestyle Magazine
(If you aren’t able to access an NYT or Washington Post article, send me a note and I’ll send it to you in a PDF.)