Archives for January 2013

My Favorite Hotels…for now

What is the best way to choose a hotel for vacation?  As my entire career (including my college days) has orbited around the idea of travel and using hotels, people often ask me what my favorite hotel is, or where I most like to travel.  I always smile and sigh.  I love the question because no matter what I am doing, that question sends me hurtling down an imaginary hallway where I get glimpses of all the amazing places I have had the good fortune of visiting.  Asking me to choose a favorite is quite honestly like asking a parent which of their children they like most.  I can’t do it.

With the large number of requests we have received recently for planning leisure trips, another variation of the question has arisen…”Which one would I pick?”  Customers ask me that question when they have narrowed their choices to 2 or 3 really attractive options, and it is a flawed question.  Just because I like it, does not mean it would be right for you.  And that is what I encourage people to keep in mind when they discuss vacation plans with friends and family.  As professional travel consultants, we remove our own preferences from the equation and look at your trip from your perspective.

So as you plan your own vacations and ponder where to go and where to stay, consider some fundamental questions about yourself and your habits.

1. Money vs. Hassle –  Vacations are about indulging and splurging, but everyone has their limits on how much they will spend.  Cost and Hassle are yin and yang in travel.  The less you want to spend, generally the more you have to tolerate hassle and down time.  While planning, ask yourself very honestly how content you will be waiting for shuttle busses,  crowded elevators and long hallways.  Now imagine those wait times while also burdened with beach towels, ski gear, camera bags, toys, strollers, etc.

2.  Big vs. Small – Hotels and resorts are often the first venues we think of when imagining vacation lodging because they have a large physical presence, and often have large marketing budgets to keep themselves top of mind with their customers.  I bet even if you have never been to Jamaica, you’ve heard of Sandals.  I tend to like smaller hotels because they are easier to navigate and I feel that a smaller pool of guests makes it easier for the staff to give great service.  But guess what?  I also like cruise ships, and I’ve had incredible service at resorts with upwards of 500 rooms.  And let’s face it, a small intimate resort cannot provide the vast array of services a big resort can.

My personal list of favorite hotels in the world is below.  This is a dynamic list and is always subject to new inspiration and discovery.

1. Tabacon

This resort is small in its number of rooms, but large in it’s unique offerings.  It is hours from the beach, and nestled in the central mountains of Costa Rica, directly at the base of the famous, and active Arenal Volcano.  The volcano fuels an ever tumbling and pooling series of hot springs amidst a tropical landscape straight from your dreams.  There are only 102 rooms, and you will need to sit through a solid 2-3 hour ride over narrow bumpy roads, but trust me…it is worth it.  Don’t cut your time short, stay here for at least 2-3 nights…and longer if you can.


2. Catamaran

It’s not the flashiest, or the fanciest, or the best known hotel, but the Catamaran in San Diego to me, feels like what San Diego should feel like.  It is easy to get to, provides simple access to either the bay or the beach and provides perfectly nice accommodations and friendly local service.  The Catamaran is privately owned by a family that has been in the hotel business for generations and they know their stuff.


3. Beaver Creek Lodge

You didn’t think I would focus only on warm weather locations did you?  The Beaver Creek Lodge is at the top of the resort town in Beaver Creek, Colorado.  Everyone knows getting a condo at a good price during ski season is tough…but what you might not realize is that although prices are lower in the summer, the number of available condo’s falls dramatically because the owners know that summer is a fantastic time to be in the high Rockies.

Tips For Writing New Years Resolutions

Re-post of the VenueQuest newsletter 1/2/2013 – I predict this could be the most un-read newsletter I will send this year.  The timing stinks because many of you are off this week. And, what is more predictable or cliche on January 2 than a newsletter about New Years Resolutions, ugh!

But I am writing it anyway, because for the topic of New Years Resolutions, the timing is fantastic.  I used to set the same goals every year…get in shape, make more money, blah blah blah.  Until I realized how quickly those broad resolutions could be forgotten because I had no follow through.  In 2008, I set some strict guidelines to get very serious about my New Years Resolutions and I have built on it each year since then.  The first year with specific goals did not go even close to what I had envisioned though.

I was carrying some credit card debt from a recent interstate move, and I had been suffering on and off from a variety of annoying health symptoms including itchy legs, coughing, fatigue, etc.  My personal resolutions going into 2009 were to eliminate my credit card debt, and find a small practice doctor who could work with me to solve all my “little” health problems.  By January 9, I had found the single practice doctor, and after a series of scans and tests, he told me I had Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma and I would be going into chemotherapy right away.  I did not get out of debt that year!

Fast forward, I am healthy again, and I still write down my resolutions.  I used to type them up in big bold fonts and print a copy which would be taped to the wall next to my desk so that I could cross them off as I completed goals.  I love checking something off a list.  Since discovering Evernote, I have replaced my taped up list with an Evernote “note.”  If you are not familiar with Evernote, Google it.  I have yet to meet any users who can say they would be better off without it.

So, without further delay, these are my suggestions and tips for writing New Years Resolutions:
1. Write them down…someplace permanent…that you will see on a regular basis.  Writing them is not enough.   I turn to my computer, type them up in Word with big bold fonts and then print it out.  Next I tape that sheet right next to my desk.

2. Be specific.  There is a little room for ambiguity, but avoid “Get in shape.”  Instead, try “Plan 20 minutes of exercise three times per week (or whatever is realistic for you).  One of my goals for 2012 was to send 10 email newsletters…For anyone counting, yes, this is #9.

3.  Make time to review your list periodically.   Schedule a meeting on your calendar in three months, and give yourself a review.  It will be interesting for you to discover what remains important and what you feel less strongly about.  If you really want to get serious about this, invite another participant to your meeting who can hold you accountable to your goals.

4.  It’s never to late to make a commitment.  If you formalize your list of resolutions, then it becomes a living thing and it can grow.  As the motivation and circumstances strike, you can add to the list.  Setting goals is not just for January 1.

Here are some of my other resolutions for 2013:

1. Grow the VenueQuest Facebook page by 200 new Likes.  Currently at 63, so I need to be at 263 by next December.  Anyone care to help me get started with this one???
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2. Hire a new employee.  VenueQuest is growing and we need help.  I am hoping to find the right person for the job in the first quarter of 2013.

I will schedule my review meeting for March 20 and I will let you know how I am doing with this list.  Happy New Year.