Monday, August 31, 2015

Updated: Caribbean Getaway Deals 1st week of November

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The prices listed below are for 2 adults + 2 kids for October 31st - November 7th with direct air from NYC and include hotel.

When you are ready to book we guarantee the LOWEST price at the moment of booking by scanning dozens of various travel systems and web sites. If needed, we will do a price match.

To book your WORRY FREE Caribbean vacation just send us an email at

Azul Beach$6,757
Barcelo Maya Beach$4,880
Barcelo Maya Palace$5,400
ClubMed Cancun$5,500
Dreams Riviera Cancun$5,400
Grand Velas Riviera Maya$7,200
Grand Palladium Colonial$3,560
Iberostar Paraiso Lindo$4,200
Iberostar Paraiso Maya$4,625
Iberostar Tucan$3,560
Paradisus La Esmeralda$3,920
Riu Palace Riviera Maya$5,190
Riu Palace Mexico$5,190
Dominican Republic
Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe$5,100

Iberostar Bavaro Suites$4,600
Iberostar Haceinda Dominicus$4,045
Paradisus Palma Real$4,200
Paradisus Punta Cana$3,800
The Reserve Paradisus Palma Real$4,950
The Reserve Paradisus Punta Cana$4,729
Hilton Rose Hall$3,800
Hyatt Ziva$4,800
Iberostar Rose Hall Suites$4,754
St. Martin
Riu Palace$4,850
Costa Rica
Riu Guanacaste$4,109
Riu Palace$4,758
ClubMed Sandpiper Bay$4,354
Atlantis Royal$5,548

Client Review: Iceland

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Last week, dear clients of ours one (2 adults + 2 kids) returned from Iceland; Family Travel Concierge was honored to plan their trip from A to Z. We share their review below of this magnificent land... 

Dear Alex,

Thank you so much for an incredible trip.  It was really absolutely perfect.  Honestly, we wouldn't have changed a thing (expect for a few of the days of rain ;).  You asked about a few things in the note to us:

1.  Our tour guide was fantastic for our family.  He made the trip.  It was so nice to get up each morning and not have to worry at all about where we were going, timing, etc.  He was so accommodating and laid back.  We know he was doing a lot of behind the scenes planning but he made it look effortless.  It was a lot of time in the car so having someone that was easy going with the kids was a must.  He really became a friend at the end of the 10 days and we felt like we were on a giant road trip together.  His name was Thor.  His specialty was definitely the geology of the country and the outdoor adventures.  He even watched our kids a couple of times when they wanted to do something different from us (like add on an extra hike).  He didn't have a deep historical knowledge of Reykjavik.  So, while it was fun to be with him in the city, we probably could have done that first day on our own.  

2.  The sites were fantastic.  All the outside vendors were tremendous.  We loved the horse back riding, the caving and the zodiac boat tour.  Thor took us glacier hiking himself and he was a great, responsible guide.  

3.  Hotels....We had two favorite hotels.  The hotel in Reykjavik,  Kvosin was out of this world. The rooms were recently redone.  They were beautifully appointed suites with kitchenettes, granite counter tops, amazing down comforters, incredible shower, etc.  The breakfast was served at a cafe next door and it was filling and delicious.  The front desk staff were accommodating and very friendly.  Our other favorite hotel was Hotel Silfurberg.  It was a real treat.  It is a farm in the middle of nowhere and the family has completely redone it into a luxurious inn.  I've traveled a lot and this hotel takes the cake.  They served dinner themselves.  It was delicious and it felt like you were in their dining room.  We wish we had a day to explore that area.  The Stracta Hotel was lovely.  It was more utilitarian, but new, clean and lovely.  

The only hotel that was just so-so was the Hotel Gigur.  We were there two nights and it was more of a dorm room than a hotel.  It was clean but we had two separate rooms, both with two twin beds and a small table in between.  The dining room was nice and we had a nice breakfast included.  The Lake Myvatn area is fantastic and well worth spending two nights at.  

4.  Food....we ate a lot of road food, which was fine for our family (actually preferable with the kids).  But, it may have been more difficult for older people or people looking for a more fine dining experience.  

5.  It was PERFECT to fly back to Reykjavik.  It was an easy flight.  There was no security at all and domestic flights land right in Reykjavik so we were back at the hotel in no time.  

My only other recommendation to clients traveling to Iceland is to pack for weather changes.  While the itinerary stated it, I didn't pay as close attention to it as I should have.  There is absolutely no need for shorts or short sleeve shirts any time during the year.  You need layered warm, comfortable clothes and you definitely need a hat and gloves. And, you ABSOLUTELY need rain pants and a solid rain coat (mistake on my part, we all ended up buying rain pants).  You also need solid hiking boots/shoes.

Iceland has left an inedible mark on our family.  We are already talking about a repeat visit at some point to explore the Western fjords.  The geology and natural resources are absolutely mind blowing.  Our kids were the perfect age for it.  It would have been harder if the kids were any younger.  

Thank you again!  Without you, we would never had enjoyed this amazing vacation.  We will absolutely use Family Travel Concierge for all our travel and recommend to our friends.

New Orleans Post Katrina- 10 Years Later

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We can't believe it's been a DECADE since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans. In honor of one of the largest rebuilding efforts in our country's history, we've listed 10 (mostly hopeful) facts about the Jazz Capital of America!

New Orleans tourism has rebounded
While Allen Alongi, sales coordinator at The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, cautions "We are growing but [we] won’t plateau soon," he nonetheless positively adds, "The numbers speak for themselves; tourism has definitely been better than ever in 2015 since the storm." Last year the city welcomed 9.5 million visitors, compared to 3.7 million in 2006, the first full year after the storm. And some statistics even show gains when compared to the years before Hurricane Katrina. In 2004 (Katrina hit in August 2005), hotel revenue clocked in at about one billion; last year, it was nearly $1.37 billion. Hotel rooms have also increased by several hundred since before the storm, and more than 10,000 since right after the storm. After closing due to Katrina-inflicted damages, the Hyatt Regency  received a $275 million makeover and reopened in October 2011 with an additional 1,200 rooms.

Population numbers are still down
The city suffered a mass exodus not only of businesses, but also of residents, post-Katrina. Although many of both have returned, the city's population is down 18 percent compared to 2004 statistics.

The city is all about southern hospitality
New Orleans has long been know as one of those lovely below-the-Mason-Dixon-line towns that embraces Southern hospitality with gusto -- and this has been the case before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. "If our southern hospitality wasn’t already a standard, the hurricane brought more people together than ever before," Alongi explains. "Sharing meals with families on completely different ends of the spectrum, borrowing out some valuable gasoline so our neighbors could use their generators for light, and helping neighbors pick up debris from their yards...those things united us like never before."
New Orleans was ranked the third friendliest city in America this year by Travelzoo.New Orleans' quaint, historic bed-and-breakfasts -- many of which are run by local couples and families -- are perhaps in large part to thank for this positive ranking.

The storm created new attractions
One silver lining to the storm is that it led to the creation of numerous attractions. Alongi says, "People want to see all the old and new, but mainly they want to experience something that no other city in the country has encountered." Post-Katrina additions include the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum and the riverfront Crescent Park.

New Orleans is the second most popular destination for bachelor parties
After Vegas, New Orleans is the second most popular locale for bachelor parties. Legal drinking in the streets, bars that are open all night, infamously strong hurricane cocktails, and top-notch sports teams like the Saints -- what's not to love?

It is home to the 2015 James Beard award winner for best chef in the South
The New Orleans food scene is thriving. Famed longtime staples such as Commander's Palace, which serves NOLA classics (like turtle soup) atop white tableclothes, remain, and a slew of top-rated newbies -- including Cochon, Purloo, and Sylvain -- have joined the culinary ranks since Katrina. This year, Alon Shaya of Domenica was named the James Beard Best Chef in the South.

Crime is still high
New Orleans' high crime rate has never been a secret; in 2014, it ranked ninth on the list of America's Murder Capitals. Though murder rates have declined each year since 2012, 2015's first quarter saw a significant uptick -- a whopping 73 percent (!) -- compared to the previous year's. 

And you can still booze in the streets
On a lighter note, New Orleans is also notorious for its outdoor booze-fests. As long as your drink is not in a breakable container, you're good to go. If you're celebrating something, you can even star in your own Second Line parade behind a brass band if you pay the necessary permit fees and police escort fees. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

October 14th-18th: Riviera Maya's Taste of France

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The Experience:
Sharing a kitchen, restaurant and passion for creating an amazing culinary experience, Maîtres Cuisiniers de France Chefs Christian Têtedoie, Claude Le-Tohic, Claude Godard and Michele Mustière join together October 14-18th 2015 to present a 10-course dining experience complimentary for guests of the AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Maya. 

The dinners will be held in Piaf's cabaret-inspired dining room awash with Swarovski crystals and red velvet each evening. Each course of the dinner with wine pairing will be created by one of the four chefs. A total of 80 seats are available each evening for the dinner, included complimentary for resort guests in the nightly rate. 

Nightly rates start at $393 per person per night based on double occupancy. All-inclusive rates include luxury suite accommodations, à la carte gourmet meals at a variety of specialty restaurants, premium branded beverages, 24-hour in-suite service, fitness center, taxes, gratuity and more. 

About the Resort's Culinary Experience:
With 18 Diamonds by AAA, Grand Velas Riviera Maya has set new standards in the All Inclusive World. Food, creativity and presentation comparable to top restaurants in world capitals, that's what reviewers and leading media are writing about the resort.  Name your favorite specialty cuisine: Mexican, French, Italian, Asian, it's exquisitely prepared by award winning chefs including disciples of Spain's star chef Arzak. Cocina de Autor is the first restaurant in the world that's part of an All-Inclusive that won the AAA 5-Diamond Award. Restaurants are led by internationally renowned chefs such as Michel Mustière, named Maîtres Cuisiniers de France and Xavi Pérez Stone, named "Best Chef in Mexico" and winner of the "Iron Chef 2014."

Then there are the foodie experience: a famed margarita trolley; wine and sake pairings; tequila, mescal, wine and even hot sauce tastings. Enjoy 24/7 elegant ensuite service, and special taste treats pool and beachside, from exotic fruit pops to mini cupcakes.  Plus luxurious oversize suites with top flight amenities and service, spas, innovative kids club and family programs, and breathtaking beaches. All of this has earned the resort more awards than there is space to list including a Top 10 Coolest All Inclusive by and Top Searched All-Inclusive in the World by Yahoo Travel. 

About Grand Velas Riviera Maya:
Set on 205 acres of pristine jungle and mangroves and with the finest white sand beach in the Riviera Maya, the AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Maya is an ultra-luxury all-inclusive resort. Guests can choose among three separate ambiances in this Leading Hotel of the World, including adults only ocean-front, family friendly ocean view and a Zen-like tropical setting, embraced by the flora and fauna of the Yucatan Peninsula's jungle. All 539 designer-like suites are exceptionally spacious, more than 1,100 square feet each, all with balconies, and some with private plunge pools. All feature fully stocked mini bars, plasma TVs, wireless Internet access, L'Occitane amenities, artisanal tequila and Nespresso machines. Bathrooms deserve special mention with walk in glass shower, deep soaking Jacuzzi tubs and marble interior. Eight restaurants, including five gourmet offerings, present a tour of Mexico, Europe and Asia. Cocina de Autor, at the hands of the disciples of world celebrity chef Arzak, won the AAA Five Diamond Award, the only all-inclusive restaurant in the world to win this prestigious distinction. 

Grand Velas Spa, a Leading Spa of the World, is the region's largest spa sanctuary at more than 90,000 square feet, known for its authentic Mexican treatments, offerings from around world and signature seven-step water journey. Other features include 24-hour personal butler concierge, 24/7 insuite service, three swimming pools, two fitness centers, water sports, innovative kids club and teens lounge, Karaoke Bar, Koi piano bar and business center. The resort offers more than 91,000 square feet of meeting spaces and outdoor areas for events and has a 31,000-square-foot Convention Center, able to accommodate up to 2,700 guests. 

The resort has won numerous awards from Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, USA Today, Trip Advisor's 2015 Certificate of Excellence, Best of the Best Spa by Virtuoso, U.S. News and World Report and

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The World's Best Zoo's

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When you get to a new city, visiting the local zoo might not be the first thing on your list, unless you've got kiddos in tow, and then it's almost guaranteed to be a top priority. But in some cities across the globe, the zoos are truly spectacular, and visiting them is a must no matter your age. The following 7 zoos on our list are world-famous, so make sure not to pass on visiting your favorite furry friends in these locales because they may just turn out to be the highlight of your trip. 

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo almost always tops the Best of the U.S. list, and its renown spreads internationally. So what makes this zoo so special? For starters, it's located in Balboa Park, San Diego's beautiful urban cultural park that spans a whopping 1,200 acres and houses gorgeous museums, gardens, and walking paths, along with the zoo, of course. Secondly, the zoo is huge and teeming with impressive plant and animal life. There are over 650 different animal species living at the zoo and over 3,700 animals. The zoo is actually so big that you might even want to visit its attractions over two days. We recommend a guided tour if you really want to soak up some facts, but you can also have a great time exploring San Diego's little animal kingdom on your own as well.

Taronga Zoo
Taronga Zoo in Sydney has unrivaled views not only of its beautiful animals, but also of the gorgeous Sydney Harbor. The zoo is one of Sydney's most famous attractions, and for good reason; it has about 4,000 animals, including many native Australian species and also exotic foreign ones. The zoo can be reached by a quick ferry from Circular Quay near the Sydney Opera House and is equipped with a cable car that can brings you to the entrance from the ferry pier. Highlights at Taronga are some of our Aussie favorites -- koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles, wombats, and tasmanian devils can all be found here.

Singapore Zoo

The Singapore Zoo boasts 2,800 animals living in a beautiful 64-acre nature park in the Mandai rainforest. We especially love the Singapore Zoo because it doesn't have cages. Instead it has carefully crafted animal habitats -- making for a a better life for its furry residents, and a great interactive experience for the zoo's visitors. With the entire zoo enjoying this open-air layout, a visit here will really feel like you're just roaming the jungle with all these beautiful animals. Take out word for it: Even the non-zoo lovers out there will appreciate this beautiful wildlife park. 

Loro Parque 
Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz topped TripAdvisor's traveler's choice awards for best zoos in 2015, so it has to be good! The zoo, located on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, is famous for its thousands of parrots and aquatic shows -- specifically its orca, sea lion, and dolphin shows. The lines can get really long for these famed events, so try to arrive early. The beautiful vegetation all around the park and numerous places to grab a bite make it a really pleasant place to spend a day. The park does a lot of conservation work through the Loro Parque Foundation, too, so you can rest assured that the animals you love are well taken care of and healthy. 

Tiergarten Schönbrunn 
Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna is not your average zoo. Located on the grounds of the famous Schönbrunn palace, it's actually the oldest zoo in the world. Tiergarten began as an imperial menagerie in 1752, and today the zoo is a beautiful conservation nature center with well-preserved baroque buildings and an elegant atmosphere. Among the most popular attractions are the giant pandas, a rainforest house, an aquarium, and a polarium. You may not think of going to the zoo when you think of Vienna, but Tiergarten is unique and we definitely recommend it.

Chester Zoo 

Chester Zoo in Upton by Chester, England is the largest zoo in the UK. With a large focus on conservation, the zoo houses about 400 species of animals, half of which are endangered. In fact, the zoo participates in the captive breeding programs of over 130 threatened species and has succeeded in breeding everything from Asian elephants to black rhinoceros. There is also a very exciting $30 million project going on at Chester called Islands, which takes visitors on their own conservation adventure through the Philippines, Bali, Sulawesi, Papua, Sumba and Sumatra, in a nod to the journeys of the great explorers. 

The National Geological Gardens 

The National Geological Gardens of South Africa in Pretoria is the largest zoo in the country, and boasts about 700 species. Half of the zoo is located on a steep slope, providing nice views from the top, and there's a cool cable car linking the top point with the entrance at the bottom, which always gains extra points in our book because, who doesn't love cable cars? The zoo is also appointed with a large aquarium, reptile park, and sizable collection of exotic trees. The highlight of the place, though, is the savannah vibe -- there's even overnight camping and moonlight tours that you can take advantage of to get the full South African experience.

Monday, August 24, 2015

10 Last Minute Labor Day Vacation Ideas

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Okay, don't hate us for bringing this up but...summer is almost over. The official final day of the season isn't till September 22, but most largely associate the end of summer Fridays, summer beach days, summer lazy days -- you name it -- with that dreaded Tuesday following Labor Day. We’ve compiled the top 10 destinations to get one final vacation thrill out of summer!

La Jolla

If you want to soak up some final hours on the sand over Labor Day, San Diego's La Jolla is a great destination to set your sights on. About a 30-minute drive from the San Diego airport, this seaside community is set on one of the most affluent stretches of California's coast. But the atmosphere is nonetheless laid-back; nature is key here, and it is well-maintained to preserve the area's natural beauty. There is even a 6,000-acre underwater park, great for snorkeling and scuba diving, and Mount Soledad, a park with 360-degree views of La Jolla. Partiers should look elsewhere, but this destination is a solid choice for those seeking a tranquil long weekend away.
Hotel Pick: La Valencia

Just because Labor Day is a national holiday doesn't mean you have to spend it stateside; Toronto is a wonderful international destination for the weekend, especially this year when airfare costs to the Canadian metropolis are down. This may come as a surprise, because many would argue that North America's fourth largest city is just hitting its prime; the sweeping gentrification of former industrial areas have made this cultural hub all the more impressive. Toronto is an extremely walkable city, and Labor Day weekend is a nice time to visit since daytime temperatures hover in the low 70s. Plus, if you stick around for a few extra days, the world-renowned Toronto International Film Festival kicks off on September 10.
Hotel Pick: The Saint James Hotel

St. Louis
Despite the recent Ferguson riots (although the peak period took place after the holiday), St. Louis experienced a major uptick in tourism over Labor Day weekend in 2014 compared to 2013, and this year the hospitality board is expecting a good number of visitors to fly in for Labor Day 2015 as well. Home to the iconic Arch, this Midwest metropolis offers visitors some great perks, including free access to one of the country's top zoos, where a beloved polar bear now resides. Other fun Labor Day weekend activities include baseball games (the Cardinals will be taking on the Pirates and the Cubs), the St. Nicholas Festival, and the Midwest Wingfest, a two-day food fest dedicated to wings.
Hotel Pick: Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark

Virginia Beach

Thanks to its miles of beaches, Navy presence, and generally affordable restaurants and bars, Virginia Beach finds itself as one of the most visited beach destinations in the country for Labor Day year after year. The weekend is packed with patriotic pride in the form of musical events, food and arts festivals, and fireworks. Though the highly regarded East Coast Surfing Championships take place two weekends prior, the swell is still great for surfers over Labor Day, and the waters are packed with swimmer, kayakers, and surfers.
Hotel Pick: Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront

New York City
New York City may be one of the top five Labor Day destinations annually (flights over summer are slightly cheaper than those around the winter holidays and spring break), but it never feels too crowded over the weekend -- probably because most Manhattanites escape to the Hamptons. Aside from less-packed restaurants and a sunny High Line stroll, this year tourists can take a trip to the recently opened Whitney Museum, which has found its new home in the Meatpacking District. Entry is expensive, so guests can also visit classics like the Metropolitan Museum (which only has a high "suggested" fee) or head to Brooklyn for a cheap, delicious feast at Smorgasburg.
Hotel Pick: Lefferts Manor Bed & Breakfast

Las Vegas
Las Vegas actually often comes in as even more popular than New York over Labor Day weekend; for those who want to party, there are few places better suited. It's certainly not cheap to get there, and whatever money you may (but more likely may not) rake in from the tables, you'll be spending -- and then some -- on tables at clubs, but the beauty of Vegas is that even the most luxurious resorts are cheap by hotel rates standards elsewhere. Plus, almost all pool parties rage on through at least the end of September, so you can drink and dance in your bikini while you celebrate the holiday.
Hotel Pick: SLS Las Vegas

Mexico City
Airfare rates to Mexico City are a deal these days, and the South-of-the-Border metropolis is bustling with a thriving arts, culture, and food scene. Packing everything this massive city has to offer into one weekend may seem difficult, but there are some highlights you can focus on -- namely taking in downtown's numerous historic buildings and monuments, exploring the city's countless museums (Mexico City has more museums than both New York and Paris), and of course getting your fill of Mexican dishes like tacos al pastor and quesadillas -- but authentic-style. 
Hotel Pick: Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel


June through September are Miami's quietest months, meaning they're also the beach destination's cheapest -- not only in regards to hotel rates, but also airfare, which is down about 10 percent compared to last year on top of that. But, let's be honest, Miami is never really dead. The party continues all summer long and over the long weekend this year events range from float festivals to yacht parties, and baseball games to musical performances by a slew of favorites, including Pitbull.
Hotel Pick: Dream South Beach

Early September is a wonderful time to visit Seattle; the high temperatures hover around a lovely 70 degrees, and prices begin to drop as the summer tourists depart. This waterfront city makes for a wonderful Labor Day destination if you seek a laid-back long weekend. Locals are friendly and it's easy to immerse yourself in the culture, which is defined by beautiful natural scenery, outdoor pursuits such as cycling, and, of course, delicious artisanal coffee. Plus, Seattle is home to a lively farmers market scene -- the best undoubtedly being the one at Pike Place.
Hotel Pick: Hotel Deca

Just like Seattle, Chicago is probably best enjoyed during September -- before the brutal cold and infamous winds of the winter arrive. The lakeside city is one of the Midwest's cultural hubs, home to world-class museums, great parks, top-notch dining and shopping, and cutting-edge architecture. Highlights include the Lincoln Park Zoo (entry is free) as well as the Navy Pier, where events such as movie screenings, musical performances and fireworks shows will be taking place this Labor Day weekend.

Hotel Pick: Hotel Blake Chicago