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Who doesn’t want to spend 15 hours sprawled out in this?

Lets start off with this – these are real tips I have never read anywhere else.

After traveling to hundreds of cities over (almost) every continent i’ve realized that there are just some flights that are WAY too long for economy, or even premium economy.  Combine that with the fact that people are getting stuffed into smaller spaces (stand up seats!) and Business class starts looking less like a luxury and more like a necessity.

Over the past 20 years i’ve amassed a lot of miles in the air, and to cut straight to the point – i’ve listed my tried and trued methods of getting to lay out flat and get some good shuteye while you’re flying the *cramped skies, WITHOUT paying the premium $$ that Business class will often cost you.

  1. The Reverse Route: I’m going to start with the best one first.  This is damn near UNKNOWN, but it ONLY works for those who are traveling to or from the US, and if you plan ahead.  If you buy a ticket that ORIGINATES in another country and then returns back to that country (outside of the US), you can find Business class fares that are more than half off than those that originate from within the US.  Your next question is probably, well.. how do I get there in the first place?  If you plan this correctly and get a one way outbound, you can always move your “return” flight (the one leaving the US) to a later point in time.  The beauty of Business class is that you can cancel or move your return flight without penalty the majority of the time.
  2. The Arbitrage Route: This is very similar to the previous one, but may not offer as much savings, but many times if you find an alternative departing or returning city you may find cheaper prices.  This is often due to geo-economic conditions.  For example, if you need to fly to Paris from Los Angeles, you might want to also check how much it costs to start in Denver, or San Francisco, or even New York, and then get a separate shorter fare that is cheaper to get to that “starting” destination.  And look at the bright side of it – you get to experience a new city at the same time (and rack up some frequent flier miles).  Use this tool to check multiple departure cities – https://matrix.itasoftware.com/
  3. The Last Minute: If you purchase a ticket in economy or premium economy, when you get to the check-in desk your best bet is to ask the ticket agent how much it costs to upgrade.  Most airlines would rather make some money than upgrade their frequent flyers or leave seats unsold.  While some of you may know about this method, what you probably don’t know is that the ticket agents are allowed to BARGAIN.  Yup, whatever price they start with, go ahead and cut that in half… Who knew that flying Business on an Airline wasn’t that far off from buying spices at the bazaar?
  4. The Guaranteed “Cheap” Fares: There’s a few airlines that tend to carry the cheapest Business class tickets.  Yes, they may not offer 12 course meals ala Singapore Airlines, or service equivalent to a Four Seasons hotel, but hey.. if you’re like me you probably just want lots of free alcohol, decent food, and a lay flat seat.  For Europe, I highly recommend Norwegian Airlines and their Business class product.  Book ahead and you’ll find prices to be inline with economy on legacy airlines like Delta.  Russia’s Aeroflot is also a great Business class product at an affordable price, along with LOT airlines.  Not flying to Poland or Russia?  These airlines will only require you do a quick layover in their respective countries.  Or fly one of these “budget” Business class fares to a larger hub city and take the shorter portion of the route using another airline – remember, everything in Europe is pretty close anyway. If you’re flying to Asia, try out China Eastern, China Southern, Air China, or Xiamen Airlines. They’re government sponsored airlines so they’re able to compete at cheaper prices for Business class while offering new planes and quite a bit of luxury for the price (and don’t worry, they’re ranked as some of the safest airlines in the world).
  5. Find an Insider: Contrary to belief, the cheapest fares are NOT on the internet.  As a matter of fact, travel agents STILL have the best rates, and know how to game the system with their connections.  To do this, figure out where you want to go to, and find an “ethnic” local travel agent that has access to aggregated fares.  This is where they agree to purchase a number of tickets from an airline and as a result have a reduced rate.  Yea, this is one of those things where the Internet did NOT win it all.
  6. The Fifth Freedom Route: This one is listed elsewhere, but since you’re reading I thought i’d mention it here.  Airlines are allowed to fly routes outside of their home country if the plane previously was flying a route within their country.  So in many cases you’ll find Business class fares for the price of economy on these routes.  For example – Emirates Airlines flies a route from Sri Lanka’s main airport to the Maldives, and an economy fare on the widebody Business class can cost as little as $200 each way!  To score these, just remember to look for Business class even when you think it’s impossible to get one without selling a kidney!

Let me know in the comments what you all think, and if you have some other tips that I haven’t mentioned.  Happy traveling and enjoy those lay flat seats and free champagne!

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Not a normal topic that I write on, but on my recent trip to Shanghai I was actually surprised that there weren’t a significant amount of online resources so after doing some of my own research and asking around in Mandarin (my second language), I built my own list. Here are a few spots I recommend visiting which are slightly off the beaten path, and hopefully will give you some depth into Shanghai as a city. 1.  M50 Art Spaces: This is a unique area in Shanghai with a collection of art galleries and graffiti murals. Its worth at least a few hours and reminds me of some of the repurposed spaces you find in berlin. There’s also random activities anyone can participate in, like cooking classes, music exploration, and pretty much anything you’d associate with a utopian art society. https://goo.gl/maps/AkckhzU6E8R Deadly pandas are considered art here 2. 1933 LaoYangFang: This was a prison once, now its yet another art space. Shanghai isn’t quite up to where Beijing is with its art scene, but the oblique architecture, concrete space, and awe-inspiring stairwells resemble something out of an Orwellian book. This is definitely a must visit. https://goo.gl/maps/hoA41fFtohD2 3. Xinhua Bookstore in Aegean Place: Xinhua is a famous bookstore and publishing company, but their crown jewel is this incredible piece of architecture on the top floor of the new Aegean Place (Greek themed) shopping center. This bookstore is jawdropping, and while you’re there check out the numerous hot pot restaurants in the Aegean Place mall. You can’t go wrong in here, as its a true locals spot. https://goo.gl/maps/VjTouFT3fZu 4. Shanghai Old Town: Yes, it might look like a tourist trap, and it sort of is, but in all the best possible ways. There’s a few must do’s here, the famous Ningbo Dumpling Soup restaurant, and Nanxiang steamed dumplings are must eats, while Shiliupu fabric market in this 1000 year old walled part of Shanghai has some of the town’s best tailors at some remarkable prices. https://goo.gl/maps/weBRD4udfg92 5. The Bund: I couldn’t write this list without putting the Bund on here. Great photos on both sides but, where you want to get the best views is at the East end of Nanjing Road and at nighttime when the buildings are lit up in yellow flourescence and you forget that you’re in Asia, not France or England. https://goo.gl/maps/nuakH97AumD2 The Bund… yea, it’s still China

The post 5 Instagram-worthy Spots to get great pictures in Shanghai (while also sightseeing) appeared first on The Young Travelier.

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Siem Reap is by and far the most visited location within Cambodia – and rightly so.  Not only is it the location of the famed temples of Angkor, but it is also home to vibrant nightlife, incredible cuisine, and all the action of a growing cultural destination.

When I decided to visit Siem Reap it was purely at a moments notice, and after scouring the internet for quite a few hours I decided to make my home base the Anantara Angkor Resort.  Having been to well over 500+ luxury hotels at this point I was unsure what to expect as Cambodia is still an evolving destination and as such its often hard to determine whether a resort will be on par with the caliber that is expected in more established locales.

Without having to skip to the end here – lets just say that my expectations were met and exceeded.

Lets start with the first thing I loved – the location.  Located less than TEN minutes from the airport, yet less than five minutes from the center of the city, the Anantara really couldn’t have been more locally situated.

The minute I grabbed my bags from the baggage carousel at the airport, a member of the hotel was there to escort and pick me up.  Upon arrival at the resort itself, I was pleasantly surprised and excited to see an old school Jeep parked in front of the resort.  Little throwback details like that are what still make me happy when I visit a new property.

If there’s an old school vehicle in front of the hotel, you know it’s gonna be awesome

The check in process is handled in the veranda of the exterior, and the service itself was 5-star in quality.  Welcome drinks along with a detailed explanation of the property along with staff already moving bags into the room before I was even handed the key made for a very simple and quick arrival process.

The property has two main areas, a grassy courtyard where three dining areas are located, and on the opposite side a large pool where most of the rooms are situated.

Lets start with the dining options – Even though Siem Reap is known for incredible Khmer Cuisine, the Anantara hotel itself is actually home to three options  – the first is a cooking experience (Yes, you can learn how to make Khmer cuisine with the chefs here), the second is an outdoor restaurant which is actually home to the number ONE ranked restaurant in Siem Reap (Chi), and the third is the main indoor restaurant which is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner.

One of two courtyard areas… want a plunge pool or a full size pool? Your call! The interior of the dining room with its beautiful ceilings, Khmer inspired furniture, and floor to ceiling windows, was both modern yet cozy and overlooks an incredible courtyard garden

The rooms themselves are gorgeous affairs, with wooden flooring, fantastically linened beds, and in my case, a suite with its own pool, outdoor shower, and dining table fit for a party of 8.  I spent a good part of the day between my private pool, the main pool, room service dining (about 3 times in as many hours), and just relaxing in the suite.

Now THIS is a suite Room service on the patio? Count me in Khmer Cuisine here is as good as it gets

When it came to public spaces, I explored the property and was pleased to find that not only did they have a rooftop garden where all the herbs were grown for the on site restaurants, but that the spa was a gorgeous affair with stunning views of the main courtyard.

View from the spa side… not too shabby

Overall, I was overwhelmingly surprised and excited by my stay here.  All the boxes were checked at this hotel.  Superb service with attention to tiny details like the way I liked my room service (with extra hot sauce!), concierge service that included a personalized tour of Angkor Wat avoiding most of the tourist trap areas, incredible location, and impeccably designed rooms that were modern, relaxing, and graciously local in feel.

If you’re going to Siem Reap, or visiting Angkor and all the surrounding cultural areas, you definitely can’t go wrong with the Anantara.

RATING:

Hard Product:

-Location (How close is this to top attractions in the surrounding area?) 

Absolutely phenomenal, and close to everything you could need.  Not walking distance to the main town but close enough.

9/10

-Cleanliness (Is the grout in the bathroom clean?  How good is maid service here?)

Attention to all the details was key here

9/10

-Upkeep (Is the hotel in need of a remodel, or is it being constantly kept up?)

This is a newer property, nothing at fault here, however the spa was in the middle of a renovation

9/10

-Public Spaces (How unique/inventive/useful are the public spaces?)

As a smaller resort there were not a ton of public spaces, but with enough options of places to lounge around or relax in, this was a great hideout from the hustle and bustle of the city

8/10

Soft Product:

-Service (How good is the service here?)

Extremely attentive and kind staff, this was incredible.  Communication in English was incredibly easy

9/10

-Restaurants On-Site (Are the restaurants on site somewhere even the locals would go to?)

Amazing food, actually the best I had while in Siem Reap

10/10

-Concierge (Specifically, how effective is the Concierge at helping you with a new locale?)

Everything was attended to, including tours into the city, drivers and transportation, and even small details like cold towels for use during a hot day in Angkor Wat

10/10

TOTAL: 64/70

(35/70 is average)

PROS:

  • Modern yet true to the Khmer heritage
  • Stunning suites that I didn’t want to leave
  • Such kind and amazing staff, from the front office all the way to the wait staff

CONS:

  • At this price point there really are none, just take my advice and stay here

SECRETS:

  • Book your tours to Angkor through the Concierge, and also ask them about their special Jeep tours

The post Anantara Angkor Review: The Most Luxurious Hotel in Siem Reap? appeared first on The Young Travelier.

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Winter is an interesting time of year since half of the hemisphere is actually in winter, and technically the other half is in summer.  In this article i’m going to focus on my favorite places that are great specifically during winter.  Not to say that these suggestions aren’t great in the summer too, but in particular going to these places in the Winter will yield better results.  As a person who travels approximately 100 days a year I plan my travel around where I think I’ll yield the best results for that particular place during that time of year.

  1. Iceland – What people often think is one of the coldest places on Earth (I mean, the name kind of connotes it), is actually not that much colder in Winter.  However, what you do get during late Fall to early Spring is the Northern Lights (October to March).  This is because of how dark it stays during Winter, with close to 20 hours of effective darkness in the midst of it.  Combine this with the fact that Iceland doesn’t really warm up that much in the Summer, and put this at the top of the Winter travel list. Why they’re green? Not so sure, but damn they’re pretty and mostly visible during winter months
  2. Copenhagen – During the Winter months Copenhagen will warm everyone’s hearts.  That may sound cheesy but damn its true.  Between the mulled wine (known as Glogg) and the feeling of Hygge (which essentially means the warm fuzzy feeling you get), this was a country made for Winter.  Don’t just take my word for it though, because winter is actually the only time that the famous outdoor Christmas gardens of Tivoli open and which are basically a must visit.  Consisting of food stalls, skating, and literal acres of Winter activities it is a Winter Wonderland in the most literal sense. Stunning Tivoli Gardens. This is Winter at its Fullest

     

  3. New York – A Winter travel list wouldn’t be complete without New York.  Although New York is a great place almost year round, in the Winter right before Christmas it is a city full of life and bustle.  Come before January though and get ready for some of the best bar and restaurant hopping in the US.  For some reason New York just happens to be a bit more special in November and December as the holidays near.  My favorite places to visit happen to be the market under the Plaza Hotel, and of course Rockefeller Center for the view from the Top of the Rock.  As much as I try to avoid the most touristy spots – the views from the Top of the Rock in a cold dry winter during nighttime just can’t be beat. New York in Winter. Possibly one of my favorite times to visit the Big Apple

     

  4. Paris – This is a city that is pretty year round, but during Winter the appeal is similar to that of New York.  There’s a certain romantic quality to Paris that is especially prevalent in Winter, both of the literal and of the traveling variety.  Many people will say that Paris is cold, dreary, and rainy in the Winter, but in my opinion there is a certain Je Ne Sais Quoi during this time of year.  Between the Christmas markets next to Notre Dame, the special Cassoulet’s which are served only during the Winter months, and the lights strewn over Champs-Elysees, Paris is right behind New York on my Winter (Cold) list. Paris in the Winter. Romantically beautiful.

The post Four Spots Perfect for (Cold) Winter Travel appeared first on The Young Travelier.

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Tel Aviv is an interesting and unique city on its own.  In the 90’s and early 2000’s Israel was a hotbed and the culture of the people reflects what they have been through – the absolute love of life, the attention to food, and the warm camaraderie is all part of what I experienced when I visited this city for a too-short stay of 2 days.

Oddly enough, Tel Aviv does not have many luxury resorts, and there are no traditional chains here but the Hilton does happen to be one of them.  Staying at this grand hotel reminded me of the luxury of Hilton in its heyday.  Although the exterior of the building may look slightly weathered once you enter you realize that this property competes with some of the best urban luxury resorts in the world.

By the beach ain’t bad…ever The stunning lobby was peaceful and the perfect spot for a cocktail at sunset

After settling into the hotel in a suite with a view fit for a king and newly remodeled bathrooms with bathtubs and windows that opened to the sea, I decided my first stop was to check out the beach scene.

I opted to ride one of the rideshare bikes that are prevalent all throughout the city and essentially rode the boardwalk South stopping along the way to take pictures and have a beer while enjoying the scenery.  What struck me the most about being here was just how full of energy the city felt and how beautiful the ocean was.  If you had just dropped me off here I would probably say it reminded me of a combination of Santa Monica California and Venice Beach (also in California).

This is where the cool kids of Tel Aviv hang out

My next stop was Jaffa and Jaffa Heights.  At the south end of the beach you arrive at the old port city which put Tel Aviv on the international map.  Established 1800 years BCE, this was an incredible sight to walk around and visit given that it was such a juxtaposition from the rest of the urban nature of Tel Aviv.

Jaffa Heights from my Drone’s view

After quite a bit of walking and filming I realized that my next stop had to be for more food.  After consulting Tripadvisor (which can be hit or miss – but still useful), I decided upon a place called “Ha’Pizza”.  I had found based on my past few days in Jerusalem, that oddly enough – the Pizza in Israel was possibly as good or better than some of the best Neapolitan pizza i’ve had in the US in Brooklyn.  I was told that this was because of the unique soil in the region and the resulting freshness of the grown tomatoes.  As to whether this is true or not I’m not sure, but the pizza was damn good.

Pizza in Israel?? Yes.

Of course I couldn’t just stop eating there.  I had been told by an Israeli friend of mine that the most LOCAL dish I had to try was something called Sabich.  A unique dish to this region, it consists of a sauteed or grilled juicy eggplant along with sliced hard boiled egg, generous amounts of creamy hummus, crunchy israeli salad, and Tahini and pickled sweet & sour mango, all on top of a fresh pita – this dish was essentially a to-go explosion of many flavors.

After stuffing myself to max capacity I decided to walk back to my hotel.  Sunset was approaching and my solution was to soak in the bathtub with a view at the Hilton while listening to some Audiobooks.  Tel Aviv – you have won my heart.

Yes, it’s the local dish you want to try Tub with an ocean view AND an opening window and balcony? This is right next to the word “Relaxation” in the dictionary

The post A Perfect Day in Tel Aviv appeared first on The Young Travelier.

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Portugal is one incredible place.  A combination of the best parts of Southern Italy and Spain, combined into one beautiful country full of spirit, passion, food, and scenery.  This is one of the most asked about spots in my travel and seems to be a very popular place as people start discovering the magic of Portugal.

If it’s your first time I recommend visiting two main cities and spending about 3-4 days in each.  Those are Lisbon and Lagos, two different towns but both on the ocean.  Caiscais and Sintra happen to be two other suburbs/cities that are right next to Lisbon so they’re worth visiting for a day while you’re in Lisbon and are extremely close.

  1. Lagos: This is the seaside village with the quaint atmosphere, cobblestone streets, and incredible gastronomic restaurants.   It’s most known for its beautiful limestone bluffs which seem to consist of a multitude of colors, along with its deep blue and green beaches where you can spot the ocean bottom.  The best way to discover Lagos is just to wander.  This is essentially true of most of Portugal, but here time stands still and days are best spent having grilled seafood by the water, hanging out at the beach, and finishing the day with some wine and dinner in the city.  Lagos is serviced by easily accessible trains that take you to Lisbon so everyone should check out this unique village and seaside town.  When you’re here do NOT miss out on the croissants.  It’s an odd suggestion but for some reason this town is known for them and one place in particular named “Croissanteria 29” is probably the best. The Lagos Coastline and its incredible bluffs
  2. Lisbon: Lisbon is a metropolis, but its certainly walkable.  The most well known part of it is the old Jewish quarter called Alfama, with roots all the way back to the 11th century.  There’s a LOT to take in here, but my suggestion is to hire one of the tuk-tuk drivers for a small fee and have them drive you around town in an open air vehicle to see all the sights, and then spend the rest of the day getting lost in the Alfama district.  Port Wine and Ginginha are the most well known drinks and they take food seriously in this city so chances are you won’t find anything that isn’t delicious but be sure to wash it down with the port and Ginginha to get the full Lisbon experience. The views from the top of the Alfama district are absolutely breathtaking and unreal

     

  3. Caiscais: Lisbon is only a short drive (or uber) away from the seaside town of Caiscais.  Only 19 miles away, or less than 30-45 minutes, it is a completely different vista, similar to Lagos, but with its own appeal.  It is a more rugged coastline, with massive waves and reminds one of the Southern Cape of South Africa. This is a place to take half a day for lunch or dinner and to take in the rugged coastline scenery.  The most famous point of Caiscais is the blowhole known as Boca Do Inferno (mouth of fire).  Life here is slow and relaxed, so take your time, have some wine, and enjoy the views.  Boca Do Inferno in Caiscais Boca Do Inferno in Caiscais
  4. Sintra: The Palatial territory of Sintra is less than 10 miles from Lisbon, and once again looks like a completely different place.  With an exceptionally mountainous regious, fern covered forests, exotic gardens, it is a UNESCO heritage site and home to some of the most beautiful Moorish and Roman compounds- palaces set high up on the hills.  You’ll feel at awe at the dynamic terrain and the architecture.  You could easily spend an entire day just exploring the different mountain peaks and palaces here.  Remember to bring warm clothing because it gets cold out here up in the mountains even in the middle of summer.  Pena National Palace is probably the most well known site to visit here, but get there early because it can get very packed with tourists. Palacio De Pena in Caiscais

The post Portugal: How to do Lagos | Lisbon | Sintra | Caiscais appeared first on The Young Travelier.

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Chances are you’ve heard of the Riviera Maya.  A stretch of rainforest and white sand beaches between Cancun and Tulum, this is the idyllic sort of place people dream of when they use the phrase “Relaxing on a beach somewhere…”.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first came to this hotel because usually when I think all-inclusive I imagine that corners are cut so that the resort can still make a profit.  Let me just start right here and say, I was VERY surprised (in a good way).

Luxury unveiled the minute you walk in

The minute you enter you notice the attention to detail and design.  The doormen help you to the check-in counter where you’re sat at one of the couches in the lobby and given a welcome drink and even asked what type of candle you’d like to choose for your room scent.  I was also shown the app (YES! An App!) for the hotel, which was by FAR the most full featured app I’ve ever seen for everything from ordering room service 24/7, to having your room cleaned or turned down WHENEVER you’d like, and even allowed you to request different TYPES of pillows according to your preference in sleeping position.  I was VERY pleasantly surprised and hesitant that something like this would work in operation but more on that later…

Welcome drinks + Relaxation Candles. This is how you welcome guests!

Now onto the property itself.  This place is a VERY large.  Lets list it out – Too many pools to count (including an Adult-only pool), a Mexican, Mediterranean, AND Sushi/Teppanyaki Restaurant, along with poolside tacos and a beach front cafe.  I honestly could have spent an entire week without feeling like I was at a lack of things to do and eat.  Speaking of – it just so happened that it rained for a bit of my stay, but that didn’t ruin a single thing.  They had live music, a nightclub within the resort, TOP-SHELF liquor at the bars, and every room contains an outdoor hottub or direct access to a plunge pool.

Don’t want a hottub? Then choose a room with direct access to a plunge pool Don’t want a plunge pool room and prefer a hottub with a view? They have that too

Lets get to the food and drinks.  This is one of the biggest problems I have with all-inclusive resorts – they skimp on the quality.  Not here – as an avid “Foodie” and a food writer I have to say the quality of the dishes and selection at this resort was simply outstanding!  Particularly delicious were the poolside tacos along with the incredible Mediterranean inspired kitchen and the breakfast pastries in the main lobby’s coffee shop (yes, all you can drink coffee and pastries – highly dangerous here).

Of course, the room itself is itself enough to write an entire article about.  The interior is modern yet homey with just the right hints of stone and wood, and everything from the locally sourced soap, to the Mexican candy and all you can eat snacks were icing on the cake.

An absolute delight, comfortable and modern, these were some of the nicest rooms i’ve seen in the 5 star category

Now if you decide to leave the property (Which I highly encourage doing), they have an incredibly helpful concierge and booking service.  Through them we got locals type tours of Cenote’s (cave swimming holes), and of the local ruins of Tulum.  Seeing as how the resort is ideally located Tulum is only 25 minutes away so this is sort of the perfect place to stay without being in the hustle of the city and being able to enjoy Resort life AND Tulum life.

It is truly rare that I find something that I enjoy so fully, especially in the all-inclusive category, something is usually found wrong, whether its quality of the rooms, quality of the food, or somewhere that the property decides to cut corners on, but with UNICO, I really couldn’t find fault.

RATING:

Hard Product:

-Location (How close is this to top attractions in the surrounding area?) 

On its own private beach, not too far from the airport, and close enough to local sights like Tulum

10/10

-Cleanliness (Is the grout in the bathroom clean?  How good is maid service here?)

The app really kills it here.  They are on top of their game and its a very new property at time of writing (September 2018)

10/10

-Upkeep (Is the hotel in need of a remodel, or is it being constantly kept up?)

Still a relatively new property, nothing at fault here

10/10

-Public Spaces (How unique/inventive/useful are the public spaces?)

The Gym is one of the most full featured ones including even a yoga room.  The spa was on par with any 5-star resort, and with restaurants and bars galore along with unique spaces to just relax and read a book or just have a drink, this was high up there.

9/10

Soft Product:

-Service (How good is the service here?)

Staff were attentive and easy to speak to, concierge was great.  No personal butler here but at this price point it was incredible service.

8/10

-Restaurants On-Site (Are the restaurants on site somewhere even the locals would go to?)

One of the best perks of this place, the quality of food and service.

9/10

-Concierge (Specifically, how effective is the Concierge at helping you with a new locale?)

Lovely concierge service with great local suggestions

8/10

TOTAL: 64/70

(35/70 is average)

PROS:

  • Modern, refined, All-Inclusive
  • Every room is a great room here with either an outdoor tub or a plunge pool
  • Attention to detail with the easy to use App really made this place incredible

CONS:

  • At this price point there really are none

SECRETS:

  • Don’t stay in Tulum.  Although the hotels there have lots of their unique qualities, if you want a full service resort but want to explore Tulum on the side THIS is the place to go.  d

The post UNICO 2087: Quite Possibly the BEST All-Inclusive Luxury Resort in the Riviera Maya appeared first on The Young Travelier.

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When people think of the Maldives, what usually comes to mind is clear turquoise water, undisturbed coral reefs, white sand beaches, and the ultimate in relaxation.  Well, that’s pretty much what I experienced while staying at the Conrad on Rangali island.

White sand beaches and beautiful sunsets abound

For those of you who have not experienced the Maldives, it’s quite a unique destination in that it’s hundreds of miles from the nearest continent, and is composed of over 1000+ islands that span 115 square miles which makes it kind of a trek to get there. Most flights into the country will originate from the Middle East or Southeast Asia.  Once you’ve arrived in Male, where the main airport resides on a small strip of land that resembles an island aircraft carrier, you are then bussed to one of dozens of local hotel lounges where you’ll await your next ride (on a seaplane) to your resort.

Luckily, the Conrad has perfected most of this journey and made it as simple and luxurious as possible.  The minute you exit the baggage claim area of Male, a greeter picks you up and takes you in a wifi equipped van to the Conrad lounge. Here they offer you a variety of hot and cold beverages along with some simple snacks and even a shower (should you need to refresh from a long flight).

The seaplane ride to Rangali is a bit longer than to some of the other island resorts, but at only 5000 feet the view from the Seaplane of the clear ocean below is mostly serene and breathtaking.

The quick plane flight to the resort offers tremendous views

Once you arrive at the Resort, you pull up to a dock where your luggage is quickly ushered to your room and you are checked in.  The resort itself is set on two islands, each about a mile long.  Both of the islands have their own pools, restaurants, and even spas, but the main one has a few more facilities and also the gym.  Although this was one of my only Maldives experiences, after speaking to the staff I was told that Rangali was one of the larger resorts with more space.  This proved to be a blessing as it gave me more to do an explore during my stay at the Conrad.

For my particular stay, I was given an overwater bungalow, complete with a clear bottom floor and my own private infinity pool overlooking an endless ocean vista.  The rooms themselves are immaculately kept, and for the most part the theme of the room was tropical.  The balcony was probably my favorite feature, with a large window open to the ocean.  Each villa has a set of walls that surround the residence beyond the balcony in order to facilitate an extra layer of privacy and this was welcome as I noticed many other resorts in the Maldives did not have this feature.

The room is bright, modern, and comfortable Here you can see how they’ve built walls for privacy between villas

I mentioned it previously, but I have to mention it again, this is a VERY large resort.  To get from one island to another you can take the ferry which runs every few minutes and takes about 10 minutes in total, or you can call a “buggy”, which is essentially a golf cart.  Of course you could walk the length of either island and over the bridge but at 2 miles in total it’s definitely a stroll.  The beauty of all of this, though, is that along the way all you have are palm trees and secluded beaches, and it isn’t hard to find your own little private stretch at this resort.  I’ve heard stories of other resorts being smaller and as a result much more crowded and that’s never an issue here.

My favorite part of the property was the spa.  The spa itself is a massive complex, with its own health-conscious restaurant, and each treatment room is overwater with its own outdoor bathtub, adding to the overall experience of relaxation and serenity.

Each room is set in its own overwater bungalow Beautiful architecture at the spa restaurant

Another incredibly unique feature at this hotel is the undersea restaurant.  There’s only one other Maldives resort that has something similar, and it is the Hurawalhi (also a nice resort but much smaller).  Although a few of the restaurants at this hotel are not part of the “all-inclusive” resort price, they are worth spending the money to discover because the experience is so unique.  I had the chance to eat at each of the restaurants and the inclusive buffet, and I must say that the cuisine at a few of the restaurants was particularly exquisite, while a few experiences did lack in food quality.  This is something that apparently is under constant change so your experience may differ once you visit Rangali.  My recommendation is to try the Tepan-Yaki experience at Koko Grill, and the Chinese dining experience at UFAA.  Both of those were top notch and I would gladly pay to eat at either again.

The Underwater Restaurant is built right into the coral reef and worth visiting for cocktails

After my entire experience at Rangali, I can wholeheartedly recommend a visit.  With just a few things lacking, such as the cuisine at a couple of the restaurants, there isn’t much to spoil a vacation in paradise.  Between the stunning views, secluded beaches, incredibly attentive service, and white glove treatment from arrival to departure – a visit to Conrad Rangali will leave you in smiles wanting to visit again!

The smaller of the two islands at the Conrad Maldives

The post REVIEW: The Conrad Rangali Hotel – Maldives appeared first on The Young Travelier.

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It seems that every year Tulum is getting more and more popular as a destination not only for those seeking yoga and vegan food on the beach, but for those looking to discover something other than nearby Cancun and its endless clubs.

This is a quick guide as to what you should (and shouldn’t do) while in Tulum so that you can get the most out of this unique spot down in the Riviera Maya.

  1. Where to stay: Your best bet is actually to stay just a little bit north of Tulum town, in the area of Riviera Maya.  My hotel of preference is the UNICO which is an all inclusive and VERY NEW (as of early 2018) hotel with stunning rooms, some of the most delicious all-inclusive meals you’ve ever had, and service that is on par with some of the best 5-star resorts in the world.  However, if you do choose to stay somewhere else, just know that it’s not necessary to stay within the actual town of Tulum as many of the resorts just north of it are within 15 minutes of taxi rides and will often offer better rates and larger accommodations – a win-win in my book. The Unico 2087, it’s every bit as nice as it looks.
  2. What to Do: There’s three main things to do in Tulum.  There’s obviously more than that, but the first is to visit the old Mayan ruins.  Now, normally I don’t like tourist traps, but the Mayan Ruins are certainly worth seeing and so unique to this area of the world and so well preserved that they’re definitely worth a visit.  Just know that during the middle of the day there is ZERO shade and it gets quite hot.  I would recommend using a tour guide from your hotel or a local service as they know the quickest routes in and out of the place to make the whole experience a bit more fulfilling.  The second thing you want to do in Tulum is just browse the actual town of Tulum.  The main “row” is essentially a quaint one street town with a road and palm trees overhanging it.  On both sides there’s hotels, stores, and a ton of shopping.  You could easily spend a few hours just perusing this area and going in and out of spots.  Many of the hotels here are worth visiting just for a few hours for a meal or for a day fee to use their “beach clubs”.  Of particular note worth visiting is Habitas. This is the main street. Stroll it.

     

  3. Cenotes: The third thing everyone must do is visit a Cenote (or a few).  These are essentially natural water sinkholes which double as swimming holes and are specific to this region of Mexico.  These are amazing for their crystal clear water and incredible diversity of fish and turtles just hanging out.  There are a TON of Cenotes in Tulum but there’s one in particular that is definitely worth visiting and it is called the “Cenote Dos Ojos”.  Now there’s a bit more to this – when you visit Cenote Dos Ojos be sure to take the ride towards the back of the Cenote park and explore the myriad of Cenotes that are beyond just the initial one at the entrance.  Most people make the mistake of just going to the first one they see and miss out on exploring the more intricate caves that are deeper into the Cenote Park at Dos Ojos. 
  4. Where to Eat: Tulum is very much a food destination, with some calling it a rival to Mexico City, because of Chef’s like Rene Redzepi and Eric Werner who have created pop up culinary feasts in this beach town.  There’s a heavy focus on wood-fired foods, local seafood, and Yucetecan inspired cuisine with Mexican influence.  Keep in mind, the food here is NOT truly Mexican, and I say that in a good way, because it has its own unique flavor and style.  There are quite a few restaurants that one could argue are worth visiting here in Tulum, but the two which I highly recommend are Hartwood and Kin Toh.  Hartwood is an original and known for being one of the original high-end wood-fired restaurants – serving locally sourced ceviche and legendary pork ribs.  Kin Toh is the place to go if you want equal parts entertainment to equal parts cuisine.  Located in the Azulik hotel, this restaurant is situated in a treehouse, something straight out of Swiss Family Robison or Tarzan with stunning skybridges, tables nested above the nearby forest, and hammocks to lay around in – all 40 feet in the air.  The food itself is gastronomic and seasonal, and should you wish to imbibe they even offer a hookah program with imported tobaccos.  You’ll want to spend a few hours here at sunset to lounge, relax, and eat and drink slowly. This is Kin Toh. You’ll want to spend a lot of time here.

The post How to do Tulum Properly: Tips for an Awesome First Trip appeared first on The Young Travelier.

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Budapest, a burgeoning city in the heart of Hungary, has long been one of my favorite destinations in Central Europe.  There are a plethora of options when it comes to luxury hotels in this city, especially with its growing popularity as a tourist destination amongst travelers from around the world.  I came across the Hotel Prestige through the app Hotel Tonight, but ended up staying an extra few days because of how much I loved the property and staff!

The hotel itself is nondescript from the outside, with just an overhead sign and two members of staff to greet you at the front door.  However, the minute you walk through the two sets of double doors you are greeted by the lobby right in the center of the hotel’s atrium, with a stunning chandelier hung from the ceiling 6 stories up.

Walk into the lobby and you are greeted by a gorgeous chandelier and elements both modern and classic

This is definitely a boutique hotel, so don’t expect a ton of public spaces or a large property, but do expect a high level of refinement and service similar to what you’d expect at any five star hotel chain.  The concierge here was particularly helpful, setting up a house car for a day of sightseeing around Budapest, and the location of the hotel was bar none, being within walking distance to many high end restaurants, museums, and the famous ferris wheel.

English was spoken by all the staff, and requests for things such as extra water, toothbrushes, and other items to the room were handled in an efficient and kind manner.

One of my favorite aspects of this hotel was the bar and restaurant located in the lobby.  Costes Downtown is a one michelin star spot, one of the best in Budapest, and not only did they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but they also had a mixologist on staff during all restaurant hours.  The environment was cozy, relaxing, and fun.

Open kitchen design made for a homey feel to this place.  The cuisine was incredible as well!

The rooms at the hotel were incredibly well laid out with high ceilings, beautiful wood floors that added to their warmth, and great sound insulation and modern showers and bathrooms.  Visiting Budapest near the end of Fall was a colder experience than normal and being at the Prestige Hotel really added to the trip as whenever I got back into my room I just wanted to relax and be coddled.

Beautifully appointed suites at the hotel prestige make for an incredibly comfortable stay Phenomenal drinks at the bar in the Hotel Prestige

Overall, there are certainly larger hotels with a greater multitude of facilities, but if you’re looking for new modern rooms, impeccable service, a nice restaurant, and great location, you can’t go wrong with the Hotel Prestige.

RATING:

Hard Product:

-Location (How close is this to top attractions in the surrounding area?) 

Right in the center of the Buda side and next to major attractions this location couldn’t be any better

10/10

-Cleanliness (Is the grout in the bathroom clean?  How good is maid service here?)

Maid service was great every single day

10/10

-Upkeep (Is the hotel in need of a remodel, or is it being constantly kept up?)

Still a relatively new property, it is being kept in tip top shape

10/10

-Public Spaces (How unique/inventive/useful are the public spaces?)

Unfortunately the gym was a bit lacking ,and the spa small, but as a boutique hotel sometimes space can be an issue

5/10

Soft Product:

-Service (How good is the service here?)

Staff were attentive and great to speak to, however the lack of 24/7 room service is something to be aware of.  Not a big deal for most people though.

9/10

-Restaurants On-Site (Are the restaurants on site somewhere even the locals would go to?)

The one restaurant that is on-site – Costes Downtown, is one of THE best restaurants in Budapest, however the selection of food may be considered a bit limited to some patrons

7/10

-Concierge (Specifically, how effective is the Concierge at helping you with a new locale?)

Every member of the hotel was essentially a concierge, giving great suggestions

9/10

TOTAL: 60/70

(35/70 is average)

PROS:

  • Modern with a bit of classic
  • Exceptionally new and well mainainted
  • Staff was wonderful

CONS:

  • Could use more dining options and maybe more public spaces

SECRETS:

  • This place is luxury at a great deal

The post Hotel Prestige REVIEW – A great Option in the Heart of Budapest appeared first on The Young Travelier.

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