Tag Archives: romantic

Ixtapa: Authentic Mexican Flare

 

Research is rough!

I just returned from a visit to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo on Mexico’s Pacific coast.  This beautiful coastal area sits between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco on two scenic bays, surrounded by lush green mountains and coconut plantations.  This is a great destination for folks who have already done the “usual” Mexico destinations and are looking for something different.  Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, two beachside towns on two adjacent bays are both charming, sleepy, and authentic feeling — especially when compared to Cancun & Playa del Carmen.    Ixtapa has the larger hotels, while Zihuatanejo (still a tongue twister) has the best beach, Playa la Ropa.

Beautiful Playa la Ropa

My top picks for hotels in the area:

  • Azul Ixtapa and Azul Ixtapa Grand – these sister properties (4 stars and 4 ½ stars, respectively) are great choices for families, groups, and adults.  All-inclusive, multiple pools and restaurants, tennis courts, a convention center, and a view of Ixtapa Island just off the coast keeps you as busy as you want to be.  Located on the “Hotel Strip” of Ixtapa and near Senor Frogs and shopping.
  • Sunscape Dorado Pacifico – this 3 ½ to 4 star all-inclusive resort is great for families, friend groups, and simple destination weddings.  While this hotel is “nothing fancy” the food is very good and the rooms are pleasant and comfortable.

  • La Casa de Canta – switching gears, this is a breath-taking, small and intimate boutique hotel suited perfectly for a romantic getaway.  Situated in Zihuatanejo and just above La Ropa Beach, you can enjoy views from your own private plunge pool.  Gorgeous!  Five star luxury.  Meals not included.
  • Viceroy Ixtapa Hotel – another 5 star gem.  Located on the best beach (Playa la Ropa), this property is a bit larger than La Casa de Canta though equally as elegant.  Perfect for couples and adult friends travelling together.  Also an excellent choice for a destination wedding.  Families are welcomed, though there’s not too much for kids to do here.  Optional meal plans available.

 

Flights to Zihuatanejo require a connection from most major US cities.  And, don’t forget passports are required.  Weather is tropical year round, with high season occurring December through April.

The kids are off to college, now what?

Your kids are out the door after a summer of chaos.  The house is suddenly quiet and you find something very new and novel — time on your hands!  Ah, this is what we’ve secretly been envying our single, kid-free gal-pals all these years — time for yourself.  So, now that you got it, what are you going to do with it?

We all react differently once the kids have grown and the nest is empty.  But rather than sit and miss them, take your spouse and TRAVEL! Yes, pick a destination on your bucket list, update your passport, contact your favorite travel consultant (that’s me), and just GO!

You’ll gain several things.  First, you will realize in short order that life isn’t winding down.  In fact, it’s gearing up.  Second, the opportunity to reconnect with your spouse is truly revivving, and you’ll wonder why you waited this long to take a special vacation, just the two of you.  And finally, you’ll remember that there’s a whole, big world out there that you really want to explore.

So that being said, where should you go?  Tops of my list is Bora Bora (Tahiti) because everyone wants to go there at least once in a lifetime, and no one wants to go with the kids in tow.  This is the destination with those lovely overwater bungalows and YES the water is truly that beautiful.

If Bora Bora is out of the budget for now, I’d recommend maybe one of the adults-only all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Jamaica, St. Lucia, or Punta Cana.  I say adults-only because I’m betting now that your kids aren’t with you, you really don’t feel like hearing other people’s kids screaming at the pool.  Plus, there are some excellent adults-only all-inclusive resorts out there with very good dining and room amenities, as well as onsite spas and some have golf onsite or nearby.

And if you can’t pull off a real vacation, consider just a weekend getaway to that cool, local luxury resort that’s within easy driving distance.  Bottom line, get out of the house and just go!

~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant RecommendTravel.com 972-625-6200

18 Ways to Upgrade your Walt Disney Vacation

Planning a special trip to Walt Disney World? Disney offers a wealth of services, many of which you might not be aware. You’ll definitely want to stay onsite at one of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts for maximum convenience and park access. Your Disney experience is limited only by your imagination (and budget).

Consider these ways to upgrade your vacation.

1. Surprise your spouse with flowers or a special gift delivered to the room by Disney Floral & Gifts.
2. Upgrade to private transfers by towncar or limousine.
3. Enjoy a massage, facial, or body treatment at the spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk Inn, Saratoga Springs Resort, or Wilderness Lodge.
4. Have a romantic dinner at one of Disney’s signature restaurants such as California Grill (Contemporary), Jiko’s (Animal Kingdom Lodge), Citrico’s (Grand Floridian), and Narcoossee’s (Grand Floridian). Call 407-WDW-DINE.
5. Play a round of golf at one of Disney’s five golf courses (Palm, Magnolia, Osprey Ridge, Oak Trail, and Lake Buena Vista). Call 407-WDW-GOLF.
6. Sign up for a behind the scenes tour at one of the Disney Parks. Call 407-WDW-TOUR.
7. Upgrade your room to concierge level (available at Disney’s Deluxe Resorts). Reserve at time of booking.
8. Order room service for breakfast, and take that extra time to sleep in (available at Disney’s Deluxe Resorts).
9. Charter the Grand 1 Yacht, a 52-foot Sea Ray, for your own private cruise ($450 per hour, up to 18 guests, departs from Grand Floridian).
10. Go fish with a guided bass catch-and-release fishing excursion (available at select Disney Resort marinas). Call 407-WDW-BASS.
11. Ride a horse through a 45-60 minute guided trail ride at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. Call 407-WDW-PLAY.
12. Or, sign up instead for the 2 hour segway Wilderness Back Trail Adventure at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. Call 407-WDW-TOUR.
13. Get your Disney Villa fridge fully stocked by preordering through GardenGrocer.com
14. Race your own stock car at Richard Petty Driving Experience. Reservations: www.1800bepetty.com.
15. Rent a pedal boat, canoe, pontoon boat, sail boat, or catamaran for an hour along one of Disney’s lagoons or lakes.
16. Watch Cirque du Soliel’s show LaNouba, located in Downtown Disney. Reserve at time of booking.
17. Enjoy a luau at Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show located at the Polynesian Resort. Call 407-WDW-DINE.
18. Experience a safari at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Call 407-WDW-TOUR.

Review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Walt Disney World Orlando

Pulling up to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, I initially thought the building looked odd. A massive building with a thatch roofed appearance, totally out of place in Florida. My first impression melted to awe when I walked into the lobby. Holy smokes, I had never seen anything like this! I had been transported to a strange and delicious world, and I didn’t want to leave. Not one bit. There were artifacts, African themes taken to astronomical proportions, exotic animals in the distance.

The service at the desk was on par with the best luxury resorts. All my questions were answered, we got maps of the resort layout (a definite necessity), and lots of other goodies to go into our memory book.

The room was fabulous. The African theme was on everything…down to the light fixtures and tiles. I immediately conjured up visions of an African theme in my own house.

The best part of the room was the balcony. Two chairs, one table, and a SAFARI just feet away. It was the most exotic suspense of reality I could conceive.

We had reservations at the upscale restaurant Jiko’s. The meal was AMAZING, definitely French cuisine with African inspiration. We had the steak and the monkfish, and appetizers emblazoned on my tastebuds (a bread-curry-yogurt dish). The service was outstanding. It quickly became my favorite Disney Resort restaurant.

Next door, Boma’s boasts an exotic but less intimate buffet experience. They have an open kitchen here with a wood-fire rotisserie grill (that smells fantastic). We tried the breakfast buffet one morning, and there were some unusual and tasty choices. I was stuffed! They also offer a dinner buffet with some African cuisine touches.

Nearby is Mara’s a food court with Disney/resort priced meals. This is the cheapest way to eat at AKL (that’s not saying much, it’s a resort after all). There were some unusual snacks here, and the service was friendly.

The pool was beautiful and creative, and you’ll want to allow enough time to really enjoy it. Of course, the animals on the resort “savannah” are the highlight. There’s an observation deck, and you can see zebras, giraffes, antelopes, and all sorts of critters out there. There are higher observation decks and a fantastic outdoor bonfire spot where you can grab a rocker and decompress.

The first morning I woke up extra early to watch the sun. I had ordered room service. The experience of room service breakfast, coffee, newspaper, and giraffes on the balcony was such a stress reducer. For the first time, I didn’t want to go to EPCOT! Our stay was much too short — only two nights. And ever since then, I imagine going back real soon.

Since our visit, Disney has added villas to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for even more options!

~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant, ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200

Waldorf Astoria – a Luxury Retreat for an Orlando Escape

Waldorf Astoria Orlando, the newest luxury resort in the Disney-Lake Buena Vista area, which opened in October 2009. Part of the emerging 482 acre Bonnet Creek Complex, this property offers all the luxury amenities and services you’d expect from the Waldorf Astoria Collection, as well as the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club and easy access to Walt Disney World.

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando offers 497 rooms a 24,000 square foot spa and 4,000 square foot fitness center, as well as signature restaurants similar to those in the Waldorf Astoria New York (Peacock Alley, Bull & Bear Steakhouse, Oscar’s, Sir Harry’s Lounge and Aquamarine). The Bonnet Creek development also includes the 1000 room Hilton Bonnet Creek, as well as 160,000 square feet of meeting space.

The clientelle at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando will be mostly business travelers and attendees of meetings and conventions at Bonnet Creek. However, with Walt Disney World so close by, this is great for a special romantic weekend getaway for two.

~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200