8.21.2016

how to plan a trip to France

driving route from Cap Ferrat to Castellan, Menton and Monte Carlo

Planning a major trip is a pleasurable endeavor as anticipation is such a huge part of the joy of travel. At the same time, detailed planning can be complicated, time-consuming, and frustrating. Travelers are so very different in how they plan. Some prefer total spontaneity — they rent a car and drive off into the sunset with no reservations but only a sense of adventure — not recommended! Other travelers are totally structured, every day organized down to the hour with spreadsheets detailing each element of the trip.

How do I plan my own travel? The intent of this article is to describe what works for me. Here's the story of how I'm planning our upcoming trip to France.

Step one: grab that great fare (or those award tickets). Back in May, British Airways had a three day business class sale, and the deal was matched by other carriers. I grabbed a great fare I found on United, nonstops from SFO to CDG. The same tickets are 400% higher today, so I saved 75%!

On other occasions, I've found availability for Saver Awards and grabbed those seats with miles. Moral: if you hesitate, you lose.

Step two: grasp the big picture of your trip. I knew I wanted to visit Paris + Something Else, and I had 20 nights to play with. As I haven't been to the Riviera since 1969 and am frequently asked about hotels in that part of France, I knew I wanted to end the trip on the Riviera. My big question: where to spend the 7 nights between Paris and the Riviera?

Step three: research a broad, day-by-day itinerary. While many travelers prefer to do all the research themselves, I know from my work as a luxury travel advisor that you're typically better served by enlisting the support of local experts. I hired W Travel France, one of our preferred travel partners in France, to assist with itinerary suggestions. They recommended we focus on the Luberon area of Provence (where I'd never been) and helped me fill in the broad outline of my trip with a "first draft" itinerary. After a couple of back-and-forth emails, we had a full 20-page itinerary in hand.

Step four: book hotels and arrange your logistics. We reserved train tickets from Paris to Avignon, rented a car from Avignon to the Nice airport, booked our hotels, got our flight back to Paris, and booked our final night using Starwood points at the Sheraton CDG.

Step five: tweak the details and perfect the itinerary. Finally, I turned to Google Maps to familiarize myself with the trip and flesh it out. As I'm a very visual person, I find it very helpful to see everything graphically displayed. Google Maps, a powerful (though frustrating) tool, is one way to visualize each day of your trip.

There's a big difference between having a 20-page printed itinerary ... and seeing each of your 13 driving days on a map. Working off Google maps, we were able to fill in the details and add ideas and notes about what to see in the various villages. If we hear about a must-see attraction in the Luberon, our map will show the ideal day to include that village (if we have the time and energy).

And when we get there, Google maps will even provide spoken driving directions on my iPhone!

Step six: share your trip. I've provided the link to the two google maps of our driving tour of Southern France. Your feedback is welcome ... crowd-sourcing in action!

From Avignon to Aix-en-Provence

from Aix-en-Provence to Nice Airport

bonus: map of some recommended restaurants in Paris


copyright (c) 2016 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or

8.17.2016

Virtuoso Week top ten | Belmond Cadogan

Belmond Cadogan Hotel, London

This is #2 of Ourisman Travel's top ten takeaways from Virtuoso Travel Week.

Belmond is opening a boutique hotel in London. Scheduled to open its doors in 2017, this storied hotel company is undertaking a $48 million renovation of an 1887 Queen Anne style building. With just 54 rooms and suites, I'm anticipating something very special — a must-see for my next visit to London.

Already a member of Virtuoso through its participation in the Virtuoso Preview program, amenities have not yet been announced... but these are the standard Bellini Club amenities:
  • Buffet or full breakfast for 2 daily
  • Complimentary upgrade based on availability at check-in
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi access
  • $90 hotel credit per stay for a room booking
  • $200 hotel credit per stay for a suite booking
Convenient location for shopping at Harrods or visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum.


copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.16.2016

VirtuosoWeek top ten | Canada on sale

Shangri-La Vancouver

Ourisman Travel is back from Virtuoso Travel Week. Here's is the first of our "top ten" takeaways from this years #VirtuosoWeek: Canada is on sale! One USD (greenback) is currently worth 1.28 CAD (loonie). This is a 40% discount from where things stood one year ago.

Great news for U.S. citizens wanting to travel north of the 49th parallel ... and it also makes Canada the perfect destination for U.K. or European citizens in shock over the current value of the pound sterling and the Euro. Here are our top ideas for visiting Canada this summer, fall, or winter:

Fogo Island Inn. This resort was one of my top ten takeaways from the 2014 Travel Week, and it's a stunning, all-inclusive resort on a small island in Newfoundland. Virtuoso guests receive a $100 USD hotel credit in addition to everything that's already included.

Vancouver is one of my favorite cities in the world, with great Virtuoso hotels (including the Shangri-La pictured above), fine dining, and a climate suited for year-round active travel. You can bike or hike to your heart's content. Walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge, visit the Archeological Museum at UBC, shop at Granville Market, or take a seaplane to Vancouver Island and visit the Buchart Gardens.

Quebec City's Christmas Markets. You don't have to travel to Germany to experience Old World Christmas Markets. Less than a two hours from New York, less than three hours from Chicago... it's a wonderful weekend getaway with two Virtuoso hotels ready to offer their five-star hospitality.

Montreal's shopping and dining. On parle fran├žais ici. The largest city in the provence of Quebec, Canada's francophone province, Montreal offers visitor great shopping and dining opportunities, including three Michelin-starred restaurants.

Wine Tasting at Niagra Falls. There are 50 wineries dotting the shores of Lake Ontario, and we can arrange wine tours of this not-yet-discovered wine region.

copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.07.2016

Las Vegas textures

Aria Resort & Casino, Las Vegas (c) 2016 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Las Vegas is larger than life — witness the Aria Resort & Casino pictured above. With over four thousand rooms and suites, many highly regarded restaurants, and quite affordable room rates, Aria is one of the newest properties in Las Vegas and well suited for those who want to live big.

But if you prefer boutique, there are also FANtastic choices available in Las Vegas. My favorite is the Mandarin Oriental, part of City Center in the center of the strip. A casino-free and smoking-free hotel, it's less than 400 rooms — 392 to be exact. While big by Mandarin Oriental standards, this is truly petite by Vegas standards.

We're staying at the MO Las Vegas for my weekend at #VirtuosoWeek. I love my Cityscape room. On the 18th floor, it has an interesting view of Aria and Monte Carlo and even a peak at New York, New York and its roller coaster to the left. Elegant and tastefully decorated, my clients enjoy FAN Club amenities (even better than Virtuoso amenities) throughout their stay: American breakfast for two daily, a $100 F&B or Spa credit, and a room upgrade if available upon check-in.

The other boutique choice in Las Vegas is the Four Seasons Las Vegas. Located at the south end of the strip, the Four Seasons sits atop one tower of the Mandalay Bay. It is an oasis of serenity in the midst of the madness of Vegas, but just steps from the casino and the wave pool at Mandalay Bay (and FS guests have access). Contact me for complete information on available Preferred Partner amenities at the Four Seasons and Virtuoso amenities at Aria.

copyright  (c)  2016 by David Ourisman LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.06.2016

Aman connections

(l to r): John Reed, Karime Buraye, David Ourisman, Sally Baughen, Mark Swinton

I write every year about Virtuoso Travel Week, but I wanted to give you the inside scoop of the value of this investment of money and time. I'm just spending three nights this trip, but the purpose of the visit is to spend time with managers of Virtuoso hotels and resorts.

The picture above illustrates just this. I set up a meeting with a few GM's of the most popular Aman resorts I sell. Pictured above are John Reed (GM of Amankora), Karime Buraye (Aman Sales Manager for the Americas), myself, Sally Baughen (GM of Amansara), and Mark Swinton (GM of the Amanresorts in Indonesia — Amankila, Amanda, Amanusa, Amanwana, and Amanjiwo).

Amanjunkies may recognize these names and faces as Aman GM's make themselves available to guests and are on a first-name basis. These relationships translate into clout when we make bookings on your behalf, as we are very successful in getting upgrades for our clients across the Aman family of resorts in addition to the Virtuoso amenities or package inclusions.

In a word, it all about our Aman-connections!

copyright  (c)  2016 by David Ourisman LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.03.2016

Virtuoso Week | August in sunny Las Vegas


On Friday night, I'm headed to Las Vegas for my eleventh Virtuoso Week (first known as Travel Mart and then Travel Week). I'm definitely not going for the weather which can range from very hot to stiflingly hot. Rather, this is a chance for me and my team to meet with representatives of two thousand luxury travel providers including hotels, tour companies, cruise lines, and more, at meetings held both at Bellagio and Aria.

While I'm just spending the weekend and will be back in the office Monday morning, two members of Team Ourisman will be meeting (from Monday through Thursday) with hundreds of reps for 4-minute appointments ("speed dates") and longer 10-minute meetings specifically set up in advance. Jessica is a Virtuoso Week veteran, while this will be Angela's first time. Virtuoso Week is invaluable for luxury travel advisors; it's an opportunity to learn about new properties and meet with old friends to find out about the latest offers, promotions, and enhancements.

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, and two of my own travel photographs will be on display for the annual Virtuoso Advisor Photo Contest. I'm very excited by this honor, as there are thousands of entries, and the photos seem to keep getting better year after year. As you may know, I'm an avid travel photographer. In fact, I look at travel as an excuse to take photographs. You can see my two "winners" here and here... two thousand words worth of memories this past year in London and Dubai.

By the way, look for me at the 22-second mark of the You Tube video!

copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.02.2016

the best headphones for travelers | Bose QuietComfort 20


There's nothing like noise cancelling headphones when you're traveling. I used to travel with a pair of Bose QuietComfort over-the-ear headphones, and they did a superb job of blocking out the noise of jet engines and the incidental noise of cabin announcements, crying babies, and the general hubbub of conversation. Infinitely better than the ordinary headphones the airlines provide for (1) watching movies, (2) listening to movies, and (3) trying to sleep. A recommended product whenever you fly.

But there are two disadvantages to full-size headphones.

(1) They take up a lot of space in your carryon. The large case pictured above is 2.5 inches thick, 7.5 inches wide, and 8.5 inches high, taking up quite a bit of usable space in your carryon... about 160 cubic inches.

(2) They're not ideal for sleeping. It can get hot behind the foam ear cups. You can feel the force of the headband after awhile. And they're not comfortable if you prefer to sleep on your side.

So I recently purchased a pair of Bose QuietComfort 20 earbuds. My experience? They cancel ambient noise just as well as the full size model. They fit comfortably and securely in your ear.  I find it easier to sleep wearing them. And they're much smaller — just 1.5 inches thick, 3 inches wide, and 5 inches long, about 22 cubic inches. They're so compact, I can keep them in my pocket and leave my carry on underneath the seat in front of me.

Bonus feature 1: they have a microphone that works with either your iPhone or Android phone (buy according to which phone you own).
Bonus feature 2: the rechargeable battery charges with a USB connection - even inflight.

I do a lot of traveling with many long haul flights. This is the best product I've ever found to make the best of a long flight.

copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.