7.17.2018

a great value in a great Paris hotel

the Champs Élysées at dusk (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Are you looking for a great hotel in Paris but feeling discouraged by the room rates? Paris has perhaps the world's best collection of hotels, but the prices may be a bit more than you what you're looking to spend. I've got good news to share!

Park Hyatt Vendome boasts a great location. Just north of the Place Vendome, it's an easy walk both to shop haute couture boutiques or to explore the heart of Paris and all its attractions. Park Hyatt also happens to be offering a fabulous value.

Four nights for the price of three, for stays all summer long ... to September 8. And the value keeps getting better.
  • Upgrades, if available, confirmable within 24 hours of booking
  • Full breakfast daily for two guests
  • $100 hotel credit towards incidental expenses
  • Free parking!
For a random four night period in August, I saw an average rate of 533€ per night. This is less than half the price of other palace hotels in Paris. I did a site inspection of the Park Hyatt in April, and I was positively impressed with the contemporary comfort of its comfortable rooms.

VIP airport Meet & Greet — for stays of three nights or more in a Park Deluxe room and higher, Hyatt Privé guests will also receive a complimentary one-way private airport transfer with Meet and Greet service. You'll be met at the end of the jetway by a hostess with a Park Hyatt Paris Vendome sign, escorted with priority through immigration, and introduced to your driver!

Hyatt Privé offers great exclusive values like this to travelers in-the-know. Send us your dates and ask us what we can do for you.

copyright (c) 2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.10.2018

Southeast Asia | cultural explorations

silk spools in Myanmar (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Southeast Asia offers unique opportunities to explore fascinating cultures. Pictured above are some colorful spools of silk that we saw last March in a silk workshop near Inle Lake, Myanmar. We had the opportunity to see silk weaving in process and, of course, a chance to sample the merchandise. Retail therapy, anyone?

One of our favorite travel partners in Southeast Asia sent an email blast with three unique cultural experiences. I'm passing them along to inspire your sense of wanderlust.

1. Thai Puppetry Workshop — located in Bangkok, the Joe Louis Puppe Teatre is the last of Thailand's small puppet troupes. Keeping an ancient tradition alive, you can visit the studio where puppets are made and learn how to perform an intricate dance with puppets.

2. Shan Paper Workshop — in the Shan region of Myanmar, home to a centuries-old paper-making tradition. Shan paper is made form mulberry bark fibers and is used for paper umbrellas and other household items. You can visit a local workshop where you'll make your own Shan paper.

3. Local life in the Mekong Delta — exploring the lesser-visited, more local areas of Ben Tre, Vietnam. You'll get to dine with a local family, spend time with shrimp farmers, and ride a traditional sampan on the canal.

Is there a trip in your future to Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, or Laos? Travel expands our horizons and creates bonds of friendship around the world.

copyright (c) 2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.08.2018

Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman | exclusive offer



"You are invited to select the client of your choice" for this exclusive offer at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. That was in the first paragraph of a letter I received by snail mail. The offer was described as a one-of-a-kind promotion "only available for you," and that seems to be true. I can find  no mention of these amenities anywhere else, either on Virtuoso.com or the STARS website.

So here's the deal... 

1. Book at the Virtuoso rate — get the Virtuoso amenities
  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Equivalent Resort or Hotel credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
2. $400 additional resort credit for every three nights booked

3. Club Access complimentary for up to 4 guests

4. one complimentary tasting meal at Blue by Eric Ripert

Fine print: the promo is available for stays through August 25, 2018. Offer is based on availability at the time of booking and is applicable only to direct bookings. Not combinable with promotions, third party or group bookings. Should be reserved directly with the Travel Industry Sales Manager, though she can apply it to a Sabre booking.

Seems like a fabulous deal to me. To plan a summer vacation to Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach, drop us an email or send a travel request to Team Ourisman.

copyright (c) 2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.04.2018

Disney's inferior travel protection plan




Shame on Disney for offering a substandard travel insurance product. True story: A client booked a one-week Disney cruise in the Mediterranean for herself and her sons. Concierge cabins on these ships are few and far between, so when she saw some online availability, she booked it herself on Disney's website. And then she purchased the "Disney Cruise Line Vacation Protection Plan" which, per the Disney website, "covers your family for certain unexpected circumstances and emergencies - both during and before your vacation."

Travel protection is so important when you make non-refundable deposits with long cancellation deadlines. I worked with my client to make sure that her cruise and tours were all protected. When looking into Disney's "Vacation Protection Plan" for her cruise, she discovered that its coverage was limited to $10,000. Her cabin cost over $21,000. How can Disney, in good conscience, sell a "Vacation Protection Plan" that protects less than one-half of her vacation?

The Disney Cruise Line Vacation Protection Plan is inferior in other ways as well. Medical coverage is so important when traveling out of the country. Disney's travel insurance through Aon offers secondary medical coverage; claims must first be submitted to your regular health insurance plan, and Aon will reimburse the deductible and any refused claims up to $10,000. And what about service? My colleagues report client frustrations with Disney's insurance carrier when making claims.

How does that compare with the competition? Travelex is our preferred partner for travel protection. Here are the top five reasons why Travel Select by Travelex is a much better value than Disney:
  1. You can protect the entire cost of the cruise.
  2. Kids are covered for free when sailing with adults (up to $10,000 per kid), so the Travelex plan will cost less than the Disney plan
  3. You get $50,000 in medical protection per person (vs. $10,000 total).
  4. You get medical evacuation coverage of up to $500,000 per person (vs. $30,000).
  5. Travelex provides primary medical coverage, saving you the hassle of submitting claims to your regular medical insurance.
copyright (c) 2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.02.2018

Dorado Beach | reopening October 1st



Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve, closed for repairs due to the two hurricanes that ravaged Puerto Rico last year, has announced its reopening. The resort took the opportunity to make their world-class luxury beach resort even more beautiful.

Every room and suite is beachfront, and the results of the renovation look stunning — clean, light, and tasteful rooms look out to the sea. West Beach rooms step directly onto the beach. Ocean waves on the East Beach side crash directly onto the beach rocks on the shoreline ... providing soothing sounds all night long, especially if you like to sleep with the sliding doors open.

One of my favorite beach resorts in the world, Dorado Beach offers valuable Virtuoso amenities including complimentary daily breakfast for two, a resort credit, and more. In celebration of their reopening, benefit from an exclusive Rediscover Dorado promotion — just $499 per night during the month of October, 2018. Or book a guest room for three nights just before Festive Season, December 16 through December 22 and receive a $1000 one-time resort credit. Click here to request more information.

copyright (c) 2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

6.25.2018

if you're not an air expert

airport security lines — public domain image

Not an air expert? You might just want to engage the services of one. The following cautionary tale was recently posted on fodors.com. Only after purchasing his tickets did the poster realize he had some unanswered questions he should have asked before he clicked the "Buy" button on the web.
Heathrow connection with separate tickets - is 2 hours enough to checkout/checkin? 
We bought flights separately with different airlines. The connection is at London Heathrow for 2 hours. Based on what I've read, we most likely will need to claim our bags, then go through the whole check-in/customs process again to catch our connecting flight. Is 2 hours enough to do this?
Here are four relevant details:

(1) We're talking about Heathrow, one of the most inefficient airports in the world.

(2) He's booked two separate tickets on two separate airlines (Aer Lingus and Icelandair), meaning he will not be protected if flight delays should result in a misconnect.

(3) He plans to check his luggage. This means they will have to leave the secure area, take the long hike to the immigration lines, stand in the queue at immigration, proceed through customs, wait for his baggage ... then get back through security before they close the jetway door. All in two hours.

(4) He "saved" a whopping $80 by doing it this way. Unless his misses his next flight! In this likely eventuality, both travelers will be forced to purchase new tickets on the next flight to their destination, paying the highest last minute fare for each ticket.

Short answer to his question: he hasn't left himself nearly enough time to comfortably make a connection. And he should never have booked two different airlines on two different tickets.

Long answer ... the travel world is blessed with some hugely experienced international air agents (not me, by the way). Yes, it will cost you a few bucks in the form of a ticketing fee. But an experienced air agent will save you bucks. He or she can advise about variables such as:
  • booking through a codeshare partner for possibly lower taxes or fuel surcharges
  • avoiding costly mistakes such as this impossible connection scenario
  • helping you find what's really the best value
  • monitoring your flights and taking care of potential disruptions long before you're even aware that a flight might be cancelled or delayed

While I'm not an air expert, I have colleagues who definitely qualify. It's well worth paying for expertise. A small out-of-pocket expense can yield save you from costly money-wasting mistakes ... and likely save you money on your air tickets.

copyright (c) 2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

6.22.2018

three tips to speed your way through the airport

SFO International Terminal, photo from Wikicommons

A friend was asking the difference between the TSA PreCheck and Global Entry programs, so I thought I'd share my answer among a wider audience. As you are well aware, getting through airport security is a sometimes quite time-consuming endeavor. Moreover, travelers returning to the US from international destinations can find themselves in distressingly long immigration lines. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate some of the stress of waiting in queue.

Good: TSA Pre✓ — If you only fly domestically, this is the easiest and most economical way to speed your way through security. Once you're approved for TSA Pre✓ (a 2-3 week process), you'll be issued a Trusted Traveler number. Be sure to enter this number into each of your frequent flyer (FF) accounts. Whenever you book a flight using your frequent flyer account, your Trusted Traveler number should automatically be added to your reservation. (If you don't have any FF accounts, you can directly enter your Trusted Traveler number into the reservation.) The cost of TSA Pre✓ is $85 for a 5-year membership.

Better: Global Entry — If you travel internationally, apply for Global Entry instead. This service costs $100 for a 5-year membership and includes TSA Pre✓.  A mere $15 more ($3 a year) scores you the benefit of a much shorter wait at US immigration. Global Entry members use special kiosks, bypassing the long lines. An additional benefit — a separate, much shorter line to clear customs.

Applying for Global Entry is more involved. You'll have to apply online and be interviewed in person. The wait for interview appointments at some airports can be extremely long, but once you apply and receive your preliminary approval, you can have that interview upon your first return from an international trip. The immigration agent will perform the interview.

assorted TIPS

a) Many premium credit cards will refund your membership fee, once every 5 years.

b) If you don't see "TSA Pre✓" printed on your boarding pass, call the airline. Make sure your Trusted Traveler number is in the reservation. They'll add it and reissue the boarding pass.

c) When using the TSA Pre✓ line, keep your shoes on. Keep your toiletries, your computer, and your other electronics in your bag. Just put your bags on the conveyer, keep your shoes on, and walk on through the magnetometer. I love not having to remove my shoes; it adds a certain dignity to the experience.

Best: Global Entry + CLEAR — Before you can even enter the security line, your ID has to be checked. Sometimes ID checkpoints have excruciatingly long lines. CLEAR kiosks are found at 24 busy airports (with some notable omissions), and CLEAR can save some serious time. A CLEAR kiosk will identify you by your fingerprints or iris, and a CLEAR agent will then escort you to the very front of the line of passengers waiting for security.

Tip: before applying for CLEAR, get a free Delta SkyMiles account. There is a special CLEAR discount for SkyMiles members, $99 per year vs. $179 per year.

Personal Testimonial: There were humongous lines at SFO's terminal 2 for a recent Alaska flight I took to Baltimore, both before and after the ID checkpoint, but with CLEAR and Global Entry/TSA Pre✓, I was literally past all of those lines in about a minute.

Bottom line: Spending money can get you front-of-the-line service. Are you worth it? You betcha!

copyright (c) 2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.