7.22.2016

the best suitcase accessory | RISEgear Riser

my Riser, hanging in a closet, showing its stuff!

Have you seen the following ad on Facebook? It seemed to me to be an ingenious solution to a common problem for travelers. I am planning a trip to France this fall — a week in Paris (at three different hotels), five nights in Provence (at four different hotels at different locations in our tour of the Luberon), and two nights along the Riviera (at two different hotels), with a final night at the Sheraton Charles de Gaulle.

Facebook ad

That's a LOT of packing and unpacking. Having done this before, I know that my suitcase would be an impossible mess after my first hotel stay and will never get organized again unless I completely un-pack and re-pack at every hotel. So I decided to order the product and give it a try.

My observations about RISEgear:

(1) The Riser itself (pictured above) is absolutely fabulous. It has shelves for underwear and socks, shirts, and pants. There's room at the very top for shoes, and there's even a built-in "laundry hamper" in which to put your dirty clothes. When you get to the hotel, you just lift it out of your suitcase and hang the shelves in the closet in your room.

(2) I decided to return the Slider, the 21" suitcase into which the Riser fits perfectly. Why? It fits just as easily in my 22" Victorinex suitcase which has the added advantages of being expandable and having a built-in hanging suiter.

(3) While you can purchase this product on Amazon.com, the pricing is significantly better if you order through RiseGear itself. If you look around, you can probably find coupon codes for a 10%, 15%, or 20% discount.

The proof is in the pudding, and I'll let my readers know my actual experience using my Riser in France this fall.

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.

7.20.2016

the best travel toothbrush | quip

quip toothbrush — simple, elegant travel solution

Electric toothbrushes are great for dental health, but they can be problematical on an extended trip out of the country. Here are threee reasons why.

(1) They take up a lot of space.
(2) You'll have to bring the charger, if you're traveling for a week or more.
(3) Chargers are made ONLY for one voltage, and the slightest variance will blow them.

do you want to pack all this stuff?

Have you run into this problem. You're in a European hotel. You plug your toothbrush charger into the 110V plug in the bathroom, and what happens? It blows the fuse, destroying the charger. If you use a voltage adapter, the same thing will happen. The problem: the fuse is engineered to such a narrow tolerance that the slightest variance in current blows it ... and you've destroyed an expensive consumer product. Does Phillips or Oral make a multi-voltage charger for travelers? It'd be a great idea, but I guess they'd rather sell you a new toothbrush.

I even purchased an Oral toothbrush in Germany, hoping to use its charger whenever traveling in Europe. It worked as long as the electric current was within the hair-trigger tolerances, but one time the current was slightly off, resulting in another blown charger. I complained to @ProcterGamble, but their customer service people, normally quite good for consumer products, couldn't understand that the product was poorly designed — and the US-based customer service team couldn't help with a German product.

But here's the idea solution! I found out about Quip through a Facebook ad. Quip makes a simple, quality electronic toothbrush that uses ultrasonic vibrations, just like my Phillips Sonicare. It works off a replaceable AAA battery that lasts about 3 months! Just bring a single replacement battery... and it will all fit in a regular travel toothbrush holder. I'm now a happy Quip toothbrush fan!

I got my readers this special deal! Use this link and use the code ourismantravel at checkout to get a free $5 replacement brush head. I don't get anything from Quip for this referral ... except the satisfaction of letting you know about a great product for travelers.

quip - an ideal solution for travelers!

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.

7.09.2016

why London? | top five reasons

changing of the Guards (c) 2016 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

The United Kingdom is a bargain. While the Pound Sterling was down to $1.37 last week, I just checked the exchange rates again, and the the pound is now down to $1.29. Just because something is a bargain is not a reason to buy it, but London is a most fabulous destination for a your summer vacation.

Here is my list of the top five reasons to visit London this summer.

1) comfortable weather... southern Europe is hot and humid, so unless you really enjoy a lot of summer heat, I encourage my clients to consider northern Europe. Consider places like northern France (Paris, Normandy, Brittany), Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden), the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and the British Isles (England, Scotland, and Ireland).

2) the English speak English... though with a touch of British accent. Some travelers are uncomfortable going to a country where English is not the primary language, but that's not even an issue in the British Isles.

3) the pomp and glamour of the royals...  No one can put on a parade quite like they do in England, and one of the top attractions in London is the daily Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Crowds gather in front of the palace well in advance of the daily parade, but if you're in the know, you can avoid the crowds and come face to face with the new Guard before it marches out of the Wellington Barracks to replace the old Guard at the Palace. Ask me how you can have private access to the parade grounds above.

4) gardens and parks... Nobody does gardens quite like the British, and it's wonderful to get out of the city to tour some of England's most beautiful gardens. We can get you hard-to-get tickets to Prince Charles' gardens at Highgrove, his personal country estate in the Cotswolds — and there are lots of other opportunities for garden lovers to indulge this summer.

5) history and culture... London has so many great museums from the British Museum to the Tower of London to the Churchill War Room (where we can get you behind the plexiglass so you can sit in Churchill's chair from which he led his War Cabinet).

London's luxury hotels are all on sale this summer and available with Virtuoso amenities that will save you hundreds of dollars during a typical stay. Ask me about my favorites!

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.

6.25.2016

Europe on sale | how to lock in your savings

London phone booths (c) 2016 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

While I was personally disappointed by the result of the Brexit referendum, that is not the point of this article. Citizens of the United Kingdom voted and made their decision, and the consequences are largely unknown.

One outcome is clear. The value of the Euro and the Pound Sterling has dropped significantly, at least in the short term. The Euro currently costs only $1.11 and the Pound is currently worth $1.37. Exchange rates may rebound, once the fog of uncertainty surrounding Brexit begins to clear, but for the moment Europe is on sale. This makes life more expensive for my European clients — but it means unparalleled values for the rest of the world.

Even if you don't want to go to Europe right now (and I believe that the Fall is a better time to travel), you might want to lock in the favorable exchange rate. Here's how to do it:

Make and pre-pay your hotel reservations now in Europe and in London and the UK. This will lock in the current discount. Even if the pound and euro rise in value before your trip begins, you will have taken advantage of the currently advantageous exchange rate. Should you decide to change your dates, your prepayment will still be applicable to the new booking.

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.

6.24.2016

remarkable rocks | exploring Kangaroo Island

Remarkable Rocks (c) 2016 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Remarkable Rocks. This descriptive name actually what they call this place in the Flinders Chase National Park on the southeast edge of Kangaroo Island. A collection of granite boulders that have been shaped by the pounding of waves, rain, and wind over half a billion years, a visit should be part of any stay at Southern Ocean Lodge.

seal coming out of the surf at Seal Bay (c) 2016 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved
After visiting the rocks, we drove to Admirals Arch where we saw a colony of sea lions. After a seated picnic lunch under some gum trees, we headed to Seal Bay. Along the way, our driver spotted a koala in a tree, just ten feet above ground level. It was a thrill being this close to this cute and cuddly Australian creature.

Seal Bay is a stretch of beach that is literally a playground for a colony of seals. You can see them sunning on the sand or even swimming in the ocean. Tourists are allowed onto the beach with a guide, but you will need to keep your distance from the seals.

Does Kangaroo Island sound appealing to you? It's on my recommended list for first-time visitors to Australia!

Remarkable Rocks from a distance (c) 2016 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved
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.

6.16.2016

sydney afterglow

Sydney Opera House (c) 2016 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Still in the afterglow of my trip to Australia, and the picture above is my favorite memory from the trip. Our group enjoyed a private harbour cruise that included lunch. Towards the end of the trip, we passed the Opera House and passed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, providing the beautiful framed view in the picture above. Sydney is a truly beautiful city with some great hotels. I had the opportunity to stay at and/or visit three of them.

Four Seasons Sydney is perfectly located right at the entrance to the Rocks area of Sydney — full of shopping and dining possibilities. A beautiful city hotel, Four Seasons has two categories of guest rooms, Deluxe and Premier. You should definitely go for the Premier category! Though the Deluxe room (280 sq. ft.) will suffice for a single traveler, it may feel cramped for a couple or for someone staying more than a couple of nights. The Premier Rooms are double the size (a very spacious 570 sq. ft.) and not very much more. Looking at rates for 28JUN, 2016, Deluxe Rooms range from 275 AUD - 355 AUD depending on view. Premier Rooms begin at 375 AUD. Double the space for just $73 USD ... it's a no-brainer! These rates include the Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities; though contractural obligations prevent me from listing the amenities (such as the complimentary breakfasts and other perks you'd expect), email me for complete details; you won't be disappointed.

What about views? I actually found the view from the City rooms to be quite interesting, especially from the higher floors, but the splurge to book a Full Harbour room is worth it. My view from an "09" room looked directly at the Opera House; check out the view of Vivid Sydney as photographed from my window.

Langham Sydney is the boutique choice in Sydney, just 98 rooms and suites. Formerly The Observatory, an Orient Express (now Belmond) property, Langham has totally renovated the property. Rooms are much lighter, the original dark wood paneling now painted in shades of off-white with pastel accent colors. The interior style of guest rooms is more feminine than the other hotels I visited in Sydney, and The Langham would be a good choice for couples who prefer a less corporate-feeling hotel.

What about location? The hotel is located on an attractive residential street lined with two-story historical buildings. Just a 10 minute walk from the Rocks area of Sydney, the one thing you won't get is a view of the Opera House from your room. Some rooms have a Western Harbour view. I can provide Virtuoso amenities at the Langham which include an upgrade if available, daily buffet breakfast for two, $100 F&B credit, and complimentary WiFi.

Park Hyatt Sydney is a recently constructed low-rise hotel right on the harbour with a direct view of the Opera House. Though more expensive than the other two hotels, you will not be disappointed with a stay. I recommend booking a room with a direct, uninterrupted view of the Sydney Opera House — either the Opera Room (430-485 sq ft) or an Opera Deluxe (807 sq ft).

Truly a WOW hotel, book the Harbour Suite for a most incredible view. Virtuoso amenities include an upgrade if available (but not from room to Suite), full breakfast, and $100 spa credit.

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.

6.11.2016

koala on Kangaroo Island

Koala on Kangaroo Island (c) 2016 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

A pretty cool way to end a fabulous trip to Australia, a koala siting. The day began with an excursion to Remarkable Rocks. Following a gourmet lunch served in the bush, we headed towards Seal Beach, and on the way our driver spotted this koala right by the side of the road in a gum tree.

More pictures to be posted of a remarkable rock formation and some close ups of seals ... but I wanted to get this out to everyone ASAP. Truly a highlight of an incredible trip... thanks to Swain Destinations, Luxury Lodges of Australia, Southern Ocean Lodge, and our other hotel hosts. Tomorrow, back to Sydney for one night before my UA flight back to LAX-SFO.

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.