Best deals of the (winter) travel ‘down season’

Winter tends to be shoulder season for a lot of places, which is when a destination isn’t at its most popular but you can get a much better deal especially after the holidays than you’d be able to get in the summer. Additionally, the off-season means cheaper deals on flights and more hotel availability. Hotels are a little more willing to budge on price and offer you a deal you might not be able to get otherwise.The trick to planning a winter trip on a budget is to watch for flight deals by using apps like Hopper or Skyscanner. If you’re looking to take a budget trip usually your biggest expenditure is going to be a flight so if you can save there you’re going to save everywhere!

Some destinations to keep in mind:

Ashville, NC

With budget airlines expanding to the city, Asheville saw a 40 percent drop in airfares according to CheapOair. Enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains for great value into the early winter months of 2019. Walk around the Art Deco downtown area, take a rooftop bar tour with amazing views, drink up at some of the city’s 33 breweries in the South Slop District, or even take a winter hike (here are five to choose from.)

The Bahamas

It’s low season right now for the Bahamas, which makes it a perfect time to go and get some sun.You won’t have to pay as much as you would during peak season, so if you’re looking for a deal, it’s still warm, the ocean is perfectly turquoise and you can enjoy the white sand beaches. From the east coast, flights start at $250 round-trip, and hotels and all-inclusive resorts could be as little as $100-$200 per night. All-inclusive resorts also offer food, drinks and activities, making it a perfect option for budget-savvy travelers.

Taos, New Mexico

For skiers and winter enthusiasts, Taos is a little bit under the radar and it’s not quite as popular as Aspen or Vail. It’s a lot more affordable if you’re looking for a ski vacation and there are also day spas and art museums and all kinds of cultural activities. From the east or west coasts, flights are around $225 round-trip, and while hotels and condos are a little pricier at the ski resorts, there are plenty of options to find a rate that will fit in your budget.

Austria

With roundtrip flights from Boston, Chicago, and Baltimore to Vienna at near-historic lows—like $500 low, as found on Airfarewatchdog—this popular skiing country in Europe makes for a great affordable winter vacation this year. Hit the slopes in the Austrian Alps with tour operator Contiki on the Austria Ski package, a weeklong ski trip starting at $685 (including accommodations, day trips, and most meals). Based in Hopfgarten, it’s the perfect base to explore the SkiWelt, Austria’s interconnected ski slope network. The country embraces cold weather with famous Christmas Markets, ice skating rinks, roasted chestnut and potato wedge stalls, mulled wine, and the best opera season.

Warsaw, Poland

According to CheapOair, Poland and its capital Warsaw are cheapest to travel to in the winter, with early 2019 prices about $580 roundtrip. Whether you’re looking to celebrate the holidays in Europe or experience a world-class European city on the cheap, Warsaw should be on the top of your list. Classic wintertime activities include ice skating in Old Town Square, strolling through the outdoor illumination exhibit, visiting The Royal Garden of Light, and soaking in the outdoor heated pools at Wodny Park.

Nevada

According to KAYAK and CheapAir.com, Las Vegas is one of the cheapest places to fly this winter, with a median airfare of about $200 roundtrip; or head to Reno-Tahoe for about $300 roundtrip from most major U.S. cities. Nevada is an affordable winter vacation spot that sees mild weather and offers a variety of activities, from casino-going to outdoor activities like hiking and skiing. Peppermill Resort offers prices as low as $80 per night in the winter, and has geothermally heated outdoor pools that are open year-round. The Peppermill and other resorts in the area also offer ski packages to North Lake Tahoe’s world-class ski mountains like Mt. Rose and Diamond Peak, including accommodations, shuttle service, ski rentals, and lift tickets all for prices about $280.

London

It’s been longer than I care to admit since I had visited London, and to be honest, I was both nervous and excited for this walk down memory lane. However, some of my newer discoveries in this city, left me with memories of a trip I shall not forget. In a city where the new and modern meets the old and historic, I found these gems worth every penny and every moment.

To Get English Tea: The Montague on the Gardens : It’s impossible to come to the UK and not be offered tea during your stay, but if your’e going to do ‘tea’ you might as well go the whole way, and get a full afternoon tea at a traditional English spot. The Montague on the Gardens in Bloomsbury, is a truly charming hotel, with a tea room and patio garden where once can order a selection of high-teas, with all the works, from champagne to cucumber sandwiches and scrumptious little pastries. They even have a tea of children, with alternative options such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and home made cookies. At this hotel, the atmosphere,  the service and the price are just right.

To Stay: The Devonshire Club: This private members club combines the allure of a West End private members’ club with the chic-cool of East End style. Nestled in a quiet pedestrian square away from the hustle and bustle of the city and just two minutes walk from Liverpool Street, the main building has its own boutique hotel with 68 bedrooms and suites. Spread over 5 floors at the heart of the club is a stunning 120 seat brasserie with a huge marbled seafood counter.

A Champagne bar leads into a wonderful Garden Room and the club has its own secret garden. On the first floor is the Library, the elegant Causerie, drawing room and Cocktail Bar, rich in atmosphere. Service is first class, but nothing feels stuffy. Rooms are airy, spacious and filled with light, yet the club feels comfortable and luxurious, with wood, marble and rich deep color to bring it the kind of warmth that makes staying here, taking a meeting or just having a cocktail – easy, enjoyable, and well worth the visit.

To Dine: The Ivy Soho Brasserie : A spin off from The Ivy of London, this newly opened brasserie was a hit from day one, serving high quality food at a more casual location with a moderate price. In the heart of the quickly developing Soho area, it serves as a buzzing spot to grab lunch, a drink or simply catch up with friends. Dishes such as their Roast Salmon Fillet (served with asparagus spears, baby watercress and soft herb sauce on the side) pair well with salads such as the Roasted Butternut Squash (served with grains Buckwheat, chickpea, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate with crumbled feta, harissa yoghurt and coriander dressing.) Accompanied by a chilled glass of wine and some great company, it’s a spot worth stopping by whilst in town.

 

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys is a haven for all those who who want to drop off the map and wake up in another world. A long line of land that drifts and drags in parts from the tip of the state of Florida, The Florida Keys is for many the ultimate vacation destination between food, fishing, fun and fabulous weather.

On my recent trip there, I made a few stops!

KEY LARGO

  1. To stay – Amoray Dive Resort – This is considered one of the best scuba dive destinations in the world, with an extra touch in style, comfort and service located in Key Largo, Florida. Amoray Dive Resort offers a favorable location with spectacular views of the sunset over bay waters. Step out from one their rooms directly onto our 45 ft catamaran dive and snorkel boat, located conveniently at the resort.
  2. To eat – Sundowners – Here you can experience sunset at it’s best whilst sipping on a Key Lime Martini and munching on appetizers like their crispy fresh Tuna Pizza with olives and jalapenos or Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Pommery mustard. Main wise, their Caribbean Glazed Mahi Mahi with spinach and kale, accompanied by some Oregano and Sea Salt Cauliflower is a stand out dish.
  3. To experience – The African Queen – The iconic vessel the African Queen is located in Key Largo Florida. Made famous in the 1951 movie of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn she still remains a timeless classic. This famous steamboat is available for daily canal cruises and dinner cruises in the Port Largo Canal area and also for private events, and is well worth the nostalgic experience.

MARATHON

  1. To eat – Tarpon Creek – The restaurant’s water-side Tiki Bar is known as a spot where folks meet and mingle from early in the day to the cool of the night. However more than tropical drinks and good cheer are is served here. Food wise, it’s worth stopping in for lunch or dinner to try everything from their wood fired pizzas (prepared fresh on site in their wood fire stove) to fresh fish dishes and unique salads such as their Signature Watermelon Salad, with arugula, fresh watermelon, feta, olives and balsamic glaze (add the grilled shrimp for a sensational touch!) Clean this off with a slice of their Key Lime Pie, and you are set.
  2. To experience – The Sea Turtle Hospital – Which provides a unique look at the lives of one of the area’s most beloved creatures through on site tours of the turtles that reside their. The Turtle Hospital (Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, Inc.) is a charitable corporation and fully functioning veterinary hospital for sick and injured sea turtles. Here they rescue, rehab, and release sea turtles in the Florida Keys, whilst providing an eye opening and educational experience for all ages.

KEY WEST

  1. To Stay – The Perry Inspired by the industrial nature from which Stock Island has developed, The Perry Hotel Key West at Stock Island Marina blends smooth wood finishes with rustic metal details, paying homage to the area’s iconic maritime heritage. Perched at the edge of a brand new state-of-the-art 220-slip marina (the largest deep water marina in the Florida Keys) the 100-room boutique hotel’s pool deck overlooks the working waterfront. Guest rooms with spacious, private balconies and waterfront views welcome visitors from all walks of life, while two ‘boat-to-table’ seafood-driven restaurants, Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen and Bar and The Salty Oyster Bar and Grill offer classic Key West comfort food with an innovative twist.
  2. To eat –The Stoned CrabExperience Paul’s culinary magic in action during this three-course fresh seafood extravaganza at The Stoned Crab restaurant, located on Ibis Bay’s marina. The seafood caught earlier that day by Ibis Bay’s commercial fishermen is prepared for you that same night. Grab a drink from their eco bar, featuring cocktails made only with fresh local fruit and sustainable liquors and head to dinner. Guests should be sure to tuck into the restaurant’s We Smoked It Fish Dip, Conch Fritters or Key Lime Ceviche Salad before moving onto any of the pasta or Steamer Dishes, all decorated with the freshest fish around.
  3. To experience – Ibis Bay Nightboarding – There’s no better way to enjoy the twilight hours of Key West than on LED-lite stand-up paddle boards or kayaks in the Ibis Bay. Led by an expert tour guide, you can explore the underwater world of Ibis Bay after dark, when the lobster, fish, and coral are most active and vibrant.

 

 

 

 

The SLS Hotel South Beach

THE SLS HOTEL SOUTH BEACH

Miami has been turning up the heat for decades, but on my recent visit to stay at the SLS Hotel South Beach, I can honestly say I was truly impressed by the perfect combination of sunshine chic meets urban beach.

If you happen to be a city dweller – or even if you don’t – The SLS South Beach provides just the right amount of ‘chill’ to unwind in one of the world’s most vibrant cities. The hotel features an artistic blend of Latin, Asian, contemporary and art deco influences; with its rooftop design depicting a lantern reaching toward the sky, the old queen (originally built in 1939) is the tallest art deco building in South Beach.

In the rooms, modern decor meets a twist on French flair, where designer Philippe Starck has channeled the ghost of Madame de Pompadour with naughty nods such as mirrors on the ceiling and a box marked “sinners” keep things historically accurate.

Exterior wise, pass two glittering pools on your way to the turquoise waters of South Beach, where flamingo pink beach chairs await you. However, you won’t do so without passing a magical garden that plays host to the famous Hyde Lounge; a playground of day and nightlife, boasting the artful mixology and José Andrés cuisine, all inspired by the flavors and culture of the local community.

THE BAZAAR BY JOSE ANDRES

Located in the SLS hotel, the world famous Bazaar by José Andrés, provides a vibrant mix of sophisticated cuisine and a playful indoor-outdoor environment, blending Andrés’ Spanish heritage, tradition and ingenuity with influences from South Beach’s local Latin flavors.

Set between the glowing patio of Bar Centro, and the indoor glamorous space of the hotel, this AAA Four Diamond Award Winner, does not fail to please on any level in ambience or cuisine.

Start off the evening tapas style with mouth watering highlights like the Traditional Sui Mai (mouthfuls of pork, shrimp, peanuts, water chestnuts) Japanese Tacos (composed of grilled eel, shiso, cucumber, wasabi, pork chicharrones) or truly unique Frozen Blue Cheese Sandwich (featuring lemon marmalade, walnut bread.)

After grazing through these exceptional dishes, you cannot go wrong with their Dragon Fruit Ceviche (that seamlessly blends tuna, pecans, lemon, hibiscus) or their Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes, spicy tomato sauce, alioli.) Then there’s the meats, such as the exceptional Jamón Ibérico de Bellota ‘Fermin’ (hand carved acorn-fed, free-range Ibérico ham) which I would recommend pairing with the Pà amb Tomàquet (Catalan-style toasted bread brushed with fresh tomato.) Still have room for more? Finish up with the Black Rossejat (a tantalizing paella-style pasta, featuring squid ink, shrimp and aliol.)

Paired with a smooth glass of Malbec, or really your drink of any choice, the above is a soaring explosion of flavor and artful cuisine. Oh, and be sure to top the night off outside at Bar Centro with a Salt Air Margarita; a drink that always seems to throw a little magic in the air…..