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Easy way to entertain the kids for the weekend.

July 25th, 2014 No Comments

Mary Rambin Huffington Post Article


My latest article for Huff Po goes out to all my parent friends.   When kids are out of school, they constantly want to be entertained.  After weeks of going to the pool, the park, museums, the skating rink, amusement parks, summer camp, a week beach vacation, they’re still raring to go for more.  It never ceases to amaze me.

Water Parks have always seemed like a day solution until I discovered there are resorts with HUGE water parks on the property.

I ran into my mommy girlfriend yesterday while walking Mason and her first reaction was, “Oh…are they….nice?”  I laughed and assured her that would be my first concern.

The answer is yes and no.  There are some beautiful resorts (with golf, spa, beach, etc) that would serve to host you as a real vacation.  There are also less expensive, basic accommodations where you basically just sleep when you’re not sliding.  I mean, let’s be honest, if you’re chasing kids around a water park for two or three days, all you really need is a place to crash!

My list of resorts with water parks has a little bit of both luxurious and economical with properties scattered all over the country.

Up on deck for Huff Po Travel is a fabulous little hideaway in Palm Springs.


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Last Minute Luxury Hotel Rooms + Discount Code

February 28th, 2014 No Comments

Banyan Tree Bangkok

I wrote about the Hotel Tonight app a while ago.  Have you used it yet?  I check in on it every now and find tons of luxury hotel rome available for a steal! I’m dying to try it for my next trip.

Here’s how HT works.  At 12pm on the day you’re looking to stay, you go on the HotelTonight app and find the a list of the best possible deals on hotels (because they’re last minutes).  It’s a bit risky, but the reward is big:  you can stay in a beautiful place for a fraction of the cost.  They index all of the major hotel chains in countless cities across the globe.

I think this is a great idea for someone traveling on business who has a budget to stick to for their room rate.  Or a Vegas trip where you don’t stay in your room that often.  I instantly thought of my time in Bangkok when we stayed at the Banyan Tree (above).  We wouldn’t have cared about the hotel as long as the room was nice.

Book before March 31 and use my discount code: Mary25 for $25 off your stay.

Safe travels!

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Some serious hustle on hotels (even the nice ones)

January 24th, 2014 No Comments



Right now I think most of us use the usual suspects to search for hotel deals.  Well, there are a few new players in town who are making the play for your business in a big way.  Two of the websites below will stay on the hunt for the best deal even AFTER you’ve booked your room!  The last site helps you find the best deals on luxury hotels.

All three of these websites I’m about to share with you are new, which those in the tech world call “beta.”  In our terms, “not perfect.”  However, they make big promises that are worth a shot.


TRIPbam allows you to pick a hotel or neighborhood you want to stay in and then create a cluster of hotels around it that you’d also consider.  Book the room at the place you want and then it will continue to search for better deals in your cluster.  If something comes up, they will alert you and offer to rebook your room.

A warning, the user experience of this website is not pleasant due to the branding.  But, if it delivers on its promise, you won’t care!


I’m not sure what this has to do with their business other than the fact that the guys who built TripRebel know good branding.  There is only one function of this site.  Honestly I appreciate the simplicity.  You book your room THROUGH THEIR WEBSITE (very important). If the price of the room drops before you check in, they refund you the difference. Done!

Couple of things to watch out for.  When you input your city on the homepage, an error message pops up. Just click passed it.  When you get your rates, you’ll notice they’re in Euros.  In the top right hand corner, you can change the currency to dollars.

Like I said, these sites are new so give them a chance :)




TheSuitest is more my speed.  It helps you find deals on luxury hotels and filters them by the deal you’re getting.  They grade deals like homework: A, B, C, D, etc.  You can also search by price of course.

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How to get more luxury out of your vacation without spending a lot: Part 6 of 6 from Gary Leff

October 25th, 2013 No Comments

Gary’s Tip #6: The Citi Bank Hilton Reserve Card 

“Hotel chains treat their frequent guests much better than someone they don’t know well.  The top stayers get suites, late checkout, free breakfast, free internet, and even services like dedicated reservations representatives (I have one with Hyatt, Starwood offers them to members who stay 100 nights per year), and lots of bonus points.  But you don’t have to be an uber-regular to get some of the better treatment.  The big hotel chains have relationships with big banks, and they extend some of the benefits they offer their own elite members to guests who sign up for the credit cards that their best friend banks offer.

The very best deal comes from Hilton and Citibank. The Citi Hilton Reserve Card has a $95 annual fee but gives you Gold status in the HHonors program just for carrying the card.  That means free club lounge access (evening snacks, daily breakfast, at many hotels free cocktails), free internet, and upgrades — probably not to suites, but often to a bigger room or a better room..  As a signup bonus, they’ll give you two free weekend nights at nearly any Hilton family property in the world after you put $2500 of spending on the card.  That’s certainly worth more than the annual fee.”


Many thanks to Gary for sharing 6 great tricks on getting the biggest bang for your buck so we can travel in style!  To read the entire series, click here.  If you travel often, follow his blog for regular tips and current deals.  The man is an expert at discovering loopholes, online mistakes the airlines and hotels have to honor, and how to manipulate the fine print. You can feel free to tweet him questions @GaryLeff.  He’s super sweet so don’t be shy.

(Photo is room at Hilton Waldorf-Astoria Orlando resort via.)

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Historical landmark makes for hip hideaway in San Fran

April 19th, 2013 No Comments

Golden Gate Bridge Beach

Before I dive into this lovely hotel, can we talk about the fact that San Francisco has a beach?  It was COLD as all get out (I sound like my mother), but it’s pretty remarkable.  I took this picture so I can attest to that.

Following is my latest review for The Huffington Post.  It’s not a masterpiece, but I had to write it because the Inn at The Presidio is such a unique destination, especially considering it’s on main land San Francisco and not in Merin county or The Valley.  Usually I have you click through to Huff Po, but I’m going to post the whole thing here because I’m not a fan of their new slideshow feature.

“Historical landmark makes for hip hideaway in San Fran”

Have you ever noticed new hotels don’t spring up often in San Francisco? Come to think of it, there aren’t many good hotel options at all, in my opinion. So when I heard the first new hotel since 2009 had opened in April of last year and won a spot on Fodor’s Top 100 hotels list already, we passed on our St. Regis reservation to stay within the walls of The Presidio, an old military base at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge that turned out to be so much more!

The Inn at The Presidio

To begin, I think we can all agree this might be the most unique and impressive view you’ll find from a hotel room in San Francisco. What I found I loved most about the Inn was not just the accommodations, but more so the natural landscape and historical preservation.The Inn At The Presidio Map of San Francisco

The lush land at the norther tip of San Francisco has been used for military purposes since the 1770’s. The US Army didn’t regain control of it until 1874 and finally established it as a permanent military base in 1849 during the Gold Rush.

The Inn at the Presidio

The Inn, formerly the bachelor’s quarters called Pershing Hall, was recently renovated according to LEED standards with a simple, modern aesthetic that honors its history.

Rooms at The Inn at the Presidio

Located in the center of the Presidio property, the lodge has 22 rooms total, 17 of which are 3 room suites with views of the bay. Military accessories make reference to an officer’s quarters; you feel as though you could be asked to suit up at 0-six hundred.The living room has a gas fire place where we enjoyed the complimentary artisinal breakfast we brought up from downstairs. While the bathrooms appear suitable, the LEED certified water pressure makes you want to get in and out of there as quickly as possible.

Rates range from $195-$395.

The natural elements are actually the best part about your Presidio experience. You can hike the hills, walk to the beach at the base of the golden gate, play 18 holes on the public course, enjoy a glass of wine by the fire pit, or just take it all in while rocking on the front porch. Houses surrounding the natural preserve can go for as much as 25 million dollars for a reason!

Click here for information and an interactive map to help you plan your day.

If you aren’t staying at the Inn, I still highly suggest a visit while you’re in town.


Presidio Social Club

The Presidio Social Club, located down the road from the Inn, is actually a hip hangout for locals. After our hike through the hills, sitting on the back patio sipping rose, I felt like I was in Napa! The only giveaway was the food; I’d say the dishes are just average. At night the restaurant, decorated like a diner, becomes quite a scene. If you’re want a table, make a reservation in advance.
You’ll find two of my favorite shopping and dining districts: Marina Blvd (top right) and Fillmore Street in Lower Pacific Heights. Great boutiques and local eateries that will blow your little foodie mind! Pop into any of them, you can’t go wrong.
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How To Get More Luxury from Your Vacation Without Spending a Lot – Part 2 of 6 in a series by Gary Leff

April 5th, 2013 No Comments

W Resort Koh Samui bedroom

Gary’s Tip #2 How you book your hotel matters. 

Searching for rates on the discount sites (Expedia, Orbitz, etc) is a good way to start your hotel search, but booking through them is not always best.  Once you find the hotel you want, go to the hotel’s site to see if they offer a comparable price.  If  they do, book direct. Hotels can pay 20% or more commissions to those travel agencies, and since you’re a less profitable guest to them, they may put you in less desirable rooms.

Wait, don’t click so fast though.  Before you just book on Hilton.com, Marriott.com, or Hyatt.com … see whether booking through one of their preferred partners gets you a better deal.

You’ll often find the same rates for luxury hotels, but with added amenities if your hotel participates in the Visa Signature Hotels Program (any Visa Signature credit card holder qualifies), American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
(American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders), Virtuoso (some travel agents belong to their network and can get you their rates), or chain-specific programs like Four Seasons Preferred Partners (again, offered by select travel agents).  Booking through these channels often gets you free upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, and possibly an additional amenity like a free spa treatment or $100 credit to use in the hotel’s restaurants — without paying more.

For other posts in this series and more tips from Gary, click here.  If you travel often, follow his blog for regular tips and current deals.  The man is an expert at discovering loopholes, online mistakes the airlines and hotels have to honor, and how to manipulate the fine print. You can feel free to tweet him questions @GaryLeff.  He’s super sweet so don’t be shy.

(Photo: Mary Rambin, W Resort Koh Samui, see my review of the resort and video tour here.)

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Taxi, take me to the corner of Hipster & Broadway.

February 22nd, 2013 No Comments

Ace Hotel New York

That would be the corner of 29th Street and Broadway in New York where cool kid locals sip, savor, sleep, and suit up.  Here you’ll find:

For me the attraction is Stumptown Coffee where hipsters pour perfect cappuccinos I can enjoy in the library lobby of the Ace hotel with my laptop.   Our guess is that the popularity of The Ace and Stumptown really got this neighborhood back on the map.  I’ve never stayed at the Ace; I hear the rooms are small but some of the best priced accommodations in town.

Also in the lobby is The Breslin, a pork-centric gastropub from chef April Bloomfield.  Last fall, she opened a new outpost just down the street on the actual corner: John Dory Oyster Bar that boasts a $100/head chef’s table experience.  It actually seems like a pretty casual joint with a lot of great beers on tap.  If you’re looking for a cheap bite, you can walk next door on Broadway and grab a delicious sandwich at No. 7 Sub.  If you can believe it, the Broccoli sub is one of the most popular items.  One more door down and you’ll stumble into the overpriced clothier Opening Ceremony.  It got its start on the block attached to the Ace, but apparently outgrew the nook.  Their style is what I would call hipster prep I suppose….kind of like what Adam Levine is trying to pull off these days.

Finally, The NoMad Hotel, restaurant, and bar, which is actually on 28th street, is one of THE hottest spots on the island right now.  The bar scene is dominated by men.  Single NYC women you need to go grab a drink and browse the selection.  From what I could tell you won’t have any competition!  As for the acclaimed restaurant you have to reserve a table at a month in advance, I thought the food was just average.  An ex-bf of mine works there and plotted out our selections:  seafood tower, pickled cauliflower salad, and the roast chicken for two.  Now, I knew going in it was going to be pricey, but a roasted chicken for $80 is ridiculous.  Especially when there’s nothing redeeming about it.  I’ve heard the same about the rooms in the hotel:  pricey and unamusing.  The library lounge in the back is a great place to gather a group and hang out.  It reminds me of the Bowery Hotel, just smaller.  The bottle service is unique in that if you get a bottle, a mixologist will prepare a legit cocktail for you.

I’m not sure I would put this little pocket on a New York City Guide, but should you be in the area, pop over, grab a drink, and take in the flavor of Flatiron.  Look at it this way, you can get a dose of “NYC hipster” without having to take a detour to Brooklyn :)

29th and Broadway New York

(Top photo left to right, clockwise: Stumptown, Ace Lobby, Opening Ceremony, NoMad bar, No. 7 Sub, John Dory Oyster Bar)

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AirBnB now offers “Experience” to filter housing options

January 11th, 2013 1 Comment

AirBnB, the site that allows you to rent private rooms, apartments, and homes when you travel, has added a new feature called “Neighborhoods” to help you decide where you want to stay based on what kind of experience you’re looking for.

I’ve used AirBnB once on a trip to Austin and was so pleasantly surprised.  The casita was cute, clean, and stocked with fruit, juice, and coffee.  Our hostess was a delight to chat with.  Thankfully I knew the area I wanted to be in, but if I hadn’t, this feature would have been my key to the city.

Right now, AirBnB offers “Neighborhoods” in these seven cities: New York, San Francisco, London, Rio de Janero, Berlin, Washington DC, and Paris.  More to come!

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