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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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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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Expedia for Luxury Hotels ONLY: Kiwi Collection

August 30th, 2013 No Comments

Kiwi Collection homepage


Searching for a steal on a nice hotel can be a challenge.  Most of the time I’m not up for it.  Kiwi Collection does half of the work for you by only offering deals from 4 and 5 star hotels. They scour the world so no matter where you’re going, they’ll have a solid suggestions for you: boutiques, luxury chains, etc.  All of which are guaranteed to be top notch.

You can see for yourself as the site goes into great detail on the rooms (square footage, amenities, etc).  Their blog is also a great resource for hotel reviews, local hotspots, and city guides.


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How To Get More Luxury from Your Vacation Without Spending a Lot – Part 3 of 6 in a series by Gary Leff

April 12th, 2013 No Comments

Capella Pedregal Cabo San Lucas Mexico

Gary’s Tip #3:   Think off-season. 

For parents, it’s hard to travel any time other than school vacations. Peak season is called that for a reason; everyone is venturing out for the good weather.  At this time, even inexpensive places get pricey and get too busy to provide great service. I hate having to get up early to head down to the beach to reserve a beach chair!

So for those of you who aren’t so encumbered take advantage of the time when families aren’t crowding airports and accommodations.    Hotels are more peaceful, less full, and they tend to offer great discounts.  You’ll find more than just deals on room rates.  Spa and dining establishments give incentives to keep not just you, but more so their employees happy.

Combining off-season or shoulder season timing with my previous tips , I’ve done really well.  For instance, the Le Meridien in Khao Lak, Thailand (an hour’s drive from Phuket) often offers standalone oceanfront villas with their own pool for as little as $250 per night from May through August.  And in Las Vegas the season is the weekend, rates are much less on weekdays.  A work colleague was recently planning to stay at Treasure Island for $139 per night.  Since it was during the week I found her a great rate of $199 at the Four Seasons instead. As I instructed you to do, I told her to book through her travel agent that was a Four Seasons Preferred Partner so she received daily breakfast (choice of buffet or room service!), a room upgrade, and a $100 spa credit.

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’s Suite at Capella Pedregal, Cabo San Lucas Mexico. Her review here.)

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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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You CAN get a solid workout in on a family vacation. I’ve got the numbers to prove it!

July 2nd, 2012 2 Comments

Screen Shot 2012-07-02 at 6.06.35 AM

Last week I was on vacation with family and let me tell you, it’s the most exhausting thing I think I’ve ever done.  I need a vacation after being on vacation!  With the kids up at the crack of dawn, everyone wanting to go in different directions, plus the environmental elements -  98 degree blistering heat and ocean salt water – I was hardly able to move by 3pm.

BUT! I felt better the days I was able to exercise in the morning or late afternoon. Considering the exhaustion, I’m not sure why, my legs were dying after countless hours at the beach….but I really did appreciate getting my heart rate up and clearing my head.

Because we had kids with us, I knew I would be active anyway, but additionally I had a plan and a goal.  The week before we left, I worked out hard Monday through Friday without taking a day off (which is usually Thursday).  Because my body was worn out by the weekend, I was happy to give myself a much needed 2 day break when we began the trip.  I brought my heart rate monitor and decided I would do whatever workout felt right and would strive to burn at least 400 calories in 1 hour.  Here’s how my workouts went:

  • Monday:  Pure Barre class and 1 mile run (approx 580 calories)
  • Tuesday: 1 mile run, lifting chest and back, 1 mile run (approx 500 calories)
  • Wednesday: Nothing
  • Thursday: 30 minutes on the treadmill, yoga (approx 600 calories)
  • Friday: Nothing
  • Saturday: 1 mile run, shoulders and abs, 1 mile run (approx 650 calories)

For all 4 workouts I actually exceeded my calorie burn.  Even though the Pure Barre class was easy and totally boring, it still helped me reach my goal.  The outdoor runs in the heat were really challenging and it helped me mentally to know they weren’t very long.  The treadmill workout was a killer because I decided to do running uphill intervals.

Precor Treadmill stats

So in 30 minutes I stayed in zones 4 and 5 (aerobic) with my heart rate and burned 422 calories, which is pretty amazing for me.  On Saturday, when I took the headline photo at the top, you can see I burned 687 calories in about an hour and a half.

NOW I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING:  Of course I found time to workout because I always do.  Normal people don’t do that on vacation.  I have to tell you, that’s just not true.  In the mornings, mommies and daddies were pounding the pavement on rigorous runs and packing themselves into the gym to get in their workout before the day began.

Runners on vacation

Trust me, I know it’s hard to get going, I had to force myself to exercise, and I never regretted it!  If you you need some inspiration, browse my archives for exercises and tips and click here for my vacation workouts.  You have options, you just have to want to take them.

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An quick spritz will save your vacation tan

June 26th, 2012 1 Comment

L'Oreal Sublime Bronze

I this spray to maintain my summer glow.  Over the years, they’ve been improving it so there is no way it streaks or turns you orange.  After you dry off out of the shower, spray yourself down, wait only a minute, and then moisturize.

The key is that you really need a base tan before you can use it.

One can runs about $10-12 at CVS or Walgreens.

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When in Rome, get outta there!

May 25th, 2012 1 Comment

Over the past few weeks friends have been telling me they are off to Rome and Italy for vacation.  (Lucky devils.)  My concern for them was that they had booked so many days in Rome and not enough time in smaller towns. While I have great respect for Rome and truly love its history, the metropolitan life set amongst the ruins just doesn’t do it for me, especially in comparison to the rest of Italy.  It shouldn’t shock you I feel the same way about Paris, French countryside, and Cote d’ Azur.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t go to Rome, I’m saying, take it on as a tourist challenge.  You can see SO MUCH in two days if you plan ahead.  After you see the sites, then rent a car, hop on a train, and head to one of the more provincial towns (even Florence!) or the coast.  The interior of Italy is so beautiful that getting lost on a country road is actually a great day.  As for the coast, parts can be a bit touristy, but when you find a cozy hotel and stroll the cobblestone streets, you can’t help but fall in love with the provincial charm.  It feels like the movies.

The key is to talk to the locals.  They are SO friendly and enjoy sharing their culture, in particular the details of food and wine, with you.

I’ve had the pleasure of going to Italy several times and visiting Rome, Florence, Milan, Genoa, Naples, Portafino, Santa Margarita, Sorrento, and Capri.  Florence and Milan were my favorite cities to explore while Portafino and Sorrento romanced my heart.  Somehow Venice has not made it on an itinerary yet, but one day it will!

My suggestions for visiting Italy:

  1. Pick one or two major cities.  Choose between Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice.
  2. Plan a road trip and interesting destination outside of one of them.  The Tuscan countryside outside Florence was my choice!
  3. Pick a small town to be your landing spot for at least 4 days R&R.  The Amalfi coast is the most popular, but you really can’t go wrong anywhere.
  4. Plan a day trip outside of this spot.

Guides to help you plan:


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