Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cheyenne at Four Season Lana’I and Maui

Aloha! If this chilly winter has you wishing for sunshine and sandy shores, read on about Cheyenne Teters trip to Hawaii! She spent two fabulous nights at the recently renovated Four Seasons Lana’I this fall before traveling to Maui for two incredible nights.

The island of Lana'I is the smallest of Hawaii's inhabited islands. Within the island you will find breathtaking beaches and cliffs, as well as backwoods trails and mountains. The island has no stoplights and only 30 miles of paved roads. If you are looking for a remote get-away location, with luxury amenities, look no further. 

Cheyenne spent two days on Lana’i where she stayed in a newly renovated room at the Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay. She would highly suggest to any visitors to stay in the renovated area. 

The Manele Bay location offers numerous activities for the adventurous type including hiking, 4x4 off-roading, scuba diving, snorkeling and sailing. 
Cheyenne spent each morning hiking the various trails around the resort.
 The Four Seasons even has shoes guests can borrow in case they've forgotten their hiking shoes at home.

The Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay has beautiful pools, beach areas and fitness facilities; however, Cheyenne found the most breathtaking views were from the golf course. Constructed on lava outcroppings, the course features incredible ocean and cliff views.

Another luxurious feature at Lanai at Manele Bay is airport check-in that allows rooms to be prepared and ready when guests arrive at the resort.


The island of Lanai partners with Island Air to offer a seamless airport tarmac transfer when getting to the island. Cheyenne suggests that travelers fly into Lanai and then take a ferry to Maui to experience both hotels. Maui is located only nine miles away making for a quick and beautiful ferry ride to "The Valley Isle." 

After a ferry ride to Maui, Cheyenne spent two nights at the Four Season Maui at Wailea. The classic Hawaiian resort is located on Wailea beach and is the largest luxury resort on the island. Including three salt-water pools, three golf courses, four bars and endless family activities there is no shortage of things to do once you are at the resort. Try the complimentary canoe rentals, evening luau, or surf lesson, Cheyenne's trip highlight! Better yet don't do anything at all and just relax in a cabanas by the adult only pool.

For more information about the Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay or the Four Season Maui at Wailea contact Cheyenne Teters or your Sanders Travel advisor.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jaimey at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

I recently had the immense pleasure of staying at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa on the beautiful island of Oahu in the Ko Olina resort area of this tropical Hawaiian Island.

Aulani means “Messenger of the Chief” or “Our Home” so as you are welcomed to Aulani by the amazing staff they say “Welcome to our Home”.  Aulani is situated in the Ko Olina Resort location surrounded by lush tropical landscaping and the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.  The resort sits on 21 acres and they have used every inch of it! 

Aulani is around twenty minutes from the Honolulu airport depending on traffic, which can be absolutely terrible during rush hour.  There is a shared shuttle service called Speedi Shuttle that is the most cost effective way to go.  Aulani also offers private transfers for an additional charge. Guests are greeted at Aulani with either a traditional Lei for the women, a Kakui Nut Lei for the men or the children are given bracelets.

There are a variety of dining options on property or off.  Directly across from the resort is Ko Olina Village that offers local hot spots and coffee shops. Aulani offers quick service options, snacks and table service options.  

Makahiki Restaurant offers character dining with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald for breakfast each morning.  I would highly recommend booking your reservations in advance and at the earliest option of 6:30am as well.  This is a fun, light hearted experience that your little ones and your adults are sure to love!

Aulani has 359 accommodations including 16 Suites.  Room rates begin at $400 per night which includes your nightly entertainment, Aunty’s Beach House for your children as well as many activities and offers that would at most resorts result in an additional charge.Aulani also offers 481 Vacation Club Villas and 21 Grand Villas for families needing larger accommodations.

Aulani boasts 3 pools, 1 “lazy river” , 1 theme park sized splash and water play area, 1 splash pad for the little ones and 2 adult infinity edge whirlpools as well as Rainbow Reef, Oahu’s only 3800 square foot private saltwater snorkeling lagoon. I knew my kids would have had a ball exploring the various pools and splash areas! Pools are heated year round to 82-85 degrees ensuring every traveler a comfortable dip any time of year.

Wailana Pools and Spas is the adults only section of the pools area. Located next to the Ka Maka Grotto and next to the Quick Service Outlet of Ulu Café, it is quiet, and offers a pool bar as well.  The Spas offer beautiful views with infinity edge hot tubs.  These are adult only as well.

Cabanas are offered at many of the locations listed above with private service, flat screen televisions, ceiling fans, bottled water and fruit bowls.  Rental fees are $325 per day.

Aulani offers Oahau’s only private salt water snorkeling reef.  This is manmade lagoon in the middle of the Aulani’s grounds.  You can also view the sea life from a viewing area under the reef next to Waikolehe Pool.  There is an additional fee for this $15.00 per day, $10 per child 9 and under, or $20.00 per stay, $15 per child 9 and under.  Equipment is included with this.  The water is monitored and kept at 77 degrees.

In additional to the many water activities and pools available at Aulani, you will also have access to a wonderful beach and lagoon with private beach chairs and umbrellas along with crafts, hula classes and access to Aunty’s beach house.

Aunty’s Beach House is located next to ‘Ama’Ama and is the perfect spot for your little ones ages 3-12 to hang out. This is 5,200 square foot house features rooms filled with video games, arts and  crafts, dress up outfits, tv’s, computers etc. 
Starlit Hui and Mo’olelo Fireside Story Telling are two complimentary nightly activities that are perfect for the entire family.  The Starlit Hui takes place on the lawn behind ‘Ama’Ama and is an interactive Hawaiian show with dancing and story telling.  They involve the children and Mickey and all of his friends come out afterward for a dance party.  This takes place twice during week in off season and 3 times during pack season.  Mo’olelo Story Telling takes place at the fire pit located just outside ‘Ama’Ama and an interactive evening of story telling with props and puppets told by Uncle.

Aulani is a magical place that brings to life the Hawaiian culture with the magic of Disney. This is a place that will truly bring your family closer and create the perfect vacation for children and adults alike.  

Ready to book your family's trip to Aulani and create your own magical memories?
Please contact or your Sanders travel advisor today.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Kathy B in Italy

Kathy Brueggemeyer was just in Italy exploring the rolling hills of Tuscany and the city streets of Rome. She visited a number of fabulous hotels, toured the top tourist sites, drank delicious wine, and ate incredible culinary creations.She was hosted by a fabulous partner of ours, Marcelo at Waterstone Marketing. His collection of properties includes very unique and authentic gems. 

Kathy started her journey in Rome where she had a site inspection and dinner at the Hotel Hassler. This beautiful property is in a prime location at the top of the Spanish Steps. It has the most magnificent Presidential suite with an extremely large terrace overlooking the Spanish steps. Kathy dined at the 1 Michelin starred restaurant on the rooftop, Imàgo, and it was fabulous!Even if you cannot stay at the Hassler be sure to dine at Imàgo during your next trip to Rome.

While in Rome Kathy toured the Vatican where she highly recommends a private tour. Her small group of 12 people made it hard to hear the guide with all the crowds around you. Nevertheless her guide was very knowledgeable and professional.

Located about 30 minutes from FCO airport – about equal distance from Rome central and Civitavecchia - is La Post Vecchia. This villa hotel located is on the water and offers an array of unique room categories. Be sure to tell your advisor what you prefer so they can match you with the best fit. Kathy recommends staying on the 1st floor (2nd floor to Americans since the Europeans call the ground floor zero). These rooms have very high ceilings and large windows that can be opened up.  Seaside or garden view - it is all beautiful so you can't go wrong!! The Cesar restaurant is an excellent 1 Michelin starred restaurant on property with both inside and outside dining. This is a great hotel for 1 or 2 nights pre-cruise or before going to FCO airport to return home. 

Kathy continued about an hour and half north to the sister property to La Posta Vecchia, Il Pellicano. Located on the cliff of a peninsula into the Mediterranean this hotel has beautiful views to the sea.   The winding cliff road gives it a real feeling of being away from it all even though it is only about 15 minutes to the town. This hotel has a more cosmopolitan feel than it's sister property and has 2 accommodation options – the main lodge overlooking the sea and public areas or the quiet cottages. This property has a 2 Michelin starred restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating.   Kathy says while she is not a “foodie”, the meal was excellent and the service was impeccable but still in a casual, comfortable setting. Enjoy the “beach” club with decking over the rocks and a small pier with access to the water. Enjoy a beverage from the mobile bar and soak in the sun from this pristine spot.

 About two hours north of Il Pellicano, Kathy stayed at Hotel Byron in Forte dei Marmi, another villa property.  There are no beachfront properties here (nothing is on the beach) but Hotel Byron is directly across the street from the beach. Again, all the rooms are different so you should discuss your desires with your travel advisor to be sure you are getting the right type.  Kathy had a 2 story two bedroom villa called the Shelley Suite with a terrace and two bathrooms. This would be a great accommodation for either family with older children or two couples.  Her room was just steps from a nice pool area which also serves as casual dining.  The breakfast area is located at the front the property with views out to the main street where you can watch the hustle and bustle of town. This hotel is also has a one star Michelin restaurant – located in a separate building in the back of the hotel, with excellent sea food.    

Forte dei Marmi has wide, sandy beaches like Southern California. They are dominated by beach clubs that offer service, but at a cost. Rates range from 60-300 Euros per day and include anything from beach chairs up to a cabana for 6 people.Food & beverage service is available as well. Forte dei Marmi is small, easy to walk town filled with lots of shopping including a lot of high end designer shops. 
Pietrasanta is a short drive from Forte dei Marmi.  It is known for its marble quarries and artist communities. Here Kathy got to try her hand in marble sculpting. It was certainly much harder than the artists make it look.   

Stay tuned for more of Kathy's adventures as her trip continues on to Florence.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cheyenne at Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Cheyenne Teters recently spent the weekend at Banyan Tree Mayakoba. This exclusive area contains 3 properties - the Banyan Tree, Rosewood, and Fairmont - and soon to be a fourth with the addition of a Andaz property. Cheyenne enjoyed the luxuries of a Sanctuary Pool Villa during her stay. These spacious accommodations offer multiple spaces to relax, from your private outdoor pool or hammock to your plus living room or outdoor bathtub.

While Banyan Tree is a great place to unwind and do nothing the property also offers a lot to do. Complimentary bikes are available to explore the entire Mayakoba complex. You can walk the beautiful grounds and even meander into the Cenotas bat cave. They have an exceptional spa offering a treatment they call a rainforest experience. This innovation combinines massage and body treatments with steam and shower facilities at the treatment bed. A must do for couples!
Banyan tree is also a culinary delight with 4 restaurants and even more unique foodie experiences.  Sample world-renowned wines at a private tasting. Take the very unique Ixchel dining boat and watch your food be prepared while admiring the beauty of the canals and mangroves.  Test your own cooking skills with private cooking lessons. Or enjoy a laid back in-villa barbeque.

Insider tip: Book the ocean front villa as a 1 bedroom and they will close off the other bedrooms so you have private use of that prime space.

Contact Cheyenne Teters or your travel advisor for more information and to book your trip to Banyan Tree Mayakoba.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kathy's Trip to Argentina

One of Sanders Travel’s advisors, Kathy, visited Argentina to take part in the BUY Argentina Travel Trade show as well as visiting the wine region of the country, Mendoza.

Kathy’s jam packed trip started in Buenos Aires, where she experienced no jet lag. Buenos Aires is only a two hour difference from Central Standard Time in the US, so she was able to keep her sleep schedule and wake up refreshed. She stayed one night in the Alvear Palace Hotel, a luxury hotel located in the center of the cosmopolitan city. From this hotel you are in walking distance of most everything; shopping, restaurants, even La Recoleta Cemetery, where Eva Peron is buried. Kathy recommends getting a guide to show you this cemetery as there are many famous people and interesting stories in this popular attraction. The hotel has a classic, old style feel with impeccable service and great food. Kathy told us that the bellboy anticipated her departure and before she could call down, he was at her door waiting for her bag.

Her next hotel took her to the Sofitel Cardales. This hotel is best for businessmen and conventions, as it is in the suburbs of Buenos Aires and not near many activities. There she attended BUY Argentina, a weekend of conversing with Argentinean vendors and other travel advisors about the beautiful and extremely diverse country.

From Buenos Aires, Kathy flew one and a half hours to Mendoza, the wine country of Argentina. She stayed at the InterContinental Mendoza, a city hotel with attentive employees, a casino and a great shopping mall across the street. From here Kathy visited many wineries throughout Mendoza and experienced tasting many Malbec wines (Mendoza is the top producer of Malbec wines in the world). She had the pleasure of visiting two hotels in the wine country that she couldn't stop raving about.

The Vines Resort & Spa is in the Uco Valley surrounded by a vineyard and a breathtaking backdrop of the Andes Mountains. You are truly in the middle of nowhere. This small boutique hotel has a restaurant where they cook on seven different fires and keep the wine flowing. Each room is separate from the others, like little casitas giving you the seclusion and peacefulness you desire.

The next hotel was the Cavas Wine Lodge, where literally everywhere you look are grape vines. The pathways are surrounded by vines, you room has vines right outside the door, even the restaurant has vines encompassing it. Each casita has the dark, Spanish feel and look you would expect from this part of the world, giving it the feeling of home.

Kathy had so much fun in Argentina and could not stop raving about it when she returned to the office. We are so glad that she could share her experiences with us and you.

Monday, July 7, 2014

2014 Virtuoso Nominee

We are honored to be nominated for the "Most Hospitable Agency" award for Virtuoso! Thank you to everyone who nominated us!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sarah Takes the Rocky Mountaineer into Canada

At the beginning of June Sarah, our Director of Operations and Group Sales, took a familiarization trip with Rocky Mountaineer. She was fortunate enough to ride the train 2 days and visit Vancouver, Kamloops, Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise & Calgary! Here is a quick overview of this jam-packed trip.

Vancouver Hotel Waterfront – Sarah spent 2 nights here to start off her journey. This property was renovated in 2013 and is absolutely fabulous! The location can’t be beat (just across the street from the cruise terminal with waterfront and city views), and the new, fresh, and more contemporary décor of the hotel is very comfortable. They have a fabulous new restaurant called ARC Restaurant & Bar. Be sure to try the yogurt parfaits at breakfast (who knew something so simple would be so absolutely delicious!) and their honey made by the bees on the hotel rooftop (learn more about Fairmont & their honey bees here).

Give plenty of time in Vancouver to stroll or bike around Stanley Park, explore the treetop adventures (and overcome your fear of heights) at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, munch on some authentic local fare at Granville Island Public Market and get a unique view of the country at FlyOver Canada.

Sarah took the 2-day ‘Journey through the Clouds’ trip on the Rocky Mountaineer. Highlights along this route include the Fraser Canyon, the Albreda Glacier, Pyramid Falls, and Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Sarah experienced all three classes of service currently offered by Rocky Mountaineer. Regardless of which class you book you are sure to have a fabulous send off and spectacular views as you ride along. The train travels at “Kodak Speed” so guests can take pictures and soak in the spectacular mountain scenery as you roll by. Each car also has an outdoor platform for unobstructed viewing and a breath of fresh air. Here is an overview of the various services so you can see which suits your travel style best.

Sarah’s personal favorite was the Gold Leaf service (no surprise there).  This luxury car offers incredible views all around with their domed windows. These cars are two stories with a dining room on the first level and guest seating on the upper level. This higher vantage point also allows you to see more as you ride above many of the trees. Best of all they had the first Gold Leaf car on the train so Sarah & her fellow travelers could see straight out along the tops of the other cars and the engine (very cool perspective on the tunnels). Having the separate dining room below is a great opportunity to stretch your legs and have a change of scenery, something Sarah much appreciated as her journey consisted of about 10 hours on the train each day (length of time varies depending on traffic on the rail lines). The food in the dining room is fabulous! You have a menu with at least 3 hot entrées to choose from, a salad/soup course and dessert! You will not go hungry or thirsty in Gold Leaf as snacks are served throughout the journey and alcoholic & non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary. They are also able to accommodate any dietary or allergy restrictions (just let Rocky Mountaineer know 7 days in advance of your departure).  Gold Leaf service also includes the most staff members of all the cars so your every need is attended to and wonderful personal narratives and commentary on the scenery are told as you ride along. When you step off the train the exceptional service continues as your bags are delivered to your hotel room in advance of your train’s arrival. Like magic all your belongings are there without you having to lift a finger. When booking the Gold Leaf service train you also get the top off the line hotels, which consist mostly of Fairmont properties.

Silver Leaf Service is the premium category and is a great value for all you get. These cars still have domed windows (just not quite as overhead or large as Gold Leaf) and very comfortable seating. Hot meals are served at your seat, but alcoholic beverages are only included at lunch time (although available for purchase throughout the day). There are 3 crewmembers for each Silver Leaf car and luggage is still transferred to your hotel room like in Gold Leaf.

Red Leaf is the economy cabin and comes with an entry-level price point. They are going away with this service by 2016 so if Red Leaf is your style book your trip soon. These cars do not have any domed windows as they have overhead storage for luggage. All meals are served at your seat and are cold. Alcoholic beverages must be purchased. This class of service has the least amount of crew and no luggage service. In fact, you are required to bring on an overnight bag for your stop in Kamloops as you will not see your checked suitcase until your final stop in Jasper. Still the scenery is the same no matter which car you’re in and you will visit the same destinations.

Sarah’s Tips for the Train
You will not go hungry although breakfast is served late (9 am) so if you’re starving when you wake up at 6 am (like I am) you’ll want a granola bar or fruit from the hotel

Dress warm – the cars are quite cool. Blankets are available, but there is a limited number.

Pillows are offered in each seat. It’s hard not to fall asleep to the lull of the rocking car. When you are first pulling out of Vancouver is the best time to nap as most of what you see is industrial until you get well out of the city.

Have a party of 4? Book seats two in front of the other and one row can be swiveled around so you all face each other. Great for card games and conversation. A little tight on leg room though.

Wifi is not available on board so if you’re addicted to email or social media make sure you have an international data plan, although service can be spotty in the mountains.

Don’t book this if you are an active traveler. Even though you can walk around the car and outdoor platform, it is a lot of sitting.

Bring ginger tablets if you are prone to motion sickness. The movement is not bad (this coming from someone very prone to motion sickness in cars and on boats), but just in case the ginger is enough to ward off butterflies without putting you to sleep.

This is not for smokers as all train cars and outdoor vestibules are non-smoking, although Nicorette gum and hugs are available to get you through the 10 hour day.

On the ‘Journey through the Clouds’ route everyone overnights in Kamloops. There is not much to the town and the accommodations there are pretty basic. This is the only stop where Gold Leaf guests do not stay in a Fairmont. Sarah stayed at the Gold Leaf hotel, Hotel 540, a modern a playful property in the heart of town. Be on the look out for the new Sandman Signature Kamloops to open up. Sarah took a sneak peak and thinks this property will soon be on the Gold Leaf hotel list.

Sarah’s train journey ended in Jasper where she stayed at the lovely Fairmont Jasper Lodge. This property feels like you’re on the set of Dirty Dancing with its camp-like bungalows throughout a pristine mountain setting. The lake and surrounding trails offers ample activity for guests, but take note you are about 20 minutes from town (you will eat at the hotel & it will be pricey, but there are ample dining outlets to choose from). Sarah’s suggested itinerary would include two nights here.

Rocky Mountaineer’s itineraries don’t stop where the train does. Guests can continue to explore the great Pacific Northwest by motor coach tour, private car rental (with Gypsie GPS preprogrammed with sites and narration along your route) or even an Alaskan cruise. Sarah’s trip took them by motor coach through the Jasper National Park where she saw black bears, elk and bald eagles. Her tour stopped at the Columbia Ice Fields where she rode a snow coach to the Athabasca Glacier. During this stop they also saw a herd of big horn sheep. The newest attraction coming to Jasper National Park is the Glacier Skywalk, which will probably be added to Rocky Mountaineer itineraries for next year.

The tour stops at Lake Louise and then continues on to Banff. You can stay at either location. Sarah went straight on to Fairmont Banff Springs, as the Fairmont Lake Louise was sold out. Banff is an awesome little town with country flair. Texans will fit right in with the local’s cowboy apparel and western décor. Give yourself time to wander the shops and enjoy local restaurants. The Fairmont Banff Springs is an incredible hotel. Towering over the valley below, this hotel looks like a grand castle. The rooms are all unique so be very specific with your travel advisor about what is most important to you (view, accessibility, size of bathrooms, etc). This property is very large and offers a lot of dining outlets, bars, shops and even a bowling alley! Ample activities are available for children and families, but be sure to ask about the extra costs incurred for many of the activities.

The next day Sarah and the new best friends she had made on the tour headed back to Lake Louise. While this is not something Rocky Mountaineer guests would do (no need to back track!), the group of travel advisors went to tour the Fairmont Lake Louise. During their drive they toured Yoho National Park where they saw beautiful waterfalls, more snow-capped mountains and wildlife (elk & brown bears). Upon arrival at Fairmont Lake Louise you will notice this towering hotel is a bit more modern in appearance on the exterior. The inside has touches of present day design as it was recently renovated, but the overall décor is still very traditional with unique architectural details throughout. If you are staying here splurge for a room with a lake view! That’s what you’re here for. The Fairmont has the best location as it is RIGHT on the lake. Of course be warned its beauty is most appreciated in the summer months and that starts much later in Alberta than most Texans are accustomed to. When Sarah was there most of the lake was still frozen! The water is typically a gorgeous turquoise blue with stunning reflects of the surrounding mountains.

The journey ended with an overnight in Calgary. There Sarah stayed at the Fairmont Palliser, a historic palace-like hotel in the city center. Again these historic rooms come in all shapes and sizes so be sure to find the room best suited to your needs. To be honest this is a big city and is not worth a lot of time on your leisure itinerary, but should business ever call you to Calgary the Fairmont Palliser is the place to stay.

Nonstop flights are available to/from Vancouver and Calgary making a Rocky Mountaineer itinerary like this easy for DFW residents. Sarah suggests all guests staying in multiple Fairmont properties be sure to sign up for the Fairmont President’s Club so you can get free WiFi and VIP treatment at every property. Also the Rocky Mountaineer packages offer optional meal plans. Since most hotels are set in the natural surrounds, not the cities, Sarah highly recommends you at least include breakfast with your package (if not dinner as well). Sarah would also recommend that active travelers and families do the self-drive tour option with your own rental car so you can set your own pace and partake in more activities along the way. The motor coach option is best for travelers with limited mobility or individuals wanting to join a group.

If the Canadian Rockies are on your bucket list contact your Sanders Travel Centre advisor today to customize the perfect journey for you!