We just put away our spring break suitcases and we’re back to the daily grind, but that doesn’t mean we also have to pack up our travel dreams. Plus, a world-class vacation calls for world-class planning, which means you should start brainstorming your next great adventure now! Our local leaders in travel planning, Brownell Travel, share five stellar summer travel destinations, as well as their insider tips for getting the most out of each destination. From a private island paradise in Antigua to the crème de la crème of luxury Parisian hotels, get ready for a jaw-dropping, gorgeous visual feast and an intoxicating, virtual vacation tour that will make the most savvy traveler swoon!
5 Droolworthy Summer Travel Destinations
Destination: Jumby Bay
Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda
“The moment you land in Antigua, you’re whisked away in a private car to the resort’s boat that takes you to the private island,” says Ashley Smith, associate director of sales and marketing at Jumby Bay. “The quick boat ride is one of my favorite parts. It’s just a few minutes, but the sea breezes are so refreshing and the scenery is so gorgeous. It’s an exciting way to begin your trip! Then, once you arrive at the resort, the world is your oyster.”
Spend the day lounging on the beach, where a special “beach snack” — from refreshing smoothies to mini ice-cream cookie sandwiches — is served every hour. The villas and estate homes are so gorgeous that you may be tempted to stay in your personal haven, lounging by the pool all day, or if you’re seeking activities and adventure, go snorkeling, sailing or kite-surfing. The resort offers equipment, and the instructors are incredibly friendly. There aren’t any cars on the island, so everyone rides around on bikes, for an extra dose of small-town charm. Plus, after a day of island fun, you’ll have a good excuse to visit the Sense Spa for a restorative massage or savor the flavor of the island with the resort’s special rum tastings!
“The moment you set foot onto Jumby Bay Beach, an instant calm washes over you,” says Ashley. “The atmosphere is very relaxed and casual, without sacrificing an iota of sophistication. Everything just feels easy at Jumby. It’s the best of the privacy and peacefulness of a private island with all the luxurious amenities of a top-notch resort.”
Brownell Insider Tip:
Jumby Bay’s Rose Buds program is for children ages 3 to 11. Children can take part in the island’s conservation efforts and “adopt” one of the turtles!
Destination: Le Meurice
“Le Meurice, like Paris itself, is enchanting all year round,” says Alexis Eisaman, regional sales director at Le Meurice. “It has an authentic Parisian and residential feeling. Consider it your own apartment in a palace hotel on the famous Rue de Rivoli directly facing the stunning Tuileries Garden.”
Le Meurice hotel has been in operation for over 180 years, playing home to many notable guests including FDR, Salvador Dali, Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor and Beyonce, as well as the set for the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris. Art, culture, gastronomy, fashion, renowned gardens and exceptional views are literally right outside your door here, where traditional 18th-century French elegance meets the chic design of Philippe Starck for unforgettable modern European ambience.
Stop by Le Meurice’s Spa Valmont to experience an exceptional facial treatment, soak up the Parisian culture while sipping on a flute of rose Champagne at Bar 228 or simply explore the charming corners of the vibrant 1st Arrondissement. “I love the warmth and caring of our staff,” says Alexis of the hotel’s five-star staff. “They are so focused on creating an intimate and personalized experience tailored to fit the vacation dreams of couples and families alike. I also love the stunning views form the Juliet balconies on the sixth floor!”
Brownell Insider Tip:
Do not miss the French toast at Le Meurice! Be sure to carve out at least one morning to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in their gorgeous restaurant or savor an evening of fine dining with award-winning Chef Alain Ducasse. And remember: calories don’t count when you travel!
Destination: Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
The Grand Velas Riviera Maya is the perfect combination of thrill and adventure, relaxation and rejuvenation, exquisite cuisine and natural beauty. “Adventure seekers will enjoy exploring the ancient Mayan ruins of nearby Tulum and Coba, world-class snorkeling and scuba diving, zip-line tours through the Yucatan’s vibrant jungle and kayaking through Mexico’s best nature preserves,” says Georgina Godoy, director of sales at the all-inclusive resort. “The seaside communities of nearby Playa del Carmen and Cancun also offer exquisite shopping, dining, golfing and nightlife.”
Water features abound at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya, where there are three pools: a three-tiered family-friendly pool, an adults-only pool and a zen pool surrounded by the flora and fauna of the Yucatan jungle. The resort’s luxurious spa was named Best Spa in the World by Virtuoso in 2010. Included with any treatment of 50 minutes or more, guests can enjoy the spa’s “water journey,” which includes a sauna, color therapy steam, clay room, ice room, showers, polar pool and experience pool with various aquatic features.
But the cuisine is the pièce de résistance of Grand Velas, garnering accolades and rave reviews internationally. “Cocina de Autor at Grand Velas Riviera Maya is the first restaurant in the world that’s part of an all-inclusive that won the AAA 5-Diamond Award,” says Georgina. “Restaurants are led by internationally renowned chefs, such as Michel Mustière, named Maître Cuisinier de France, and Xavi Pérez Stone, named Best Chef in Mexico and winner of the Iron Chef 2014.”
Brownell Insider Tip:
Don’t return home without the fine Mexican jewelry by Lyne Jewels available in the resort boutique. The jewelry is made with Mexican silver and natural precious and semiprecious stones, which have been meticulously hand selected.
Destination: Farmhouse Inn
Forestville, Sonoma County, California
This intimate property, nestled in the sprawling, jaw-dropping beauty of California’s wine country, was originally a functioning farm in the late 1800s, and the owners have preserved that farmhouse charm, paired with an airy, relaxing ambience. It is the ideal getaway for wine lovers, foodies, spa junkies and romantics alike! You’ll, of course, want to explore the wineries of this fabulous region. “We suggest working with our concierges to create a custom itinerary that’ll help you fall in love with Sonoma,” says Farmhouse Inn owner Catherine Bartolomei, who says it’s not all about wine in the wine region. “We work with a fantastic bike company, Adventures in Cycling, who sets up custom tours for our guests. We also have a first-growth Redwood forest 15 minutes down the road or head to downtown Healdsburg for shopping, art, food and a great cocktail. On Tuesday nights, they have live music and food trucks parked all around the square. It is so much fun and really epitomizes what it’s like to live here.”
Catherine recommends talking to locals to find the hidden culinary gems, but you can also enjoy top-notch cuisine at the inn’s 10-year Michelin-starred restaurant. “Our Executive Chef Steve Litke has been here for over 15 years, and his creativity always amazes me,” says Catherine. “He loves traveling the world, and you’ll often see those travels reflected in his dishes.”
While you can get out and explore the stunning California coastline and beaches of Sonoma, you can also opt for a day of relaxation poolside at the Farmhouse Inn, followed by some quality time at the inn’s 3,000-square-foot spa. “We opened in late 2014, and it is my baby, so I’m a bit biased,” admits Catherine of the stunning facility. “Our spa team is amazing, and I love hearing the words ‘That was the best massage I’ve ever had’ from our guests when they check out. If you look at our Trip Advisor reviews you’ll see a thread running through all of them – our outstanding team.”
Brownell Insider Tip:
Mix up the wine tastings! Do one facility tour where you can see the entire process. At the next, find somewhere you can sit outside for a tasting and pair it with lunch. Then, try a smaller, private tasting somewhere like Sabina.
Destination: The Mark
New York City
The Mark Hotel in New York City, a 1927 landmark building adjacent to Central Park and along the city’s Museum Mile, is the perfect place to get out of the rush of Midtown and explore the city like a local. “The Mark’s prestigious location on Manhattan’s fabled Upper East Side provides guests with the opportunity to truly live among New York’s most fashionable and notable residents,” says Angel Mejia, The Mark’s director of sales. “Central Park is, as we like to call it, our very own 840-acre outdoor garden, offering proximity to some of the park’s less known and traveled paths providing the perfect opportunity to get lost in this wonder.”
Grab a picnic from the hotel’s award-winning Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and head to the park; peruse the remarkable art collections at iconic institutions like the Met, the Guggenheim or the Frick Collection; treat yourself to retail therapy along Madison Avenue, where the world’s top designers and avant garde artists display their fineries; or explore and discover New York City’s hidden corners, one-of-a-kind treasures and local charm in each of the city’s unique neighborhoods.
The hotel, redesigned by the legendary Jacques Grange, perfectly blends contemporary and classic for a sleek, yet comfortable, look that feels like your uber chic home away from home. “I love its stylish aesthetics, sophisticated service and whimsical amenities, such as our bespoke bikes and pedicabs, Jean-Georges’ picnics, Laduree’s hot cocoa kiosk, fine shoe accessories by renowned London bootmaker John Lobb, Assouline art book boutique and customized tents for little guests,” says Lana O’Flaherty, marketing manager of The Mark. Her colleague Angel adds, “I love how it feels like home to travelers from any part of the world.”
Brownell Insider Tip:
Ride around the neighborhood in style in one of The Mark’s complimentary chauffeured pedicabs. These black-and-white striped pedicabs will take you to nearby attractions like Central Park or the Guggenheim.
Who’s ready to travel? Before you get going, here’s one last, really important tip from the experts:
Brownell Travel Tip:
Before you even think about booking your trip, check your passport! This is a biggie and a mistake that happens more often than you’d think. Many countries require your passport be valid for as long as six months after your return date. That means if you’re traveling during the first week in June and your passport expires in August, you could be turned away at the airport.
All right! Stop drooling and start planning your fabulous summer travel agenda, and make sure you share your pics on Instagram and tag us — @StyleBlueprintBham!
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