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Sounds of Summer: 8 Outdoor Amphitheaters To Visit This Summer

Ah, summer. The season of BBQs, baseball and the beach. Give those summertime soirees their due, but few things can compare to live music at a beautiful outdoor venue with the warm summer breeze wafting through your hair and a cold drink in hand.

For some, the experience has a historical aspect to it; open-air events were enjoyed in Ancient Greece and Rome and many outdoor venues have National Historic Landmark status or have a special place in music history. For others, it’s the thrill of standing under an open sky, taking in the views while the music surrounds you. These concert goers purchase tickets every summer no matter the lineup or how high the service charge is.

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Summer Cycling With Aspen’s Little Nell

There are certain bragging rights that come with riding my beat-up used bike as I slalom between the trucks and taxis in New York City. Last July, however, I decided to exchange the exhaust of Manhattan’s avenues for the pristine air of the Rockies and my $200 Taiwanese ten-speed for a state-of-the-art Orbea road bike as I put my vacation in the hands of the “adventure concierges” at Aspen’s Little Nell.

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6 Easy Rooftop Bars in NYC

Like any good idea in New York City, once it’s out, everyone wants in. The proliferation of rooftop bars and restaurants in NYC has been a great thing, as many hotels, restaurants and building owners have realized just how valuable their rooftops really are. Continue reading

TRENDING

English Escapes

Heading to London this summer? You may want to consider booking a few days at a countryside B & B or at one of the United Kingdom’s many luxury hotels located outside of London.

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6 Easy Rooftop Bars in NYC

Like any good idea in New York City, once it’s out, everyone wants in. The proliferation of rooftop bars and restaurants in NYC has been a great thing, as many hotels, restaurants and building owners have realized just how valuable their rooftops really are. Continue reading

6 New England Beach Resorts to Stay at This Summer

While booking a summer rental has its merits, there is something about beach resorts—convenience, amenities and hospitality to name a few perks—that can make it much easier than hassling with the research and paperwork normally associated with summer rentals. Here are 6 resorts in New England that are sure to satiate your summer travel cravings, without any hassles. 

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Sounds of Summer: 8 Outdoor Amphitheaters To Visit This Summer

Ah, summer. The season of BBQs, baseball and the beach. Give those summertime soirees their due, but few things can compare to live music at a beautiful outdoor venue with the warm summer breeze wafting through your hair and a cold drink in hand.

For some, the experience has a historical aspect to it; open-air events were enjoyed in Ancient Greece and Rome and many outdoor venues have National Historic Landmark status or have a special place in music history. For others, it’s the thrill of standing under an open sky, taking in the views while the music surrounds you. These concert goers purchase tickets every summer no matter the lineup or how high the service charge is.

Continue reading

MOST POPULAR

7 Great Hotels In San Francisco

While San Francisco may have become too expensive to live in, it is still relatively affordable to visit. Unlike New York City’s hotel scene, which seems to grow and grow, with trendy newcomers stealing the show, many of San Francisco’s top places to stay are the same properties they have always been—albeit some minor name changes.

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Nomad Hotel Library Bar

Best Library Bars

Ah, the library bar. An urban oasis steeped in history (quite literally). Vintage, deep-seated armchairs, mahogany shelves and leather bound books ease the soul, while a single malt scotch calms the nerves after a long day of work. Ron Burgundy’s kind of place. My kind of place. Continue reading

Fields of Plenty—A Foray into the Best Ballpark Food

Although the temperature is still in the 40’s in some cities, the 2019 baseball season is in full swing. It’s impossible to predict what will happen over the course of a 162-game season—that’s already evident, with the reigning World Series Champion Red Sox team having trouble finding a victory while the seemingly hapless (on paper) Baltimore Orioles have managed a winning record in the first week of play. They are forecast to win 58 games. Continue reading

OPINION & VARIETY

How To Take Better Travel Photos: An Interview With Family Photographer Justine Knight

Fifi+Hop’s Corey Cook talks to the talented family and portrait photographer Justine Knight about the secrets to taking better travel pics.

I am very pleased to have on the blog today the talented photographer Justine Knight! Justine is a family and portrait photographer in Westchester, New York. She and her family travel quite a bit, often times to far flung places, so I thought she would be the perfect person to provide some insight into some useful tips on travel photos. I know we all, myself included, could use some advice on how to best capture those precious family vacation moments in photos!

 

Family photographer Justine KnightPin this image on Pinterest

 

Below is my interview with Justine where I’ve asked her some questions on how to take great photos while traveling. I love Justine’s work, and think you will too (just look at her photos!), and am so glad she can share her knowledge with us all. Justine loves to photograph families the way she photographs her own family – relaxed and being their own (sometimes crazy) selves. From timeless portraits to kids rolling around in the grass with a dog, she loves to photograph it all!

WHERE ARE SOME PLACES YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAVE TRAVELED? WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME FAVORITE VACATIONS?

We LOVE to travel!! I am Australian and my husband is South African so we spend a few weeks each year travelling to either country. We also love exploring the US.

Over the last few years, we have been to Australia, South Africa, the UK, France, Turks & Caicos, St Martins, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Arizona, Massachusetts and Washington DC.

The more we travel, the longer our list of places that we want to go to next is!!

Our next trip over the summer is to Utah for a family biking and camping trip in Canyonland.

Mountains and wildlife in South Africa.
WHICH CAMERA DO YOU TRAVEL WITH MOST OF THE TIME AND WHY?

I always carry too much camera gear and recently I have realized that I don’t need to carry it all! On a trip to South Africa earlier this year, I principally used my film camera and my iphone. I love shooting film for my family as it looks beautiful and ensures that I don’t take too many photos as I have to pay for every photo to be developed!

I also always carry my iphone. The quality is amazing and is so effortless to take great photos without carrying lots of gear around. It also makes sharing images with family and friends so quick and easy.

Playing in the water in Turks and Caicos
MOST PEOPLE USE THEIR PHONES TO TAKE PHOTOS WHILE TRAVELING BECAUSE THEY’RE EASY AND COMPACT – DO YOU HAVE ANY PHONE CAMERA TIPS?
  1. As with all cameras, looking at the light within the environment you are photographing can make a huge difference to your images. Take a minute to look around you and look at the direction of the light. Sometimes moving slightly left or right of your subject can really improve the way you utilize light on your subject.
  2. Take some steps back and use more of the environment around your subject to tell the story. This is so important when on vacation – as much as I love a nice portrait, capturing your family within these different surroundings really adds visual interest.
  3. Tapping on the screen to set the exposure on your subject makes a huge difference to your photos.
  4.  Use some of the really fun app editing tools – I love using VSCO to edit my photos on my iPhone.
Wading in the ocean on the beach.
MANY OF US TRAVEL TO THE BEACH, WHICH CAN BE A VERY DIFFICULT PLACE TO TAKE PHOTOS DUE TO THE SUN REFLECTION OFF THE SAND AND WATER. ANY TRICKS?

The most perfect times at the beach are sunrise and sunset in terms of light but this is not always practical when you have kids. Most days we are not at the beach at these times so you need to embrace more tricky lighting conditions.

Use the reflections to your advantage! If your subject has the sun behind them, use the sand or water as a giant reflector to reflect the light back on your subject.

Try not to have your subject facing the sun when you are taking their photo. Eyes will be squinty and shadows can be harsh. Engage your subject in an activity so they are not staring into the sun.

Beach walk in Maine.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE PLACE/ LANDSCAPE TO TAKE PHOTOS WITH OR WITHOUT THE KIDS, AND WHY?

I love the beach. It’s my happy place as I love the open space and the water.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE TO FAMILIES WHO WANT TO CAPTURE THOSE PERFECT FAMILY VACATION PHOTOS?

Perfection is overated!

Enjoy your time with your family BUT the most important thing for creating memories for your family is to get those photos off your hard drive and iphone and PRINT them! Make prints, make a photo book! You will be amazed at how much you and your family will enjoy looking at these images over the years if they are printed.

Someone once told me that a photo does not exist unless you can hold it in your hand!

My favorite company to make vacation photo albums is with Blurb. The quality is amazing and the software easy to use.

Other photo album companies include Artifact Uprising, Shutterfly and Chatbooks.

Car driving by in Cuba.
Thank you for joining us Justine, such helpful tips! I particularly like the last piece of advice about the albums because I think that is something most of us are guilty of – we take a ton of photos, but then, what about the albums? It’s so easy to procrastinate. Which is why I look forward to having Justine on the blog again with a dedicated post about making family vacation albums. So look out for that post, coming soon!

You can see more of Justine’s work on her website at www.justinesknight.com and/or on Instagram at @jsknight.

Q&A with Maria Zec, General Manager of The Peninsula Chicago

Pursuitist presents its Q&A with Maria Zec, Regional Vice President, and General Manager, at The Peninsula Chicago. Named one of the top luxury hotels in Chicago, renown luxury travel expert Christopher Parr interviews Maria Zec as the celebrated Peninsula property celebrates 20 years of luxurious travel, spa, and dining experiences on Michigan Avenue.

Maria Zec’s legendary hotel experience throughout the United States makes her a particularly valuable leader to manage operations in New York and Chicago, having worked at a number of luxury hotels in both cities and understanding the markets, communities and hospitality industries well. She also possesses considerable knowledge and expertise of five-star culture and what it represents to the hotel’s customers.

Zec joined The Peninsula Chicago in March 2002, shortly after the opening of the 339-room property, located at 108 East Superior Street at North Michigan Avenue. Under her leadership, The Peninsula Chicago achieved the Forbes (formerly Mobil) Five Star and AAA Five Diamond awards within her first year as General Manager for the property. The hotel has continued to receive these coveted awards since 2002, with recognition from Conde Nast Traveler to Travel+Leisure.

Christopher Parr, Q. By the numbers, what does 20 years look like at Peninsula Chicago?

Maria Zec, A. In 20 years, we have hosted 2.4 million hotel guests, which is an average of nearly 120,000 per year, 10,000 per month. We have served more than 8.3 million guests in our restaurants in 20 years, which averages to 35,000 per month, 1,100 per day. 20% of our staff have been here for 20 years. Very few people work for the same company for 20 years. In fact, our entire laundry department, have all been with us for 20 years.

Q. As the Peninsula Chicago turns 20, what does that milestone signify to the Peninsula Hotel brand?

A. Bringing Peninsula Hotels’ renowned hospitality to the Midwest, provided the company with the opportunity to build awareness for the brand in a region that would likely have no knowledge or familiarity with Peninsula Hotels. Over the past two decades, guests and residents are now very much aware of The Peninsula Hotels’ brand either via The Peninsula Chicago’s reputation or their personal experiences at the hotel. This exposure to a midwestern audience has broadened the brand’s reach with more customers.

Q. Compared to the other luxury hotels in Chicago, how has the Peninsula Chicago remained distinctively different and unique?

A. We describe our service approach as ‘Midwestern Hospitality combined with Far Eastern Graciousness.’ This is represented in the reserved, discreet, refined type of service style one would experience in Asia, blended with the genuine, warm, caring, and friendly nature you find in Midwesterners.

Our service style is also anticipatory. We engage guests during the reservation process to understand more about what brings them to the city and through this brief conversation, we can anticipate the types of services and amenities the guest will likely need, and we mobilize from here.

 

Pursuitist Q&A with Maria Zec, General Manager of The Peninsula ChicagoPIN IT

 

Our goal is to create beautiful, lasting memories for our guests. This starts with our compassionate employees who are genuine and considerate, taking great pride in their work to go above and beyond for our guests and their co-workers at every opportunity.

Q. Luxury hospitality means a lot different things to a lot of different people, but what does it mean to Peninsula Chicago?

A. We strive to provide an attentive, personalized service experience in line with each guest’s individual expectations. In some cases, visitors don’t require or want much interaction. In other cases, they seek our advice and assistance throughout their time with us. We are thoughtful in our approach to ensure we understand the personalized needs of each guest and then tailor our services around them. We aim to create a memorable and meaningful experience and want all our guests to feel welcome and at home at The Peninsula Chicago.

Q. The property has received many awards and accolades over its celebrated 20 years, what honor has meant the most to you?

A. We’ve been honored to have received numerous awards over the years, every one of which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our incredible team members. Many of these accolades have been awarded by various travel-related organizations which demonstrate how The Peninsula Chicago is viewed by our industry colleagues. But for us, our main focus is always on the feedback provided by our guests.

Q. In looking back at 20 years, how has Peninsula Chicago transformed luxury travel on Michigan Avenue?

A. Our goal is to constantly remain the leader within the industry and not a follower. To do this successfully one has to evolve and adapt to the changing expectations from travelers. We’ve never been ones to rest on our laurels; we’re always thinking about what we can do next. An example of this was conceiving and building Z Bar. It was a few years in the making, but this new venture has kept us relevant and allowed us to expose The Peninsula brand to the next generation of luxury travelers.

Q. And how is The Peninsula Chicago going to transform and evolve for the next 20 years?

A. It is important we evolve with the changing times—ensuring we develop our products and services based on the future of customers’ desires and passions (while still providing for our current customers), providing the very best in terms of accommodations, cuisine, wellness, and cultural experiences.

Herbal Remedies

One of the greatest elements of summer is the garden–may it be on a rooftop or balcony, in a backyard or wherever else the sun shines. There’s nothing like grabbing a ripe tomato from your garden and putting it directly into a salad. But summer’s spoils are not just relegated to the dinner table. Continue reading

Interview with Travel Flights Analyst Adam Kwan of TomFlies.com

TomFlies.com is an NYC-based, new-concept travel agency that aims to provide several essential aspects of travel that may have been overlooked throughout the years. Not selling exaggerated experiences, but rather leading their clients to genuine discovery is a key goal at the new age travel agency. We asked their Lead Flights Analyst, Adam Kwan some questions about the future of travel and how TomFlies.com plans to be a part of it. Here is what he had to say.

 

Q.It appeared for a while that the Internet (and D.I.Y. booking) would deal a major blow to travel agencies, however they have actually seen a strong resurgence in recent years. Why is this and how does the pandemic factor in?

 

A.What we try to do for each one of our clients is to identify where we can add value above and beyond the services they can book themselves. Whether it be monetary value from negotiated rates or service-oriented benefits such as expertise and personal vetting of providers and vendors, we think this goes a long way in showing clientele the benefits of booking with us.

 

People nowadays are inundated with what are essentially cookie cutter options that provide instant gratification. Just go on Amazon and you’re a couple clicks away from getting whatever you want, shipped straight to you from a warehouse containing hundreds of the same whatever-you-wants. We believe that this type of standardized mass merchandising is not befitting of people’s travel needs. People don’t buy vacations as nonchalantly as they do household goods. They want to be sure that they will get the best experience and best value for their travel. Especially since, for many people, a vacation is a significant expense relatively.

 

Right now, travelling in a pandemic-stricken world, people are more nervous than ever. Their confidence has been shaken and many people are unsure what will await them when they exit their plane. Making sure that people are confident that their travel will go off without a hitch has always been one of our main goals, so we view travel consultants as more beneficial than ever. There is a deluge of information out there with each country having different regulations. The last thing someone wants to do is spend their hard-earned money on a trip, only to find out they cannot board the plane or leave quarantine during their stay. That’s where we step in, making sure that our clients are making completely informed decisions with confidence.

 

Shutterstock

 

Q. Loyalty and rewards programs play a much larger role for airlines and hotels than meets the eye. Can you discuss how and why these programs are so vital for the travel industry, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic?

 

A. We see two main benefits to loyalty programs. The first is obvious—reducing customer churn and encouraging purchases with your company over your competitors; i.e. customer loyalty. The second benefit is liquidity through corporate partnerships.

 

Reducing customer churn (the rate at which customers stop buying your product over time) is important for every industry, but even more so in leisure travel where each individual customer may only purchase something once a year or less. It is tantamount that a travel company remains prominently in view of their clientele. Regular newsletters, deals, and targeted ads help with this, but a loyalty program will take this a step further. Loyalty programs create a sense of investment in your clients and strongly encourage them to return to you for their travel needs. There have been many detailed studies done on the psychological effects of loyalty programs, but the benefits are essentially the following:

 

  • Goal Anticipation – Creating something for your client to work for. By giving them a concrete goal and a way for them to track their progress towards that goal, people will be strongly motivated to complete that goal; i.e. purchase more. Not only that, but customers will invest more to complete the goal the closer they are to achieving it.
  • Positive Reinforcement – Encouraging customers to stick with you by giving them rewards is an obvious example of positive reinforcement. But just as important is the converse. Not only are you encouraging people to purchase through your company, but you also create a sense of “lost value” when they book with your competitors. Studies have shown that people generally tend toward being risk-averse when faced with a value-loss proposition.
  • Creating a sense of exclusivity – Simply put, people like being in exclusive groups and feeling unique and appreciated. Top-tiers of loyalty programs offer this prestige. If you make JetBlue Mosaic, you’re going to feel pretty good being the first one on the plane.

 

 

The second main benefit is more simply explained. Airlines and hotels will create liquidity by selling their points to corporate partners. When Chase or American Express offer their cardholders point exchanges or deals with specific travel partners, that likely means the bank has purchased points in bulk from the travel provider. This accounts for a surprisingly significant portion of the liquidity for several travel companies and is important in supporting daily operations and business development.

 

Both of these benefits are eminently important during the pandemic. When your clients are ready to travel again, you want to make sure they come back to you. And while traditional sales dry up, you want the extra liquidity from corporate points sales to keep things running.

 

Q. Should consumers be thinking any differently about their loyalty/rewards memberships during this period? Are there any tips or strategies you have for people who travel frequently and accrue a lot of points?  

 

A. There are a few tips and tricks we have for maximizing the value of your points, however more so in general rather than specifically during the pandemic.

 

First is to absolutely do your research. There’s no way of knowing if you’re getting a good value for your points unless you know the baseline value of them. For example, TrueBlue points are worth 1.1 cents each on average. I would only book flights with points where you meet or exceed that exchange rate. During COVID, we’d suggest to make sure that there is no expiration on your points and benefits, at least until you’re ready to travel again. If there is, ask the airline or hotel if they can extend the expiration for you.

 

Second is to shop around. Just because you have points with American Airlines doesn’t mean you can’t buy a British Airways ticket with them. Airlines have partners which often allow you to book the same exact flight through them. For example, Alaska Airlines offers many of the same flights operated by its partner American Airlines, however the flights usually cost fewer Alaska Airlines miles than AAdvantage Points. You can simply transfer your points from AA to Alaska and use them there for more value per point.

 

Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

 

Q. What have been the most frequently asked questions by your clients during the pandemic and how are you advising them? 

 

A. Far and away the most asked question is whether a traveler will have to quarantine when they arrive at a destination or if they will have to take a COVID test before travelling. We’re keeping track of the ever-changing regulations for each of our most popular destinations so we can make sure all of our clients are fully informed.

 

Q. What destinations, US and international, do you expect to see the most interest in once virus fears subside and travel returns to pre-pandemic levels—or close? 

 

A. Hard to tell, but it’s between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in our opinion. We’re already seeing a large uptick of interest in the Caribbean, especially for all-inclusive resort destinations like Cancun and Punta Cana. The amount of interest can only go up from here. We think that the private and comprehensive experience offered by all-inclusive resorts does add a sense of security for their guests. Knowing that everything you need is in an environment you’ve seen being sanitized goes a long way towards making people feel safe during a pandemic. They can have it all without having to go out into unfamiliar surroundings that may not be clean.

 

Positano at sunset/Shutterstock

 

We also think people are just itching to head back to the Mediterranean, we know we are. Italy, Spain, Egypt, Israel, and Greece et al have always been some of our most requested destinations, and people miss those places more than ever now that travel is restricted.

 

Q.What is the single biggest reason to use a travel advisor?

 

A.Simply that the cost to benefit ratio is great. With our agency’s negotiated rates and worldwide reach, we can offer prices competitive with OTAs while also offering the added benefit of travel planning expertise and dedicated e-concierge services and support before, during, and after travel. Essentially, people will be able to pay roughly the same amount of money for their travel as if they booked it themselves, without actually having to do anything themselves.

 

Q.In just a few words, what is your philosophy at TomFlies.com?

 

A.“Always wander!”

 

See our full report on The State of Travel: 2021

The Many Reasons to Eat Local

Have you ever wondered why it might be good to eat foods according to the season?  You probably notice how there are certain fruits and vegetables available in the fall (apples, pears, squash) versus what is seen in the spring/summer (melons, papaya, asparagus). Continue reading