Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Save on Ireland in the "Off Season"

Everyone wants to go to Ireland, and it seems that everyone wants to go in the summer. Now don’t get me wrong. There is much good to be said about the warm days of summer on the greenest of islands. However, fall, winter, and spring offer their own special charms, as well as being amazingly affordable times to travel. The scenery is still stunning, the people are still Irish (and maybe more so, relieved of the pressure of so many tourists) and the pub life is especially warm and friendly.

Most destinations have a prime season for travel that coincides with excellent weather. Throughout this “peak season”, the crowds tend to be heavy and the prices high. Ireland’s peak season is the summer months: mid-June through mid-September. When the weather is typically less than balmy, destinations experience a “shoulder season” and a “low season.” Shoulder season in Ireland is April, May, early June and early October. Shoulder season has the distinct advantage of retaining many summer travel perks: longer days, good weather and extended shopping hours. Low season is November through March – the winter-weather months in Ireland.

Rates and crowds lessen proportionally as you travel farther from the warmer months. Airfares are often hundreds of dollars below peak season rates, and hotels offer bargain discounts. But for many, one of the best advantages of traveling in the so-called “off season” is that it’s much easier to enjoy and absorb Ireland’s renowned culture and avoid getting lost in crowds of tourists. Off-season visitors often find that their hosts, hoteliers and shop keepers engage easily in conversation and provide individual attention, increasing the odds for a fascinating and flawless vacation.

Off-peak Ireland is one of the best travel bargains worldwide… short daylight hours and cool weather provide a new, moody perspective on the country. Celtic architecture and cool seascapes fill mornings of exploration, and crisp afternoons call for cozy Irish sweaters and refuge in a warm pub, where visitors mix with the locals.

One of the great attractions of Ireland is that many of its amazing sites are in the wide-open: the cliffs and shores, castles, cathedrals and great stone circles are accessible throughout the year. The countryside, too, holds its famous green, even in the winter when visitors can trace the landscape of long stone walls against a leafless sky and emerald-colored hillsides.

To ensure your comfort while you wander through Ireland, bring heavy sweaters and outdoor clothing and hats. Warm, comfortable (and preferably waterproof) shoes are a must, and pack turtlenecks and windbreakers for good measure. The good news is that because Ireland is situated on the eastern Atlantic side of the Gulf Stream, temperatures are typically more moderate than in continental Europe. Ireland’s average winter temperature is a relatively mild 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ireland can be equally enjoyed through a fully escorted or independent tour, and often at additional savings over already low rates. A good travel agent familiar with Ireland is the best resource for planning your off-season itinerary to ensure that you experience the best aspects of traveling during this time. Travel agents can connect you to highly regarded tour operators who are financially sound and have a reliable history of taking care of the agent’s clients. In fact, Tourism Ireland has a group of destination specialists that can set you down in Dublin in real style.

Monday, March 28, 2011


On November 1, 2011, AMResorts, provider of sales, marketing and brand management services for Zo√ętry Wellness & Spa Resorts, and Secrets, Dreams and Now Resorts & Spas, will reintroduce the Sunscape Resorts & Spas brand with the opening of Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa (formerly Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa). Following a $10 million USD renovation, the resort will become AMResorts first property in the popular Mexico destination. The Sunscape brand also reintroduces the Unlimited-Fun® vacation concept – a new way to have it all for families, friends and singles.
AMResorts will build on Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa's existing reputation; strong repeat guest records high service standards, quality food and beverage offerings and the best location in the destination. Ixtapa will be the seventh Mexico destination to have an AMResorts property, demonstrating the company's success and confidence in this market.

Located in the heart of the beautiful beach town of Ixtapa on Mexico's popular Pacific coast, the oceanfront Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa, set on Playa del Palmar which has received the Mexican government's distinction for its clean beaches, will treat guests to 285 spacious rooms, including 20 ocean front family style suites, all with private terraces and remarkable views of Palmar Bay. Six international restaurants and three bars will delight guests with regional and international cuisine and unlimited premium beverages, while two pools, including a main pool with two waterslides and a swim-up bar, two-lighted tennis courts, and a vast array of day and evening activities will provide many options to entertain. All these, along with an array of specialty themed dining options and bars serving premium domestic and international beverages and endless day and evening activities, is included in the Unlimited-Fun® vacation concept.

Families with children will appreciate the resort's Explorers' Club for Kids, which offers fully-supervised activities for younger guests (ages 3-12). Exciting program activities include sandcastle competitions, arts & crafts, big screen movies on the beach, daily campout adventures, and more. A brand new Core Zone Teen's Club also will debut to provide dedicated activities and facilities for teens.

The resort's new spa will offer the perfect atmosphere for those seeking relaxation with a variety hydrotherapy rooms and features, and soothing signature treatments. Couples treatment rooms, and oceanfront massage options will complete the stimulating and peaceful experience. The spa also will feature a full service beauty salon offering hair treatments, waxing, and manicure and pedicure services.

Additionally, the property's newly renovated meeting space will have a business center with computer stations, and over 9,000 square feet of dedicated meeting and function space with capacity for up to 550 people in a theater set-up. Four smaller breakout rooms are perfect for group meetings and incentive travelers.

Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa also provides the perfect romantic setting for a destination wedding with many special amenities and a new wedding gazebo available exclusively for the bride and groom.

The resort's multi-million dollar renovation calls for a complete upgrade to all its rooms – from decor to amenities like LED TVs, mini bars and more. A new wedding gazebo, as well as restaurants and bars, including – but not limited to – the company's signature Coco Cafe, Barefoot Grill for pool-side snacks and Desires nightclub, also will be added. Brand new spa and Core Zone Teen's Club, as well as revamped Explorer's Club and meetings facilities complete the project.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shane's getaway to the Fearrington House Country Inn

Fearrington House/Village are part of the Relais et Chateaux, so you know the quality is gonna be A+. Conde Nast Traveller readers have rated " The Fearrington House Country Inn" located in Pittsboro, NC, approximate 8 miles from Chapel Hill, NC, as one of the top 100 rated hotels in the World! There is a reason for this accolade.

We stayed in the "Grand Suite". The value was phenomenal--and Grand it was!!!! We had a separate house (#35) with it's own gated courtyard. And the room had two sitting areas, a library/den/dressing room (with incredible storage space), a master bathroom with Molton Brown products, heated floors, a whirlpool tub, separate shower, dual sinks, and a toilet in it's own large room. There was even a docking station for the iPhone!

The welcome upon arrival was so warm. Soledad who manages the property could not have been nicer. She presented us with The Fearrington House Cookbook, showed us the entire grounds, and brought us to our room (or house!). There was fruit and a tray of petit fours. Every night tawny port and two glasses appeared, along with Ghirardelli dark chocolate, sea salt potato chips, "Jelly Belly" beans,and mineral water. Juan the sales manager showed us around the grounds. This property has fainting goats, belted galloway cows and hiking trails throughout.

The Village of Fearrington consists of many shops and little places to eat. No doubt, this is probably the best venue for a wedding that I have ever seen. They have a decorated barn that can accommodate 300 guests (fully catered) and they also have a wedding planner on site that will do everything from start to finish. You can get married outside in their beautifully manicured grounds or in the barn.

Breakfast (accompanied by the NY Times paper) in The Fearrington House Restaurant was delicious and served professionally. Afternoon tea with scones, jams, clotted cream, pastries, tea sandwiches, etc. was reminiscent of the UK-- without the outrageous cost.

We had the 3 course dinner in The Fearrington House Restaurant and it was comparable to many Michelin starred restaurants in which we have dined. The foie gras, the rabbit and the chocolate souffle were all exceptional. Phillip who served us 2X was excellent, knowledgeable and quite personable.

Massages at the new beautiful spa would be a perfect way to end a stay here!

Shane Lawrence

Leisure and Honeymoon Specialist

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Travel agents are just like Google, only we are human.

Believe in the value of a good travel agent? 
Well- trained travel specialists offer very valuable services and information almost impossible to uncover by yourself regardless of how diligently you search online. A good travel agent will save you time, save you money and provide insights into the logistics of your trip.  Good travel agents keep their ear to the ground.  They know which tour operators to use and which to avoid. They know the difference between a hotel in city center and a cheaper but far less convenient one on the outskirts of town. Travel agents can look at all airlines and give you the best fare that fits your times of travel. If you call US Air they will not tell you that there is a lower fare on Delta.
Most people think travel agents sell travel. The fact is, however, a great travel agent doesn’t sell anything, but instead helps people buy wisely. They research and discuss the options. Travel agents steer away from obstacles and look into nooks and crannies that other online websites neglect. They help to insure the quality of a trip. Time and again, travel agents have saved people money, made good supplier choices and helped people purchase wisely.

How valuable is that?