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How to Plan a Trip on a Whim—and Save

Maroma Resort

When it comes to trip-planning, I tend to get serious: My husband E. would tell you that I sometimes spend too much time on pre-trip research and packing deliberations, but recently, I tried a different approach: I used a travel auction site to book a trip to Mexico’s Riviera Maya 12 days out and left the planning to chance. While E. and I briefly entertained Istanbul and Rome, one of our favorite cities, we quickly agreed that what we really needed was four or five days of sleeping, eating, reading, a little walking, a lot of unplugging, and a beach—without our three kids.

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Q&A: Lenny Kravitz on His Design Concept for the SLS Hotel South Beach

Lenny Kravitz

The musician, actor, and founder of Kravitz Design lends his eclectic ethos to the SLS Hotel South Beach, where he created the penthouse suite and a private bungalow. Here, he reveals his inspirations, his love for Miami, and why he sometimes locks himself in hotel rooms.

Q: So what does a rock star know about hotel design?
A:
I’ve been living in hotels for the past 25 years. When I have a day off on tour, I’ll say, “For twenty-four hours I’m not going to leave this room”—so it’s got to have a personal feeling.

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What's New in Hong Kong's Sheung Wan District

Select 18 in Hong Kong

The historic Sheung Wan district is abuzz with new restaurants and shops—plus a chic hotel that has solidified the area’s rebirth.

Hotel de Edge by Rhombus: Value-conscious jet-setters check in to the 32-story hotel for its streamlined rooms, free Wi-Fi, and sweeping views of Victoria Harbour. For dinner, head to the on-site Glo restaurant, which attracts a stylish crowd. 94-95 Connaught Rd. W. $$

Select 18 (pictured): Discerning hipsters browse this petite spot for vintage eyeglass frames, from Moscot to Dior. It also stocks secondhand couture; look out for 1980’s Vivienne Westwood baubles and Chanel jackets. 18 Bridges St.; 852/9127-3657.

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Hotel Renovation: The Algonquin

Algonquin Hotel exterior

When does a hotel renovation become personal? Well, when you’ve stayed at a property so many times you recognize every changed detail. Or when the hotel is also the view from your office window.

That’s why we at Travel + Leisure have been so interested in the recent renovation of New York’s Algonquin Hotel. It sits directly across the street from our offices, and some editors (including me) look out the window directly to the hotel’s top four floors. So when we heard that the famous hotel was re-opening recently after a five-month renovation, we asked for a peek.

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Sleep Under the Stars in NYC

20120606_akablogjpgOpportunities to sleep outside in NYC, safely removed from traffic and filth, are few: The Bronx Zoo offers summer overnight family safaris with a sea lion wake-up call. On select summer nights, families can sleep out in the city parks, watched over by rangers. But for the most part, unless you drag a mattress onto your fire escape like the Kramdens, you’ll probably be sleeping inside.

Except if you go five-star. AKA Central Park, a luxury residence/hotel combo, is offering a night out on the 1,000-square-foot wrap-around terrace of its 17th-floor penthouse suite. You’ll get cocktails, s’mores (ingredients from Jacques Torres) to toast in front of the fireplace, champagne, a Nook e-reader loaded with campfire stories, a telescope, a TV (really?), and a bed under the stars.

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Trend Alert: Hotels Raising Chickens

chicken

Rooftop herb gardens are so last year: now hotels are keeping their own chickens. The henhouse at Quebec City’s Fairmont Le Château Frontenac has a copper roof to match the property’s. Atop New York’s Crosby Street Hotel, four Araucana chickens lay blue-shelled eggs. And the rare birds that André Balazs raises upstate appear at the restaurant at his Standard New York. Very plucky, indeed.

Photo by iStockphoto

Crowdsourcing: What to Do When You're Near the Ritz London

Ritz London

We asked true travel pros what to do near The Ritz London, Piccadilly's grande dame for over a century. Want to share your expertise? Join our community on Facebook at facebook.com/travelandleisure and at Twitter @TravlandLeisure.

Zara Home’s (129 Regent St.) pretty and affordable bed linens are a must-buy. I’m anxiously hoping they’ll open in the U.S.” —Carolyn Ernst, via Facebook

“You’ll find free choral recitals (and an amazing flea market on Tuesdays) at St. James’s Church (197 Piccadilly).” —Sunshine Flint, via Facebook

The Only Running Footman, near Berkeley Square, is my favorite pub for people-watching—it’s packed with locals after work.” —Georgia Aarons, via Facebook

“I recommend the Wolseley for great cream teas, and the deck chairs in Green Park on a sunny day.” —Zoe Bramley, via Facebook

“Check out Paxton & Whitfield (93 Jermyn St.); they’ve sold crave-worthy cheeses since 1742.” —@tammypeters

Fakhreldine (85 Piccadilly) is the place for high-end Lebanese food and an iconic park view.” —Julie Brennan, via Facebook

Photo courtesy of The Ritz London

The Iconic Pool at the Biltmore, Miami

Biltmore Hotel pool, Miami

Why the pool at the Biltmore Hotel, in Coral Gables, Florida, deserves a place in the iconography of travel.

Miami was built on a grandiose dream that somehow came true. The Biltmore’s fanciful half-acre pool—flanked by a Moorish tower and faux-Roman statuary—embodies the infinite possibilities of this city of whimsy. The winter headquarters of the Roaring Twenties, the hotel survived the 1930’s with Busby Berkeley–style aquacades starring Esther Williams; Johnny Weissmuller, in pre-Tarzan days, was a swim coach. By the 1970’s, the derelict Biltmore had become the local version of the hotel in The Shining—as kids, we’d sneak in and use it as a spooky clubhouse. Over time, both hotel and pool reopened, but every swim remains a dip into myth, enveloped by glittering ghosts. $

Hotel courtesy of The Biltmore

Vacationist Hotel Deals: Manhattan, Scottsdale, Bali + a Destination Spa

Book now on Vacationist, and you can stay in some of your favorite hotels and resorts for up to 40% off.

SALE ENDS IN 3 DAYS!
201205-b-vacationist-nolitanjpgNolitan Hotel - up to 35% off - New York City, New York
The first boutique hotel to open in Manhattan's Nolita (North of Little Italy) neighborhood, the Nolitan exudes both low-key hipness and local charm.

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TODAY Show Video: Affordable Beach Vacations

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Looking to plan a seaside getaway—with hotel rates under $200 a night? Hear Travel + Leisure's deputy editor, Laura Begley Bloom's, best tips for an affordable beach vacation right now.

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