Ask an Expert: T+L Online Executive Editor Rich Beattie
Q: I travel often for work. Can you recommend some tech-friendly hotels? —David Frank, via e-mail
A: Room service is being upstaged by tech service. Brands from Mondrian to Fairmont have hopped on the iPad-in-every-room bandwagon at select locations, but Switzerland’s Bellevue Palace (Bern; 41-31/320-4545; bellevue-palace.ch; doubles from $552) takes it a step further: you order dinner from one, then watch it being prepared via video feed. At Las Vegas’s Aria Resort & Casino (doubles from $149), doors and lights are operated by sensor; New York City’s new Yotel (877/909-6835; yotel.com; doubles from $149) has a robotic luggage handler in the lobby. And the Ritz-Carlton tech staff will troubleshoot your iAnything, 24/7.
Q: I’m planning a birthday getaway in Napa Valley, California, for my wife. Any advice on newsy hotels? —John Rogers, Okatie, S.C.
A: The Bardessono Hotel, Restaurant & Spa (doubles from $550) has a new package available with the Land Trust of Napa County that allows full access to private trails, including one to Devil’s Well waterfall (the hotel’s spa suites, with their deep soaking tubs, are perfect après-hike). The Meritage Resort & Spa (Napa; 866/370-6272; themeritageresort.com; doubles from $209) is undergoing a $40 million expansion to be completed next year; Meadowood Napa Valley (doubles from $525), on 250 acres, recently won a third Michelin star for The Restaurant at Meadowood, helmed by Christopher Kostow, making it one of only two three-starred restaurants west of Chicago (the other is Yountville’s French Laundry).
Q: Do you have any tips for booking flights for multicity travel? —Dan O’Brien, Des Moines, Iowa
A: Booking engines such as Kayak and Orbitz have multicity search functions, but keep possible headaches (trip cancellations, et al.) at bay by sticking to a single airline alliance. A series of one-way tickets is typically more expensive than round-trips, but they may be the way to go, and a good travel agent can suggest strategies for saving. According to Jim Strong, president of Strong Travel Services and a T+L Travel Agent Advisory Board member, you should buy the first and last flights together and the middle separately—“it will lower your taxes, fees, and airfare costs.” Some websites, such as AirTreks (airtreks.com), cater specifically to multi-destination (and round-the-world) journeys.
Q: We want to take our family of five to Africa, but don’t want to spend all of our time in Jeeps. Know any other great safari options? —Mary Marg Mackinnon, Vancouver
A: You can safely spot roaming lions and buffalo herds while trekking along Zambia’s Mupamadzi River on African Portfolio’s 11-day Game Trails (800/700-3677; onsafari.com; from $6,320 per person). Guests sleep in huts set into 700-year-old baobab trees before hiking the rim of the game-filled Ngorongoro Crater as part of Micato’s Tanzania Spectacular Safari (from $7,250 per person). And on Abercrombie & Kent’s five-day Kenya: Camel Safari (866/259-6753; akextremeadventures.com; from $6,270 per person), travelers may happen upon nomadic Masai warriors as they ride through the Nandanguru Plain on the original all-terrain vehicle—camels.
Since 1966, the Pinto family of Kenya and New York has been welcoming guests to Africa with an extraordinary level of service and in-country expertise. Guide Alan Petersen has led David Beckham and Robert De Niro. T+L Trip pick Discover Africa’s Heritage. Visit unesco-protected areas such as Kenya’s Lake Nakuru and Zanzibar’s Stone Town.
Meadowood Napa Valley
ARIA, Las Vegas
It takes a lot to make waves in Sin City, but Aria did it in 2009, redefining the skyline with its minimalist, curvilinear glass towers housing 4,004 rooms, 18 restaurants, eight bars, a nightclub, a casino, spa, pools, and resident Cirque du Soleil show. The accommodations, with floor-to-ceiling windows and iconic masculine Vegas style, have beauty and brains: upon entering the guest rooms, the curtains open and the TV switches on to reveal customizable room controls for lighting, temperature, music, and wakeup signals. Also impressive is Aria’s LEED gold certification. Ample natural light, wood, and stone throughout are proof that green can be sexy.