January has just flown by for us and it's been rather a blur. Thankfully, our decision to cut back on our personal travel in the first half of the year is proving to be wise. Combined with our new team member this has enabled us to maintain and perhaps even improve on our client service levels, something that is of the utmost importance to us.
We've noticed a trend that requests are coming in much further in advance for trip planning, and I can't begin to tell you how much this pleases me. It is so important if you are looking for a special trip to think a long time ahead. Your planning experience will be calmer, you are likely to find availability for what you need, and you will nearly always enjoy better value.
This is particularly true for a holiday season trip, and so if you'd like a Happy Christmas 2019 somewhere other than home, then now is the time to plan it. There are several destinations (Costa Rica, I'm thinking of you) that already have availability issues at some of the more popular properties.
Meanwhile, this weeks Top 5 focuses on some holiday season 2019 ideas that should provide excellent value, compared with some of the very steep markups that occur in the traditional Caribbean destinations and with their respective flights.
Happy Christmas 2019 Top 5
1. Puerto Rico
Now almost completely recovered from the devastating double hurricane hit in 2017, Puerto Rico needs its tourism industry back, and thankfully it has started to happen. There are not many islands that can combine a beautiful, historic walled capital, beaches, coral reef diving, museums. casinos and El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the entire US National Forest System. Relaxation or adventure or both! We have a favorite boutique property here, the Hotel El Convento (above), located in old San Juan. A former Carmelite convent built 350 years, El Convento has gone through many incarnations before a complete refurbishment carefully restored this historic hotel.
2. Cruise it
Holiday season cruising is always popular and is legitimately priced as high season, but markups are reasonable when compared with many Caribbean resorts and those pesky flights.
Book a suite early to enjoy the extra amenities and restaurant access that they often include and the value can be compelling. One great suggestion - Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas on a December 24th 6-night Cuba cruise out of Miami that includes stops at Cienfuegos (above) known for its coffee production, and of course, Havana.
3. Florida Keys
A great idea for a warm weather domestic holiday season vacation. The Keys have also bounced back strongly from hurricane damage. Fly all the way down to Key West or head to Miami and drive the amazing route of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway (US1, above). The roughly 100 mile drive is absolutely one of the most stunning drives in the world. There is a brand new adults-only All-Inclusive in Key Largo which is a haven if you are actually trying to escape from family perhaps. Bungalows Key Largo (below) will be an oasis of calm. Or for a perfect family gathering, check in at Playa Largo Resort, a full service luxury resort with villas and bungalows that can sleep between 4 and 8 guests in considerable comfort.
4. City break
It was 1977 when our family spent Christmas in New York City. I remember opening my present of a Sony Walkman and have just got a little nostalgic as I found a photo of my actual model (below). Soon after we were walking around Central Park whilst I was listening to a cassette of Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours". It was a miracle, and the most memorable Christmas ever. So, consider embracing winter weather and enjoying everything that a city Christmas break can offer, from museums and theater to top restaurants and amazing Christmas decorations, to walking around in a daze listening to your favorite tunes.
5. Buenos Aires, Argentina
If you're on the east coast of USA and fly due south to Argentina, there is no jetlag to worry about and a 7-day trip is much more feasible than say, heading to Europe for the same time-frame. It's summer down there in December, so simply gorgeous, and the weak Argentine Peso ensures unbelievable value for your trip. One of our top recommendations is Faena Hotel (above), located in the waterside neighborhood of Puerto Madero and a short walk to the city’s major tourist attractions. The hotel redefines the travel experience by combining art, recreation, nature and technology. There's even the famous Argentine tango on site at El Cabaret, home to the world's most riveting tango show—Rojo Tango (below).
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