FAENA MIAMI BEACH
Faena Miami Beach - the only hotel where you see the beach directly from the lobby.

Faena Miami Beach - the only hotel where you see the beach directly from the lobby.

I just returned from a short stay at Faena Miami Beach.  The resort is a work of art, the food is delicious and the service is impeccable.  Faena Miami Beach is the brainchild of Alan Faena.  Alan is one of Buenos Aires' most famous women's clothing designers.  At heart, he is an artist.  He has left the fashion world to devote himself to creating utopias.  Alan started with Faena Hotel Buenos Aires by turning an abandoned shipping port, Puerto Madero, into a destination landmark hotel.  Next he turned to Miami, buying multiple properties in a prime location on Miami Beach.  He turned the legendary Saxony Hotel, the first hotel in Miami with air conditioning, into Faena Miami Beach.  He is also building residences, the Faena Art Center and the Faena Forum which Madonna is christening this week with an intimate concert.  The transformation is so grand, that the City of Miami has designated the area as the Faena District Miami Beach.

Knowing that background on Alan Faena and his vision really helps to appreciate this resort.  It touches all your senses.  The fragrance throughout the resort is so memorable.  It will always remind the guests of their stay at Faena.  It is an Art Deco building and transport you back to the heyday of Miami Beach.  The furnishings are beautiful, of course.  Alan also made the decision to outfit every single room with a $10,000 Toto toilet.  

 

Miami really needed a true 5 star property where attention to detail is a priority.  Faena Miami Beach will be the best, most exclusive resort in Miami Beach for many years to come.

Contact me at 314-780-8845 or email me for more information on Faena Miami Beach.

BELMOND BRAVISSIMO MYANMAR

If you have never considered visiting Myanmar, you will be dusting off your old Burmese dictionary and booking your flights after viewing this video.  Belmond offers travelers an extraordinary opportunity to visit this beautiful country, as well as to truly get to know its people.  A highlight of the trip is to take a cruise on the Ayeyarwady River aboard the Belmond, Road to Mandalay!

Contact me for more information!

Julie Jones
Winter, 2017: Where are You Going?

Hotel Barriere Le Majestic

If you haven’t booked your winter vacation/spring break for 2017, you better move quickly.  Accommodations are selling out fast.  I have been having so much fun researching, collaborating with clients and booking incredible trips around the world for Winter, 2017. If you have your heart set on Galapagos Islands and need to travel during school vacation dates, please remember you need to book 9-12 months in advance to reserve the cruise or camp of your choice.  It is such a popular destination for families!

Personally, I just booked my flights for Cannes, France for the annual ILTM Cannes travel event.  Afterwards, I’m traveling to Paris for a long weekend to visit as many 5 star properties as possible.  I like to visit old favorites to say hello to all the wonderful general managers.  The time also allows me to visit hotels I have never seen before.  For example, Ritz Paris has just reopened after a very lengthy renovation.  I am having Champagne with the general manager as he takes me on a tour of the hotel.  La Reserve is also a new, very exclusive boutique hotel.  I have the pleasure of staying at La Reserve this trip and am so excited!!  These visits allow me to really understand each property, so I can advise my clients on which hotel will best fit their needs and their pocketbook.  

Hotel Barriere Le Majestic

I have never been to Cannes, France.  I’m staying at the Hotel Barriere Le Majestic.  It is one of the iconic properties in this famous sea town that is filled with movie stars every June.  I won’t have a lot of time to explore the area, because I will be in meetings for most days with hoteliers, tour companies and other travel service providers.  I will get to learn about new properties and suppliers, visit with and strengthen my relationships with my friends in the industry and hopefully enjoy a bit of Champagne in the evenings.

I have also been having a great time planning the Jones family Spring Break 2017.  I need to listen to my own advise and book it now before I start hearing “sorry, we are sold out on your dates”.  I’m considering some wonderful properties in Jamaica and St. Lucia.  It’s so hard to decide.  I’ll certainly let everyone know where I’m going when we finally make up our minds.

My clients are heading to the Caribbean, Belize, Nicaragua and Galapagos Islands.  I am also working on a few trips to Peru, one of my favorite countries!  If you haven’t been to Peru, put it on your short list.  In addition to Machu Picchu, you need to visit the Sacred Valley, the amazon rainforest either on a cruise a safari-type camp and also Lake Titicaca.  It is the largest lake in Central America and has the highest elevation of any lake in the World.  Amazing!!

There are quite a few new properties in the Caribbean.  I have also learned that Baha Mar is recommencing construction!  It is the huge complex of resorts on Nassau that I like to say is the adult version of Atlantis on Paradise Island.  Hyatt has recommitted to the project.  I will be really excited if Rosewood recommits.  They would be an amazing five star edition to Nassau.  No word from Rosewood, yet.

I hope you have secured your winter vacation plans.  If not, contact me!  julie@topflighttravels.com or 314-780-8845.

Julie Jones
Dog Days of Summer
You don't need to leave the US for stunning beauty!!  This is the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge in Newport, Rhode Island.  I took this picture yesterday-7/25/2016.

You don't need to leave the US for stunning beauty!!  This is the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge in Newport, Rhode Island.  I took this picture yesterday-7/25/2016.

What a crazy summer it has been!!  Clients have been traveling nonstop.  It has been tough just keeping on top of where everyone is and what they are doing each day this summer.  Thankfully, there have been no missteps or problems.  All I’m hearing is what a wonderful time everyone is having, how much they are loving their hotels and how much they are learning from the fabulous tour guides I’m able to secure for them.

My clients have been traveling all over the world to places including Peru, Ireland, Italy, France, Scotland, England, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Sedona, California, New York, Boston, South Beach and Mexico.  As you can see, Europe has been very popular this summer.  

Even though there are still a few weeks before the kids return to school, I have been starting to get calls about where to take the family over the winter break.  If you have your heart set on a trip to the Galapagos or an organized tour with leaders in the industry such as Abercrombie & Kent, Backroads or National Geographic Expeditions, you may need to look at 2017 dates.  Their most popular tours need to be booked about a year in advance for dates when kids are out of school.

There are still lots and lots of fantastic options for families.  A few families may want to go all out on an African safari.  Other families may want to recharge and rejuvenate on a beach vacation with easy access from home.  I love finding destinations and resorts that are not well known to the general public.  It can make even the most typical beach vacation an adventure.  

I also find that my suggested tours, destinations and properties vary with every single client.  Every client is unique.  My recommendations take into account their different personalities and what they want out of their vacation.  There is never one property our tour company that works for everyone.  

I will be posting about a few favorite recommendations I make to clients over the next few months as I plan everyone’s winter vacations.  Contact me soon to work with you on your winter vacation.  I do max out on how many clients I can give proper attention to at one time.

Happy Summer!!

Julie Jones
Must-Have Travel Gadgets and Accessories for 2016

There are certain things I never leave home without.  My list of must-haves changes a bit each year as I learn about new items on the market with other travel advisors and clients.  Here are a few of my favorites:

 Compression Travel Bags.  Honestly, these compression bags have changed my travel life.  I’m sure they have been around for years, but I am so grateful to have discovered them.  I bought Eagle Creek Pack-it Compression bags at REI for my trip to Peru.  These bags suck all the air out of your clothes and turns a suitcase of clothes into a small brick.  I had about 4 small bricks for each climate change of my trip.  It helped in organization and enabled me to take over a week’s worth of luggage in a small carry-on.  Crazy!  Now, I wouldn’t recommended taking your linen pants with you.  Otherwise, these bags are a game changer.


 Updated Passport.  Even if you don’t have international travel plans set in place, get your passport renewed.  Passports may soon be required for domestic travel in quite a few states, meaning the Department of State of will be deluged with passport applications and renewals from individuals who would never normally need a passport.  I would not have faith that the government will increase their productivity capabilities until after they are bogged down with increased processing delays.  Don’t get caught in that mess.  Renew your passport now.


 Battery Charger for Cell Phone.  Battery chargers aren’t new news, but they remain an absolute must for travels.  There is nothing worse than your phone’s battery dying right when you reach the best photo op of the day.  I find that I need to buy a new charger about every year.  Their power diminishes with use.  I also get the biggest charger available.  I just find those little batteries need recharging too often to make them useful.


 SPG American Express Credit Card.  Don’t leave home without it.  I transfer the points to the airline of my choice for free flights all the time.  The points can also be used for bargain stays at wonderful Starwood properties around the world.  Alternatively, the Venture Capital One card is excellent.  With excellent credit, you can earn two points for every $ spent.  The points can be used to offset any travel Dollars charged to the card.


 Tumi Luggage.  Tumi Luggage continues to sell some of the highest quality luggage on the market.  Their customer service is also very impressive.  I took my luggage to a local retailer to have a zipper repaired on a 20 year old piece of Tumi Luggage (it was still in excellent condition).  Instead of repairing the zipper, Tumi replaced the luggage!!  Tumi is well worth the high cost.  I agree the high cost is very high!  My trick has been to buy it on ruelala.com.  If you aren’t familiar with this website, they have flash sales on clothing and home goods.  Every so often, they sell Tumi at 50% off or greater.  Buy a piece at a time.  You will be so happy.

Four Seasons Continues to Expand its Global Footprint

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts success is due to its unwavering dedication to the highest standards of service and hospitality, according to J. Allen Smith, President and CEO.  Building on that success, Four Seasons has been growing its portfolio around the world.  

Four Seasons Surf Club

Four Seasons Surf Club

I am most excited about its revival of the legendary Surf Club in Four Seasons style, opening in 2016.  The Surf Club opened as a private club in 1930 and was frequented by celebrities and world leaders such as Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Winston Churchill.  Located just a few minutes south of Bal Harbour, The Surf Club boasts 965 feet of Atlantic oceanfront and will once again be a glamorous retreat for those looking for both peace and luxury.

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina

Another new property creating tons of buzz is the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina slated to open mid-2016.  Located on oahu’s sunny western coast, it balances a classic hawaiian style with one-of-a-kind luxury.  The area is wild and rugged, yet conveniently close to Honolulu and Waikiki Beach.  Oahu is becoming newly discovered as one of the most requested Hawaiian islands to visit.

Rumor has it that Four Seasons is opening a new resort in Los Cabos.  Having bounced back to better than its former glory, Los Cabos has become the hot spot for luxurious, trendy and sophisticated beach resorts.  The addition of a Four Seasons will make it very hard choosing where to stay during your next visit.

Rumors are also very persistent about Four Seasons opening a property in Grand Cayman.  I will be very curious as to the location chosen for the resort.  The beach in front of the Ritz is terribly overcrowded.  Guests of the Ritz will not find the peaceful solitude often found in most areas of Seven Mile Beach.  I have great confidence that Four Seasons will create another oasis in Grand Cayman, consistent with the standards it has set at all its properties.

Did you know TopFlight Travels is a Four Seasons Preferred Partner?

Did you know TopFlight Travels is a Four Seasons Preferred Partner?

I’m a Preferred Partner with Four Seasons.  This wonderful honor ensures my clients receive VIP treatment during their stays at Four Seasons, and also provides valuable amenities not offered to the public.  Please contact me at 314-780-8845 or julie@topflighttravels.com for more information on your next glorious stay at a Four Seasons.

Instilling the love of travel in your children

What is the easiest way to instill the love of travel in your children?  Take them to as many different destinations as time and money will allow.  It’s that easy.  I can’t imagine a child who isn’t filled with awe and wonderment when experiencing new places and cultures.  

I recently read an article about how to see the 7 continents in 7 decades.  It starts as a child.  Take your children to one of our country’s national parks.  A few years later, take them either to Europe for a cultural experience or to (my personal favorite) South America to experience incredible experiences with nature either hiking in Peru or Chile or learning about evolution and Darwin’s theories in the Galapagos.

As adults, your children will always be planning their next adventure, guaranteed.  Hopefully, those plans include a tour of India, or, better yet, an Indian safari.  A visit to Morocco should be on everyone’s list.  It is a short flight from anywhere in Europe and is really a great way to cap off a trip to Europe.  When they are older and have more time on their hands, surely they will be planning an extended tour of Australia and a visit to the majestic white continent of Antartica with fantastically shaped icebergs, turquoise glaciers and bustling penguins.

This summer, my family has too many family obligations and won’t be able to take a summer trip.  Since we can’t all travel, I’m not letting it stop my 15 year old son from exploring new territory.  Will is taking a tour of Barcelona, Rome, Tuscany and Paris with Travel for Teens.  http://www.travelforteens.com/.  This tour company for high school students has been around for many years and has been highly recommended to me by quite a few friends.  I can’t personally speak for them yet but will be sure to share my son’s experience when he returns.  

Travel for Teens has programs just about everywhere.  Your son or daughter can travel to six out of seven continents for culture and outdoor adventures.  I’m guessing not too many parents would ship their kids to Antartica.  Their programs can also include community service, photography and language immersion programs.  They really offer something for everyone.

Personally, I am so happy my son is developing a love for travel.  This summer will surely strengthen his resolve to see as much of the world as possible in his lifetime.

Please contact me for any information on visiting new destinations on your bucket list at 314-780-8845 or julie@topflighttravels.com.

I LOVE PERU!!!

Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba

Peru is an incredibly beautiful country.  I had the privilege to visit Peru last week and am really struck by the beauty of its land, culture and people.  Every single person encountered has been so warm, kind and friendly.  The people take such pride in their country and are genuinely thrilled to share the history, culture and beauty of their homeland.

My trip began in the Amazon rainforest located near Puerto Maldonado.  I stayed at Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion http://www.inkaterra.com/, located in Southeastern Peru about 34 miles from the Bolivian border.  The staff is so welcoming, and the guides are truly special.  They are so knowledgeable about the wildlife, land and the country’s conservation efforts.  They take great pride in sharing their knowledge.  We hiked through the jungle, rode a canoe on the beautiful Lake Sandoval and walked the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway at the top of the tree line.  As expected, it is very humid.  You do spend your days protecting yourself from mosquitoes and spend your nights under mosquito netting.  For those travelers up for the adventure, it is an experience to treasure.  For me, waking up to the sounds of rain, birds and monkeys is a memory I’ll always cherish.

After a few days, we traveled to Cusco and visited the Sacred Valley.  I am absolutely in love with Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba.  It is a stunning, newly built resort.  The design and decor of the property is incredibly beautiful, and the resort is set in a valley surrounded by breathtaking mountains.  It is impossible to describe the beauty of Sacred Valley.  You must see it for yourself.  We met with a lovely family who taught us how they weave alpaca wool into beautiful scarves, sweaters and blankets.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Haioupo Lake and met with darling young boys playing in their village who approached us just to say hello.  It is also the perfect setting for cycling, horseback riding, rock climbing, birding and astronomy.

Of course, you can’t visit Peru without visiting Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  We took the Inca Rail line in First Class and enjoyed a wonderful lunch while watching the incredible scenery of mountains next to river rapids.  We stayed at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.  This property is right next to the raging River Urubamba.  It is truly the very best place to stay when visiting Machu Picchu.  The atmosphere of the hotel, mixed with the sounds of the river and the incoming/outgoing trains is a delight.  The food is also very authentic and delicious.  The guides are also so wonderful.  They explored Machu Picchu with us, explaining the history of this spiritual land in wonderful detail.

I also had the pleasure of briefly visiting Cusco for lunch.  Cusco is a beautiful, vibrant city 11,000 feet above sea level.  I needed a few more days in Peru to enjoy Cusco.  We visited the Inkaterra Casona which feels more like a private home than a hotel.  My experience in Peru far exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait to return!!

I have so many great pictures, I am just adding a slideshow if you care to view them.  Contact me at 314-780-8845 or julie@topflighttravels.com for information on Peru.

WHY I CAN'T WAIT TO RETURN TO GRAND CAYMAN...KIMPTON SEAFIRE RESORT & SPA
KIMPTON SEAFIRE RESORT & SPA

KIMPTON SEAFIRE RESORT & SPA

I love Grand Cayman!!  It is the first Caribbean Island I visited many years ago.  It is known for its fabulous restaurants as much as for its gorgeous beach.  The snorkeling and scuba diving can't be beat.  It is perfect for couples only and for families.  There is so much to do from taking a submarine ride, to visiting the turtle farm to visiting stingray city and Cayman Kai, not to mention all the wonderful meals to enjoy.

Grand Cayman mostly consists of condominiums from ultra luxurious to very basic.  Most of my clients, however, want the full service offered by resorts.  Their options are currently quite limited.  The Ritz Carlton has a wonderful, massive resort right in the center of 7 mile beach where all the action takes place.  It is a highly rated Ritz, and you get what you pay for....which is a lot.  On the Northern end of the beach, which is more quiet with a better, quieter beach, you find the Westin.  It is actually a small Westin.  Some clients love it due to its lovely pool, great service and the location of the beach.  However, the rooms are small and the feel of the resort is not 5 star.  Again, you get what you pay for, and this resort is much more affordable than the Ritz.  

Other than these two resorts, there are no resorts I am comfortable sending my clients who value luxury.  That is about to change.  Kimpton is set to open a new resort on the Northern end of the beach (my favorite location) in November, 2016!!  It will be a perfect offering for the couple or family who loves 5 star service at a price a bit more affordable than the Ritz.  Kimpton is a great brand known for its service and style.  This will be a new build with two pools, three restaurants, a 12,000 square foot spa, a communal fire pit and a boardwalk.  It will also have the most expansive beach of all properties on 7 Mile Beach.

It will be priced between the Westin and the Ritz and will be a fantastic addition to Grand Cayman.  I can't wait to visit!! 

Julie Jones
SEA CLOUD CRUISES
Sea Cloud

Sea Cloud

Sea Cloud Cruises is a fabulous cruise line.  I'm finding that many people are not aware of this company and that needs to change.

Sea Cloud consists of two actual hand-sailed windjammers, the SEA CLOUD and SEA CLOUD II, that sail the Caribbean (including Cuba) and Central America in the winter and Northern and Southern Europe in the summer.  Currently, both yachts are transitioning across the Atlantic to begin its winter season in the Caribbean.  Click here to see exactly where they are this moment.

Sea Cloud

Sea Cloud

The ships are what make Sea Cloud cruises so special.  SEA CLOUD was built in 1931 for E.F. Hutton and was owned until the 1950s by his wife Marjorie Merriweather Post.  During WWII, Roosevelt chartered the SEA CLOUD for a symbolic $1.00.  The masts were removed, and she was painted grey to serve as a weather station.  The SEA CLOUD has such a storied past, there is a book written on her history.

This casually luxurious yacht is available to the public.  It has 60 crew members for only 64 passengers and is available for private charter and individual or small group bookings.  The staterooms are like no other at sea.  Marjorie's stateroom is over 400 sq. ft.  E.F. Hutton's stateroom is wood paneled with its own fireplace.  In fact, all the original 8 staterooms have their own fireplace, as does the dining room and lounge.  The service and food meet the highest standards of the most sophisticated guests.  

The SEA CLOUD II is a similar, traditional windjammer that is relatively new.  They are both square riggers with up to 30 sales with the hull having the design of a sylish yacht.  There is a focus on the sailing of the ships where you can watch young men and women from all over the world climb dizzying heights as they step nimbly along the rigging to hoist the 30 sails in a traditional manner.  The sight is breathtaking.  You also can't forget that while you are experiencing this magnificent yacht, you are also exploring beautiful parts of the World!

Try something new.  Don't settle for the same experiences.  Call me for more information on Sea Cloud Cruises or email me. 

Julie Jones
Family Vacations: Where to Travel with the Whole Family-Kids, Parents and Grandparents.
Gateway Canyons Resort

Gateway Canyons Resort

How do you ensure that three generations of family members enjoy themselves equally on the same trip?  While everyone loves the beach, there is so much of the World to see.  

1.  One suggestion is a river cruise in Europe.  Just a few years ago, river cruises did not welcome children and mainly catered to retirees.  That has changed.  During the summer months, a few river cruise lines now designate specific cruises for families and work very hard to ensure that all travelers enjoy themselves.  I think Uniworld Cruise Line is terrific.  I know my clients would love, love this cruise, and now they have a program called Generations Family Cruises, so the whole family can enjoy time together.  Click here for more information on Uniworld family cruises.  

I'm also very excited about Adventures by Disney teaming with Amawaterways for a summer cruise down the danube.  Your family unpacks only once as you travel from Budapest, Hungary to Slovakia, Austria and Germany, enjoying action-packed shore excursions specially designed for families.  You can join the kids in all these activities or sit and enjoy a cocktail on the observation deck, watching the countryside at a leisurely pace.  2016 is the first summer for this cruise, and it is completely sold out.  Don't miss 2017! 

2.  If you prefer the ocean, Crystal Cruises is the luxury operator best suited for the family market.  I prefer Crystal cruises when traveling with grandparents, because grandparents don’t have to endure the endless Disney “experience”, thus allowing all generations to enjoy their trip.  Children receive their own daily newsletter letting them know of the next day’s adventures which may include scavenger hunts, story times, galley tours, pizza making, fashion shows, karaoke, movies, pool games, late night pool parties for the older kids and Twister popcorn parties.  Your children will have a blast while the older generation enjoys the luxury amenities, dining, spa and entertainment onboard.  Most importantly, the whole family can experience exotic destinations together, including Alaska, Hawaii and the South Pacific, the Mediterranean Sea, New England and Canada, Northern Europe, South America, the Northwest Passage or the Panama Canal.  Other times, it is nice to just visit the Caribbean.

3.  You also don’t have to travel far from home to have a truly special and unique experience.  Gateway Canyons Resort was built by John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel.  He has created a sustainable, outdoor recreation resort that highlights the beauty of Gateway, Colorado.  It is located near Grand Junction, Colorado and can be easily reached with a quick layover in Denver.  The resort is located in Unaweep Canyon, one of the most unique red rock canyons in the World.  Ancient rivers eroded the rock away, exposing more than one hundred million years of the geologic record and fossils of dinosaurs and early amphibians.  It is breathtakingly beautiful.  It also has the most relaxing, beautiful pools, wonderful restaurants, excellent service and beautiful, deluxe accommodations.  It has an activity center where you can sign up to rock climb, hike, bike, horseback ride, take helicopter tours or rent outrageously expensive sports cars to take on the open road.  People also travel far distances to visit Mr. Hendrick’s auto museum onsite.  His personal collection of nearly 60 prized and impeccably preserved historic cars in the country are displayed in a unique gallery setting.  While in a remote setting, Gateway Canyons Resort offers fun and excitement for the whole family.  

Email or call me at 314-780-8845 to plan your next adventure with your family.

Virtuoso Travel Week on the Today Show!

What a fun week in Vegas!  Virtuoso Travel Week always proves to be educational, exhausting and fun!  This year was no different.  Check out the Today Show's segment on our experience!

I think the video below is a great summarization of the experience.  I'm heading to ITLM Americas next week.  It will be held at the Fairmont Mayakoba in the Riviera Maya.  It is a market for luxury and ultra luxury suppliers to spread the word to the right agents about their resorts, tours and destinations.  Agents may attend by invitation only.  They are paying for my airfare and accommodations to be there, so how can I decline, right?  I just wish Billy could join me.  I look forward to sharing everything I learn with my wonderful clients!