7.19.2014

FS Punta Mita | beach paradise in Mexico

lounging under the manzanita trees at FS Punta Mita

It's all about the beach. Four Seasons Punta Mita has perhaps the nicest beach I've ever seen. Long, wide, and sandy, it's also uncrowded as the beach can only be accessed through the resort. In fact, the beach is so long at FS Punta Mita that there are actually two beaches. Pictured above is the quiet beach, the active beach being on the other side of the main pool area.

We were welcomed by a beach attendant offering piña coladas. We chose two lounges under the deep shade provided by a row of manzanita trees, and we were provided with complimentary towels and a menu. As is typical with Four Seasons resorts, an attendant came by periodically with small treats (I recall the frozen pineapple popsicle). The mid-July ocean water was warm, clear, and beautiful — just the perfect temperature to slip right in without even a momentary hesitation about "is it going to be cold."

Especially good values are available, especially if you use a Four Seasons Preferred Partner travel consultant to make your booking. You'll receive complimentary daily breakfast for two, a $100 food and beverage credit, room upgrade if available, and free basic WiFi... along with every third night free for selected dates. An all-inclusive plan is also available, and the Kids for All Seasons program is free of charge.

Guest rooms are large and comfortable. If you're a fan of Four Seasons, you'll feel very much at home at FS Punta Mita; the rooms have everything you would expect. Casitas have marble floors with an area rug in the "living room" section of your room and a Queen-size sofa bed that will easily accommodate two children. Garden view casitas are attractive, and Ocean view casitas offer a straight-on view of the ocean.

For a WOW experience, consider an Oceanfront casita or suite (with a clear, totally unimpeded view of the Pacific) or a Beachfront casita or suite from which you can step out from your patio right onto the quiet beach pictured above. In addition to Residences and Villas, guests who really want to splurge can choose the Coral Suite (one of two incredible 5 bedroom Presidential Suites).

The grounds are extensive, with just 175 rooms and suites spread over 26 acres of oceanfront resort, including two 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses and four restaurants. While this can mean a bit of walking, every time I dialed "0" and asked for a cart, a golf cart came for me within a couple of minutes. Punta Mita is easy to get to from many US destinations with easy non-stop flights to Puerto Vallarta.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.11.2014

The Brando | this place looks fabulous

The Brando, Tetiaroa

Just heard about this brand-new resort named after Marlon Brando. The Brando is set on the late actor's private Tahitian island, Tetiaroa, just a 15 minute flight from Tahiti. Small and intimate, guests stay in one of thirty-five luxury villas spread along the beachfront, each with a private plunge pool.

Environmentally sustainable, villas are powered with renewable sources of non-fossil energy. This is an all-inclusive resort with all meals as well as daily complimentary services including one excursion, a spa treatment, and laundry service.

Save 40% during the soft opening, now until the end of September, 2014.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.09.2014

your chance to win a Dakota Clip Clock


Dakota Watch Company sent me a review copy of the clip-on alarm clock shown above. Called the Clip Clock, it would appeal to outdoor and adventure travelers. The watch is extremely sturdy and comes with an impressive five year warranty.

The Clip Clock is just one of their styles. Other models have flashlights, knives, scissors, thermometers, bottle openers, and fishing line nippers. Dakota is said to be launching a Smart Watch early next year.

So here's your chance to win a prize! Book an outdoor travel adventure through me (with any Virtuoso resort, lodge, or tour company) between now and the end of July, tell me you're interested in the Clip Watch when you make the booking, and one lucky winner whose name is chosen at random will receive the watch! US residents (or delivery) only.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.03.2014

China 72 hour transit without visa

Temple of Heaven, Beijing — photo (c) David Ourisman, all rights reserved
A relatively new policy allows travelers to China with US passports (and quite a few other European and Asian countries as well) to avoid the hassle of applying for a Chinese visa if you meet some rather precise criteria. To summarize:

1. Your stay in China is under 72 hours
2. You are both arriving and departing from the same city — Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, and a few other cities
3. You're stopping in China enroute from your country of origin, through China, to a third country

My friend Ben S of PointsPros just took advantage of this program on his flight (which routed him from Zurich through Beijing en route to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — don't ask!) and blogged about it here. A really interesting article with some practical advice, if you're planning to do the same thing. (Ben's team has been phenomenal in helping me use miles for award travel).

Traveling to Beijing or Shanghai? Any Virtuoso travel consultant can provide you with free amenities at ten (10) hotels in Beijing and seven (7) hotels in Shanghai — complimentary daily breakfast for two, room upgrades, and other added perks — added value making these luxury hotels your best deal in these cities.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.01.2014

Burren National Park | County Clare, Ireland



Burren National Park has a most fascinating landscape. Derived from the Irish word Boíreann (meaning "rocky place"), the Burren is on the west coast of Ireland with an amazing variety of plants from many different habitats somehow ending up here. This is one place you'll definitely want a guide, as you'll never realize what you're looking at if you're on your own.

Free guided walking tours are provided by the National Park, and you can see the schedule of upcoming actives on their website.

Or get a complimentary private half-day walking tour with a two-night stay at Gregans Castle (with one of the most engaging tour guides I've ever heard). Gregans Castle is an absolutely enchanting small hotel in County Clare, and this is an exclusive Celebrated Perk that I can provide.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

6.28.2014

grill courtepaille | french fast food



France is known for its wonderful cuisine, so you would expect that the French also do a better job at fast food than we Americans. I had the opportunity to have lunch at a roadside grill cortepaille restaurant during my trip to France this past April. I can report that this is a great place to stop for a simple but tasty meal.

Everything is grilled over an open flame and served hot, along with delectable frites. Pictured below is their brochette de canard et figues at 15.90€.


We saw lots of French families having lunch during our meal. Although McDonalds is popular in France, why not try something local and authentic. Grill courtepaille is definitely a great place to stop if you're driving on an autoroute and you see one of their restaurants when you stop for lunch.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

6.18.2014

Amanpuri Summer Benefits



The original Amanresort, Amanpuri is situated on the west coast of Phuket Island, Thailand with views of the Andaman Sea. Meaning "place of peace," the resort has only 72 guest pavilions. Amanresorts is the world's preeminent family of boutique hotels with properties in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

You could easily become an Amanjunkie, an appellation apparently invented by the reservations team in Sri Lanka by which they refer to repeat Aman guests… and a title proudly accepted by guests who just can't get enough of Aman's style of secluded, peaceful luxury with personal, attentive service.

Could this summer be the time to take the plunge? Amanpuri is offering a Summer Benefits promotion, in combination with Virtuoso amenities, that seems like an irresistible temptation: room rates beginning at $550 per night inclusive of daily breakfast, one complimentary lunch or dinner for two, room upgrade if available … and complimentary airport transfers with a three night stay. Any Virtuoso travel consultant can provide you with these amenities.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.