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Luxury Traveling Without Luxury Spending

High-end vacations are pricey enough for travelers to carry the weight of paying extra for a little bit more of the lavishness. That’s where travel agents come into play and help you get that great steal.

 

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     Michelle Higgins of The New York Times is proof of this slightly overlooked hack when she visited the Grand Canyon in August with her nine-year-old daughter. She booked a two-night stay at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona. Upon arrival, her $299-a-night double queen room reservation was upgraded to a two-bedroom, two-bath suite with a kitchenette, a fireplace, and dual balconies facing the Boynton Canyon.

      Apart from those, she was informed by the receptionist that their daily breakfast could be taken either in the room or at the hotel restaurant. Moments later, a golf cart serviced them to their spacious suite where a service attendant arrived with a fruit and cheese platter and a personalized welcome note. Such VIP treatment wasn’t due to Higgins being a famed personality but to her old-fashioned way of booking – with a travel agent.

 

 

     When most travelers have turned to independent booking as it credits flexibility, control, and cost-cutting by booking through websites, luxury travelers with a minimum spending of $300 a night could use a travel adviser/agent for better deals, specifically ones from large consortia like American Express, Signature Travel Network, or Virtuoso for their longstanding partnerships with travel companies. Senior Vice President of Preferred Partnerships for Signature Travel Network Phil Cappelli claimed, “We buy a considerable amount from the travel providers and are able to secure additional benefits for guests.” Perks referred to can include airport transfers, complimentary breakfasts, late checkouts, spa treatments, and room upgrades, among others. When using a travel agent, the aforementioned extras come at no additional cost.

 

   

       For American Express Platinum card members, long as they book through American Express Travel, they are given access to the benefits (which vary by card level) whether they talk to an agent; book online; or through the app. Same goes for Virtuoso.com and Signature Travel Network with shipboard credits and exclusive, personalized perks offered to users.

 

     The relationship these travel agents have with tourism services (e.g. hotels, cruise lines) is a two-way street; as the agents drive up sales to reap benefits for their clients, they also receive commissions. To lower the risk of encountering a travel agent who’d prioritize his/her incentives before your experience, it’s recommended to respectfully ask how he/she is compensated. 

 

     Going back to Higgins’ experience, with thorough research prior to consulting Beth Washington at McCabe World Travel, a Virtuoso member, she was able to stumble upon the cheapest, nonrefundable rate of Enchantment worth $623.38 and an option offering flexible cancellation worth $718.76 for two nights. Virtuoso’s rate was the same as the latter, incorporating daily breakfast (a $30 credit per person, per day) and $100 credit for spa or golf. Since Higgins’ daughter wasn’t eligible for spa sessions because of her age and golf wasn’t really their thing, the Virtuoso adviser offered the credit to be applied to food and beverage instead.

 

 

   In lieu of going through the hassle of planning a complex vacation by yourself, travel agents are relied on by tourism sectors like cruise lines, aware that purchasing a cruise experience involves multiple choices like room categories, restaurants, and land excursions.

 

     To get the most out of your luxury vacation whilst keeping your savings at bay, below are the three mentioned travel adviser consortia and their perks that come with booking through one of their members:

 

American Express Platinum Card Members

 

     Perks inclusive of early check-in and room upgrades when available; complimentary daily breakfast for up to two guests; $100-valued “unique amenities”; guaranteed late check out at 4pm; and five times the usual number of AmEx points or the ability to use Pay with Points on prepaid stays at Fine Hotels and Resorts Properties on AmexTravel.com could help you save about $550 at 1,100 hotels worldwide on a two-night stay.

 

Virtuoso

 

     Similar to AmEx’s benefits, Virtuoso also offers complimentary meals and Wi-Fi services and depends on the hotel’s availability for upgrades, early check-ins, and late checkouts. Additional perks may include complimentary airport transfers, spa treatments, and other meals – all with estimated savings of more than $500 per stay, available at 1,400 hotels in 100 countries.

 

Signature Travel Network

 

     With up to $500 savings on a two to five-night stay in luxury hotels, you can get complimentary full breakfasts, food and beverage credits, spa treatments, airport transfers, room upgrades, early check-ins, and late check-outs, varying by hotel.

 


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Destinations

The Best Food Towns To Visit This Summer

Are you still looking for that perfect summer destination? Are you a foodie? You will find everything you are looking for in these top notch food towns, and their best dining spots. After all, all the best travel decisions are made with your stomach in…

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Are you still looking for that perfect summer destination? Are you a foodie? You will find everything you are looking for in these top notch food towns, and their best dining spots. After all, all the best travel decisions are made with your stomach in mind.  

PORTLAND, MAINE

Not as famous as the west coast one, this Portland has so much to offer your taste buds. At Dukfat you can find fries double fried in duck fat and served in a cone with a variety of funky dipping sauces. Have you ever had spudnuts? That’s a potato donut, you will find them at the Holy Donut, made from both regular and sweet potatoes.

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

Asheville may be a weird little town but their restaurant scene could hold it’s own in San Francisco or New York City. You will find the best pizza at All Souls Pizza with toppings like salted turnips, and the ever favorite clam pie. At Biscuit Head you can try the mimosa fried chicken biscuit, with biscuits the size of your head. 

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

You can’t miss Charleston with it’s old fashioned mix of charm and humble low-country cooking. The Butcher and Bee’s sandwich masterminds have created favorites like grilled cheese with blueberry jam and toasted almonds with gruyere. And go to McCrady’s or Husk to taste the true southern cooking of Chef Sean Brock.

THE NORTH FORK, LONG ISLAND

A northeast coastal town with a beachy feel, The North Fork is a summer food haven. You can have a lunch of lobster rolls served from the camper turned lunch truck outside in the afternoon, or go to a fancy dinner at the North Fork Table and Inn in the evening. At Billy’s By the Bay you will find whole lobster, frozen drinks and tiki vibes. 

BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA

With breathtaking sunsets, stunning views, bohemian vibes and excellent cuisine Big Sur may just be the perfect summer destination. Nepenthe is classic California with the ambrosia burger, paired with a glass of wine you can relax and marvel at your surroundings. You will find the best breakfast pizza you will ever enjoy at Big Sur Bakery.

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The World’s Most Unique Dining Experiences

Sure, you can get a great meal anywhere. But how many times have you had a meal that sticks with you for the rest of your life? If your answer is “not enough,” then you need to check out one of these amazing global dining destinations. Food aside, the atmosphere and experience will stick with […]

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Guide to Eating in Austin

I’ve been living in Austin for two months now, and in that time, I’ve consumed a lot of food. After all, Austin is home to an incredible food scene — from BBQ joints to food trucks to healthy, organic outlets to (of course) Mexican restaurants. As more and more people move to Austin (close to […]

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I’ve been living in Austin for two months now, and in that time, I’ve consumed a lot of food. After all, Austin is home to an incredible food scene — from BBQ joints to food trucks to healthy, organic outlets to (of course) Mexican restaurants. As more and more people move to Austin (close to 160 a day at last count) and the city balloons with a more diverse population, Austin has expanded its dining fare to include more varied and higher-quality food.

Part of the reason Austin’s food tastes so delicious is because of the locally-sourced ingredients. As the birthplace of Whole Foods, Austin has always embraced organic food, and it was one of the frontrunners in the farm-to-table movement.

Moreover, to meet the needs of the expanding population, nearly 200 new food trucks and restaurants open up each year! With so many eateries opening all the time, you’re going to get hugely increased variety, selection, and quality.

While I still have much more exploring to do and food to eat, I want to share some of my favorite places to eat in the city for your next visit:

Asian

If there is anything I dislike about Austin, it would be the lack of good Asian cuisine, as it is my favorite in the world. When it comes to Asian food, it has a lot of those fusion joints that serve Chinese, Thai, sushi, and Korean all at once. Most are simply acceptable; they won’t blow you away. However, there are a few restaurants worth eating at:

  • Bar Chi (206 Colorado St., (512) 382-5557, www.barchiaustin.com) – Decent sushi but an unbelievably affordable happy hour (5-7pm each day). My friends and I come here because it satisfies the sushi craving on the cheap!
  • East Side King (1618 1/2 E. 6th S., (512) 407-8166, www.eskaustin.com) – Located in The Liberty Bar (also a kick-ass bar), this is best Asian-Thai fusion food truck in the city! Be sure to get the pork buns, tori meshi, or the chicken buns.
  • Lulu B’s (3632 S. Congress Ave., (512) 921-4828, www.facebook.com/LuLuBsAustin) – I found this place thanks to Jodi from Legal Nomads. I’m not the Vietnamese food expert she is, but this place was delectable. I’ve only had the beef pho, but it was a flavorful broth.
  • Piranha (207 San Jacinto Blvd. #202, (512) 473-8775, www.piranhakillersushi.com/piranha-locations/austin) – My all-around favorite sushi joint. The sushi here gives you the most value for your money, and it’s always fresh and of high quality. I particularly love their yellowtail.
  • Thai-Khun (1816 E. 6th St., (512) 407-8166, eskaustin.com/v2/thaikun) – As a Thai food snob (ever since I lived in Thailand), I’m always disappointed at Thai restaurants because I never think the food is as breathtaking as in Thailand. This place in Austin is the closest to true Thai food that I’ve found so far.
  • Uchi (801 S. Lamar, (512) 916-4808, uchiaustin.com) – The fanciest high-end sushi restaurant in the city. They also have a sister restaurant called Uchiko. Both live up to their reputations and are good date places. Reservations recommended!
  • Wu Cho (500 W. 5th St. #168, (512) 476-2469, wuchowaustin.com) – This is one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city. They serve a very popular dim sum brunch on Sundays. Be sure to come early as it gets packed during dinnertime and Sunday brunch, and the wait for a table can be up to an hour.

Americana

If there is one thing Austin does well, it’s “Americana” food. I define that as a fusion of multiple cuisines: burgers, fries, steaks, seafood, and the like.

  • Launderette (2115 Holly St., (512) 382-1599, launderetteaustin.com) – Located in an old laundry store, this restaurant is one of the hottest spots in town and serves an amazing menu of Americana and seafood, as well as a decent selection of wine. Some of my favorite dishes include crab toast, burrata, okra, brussels sprouts, and grilled octopus. If you’re coming for dinner, come early, as it fills up fast.
  • Truluck (400 Colorado St., (512) 482-9000, trulucks.com) – This is my favorite steak restaurant because it’s one of the few places where you can also get fresh seafood (crab, oysters, lobster). It’s not cheap, but if you want a upscale steak house, try this.
  • Péché (208 W. 4th St., (512) 494-4011, www.pecheaustin.com) – A New Orleans–inspired restaurant serving Bayou food, and it has a very friendly staff, tasty cocktails, and an extensive whiskey list.

BBQ

Austin is world-famous for its BBQ, and you can’t walk down the street without running into a restaurant that serves it. The title for Austin’s best BBQ is hotly contested among fans, and I don’t claim to know who’s right — to me, BBQ is either good or really damn good. But these are among my favorites:

  • Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th St., (512) 653-1187, franklinbarbecue.com) – This is considered the top of the top of the top BBQ joints in the country. Even the president ate here! It’s open from 11am until they run out of food (usually in a few hours). Lines start at 8am, so it’s best to go midweek in summer when most people don’t want to wait in that line and you don’t need to line up until 9 or 10am.
  • La Barbecue (1906 E. Cesar Chavez St., (512) 605-9696, www.labarbecue.com) – BBQ is a matter of perspective. A lot of people say Franklin’s is the best, but La Barbecue is #1 to me. It opens at 11am. Expect two-hour waits during lunchtime, so get here early.
  • Iron Works BBQ (100 Red River St., (512) 478-4855, ironworksbbq.com) – Located downtown, this restaurant serves above-average BBQ with large portions and hearty helpings of side dishes. I come here for the lunch brisket plate.
  • Micklethwait Craft Meats (1309 Rosewood Ave., (512) 791-5961, craftmeatsaustin.com) – An awesome food truck on the east side of the city. I’m in love with its ribs, brisket, and BBQ sauce. While it’s very popular, the line here isn’t as long as the other places listed.

Tacos

Tacos are serious business in this city. I have yet to fully experience much of the wonder that Austin has to offer on this front, but I do like a few of the big names:

  • Veracruz (1704 E. Cesar Chavez St., (512) 981-1760, veracruztacos.com) – The best food truck in town (conveniently located across the street from my hostel). It makes wonderful breakfast tacos, and the migas was voted #1 in the country. There is never really a line, but service is slow.
  • Torchy’s (multiple locations, torchystacos.com/in/austin) – World famous (and another spot where the president ate), this taco place has multiple locations in the city. It lives up to all the hype! I’m a big fan of the fried avocado and trailer park tacos. Every location is always packed, so expect a wait, especially on the weekends. The food here is pretty spicy, too.
  • Taco Deli (multiple locations, www.tacodeli.com) – Another delicious eatery serving mouth watering breakfast tacos.

Mexican & Tex-Mex

Like tacos, there are a lot of world-class Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin! There are plenty of people who can dissect their finer points — I am not one of those people, however. But these establishments will never steer you wrong:

  • Vivo (6406 N. Interstate Highway 35, (512) 407-8302, vivoaustin.com) – Solid Mexican with huge portions, spicy dishes, and friendly staff.
  • Benji’s (716 W. 6th St., (512) 476-8226, benjiscantina.com) – Amazing margaritas, huge portions, and an outdoor patio area. Their incredible guacamole is made tableside.
  • Tamale House East (1707 E. 6th St., (512) 495-9504, www.facebook.com/tamalehouse.east) – Located in East Austin, this hole-in-the-wall is only open for breakfast or lunch. It’s famous for its tacos, but like the name suggests, get the tamales!

Indian

There isn’t a lot of good Indian food in town, mostly because there just isn’t a lot of good Asian food in general. I’m not an Indian food expert, but these two are my favorites:

  • The Clay Pit (1601 Guadalupe St., (512) 322-5131, claypit.com) – I order from this spot through UberEats all the time since it often has fast delivery. I love the samosas and jasmine rice, and their naan is just perfect!
  • Masala Dhaba (75 Rainey St., (512) 665-6513) – A higher-end, sit-down restaurant with a flavorful chicken tikka masala!

Miscellaneous

Some other of my favorite must-eats:

  • P. Terry’s (multiple locations, pterrys.com) – This is the best burger bar in the city. It’s delicious and cheap (you can get a burger, fries, and a drink for $6 USD), with filling portions. This is one of my all-time favorite spots in the city, and since it’s close to my house, I tend to eat here too often!
  • The Onion (408 Brazos St., (512) 476-6466, onionbaby.com) – Coming from NYC, I’m spoiled for pizza — you can buy tasty dollar slices anywhere you go there. That’s not the case in Austin: slices are around $4 USD and not as good, but if there is one pizza place I do like, it’s this one.
  • Gus’s Fried Chicken (117 San Jacinto, (512) 474-4877, gusfriedchicken.com/austin-texas-location) – The sister restaurant to the famous location in Memphis, this place has juicy, moist chicken with battered skin that bursts with flavor in your mouth. It’s freaking amazing! They also serve mouthwatering fried green tomatoes and pickles.
  • Leaf (115 W. 6th St., (512) 474-5323, leafsalad.com) – This new lunchtime salad place is incredible (also the line is long). Its gigantic salad bar has anything and everything you could ever want to put in a salad. It’s one of my favorite places for a healthy meal in Austin.
  • True Kitchen (222 West Ave. #HR100, (512) 777-2430, truefoodkitchen.com) – This new restaurant is incredibly popular with people after work. All its food is natural and organic. You’ll find healthy wraps, salad bowls, sandwiches, and fresh and flavorful seafood, as well as an incredible selection of wine and cocktails.

Austin’s growing food scene means that there are still plenty of places I haven’t eaten at yet — and a few locations I probably left out, as a result — but during your visit to Austin, you’ll find yourself with more than enough choices by using this list as your guide!

 

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