Friday, December 19, 2014

Spotlight on Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando

I recently stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando.  The Hard Rock is located a short 5 - 7 minute walk from Universal Studios Orlando. It has a large pool, fitness center, Spa, and several room categories depending on large your group is. 

We went the weekend of December 12th. The good thing about this weekend was that the Parks were not very busy. When you stay at the Hard Rock - you get an Unlimited Express Pass to both Parks included with your room.  This pass allows you to bypass the regular lines at participating attractions at both Universal Studios Florida AND Islands of Adventure theme parks. The Pass does not work in the Harry Potter worlds, but we were shocked that both of the major Harry Potter attractions had wait lines of less than 45 minutes on Saturday morning.  

The down side of this weekend is that a lot of restaurants are closed for private functions plus the Parks closed at 7 pm each night, but we saw the roller coasters still running so we assumed they closed early for private functions as well. Margaritaville and the Rising Star karaoke venue were both closed. At the Hard Rock, when we checked in Friday afternoon, a corporate Christmas was in full effect in the Hotel lobby. The Velvet Bar was closed both nights for private functions. We were able to get reservations at the Palm and enjoyed a night cap at The Kitchen. Both restaurants do a great job with food and service. We were surprised by a Minion at The Kitchen so that was a lot of fun. 

Accommodations - We had a King Club Level Room. The Club Level provides some additional benefits. The biggest benefit we enjoyed was the Club Lounge. The Lounge offers continental breakfast with mimosas, snacks throughout the day, an evening happy hour and a dessert bar. We took advantage of the breakfast, happy hour and dessert and were impressed. The happy hour includes wine and beer and hot appetizers. Our room was on the same level as the Club Lounge so it was nice to have breakfast without having to wander through the resort. The Lounge was also a nice place for my husband to wait for me to finish getting ready for dinner.  The other benefits of the Club Level are a daily pass to the Fitness Center which has steam rooms and saunas in the locker room (a $10 per person per day value), evening turn down service, reduced rates on the cabanas and access to a special Concierge. 

The Pool - The zero entry pool is large with a water slide and water fountains for the little kids. The chairs are not as comfortable as those at Portofino, but we found the Beach Club restaurant to be nicer. Portions of the pool area have sand so you can relax on a chair "on the beach" or play beach volleyball. 

The Service - We found everyone to be very helpful and attentive from the Front Desk to the restaurants to our housekeeper. 

The Parks - As I said before - we were surprised the Parks were so quiet. We had a lot of fun at the Blue Brothers Christmas Show, the Grinchmas show, and the Macy's parade plus all the balloons around Universal Studios are great!  

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spotlight on: Sandals La Source Grenada

Sandals La Source Grenada is an adults only luxury all-inclusive resort in Grenada. 

Grenada is known as the "Island of Spice". The island offers beaches, rainforest and even mountain lakes. It's a volcanic island so some of the coast line is rocky.  

Sandals is located on Pink Gin Beach in St Georges - on a 5 minute ride from the airport. 

This resort has the newest, most innovative suites. Skypool suites offer plunge pool on your balcony. Rondoval suites offer a completely private luxury experience. 

Check out some of my pictures from a recent visit. 

I love planning all-inclusive vacations. Click here to request my Top 10 Considerations when choosing an all-inclusive resort for free.  

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Holiday Travel

Flying  during the holidays can be very stressful. 

Here's some ways to prepare to help alleviate that stress: 

1. Plan for bad weather delays.   I avoid the last flight of the day and prefer the first flight in the morning. I also check to see what other flights may be available or other routes I could take. 

2. Leave extra time. During the holidays, a lot of people who don't normally travel are traveling.  This means check points at airports get congested. Even if it's never crowded - get there early. 

3. Think about your presents and the presents you may get. If you are giving or getting some liquids over three ounces - you'll need to check your bag. Depending on the value of the item, paying for a checked bag may cost more than the item is worth. Consider shipping your presents or having your items shipped back to you. 

4. Be Kind. It will go a long way.