Four reasons why your babymoon matters five months later

Babymoons are hot. Every major resort is looking for a way to get in on the action … and why not? Moms-to-be are carrying all that extra weight, coping with the effects on their bodies and dream of a place where they can be pampered for a little while. Pregnancy massages take up the space between fantastic meals, and mom finds a bit of bliss. The guys don’t lose with this arrangement either. It’s a last chance to take a vacation and focus on the people who soon will be called “the parents,” even by their own friends. Dad can have a few cocktails while mom sits in the sun.

But, eventually, it comes to an end. The car comes to the resort, and the revelers return to the airport, go home and resume normal life. It’s all finished far too quickly, and in a few months, life changes forever.

What’s interesting is that the babymoon may be over, but the effects can linger for months. After lying dormant for a while, they provide relaxing thoughts when you need them most – right after your kid is born. My wife and I went you ours around five months ago, and I’m still feeling the residual effects now. Of all the travel I’ve done this year, those four days remain the smartest.

Most travel writers focus on the immediate benefits of a babymoon. That doesn’t do you much good when the kid has arrived, so here are four reasons you’ll be happy you went on a babymoon, even months after you’ve returned from it.


1. It’s part of the progression
Becoming a parent doesn’t start with the birth of your child. There’s so much that goes into it, from the decision to have one (or the realization that you are …), the visits to the doctor, setting up the kid’s room and agonizing over every minute detail (only to come to the conclusion later that the stuff you worried about really doesn’t matter). Your babymoon is part of this – it’s one of the experiences that will shape your life as a parent. Among the things you’ll remember later was that amazing getaway, the last sans child that won’t have you calling every hour to see how he is.

2. The memories will get you through sleepless nights
The first few weeks after a kid is born, I’m learning firsthand, can be incredibly tough. You won’t sleep much, and sleep doesn’t mean rest. I’ve found my mind wandering back to that July trip to Curtain Bluff more than a few times and remembering how easy it was. Having experienced pure relaxation has given me something to which to think back. It helps.

3. You’ll have fantasy fodder
When you and your spouse are watching your child fall asleep – and hoping he’ll follow through with it – you’ll be able to whisper to each other about how much you’d love to get a break. “Wouldn’t it be great to go back to …” It would. But, as soon as the baby’s asleep, you won’t be far behind. Your dreams, hopefully, will take you back to that babymoon for a few hours.

4. You’ll go back … but not alone!
For all your dreams of wanting nothing more than a little bit of sleep, it’s great to have the new guy around the house. When the kid’s ready to travel, the first place that comes to mind will probably be the last one where you had a great time. There’s no need to negotiate over where to go. Both parents have a great idea and memories that have gotten them through those sleep-deprived first weeks and months. Pull the trigger, and bring your son or daughter in on the tradition.

Tips for tippers: it isn’t what you expect

Tipping’s a tough nut to crack. Should you tip a housekeeper? Back in the day, the rule was leaving some cash only if your stay was 30 days or longer. Since then, however, it seems to have changed. And, what’s appropriate for a valet? Bellman? Skycap? Travel means tipping, and there are plenty of points at which you can expect to do this. If you go to the same hotel or use the same car service frequently, you may want to adjust your tipping habits, as well.

If these questions make you feel ignorant, you’re not alone. Michael Lynn, a prof at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, has conducted to nationwide tipping surveys and has found that a third of the respondents don’t know to leave 15 percent to 20 percent of the tab at a restaurant. Throw hotels and drivers into the mix, and it’s unsurprising that the rules aren’t understood as clearly as they could be.

So, USA Today and I are helping you know what to tip and when. A recent article by Gary Stoller provides some good ideas, and I’ve tossed in a few of my own.

Valet: This one was news to me. Don’t drop cash to the guy who opens the car door or brings the car to the valet lot. Instead, pay the guy who brings it back, generally $2 to $5. I’ve been overtipping on this one for a long time.

Bellmen: These guys carry bags, so they’re earning their tips. Give ’em $1 to $2 a bag, more if you pack for a weekend like you’re moving in for a month. Heavy bag, as well, warrant an extra tip.

Maids: Once upon a time, maids were only tipped if you were staying for the long term. I guess this has changed, and you’re supposed to leave $1 to $5 daily. But, if you’ve been tipping valets for both drop-off and pickup, this should be break-even for you.

Concierges: Don’t tip for the basics. If you’re asking for directions, recommendations or simple answers, those are free. Did the concierge score hard-to-find tickets? A table at an impossible restaurant? Pony up: $10 to $50. Nonetheless, it’s your call. Vivian Deuschl, a vice president at the Ritz-Carlton chain, says that you should expect fantastic service, “There is no obligation to tip.”

Skycap: Pay for help when you check your bags curbside: $2 to $3 a bag is fine. If you have a lot of bags, throw in a little extra, a good rule to apply for the driver who takes you to and from the airport, too.

And, here are a few others …

Service matters: Tips are provided for the service you receive. If you receive unacceptable service, don’t offer a tip. But, if service is so bad that you aren’t tipping, it’s probably a good idea to call a manager and give your side of the story. First, it will keep you from getting shafted by other hotel employees when the word spreads. Also, it will alert the management to a problem with the staff. Be thorough, and don’t whine.

“No tipping” is sacrosanct: Some resorts have no-tipping policies. They always make it very clear up front. Also, they will tell you if there are any exceptions. Curtain Bluff, in Antigua, doesn’t allow tips and makes alternatives clear (there’s a charity on the island). The spa is a “tipping zone,” however, and the front desk will let you know. If you try to tip in a no-tip hotel, the employee will probably let you know, but it’s best not to create the awkward situation at all.

Special requests: Think beyond restaurant reservations and event tickets. If the concierge does the impossible for you, shell out for it. I’m thinking of several super-luxury favors I’ve heard (sorry, can’t reveal them) from industry insiders. If you’re rolling in the big leagues, don’t bother carrying singles; you’ll need Benjies.

Be realistic: Tip what you can afford. You don’t need to toss around boatloads of cash that you don’t have. It may feel good to be a big tipper, but the high you get now will hurt like hell later. Remember that you’ll need to live with the financial situation that you create while on vacation.

Don’t tip from guilt: You don’t have to solve the financial crisis on your own. The recession has led to a travel industry slump, which means hotel employees won’t be making as much. Think of it this way: these guys aren’t buying more of what you make just to help you out. So, don’t think you need to return the favor.

Know your environment: There is a lot of mileage between Eden Rock and the Holiday Inn: don’t expect the same tipping strategy to work at both locations.

[Photo by AMagill via Flickr]

Fifth free night at Antigua resort

January is a great time to head down to the Caribbean. The weather is just about at its coldest and dreariest. The days are short and cloudy. Disappearing for four nights of sunshine, warmth and bliss is pretty hard to turn down. Well, committing to four will get you five at Curtain Bluff in Antigua early next year. Book at least a junior suite for four nights between January 3 and 23 next year, and the resort will kick in an extra night free. And, if you book it by December 15, you’ll pick up two complimentary spa treatments.

This is a rare opportunity: it’s not often you get to pick up a great deal during peak season. So, if you’re looking to do some SCUBA diving, reef snorkeling and deep-sea fishing (all-inclusive, of course), it might be worth dashing down to Antigua. Don’t worry about harassment from “Sir” Allen Stanford – he’s otherwise committed detained.

Want to see what a junior suite looks like? Check out the video after the jump.



Go to Antigua with Curtain Bluff’s “Power of 10” package

I know we’re still sweating the summer, and January seems like a lifetime away. But, think back seven or eight months. Remember how cold it was. It’s hard to make the connection, but it really was that cold out, and you lived it. It’s going to happen again before you know it. So, now is probably the time to book a retreat from the crushing cold. Curtain Bluff‘s new package, “The Power of 10,” is designed to make your start to 2010 memorable … as if relief from frigid temperatures with the warmth of Antigua weren’t enough.

From January 1, 2010 to March 31, 2010, you’re stay at the all-inclusive Curtain Bluff resort will be enhanced with a sunset sail on Curtain Bluff’s yacht, cooking classes with Chef Christophe Blatz and a series of “seconds”: a second spa treatment, a second tennis lesson and a second personal training session. And, this comes in addition to all the usuals: fishing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving and just relaxing by the beach.

“2009 was a tough year for many in different ways,” says Rob Sherman, managing director of Curtain Bluff. “We at Curtain Bluff want to offer something extra special and fun to start 2010 off right,” he continues; “now in addition to experiencing some of our top activities already included with their stay, guests can also splurge on spa treatments and private lessons and classes at minimal cost.”

Curtain Bluff really does redefine relaxation: the place actually got me to chill for a while. This package is definitely worth a look.

Interested in Curtain Bluff? Read the recent series on this resort >>

Inside Curtain Bluff: how “all-inclusive” makes life easier

When I spoke with Curtain Bluff Managing Director Rob Sherman, he cringed as he uttered the words “all-inclusive.” I think I know why. It sounds gimmicky and almost implies “discount.” Neither concept fits his resort. There are no gimmicks, just incredible, top-shelf service from a staff that’s worked the property for an average of 26 years. And, obviously, “discount” is in short supply at a property that caters to guests who tend to be affluent.

The underlying concept, however, makes life a hell of a lot easier. You pay once, when you book your stay. After that, you don’t have to think about carrying your wallet or signing for anything. I’ve found that, when I travel, most of the annoyances I encounter are during check-in, checkout and at meals (not including the flights of course, but that’s another matter entirely).

Think about it: check-in runs smoothly until you have to extract your credit card and wait for the imprint. It’s one of the longest parts of the ordeal; everything else is easy. When you depart, you have to wait for the bill to be settled and your receipt printed. Ugh … all you want to do is get on your way, but you have to wait. And, you deal with this at meals, too. You just want to leave, because you’ve finished eating. Not so fast … you have to wait for a frantic waiter to squeeze you in for the check while he scrambles among tables that have entrees coming up, drink requests and all manner of petty complaints. Even when you’re finished, you’re not.


At Curtain Bluff, none of this happens. You’re fee for the booking covers everything else. You can eat as much or little as you want, drink yourself sloppy or have an occasional cocktail and engage in as many activities that turn you on. There are no hidden fees for lobster, sailing or top-shelf liquor. It’s all incredibly easy … and that’s what matters to Curtain Bluff. If the point is to disappear from the real world and take a vacation from thinking and worrying, the best move is to remove the aspects of travel that can force you to do both.

The decision to go all-inclusive, franky, is what makes the experience at Curtain Bluff hum along. The details that bother, bore or hinder are taken out of the equation. Even though it isn’t heavy lifting, the resort does it for you, and you can sit back and enjoy your vacation. Of course, a Curtain Bluff is a bit pricey, so this sort of convenience isn’t available to everybody. But, if you’re interested in an upscale excursion devoid of headaches, Curtain Bluff has the solution.

(Note: spa treatments are billed separately, but that’s the only exception I found.)

Disclosure: Curtain Bluff did pick up the tab for this trip. Honestly, a prolie blogger like me wouldn’t be able to cover this destination without support from the resort. That said, my opinions are my own. Worried that my experience was positive? Blame the resort staff for doing a kickass job. I could lie and say it all sucked, but that would come at the expense of my editorial integrity.