Luxury spring break options for the budget traveler

beachhDo you wish you could afford to relax on a beach in the Caribbean with private butler service, or watch the sunset from the veranda of a luxury villa this spring? Thanks to Jetsetter Home‘s spring break sale, now you can.

Jetsetter Homes boasts properties all over the world, and during select dates this spring, some of their most affluent properties will be on sale. The private villas are each hand-selected, visited, and approved by Jetsetter travel correspondents, so you know the recommendations you’re getting are coming from a travel professional.

There is no fee to signup – simply go to the website and register for free.

To get some affordable, last minute vacation ideas for spring break, check out the gallery below.

[flickr photo via lyng883]

%Gallery-150295%

Would you get married in the nude?

hedonism How would you like to win a free wedding in Jamaica and be on national television? Well, now you can. The only catch is you have to exchange vows in the nude.

Hedonism II, a resort that is well-known for “shattering inhibitions and provoking the kind of behavior people don’t talk about in polite circles”, is currently looking for 10 couples to get married in the buff for a major network documentary on Valentine’s Day, 2012 (don’t worry, your parts will be blurred on air).

Not only will couples receive a complimentary 4-night stay at the all-inclusive resort, but also a “Dream Wedding”. Funny, every time I’ve pictured my dream wedding I’m wearing a dress. The resort does have a lot of perks for couples, like the on-site Blue Mahoe Spa, beach and garden view rooms, en suite Jacuzzis, private terraces, 5 bars, and onsite entertainment and dining.

If you’d like to be considered as a contestant, fill out of the form here and submit. The deadline for applications is January 6, 2012.

Traditional holiday beverages from around the world

holiday beveragesAmericans aren’t very creative when it comes to traditional holiday beverages (do, however, look for my upcoming story on Boulder’s banging mixology scene, which includes some killer contemporary winter cocktails). Historically, though, we’re more of an eggnog/mulled cider/hot chocolate kind of society.

I’m not knocking our Christmas beverages of choice. Properly made, they’re delicious, and certainly festive. But some countries really know how to roll when it comes to holiday imbibing (especially Latin America. One word: rum.).

Below, a compilation of some of the more interesting boozy holiday beverages from around the world that can be easily recreated in your own kitchen. Online recipes abound, and all of these are (almost) as tasty sans alcohol.

Coquito: Puerto Ricans are great because they’re not afraid to embrace their love of saturated fats (lard, coconut milk, etc.) or rum. In case you’ve been living under a rock, coconut is the new fat du jour (read more about its health attributes here). Everything in moderation, including moderation, as I always say.

Coquito recipes vary, but in general, this rich, blended Christmas concoction is a froth of spiced rum, condensed milk, coconut milk or cream of coconut, vanilla, and spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Some versions may include ginger or ground nuts, but it’s always served chilled, in a small glass. Heavy, yes, but both sexy and satisfying. Add some eggs, and you’ll have ponche, the Venezuelan or Dominican version of eggnog.

Mulled wine: Variations on this warm, spiced, sugared, and otherwise enhanced wine (usually red) are served throughout Europe. There’s Nordic gløgg redolent of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and bitter orange (and perhaps a helping of aquavit). It’s very similar to German glühwein made with lemon, cinnamon sticks, cardamom or ginger, and cloves; in Alsace (the French region bordering Germany), they also add vanilla bean.

In Bulgaria, greyano vino contains honey, peppercorns, and often, apple or citrus. Polish grzane wino is more of a traditional mulled wine, but they also make grzane piwo, in which mulled beer (try a Hefeweizen or Belgian ale which are lighter and sweeter) is substituted for the wine. Na zdrowie (“To your health”)!

[Photo credit: Flicker user Akane86]holiday beveragesPonche Navideño: Not to be confused with those other luscious ponches, this Mexican version is made with sugar cane, apples and/or pears or citrus, raisins, prunes, and tejocotes–an indigenous fruit used by the Aztecs, who called them texocotl. Add tequila, brandy, or rum; heat, and instant fiesta. At Christmastime, ponche vendors can be found on the street, ladling out cupfuls of good cheer.

Another popular Mexican holiday beverage is champurrado, a version of atole (warmed cornmeal thinned to a pourable consistency) flavored with chocolate. It tastes much better than it sounds, and is delicious on a chilly day.

Sorrel Punch: This Jamaican Christmas drink is made from the petals of a species of hibiscus (jamaica in Latin America), locally known as sorrel. In Australia it’s known as rosella, and where it makes a lovely, delicate, fruity red jam. This isn’t the same plant Americans know as sorrel or French sorrel. That’s a bitter wild green, which would make for a truly revolting cocktail, unless you’re one of those people who find wheat grass juice “refreshing.”

Dried hibiscus buds can be purchased at Hispanic or Caribbean markets; the recipe varies, but it’s usually some combination of the flowers, sugar, smashed fresh ginger, water, lime juice, and rum (dark is more traditional than light). Mix, stir, turn on your light box (fellow Seattleites know what I’m talking about), and crank your fave reggae CD. It ain’t the islands but it’s a nice change of pace from all that mulled wine.
holiday beverages
Wassail: Did any American not grow up hearing about or actually going “wassailing,” aka carolling? This mulled British cider is synonymous with knocking on stranger’s doors and breaking into song. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to hit the wassail bowl after mandatory childhood post-carolling; parents should remember that singing in public is the worst possible form of torture for a geeky, tone-deaf pre-teen. Wassail has been a Christmas classic across the pond for centuries, so I’m sure generations of British children suffered the same fate.

Cola de mono: Although Chile is better known for its pisco sours (Peru also claims this libation as its own, but both countries produce it and they’re still duking it out over who actually invented this potent grape brandy) and wine, Christmastime means a glass of “monkey’s tail.” Combine aguardiente (sub pisco or a neutral firewater) with milk, coffee, vanilla bean, and cloves. I have no idea what this has to do with the tail of a monkey, but it’s a cute name. Uh, bottom’s up.

[Photo credit: eggnog, Flicker user elana’s pantry; wassail, Flicker user jeremytarling]

Removing Red Wine Stains

Family travel: chatting with Poshbrood’s Elizabeth Thorp

luxury family travel poshbroodChildhood vacations have a way of becoming an adult’s fondest memories – stories re-hashed time and again at the dinner table, destinations revisited during adulthood to see if they’ve changed. Of course, these trips become slightly less magical when you, as an adult, manage the wrangling of the entire family onto a plane, train or automobile and attempt the feat of herding the family towards a vacation destination.

Of course, the planning begins long before the trip – between setting budgets and deciding on a location, limited information is often available about higher-end destinations that make a great escape for kids. Enter Poshbrood, a family travel website and blog that focuses on luxury family travel.

We stat down with founder Elizabeth Thorp to seek her advice. Check out the Q&A, below:

Why did you start Poshbrood?
I’m a mom of three young girls and a nationally-published writer. Along the way, I had amassed a ginormous folder of fantastic family hotels, resorts and villas. Some savvy girlfriends suggested corralling the family travel findings in one since a lot of the really good places are found through personal recommendations or by word of “mom.” So I put online password protected for a small group of friends. I kept getting requests so we decided to make it a public site. It’s a huge amount of work but I just adore it! My husband has to close my computer at night or I’d be editing reviews, contacting hotels, coordinating bloggers and uploading blog posts 24/7.

What makes Poshbrood different from other family travel sites?
I like to say that “Poshbrood puts out.” All of the properties in our curated catalog, our blog and other information on the site can be accessed for free. All of the Posh Picks are personally experienced and reviewed by myself or one of our Poshbrood parent bloggers. The reviews are in our bloggers’ real voices and capture the nuances of traveling with kids. If our kids are throwing up on the way to our destination or throw at tantrum in the lobby of the Peninsula, you’re going to read about it. We also don’t have any ads or pop ups, moms are busy enough and I wanted a very clean, chic site with no distractions.What has been your favorite part about getting to travel the world with your family?
I’ve loved meeting other families during our travels and we still keep in touch with some friends we’ve met at different spots. It’s always fun when the parents AND the kids of a family both connect. Also, I’ve been taking some shorter jaunts with one child at a time. It’s so nice to really be with just one child, so you can focus on them and get to know them better. Recently, I went to Beverly Hills with the four year old and took seven year old Lucy to London. It was a trip of a lifetime for her and she was so glad to have me all to herself. I’ll take our eight year old to the Hamptons in early August.

What’s the worst part about traveling with kids? Do you ever want to just get away without them?
The worst part is probably the extra planning, extra packing, anticipating needs of each child while en route. And God forbid you experience a plane cancellation or pile up on I-95 (it’s happened and it’s not pretty…there are only so many princess movies young girls can watch!) Yes, we do want to get away without them and we do.

One of the rare times I am able to “sleep in” on vacation! We also try to do close by adult weekend jaunts –we’ve stayed at The Inn at Little Washington, The Borgata (what, no baby gambling?) and The Mercer Hotel NYC.

Obviously – you’re “posh”. But what budget-friendly family planning tips would you suggest?

Posh doesn’t always have to mean five-star or expensive. For example, there is a Quality Inn in Chincoteague, VA in our catalog. I would have NEVER thought to stay there but a friend suggested it for these reasons: 1.) Adjoining rooms 2.) Free breakfast 3.) pool 4.) pet-friendly (we were bringing our dogs) 5.)Two doors from the famous Island Creamery Ice Cream Parlor and the kicker for us was 6.) An on site Chincoteague pony — our girls were BEYOND. The hotel was immaculate, the price was amazing and the rooms were cool wood paneling, Mad Men retro. We’d definitely go back! As far as tips to saving money, we prefer cottages, villas or suites with a kitchen or kitchenette.

You can save loads and loads of money by not having to each every meal in a hotel or resort restaurant. At upscale resorts, a lunch at the pool grill can set you back $100 or more for a family of four, so having the option to make your meals in your accommodations is a great way to save. We also tend to bring our own juice boxes, snacks, wine, etc. The hotel and minibar markup is extraordinary! Finally, seek out the off-season deals. We always go to Round Hill in May because after the busy Spring Break season, the rates are drastically reduced April 15th. This is typical of most tropical hotels. Try St. Barth’s in August when occupancy is low and the most amazing hotels in the world on the most “champagne dreams and caviar wishes” island are offering incredible deals.


Where are you dying to visit?
The GREEK Islands! I’ve got my eye on the Blue Palace Resort & Spa in Crete and Vedema Resort in Santorini. I would also love to rent a villa or farmhouse in the Dordogne region of France. I’m dying to see the prehistoric caves and brush up on my French.

Any family travel trends you think are important to note?
I do see an increase in boutique hotels and upscale hotels and resorts catering to families. For example, we stayed at The Goring and they were incredibly kid-friendly with kids’ menus, adjoining rooms, free breakfast, discounts to families who need a second room. Trump Hotels has an amazing Trump Kids program and The Peninsula’s Kids’ Academy program is very special. Who doesn’t want to learn how to make pastries with the Peninsula chef?
I also think that many families are now into exploratory travel, choosing destinations that have offer some culture and history to learn about while visiting instead of automatically choosing Disney.

What are your favorite places for family travel?

Round Hill, Jamaica: Round Hill is one flight away from most major airports. No one wants a layover with the littles. The resort is a quick 25-minute drive from the Montego Bay Airport. The beach is shallow, soft white sand and turquoise blue Caribbean water, perfect for families. The accommodations, designed by Ralph Lauren, are tropical chic but not so upscale and fancy that you’re nervous that the brood might break something.

Snowmass, CO:
Snowmass is just a 15-minute drive from Aspen airport and 25 from Aspen’s town. It is a lower-key atmosphere and a better mountain for families and kids. Snowmass Mountain boasts a two-story 25,000 square foot Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center located at the base of Fanny Hill.The Treehouse is the hub of ski school and summer camp programs and features a family-friendly climbing gym, teen activities, kids’ retail and a host of themed rooms for ages eight weeks and older. Our poshkids have all done the ski school and cried when we came to pick them up at the end of the afternoon.

The Tides Inn, Irvington, VA

We’ve recently fallen in love with this Leading Hotel of the World. It’s three hours max from our home in Washington DC and feels a world away. The resort is charming but not too fancy or stiff — and feels like you’re staying in a wealthy family friend’s compound. It is an excellent value for the location and amenities offered. The property is enclosed and very navigable for younger children. We love that once you’re there, all activities are free.

Southern California
Traveling with kids got a whole lot easier for us with Virgin America. The whole culture of the airline is family friendly from the competitive fare, pre-boarding for small children, kids meals and inseat entertainment and games. Our girls sometimes don’t leave their seats for five hours. I can even take a nap or watch a chick flick. In Los Angeles, we like to stay at Montage Beverly Hills. You can walk to everything, there is a park (green space) next door and a playground a short drive away. Once you’re in Southern California, there are so many wonderful family attractions including: Santa Monica Pier, (I got engaged on top of the ferris wheel!) Knott’s Berry Farm (much more manageable than Disney), The Long Beach Aquarium, and Legoland. The Resort at Pelican Hill and the St. Regis Monarch Beach are two Orange county resorts who offer amazing family amenities and experiences for the perfect SoCal beach vacation for parents and the kids.

London, England
London is a great family destination. Why? No language barrier, ease of access and finding a deal on flights is easy because of how many airports and carriers service the London area. Also, there are so many parks and green spaces (no cost, obviously) in London. We spent hours at St. James Park feeding the ducks, playing at the playground and doing cartwheels on the expansive lawns. Same at the Princess Diana playground at Hyde’s Park. Also, there are so many attractions perfect for families with kids of all ages including: Changing of Guard (again, no cost), Double Decker Bus Tour, Thames Cruise, The London Eye, The Tower of London (our favorite), The Wobbly Bridge (Millennium Bridge), The Shakespeare Theatre tour, The Royal Mews (seeing the Royal horses and “princess carriages” was a dream come true for a seven year old girl), The British Museum among others. It’s also very easy to find inexpensive family food at local pubs and tucked away in cobblestone mews.

We stayed at The Goring Hotel, the family-owned luxury hotel where Kate Middleton stayed before her wedding to Prince William. It is a beautiful, intimate hotel but very family friendly offering adjoining rooms at a discount and often children eat free. The hotel is centrally located right across from Buckingham Palace and 100 yards from the Victoria tube station.

Brits behaving badly abroad

brits behaving badly

Today the Foreign Office released British Behaviour Abroad 2011, with detailed figures on British nationals in trouble overseas (read: Brits behaving badly abroad). The period surveyed: April 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011.

There are lots of interesting tidbits in the survey. British nationals request consular assistance in greatest numbers in Spain and the United States, though since both of these countries are very popular destinations for people from the UK, this is perhaps not all that surprising.

The more interesting chart in the report is of which countries see the highest numbers of requests for consular assistance per visitor and resident abroad. The top five, in descending order: The Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Cyprus, and India. British nationals abroad are most likely to be arrested in Thailand, followed by the United States.

Another interesting detail: The Foreign Office claims that 43 percent of the 18-24 set know someone who has taken illegal drugs while abroad. Aggregate drug arrests are highest for British nationals abroad in Spain (171), the United States (100), Jamaica (63), Norway (55), and Thailand (51).

The good news is that the number of British nationals arrested is down, 10 percent overall and 20 percent for drug-related offenses.

The report also tabulates deaths, hospitalizations, rapes, and sexual assaults abroad. Each of these categories saw slight movement up or down in 2010-2011, with deaths, hospitalizations, and sexual assaults slightly up and rapes down.

[Image: Flickr | La Citta Vita]