Thursday, December 26, 2013

An Epic Year of Elite Travel: Maui, Bhutan & Beyond

Epic. Mind-boggling. Amazing. Basically the only words that properly do justice to 2013 and all of the destinations I visited this year. Of course, traveling the world is a lot more fun when you have an incredible person to share the experiences with. Fortunately for me, this is the direction my life took one year ago this week here in Maui--my all-time favorite place in the world. Here now for the fifth time in 13 months (!), I can't help but stop to reflect on and document the year of 2013, my epic year of traveling with someone who enjoys seeing the world, meeting interesting people and experiencing luxury hotels as much as I do.

The 2013 luxury travel adventures kicked off in January with a trip to San Francisco to attend a Virtuoso meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. Next stop for me was a long-planned bucket list trip to Bhutan (below), with visits as well to Phnom Penh and Bangkok (where The Siam hotel blew me away on every level). Home for a day and then jetlag recovery came in the form of a scenic drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to spend a long weekend at the always impressive Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara.

A few weeks later, I found myself atop a snow-covered mountain for the first time since 2000 (when I blew out my knee in Vail). Still too chicken to ever ski again, I did however conquer my phobia of snow/mountains with a ridiculously fun adventure (proof below!) on a self-driven snowmobile at The Canyons Resort in Utah. And of course, gorgeous accommodations at the Waldorf-Astoria Park City were the highlight of this special winter weekend!

A few weeks later I headed to Toronto, which brought back a ton of childhood memories. I hadn't been here in decades but it was always a favorite road trip from my hometown of Rochester, NY. This visit was especially memorable as I was an invited guest of the Four Seasons Preferred Partner team, and, in addition to a stay at the brand new, just-opened Four Seasons Toronto, dinner with Four Seasons founder Isadore Sharp at his private residence (and a tour of his private wine cellar, below) was on the agenda. A quick weekend at the Four Seasons New York en route back to LA included great seats to Bette Midler's one-woman Broadway show, post-show cocktails at The Chatwal, cheering on cancer fundraisers in Central Park , and an interview over brunch with a former boss/great friend/longtime supporter which led to a fab article about Elite Travel International's growth in a top travel publication a few months later.

South America was the next major adventure, with Buenos Aires hosting the annual Virtuoso Symposium; a few days in Southern Brazil was added on in the name of research and adventure. The Park Hyatt Buenos Aires did a stellar job of impressing me, as did Ponta Dos Ganchos. The latter (shown below), a stunning, exclusive 25-bungalow Relais & Chateau property near Florianopolis is designed with couples in mind (private decks/pools, indoor seaview hot tubs, a staff that specializes in romance) and it's on my short list of properties I hope to visit many times again. Highly recommend for honeymooners or anyone seeking a romantic, secluded, peaceful sun-filled vacation (don't miss taking the helicopter up the coast to/from the airport!).

On arrival home from Brazil, I made the very BIG decision to take my eight-year-old luxury travel company Elite Travel International to the next level by becoming our own stand-alone Virtuoso firm. This kicked off the second half of the year with much excitement, and set the pace for our continued growth. The new addition of a London affiliate at the end of 2013 has been the culmination of my favorite year business-wise, yet. While in the midst of the business transition, a celebratory visit to the always-lovely Four Seasons Palm Beach was followed by a relaxing beachfront stay in North Miami at another favorite, Acqualina Resort & Spa. The spa, spacious oceanview suites, incredible food (Il Mulino is a stand out) and beautiful beach make this one of my all-time favorite resorts in the Sunshine State.

My love for Maui meant I obviously couldn't resist the opportunity to attend the annual Kapalua Food & Wine Festival at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, held in early June. Along with Alyson Nash, Elite Travel's Director of Special Projects, we loved meeting the chefs and winemakers who came together to showcase their specialties in this gorgeous setting.

A staycation just minutes from my home in LA at the Beverly Hills Hotel to celebrate Elite Travel International's invitation to the Dorchester Collection's Diamond Club was a welcome change from all the flights, and it reminded me how much I also enjoy spending time in LA as much as I enjoy globetrotting. Lunch and dinners with local clients at The Polo Lounge were fun, and my maltipoo (below) clearly enjoyed his stay as much as we did.

My summertime travels also included a second trip to both Maui (for a friend's wedding)and Santa Barbara--this time to preview the just-opened El Encanto by Orient-Express. Another one of my beloved pups Maddie (below) made this road trip to the pet friendly property with me (sadly, it was her last trip with me as she succumbed to cancer a few months later). Needless to say, El Encanto will always hold special memories for me...the cottage-style, oceanview accommodations and the sweet staff have impressed a number of my clients as well.

A long weekend at the Golden Door Spa & Resort in San Diego and another in Vancouver (first of four trips to my favorite Canadian city before year's end!) as well as the annual weeklong Virtuoso Week at the Bellagio in Las Vegas rounded out my July + August travels. This year's Virtuoso Week was especially special for me as I was named Virtuoso's Most Innovative Travel Advisor.

September started in style with an incredible Italian holiday, including visits to the new Amanresort Venice, watching the annual Venetian regatta and enjoying canalside meals with the GMs at Hotel Cipriani, Ca'Sagredo & the newly renovated Gritti Palace . Next up was five nights along the Amalfi Coast with time spent with our friends who own/run the best hotels in the region--Le Sirenuse, Il San Pietro, Hotel Santa Caterina, Palazzo Avino & Hotel Caruso. Food, wine and sunshine were plentiful during this part of our Italian dream trip, and it's an itinerary I could (and hope to) easily repeat annually! Ending with one night at the unique and special Portrait Suites Roma, owned by the Ferragamo family, was the perfect end to one of my all-time favorite trips of the year.

Before our next European adventure in early November--to London + Istanbul--I logged many miles on planes for quick visits with friends, family and loved ones to Palm Beach, Chicago & Vancouver. Chicago was a fun-filled foodie adventure, with dinners ranging from simple and delicious steaks & martinis at Gibson's just down the street from The Peninsula (long a favorite of mine, best gym in the city and an amazing team shown with us below) to two of the best meals I've enjoyed on the road: Shanghai Terrace in the hotel and the incredibly creative and fun Alinea. Book a table at Alinea now if Chicago's ever on your agenda (note: you have to book online/prepay in advance!).

After a super-fast trip down to Riviera Maya, Mexico to speak on a panel about today's luxury traveler and then one to Manhattan to partake in the Afar Magazine travel advisory board meeting, London was next on the agenda. Here, after speaking to a high-end group of British travel advisors, I visited atleast 30 hotels from Mayfair to Shoreditch (lunch at Hoi Polloi is a must). Gluten free tea at Claridges (below), The Goring & Brown's were fattening & fun, as were incredible meals everywhere from the coffee shop at Fortnum & Mason's to DINNER by Heston Blumenthal and Kaspar's at The Savoy. A Friday eve get together at Bar Boulud with local friends and travel industry colleagues (below) was a standout, as were stays at the Corinthia, Mandarin Oriental London & the new Edition London hotels.

The year was seemingly starting to wind down after this whirlwind London trip, but not before a long weekend in buzzing Istanbul checking out the top luxury hotels from Shangri-La Istanbul (new room product shown below), a duo of Four Seasons (located both in the Old City & on the Bosphorus), the Park Hyatt, the House hotel, Tom Tom Suites & the Ciragan Palace. In the very short time we had there, the itinerary included a private shopping tour with a visit to the Bazaar's best silver & carpet shops, a local dinner with friends and a private boat ride to a gorgeous authentic residence on the Asian side of the sea.

A quick stop at home in LA and then back to Europe for one last international trip of the year. The annual International Luxury Travel Mart (ILTM) in Cannes in early December was the perfect excuse to travel to there via Paris for a few days of luxury hotel inspections, dinners and Champagne with Eiffel Tower views. The suites at the Shangri-La Paris (on the presidential suite terrace shown below) blew me away, as did the whimsical, fun and luxurious Ray Charles suite (pictured) at the Royal Monceau, one of my overall favorite Parisian hotels.

The year of epic travels culminated with four nights in Cannes at the Majestic Barriere hotel, in a beautifully redone seaview room--steps away from the Palais, where ILTM, the luxury travel world's version of Fashion Week takes place. Dozens of meetings with hoteliers from new properties in Israel to Malaysia to Fiji to Iceland and new friends made from Greece to Bali to pretty much every corner of the world are the key reasons Cannes is on my annual calendar for nine years running now. I flew home to LA via Vancouver for a last bit of holiday cheer before putting away the winter business travel clothes and trading them in for sundresses and flip flops. Maui (pictured) is now my home base until early January, and from here, am doing lots of yoga, soaking up the sun, and planning next year's adventures which already include China, Tibet, Whistler, Southampton, Tuscany, Brussels, Venice and many more hot spots!

For more information on planning your own luxury travels for 2014 and beyond, please email me at You can follow my elite travel adventures on twitter at @elitetravelgal and


  1. Thanks for sharing a useful blog. And your next agenda london is one of the most fascinating and popular cities in the world for tourists from all over the world.
    Click Here

  2. No doubt London is really famous and popular city in all over the world But I have an experience of Mombasa as well Mombasa is also good for the tour so don't be late for good offer of Cheap Mombasa Flight

  3. Nicely written Varun!!! A perfect travelogue for an equally awesome place..

    - bhutan tours

  4. A well put together interesting and informative account. Enjoyed seeing the photos too.
    You must've enjoyed the serendipitous tour! :)

    - tourism Bhutan

  5. A great place to travel, thanks to your information

  6. What an amazing year you had! Seems like you had a lot of adventure and relaxation too :-)

    I'm totally jealous of your Maui trip :-D

  7. amazing post! while traveling to bhutan you sure will need a Bhutan Travel Agency with expert Travel Advice. so here we are.

  8. Thanks for sharing a useful blog. And your agenda Bhutan is one of the most fascinating and popular cities in the world for tourists from all over the world.
    - Bhutan tour Packages

  9. Maui, The tourists who come here really should read your article because of what you've actually experienced it. Knowing this information will help crestfallen.

  10. Burberry Outlet Air Max Shoes Coach Black Friday Coach Black Friday Coach Cyber Monday Coach Factory Coach Outlet Factory Coach Outlet USA Coach Purses Factory Coach Purses USA Coach Store Outlet Coach Purses On Sale Monster Beats Outlet Louis Vuitton Outlet Louis Vuitton Factory Marc Jacobs On Sale MCM Outlet MCM 店铺 cheap oakley sunglasses Michael Kors Outlet Michael Kors Outlet Michael Kors Factory Michael Kors Outlet Michael Kors Factory Online Coach Factory Outlet North Face Outlet Online Polo Outlet Store Ralph Lauren UK Sac Longchamp Pairs Coach Outlet Online Coach Factory Oultet Ugg Australia Barbour Jackets Outlet Online Canada Goose Outlet Gucci Outlet Online Michael Kors Outlet Moncler Clearance Moncler Jackets Outlet Online North Clearace Outlet Polo Ralph Lauren Outlet Online Woolrich Clearance Michael Kors Factory Outlet Coach Outlet Online USA Beats by Dre Coach Purses Outlet Online Michael Kors USA

  11. Sightseeing as it would be great if you travel to this place.
    Friv 100

  12. Thanks for giving me the useful information. I think I need it. Thank you
    Friv 7
    Yepi 10

  13. Thank you for making the honest effort to discuss this.
    juegos kizi | juegos de kizi | juegoskizi

  14. all what you presented here and I've read that it is good for my work everything makes me happy,thanks
    WP She’s Viral Pro |
    Kizi 2015 |
    Juegos 2015

  15. If you need more traffic to your website check out the website in my name. It really helped me and i think it can help your website.
    Best organic seo service

  16. Thank you. I'll be passing this along, I am very happy to get this post and comment here.
    Cost effective web designing

  17. Congratulation for the great post. Those who come to read your Information will find lots of helpful and informative tips.
    West Palm Beach Orthodontist

  18. Thank you so much for sharing this great information with us.
    cost effective seo

  19. I wish to be a part of this concert. Thanks for writing the review.
    boynton beach orthodontist

  20. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this post.
    royal palm beach orthodontist

  21. Posts shared useful information and meaningful life, I'm glad to be reading this article and hope to soon learn the next article. thank you
    g9g games
    a10 games
    hopy games
    yepi games
    kizi hot
    friv fun
    huz 10 games
    4223 games

  22. update new-best free games online from internet. Here you can find game: Action game, Racing game, Girls game ..and more. Play Y0 games, Y1 Games...Y1000 games online here. Visit and play funny games at Y14 games. thank you

  23. Busy life circumstances than the current world history.
    Mario | Friv | Doraemon Games | Kizi | Yoob

  24. You can play the online game Friv 2000 Games without connecting the Internet.
    It is true that the appearance of the Internet has transformed the world. People can more quickly connect with one another, correct results from searching. Our life has been completely transformed by the Internet. If there is no internet someday, how will be we? Of course, many people will go down and won’t know what they do. However, the game Friv 2000 is considered as a breakthrough in technology, it is not important for you to play the game Friv 250 Online with connected to the Internet or not. Friv 2000 Games , Friv 2000 Games ,
    In order to solve the issue above, the management board simplifies connection with the Internet with the installed technology. It takes your computer only 5 minutes to download the game with connecting the Internet and you will completely play it freely, you can play games on the home page without the Internet. These simple games will meet full requirements for players when there is no internet connection
    Frivcom ,
    Firv Games ,
    Kizi 4 Games ,
    games2win ,
    Frin games ,
    Friv 4 Games ,
    Yepi 10 Games ,
    Kizi 2 ,

  25. The game Friv2games helps you good at games without going to any training classes.
    Children usually like the hobbies of adults because they like freedom and don't want to be managed by anyone. It is the same for games; Friv 2000 Games children always find out powerful games so that they can complete themselves and have new experiences with games. The motor race is given as an example, most of the children are fond of this game and the rough race roads, lots of obstacles, sudden situations make children interested in conquering the game. This type of game helps children better at surveying when they take part in traffic, it also helps them flexible and handle the situations well in their life. Friv 2000 It is true that the game is widespread without any restrictions. Players have the right to control motor and motor race when participating in race in their computer.
    girlsgogames ,
    friv 100 ,
    friv 2 ,
    games2girls ,
    Frivcom ,
    Firv ,
    Kizi 4 ,
    games2girls ,
    Frin games ,

  26. The game Friv 2 school is the best way which helps you reduce stress
    Most of us spend free time on the Internet searching for what meets our needs without paying any fees. However, we also have many difficulties in doing this. If you lack in our sound mind, you will pay fees while we can't solve our issues.
    The home page of Friv 2 School understand the requirements of customers. Therefore, a lot of free games are updated on the home page to help everyone relax without fees; you can listen to music, play soccer, race, etc. The children who live rural and mountainous areas wish to play games on the home page. The games such as; friv2 School, Friv2 Games and Friv 2 school won't make you lose hope when you visit the home page.
    Friv 4 ,
    Yepi 10 ,
    Kizi 1 ,
    jocuri friv ,
    Friv 5 ,
    Kizi 5 ,
    Frivcom ,
    Friv 2016 ,

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. The blog or and best that is extremely useful to keep I can share the ideas
    of the future as this is really what I was looking for, I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.
    strike force heroes| slitherio | earn to die 3
    earn to die 5| good game empire |tank trouble 2

  29. Very impressive article. I have read each and every point and found it very interesting.
    Friv, Y8 Games, Y3 Games, Frozen Games

  30. Top free include online 2017 new game fun kid. Visit come trailer flash 3D, 4D, 5D full play. Thank so much. Twizl , Juegos De Twizl

  31. Sehr interessanter Blog. Viele Blogs sehe ich in diesen Tagen nicht wirklich alles, was ich bin interessiert, aber ich bin auf jeden Fall interessiert in diesem. Dachte nur, dass ich Post und lassen Sie wissen.

  32. Wonderful post, really great tips and advice.
    I enjoyed over read your blog post. Your blog have nice information, I got good ideas from this amazing blog. I am always searching like this type blog post. I hope I will see again.
    friv 3 games
    friv4school 2017
    kizi 2
    zoxy games

  33. I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful youtube downloader

  34. Thank you so much admin is already providing the information to us instagram online web viewer

  35. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! instagram online web viewer

  36. I like the above shared article very much, thanks for sharing.
    Gmail Support.

  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

  39. Very useful and interesting information. Thanks

    Packing and unpacking is part and parcel of moving goods. Through our vendors you could get professional packing for the wide range of items for your home and office.
    Packers and Movers in Bangalore
    Packers and Movers in Pune
    Packers and Movers in Mumbai
    Packers and Movers in Hyderabad
    Packers and Movers in Delhi
    packers and movers in panchkula
    Packers and Movers in Kolkata
    Packers and Movers in Chennai

  40. You can get a format off the web and presenting this letter will stop the accumulation calls while your obligation combination program is underway. Cash Advances San diego

  41. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me. travel guide

  42. This is a great article. You will also like this because it is a great answer for many more reviews.

  43. มาเล่นสนุก sbobet รับเงินเร็วได้เงินไวมาก

  44. The Fantastic Four Games have been topping the sales chart year after year for their forceful presence and great graphics. epic game

  45. After reading this I thought it was extremely informative. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this information together. visa for Turkey from Canada. The Turkish visa is an electronic visa that allows entry into Turkish. Once available, eligible citizens will be able to complete the online application process without having to visit an embassy or consulate.

  46. Keep up the work, great job! The Kenya government has introduced an online visa system that allows citizens to obtain a visit visa electronically. kenya entry requirements you can check online via kenya visa website.

  47. I love the words you express in this page . It is informative content. I admire your work . In this pandemic a lot of people want to extend their visa. The India visa extension is quite simple by online process and the services FRRO provides is available for all foreigners.

  48. Sutton MiniCabs Airport Transfers Link Airport Cars 24/7 hours Sutton taxi service to and from all London Airports. Our drivers are PCO licensed. Book Now
    Sutton to Gatwick Taxi
    Heathrow Airport Transfer
    Gatwick Airport Transfer
    Cheam Airport Transfer
    Sutton Airport Transfer sm1
    Epsom Airport Transfer
    Wandsworth Airport Transfer
    Wimbledon Airport Transfer

  49. This comment has been removed by the author.