Family Adventures in Norway

Family trips to the beautiful countries of Scandinavia are a hot ticket these days.  The incredible vistas, easy walking cities, and fluent English locals all add to what make Denmark, Sweden and Norway some of the most coveted European places to visit.  This summer, I took my children on a tour of Norway to show them a part of beautiful northern Europe and trace our family history.  At the same time, Melissa Lee, my friend and a travel advisor at Royal Travel and Tours took her kids to the capitals of Sweden and Denmark. Here we share our adventures.

First off, we were both fortunate enough to snag amazing kids airfares on SAS that flew nonstop from Chicago to Copenhagen.  The Airbus planes were new and well appointed with three separate and comfortable cabin options: economy, SAS plus, and business.

Oslo, Norway -

Oslo is the smallest of the three Scandinavian capitols but its intimate size only enhances its charm and makes it such an easy walking city when traveling with young children. Book at room at the centrally located, and Signature preferred, Hotel Continental, which is just a block away from the Palace and close to the waterfront as well as the best shopping and restaurants.

For the adrenaline junky, a summertime visit to Oslo must include a zipline ride at Holmenkollen ski jump, site of the 1952 Olympic winter games and several world championships. From the top of this landmark you can enjoy the best views in Oslo then descend 1,185 feet with the same speed and sensation as the ski jumpers.


Next stop is the Viking Ship Museum where you can see the world’s oldest best-preserved Viking Ships as well as treasures and household items found in Viking tombs buried around the Oslo Fjord centuries ago.

One can easily explore Oslo on foot to see some of its national treasures.  For example, the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, which opened in 2008 and is designed to look like a great iceberg coming out of the Sea, is an architectural gem and fun to walk across. 

A visit to the National Museum is easy for young children, due to its smaller size, who can see works from the great Norwegian artist Edvard Munch as well as other impressionists such as Cezanne and Gaugin. 

A fun family activity is to stop by the Palace at 1:30 pm any day of the week to witness the changing of the guards.  Kids will love that there are no gates out front and you can walk right up to the front of the Palace. A beautiful garden is set behind and is a lovely place to stroll or have a picnic.


You cannot spend time in Oslo without wandering through Vigeland Sculpture Park, one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions and the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist.  For young children who need a break from sight seeing there is also an incredible playground within this park.


Copenhagen, Denmark –

Hotel d’Angleterre is a luxurious oasis next to Copenhagen’s most fashionable streets and within walking distance to many must-see attractions, quality shopping and the best Danish dining experiences.  The hotel’s pool and Michelin-starred, family-friendly restaurant, mean the whole family can enjoy the amenities and offerings of the hotel.

Copenhagen is home to the world’s second oldest amusement park in the world, Tivoli Gardens, which opened its doors in 1873.  The park today is home to thrilling rollercoasters, a wide range of restaurants offering fast-food to high-end dining, outdoor concerts from world-class performers, theatre and dance performances and beautifully landscaped gardens.  We spent a morning here checking out all of the rollercoaster and had lunch at a beautiful sit-down restaurant where the adults had wine and fresh shrimp open-faced sandwiches. 

For another perspective of Copenhagen, we boarded a canal cruise to see the colorful sights of the old waterfront shipping district of Nyhavn and were wowed by all the modern design and architecture of the The National Gallery and Opera House, the Christiansborg Palace and the iconic Little Mermaid statue based on the popular Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. 

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    Nyhavn (before Canal Cruise)

Nyhavn (before Canal Cruise)

Stockholm, Sweden –

The Grand Hotel in Stockholm was the elegant and historical waterfront hotel to begin our grand tour of the Scandinavian capitals.  Its location in the city center between the Royal Palace and Old Town meant we could walk to many of the sites and were never far from the user-friendly public transportation.

Stockholm is a city made up of 14 island in the Baltic Sea archipelago.  A short ferry ride from Old Town is the island of Djurgården,  a veritable wonderland full of museums and entertainment from Viking history and modern art to an ABBA experience and rollercoasters. 

Not to be missed are The Vasa Museum, which houses an intact 17th century Viking warship, Junibacken, an interactive museum dedicated to the world of author Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Longstocking, Moderna Museet,

Stockholm’s art and design museum featuring the most influential Scandinavian artists and Skansen, an open-air musem showcasing Swedish culture, tradition and homelife of past days. And of course, a visit to Stockholm would not be complete without checking out the new The ABBA Museum where visitors can not only see famous memorabilia and learn about the group, but also have the unique opportunity to become the 5th band member through their interactive studio experience.

Royal family facts: Kendra’s Royal experience in London

Royal family facts are a huge part of London’s appeal. US TV travel expert Kendra Thornton offers her advice on where to go for a truly regal experience.

On my recent visit to London I was struck by the incredible excitement about the Queen’s 90th birthday. There were big celebrations happening at the time and it really brought home just how much of the city’s appeal is rooted in the Royal Family and how much people want to find out royal family facts.

In fact, whenever folks ask me about visiting London, they pretty much always want to talk about the Royals and how they can get a glimpse into their lives.

Well, the good news is that there is no need to cruise Prince Harry’s favourite night clubs – although it might be fun trying! You can learn so much about the Royals simply by visiting the right London attractions.

Where do I start?
For me, there is only one place to begin: Westminster Abbey. This is where Princess Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh in November 1947, but less than six years later she returned for an even more important ceremony – her coronation as Queen Elizabeth II.

Just to the right as you go inside the Abbey is the famous Coronation chair itself. Known correctly as King Edward’s Chair, it has been used in every English and British coronation ceremony since 1308. This is where the Queen actually sat while being crowned – wow. But don’t get any ideas. It’s protected behind glass and very solid iron bars. You can get close, but you’ll need to find another place to sit down!

The other highlight of the Abbey is, of course, the spot where Prince William and Kate Middleton got married in 2011 – an unmissable treat for lovers of the younger Royals.

The Queen didn’t walk to her coronation, right?
No sir. But you have to go to the magnificent working stables of the Royal Mews to see just how she did get there. She travelled from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey in the Gold State Coach, drawn by eight horses. Used at every Coronation since 1821, this dazzling coach shares pride of place at the Mews with the Glass Coach, which was used during the 1947 wedding.

Got it. So where does she keep the Crown?
Not by the side of the bed! You need a fortress to guard something that valuable. Luckily they have a great one. It’s the Tower of London, of course.

Originally started on the orders of William the Conqueror in the early 1080s, the Tower has loomed large in Royal history ever since. Anne Boleyn, wife of Henry VIII, was executed here, while the first Queen Elizabeth was a prisoner here for a time before gaining the throne.

Today it’s less dangerous, and the highlight of any visit is the chance to get up close and personal with the Crown Jewels. There are over 23,000 gems in total, but center stage is St Edward’s Crown, which was placed on Her Majesty’s head that day in 1953. Just as impressive are the Imperial State Crown, worn by the Queen each year as she officially opens the British Parliament, and the Sovereign’s Sceptre.

Great! But how do I see where she lives?
Well, actually she has several different homes. The most famous one is Buckingham Palace, of course. It’s been the official London residence of the British monarch since Queen Victoria came here in 1837.

The most important thing you need to know is that the Palace is only open to the public during August and September (and a handful of days either side), so make sure you get your timing right.

Inside, there are 19 State Rooms which are used by the Royal family to entertain guests on official visits to the UK. You get to see all of these, and if you really want to play at being a Royal make the most of the lavish White Drawing Room – this is where the Queen and other members of the family gather before official occasions. Just stroll in, close your eyes and imagine you’re important!

Where else can I go?
Why not visit Her Majesty’s favorite home – Windsor Castle? It’s the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, it’s full of Royal history, and it’s only a short journey outside central London.

The castle plays an important role in the Queen’s life. She spends most weekends here, so it’s a private home as well as an official Royal residence where formal duties take place.

Another one of the royal family facts is that each year Her Majesty takes up residence at Windsor for a month around the Easter holiday, and she can also be found here for a week every June when the castle serves as the perfect base for attending the famous Royal Ascot horse racing.

Want to throw yourself into Royal life past and present? Windsor is the place. Not only do the State Apartments act as a journey through time with their changing décor, reflecting the different tastes of the 39 different monarchs who have lived here, but the stunning St George’s Chapel is the resting place of 10 monarchs, including Henry VIII. And just a half-mile down the road is Eton College, where Prince William and Prince Harry were both educated.

That reminds me: what about the younger Royals?
If you are a fan of the younger Royals then I would absolutely recommend Kensington Palace. This was famously the home of Princess Diana for many years, and it is now the London home of William and Kate, while Harry also has an apartment here.

It’s set in over 30 acres of gardens, which include the stunning Sunken Garden, and the Palace itself is exceptionally beautiful – the 16th century King’s Staircase took my breath away! And it’s also the place to look at Royal fashion over the years, with the ‘Fashion Rules Restyled’ exhibit showing a collection of dresses worn by the Queen, as well as others from the collections of Princess Diana and Princess Margaret. A glamorous way to end your Royal tour of London and immersion of royal family facts!

My son’s first European Adventure – A long weekend in Rome

The first time I traveled to Europe I was 10 years old and my parents took me to France and England.  That trip left an impression on me that shaped the rest of my life. I began studying the French language and went on to double major in English and French literature and spent a semester living in Paris and studying at the Sorbonne.  As parents, we want to recreate positive traditions from our own childhood with our children.  So when my son turned 10 years old, I wanted to celebrate by taking him on his first European trip.  I asked my son where he wanted to go and he was quick to respond.  He had recently read a book on Pompeii and was fascinated by the ancient Italian village that was covered in ash by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Italy is full of so many treasures spread out across this boot shaped country that one would need months, even years, to experience.  Sadly, based on school and sports schedules, we would have to consolidate our trip into an aggressive 4-day/4-night stay.  As a result, I decided we would travel to Rome with a day trip to Pompeii.

Day 1 – Rome/Colosseum

We land in Rome on a Thursday morning and head straight to our hotel.  We are staying at Grand Hotel Palace, a lovely 4-star hotel with easy access to all the city’s main attractions and located in a charming quiet neighborhood.  I have pre-arranged some tours for our trip so we won’t waste precious time waiting in ticket lines or figuring things out “on the fly”, which is typically how I prefer to travel.  After dropping our bags and freshening up, we are ready to hit Rome’s most famous attraction – the Colosseum. 

To see the Colosseum for the first time is truly remarkable for anyone, but to see it through the eyes of a 10-year old for the first time is something I will never forget.  This massive structure stands so high and impressive amidst the bustling of Rome that it’s impossible to think it was built nearly 2000 years ago (in AD 80).  My son was raised in Chicago – the closest to antiquity he has ever gotten before this moment is the 19th century antiques in his grandparent’s house.  He is in awe and the wonder I see in his eyes flood my heart with gratitude that we are on this adventure together.  He is eager to learn about the life of the gladiators and the fierce animals that fought here as well as understand the sophisticated traps and pully systems built beneath the floors to control the flow of “entertainers” marching to their doom.  We spend hours touring the Colosseum and the next door Roman Forum, all the while grateful for Rome’s sunny, warm springtime weather on our first day.  Sadly, we need to keep moving so we leave vowing to return at night to see the monuments aglow.

I had pre-purchased City Sightseeing bus tickets that allowed us to hop on and off at important attractions around the city as often as we wanted in a 48 hour period.  After leaving the Colosseum, we hop the bus and it drives us past Circus Maximus, the Pantheon, the Vatican, and Tivoli Fountain and we get our bearings around the city while learning some historical facts about these attractions.  Our first night we dine at a wonderful Trattoria near our hotel and head to bed exhausted yet excited for our next day.

Day 2 – Pompeii & Rome (The Pantheon, Tivoli Fountain, Spanish Square)

On our second morning, we are up and moving early – no time for jetlag – to catch our 7:35 am train for Napoli (Naples).  I’m so happy my son will have the opportunity to travel by train in Europe as I think it is one of the most delightful experiences (and something we can’t mimic in the U.S.)  I pre-purchased an all-encompassing tour that included our round trip train tickets from Rome to Naples as well as car transportation from the Naples train station to Pompeii plus all our admission tickets and a guided tour through Pompeii.  This was the best money ever spent as we were well taken care of the entire time.  Note: Naples is not a place a tourists should venture without a plan as crime is common.

What I love most about our trip agenda is that it was curated by my son’s interests, and what he wanted to see ended up being some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life too.  I’ve toured Egypt and I would put Pompeii right there with it in terms of ancient marvels.  To see the type of sophistication that existed in this village that was settled in the 6th century B.C. -- steam showers, wall plumbing that captured rain water and carried it through the home, beautiful artistic wall frescoes, carved marble street signs and merchant stores on every corner. 

Pompeii was a middle class village where there was wealth but most citizens still worked – from toga makers to wine makers to bath house owners – we can tour the homes of these people and get such a vivid picture of what their lives were like.  As a quick historical reminder, Pompeii was covered under 35 feet of volcanic ash when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 and it sat intact and undiscovered until 1738.  Scary to think, but Mt. Vesuvius is very much still an active volcano and hundreds of thousands of people today live around it in harms way today should this volcano erupt again as it did centuries ago.

Our train arrives back in Rome around 2pm so we have plenty of time to wander on foot to some of the city’s other most famous sights. We start with the Pantheon – it’s a marvel to look out its dome ceiling and think this place of worship was built in AD 126.  I love this picture that shows the Roman sky out of the beautiful dome ceiling.

We stop for a gelato (a daily must when in Rome!) and continue up the narrow streets to see the Tivoli fountain. We both make a wish and toss a coin in before walking on to watch some street performers. 

We slowly make our way to the Spanish square where people lounge by the fountain and fill their water bottles from the water spouts (a Roman tradition!) The Spanish steps are under renovation (opening in May) but we are able to wander up a small section of them to get a beautiful view of Rome below.  If you are a shopper this is the area where you want to go for all the luxury boutiques… my son is a trooper and lets me browse in a few boutiques.  It’s getting late so we head back to the hotel to change and get ready for dinner.  It’s a Friday night so we dine in the trendy Trastevere area and walk the busy streets after enjoying the people watching.

Day 3 – The Vatican, Catacombs, Gladiator School

On our third day, I had pre-booked us a morning tour of the Vatican with transportation so we are up early and off to visit the world’s smallest country! Another reason I suggest planning Vatican tours in advance is because there are always special events happening and days/times when certain areas of the Vatican aren’t available. I picked a day when we would be able to see the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, and opted for just a half-day tour since long tours are hard for children.  It was fun to watch my son learn about Michelangelo and his legacy while seeing his most famous works in real life at the same time.  The moments we spent in silence hugging and staring at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel will forever be imprinted in my heart and mind.  Before it’s time to go, he is thrilled to purchase a post card and mail it from the Vatican post office to his Catholic grandparents.

Our Vatican tour finished around lunchtime so after a quick change at the hotel we take a drive (via taxi) down the oldest road in Rome, Via Appia Antica, which was created in 312 BC and spanned 350 miles. We lunch at this marvelous roadside family restaurant located next to the must-see Catacombs of St. Sebastian and St. Callistus, which provide a fascinating history lesson on the early Christians living in Rome and is also where a number of early Popes were buried. 

In this historical area I have arranged a very special surprise for my son – he gets to go to “Gladiator School”.  Over a 2-hour period, a gentleman that looked like he was ripped from the pages of ancient Rome taught my son how gladiators trained and lived as well as their battle tactics.  My son is able to try on gladiator armor and duel at the end of the training (my son is thrilled he “won”).  This “class” is a must do for anyone visiting Rome with little ones.

Day 4 – The 2769th Birthday of Rome

We were so honored to be in Rome during one of its biggest holidays – on our last day the city was celebrating its 2769th birthday and there were many festivities planned across the city.  We spent the morning at Palatine Hill – the birthplace of Rome as chosen by Romolus after he defeated his twin brother Remus.  It’s also where Julius Cesar was born and lived as emperor.  This is a massive place where you could wander for a week and still not see every corner – it’s also a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the sunshine with a book if you have time. 

Our gladiator instructor from the day before had told us about a huge re-enactment happening at Circus Maximus to mark Rome’s birthday so we walk from Palatine Hill to join the crowds and watch Gladiator fights and historical Roman dance and music performances.  We feel so lucky to be in Rome on this day – the equivalent to our Fourth of July in the U.S. 

That afternoon, we are picked up at Circus Maximus by a “golf cart” for a private custom tour of Rome that I had pre-arranged.  I do not see another golf cart in the city and this is a fun and quirky thing to do with kids – my son loves it.  The driver is happy to take us anywhere we want. We decide to visit the beautiful Piazza Borghesa and on the way he has a surprise for us.  He stops at the Knights of Malta “keyhole” where you look through and see a magnificent secret site.  I don’t want to ruin for those who don't know, but I highly suggest you go and take a look when you’re in Rome.  Our driver also takes us to a couple beautiful places where we have magnificent panorama views of Rome. After a little over an hour our tour ends at Villa Borghesa. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and spoke some of the best English we’d heard in all of Italy.

That evening we dine near the Colosseum then walk over to watch the firework celebration and see the monuments lit up at night.  It is a perfect ending to an amazing “Roman holiday”.

To learn more about my visit to Rome or to get specific information and pricing on tours I mentioned, please email me at

Winter Wellness Getaways

1. Los Angeles

Los Angeles is known for being fit and healthy, with beautiful year-round weather allowing for constant outdoor activities like hiking, paddleboard yoga/meditation and beach volleyball in Manhattan Beach, as well as being on the cutting-edge of indoor workouts such as Pop PhysiqueBarry's Bootcamp (beloved by A-list celebs like Kim Kardashian, Ellie Goulding, Jessica Biel, Sandra Bullock and others) and Aerial Yoga. Not to mention L.A. is ground-zero for healthful eating, with an abundance of local, sustainable, fresh ingredients being used at top restaurants all over town. There's a reason the L.A. Marathon and Olympic Trials are both happening in L.A. in February! The newly renovated, contemporary W Los Angeles - West Beverly Hills offers a unique mix of cutting-edge design and is situated at the foothills of Beverly Hills and minutes away from L.A.'s famed beaches, serving as the perfect home base for a wellness getaway. The hotel features various luxurious amenities, such as the indulgent BLISS Spa with several nourishing spa treatments, 24-hour, state-of-the-art FIT fitness facility and W Hotels' signature concierge service, "Whatever/Whenever," delivering anything guests desire (including suggested running maps for those who prefer to take their workout outdoors). Rates start at $389/night. Roundtrip airfare starts at $113/person.

2. Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, AZ

Situated in the warm shade of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, AZ, Miraval Resort & Spa is a top-rated, all-inclusive destination resort and spa offering an array of dynamic growth and development programs, one-of-a-kind, luxurious spa treatments and authentic, flavorful and healthful cuisine. This year the world-renowned destination spa is celebrating its 20th anniversary. To honor this monumental milestone the resort has unveiled a multi-million dollar renovation that includes brand-new guestrooms, designed in collaboration with the property’s sleep specialist, Sheryl Brooks, RN, that enhance sleep and feature a fresh, natural aesthetic inspired by the resort’s stunning desert surroundings. In order to enhance Miraval’s dynamic health and wellness programming, the resort has also revealed a new fitness center that features the state-of-the-art fitness equipment, as well as panoramic glass windows and sliding doors that showcase the picturesque landscape surrounding Miraval. As part ofMiraval's 20th anniversary, the resort is offering 20% any stay of 5 nights or more now through February 29, 2016. Rates start at $599 and include the following:

  • $175 resort credit per person to use toward spa services and activities
  • Luxurious casita-style accommodations
  • All meals, snacks, & non-alcoholic beverages
  • Daily fitness, yoga, meditation, & wellness lectures
  • Full access to Miraval's extensive resort amenities including fitness center and the new Life in Balance Spa, with saunas, hot tubs and more
  • Unlimited hiking, mountain biking, and challenge course activities
  • Complimentary shuttle transfers from Tucson International Airport

3. Honolulu, Hawaii

Nothing will inspire you more toward a healthy mind and body balance than a trip to the Hawaiian islands! Overlooking Waikiki Bay, the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani in Honolulu is a modern resort hotel is a 2.7-mile drive from Diamond Head State Monument hiking trails and a 2.8-mile drive from the Honolulu Museum of Art. The airy, casual rooms and suites have free WiFi and feature minifridges, coffeemakers and flat-screen TVs. Amenities include an open-air buffet restaurant offering nightly entertainment, as well as a poolside bar serving Japanese bento boxes. There's a fitness center and an outdoor freshwater pool.  A 5-night package including round trip air from Chicago, hotel accommodations, taxes and fees through Apple Vacations is available for March 2 departures at $1,264 per person (based on double occupancy). Plus its whale watching season so book this package and you’ll get two free whale watching excursion tickets.

4. Hotel Palomar, Chicago

Hotel Palomar Chicago, a luxury lifestyle hotel located in downtown Chicago, is central to the city’s most exciting shops, culture and nightlife. Guests of the hotel will enjoy spacious guest rooms, artful design, a 17th floor rooftop terrace and indoor pool. Adjacent to the hotel you’ll find the award winning Sable Kitchen & Bar that serves elevated New American food. Hotel Palomar supports wellness while traveling with various amenities for guests to enjoy including a 24 hour fitness center, complimentary bikes and fitness programming on the rooftop with Shred415, a high intensity interval training studio, during the summer. In addition, each guest room has complimentary access to 20 min workouts you can do right in your room. Equipment for these workouts can be checked out at the front the desk. As new year resolutions are in full swing, Hotel Palomar is offering a wellness focused package that helps you “shred” away the pounds not worry about sacrificing your fitness goals just because you are traveling. With the Shred Package enjoy overnight accommodations, 2 class passes to Shred415’s studio, a healthy welcome amenity and $30 GC to Sable Kitchen & Bar for light fare or a couple cocktails to toast a job well done. Rates start at $149/night

To watch this segment on WGN-TV click here

Air Travel Passenger Rights

The crazy holiday travel season is coming so now is a good opportunity to remind people of their rights as an airline passenger.

#1 – Tarmac Delays

DOT prohibits U.S. airlines from remaining on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers (only exception is for safety or security).  Carriers are required to provide adequate food and drinking water for passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac and to maintain operable lavatories. 

#2 - Need to Change or Cancel a Ticket

You have up to 24 hours after booking a flight to void/cancel the ticket at no charge for a full refund (assuming you’re booking at least one week before departure.) You can also hold a reservation for 24 hours before paying for it.

#3 - Route or Schedule Changes

DOT now requires airlines to give you prompt notification of delays, cancellations and route changes. Unfortunately, while notification is required, airlines can still change your routing drastically, for example from a nonstop flight to one involving several connections, even if the airline still flies the original nonstop route. You can call the airline and demand a more suitable routing or request a full refund of the fare (which the airline should give you without imposing any cancellation penalties).

#4 – Getting Bumped from a Flight

The best way to avoid getting bumped from a flight is to always make sure you have a seat reserved at the time you book the ticket.  However if you do get bumped from a domestic flight and arrive late you’re entitled to cash compensation.

- If you arrive one to two hours later than your scheduled arrival time, you’re entitled to the one-way fare of your ticket up to $400.

- If you’re delayed two to four hours from your original arrival time, you’re entitled to 200% of the one-way fare, up to $650.

- If more than four hours, you’re entitled to 400% of the one-way fare, up to $1300.

If the airline tries to give you a voucher, insist on cash, since vouchers usually come with restrictions.

#5 – Any other airline issues – such as the case I had with Frontier Airlines when I was cancelled off one of their flights apparently because they had booked me on an illegal connection, but they failed to notify me of the cancellation and I showed up at the airport with my kids. I filed a grievance with the DOT and got my money back.  The DOT will step in and ensure the airline responds directly within 30 days to any complaint filed but in my experience I heard back in 48 hours and found them to be exceptionally helpful.  For more details people can go to

This Thanksgiving, I’m So 'Thankful' I Came to Paris

Paris is the only city I’ve ever lived in besides the Chicago area.  It truly is my second home!  That is why when the terrorist attacks happened in Paris on November 13, 2015, I refused to cancel a trip that had me arriving into the City of Lights one week later.

I felt a responsibility, not only as the owner of a travel company, but also as an American, to show my support to this city I love so much and to not let terrorism rule my life.  Flying out of Chicago was a breeze… the Delta flight attendants commented that the flight was typically always sold out, but due to what had occurred we were only at half capacity.  Arriving into Paris was a normal experience and surprisingly the customs line was quick and without any noticeable security enhancements.


It wasn’t until I got into the city center to check into my hotel in the 8th arrondissement and took a stroll where I saw the heavy military presence around every block.  My first day was a sunny weekend day so I was pleased to see locals and tourists – and many families with small children – out walking the streets and playing in the parks (I walked through the Tuileries Garden and the Luxembourg Garden).  The streets were certainly quieter than normal as fewer people were out and those that were spoke in hushed voices.  Clearly this city was still rebounding from such a devastating blow, but it was good to see that Parisians weren’t letting what happened scare them into changing who they are or what they do. 

When dusk came everyone scattered out of the streets, except on the Champs-Elysees, where I was surprised at how many people stayed out enjoying the lights and Christmas markets.  Seeing military presence every 20 yards likely gave them comfort.

On my second day in Paris, I spoke via Skype with WGN-TV News in Chicago on what I was witnessing – the segment can be watched HERE.

On my third day in Paris, the U.S. State Department issued a global warning to all U.S. travelers that advised of staying away from crowded areas and to use precaution.  I have traveled all over the world- oftentimes solo – so the precautions I took in Paris were similar to ones I would have followed anytime I was by myself in a foreign country.  To be safe, I opted to dine only in familiar hotels or in a brasserie close to my hotel as recommended by the concierge.  Since it was dark, I took a taxi ordered by either the hotel or restaurant to get to and from my dinner.  During the day, I felt very safe walking the streets around many of the major tourist areas of Paris (Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Place de la Concorde, etc.), but I did not linger where there were crowds.

I have now been in Paris for six days and never once have I felt unsafe.  The French, as expected, are grateful for those tourists who did not cancel their trips as tourism is an important industry for them.  The hotel where I was staying – Le Bristol - said about 1/3 of their guests cancelled immediately and rebooked for sometime in early 2016.  I made a visit to the recently refurbished Plaza Athenee, which reported a similar amount of rescheduled guests.  Much to my delight, I bumped into an acquaintance from the U.S. who was staying in my hotel with her husband and two young daughters – they said they also felt very safe and were happy they had not cancelled their trip.

Since arriving in France, I have received many messages from friends who have upcoming trips wanting my “boots on the ground” opinion of what is happening.  They are asking if it feels like a war zone or if I’m scared, etc.  What I tell them is that they should absolutely still come to Paris! And no, it definitely does not feel like a war zone!  Yes, perhaps they will be a little bit more anxious because the events were so recent, but that is the sad reality we now live in regardless where we travel. My opinion is we cannot let these terrorists scare us into changing our habits. Paris and the French need our tourism support as much now as we needed them in NYC after 9/11.  Don’t cancel your trips and don’t let the media reports scare you.  Paris is alive and well and spectacular as ever!

If you have any specific questions about Paris or my stay, please CONTACT ME.

Cyber Monday Travel Deals

The travel industry is embracing Cyber Monday (November 30) in full force - here’s a round up of great discounts people can snag over the holiday weekend.

1. Jupiter Beach, FL. 

Recognized for being one of America’s happiest seaside towns by Coastal Living, Jupiter Beach embodies the laid-back lifestyle and casual sophistication of South Florida.  As for where to stay, look no further than the Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa.  This 168-room resort sits comfortably on 1,000 feet of secluded Atlantic shoreline and offers an endless variety of resort activities, ideal for romantic getaways, family vacations, or groups seeking a tropical setting for their next meeting or special event.  On Cyber Monday, the resort will be hosting a 24-hour flash sale offering 50% off the best available rate to visitors who book within that 24-hour timeframe.  Rates start at $220.00/night and the offer is valid for travel through February 11, 2016.  Round-trip airfare from Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale as low as $127 pp.  To book, visit and use code CYBERJBR. 

2. Barbados

Temperatures in Chicago are cooling down, but things are heating up in Barbados. Situated on the island’s sparkling west coast, Tamarind is the contemporary, Mediterranean-inspired getaway perfect for families with teens. Perched on a 750-foot stretch of white crescent beach, guests can learn how to fly a camera drone during a newly launched aerial cinematography class, enjoy a game of beach cricket (the local sport of choice), embark on a shipwreck snorkeling tour or enjoy the resort’s complimentary watersports. Just in time for winter, save up to 55% off this island retreat with Cyber Monday rates starting at just $218/night, valid for travel Dec. 1-22, 2015, Jan. 3 - April 17, 2016 and June 1-Oct. 22, 2016. Round-trip airfare from Chicago as low as $460. Visit and enter CYBER1. 

3. Apple Vacations

Apple Vacations has a Cyber Monday sale where any new reservation made that day will receive $25 off per adult on packages 5 nights or less and $50 off per adult on new packages of 6 nights or more. This deal is good for travel 12/1/2015 – 12/16/2016.  One great example is use this to book a post-holiday escape to the beautiful Riviera Maya, Mexico with a 3-night unlimited luxury stay at the highly rated, adults only Secrets Silversands Riviera Maya. This package with a junior suite, round trip air fare, all top shelf liquor, room service and meals included plus $200 in resort coupons is just $899 per person (quoted price does not include the Cyber Monday discount.)  To book contact Royal Travel & Tours at

4. Caribbean Cruise with MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises is kicking off the holiday season with amazing Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals starting Friday November 27 and lasting through Wednesday, December 2. The special sale includes up to 30 percent off PLUS ship board credit on select 7-night or longer Caribbean Spring and Winter 2016-2017 sailings on the new MSC Divina. Recently returning to the U.S and now sailing year-round from Miami to the Caribbean stopping in desirable destinations like St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, guests can experience unique Mediterranean Style cruising that includes authentic Mediterranean style dining; elegant and stylish décor; world-class custom designed evening production shows; family-friendly activities like the 4D theatre and LEGO experience; and the MSC Yacht Club, an all-inclusive private VIP club level with personal butler, 24-hour concierge services, exclusive Top Sail lounge and pool, and private restaurant. Prices starting as low as $399 per person for a 7-night sailing in an interior guest room.  Contact Royal Travel & Tours to book or learn more.

5. Peninsula Chicago

Interested in combining your holiday shopping with a luxurious overnight?  Then don’t miss 20% off the Peninsula Chicago’s best available rate to stay in a renovated guest room when you book between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Offer is valid on select “premier” room types for stays between 13 December 2015 and 30 April 2016. Rates start at US$ 300/night. The hotel is also offering Spa and restaurant deals as well as gift cards for those who book.

Shoulder Season Travel Deals


Legendary foods, stunning beaches and fun things to do make Jamaica a must get to destination any time of year, but a recent sale introduced by Apple Vacations means you can visit to the beautiful Caribbean island for as much as 40% less.  For example, the adults only 5-star Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay is available for a 4-night unlimited luxury stay for $1414 per person (based on double occupancy) and included with that is round trip air on American Airlines, an ocean view junior suite for four nights, all meals and top shelf beverages, nonstop transfers from the airport and $200 in resort coupons. Set on a peninsula with over a mile of private beach leading into the crystal blue Caribbean Sea, this is a AAA Four Diamond resort that mixes romance and fun. This package is good for departure dates 9/18, 10/2 – 10/9. This sale is valid on bookings made between Aug. 7 and Sept. 3, 2015 for travel between Aug. 7, 2015 - Dec. 18, 2016.  

Sunny Isle, FL

Reminiscent of a Mediterranean villa Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach is Florida’s only hotel of its kind built completely open to the sea.  The resort features three oceanfront swimming pools, a marine biology inspired kids program, three restaurants including Il Mulino New York and a two-story award winning spa.  The new rooms and suites are beautifully decorated.  Book a 3-night stay between now and Dec. 18, 2015 and you’ll get the fourth night free.  Offer available on Deluxe Intracoastal room categories and above.  Rates may vary depending on specific travel but start at $374/night (price reflects the fourth night free discount.)  Book with Royal Travel and you will get a complimentary full American breakfast for two daily and $100 spa credit.  This resort is 20-minutes from Ft. Lauderdale and 30-minutes from Miami airport with round trip air from Chicago as low as $228 on Spirit.


This fall while most of the country is drastically cooling off and preparing for the transition to winter, Houston’s temperatures are sitting comfortably in the mid-70s to low-80s. It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy a variety of outdoor festivals celebrating everything from Houston’s burgeoning food and beverage scene to its rich cultural diversity, so grab your Instagram-happy friends and check out the first-ever Houston Urban Experience Mural Festival Oct 17-24. Renowned artists will transform the city in only 7 days, leaving behind a stunning 17-mile art tour. What’s even better is this and many other events and attractions are totally free, leaving you only to pick up the tab for round trip airfare as low as $107 and a weekend hotel package at hip and convenient Hotel ICON for only $189.


A tropical beachfront oasis just outside Panama City, The Westin Playa Bonita is the perfect place for families to play this Labor Day weekend. Book the resort’s Family Package and receive 50% off an adjoining guest room (for travelers under 21) and free meals for kids under 12. With historic landmarks such as the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo and Gatun Lake all within arm’s reach, grab your passports and make it an educational escape the family will never forget. Rates start at just $184/night for Labor Day weekend (9/4 – 9/8) and air fare direct from Chicago is $422 on Copa Airlines.

  • For your next trip, contact Royal Travel at or call 1-800-747-7695.
  • Follow Kendra on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KendraThornton
  • To watch my segment on WGN-TV featuring these deals click here.

End of Summer Getaways


Punta Cana is the most beautiful area in Dominican Republic, full of coconut palms, which is why it is called the “costa del coco”, or coconut coast.  Its vast, white sandy beaches are greatly appreciated and its tropical climate means year round temperatures between 82 and 86 degrees F.  Book an all inclusive getaway to the Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana a highly rated full service Oceanside resort with a big beautiful beach where an all inclusive 3-night package through Apple Vacations with Wednesday departures between 8/26 – 9/30 is only $679/per person (based on double occupancy).  This package includes airfare, accommodations, transfers to/from the resort, all meals and drinks and non motorized activities. Call Royal Travel & Tours to learn more.


The Royal Decameron Complex is located 20 minutes from Puerto Vallarta International Airport on the most exciting and extensive beach in beautiful Riviera Nayarit. The colorful resort offers 5 swimming pools, non-motorized water sports and bar services plus a large number of dining options including: JAP JAP, Wok, MexicanoFusión, Piccolo and Steak House, and more. The Royal Decameron Complex also features a disco, 3 tennis courts, one soccer pitch and a Kids Club.  An all inclusive 7-night stay through Apple Vacations with air fare, lodging, all meals and drinks is just $799/pp (based on double occupancy) for Saturday departures between 8/22 and 9/5. Call Royal Travel & Tours to learn more.


Looking to “chill out” in Palm Springs this Summer? Now is the time to take advantage of Hyatt Palm Springsnewly announced “Chill” package.  Guests of the Hyatt Palm Springs this Summer who book a 2-night stay will get the 3rd night free! Travelers can now extend their stay at no cost when arriving Sunday - Tuesday. Guests purchasing 2 nights can get a 3rd consecutive night for free.  See website for availability and stay dates.  Book by September 15th for stays through September 30th.  With room rates starting as low as $129, packages range from $129 to $239, representing savings of 31% to 50%.  Roundtrip airfare from Chicago to Palm Springs as low as $361. Use code: 55110 and book it here


Everyone knows Choice Hotels for its popular midscale brands -- including Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites, Sleep Inn and Quality Inn. But they may not be aware that Choice also has an upscale offering called Ascend Hotel Collection. Ascend is a collection of more than 130 unique and distinctive hotels and resorts around the world. Right now, a family of four can get away to the Ascend Hotel Collection resort in Wisconsin Dells: Bluegreen Vacations Christmas Mountain Village, for about $199 per night for a two-bedroom suite with a full kitchen.  Ascend Hotel Collection guests have the option to book reservations at 28 exceptional Bluegreen Vacations timeshare resorts. These aren’t simply hotel rooms, they are multi-bedroom units and villas – perfect for families.  Just a short 3-hour drive from Chicago and there is so much to do in Wisconsin Dells. In addition to the Waterparks, the Christmas Mountain Village resort features: A world-class 27-hole golf course; Miniature golf course; Tennis courts; Catch and release fishing locations; 4 outdoor swimming pools, volleyball courts. And is a short distance to: Mount Olympus Water and Theme Park; Noah’s Ark Waterpark; Kalahari Water Park; Mirror Lake State Park. IIn the winter it has 13 ski hills serviced by two chair lifts, cross country ski trails and an indoor swimming pool. Viewers can visit for more information about the entire Ascend Hotel Collection and to book their stay at the Ascend Christmas Mountain Village.


There is no better way to satisfy your retail needs than with the JW Marriott Chicago Back to School shopping package. Macy's is one of the largest department stores in the world and the State Street location has been a Chicago destination for more than a century. After a long day of shopping at Macy's and exploring the Windy City, there is no better way to unwind than in the lavish comforts of your JW hotel room or suite.  Starting at $269/night, this package includes: accommodations, Breakfast credit of $70 USD to be used towards room service or at The Florentine and $100 Macy's gift card. PROMOTIONAL CODE: Z89 Reservations can be made online or call 1-800-228-9290 in the US and ask for promotional code Z89. 

For your next trip, contact Royal Travel at or call 1-800-747-7695.Follow Kendra on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KendraThornton

To view this segment that aired on WGN-TV Chicago, click here


Summer Savings

Summer is the time you can save on trips to Mexico and the Caribbean – Here’s a roundup of two great resorts to consider for a peak summer getaway and two destinations best to visit in the later Indian summer months of Sept/Oct.


Couples, families or singles looking for a vibrant beach getaway will love traveling to Playa El Jobo in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. Dreams Las Mareas, located on an expansive palm-studded beach and surrounded by lush green mountains & jungles, provides an action-packed vacation featuring water sports, land activities, and swimming pools while sunbathing or laying under a thatched palapa. Continue the fun into the evenings with live nightly entertainment, outdoor bars and lounges. Book this package through Apple Vacations for a 5-night stay with departure dates on Monday from 9/7-10/5 in the Junior Suite tropical/pool view for $1,651/person. This package is part of Unlimited Luxury including airfare, hotel accommodations, food, drink and activities. You’ll also receive $200 in resort coupons.


Discover the beauty of the Caribbean coastline on Mexico’s northeastern peninsula with a getaway that combines luxury with an adventure-filled vacation to Riviera Maya. Snorkel in the largest natural aquarium in the world of Xel-Ha, explore the mystery of the Mayan caves in Aktun Chen, or relax and experience a Mayan spa treatment. Stay at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya and incorporate modern style and experiential dining to your getaway. Enjoy Unlimited Luxury, which includes airfare, hotel accommodations, hotel transfers, food, drink, and activities. Book this 3-night package from Apple Vacations by 6/30 with departure dates on Monday, Tuesday and Sunday 7/19-7/28 and stay in the Deluxe Gold King room for $899/person and receive free WiFi, private balcony and $500 resort coupons per room, per stay.

 Can’t get away now?  The Indian summer months of September/October are the ideal time to visit these two stunning locales -


California’s Carmel Valley is a pastoral river valley and one of a few hidden gems when it comes to producing fine wines so the most exciting time to visit is in Sept/Oct when the annual wine harvest is in full swing.  Here, visitors can visit twenty top shelf wine tasting venues tucked within a quaint walkable village, including award-winning pinot noirs and estate chardonnay.  The valley offers horseback riding, hiking at the 4,000-acre Garland Ranch Regional Park and is a good jump off point for visiting nearby Carmel by-the-Sea, Pebble Beach, the Monterey Bay Aquarium or legendary Big Sur along Highway One.  New and not to miss is the Forbes Four Star Bernardus Lodge and Spa, which ranks number one among Carmel Valley properties by Trip Advisor.  The sleek new interior and design sensibility delivers 57 spacious guestrooms tucked within olive trees, vineyards and sweeping lavender, romantic soaking tubs for two, the new Lucia Restaurant & Bar and a full service Spa, certain to slough away any city stress. Rates start at $475.00/double.  Airfare from the starts at $440.00/pp.


Autumn in the Canadian Rockies is one of the best times of year for travelers seeking

gorgeous weather combined with stunning scenery. In September, the days are almost always sunny, and you’ll begin to see the trees turning gold. And in October, millions of salmon return to British Columbia, and the rivers literally turn red from the salmon run. Families or couples seeking relaxation and an unforgettable journey will love hopping aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, a seven-time winner of the World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train. You’ll ride in beautiful, comfortable domed cars on-board a luxury train traveling into the heart of the Canadian Rockies through legendary Spiral Tunnels, dramatic canyons and the Kicking Horse River. Relax and sit back while being served delicious gourmet food, wonderful Canadian wines, all while soaking in the surrounding scenery. Combine comfort and adventure with time spent sightseeing in the incredible mountain towns of Banff and Lake Louise during your trip. Book the First Passage to the West going Eastbound from Vancouver to Banff for 4 days and 3nights for $1,611/person and enjoy: 2 day Rocky Mountaineer Service; 2 breakfasts and 2 lunches; 3 nights hotel accommodations in Vancouver, Kamloops and Banff; Sightseeing from the Vancouver Lookout Tower that is 430 ft in the air; Rail stations transfers in Vancouver, Kamloops and Banff; Luggage handling and National Park Pass. This package is good for departure dates from now to October. Roundtrip airfare from Chicago to Vancouver is $529/person.

·      For your next trip, contact Royal Travel at or call 1-800-747-7695.

The Top 5 Luxury Family Resorts

1. Eden Rock - St. Barths

Eden Rock – St Barths offers impeccable attention to detail, unparalleled levels of service and a driven commitment to creating a unique holiday for the world's elite family vacationers – all in a relaxed and good-humored way with friendly and efficient staff. The resort is located on a rocky promontory and surrounded by white coral sandy beaches, clear blue sea and a lovely coral reef full of wild sea life. Its convenient location in the heart of the island allows guests to easily stroll to the vibrant shops, boutiques, quaint bars and restaurants situated in the village of St Jean. Eden Rock - St Barths is a member of the distinguished Relais & Chateaux hotel collection. My clients receive complimentary breakfast daily during their stay and a bottle of champagne and hors d’oeuvres upon check-in.

2. The Cloister - Sea Island, Georgia

One of only 2 destinations in the U.S. to receive 4 Forbes Five-Star awards, this ocean front resort is an exceptional destination appealing to those who appreciate gracious service and heartfelt hospitality.  Sea Island is home of two of the top five resorts and one of the top five hotel spas in the Continental U.S., according to Travel + Leisure’s 2013 and 2014 World’s Best Awards. The Cloister at Sea Island is the only resort in the world to have received four Forbes Five-Star awards for six consecutive years. Located on the southeastern coast of Georgia, Sea Island features five miles of private beach, a Beach Club, tennis and squash centers, Yacht Club, Shooting School, and Camp Cloister. Well known as a family resort, Sea Island is steeped in golf tradition and is home to three championship golf courses, including Seaside, site of the PGA Tour’s McGladrey Classic, as well as the nation’s finest Golf Performance Center. Royal Travel clients will receive breakfast daily, $100 resort credit and upgrades.

3. Chatham Bars Inn - Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Quite simply, there is nothing else quite like is the picture of East Coast elegance.

Chatham Bars Inn has just undergone a $100 million renovation that has left nothing untouched and includes every modern convenience and amenity that families seeking laid back luxury would want.  This Four-diamond resort offers 217 guestrooms, several with fireplaces and balconies overlooking the ocean, four restaurants, a full-service spa, white-sand private beach, heated pool and Jacuzzi, tennis, croquet, bicycling, boating, fishing, and golf. This beach side resort has won numerous awards including the prestigious Forbes Four-Star award.  It is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World and was named one of the top resorts in the world by Travel & Leisure Magazine and the best hotel on Cape Cod by Boston Magazine. Royal Travel clients will receive breakfast daily, $100 resort credit and upgrades.

4. Grand Velas - Riviera Maya, Mexico

Grand Velas Riviera Maya is the latest and most sophisticated of ultra-luxury, all-Inclusive resorts. This beach retreat rated by Forbes’ roundup of the 10 Coolest All-Inclusive Resorts, renowned deluxe spa - winner of a SpaFinder Readers’ Choice Award also includes personalized butler, concierge services, and kids and teens club. Grand Velas is the pinnacle for an all-inclusive luxury family experience. Royal Travel clients will receive a romantic dinner for two, $50 spa credit per day, private one way transfer from airport and a welcome bottle of tequila.

5. The Breakers - Palm Beach, Florida

This breathtaking oceanfront resort is located in the heart of Palm Beach island. Famous for its genuinely warm and gracious staff it is reminiscent of the French Riviera and Caribbean with 4 ocean view pools, 2 championship golf courses, 11 world-class shopping boutiques, world class spa, and 8 distinctive restaurants and lounges. The Breakers Palm Beach offers the best of Florida. Royal Travel clients will receive breakfast daily, $100 resort credit, and upgrades.

Early Summer Getaways

1.    Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is always one of the most popular summer beach destinations- in fact, Trip Advisor just released their 2015 Travelers’ Choice Awards, and Hilton Head Island was named in the top 5 islands in America. One resort combines all of the fun and coastal amenities with healthy living for travelers seeking a healthy getaway before summer. At Hilton Head Health, travelers can experience the kayaking, yoga, horseback riding, zip-lining and other beach favorites while learning to prepare delicious healthy meals, learning mindful eating habits and attending group fitness classes featuring some of the hottest workout trends. The weight loss and wellness resort just opened a new spa facility earlier this year, offering more than 50 services- facials, massages, signature treatments and more. This is a healthy, adults-only all-inclusive getaway (meals, accommodations and fitness). Rates start at $465/night. Roundtrip airfare starts at $545/person.

 2.    Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

A great way to celebrate the upcoming summer months is a getaway to the Smoky Mountains. Families will love fun-filled days of exploration, excitement and relaxation with all that Pigeon Forge has to offer. Stay at Riverstone Resort & Spa, the only resort in the area to offer the largest river frontage in all the Smoky Mountains. Enjoy the resorts 8 acres of manicured grounds, outdoor activities within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, premier gold, white water river rafting, zip-lining, hiking and a large assortment of dining option before retiring back to your condominium with choice from 1-4 rooms. New this summer is the RiverStone “Kids’ Camp-In” package, which lets families enjoy the fun of camping from the comfort of their own luxury living room within their condo.  Starting at $169/night, this fun-for-all-ages package includes a two-person tent with kid’s sleeping bags, “camp fire”, cooking stove and other kids’ camping accessories. The drive from Chicago to Pigeon Forge is 7 hours. Roundtrip airfare from Chicago starts at $425/person.

3.    Montego Bay, Jamaica

Enjoy an early summer getaway with an adults only (18+) vacation to the beautiful Montego Bay, Jamaica. Surrounded by the crystal-clear waters, the Bay is one of the most romantic destinations in the Caribbean. Discover a variety of amazing beaches, a bustling town and many sites including the Rose Hall Great House. The Hip Strip is the place to visit, featuring a mile of restaurants, entertainment, bars, shopping and fun. Doctor's Cave Beach Club is open seven days a week and boasts translucent water and a world-famous white sand beach. Float on a bamboo raft down the Great River and take in the amazing tropical scenery. The coastal town of Falmouth is an architectural buff's dream, with an extensive collection of Georgian-style buildings. Stay at the Secrets St. James Montego Bay for a relaxing getaway and all the privileges of Unlimited Luxury including access to gourmet restaurants, international cuisine, and over ten bars and lounges. Relax on the terrace with a cocktail, or be pampered in the world-class spa with a couples massage.  Book this package from Apple Vacations and enjoy Unlimited Luxury, which includes airfare, accommodations, food and drink, and entertainment. $1,585/person for Thursday departures on 7/2 and 7/16-8/6.

 4.    Lucca, Italy

Looking for a couples’ retreat with family or friends? What better way to enjoy summer than by traveling to a romantic Tuscan village? Lucca, Italy is known for its surrounding Renaissance walls, cobbled streets and promenades filled with local charm. On the hills south of Lucca in a beautiful valley with a view of the local village and the town lies one of the most wonderful properties in the Lucca area. Tenuta Al Poeta is a magnificent farmhouse that has been completely renovated while still maintaining the Tuscan tradition. This Italian villa can accommodate up to 8 people and is perfect for those looking for a private and relaxing vacation. While being very private it is only a few minutes away from the local village of Vorno and the town of Lucca. This package from Apple Vacations is 282.20 per couple per night for 5 nights (based on 4 couples staying together).  Enjoy an exclusive complimentary wine tasting just for WGN viewers. Roundtrip airfare from Chicago to Pisa starts at $1,447/person.

 5.    Mediterranean

In my opinion, one of the best ways to see the Mediterranean is aboard a Celebrity Cruise. Hop aboard the Celebrity Equinox in Rome and spend 7 nights on this luxurious traveling hotel, visiting ports including Florence, Nice, Ajaccio and Palma de Mallorca before ending in Barcelona. Or, start in Barcelona and do the reverse, touching a few different ports such as Cannes, Genoa and Naples, before disembarking in Athens. The 7-night Mediterranean Cruise is one of Celebrity's most popular options - it's a great way to see Europe's rich culture and romantic cities without taking the time to travel by ground. And the best part is, you're visiting all of these breathtaking cities without ever having to unpack your suitcase, or lug it onto a train, or drag it on and off a tour bus. It's by far one of the most relaxing ways to see the Mediterranean. You'll have the chance to enjoy excursions like a hike to the top of Mt. Vesuvius, an active volcano near Naples, Italy, or drive a Ferrari down the Cote d'Azure near Nice, France. For those who have a little more vacation time, Celebrity also offers various Mediterranean itineraries for anywhere between 8 and 12 nights. There is still availability to get away to the Mediterranean on a Celebrity Cruise this summer - you can snag a 7-night cruise in a veranda stateroom for as low as $1500 per person. Book by May 31 and enjoy the benefits of Pick Your Perk - you'll choose between Free Classic Beverage Packages, Free Gratuities, up to $300 to spend on board, or a discounted cruise fare if you book Celebrity's Choice Air. PLUS you'll receive an extra $200 to spend on board by booking a 2015 Europe itinerary. Contact Royal Travel for available 2015 and 2016 sailings and special offers.

  •  For your next trip, contact Royal Travel at or call 1-800-747-7695.
  • Click here to watch the segment on WGN-TV.

Spring Travel Destinations

1. Oahu, Hawaii

Spend time this spring in Waikiki, the beautiful beachfront of Honolulu, on the South shore of the island of O’ahu, Hawaii, this spring for a truly energetic tropical vacation. Be within walking distance of the Diamond Head volcano, the Honolulu Zoo, or the Waikiki Aquarium. Perfectly situated within steps of the ocean and surrounded by panoramic views, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa is perfect for those who want to relax, but still be close to the island neighborhood’s restaurants and unique shops. The resort is perfect for families traveling with children; kids 18 and under stay free and those under 12 eat free. Stay in the Partial Ocean View Suite with the Sunshine on Sale Promotion and stay for 5 nights at the price of 4. Departure from Chicago on May 28 for $1,469/person including airfare, hotel accommodations, and daily buffet breakfast.

2. Canadian Rockies

U.S. travelers looking for a short trip or extended weekend north of the border this year (especially with the currently favorable US-Canadian exchange rate and direct flights from Chicago into Calgary) should look to the Canadian Rockies when spring and early summer provides an impressive diversity of activities, especially in May.  The best part of spring in Banff National Park is that you can golf, mountain bike and ski in the same day! In fact the Sunshine Village mountain resort in Banff remains open for skiing and boarding until May 19! Stay at either of the iconic Fairmont properties - Chateau Lake Louise (located by the iconic Lake Louise (just 50 minutes away from the Town of Banff) with many rooms offering amazing views over the lake itself) or the Fairmont Banff Springs (located in the heart of Banff - each with their own charms.  To book your stay and for best available rates for your travel dates, see Highlights for springtime include a trip to the natural hot springs (the birthplace of Banff National Park), hiking, mountain biking, paddle-boarding in the glacier lakes, a gondola ride for a chance to spot a grizzly bear in the wild below and enjoying the many fantastic foodie experiences in the area.  For those who are looking to arrive in Banff National Park in style, the Rocky Mountaineer train experience is a must.  Banff National Park and luxury railway travel have always had a very special connection; visitors from all over the world have been travelling into Banff by train for over 100 years.  This year, Rocky Mountaineer are celebrating their 25th anniversary – since 1990 Rocky Mountaineer has carried guests into the heart of the famed Canadian Rockies. It’s a perfect excuse to sit back and luxurious comfort, enjoy the fantastic hospitality on board and take in the majestic scenery. Airfare from Chicago to Calgary airport as low as $353/person roundtrip.

3. Providence, RI 

For travelers seeking a quintessential coastal New England experience mixed with some American history and charm, the town of Newport in the "Ocean State" of Rhode Island has some great reasons to visit this spring. The Newport Marriott just re-opened after a complete renovation and is located in the heart of downtown Newport, overlooking the harbor. It's a great place to stay when exploring Newport's famous Gilded Age mansions or participating in the Volvo Ocean Race festivities this May.  Their new hotel restaurant, MainSail, and two bars are the perfect perch for enjoying the Newport scene. Room rates in May start from $189/night. The hotel is also celebrating its grand reopening with some special Spa Packages including discounts on facials, massages and wraps. A spring getaway is a great way to start refreshed for summer after a long winter! Round-trip airfare from Chicago to Providence starts at $275/person.

4. Cancun, Mexico

There’s no better way to spend a vacation than to be surrounded by endless turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Riviera, Cancun is the perfect destination for families, couples and friends wanting to plan a spring getaway. As part of the Rainforest Alliance, Riviera embraces local culture with its turtle release program, 100% environmentally friendly practices, and more to preserve the rainforest that encompasses the beach. Now Jade Riviera Cancun is the best of both worlds when seeking relaxation and adventure. Experience exciting pastimes of daytime and nighttime activities including snorkeling, kayaking, sunbathing on the palm-studded beach, live nightly music, movies on the beach and more. For a more relaxing day, take advantage of the innovative spa treatments the resort offers. Families traveling with little ones will love the Explorer’s Club, where kids can enjoy fully supervised activities like sandcastle contests, arts and crafts, and campouts, freeing up adults to have fun of their own.  The Unlimited Luxury includes airfare, hotel transfers, accommodations in the Junior Suite, daily refreshed mini bar with soda and snacks, limitless access to gourmet dining at your choice from eight restaurants and six bars and lounges, endless top-shelf spirits, daily land and water activities, and pool and beach wait service. Available departures from Chicago on Mondays and Sundays from 5/4-5/17 and stay for 4 nights for only $1,049/person.

5. Budapest, Hungary 

The dollar has made some historic gains on the Euro recently so now is an ideal time to book a trip to Europe.  Looking for cities where your dollar will go even further?  Consider Budapest, the gem of Central Europe located on the Danube River. Known as the city of healing waters, visitors must make a trip to the spa when in town…the Hotel Corinthia, on the cosmopolitan “Pest” side of the city, has an array of thermal spas with an option to enjoy waters indoors or out with a range of aromatherapy and massage treatments. Book a room at the trendy Balthazar Hotel, a one-year old contemporary designed boutique hotel set inside a refurbished building on the historic “Buda” side of the city with walking distance to all the historic sights.  The owners of the hotel also run a few restaurants in the area including Pest-Buda and Pierrot. Rates start as low as $147.88/night (130 Eur/night) including breakfast. Flights from Chicago to Budapest start at $740/person.

To book these trips and more, contact Royal Travel at or call 1-800-747-7695.

Guys/Girls Getaways

Guys Getaways

1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

What better way to bond with the guys than by taking an exciting deep-sea fishing tour in beautiful Punta Cana right off the coast of Bavaro? Escape to warm weather for an action-packed way to spend time together out in the open turquoise water. Wrestle enormous undersea creatures and achieve a true thrill when you reel in marlins, mahi-mahi, tuna, barracudas and many more that inhabit the waters. Whether you’re an experienced fisherman or a beginner, you’ll love competing with your friends for the largest catch. Stay at the Grand Bahia Principe Turquesa in the heart of Punta Cana, known for its rich fishing waters surrounded by gardens, coconut palms and banana trees. After a day of fishing, you’ll have your choice from eleven restaurants and sixteen bars at the hotel for a night out. Deep-sea fishing excursion starts at $129/person in April including pick-up and drop-off at the hotel, fishing equipment, and national drinks. Enjoy 3 all-inclusive nights for $699/person, includes air and taxes.

2. French Lick, Indiana

Spend the perfect weekend with the guys with championship golf courses and Vegas-style gaming without having to go very far. The French Lick Resort is known as the Midwest’s Premier Resort Destination, named America’s Best Historic Resort, and features two grand hotels located in the Hoosier National Forest. Enjoy the Donald Ross Experience with overnight accommodations and 2 days of unlimited golf on the classic Donald Ross Course. After a day full of golf, enjoy multiple dining options including the 1875: The Steakhouse named after the first Kentucky Derby. Enjoy the excitement of gambling at the 51,000 square foot Vegas-style gaming facility with live entertainment and DJs every night. Package is $259/night based on double occupancy. Drive from Chicago to French Lick is less than 5 hours

Girls Getaways

1. Cancun, Mexico

Get away with your girlfriends to one of the most popular spots in Mexico- Cancun. You will find infinite fun at Oasis Cancun Resort with its tropical gardens, 2 beach clubs, spa, gym, tennis courts, shops, 10 restaurants, 11 bars, and the longest swimming pool in Latin America. Nightly entertainment fills the resort with Las Vegas Style shows, beach parties, a Coyote Bar, and live music that will make for the perfect end to each night on your girls trip! The 4-night all-inclusive package through Royal Travel & Tours is $879/person and includes airfare, taxes, unlimited food and beverage, and unlimited access to the resort’s amenities. Travel is good for dates between 5/3-5/18.

2. Miami Beach, FL

Do a sun and spa combo trip with your girlfriends to Miami.  The Standard Miami Beach is a holistic, hydrotherapy spa hotel inspired by global bathing cultures. Located in a lushly landscaped setting overlooking Biscayne Bay Island, this boutique spa hotel is an 8-minute drive from shopping on open-air Lincoln Road Mall and a 10-minute drive to downtown South Beach. The hydrotherapy spa has a hot tub with waterfall, a cold plunge and mud baths. Classes include Pilates, yoga and stand-up paddle boarding. There’s a bayside Mediterranean restaurant and infinity pool with an underwater sound system. Rates in April start at $270/night.  Book with Royal Travel and receive an upgraded room (pending availability), continental breakfast for two per room, daily.  Free pass to the hotel’s swanky “mud lounge”, glass of Prosecco in the Restaurant Bar, complimentary wifi and a welcome gift.  RT Airfare as low as $306/person on United.

3. Girls Chicago Spa-cation

Spring is a great time to enjoy our own city with friends! Located right in the heart of downtown Chicago’s River North neighborhood is the dana hotel and spa, the ultimate luxury boutique hotel, which is finishing up a massive room renovation project this spring. For ladies looking to indulge, the spa at dana is an ultimate urban spa retreat. The spa just launched new spring packages including the Energizing Citrus Package; a 50-minute energizing ginseng facial packed with Vitamin C to rejuvenate you from the long winter and a citrus mimosa manicure and pedicure.  In fact, the spa at dana will offer WGN viewers 20% off this new Energizing Citrus Package (regularly $265) during the month of April.  Just mention the code WGN when booking.  Guests who opt to stay over and enjoy the hotel’s popular rooftop bar, Vertigo Sky Lounge, can book a room for as low as $259/night. 

Best Places to Visit

U.S. News & World Report and its readers recently voted on the top 20 places to visit in the U.S.  Here I highlight four of my favorites from the list. 

1. San Diego, California

San Diego is full of opportunities for everyone from families to singles to enjoy a diverse range of springtime activities. The San Diego Natural History Museum, the world famous San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND California, SeaWorld, home of Shamu and other Orca wales, and not to mention the city’s gorgeous beaches and 300 days of sunshine.  Stay at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, which is centrally located to the beach, with April rates as low as $179/nt. Book with Royal Travel and receive full breakfast buffet for two daily, complimentary in room Internet access, and a welcome amenity.  RT airfare from Chicago to San Diego as low as $379/person through United.

2. Anchorage, Alaska

The largest city in Alaska, Anchorage, lies between the mountains and the sea and boasts many natural sights and historic landmarks.  The best way to experience Anchorage and the beauty of Alaska is with a sea-land combo tour.  I suggest you hop aboard the Celebrity Millennium in Vancouver and embark on the journey of a lifetime. You'll cruise to places like Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway; you'll see Alaska's Inside Passage and Hubbard Glacier, a wall of ice at 76 miles long and 40 stories high. Discover whales, brown bears, and other amazing wildlife in their natural habitat. Brave the world's largest zip line, experience dog sledding or take a helicopter ride that lands on a glacier. Once you debark the ship in Seward, your land-based Cruise tour into Alaska's interior begins. You'll immerse yourself in the wilderness of Denali, visit picturesque Talkeetna, and hop aboard the Wilderness Express, a glass-domed train car, which will transport you to Anchorage. While in Anchorage, visit the Alaska Native Heritage Museum or enjoy a fresh lunch of wild Alaska Salmon or Alaska King Crab. Book a Veranda stateroom aboard the Celebrity Millennium for Summer 2016 with a 10-night vacation for as low as $2,549 per person. Book by March 31 and enjoy the benefits of Spring into Savings - you'll save up to $300 off your cruise, and you can choose to receive Free Classic Beverage Packages, Free Gratuities or up to $300 to spend on board. Contact Royal Travel for available 2015 sailings and special offers.

3. Washington DC

Cherry Blossom season is the best time to explore and visit our Nation's Capitol. From food truck tours to exploring historical monuments, the city is buzzing with things to fill up your weekend. For ladies looking to shop until they drop, The Collection at Chevy Chase (dubbed the East Coast version of Rodeo Drive) features 112,000 square feet of high-end boutiques on Wisconsin Avenue. Stay in the heart of DC at The Mayflower Hotel, which is completing a $20 million room renovations project in April. The hotel is offering a special "Make History With Us" 2-night minimum stay package for $179/night in honor of the property's 90th anniversary, which includes: $90 hotel credit; Washington DC’s Mayflower Hotel book; The Mayflower’s famed banana bread (complete with recipe). RT flights from Chicago to DC start at $300 in April. Valid for travel through December 31, 2015. To book, call 1-800-834-7282.

4. Austin, Texas

Springtime in Central Texas is beautiful without the summer heat or the winter rains so families, singles and couples can enjoy all that the “Live Music Capitol of the World” has to offer.  The city is home to plenty of activities: swimming in the natural Barton Springs Pool, kayaking on Town Lake or a day spent at the Austin Zoo or Zilker Park. Stay at the Driskill Hotel right in the heart of downtown and the restaurant/nightlife district with April rates starting at $279/night. Book with Royal Travel and receive full breakfast for two daily, upgraded room (if available) and welcome wine and cheese amenity.  RT airfare starting at $243/person through Frontier.

Enjoy a Family Trip to The Mall of America

Make the trip up north to Minneapolis, MN, home of “The Mall of America,” the largest mall in the country.  Kids will love the indoor roller coaster rides, games and playgrounds that are surrounded by retail shops and restaurants within the mall. The Radisson Blu Mall of America is perfect for families traveling with little ones.

The Hotel's Kids Club has an interactive program with scavenger hunts where children receive a passport that they can collect stamps in for each clue they solve, while enjoying adventures through the Mall of America's many kid-friendly activities including Sealife, SkyDeck, and Nickelodeon World. Saline is a 1.2 million-gallon aquarium that houses over 10,000 sea creatures  like sharks, sea turtles, jellyfish, and more. SkyDeck is where food and entertainment combine on your family vacation. Kids will love the hundreds of arcade games, and adults can enjoy happy hour specials from 3pm-close. Nickelodeon Universe is a seven-acre amusement park located at the center of the Mall themed with characters from Nickelodeon’s most popular shows. My daughter especially loves that Nickelodeon world is there because she gets to hang out with her favorite character, Dora! 

Book the Family Fun with Marty the Moose Package, which includes overnight accommodations for a family of four; guests choice of four tickets to SeaLife Aquarium or two unlimited ride wristbands to Nickelodeon Universe; $10 per person SkyDeck game card for food and entertainment; and kids tent that they can take home with them. Package rate is $259/night.

o book this package or for more information, visit 

Oscar Inspired Travel

1.    “ The Grand Budapest Hotel” – Budapest, Hungary

Nominated for Best Picture, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” movie makes for a great excuse to travel to the incredible capital of Hungary.  The gem of Central Europe located on the Danube River, Budapest fascinates with its history and monuments. Known as the city of healing waters, visitors must make a trip to the spa when in town…the Hotel Corinthia, on the cosmopolitan “Pest” side of the city, has an array of thermal spas with an option to enjoy waters indoors or out with a range of aromatherapy and massage treatments. Book a room at the trendy Balthazar Hotel, a one-year old contemporary designed boutique hotel set inside a refurbished building on the historic “Buda” side of the city with walking distance to all the historic sights.  The owners of the hotel also run a few restaurants in the area including Pest-Buda and Pierrot. Rates start as low as $147.88/night (130 Eur/night) including breakfast. Flights from Chicago to Budapest start at $692/person

2. Los Angeles, California

You can’t talk about the Oscars and not include Los Angeles, the city of angels and site of the annual Academy Awards.  For the absolute best Oscar nominee sightseeing, head to the infamous Beverly Hills Hotel (aka the “Pink Palace”).  Located on Sunset Boulevard and surrounded by 12 acres of tropical gardens and exotic flowers, the hotel has been the place to “see and be seen” for over 100 years. Its extensive celebrity guest list includes John F. Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. In 2000, the Hotel’s annual Oscars party drew Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Matt Damon, and many more. The famous Polo Lounge restaurant remains a popular spot for the Hollywood crowd. Book in February for stays until April 12 and receive three nights for the price of two. Rates start as low as $350/night based on availability. Book with Royal Travel and receive continental breakfast for two daily and a $100 spa credit. Flights departing from O’Hare start at $327/person through United Airlines.

3. Oscars Viewing Party at The Langham Chicago

Want to throw your own Oscars party on Feb. 22?  The Langham Chicago, known for its European style and amazing views of the cityscape and Chicago River, also boasts its own private screening room known as the Cinema Suite.  In celebration of the 87th Academy Awards, the hotel is offering one Cinema Suite Oscar Viewing Package, which includes:

  • Overnight accommodations in a Classic Room for two persons
  • Access to The Langham’s exclusive Cinema Suite starting at 5:30 PM (show starts at 6:00 PM) until the end of the Oscars
  • Hors d’oeuvres for up to eight people for three hours
  • Three bottles of Moet Champagne
  • Game sheets for guests to vote/guess who will win each award

Total package price is $2,799.  Or you can skip the Cinema Suite and enjoy the Oscars from one of the hotel’s Classic Rooms for $299.


Winter Escapes

1. Beaver Creek Resort, Colorado

An easy 1.5-hour drive from Denver Airport and suited to families and skiers who like to be pampered, Vail Resort’s Beaver Creek mountain is the place to be this winter.  Site of the Alpine World Ski Championship this month, the resort is a winter wonderland both on and off the mountain (there’s snowshoeing, tubing, ice-skating, and amazing dining options galore) and it boasts a world-class ski and snow board school. New to Beaver Creek this season is the mid-mountain, ski-in-and-out Candy Cabin, designed to be an old-fashioned candy store. For those who hate to carry their skis, The Ospry at Beaver Creek, A RockResort is ideal lodging since it’s the closest hotel to any chairlift in North America (26 feet-right out the back door). The hotel features rooms/suites right on the slopes with ski valet, fantastic dining for all meals at The Osprey Lounge, outdoor heated pool, hot tub and more. Book a 2-night stay by March 6 (for stays up until March 9) and you’ll get the third night free.  Rates start at $260/night.  Flights to Denver as low as $185/person through Frontier Airlines.

2. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Leave the cold behind and explore the sunny island of Puerto Rico by staying at the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan. Located on eight acres of pristine beachfront property in the chic neighborhood of Isla Verde, this hotel provides an unforgettable escape at one of the most elegant beach hotels in the Caribbean, and is the perfect launching point to explore the quaint cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. The hotel’s spa treatments are inspired by ancient rain forests and the property boasts excellent dining options influenced by local Caribbean ingredients plus a dazzling casino. The resort is running a special “Comfort You” package valid through March 31 that includes: Buffet breakfast for two daily and a $100 resort credit to be used for spa treatments, dining at the hotel’s steakhouse, or beach activities.  Rates start at $439.00/nt.  Round-trip, airfare from Chicago as low as $332pp through JetBlue.

3. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Couples and families that want a true escape from the winter weather will find that Dreams Villamagna Nuevo Vallarta is the perfect getaway destination with its spectacular views of Banderas Bay, the Sierra Madre Mountains, a gorgeous stretch of beach, and elegant pools. Kids will love the Explorer’s Club with supervised activities including sand castle competitions, arts & crafts, and weekly campout adventures on the beach. Enjoy from a selection of five international restaurants and five lounges for unlimited food and beverages. Located only 20 minutes away from the historic colonial town of Puerto Vallarta, the resort also offers nearby whale watching, golfing, shopping, and nightlife. Book this winter special through Royal Travel for an Apple Vacations Unlimited Luxury® package includes round-trip airfare, 3-nights hotel accommodations, all food, drink, and entertainment for $878.34/pp; good for travel between March 3-April 18.

4. Kauai, Hawaii

The St. Regis Princeville Resort on the island of Kauai, said to be one of the most glorious resorts in the world. The ocean-side property offers endless options for pampering, fun, and relaxation with two championship golf courses, swimming pools, private beach cabanas, and an array of activities from snorkeling and kayaking to horse back riding. The Princeville Shopping Plaza and the town of Hanalei are located within a short distance of the resort, offering a wide range of charming retail opportunities, including art galleries, gift stores, restaurants, and fashion boutiques. Since it’s Oscars week it’s fun to note that many scenes from the movie The Descendants were filmed at this hotel. Book a 5-night package with Royal Travel that includes airfare and hotel accommodations through Apple Vacations for $2,329/pp. Package does not include meals/drinks.

5. Godfrey Hotel, Chicago

The Godfrey Hotel is Chicago’s newest 4 ½ star independent boutique hotel. The Cubist-influenced style adds to the chic feel of each room. Centrally located at the epicenter of River North downtown, just a short walk from Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile. The hotel is offering a “Friends Don’t Let Friends” package when it snows in downtown Chicago. The second it starts to snow, The Godfrey’s Facebook page will post that the package is available and anyone who secures a room at the hotel during the promotion receives 20 percent off. This helps commuters and travelers that might be stuck in the city due to a cancelled flight or anyone that wants to stay warm in The Godfrey while it’s snowing outside. The Winter Blizzard promo rates start at $99/night. The flash sale only takes place when it snows and it is for 20% off the best available rate at the time.


Beaver Creek, Colorado

My father is from a Norwegian family so family ski trips were always a big part of my childhood. Skiing is such a wonderful family bonding experience that I always enjoyed as a kid… nothing beats the fresh air, stunning mountain scenery, and sharing memories with the people most special to you. Now that I'm a mother, it's important to me to continue that tradition with my own children. We try to take an annual ski trip, and this year we chose the beautiful resort of Beaver Creek, Colorado. We had been to this resort once before with two of our three children and loved it, but this year was our 4-year-old's first time on skis and I knew Beaver Creek would be the perfect mountain for her. With the manicured slopes of Bachelor Gulch to the intermediate trails of Larkspur to the bumps of Grouse Mountain, it's no wonder why skiers of all levels travel to this mountain with their families.

Beaver Creek offers many varieties of ski lessons  depending on your individual ability and interests. My kids spent a couple days in group ski school lessons and then did one day in the more private Ultimate Four experience. It's truly remarkable how quickly young children learn and advance in the sport, especially when learning from such capable instructors! If you have little ones who get tired or aren’t quite able to keep up with the rest of the family, the resort also offers half and full day care for children aged two months to five years old at the Small World Play School. 

This year I opted to do something I had never done before in all my many decades of skiing: I decided to try snowboarding. My 8-year-old son has always wanted to try snowboarding and it was the perfect opportunity for the two of us to learn something together.  

Since we had no experience, we booked a private half-day snowboard lesson through Beaver Creek Mountain. I have rarely seen my son this excited about something besides his birthday or Christmas. When I asked him what he was looking forward to the most with our snowboard lesson, I expected him to say that he couldn't wait to learn how to "shred" or do board tricks, but his answer shocked me. He simply said, "Mom, I can't wait to try something new with just you and me together." It was awesome that this 1:1 time with my child was special for the both of us. 

We rented our gear, which was quick and easy, and met our Instructor, Dave Thompson, at the base of the lifts. Dave was kind, patient and very interested in teaching us the sport in the safest way possible. Contrary to what most skiers, who have never tried boarding, think - we were rarely on our bottoms! Dave taught us the fundamentals of snowboarding including the equipment, how to get in and out of the board, how to stop, get off the lift, make turns, and develop confidence. It was so fun for my son to see me learning something new alongside him. We had so many laughs comparing our progress with each other. Our half-day lesson was the right amount of time to grasp the fundamentals of the sport and we were boarding down smaller hills by the end of the 3-hour instruction. I highly recommend to any parent that you take the time to learn skiing or snowboarding with your child. It was a highlight of our vacation for me and my son. If you are interested in a boarding lesson at Beaver Creek, please request Dave because he was fantastic!

In addition to our time spent improving our skiing and learning to board, there are so many other winter activities to enjoy at Beaver Creek. All the kids loved the afternoon we spent tubing, especially my youngest because it was her first time.  

Another highlight for the kids was the afternoon we skied over to Beaver Creek's new mid-mountain Candy Cabin, which is designed to be like an old fashioned candy store with barrels full of salt water taffy, caramels and other delicious treats. If they didn't get enough sugar there, the kids always made sure to be down the mountain around 3 p.m. when the Beaver Creek resort hands out complimentary chocolate chip cookies to any and all. 

In the evening, the resort has so many incredible dining options to chose from. We had dinner at Zach’s Cabin our first night high up Beaver Creek mountain and the only way to get up to the restaurant is with a scenic open-air sleigh ride. The starry ski surrounded us as we rode up the slope; it was the perfect ending to a busy day of skiing on the mountain. One night, my husband and I ate at Beano’s Cabin while the kids stayed in with a babysitter. We loved the four-course dinner and live music performed by an acoustic guitarist. We also ate as a family family one night at Toscanini at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain, which serves incredible authentic Italian fare. We also took the kids to the Chop House where the restaurant has a magician perform on weekends.


As far as where to stay, for this trip we opted to book a condo at the Hummingbird with ski-in-ski-out access in Bachelor Gulch, but Beaver Creek has many beautiful resorts and condos in the greater area that can accommodate a large variety of group sizes and budgets.

A vacation to Beaver Creek is a great way to bring the whole family together in the winter. No matter how experienced you are with skiing, you will enjoy all there is to do within the resort. I loved seeing my kids make progress in their abilities on the mountain.  We are looking forward to making more memories at the resort in the future.