Category Archives: Luxury

The most expensive destination clubs

When you’re a VIP jet setting around the world, it makes things easier when all travel arrangements are taken care of. Enter destination clubs.

For a few hundred thousand dollars as a deposit and acouple thousand in annual fees, membership in a destination club means access to luxury residences and opulent amenities worldwide. We take a look at the most expensive destination clubs, available to those power players out there who are looking to get hooked up around the globe.

Club: Abercrombie Kent

Initial Dues: $475,000

Annual Fee: $42,900

What’s Included:

– 60 nights in more than 100 countries

– Gourmet kitchens, spacious family living areas, fine furnishings

– Access to spas at exclusive resorts and preferred golf privileges at private courses

– More destinations than any other destination club

– Ownership and Management handled entirely by its members

And the world’s best hotel is …

Thousands of miles off the western coast of Chile, you wake up to an expansive view of Easter Island’s grassy meadows, grazing horses, and the pounding Pacific surf, then set off on a half-day trek along a volcano rim toward natural rock pools. Your base camp? The No. 13–ranked hotel in the world, according to the readers of Travel + Leisure: Posada de Mike Rapu, Explora Rapa Nui.

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Slideshow: World’s Best Hotels 2011

Finding the right hotel is essential to any trip’s success, especially as travelers increasingly seek out adventures in the most far-flung destinations. That makes the results of the World’s Best Hotels survey essential reading. Consider it your global  Rolodex of hotels that can deliver special access, noteworthy amenities, above-and-beyond service, and authenticity of place.

Honing in on the World’s Best Hotels is no easy feat. Each year, T+L readers vote on thousands of hotels based on rooms, location, service, food, and value. The top-ranked properties had impressively high scores. The entire Top 100 received scores above 92.00 — a T+L record that’s a testament to how properties around the globe are raising the bar.

This year’s World’s Best Hotels results also reflect a growing preference for the exotic. Six of the year’s Top 10 hotels overall are safari lodges in Africa, while the number of winning hotels in the top 50 located in Mexico and Central and South America has increased fivefold since 2010. Airline patterns also acknowledge the emerging importance of Central and South America as global players: according to the International Air Transport Association, travel on Latin American carriers increased by 25 percent this spring.

And don’t discount Asia. Bangkok — once again voted the No. 1 city in the world — is home to the legendary Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok (rising from No. 57 to No. 23 this year). North of Bangkok in Chiang Mai, the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi surged to No. 7 on the list, up from No. 45 in 2010. This resort was designed to re-create the experience of staying within a historic Thai village; farmers and wood-carvers work on-site. Similarly, a stay at the grand Oberoi Udaivilas (No. 5), a domed palace on the shores of Lake Pichola in Rajasthan, feels like a trip back in time.

Authenticity of place plays a role at another World’s Best perennial favorite, Triple Creek Ranch (No. 6) in the Montana Rockies. You can trace the Lewis and Clark trail on a horseback-riding tour, or channel your inner pioneer during steelhead fly-fishing trips on the Salmon River. Then you’ll unwind in renovated log cabins complete with wood-burning fireplaces and hot tubs.

Read on to find out which hotel is the very best in the world. And be sure to download the first-ever World’s Best Awards digital edition for iPad.

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Copyright © 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation

10 heavenly mountain towns for summertime

This summer, why not ditch the sand-and-surf set and head for the hills? These 10 mountain resorts give new reasons to hit the slopes long after the snow has melted.

Slideshow: 10 perfect summer mountain towns

The residents of Vail, Colo., have a saying about visitors to their picture-perfect Rockies retreat: “They come for the winters and stay for the summers.” Winter skiing is never dull, but sometimes you may feel as if you’re part of one big powder-obsessed mind. Summer brings a wild extravagance to the mountains — once-bare slopes bloom with wildflowers, surging rivers woo rafts and kayaks, and alfresco art fairs and music festivals abound.

It turns out there’s a lot to love about many ski resorts after the snow melts. In Jackson Hole, Wyo., one might enact a fly-fishing fantasy à la Norman Maclean along the banks of Snake River, or in Gstaad, Switzerland, watch vintage Jags and Maseratis zip along alpine roads during the biannual Gstaad Classic Audemars Piguet. Locavores visiting Whistler, British Columbia, will work up an appetite on Slow Food Cycle Sunday, pedaling down country roads to sample the area’s best farm-to-table fare. And in Vermont, golfers can take a swing at Stowe Mountain Golf Club’s award-winning private course.

Warm weather also heralds the peak of festival season: Telluride, Colo., will rock out to acts like Grammy-nominated Mumford Sons and country crooner Emmylou Harris during its annual Bluegrass Festival in June, while the Aspen Ideas Festival brings the likes of Frank Gehry, Arianna Huffington and Twitter cofounders Evan Williams and Biz Stone to the luxe mountain enclave later that month.

More from Departures

Copyright © 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation

A global guide to high-end vacation villas

Skip the traditional hotel and live like a well-situated local. Departures shares its top picks for villa rentals, plus tips for finding the perfect place.

Slideshow: A global guide to vacation villas

There’s a real difference between visiting a place and living in it. Renting a house on Lake Como or in the south of France provides a whole different perspective — shopping at village markets, interacting with locals at cafés and shops — a feeling of belonging, instead of just passing through. From Fiji to Anguilla to the Mexican Riviera, villas, with their numerous bedrooms and generously sized living areas, are tailor-made for family and intergenerational travel. But before booking, there are few things to keep in mind:

1. Deal with an established agency. Work with an agent like Barbara Bennett, of Villas of Distinction, who has been scouting and renting for 18 years.

2. Confirm that the agent has inspected the villa in person. Seeing photos of a property online is no substitute.

3. Make sure there’s a local representative or a property manager on-site. An agent at the other end of an 800 number is of little help if the dishwasher breaks down.

4. Think about logistics. How far is it to town? (No one wants to drive 45 minutes for a quart of milk.) Is the property well suited for day trips?

5. Most villa rentals include cleaning service, but ask about frequency. And there’s usually an extra charge for a private chef.

6. Two key amenities: The pool and the view, especially in summer in Europe. Many villas are not air-conditioned, but a property with a good view catches the breeze.

7. It’s best to book at least a full week to have enough time to settle in. (Some villas require it.) Remember, it’s about living there.

8. Before committing to a villa, ask the agent to secure a hold. “It’s usually good for three to five days with no obligation,” says Bennett. “And it gives you time to reconfirm with other members of your party.” Use the hold period to get feedback from the last client who rented the place.

More from Departures

Copyright © 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation

10 most expensive summer camps

From The Daily Beast

The American institution of summer camp may never be the same now that preteens and teens start polishing their college-ready skills before puberty—July and August are now viewed as an opportunity to get ahead.

Some traditional sleepaway camps in rural oases have padded their roster of offerings to keep campers (and parents) coming back, but other companies are serving up carefully curated tours of foreign cultures, adventurous itineraries to some of the world’s wonders, or the chance to hone talents from some of the nation’s leading professionals. Of course, those opportunities come with a cost.

To get a glimpse of some of the grand offerings, The Daily Beast sorted through program guidebooks and brochures to compile a list of some of the priciest options. We ranked the camps based on the average price per week. Most offer four-star-hotel accommodations and immersion in academic or cultural studies, as well as community service, but in order to rank on this list, all the programs had to be offered by an American-based company.

Related on The Daily Beast: Read the full text here