Fashion designer Rubin Singer on his all-time top trips.
“I think of myself as the consummate traveler,” Rubin Singer says. “I always have my passport and a travel bag ready to go.” The New York City-based designer got the career boost of a lifetime in 2013 when Beyoncé sashayed onto the Super Bowl halftime stage in his leather-and-lace creation. He’s been busy ever since, continuing his line, dressing stars for the red carpet, presenting a collection at the Ritz Paris, and even staging a runway show on a Lufthansa flight earlier this year. In his downtime, Singer travels widely (Thailand is his favorite destination) and leaves the planning to his husband, Virtuoso travel advisor Carlos Melia. “I couldn’t imagine going anywhere without his advice and guidance,” Singer says. “He makes the experiences so fluid, exciting, and effortless.” Here, a few of his favorite trips:
“Above all, the most amazing travel experience I have ever had was when I met my husband and we took the Belmond Eastern and Oriental Express from Bangkok to Singapore. The magic of Belmond and the train was simply divine and totally unforgettable. It was like going back in time to an Agatha Christie novel. The experience was the most incredible five days of my life.”
“One of my most memorable trips was a three-week-long trip to China where we visited Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Staying at the Aman Summer Palace in Beijing was incredible. The best part was the secret door from the property right into the middle of the gardens of the Summer Palace. Also, visiting the gardens of Hangzhou was particularly amazing.”
“Another trip we took was a tour of Italy in five days. I had lived all over Europe and traveled almost everywhere except for Italy. Carlos thought this was unacceptable. Because of my busy work schedule, I only had five days free. He told me he would show me Italy in five days. I thought this would be impossible. It wasn’t. He organized everything so beautifully and seamlessly, from the transfers to the hotels and dinners that we actually got to see Rome, Tuscany, Florence, and Venice in this short time. It was an incredible journey filled with the greatest sites, tastes, and views of Italy: A perfect introduction to a magnificent country.”
Carlos and Rubin’s Whirlwind Italy Intro
DAY 1: ROME
Hotel: The First Luxury Art Hotel Roma
Dinner at Imàgo at Hotel Hassler
DAY 2: ROME TO FLORENCE
Private car from Rome to Florence through Tuscany with a stop at Relais Borgo Santo Pietro for lunch.
Hotel: Belmond Villa San Michele
Dinner at Belmond Villa San Michele’s La Loggia Restaurant overlooking Florence
DAY 3: FLORENCE
Hotel: Belmond Villa San Michele
Dinner at Il Palagio Restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
DAY 4: VENICE
Hotel: Belmond Hotel Cipriani
Dinner at Ristorante Do Forni
DAY 5: HOME
Top photo by Ball & Albanese.
The post Travel Like a Fashion Designer – and How to See Italy in Five Days appeared first on The Virtuoso Life.
Virtuoso’s global director of public relations, Misty Belles, appeared on the TODAY show this month to share secrets of traveling successfully this summer season, collected from Virtuoso travel advisors.
Plan ahead to secure the best airfares and avoid squeezing in a last-minute trip during August before school starts, as this is the busiest time. In fact, it is not too early to start thinking about summer 2018 travel.
Try This Trick at Great Hotels
Stay in the least expensive room in the best hotel, and enjoy the enhanced service, amenities and overall experience at a better price point.
Allow For Extra Layover Time
Allow a minimum of two hours between connecting flights. This extra layover time may help you make your plane if summer storms wreak havoc on airline schedules.
Know This New Airport Rule
Arrive at the airport a minimum of an hour before boarding, not an hour before departure. This is a newer rule and should be heeded during the busy summer season.
Splurge on This
Splurge on a hotel that is closer to the sights and activities you have planned. It will save you precious time and travel costs.
Use Miles for Upgrades
Book economy seats, but use miles to upgrade to business class.
Get to the Hotel at This Time
Arrive at your hotel at check-in time (usually 3:00 pm). You will have more options available then to change your room than later in the day after more guests have arrived.
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By David Kolner, senior vice president, global member partnerships, Virtuoso
I’m lucky to work with the more than 770 Virtuoso travel agencies and 15,200 advisors around the world on a daily basis. What I’ve learned by working with these travel pros is that they do so much more than merely book travel -– it’s one of the reasons we call them travel advisors, not just travel agents.
For instance, a friend recently asked me about getting tickets for Wimbledon. I quickly searched Virtuoso’s products and connections and found loads of options: packages, special promotions, and access to the absolute best tickets. I said what I often say to friends and family: Call your travel advisor.
I started thinking about everything Virtuoso advisors can do for clients and came up with this list: seven services you never knew your Virtuoso travel advisor provided.
For sports, concerts, performances, the arts, or just about anything that involves a door and a ticket taker, your Virtuoso advisor should be one of your first points of contact. Virtuoso maintains relationships with more than 1,500 partners around the world – your advisor is your gateway to these (sometimes secret) sources. Virtuoso also has connections with several ticket brokers who work directly with the event producers themselves – we’re talking major events like the Kentucky Derby, the World Cup, or the Olympics. These tickets often come with exclusive experiences that you can’t buy, such as visiting the stables before the horse race, or going on the field after the game to meet the athletes. Event tickets may also be paired with hotel accommodations, saving the hassle of trying to find a room in a sold-out big city.
Shopping may be a love-it-or-hate it proposition for travelers (I think of the “husband day-care center” signs popping up in front of local pubs in major shopping areas around the world), but Virtuoso offers exclusive shopping benefits to clients, like personal shoppers, and private tax-refund services – a big money saver and asset if you’re indulging in a favorable exchange rate around the world.
I personally experienced the service in Paris. I entered one of the world’s largest department stores, Galeries Lafayette, via a secret entrance and checked in at a private Virtuoso desk. You are whisked away to a private rooftop salon where a personal shopper has already curated options based on your size and preferences, all with a glass of champagne and a private concierge at your disposal. Only a Virtuoso advisor can craft this experience for you – in Paris, and all over the world.
Activities and Experiences.
Virtuoso advisors offer access and reliability to activities and experiences, much more than online options, working every day with trusted travel partners around the world. These partners in more than 100 countries are well connected. They attend restaurant, play, and gallery openings before they are public. For reliability, Virtuoso only works with proven partners used by more than 15,000 advisors around the world; that’s not just buying power, that’s constant checking for service quality on a daily basis. Consider my own experience on a hot air balloon ride with my family abroad: I wanted breathtaking views over the ancient ruins at sunrise; not fear of safety, insurance, or the viability of the company taking us up in the air in a wicker basket.
Visas and Insurance.
A Virtuoso advisor can help smooth the way for these tricky services, working with proven partners to make sure your paperwork is completed on time and correctly – you don’t want to leave this to someone you found on a Google search. And while attitudes about buying insurance for your trip vary (Americans are notoriously, and sometimes unfortunately, insurance-phobic), your Virtuoso advisor works with established companies who provide quality, protection, and value for yourself and your vacation. Figuring out the right insurance package isn’t easy, your advisor is well-versed in myriad options and prices.
Yes, it’s real, and entirely possible. Your Virtuoso advisor can arrange to have your bags collected at home a day or so before your departure, then ship it straight to your destination. Imagine breezing through airport check-in, not waiting at the carousel or customs for your bags, and arriving at your hotel where your bags await in your room. This white-glove service is available in over 130 countries around the world.
It’s all about the details, and Virtuoso recently partnered with a new company that connects travelers with local hosts to experience all things culinary: cooking classes, food tours, and even dinner in a local’s home. Other partners provide chef-led excursions to markets where you can shop and then return to the hotel to cook a delicious meal. Finally, don’t forget that your Virtuoso advisor is well-traveled, and likely has a list of favorite recommendations in major cities around the world.
“Please Bother Me.”
I hear this from Virtuoso advisors around the world: – They want to help you with all of your travel – your big dream trips and annual vacations, but also your quick getaways. Clients often think their advisor is too busy to bother with “just” a weekend getaway to a nearby resort or city, but your advisor is standing by and has a new way to work with you – I call it the “Please bother me” service for advisors. A new hotel booking tool is available 24/7, where you can quickly check rates and availability at trusted Virtuoso hotels and resorts around the world. Once you find the hotel and room you prefer, it’s a few simple clicks to send the request to your advisor; if you don’t already have an advisor, we can match you up with one seamlessly. Working with an advisor for even simple trips at virtuoso.com carries many benefits: You’ll receive Virtuoso amenities valued at hundreds of dollars per trip that you can’t get online, and you’ll have the support and backup of a travel advisor should anything go wrong (or just to double check your own selections).
On behalf of the more than 15,200 Virtuoso advisors in 45 countries on six continents around the world serving millions of discerning travelers just like you: Please bother us – we really do want to help you with every aspect of your travels.
The post 7 Secrets to Make the Most of Your Virtuoso Travel Advisor appeared first on The Virtuoso Life.
Soap, plates, teacups, matchboxes, luggage tags, pens, and more – design-savvy hotels around the world embellish hundreds of items with their logos and brands, enhancing a traveler’s stay with wit and whimsy, class and character.
In Virtuoso Life’s May issue, we delve into these products in “It’s the Little Things,” a photo essay highlighting everyday hotel objects that stylishly serve both form and function.
But how do you edit a room full of products from around 150 hotel brands into a concise visual tale? Associate Art Director Korena Sinnett takes us behind the scenes.
What inspired this story?
Elaine Srnka (Virtuoso’s vice president of content) and I were talking about how we collect hotel pens, paper, and matches. I suggested we shoot all of these items in an artistic photo essay. We brainstormed other keepsakes that travelers bring home, from bag tags and soap. Lastly, I had always wanted to do a hotel china pattern story, and we were able to incorporate that as well – so the focus ended up being small items that literally put a hotel’s brand at your fingertips.
How did the process go?
We collected items for two months, and had so much fun ooh’ing and aah’ing every single day when a new package arrived. My poor colleagues who sit near me had to hear me talk about each new product that arrived and I always showed them every single item – for two months! We requested pens, soap, matchboxes, paper baggage tags, china, and cocktail swizzle sticks. Sadly, we didn’t receive enough swizzle sticks for this story, but maybe one day.
What stood out in the packages you received?
My favorite products were pieces of china, whether they were intricate traditional patterns with a storied history or the more contemporary, whimsical patterns. However, I was so impressed seeing the variety, creativity, and incredible thought that Virtuoso hoteliers put into their properties, down to the smallest details.
How many products did you receive?
Around 400. We got way more than we asked for – everything from stuffed animals and shoes to silk ties, poker chips, and playing cards. Our office looked like a bazaar of branded items from around the world.
Any stand-out items or surprises?
I loved the branded Superga shoes from Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como, Italy (which we included on the issue’s masthead). But the best surprise from the whole shoot experience was getting deliveries from far-flung destinations such as Jordan and the Maldives.
See the final feature in the May issue of Virtuoso Life: “It’s the Little Things.”
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Whether you’re hoping to capture the essence of another culture or the sublime expanse of an African savanna, Virtuoso travel advisors share their trip-tested secrets for getting that perfect shot.
BEING IN THE MOMENT “Have your camera ready at all times and always take multiple pictures. The beauty of the digital age is that we can easily delete what we don’t want and keep only the best photographs.” – Annette Sordoni, travel advisor, Sherman Oaks, California
AFRICAN SAFARIS “For sweeping, wide-angle shots of the savanna, a 14mm to 24mm lens is ideal. For wildlife, the longer the lens, the better: I’d recommend a zoom that extends to at least 300mm. And remember: The most dramatic photos occur early in the morning and in late afternoon. Try to avoid a midday session, as the light will be flat.” – Rocio Zamora, travel advisor, Lima, Peru
UNDERWATER PHOTOS “Select a camera with a dedicated housing, along with two types of lenses: a wide-angle and a macro. For wide-angle photos, shoot with ambient light, angling your lens up toward the surface on sunny days for best results. For macro shots, a strobe is a necessity. You’ll be taking pictures of tiny subjects, often under ledges or in holes, so you’ll also want an extender to position the strobe above your subject.” – Ryan Dandy, travel advisor, Garden Grove, California
CULTURAL CONTEXT “Before traveling to a destination, always read up on the culture to be aware of any sensitivity toward photos. Smiling is universally understood – if you ask to take someone’s picture with respect and kindness, people will tend to respond favorably. Take time to engage with your subjects too. It will show in your photographs.” – Sekita Ekrek, travel advisor, New York City
POINTS FOR ORIGINALITY
“Strive to capture unexpected scenes, focusing your attention on small details found around the typical shot. And remember: There’s no perfect place for great pictures; every corner of this world has something special if you keep your eyes open.” – Andrea González, travel advisor, Mexico City
The post 5 Tips for Taking Magazine-Worthy Photos on Vacation appeared first on The Virtuoso Life.
Getting sick is even worse if you’re away from the comforts of home. We asked Virtuoso experts for their tips on how to stay healthy while traveling.
“My pre-travel routine is all about boosting my immune system. A few days before my trip, I drink fresh juices to boost my intake of vitamins, ginger, Echinacea, and more. – Charles Wolfe, Virtuoso travel advisor
“Check the CDC traveler’s website for destination specific guidance, recommended vaccines, and health notices.” – Jason Detar, Virtuoso travel advisor
“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. We all know to drink lots of water in flight, but I also make a point of swinging by a corner store – or even an airport newsstand – once I arrive at my destination to buy a couple bottles of water for my hotel room.” – Marika Cain, managing editor, Virtuoso Life
“I always throw a handful of Emergen-C packets in my carry-on when packing. I down the first one with water on the plane, then I aim to take at least one a day while I’m on the road. I’m convinced the vitamin C boost helps strengthen my immune system, plus, the packets are easy to travel with. My other pro tip: Wash your hands all the time. It’s obvious, I know, but it’s important!” – Amy Cassell, associate editor, Virtuoso Life. Note: Similar supplements on the market include Airborne, Wellness Formula, EBOOST, and Wellness Fizz.
“I’m a big believer in probiotics – good bacteria that help your digestive system. I start taking the supplements a week before traveling abroad, and I continue to take them throughout the trip. They are also found in some yogurts, so I try to include that in my daily breakfast.” – Melanie Fowler, design director, Virtuoso
“Never touch the seat backs on an airplane, and whatever you do, DON’T put anything in the seat back pockets. Studies have repeatedly shown this is the dirtiest place on an airplane where sick bags are left, diapers, you name it. It is not a good place for your iPad, book, or anything you come in close contact with.” – Shelby Donley, Virtuoso travel agency owner. Note: Combat germs with travel-size packs of disinfecting wipes in your carry-on bag.
“Water quality varies across the globe. Therefore, it is important to be aware of your destination’s tap water conditions. Research the water situation before you go, and if you don’t, make sure to ask about it when you arrive.” – Elisabeth Brown, VP of sales, Virtuoso travel agency
“At the end of the day, sleep is crucial to your body fighting off viruses and bacteria. When your body gets run down, it’s far more susceptible to attack. Have a sleep plan when traveling in different time zones.” – Shelby Donley
“I always try to eat a vegetable soup or grilled vegetables on the day I arrive. After plane food, it seems to work to keep me healthy.” – Annie Fitzsimmons, digital editor, Virtuoso
“Try to limit your alcohol intake. Happy hour at a new bar in Paris may sound fine until you wake up with a head-splitting hangover the next day. Plus, excessive drinking impedes your immune system’s ability to keep you up and running.” – Rebecca Ratterman, assistant editor, Virtuoso
“Get outside as much as possible and breath in fresh air, not air-conditioning! Vitamin D does wonders for the body.” – Traci Miller, account manager, Virtuoso marketing
“Work out, wherever you are. I try to climb to the highest point in a city on the first or second day. It’s great exercise, gives you the best view of a city, and helps you get over jet lag. When I was in Florence a few weeks ago, I climbed more than 400 steps to the top of the bell tower next to the Duomo.” – Annie Fitzsimmons, digital editor, Virtuoso
“When you vacation, try to truly unplug from the stresses of your job (that is why you work – to be able to enjoy life). I believe excessive stress will make anyone sick.” – Traci Miller, account manager, Virtuoso marketing
If you do end up getting sick while traveling, here are some pointers from John Gobbels, the VP & COO of MedjetAssist, which offers travel protection plans for medical emergencies around the world.
Pack Your Own Over-The-Counter Medications.
Some countries just don’t have the same medications we have available to us without a prescription from a local doctor. I usually plan for the basics: allergies, cold and cough, and the unfortunate traveler’s diarrhea.
Ask the Concierge.
We receive calls almost daily from members traveling abroad looking for hospital or physician recommendations. Our first response is always, “Have you asked the concierge?” This is in no way an attempt to shirk our duty, but the concierge usually has a direct line to preferred physicians and facilities, including some who will make “hotel calls.”
Buy Travel Insurance.
Purchase travel insurance that specifically covers direct medical costs while traveling outside your home country. Most domestic health insurance plans do not cover these costs.
Sign Up Before You Travel.
If you are diagnosed and admitted to a medical facility, call Medjet so we can begin the process of obtaining an initial medical assessment with your treating physician and start making arrangements to get you back to your home hospital, doctors, family, and friends. This peace of mind is priceless for our members.
Top photo by: Michael Blann/Getty Images
The post 13 Ways To Stay Healthy While Traveling appeared first on The Virtuoso Life.