Ahhh….spas

Spa afficionados know that vacations and spa treatments go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Nothing enhances the “get away from it all” effect of a vacation like a massage, body wrap or a facial. Or, better yet, all three!  So it’s no surprise that travel authority Conde Nast Magazine has, for some years now, been publishing their ratings of the best hotel-based, resort-based, and cruise ship spas worldwide.

The 2010 results are in, and the rankings for spas in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean can be found in the April issue (or online)  There are some perennial winners of course, in the usual locales you’d expect (California, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Bermuda, etc.) but it’s interesting to note some of the more unexpected accolades.

For instance, in the cruise ship spa category, the top ranking goes to a very mass-market ship — Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas — and not to one of the premium lines like Crystal or Regent. In fact, more than half of the ships in the top 20 are from mainstream lines like Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland America and Disney Cruise Line.

When it comes to hotel spas, it’s nice to see that, in among the Ritz-Carltons and the Four Seasons of the world, there are some local New England inns like the Mayflower Inn in Connecticut and the White Barn Inn in Maine. And when it comes to Caribbean resort spas, it’s not just the boutiquey adults-only properties that are achieving high marks —  there are also two Marriotts in the top 20 (in Aruba and St. Kitts).

What this all means to me is that spas are becoming more and more mainstream and accessible, and that travelers are expecting (and demanding) some pampering and relaxation on ANY vacation. Not just when they’re on a special romantic “escape” with their significant other.

If you want some help planning a vacation that includes a little spa time, let me know. I’m more than happy to test out the treatments wherever I go. It’s all in the name of  research, of course 🙂

Girls just want to have fun!

My mom and my two sisters are some of my favorite travel companions!

italy-11

We’ve certainly enjoyed vacations with the whole family (husbands, kids, etc.), and we’ve done some great one-on-one trips (mom and I went to Mexico last year, my sister Megan and I cruised to Bermuda, and mom and Kate went to Ireland together) but the most memorable trips have been our annual Girls’ Weekends.

We’ve been doing this since 1998, when my kids were babies and my younger sisters were still in college and law school, and it’s an annual tradition that none of us would ever give up. With the notable exception of our eight-day “weekend” in Italy in 2007, the trips have all been two- or three-day road trips in and around the northeast.

We’ve shopped the outlets in New Hampshire and Maine, hiked in the Catskills, antiqued in New Hope (Pennsylvania), lounged at the spa in Newport, hit the casino at Mohegan Sun, and taken in a Broadway show in NYC. Really, though, it’s not the destination that makes the trip — it’s the fact that we take time away from jobs/husbands/kids and reconnect with one another for some girl time.

girls-weekend

So what’s next for us? I don’t know. We’ve talked about going to Montauk this spring/summer, since we haven’t done the Hamptons yet. And I’d love to do a weekend cruise out of NY (since my mom has never tried cruising). The other new wrinkle is that my soon-to-be 14-year-old daughter has been asking when she gets to start coming along.

So what do you think?  Where should we go next….should we let my daughter tag along….and where would you love to go with your girlfriends?

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)