When a room is more than just a place to sleep.

“We don’t need a fancy room since we won’t be in it much anyway.”— I’ve heard (and read) this statement so many times. In some cases it’s true. On a short weekend getaway to New Orleans, you’re probably not spending much time in the room. It would be more worthwhile to spend your money on a standard room in a well-located hotel. However, when we’re talking about a more extended leisure vacation or honeymoon, don’t sell yourself (and your vacation experience) short by booking the cheapest room possible. The right room really makes the difference between a good vacation and a great vacation.

I recently had the opportunity to honeymoon in a Romeo and Juliet Sanctuary One-Bedroom Villa Suite at Sandals Grande Riviera in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This resort is a sprawling paradise of beach, pools, and tropical flora. With so much available to eat, drink, and do on resort, I think it would be impossible not to have a good time. However, our room really stepped it up! This room had all the bells and whistles. The bedroom suite had an expansive, modern bathroom with separate walk-in shower and over-sized jetted bathtub. Outside, there’s a very private courtyard with a pool, whirlpool, outdoor shower, and lounge chairs leading over to a separate living room area complete with couches, a dining table, and a full bar. All of this also comes with the services of your own butlers that can bring food and drinks or arrange spa treatments and excursions with a simple phone call! Though I love the beach…we were perfectly content to spend the majority of our time in the suite enjoying our private sanctuary. It made for an ultra-lux, care-free, and very special honeymoon experience.

Private courtyard in our Romeo and Juliet Sanctuary One-Bedroom Villa Suite
Private courtyard in our Romeo and Juliet Sanctuary One-Bedroom Villa Suite
Whirlpool tub and doorway to walk-in shower
Outdoor shower and view towards the bedroom
Living room couch and coffee table
King-sized four poster bed with doors to courtyard
Dining table, bar, and flatscreen TV in the living room
One of the dual vanities, it’s mirror image is on the other side

Sandals Resorts are my favorite all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean partly because of the amazing and unique accommodations that are offered at each of their resorts. They call these special suites their Love Nests..and it’s easy to see why. They’re all different, and there is a Love Nest that’s perfect for everyone.  They all come with butler service and luxurious in-room amenities, but it’s the special traits that make them…. Here are some drool-worthy examples:

Rondaval Suite at Sandals Grande Antigua
Rondaval Suite at Sandals Grande Antigua
Millionaire Suite at Sandals La Toc in St. Lucia
Millionaire Suite at Sandals La Toc in St. Lucia
Skypool Suite (under construction) at Sandals LaSource Grenada
Skypool Suite (under construction) at Sandals LaSource Grenada
Crystal Lagoon Swim-up Suite at Sandals Royal Caribbean
Crystal Lagoon Swim-up Suite at Sandals Royal Caribbean
Two-story Loft Suite at Sandals Negril
Two-story Loft Suite at Sandals Negril


Let’s look at some other examples of amazing rooms and suites that are definitely worth the upgrade:

  1. An Overwater Bungalow in Tahiti, the Maldives, or Fiji: You’re making the commitment to travel to an iconic destination that is known for its special accommodations. You might save a little money by booking a basic garden view room, but you’ll be missing out on a portion of what makes this destination so special to begin with. This is often a once-in-a-lifetime destination so take advantage of the full experience. Watch the fish swimming on the reef beneath you through the glass section in the floor. Step off the deck of your bungalow and snorkel with the rays.
    Overwater Bungalow at St. Regis Bora Bora with view of Mt. Otemanu
    Overwater Bungalow at St. Regis Bora Bora with view of Mt. Otemanu
  2. Any oceanview room on any Caribbean or Mexican beach vacation: You’re on a beach vacation and you’ve picked your destination specifically because of the crystal clear turquoise water and white sand beach. Upgrading your room to at least oceanview or oceanfront is absolutely worth it and, in my opinion, should be a no-brainer! Here’s why: You’ve come all that way to see the beach/ocean. Why not give yourself every opportunity to do so? Have your morning coffee on your balcony overlooking the calm, glassy waters that are common in the morning hours. Enjoy a glass of wine or champagne while getting ready for dinner.. Oh, and don’t forget getting ready for an early dinner without missing the sunset, since you can see it setting over the water from your room!

What other room upgrades have you had that really enhanced your overall experience?

Vacation Designer- A new job title for the changing times…

Romantic Jamaican Sunset

Vacation Designer is really a much more accurate representation of what I do when compared to the out-dated Travel Agent job title. Yes, I’ll admit it’s true… you don’t need a travel agent in order to book your flights and hotel. Anyone with internet access can go online, enter credit card information, and come away with a travel reservation, but how do you know that the vacation you booked online is the right one for you?

Will that online booking engine take the time to get to know you and your likes/dislikes? Will the online booking engine sort through all the possible destinations and hotels for you, narrowing down the thousands of options to just the few that fit your desires exactly? If you just book online, who is going to warn you that the particular big-name all-inclusive resort that you’ve chosen routinely waters down their beverages? Is the online booking engine going to let you know that the waterfall you want to see is over 6 hours from where you’re staying? Is that online booking engine willing to go the extra mile for you, lend a personal touch, plan your daily activities or coordinate a special request with the resort? Nope, the online booking engine won’t do any of those things. This is where my role, as a Vacation Designer, comes in.

When we’re talking about an activity that is as emotionally precious as travel, the lowest price doesn’t necessarily equal the best value for you. The online booking engine can give you a super cheap vacation (btw I can usually match or even beat their prices). However, can you tell me the last time you heard a friend return from a vacation and say “Man, that was the worst, oldest, dirtiest hotel I’ve ever been to with the most disgusting food I’ve ever eaten! But hey, at least I saved a couple hundred bucks!” I sure haven’t heard anyone say that! When you travel, the experience you have while you’re on vacation is so much more important than the amount you pay. Sure, you’ll want to budget wisely, but at the end of the day, you’re really looking for an awesome vacation experience above all other factors.

Next time you’re thinking about taking a vacation, I hope you’ll steer away from the online booking engine and opt to work with a Vacation Designer like me instead. It won’t cost you anything extra. It will ensure that your entire travel experience is the best it can be.



Get MORE with Group Travel

The saying goes “The more the merrier” and it’s totally the case when you’re talking about travel!

There are so many reasons to take a group trip. Some of the most common are family reunions or destination weddings. Others include holding your meeting or conference in an exotic destination, or rewarding employees for great work with a few days of R&R in paradise. Studios for dance or yoga may consider organizing a group trip for their customers with a focus on their activity, while Scuba shops frequently organize group dive trips for their students. Perhaps you’ve got a circle of close, fun-loving friends…I think that’s reason enough to get away and take a vacation together.

Not only can traveling with a group earn you discounted rates on airfares and hotel rooms, but many resorts and cruise lines offer special group amenities as well.  Of course they vary based on destination, but group amenities can include complimentary use of meeting facilities and A/V equipment, private group cocktail parties, dinners, photos, spa treatments, etc. Depending upon the number of rooms booked, you’ll likely also earn some complimentary rooms or upgrades. Group organizers can often go on the trip without having to pay for their accommodations!

I’ve seen resorts and cruise lines practically bend over backwards to accommodate groups. They’ll provide yoga instructors a space to hold classes on the beach for their customers and organize special excursions just for the group. Many dance studios choose to offer themed dance cruises because cruise ships will hold private dance socials or classes at sea in their ballrooms!

It doesn’t take much to qualify for special group offers. On cruises, you’ll need at least 8 staterooms (or 16 people) and for many land-based spots, you’re considered a group with as few as 5 rooms! So get started on planning your next group vacation! Trust me when I say that everyone in your group will be glad you did!

Better late than never: A slightly belated overview of my trip to Turks and Caicos in Nov 2012

Beaches Turks and Caicos

A few days after Thanksgiving, I packed my bag (a Briggs & Riley rolling duffel– which I love and highly recommend) and jetted off to spend 5 glorious nights at Beaches Turks and Caicos.I was fortunate enough to be sharing this vacation with two of my closest girlfriends who I had met during my former life as a zookeeper. Over the years, we had each moved on to other jobs in other parts of the country and this was a much anticipated reunion.

On a side note, I had arranged this trip such that one of my friends did not know that the other was going to be joining us… So we were able to coordinate a fabulous surprise reveal for our meet up at the airport in Miami. Her reaction was absolutely priceless!

It took approximately 15 minutes to clear immigration and customs in Providenciales before we made our way outside to the Beaches stand. There, we were greeted by a friendly gentleman who offered us chilled bottles of water and attached room tags to our luggage. Two minutes later, we found ourselves in a van and on our way to the resort. We had been upgraded to a concierge room, so after a refreshing chilled towel and rum punch welcome, we were escorted to the concierge lounge for check-in. I was very proud that my friends took my Pack for a Purpose suggestion to heart and we were able to present the Sandals Foundation with a large selection of donated school supplies!

Luxury SuiteOur room was a Luxury Suite in the Caribbean village with a view of gardens and the ocean. It was a spacious room with a mahogany 4-poster king and a twin day-bed with pull-out trundle. The room also had one of my favorite amenities… a fully-stocked bar! Later that day, we were offered a further upgrade and move to a concierge suite in the newer Italian village. This room had a second bedroom area with a set of bunk-beds with a trundle in addition to the king in the main area.Luxury Suite 2 It also had a gorgeous bath with a whirlpool tub and a separate walk-in shower. This room would have been wonderful for a family with kids, but we felt that it was too segregated for our girlfriends’ getaway and decided to keep our original suite.

After unpacking, we headed out for a walk around the property and a stop at the watersports center to sign up for our dives. I had been to the resort before, so I used this time to give my friends an informal tour. This is a large and grand hotel. I do recommend joining one of the orientation sessions so that you don’t miss any of it.

I won’t bore you with a complete play-by-play of the rest of our trip, so I’ll focus on the highlights….


Our favorite breakfast was a selection at Café de Paris, the resort’s French patisserie. We were easily able to make a meal out of the hot ham and cheese croissants, fruits, crepes, and specialty coffees. Otherwise, the breakfast buffet was splendid. For lunch, it’s a toss-up between the crispy, thin-crust pizza at Bella Napoli or the jerk chicken and burgers at Arizona’s. By far, our best dinner was at Le Petit Chateau. I could’ve made a very satisfying meal out of the scallops, hand-rolled butternut squash tortellini, and wild mushroom risotto that were all on the appetizer menu. Grand Marnier crème brulee and a molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream were the favorite desserts of the trip!

Beaches Resorts serves up Beringer as the house wine. I personally love the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Pinot Grigio. You can also choose to buy a bottle of something else from the extensive Chairman’s Wine list. These wines and other cocktails are kept flowing throughout the day and night at the many bars spread throughout the resort. I like the local Turk’s Head beer and, of course… the BBC. It’s a delicious frozen blended concoction of ripe banana, Bailey’s, and coconut cream. They don’t use banana mix in their drinks here…only fresh whole bananas!

Beach-side Gazebo

When we weren’t eating, we were enjoying the pools, waterslides and lazy river, and of course..the beach! The weather on this trip didn’t cooperate perfectly with us. In fact, there were some very heavy downpours. However, we didn’t want to spend our vacation in our room, so we made the best of the rainy times and had a blast hanging out on the couches in the beachside gazebos. That being said, there was still sunshine on the trip and we were able to take a couple long walks down the beautiful 12-mile long Grace Bay Beach. On one of these strolls, I passed by a professional swimsuit photo shoot taking place, model and all!


Sea TurtleTwo of us took advantage of the scuba diving (included for certified divers) and I got the chance to come within a few feet of a large sea turtle!!! Other diving highlights were Caribbean reef shark and barracuda sightings. The dive crew was patient and helpful, although some dives were cancelled due to bad weather and one of our dive trips was severely delayed without much explanation. While we were out diving, our other friend took advantage of the exercise class offerings, which included yoga, zumba, and a boot-camp style session.

We were sad to leave on final day of our stay. We even woke up early to get some final runs in on the waterslides and a last dip in the ocean. Overall, the three of us had a great vacation and I was so happy that I was able to share one of my favorite places with my best friends. I’m looking forward to putting together another trip next year!

Please check out Three Wishes Travel on facebook for more pictures.


Beaches Ocho Rios Renovation

I recently had the priviledge of spending a short weekend at the newly redesigned Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and Golf Club. Apart from the luxurious upgrades that they have already completed, more exciting renovations are still on the way!

BBO AerialThe resort is built on a hillside in terraces and features oversized rooms and balconies. It is a perfect and affordable luxury-included vacation destination for families, couples, and groups of friends. For adults, enjoy relaxing treatments at the signature Red Lane Spa and included golf at the nearby Sandals Golf and Country Club. The kids will have a blast at the Pirate’s Island waterpark that includes several waterslides of different sizes and a fun water play area. A breakfast with Big Bird and the rest of the Sesame Street characters is a must for the entire family. The private cove beach offers up plenty of sand, sun, and sea while allowing Mom and Dad the peace of mind that the kids are always in sight. Snorkelers and scuba-divers will appreciate the Marine Protected Area and Fish Sanctuary established by the Sandals Foundation just off-shore.

My own weekend was spent enjoying the grounds and the beach. I love to relax on a comfortable beach lounger and read novels on my iPad, and the cove beach at this resort proved to be a perfect location to indulge in this activity. To top it off, I didn’t even have to leave my beach chair for drinks. A lovely waitress checked on me several times throughout my day and brought fresh beverages anytime my cup was low! I was also able to enjoy some delicious grilled lobster and a wonderful chocolate buffet!

Visit my Facebook page to see photos of my weekend at Beaches Ocho Rios and check out this video detailing the luxurious upgrades this resort has completed!