travel

Less Wait, More Vacay

Summer is prime time travel season. Time for adventure, relaxation and making memories. However, if you've traveled during any peak time (read: summer, holidays, etc.), you know that sometimes it feels like, after all is said and done, you need a vacation from your vacation. The lines at the airport, the process of flying, the check in and check out wait times at your hotel - it can all be a little ...well...exhausting.

That's where our client Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto has the right idea. They realize how important and precious vacation time is for the mind, body and soul, and they want to give more of it back to you. Direct quote from Owen Perry, who is co-owner and president of the Villa Group, "We feel that vacation time is too important to be spent waiting in line."

So they decided to reinvent the hotel check-in process. Instead of going through the process of waiting in line once you arrive, providing your information to the front desk crew and picking up keys, guests of the gorgeous Mexican resort can bypass the front desk and head straight to their room, or even better, to the resort's turtle-shaped pool.

How are they able to do that? Guests of the resort instead have the option to spend 3 minutes while they're still in the comfort of their own homes to provide a checklist of items they would normally share in person (as well as any dietary restrictions, special occasion requests, etc.) and instead check in online, ahead of time.

It works much like checking into a flight online. Guests receive a unique QR code to show a bellhop once they arrive, who will be waiting with their room keys. The room keys are hassle-free as well. They're actually wristbands with waterproof smart chip technology. No more fiddling around in purses or worry that you might lose your hotel key while lounging beachside.

Photo credit: Romy Raves

Photo credit: Romy Raves

Paired with a personal concierge that can help guests book all their meals and activities in advance, the pre check-in program is amazing for setting the tone for a truly relaxing experience, which is the resort's ultimate goal.

Have you experienced amenities at other hotels or resorts that have made your stay memorable? Tweet us and let us know, @CuratorPR! Follow us on Instagram too for more travel scenes.

Why You Should Trade Your Hotel Bed for a Stranger’s Couch

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. But not because of the green beer (only light beer can be dyed green, so no thanks), the corned beef and cabbage (both of which are gag-inducing if you ask me), or even the St. Paddy’s day parties that take place at pubs around the city (because frankly, I’m too old to enjoy that many people crowded into a bar that’s too small, singing songs too loud, while pushing their livers too far). No, for me St. Patrick’s Day is an annual reminder of my wife and I's life changing European Couch Surfing adventure through that took us from the pubs of Dublin, to the shops of the Champs Élysées. If you’ve never heard of (or have but have never considered) Couch Surfing, get ready to have your idea of foreign travel turned on its head. Dublin's Samuel Beckett Bridge

 

The term Couch Surfing comes from couchsurfing.org,  a global community of travelers that want a more authentic cultural experience in the places they visit. They facilitate this by connecting travelers with locals who can provide city-specific travel advice and sometimes even a place to stay while abroad. Yes, I’m talking about staying with people you’ve never met, in places you’ve never been.

Now, before you freak out and start conjuring up images from the movie Hostel, let me say from experience that I’ve never felt safer while traveling than I did while Couch Surfing. We got to know our hosts online beforehand and always met in a public place first. My wife and I stayed with eight "surfers" (as they’re called) in seven countries, and all of them were great people. One of our hosts had “surfed" in dozens of countries on four continents without incident. Think about it: what kind of person invites total strangers into their home for free?

For Ellie and me, the answer to that question was the best part about Europe. These folks loved their cities, and loved sharing their knowledge, time and often even home cooked meals with others. We made a lot of good memories over our the four weeks in Europe, but most of our best memories are of the times spent with our Couch Surfing hosts. Thanks to them, we found authentic pubs in Dublin (filled with Irish rather than tourists), hidden beer gardens in Munich (we literally had to hike through a giant garden to get to one of them), took impromptu day trips to the Baltic Sea, and discovered incredible views of Prague from plateau-parks you won’t find in any guidebook. Don’t get me wrong, We loved the British Library, Musee de Orsay, Prague Castle and the Rhine, but the sights rank a distant second to the friends we made along the way.

Our friends Leo and Ilka who we stayed with in North Germany, and who have stayed with us twice since then here in Seattle.

 

Couch Surfing puts you in a completely different frame of mind. We normally keep to ourselves when we’re on vacation, but suddenly we found ourselves out all night at a pub on Portobello Road with Mark and Katie (our London hosts who we had literally just met), wine tasting on the Rhine with Li (a Chinese tourist we met on the train), and getting a ride from Mikkel and Anna (German and Russian honeymooners we met on a day cruise) from the dock in Boppard to the train station in Koblenz. We still had plenty of time to ourselves to explore each city on our own and hit all of the major sights on our list. The major difference was that we cut our list of “must-sees” in half to make room for “must-experiences,” which ended up being better than anything we could have planned.

Couch Surfing is not about finding a free place to crash for a night; it’s about having authentic, intercultural experiences. It’s about getting to know a country and culture through its people, rather than through a $20 guidebook. It’s about helping your host with their English, and in turn learning about Czech drinking etiquette (you're apparently supposed to cheers when you get a new drink. Who knew?). It’s about learning the custom of the apéritif from an Englishman living in Paris who grew up in Ireland and is married to a Russian.

I realize Couch Surfing might be a little out of the comfort zone for some, but I would argue that staying with a local is the ONLY way to really experience a culture. Think about it this way; if someone visited Seattle from another country and spent a week touring SAM, Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and EMP, along with some Woodenville wine tasting and a day trip to Rainier, would you say they’ve experienced American, or even Seattle culture? I’m not knocking Seattle sights, but none of them remotely define the Seattle ethos.

Next time you travel, I encourage you to give Couch Surfing a shot. Instead of seeing a new city through your camera lens, see it through a raised pint glass with some newfound friends. I guarantee it will be the highlight of your trip.

The Curator News Feed: March 22, 2013

Rebels Saving Hollywood, Fast Company. I absolutely love this kind of thinking. The proactive culture, creativity and movement to change people’s perceptions totally align with the kind of work we do here at Curator. Really good stuff. – Scott

Stealth Celebrity Endorsement: No Money Changing Hands, Just Free Burritos, Time. Great article on how Chipotle successfully managed a celebrity endorsement deal without paying for one. We’ve seen this tactic before, but Chipotle’s successful execution may breed a whole new way of marketing. The return on this minimal investment could be well worth the hundreds of free burritos. – Annie

Google Search Gifs, Mashable. If BuzzFeed has taught us anything it's that a Gif can go a long way. While not all platforms and media except the animated photo I'm happy to see Google recognizing the need for easy search capability. If only we had an app that allowed us to organize all our favorite Gif blogs (yes, I'm still upset about the Google Reader news.) – Brooke

Amazon CEO recovers sunken Apollo engines, Komonews.com. I always knew that Amazon was great at finding me sweet deals, and it appears their CEO is just as good at finding lost pieces of history. I thought it was cool that a relic from the first moon landing may have been recovered, and it was even cooler that a Seattlite found it. – Elizabeth

I’m in Mexico. Therefore my link is www.villadelpalmarloreto.com - Dan

Pop-up Hotels – Rooms with a Fleeting View, NY Times. I kind of love this idea. It’s been interesting to watch the pop-up shop trend grow and it makes total sense to bring it to hotels. The unique views, VIP treatment and luxurious quality of these hotel rooms play really well, giving guests the feeling of total exclusivity. I’d stay in one for sure! Would you? – Chelsey

A Dongle Joke That Spiraled Way Out Of Control, TechCrunch. This story absolutely shatters the None Of This Needed To Happen scale. In short, some guy at a programming conference made a joke about his "Dongle" — in short, an adapter cable for your computer — and a woman sitting in front of him took offense. She snapped a picture of him, tweeted it and blogged about the joke. Fast forward to today: Both people involved have been fired from their respective companies, one of said companies' websites suffered a DDOS attack, possibly as retribution for part of what went down, and…just go read it. Read it and remember two things: (1) There's no separation between work and personal anymore. Social media is everywhere, and how you act reflects on everyone you're associated with. (2) You don't get to decide which of your content goes viral. It takes nothing to stop for two seconds and think, "If this were the one piece of content I was known for, would I be OK with that?" – Paul

InstaArt, PSFK. Maybe it’s because I recently moved from an apartment to a house and now have excess bare walls, but this really grabbed my attention. A new startup called Instathis turns your Instagram photos into framed art with a few clicks of the mouse. Expect an update soon, as I’ll be trying this out in the coming weeks. – Matthew

Kit Kat Challenges Oreo to Tic-Tac-Toe for Twitter Fan's Affection. Mashable. After a fan mentioned that she loved both Kit Kats and Oreos in a Twitter post, Kit Kat challenged Oreo to a Tic-Tac-Toe challenge for her affection. I'm not the social media specialist, but love what this idea stands for. Firstly, it recognized the fan and pursued a meaningful conversation. Secondly, it's what social media should be, quick and relevant. I can only imagine how many rounds of feedback and approvals this concept went through, but to the public, it was seamless and fun, just like Kit Kat's brand. Now that it's Friday, we can all #haveabreak. - Maria