Wondering what lies ahead for your next vacation? Before you book your trip, “Travel + Leisure” magazine shares the inside scoop on the latest and greatest in hotel and resort trends. Discover the top new eco-travel destinations, the hippest homes away from home, deluxe spa treatments and more:
1. Eco-travel and conscientious consumption Eco hotels are opening in a range of destinations, from close-to-home locations to the Australian outback. With the proliferation of eco-friendly openings, how do you know which ones are really green? There are several organizations that make certifications, including LEED, Energy Star and Green Globe, among others (see list for more). In addition to checking to see if a hotel has any type of green certification, there are also questions you can ask the hotel directly about its practices to ensure that it lives up to its green promise. Morgan's Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, Nicaragua Most guests heading to this charming jungle lodge pack hiking boots and swimsuits, anticipating the area's tropical forests and spectacular Pacific Coast beach. Many also bring Spanish-language textbooks to donate to one of five neighboring schools. Whether buying furniture (handcrafted by area artisans) or training employees (in plant identification and wildlife conservation), Morgan's Rock works in tandem with the local community. The resort also serves as a role model for the country's incipient ecotourism industry, by building a recycling plant and planting more than 1.5 million trees. Devil's Thumb Ranch, Colorado Across the American West, rising land prices and falling cattle profits are driving ranchers to sell their property to developers. Luckily, Devil's Thumb's current owners swooped in just in time to save its 5,000 acres. Instead of high-density (and -profit) single-family houses, they built only 16 airy timber cabins and a soon-to-open lodge — all of them heated and cooled entirely with fireplaces (the wood is harvested on the property, often from beetle-infested pine trees) and geothermal energy. Best yet, the owners have limited their development to only 1 percent of the land, leaving the rest free for guests — and elk, moose, bears and beavers — to roam.Tenuta di Spannocchia, Siena, Italy Part of Tuscany's Riserva Naturale Alto Merse, this 1,100-acre organic estate of managed forests, vegetable gardens and hiking trails is dedicated to nothing less than preserving the region's cultural and agricultural legacy. Call it a kind of pastoral demonstration project: Parts of the property are used to raise endangered breeds of livestock, while others yield sustainably harvested wood for heating. Rooms are tucked into original stone houses, restored with a rustic simplicity (wood-beamed ceilings, wrought-iron bed frames) that epitomizes the farm's philosophy.
Bamurru Plains, AustraliaUntil recently, an overnight stay in this wilderness was rough going. But that has changed with the opening of Bamurru Plains. This camp of nine open-plan suites built on timber platforms overlooks the floodplain just outside the park’s western border. It’s a contemporary bush station where "creature comforts" refers to the pleasures of wildlife viewing (fauna include water buffalo, wallabies and kookaburras) rather than more high-tech amenities — there are no phones, TVs or CD players. Take an airboat expedition through the Swim Creek floodplain area or a Land Cruiser safari into neighboring Kakadu, one of the few UNESCO World Heritage sites with a dual listing: It’s treasured as both a cultural and a natural landmark. 2. Hotels provide a home away from home Whether it is a B&B or small inn in a major city like New York or London, you'll find properties that are giving guests all the special comforts and amenities of home. Knightsbridge Hotel, London Traditional English contemporary, with granite and oak bathrooms and sandstone fireplaces. Co-owner Kit Kemp keeps the place feeling forever new with an ongoing refurbishment. Two rooms a year undergo a complete makeover.Stay the Night, New York
The top three floors of a Carnegie Hill brownstone are redone into suites that are named after prior tenants. With rates starting at $185/night, double, this offers a hard-to-find value in New York — and the feeling of living like a local. Lafayette House, New York
Royal Tenenbaums meets Fawlty Towers. Envision a Victorian-style bed-and-breakfast without the breakfast. Five of the 15 rooms have kitchenettes, but the hip B Bar and Grill next door serves as a default restaurant for the inn.The Royalton, New York Was recently redone taking a new approach to design. The old design focused more on flash; the new design focuses more on comfort, with a more timeless feel. The lobby has custom features such as a vintage chandelier and hand-blown glass globes, as well as a large double-sided fireplace.
3. Spas get even more luxe and provide more ways to make you feel better ESPA at Aqualina, Sunny Isles, Florida Overlooking the ocean, this is the United States’ first stand-alone outpost from Espa. Look for an authentic experience in a resolutely modern environment. Services like the Vata Comforter — a scrub, massage and wrap using muds, oils and spices — draw on a range of Asian traditions (ayurveda, in this case).Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace Hotel, Las Vegas One of the latest spas to open in Sin City, this water-themed spot differs from its other Strip counterparts through unusual offerings like Sleep Health; the massage followed by a hypnotherapy session is a welcome relief in a city known for encouraging late nights. InterContinental Century City, Los Angeles Forget standard treatment rooms. Services at Los Angeles’ InterContinental are performed in private villas with flat-screen TVs and meditation gardens. During the Mediterranean Olive Scrub Massage — an exfoliation with crushed olive seeds and an olive-oil massage — guests are given time in the room’s infinity-edge Kohler tub, making it easy to soak it all in. Anantara Spa at Emirates Palace, Abu DhabiAt the opulent, multidomed Emirates Palace, the recently opened Anantara Spa is upping the ante on luxury in the ultra-competitive world of extravagant Middle Eastern hotels. Inside the spa, intricate Moroccan Zelish tile work lines the floors beneath a domed ceiling dotted with fiber-optic lights that glow cobalt blue; a cavernous private treatment complex has its own dining room and a hammam with heated marble double beds; another suite is devoted to Vichy showers. Don’t miss the Gateway to Arabia massage and wrap, which uses local ingredients such as black olive soap, royal-jelly honey and rassoul mud — then cool off in the ice cave.
4. Destinations that offer good values Despite the weak dollar, there are still places where you can find a good value this year. In Europe, Portugal, as well as eastern European destinations like Montenegro, are good choices. Latin America is hot, and Mexico, Argentina and Brazil are standout destinations for 2008.
5. More services and activities at airports
Air travel will continue to evolve as airports and airlines strive to offer more services, amenities and comforts for travelers. Heathrow's Terminal 5, scheduled to open this March, will set a new standard for airports worldwide. The terminal will have a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, and an amazing list of shops including Paul Smith, Prada, and Harrods. When it comes to the flight itself, Boeing and Airbus are providing enhanced environments for air travel with innovative aircraft configurations and features like more oxygen in the cabin.
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