Archive for the Category »Mexico «

  Hey Bay Area! “Travel Detective” Starts Airing on KQED this Weekend!
Valle de Bravo, Mexico while taping Travel Detective

Valle de Bravo, Mexico while taping Travel Detective

If you like this photograph, you are going to want to learn  more about this hidden gem of  a place, Valle de Bravo, Mexico on our travel tv show “The Travel Detective.”

“The Travel Detective” has been airing around the country on PBS member stations, and now will air in the San Francisco Bay Area beginning this weekend! I am a correspondent and report on misleading travel brochures and reviews in this weekend’s episode.

Check here to get email reminders and official times of upcoming broadcasts:

But for now I can tell you “The Travel Detective” airs:

on KQED Plus most Sundays starting April 13 at 11 AM

AND on KQED Life most Saturdays starting April 19 at 5 PM

For more about the show, click here:

Have a great weekend!

  Travel Round Up: Escape Winter Cold W/These Deals!

Love finding travel deals to share with you.

Here are some that look exciting this week:

Business travelers, especially, may appreciate this one:



DEAL #1- Round trip from LAX to Hong Kong on luxury airline Cathay Pacific – $769!!! Cathay Pacific is one of the finest airlines… and this deal is good for next June. The reason? Cathay Pacific is adding another daily non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong in June, and this is a promotion for it.

June is a good month to go – it kicks off summer activities in the gateway to the East.

You must act fast the sale ends Nov.11. For more on the deal:



DEAL #2 – 7 night cruise to the Caribbean aboard Princess Cruises’s newest ship….for $599 a person!!!

This is good for certain dates in February 2014…. The ship sets sail from Fort Lauderdale and goes to the Bahamas, St. Thomas, and St Maarten.

For $49 more per person, you can get a balcony cabin and also a $200 credit per cabin.

Book by Nov. 8 – tomorrow!! Here’s where you go:



DEAL #3: A great deal to a tropical get-a-way…. A Mexico package deal. A seven night all-inclusive stay in Cancun starting at $979 per person, includes airfare, hotel, meals including alcohol, and ground transfers.  Prices vary a little depending from where you are flying.

Stay in what is described as a four star hotel – the BlueBay Grand Esmeralda.

This is good for January, for those of you who want to escape the snow, and this deal expires Nov. 13.

Get booking!

  Easy Spring Travel Ideas To Inspire You…. #springtravel


Keukenhof Gardens, Holland from

Happy Spring!  (In the Northern Hemisphere..) Are you going anywhere this spring? It is a great time to travel as it is shoulder season… before the heat and crowds in many places, and not as many inflated prices.

If you have the time and the spring in your step, here is an interesting compilation from Sherman’s List of interesting places to visit. If nothing else, it may get you thinking about where to journey next…..

On the list, is Playa del Carmen in Mexico – I know there is a lot of concern about traveling to Mexico, so I am sharing a thorough website from the UK about the perils and how to stay safe. It is often helpful to visit other governments’ state warnings in addition to our own.

Let me know if you are going anywhere interesting – I want to hear about it!


  Hotel of the Week: Locals’ Secret – A Very Groovy Lakeside Retreat

One of my favorite things about my job is discovering completely unfamiliar travel destinations. I call it the “Starbuck’s Factor”… if there aren’t any of the ubiquitous coffee houses within miles of a destination, I get excited. I feel like I am in an authentic place with only locally owned businesses… and definitely off the beaten path of the mainstream traveler.

Valle de Bravo, Mexico

That happened on a recent trip to Mexico. I visited the lake town of Valle de Bravo, two hours outside of Mexico City. Valle, as it is known, is situated on Lake Avandaro, and is a popular weekend getaway for wealthy Mexicans. It is known for it’s paragliding… and on weekends the sky is dotted with adventurous souls. You can find instructors who will take you – for a price of course – in the local town. It is well-advertised.

A local told me many known architects have homes here, and they are beautiful – (if I told you how relatively cheap you can buy a house here you wouldn’t be surpried! )

For visitors without homes there, one hotel that stands out is El Santuario. Wow! What a setting! Right on the lake, there are floating sun pads… and a pool to enjoy the incredible view.

But there are many hotels with pretty scenery – what struck me about this resort is it’s soul – it is a bit retro, has some personality, and I envisioned bringing a group of friends back to hang out in the large couches around the pool, with the lake view, sharing a few margaritas.

The resort is luxurious for the area, but still casual and rough, in an old Mexico way, which gives it personality. The architecture is interesting – all curves.

There are 64 rooms, some with their own private pool… and a spa with some interesting chocolate treatments…..hmmm, dessert anyone?

The price per night averages about $300-400 US Dollars a night, but if you visit mid-week, you can get a better rate.

BUT – I must warn you, reviews on various websites say some rooms don’t block out much noise – in other words, if your neighbors are watching loud tv, or other guests are having fun outside on the grounds, you might not get so much sleep.  Definitely ask about the most quiet rooms if you ever should venture here. It’s a nice stop if you have business in Mexico City, or want to see a less touristy part of Mexico – you can eat for cheap and get plenty of sunshine!

Is it safe? Well -there are definitely some places in Mexico on the US govt’s “Do Not Travel List,” because of some dangerous episodes, but Valle de Bravo is not one of them. You would go through Mexico City to get there, which is dicey, but the international airport is actually lovely and modern, with tons of security around. The drive from Mexico City will be traffic-filled, and a you’d encounter drive by check points and see plenty of Federales along the way.

But… don’t count on finding  Starbuck’s. :) I didn’t even miss my latte.

  Travel Tip Tuesday: Money Money Money

Money usually gets people’s attention :)

My crew in Malinalco, Mexico

Just got back from Mexico… Hadn’t been there in a while…. Here’s something new since last time I had visited….

TIP: Remember to change money before you go sightseeing, dining, or shopping. Most places in Mexico do not take American dollars anymore – you need to have pesos.

The best exchange rate is through your credit card or an ATM – DON’T use those little kiosks. Do check with your credit card to see if they charge an exchange fee. ATMs usually do. You can also change money at some hotels – my hotel didn’t charge an exchange fee which is a nice courtesy.

BTW  - Mexico is still so cheap  - I was eating great meals for less than $10 – so you might not need as much money as you think.

Happy Travels!


  Is Violence Keeping You From Traveling To Mexico?

Tourism in Mexico has dropped dramatically- largely due to the increase in drug-related violence in that country. Some tourist areas have been victim to the violence- Acapulco and Mazatlan – but others like Punta Mita and Cabo are hundreds of miles away from any incidents.

So is it irrational to avoid that country because of attacks far away? Give up that “only-in-Mexico guacamole and margarita”… great golf… tropical weather?

You be the judge. Mexico is a developing country, with fierce drug cartels, and the number of US citizens murdered in all parts of Mexico increased to 120 in 2011 from 35 in 2007.

Some travelers still see travel there as a risk…With that risk, however, comes cheaper room rates – at some of the finest luxury resorts around. The average daily room rate has come down $100….and resorts are now amping up the marketing. Interesting Wall St Journal article – will these tactics work for you?

  Do You Ever Disagree on Where to Go on Vacation? Here Are Some Solutions…

I am a member of – meaning I am able to receive offers from avid travelers all over the world to exchange houses at some point. It is totally fun fantasizing about visiting some of the places from which I receive offers.

Interior Gardens and Pool: Terrace, master, living room kitchen, and dining room to the left; two bedrooms, library and TV room straight ahead.

So the other day, when I received a too-good-to-be-true request to exchange with the palatial home above  in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I was all over it. San Miguel de Allende may not be up there say with London or Paris as one of the top five places to visit, but  I have read and heard so much about it, I have been itching to go…and this was a free place to stay for a couple weeks.

In the words of Lyle Lovett, I thought this was a “dream made to order, south of the border…” until I proposed it to m y husband for our family vacation. To my surprise, the response was a flat out “No.” Not a “Let’s think about it…or Maybe..” but “NO.”  Hasta la vista Mexico. He had no interest, didn’t think it would be good for the kids, etc.

Really? Even though he relies on and trusts my travel knowledge, and I plan the trips,  he wouldn’t budge.

I am always up for any kind of trip and ready for an adventure, but I am sure this happens in a lot in families. So I called upon my travel agent slash family travel therapist John Clifford for some advice. ( He suggests:

1) One partner gets to choose the current destination (say, a summer vacation) and the next trip, the other partner chooses (say a holiday trip,or next vacation).

2) The couple agrees to choose a “neutral” third destination that they jointly agree upon.

3)Choose a destination  that “hits all the passion points” and tends to please most all couples. A few are:

Costa Rica: Abundant nature with immense rainforests teeming with wildlife, breathtaking beaches, affordable & romantic resorts, endless beaches, mountains, rivers & valleys, exciting adventures, seems to please even the most picky couple.

Mexico: Vibrant culture, colonial cities full of charm, ancient Mayan ruins, culinary delights, resorts that run from boutique to over the top, beaches that blind the eye, the country has it all. (Uh, John…can you please place a call to my husband on this?? LOL)

Italy: Who doesn’t love Italy, whether you’re a movie star, or a couple taking your first trip together? The cradle of civilization boasts iconic cities from coasts, to mountains, artists such as da Vinci and Michelangelo, islands with spewing volcanoes, to other worldly Venice with her gondolas, the infamous Roman Empire and her ruins, or the Lake District’s belle of swanky, Lake Como. With millennia of history dating back to the 9th century BC, art, culture, and dreamscapes of Italy seduce both men & women.  Italy once ruled the world, and it often overpowers visitors with a heady mix of more than the average mind can comprehend.

My suggestion -go to a region that offers both beach and culture or beach and city. The French Riviera worked for us – our first home exchange.

There are so many fantastic places in the world to travel, if you just take some time to think about it, you and your partner are bound to find something to satisfy all tastes. Now – who wants to join me in San Miguel de Allende?

  Hotel of the Week: A New Rosewood off the Beaten Path

Last week I posted about hotels to watch in 2011 – and completely forgot about the Rosewood at San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. It is gorgeous – both the city and the hotel. San Miguel de Allende is maybe not on the first-timer to Mexico’s list of places to visit, but for those seeking out more culture in a picturesque town have for sure discovered it.

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is in Central Mexico – not on the beach like other resort towns – but has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The charming cobblestone streets, and stunning Neo-classical-Baroque architecture attract many artists, and the town has been greatly preserved. The historic center is as charming as it gets. Just look at the views from the hotel!

San MIguel de Allende

The hotel helps offers various activities to help you enjoy what San Miguel de Allende has to offer…. For example:

Sightseeing tours: historic walking tours, home and garden tours, guided museum tours
Art, cooking, music and dance classes
Wine tastings, lectures and wellness workshops
Horseback riding, ATV adventures, mountain biking, hiking and golf
Bullfighting exhibitions
Day trips to nearby historic sites, thermal springs and traditional craft centers
Year-round festivals, art shows, musical and theatrical performances, and public events
Family friendly adventures

San Miguel de Allende offers visitors and residents a vibrant and lively community of artists, musicians and writers and a eclectic mix of Mexican folk traditions, fiestas and religious celebrations.

Shopping in San Miguel de Allende is a shop-a-holic’s dream – plenty of interesting Mexican handicrafts, boutiques, art galleries, and furniture and items for your home.

Thousands of people come to San Miguel de Allende every year to learn Spanish, study art, or take Mexican cooking classes.

Maybe you too? You could be enjoying this patio….The resort opens early February – the first availability is Feb. 8.

Have a great weekend.

  Want to take a last minute spring break trip but don’t know where to go?

Despite all the cold weather around the country in recent weeks – spring break is quickly approaching!

For a fresh perspective on where we can still go at this last minute, I spoke with a fabulous travel agent whom I have recommended to some of my BFFs, and now HE is one of THEIR BFFs!

Luxury travel consultant and family vacation planner John Clifford, President of  International Travel shared with us his picks for the best under-the-radar, family Spring Break getaways. ,

He says : “Spring Break 2010, will offer unprecedented bargains as the global economy continues to improve, while new hotels open in popular destinations and the travel industry seeks to entice holiday makers with bargains galore.”

“Families traveling this year stand to gain the most as discounts for adjoining rooms, value added amenities like free meals and upgrades abound.”

Forget Vegas, Florida and overdeveloped, mass-market destinations overrun with breaking revelers. John says savvy families this year will be enjoying such locales as….

Santa Fe, NM

The city is celebrating its 400 year anniversary this year highlighting the city’s rich tri cultural heritage and designation as the oldest continually inhabited capital city as well as the highest in the U.S.

Aside from being an art mecca, Santa Fe boasts Indian markets & pueblos, historic Spanish colonial sites along with an amazing bounty of outdoor activities from ballooning to canyoneering mountain climbing and more.

Not only did artist Georgia O’Keefe call this place home, but today, the city boasts family favorite museums, one featuring O’Keefe’s works, and others such as the Museum of International Folk Art and the Wheelright Museum of the American Indian which are favorites to kids and families.

But wait, kids actually get their own museum here, the Santa Fe Children’s Museum ( full of interactive exhibits & special events.

Hop aboard the Santa Fe Southern Railway ( and ride a vintage rail car to the abandoned, ghost town of Lamy.

Or take in the Casa Grande Trading Post a combination, kitschy petting zoo and turquoise mining museum.

Don’t miss an excursion 45 minutes from town to Bandelier National Monument ( to experience ruins and cliff dwellings, ceremonial caves & petroglyphs of the Anasazi culture that was thought to have inhabited the area seven or eight centuries ago.

Insider’s Tip: Families love local writer and bibliophile Barbara Harrelson’s 2-hour walking tour of downtown Santa Fe which explores the history, personalities, the legends and the lore of the area through its stories and its literary landmarks.

The Mayan Riviera, Mexico (Tracy’s pick also! Want to go!)

No matter what you think about the Mayan Riviera, it is not Cancun.  It’s the anti-Cancun. So close and yet so far.  Even though this stunning, Caribbean coast starts just south of the 17-mile SoBe like hotel zone, The Riviera Maya is anything but.

With a slew of new resorts welcoming families from all inclusives to boutique gems, powder white beaches and unrivaled history, this locale never fails to impress.

From ancient Mayan sites & pyramids to underground rivers offering tubing exploration like those at Rio Secreto, to colonial Spanish towns such as Valladolid, it’s a treasure trove of discoveries with a MexiCaribbean flair!

Water sports galore delight young and old along with a coastline that is full of natural beauty including the Mayan ruins of Tulum, built atop the ocean’s bluff, still standing today as well as the UNESCO’s Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Insider’s Tip: Families love the all-in-one adventure run by tour company/conservationists, Alltournative who work with Mayan communities to preserve their heritage. The “Maya Encounter” excursion, includes whizzing through the jungle on a zip line, rappelling into a cenote (deep water filled sink holes), and kayaking on a lagoon.

After the elders offer a ceremonial blessing, village women serve a full lunch rounding out with a trip to the ruins of Cobá.

Costa Rica

Don’t let the exotic name, or flip-flopped seasons fool you. The Northern Hemisphere is starting Spring, while Costa Rica is enjoying the last of their Summer, which is the driest overall, lasting through April.

That being said, the country is a tropical paradise boasting one of the 20 countries with the highest biodiversity in the world.

Though it seems a world away, it is closer to the mainland U.S. than Hawaii and boasts incredible value and endless family friendly activities, sites, resorts and destinations.

Though the Pacific & Caribbean coasts are lush and tropical, the real excitement takes place in its many National Parks and wilderness reserves, which span over one third of the entire country. Young & old will be mesmerized by the stunning variety of flora, fauna and landscapes with diverse microclimates and untouched wildlife viewing. Numerous species of birds, monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, insects & amphibians abound.

A live volcano? Yes, Vulcan Arenal is one of the most spectacular, active volcanoes in the world, and the locale alongside Lake Arenal is sublime and exciting.

Active adventures dot the map from cave exploring to horseback riding, river rafting, zip lining, canopy tours amidst the tree tops, and off road exploration through virgin forests.

Many who visit believe it is a paradise like none other on the planet, making for lifelong, family memories.

Insider’s Tip:

Killington, VT aka “The Big K” at Ramshead (If watching the Olympics got you in the mood to ski..we like this suggestion)

Killington Vermont boasts the largest ski area in the state, as well as Eastern North America. Unknown to many, it also offers the longest ski season in Vermont which can last as long as May, sometimes June.

Families love a winter break here, with 200 trails, 31 lifts, and the new Skye Peak Express. They’ve even got a ski and snowboard school for all ages.

Insider’s Tip: With an entire lodge dedicated to families & kids, Ramshead, you can’t go wrong, especially with record snows this year.

Read more…