All-Inclusive Travel: What a concept!

Grenada was the setting, the hotel the Spice Island Beach Resort. As I swamp in my very own pool, located on my very private patio in front of my very private room, I was thinking about two things. One, some of the cliches really are true. I could overhear little American tourist spawns shouting “Marco . . . Polo!” at each other from the communal pool. I didn’t have to look at them, though. Make that double my pleasure: I also couldn’t see the European guests, who were actually in some cases as fat as the Americans, except they didn’t even have the decency to cover up. (Some things, particularly when they are barely encased in a Speedo, cannot be unseen.)

Florida’s Panhandle

OKAY, I know what you’re thinking. Why the hell would anyone want to pay Four Seasons prices for a no-name hotel in Florida’s Panhandle? That’s like paying upwards of $400 for one of those Poconos resorts where they play the dirty version of “The Newlywed Game” and the chef’s idea of fancy is grey Chateaubriand for two.

The WaterColor Inn & Resort, named for the small planned town it fronts on the Panhandle’s charming Route 30A (between Destin and Panama City) is one of those hotels that has had a surprisingly good reputation from the start, for no particular reason. The proof is in the fact that everytime you try to book a stay, the rates are astronomical. That is, if you can even get a room.

Lulu of an island: Oahu delivers

I like to think of myself as an adventurous traveler. I’ve hiked glaciers in New Zealand, eaten sheep entrails in the Orkney Islands and jet skied my way around Bora Bora. But when my mother suggested that we take a family trip to Hawaii last February, the little kid in me emerged and I wanted to do nothing more than just be a tourist. And for that, the best place to go was the island of Oahu.

Get Fed: Honolulu’s Waialae Avenue

RARELY does a month go by anymore without urgent news from Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach, now feverishly making itself over after decades of fading away. New shops! More malls! New hotels! More glitz, more glamour, better decor…oh, and don’t forget, higher prices too. Less than four miles away, another neighborhood is experiencing a resurgence of an entirely different sort. Along Waialae Avenue, there’s no fancy window dressing, but there is great food. Here, three great stops to make.

Weekend getaways

To quote songwriter Frank Loesser, baby it’s cold outside. And nothing helps beat the winter doldrums than a weekend getaway to some place fabulous. We know what you’re thinking: There’s not enough time to plan a trip… It’ll be too expensive… It’s not really a romantic getaway if you have to plan all the details rather than your man. Don’t worry about that. We’ve got all that figured out. Read on.

Jamaica: An easy getaway

Jamaica. It’s where Stella got her groove back. It’s where Errol Flynn entertained guests during his heyday. And it’s where we went to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Technically we had been to Jamaica several times already, but it was only for layovers at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, before boarding on connecting flights to other Caribbean destinations such as St. Lucia, Grand Cayman and Bonaire.

Eagle Ridge

When you think of famous golfing destinations, California’s Pebble Beach and Scotland’s St. Andrews immediately spring to mind, thanks to years of televised tournaments. But over the past few years, Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa–located about 150 miles west of Chicago in the heart of historic Galena, Ill.–has been building quite the reputation as a must-play golf course.

Must love travel: When actress Jordana Spiro takes five, she heads for exotic destinations like Vietnam

In “Must Love Dogs,” Jordana Spiro played a ditzy fashionista who loved luxury and liked John Cusack. In her TBS sitcom “My Boys,” the actress stars as a down-to-earth Chicago Sun-Times sports reporter covering the Cubs. But when she has a week or two off from work, Spiro relishes getting away from it all by traveling to exotic destinations. While others in her position might book themselves into five-star accommodations, she prefers to spend less on hotels and more on experiencing the country’s culture. During her recent three-week trip to Vietnam, she made do with just one backpack. “Really, there’s almost nothing you can’t buy there if you need it,” she says. “It’s a completely amazing place and I’d go back in a second.”

Tahiti

It is with trepidation I walk back to my room after dinner. I am used to strolling back to hotels in foreign countries, but I am not accustomed to looking overboard into a pitch black ocean while doing so. But when you are on a cruise ship, that’s what you do. You lay in the sun. You eat plenty of food. You relax. And if you’re a land lover like me, you think about what it takes to keep a liner like the M/S Paul Gauguin afloat.

Bali

The Indonesian island of Bali is steeped in history and ritual. Every day, the Balinese leave canang sari (or offerings of flowers, money and food) at temples, on shrines or even outside their own homes in the hopes that good fortune will smile upon their families. Despite the bombings last year in Kuta and Kimbaran, Bali is not a paradise lost. Its gorgeous climate, pristine beaches and rich volcanic soil create a blissful destination where orchids are fragrant and the fruits are sweet and plentiful. And because tourism plays such a big part in its economy, many businesses have slashed their prices to lure Westerners. Many high-end wood carving shops and jewelry boutiques will offer discounts without haggling for a deal.

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