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April 2006

7 Reasons to Plan a Destination Wedding

If you're considering having a destination wedding, you're likely imagining a romantic or exotic location: a place that provides an experience by its mere existence. What makes a destination attractive? Why do so many brides and grooms tie the knot in certain hotspots?

Here are some answers to those questions that can also serve as a checklist to help you determine if a destination is right for your wedding.

1. Honeymoon moonlighting – By day it's a wedding, by night it's a honeymoon. Exotic locations away from home can also double as your honeymoon spot, possibly saving you money.

2. Vacation-ready – It's in a popular area that many guests would consider traveling to as a vacation, thus giving guests double the reason to attend the wedding.

3. Activities galore – There are enough activities, entertainment options, restaurants, etc. to entertain large crowds (in groups or on day excursions in smaller numbers). TripHub's planning tools work well for planning activities for wedding guests during their stay. You can search for and book activities on TripHub.

4. Hotels abound – In popular destinations, guests will have a wide range of prices to choose from for accommodations, which makes it doable for many families and friends (not to mention the wedding party itself). TripHub can help with this process, allowing you to find and book hotels and request a group hotel rate for blocks of rooms, among other things.

5. Group discounts – Common destinations for weddings are not only some of the most popular vacation spots, they are also accustomed to hosting weddings, so hotels in these areas likely will consider giving group discounts.

6. Cost considerations – It can sometimes be cheaper than "producing" a local wedding. Fewer guests are likely to attend, so the guest list may shrink (which translates to fewer dinners to pay for, less space to rent, etc.). Plus, if you get married on a beach or in a chapel, there are affordable ceremony packages available. Examples: Red Rock Las Vegas wedding, Maui wedding on the beach.

7. Priceless experience – There's an intangible quality to a wedding in a dream destination. It's like being in a fairytale or movie and makes a lasting impression not just on the bride and groom, but everyone invited. I went to a wedding in Tuscany a couple of years ago. Sipping wine at the Italian villa reception, love was definitely in the air. Guests were giddy over the occasion and over being in Italy. And while the newlyweds batted eyes at each other, I was falling for the scenery.


Wedding Guests Contributing to Honeymoons

Now, here's a trendy trend in the wedding industry that I just discovered (OK, I've seen contribution tables at weddings long ago, but this has now turned into a "thing").

With the cost of weddings skyrocketing and an increasing number of people planning destination weddings (which are very often more expensive than local weddings) it seems natural that there would be a wedding gift to help offset costs. The bonus is that there is a way to give such a gift and not have it look like a charity donation.

Check out honeymoonwishes.com that turns wedding gifts into honeymoon romance, in essence.

  • Couples: you can create a registry for guests to use.
  • Guests: you can shop online for a honeymoon gift such as breakfast in bed, massage, candlelight dinner for two, or other romantic services as a wedding gift.

Seems like a practical, money-saving idea to me. And fun one, to boot! I'd love to pay for breakfast in bed for a good friend's honeymoon. Not a bad idea, brides and grooms.

Does anyone know of other similar services or unusually clever wedding gift ideas? Post a comment if you do, and let others (including me) know about them.


Discussing Hotel Options Just Got Easier

When planning any group trip—a family reunion, wedding, friends get-away, or other trip involving multiple itineraries and opinions—one of the most frustrating things can be deciding on the best hotel for everyone.

I’ve gone to weddings, family reunions, and traveled with friends in and out of the country and in each instance, finding the right hotel was a key part of our trip planning. Allowing each person to weigh in is important. Most people want a say in where they stay – room type, amenities, food service, location, price.

TripHub makes communicating around hotel selection extremely easy and convenient by offering a “discuss” tool for each hotel as you’re searching for them on the site. Here’s a sample screen shot to illustrate. (My comments are just after the little gold star.)

Hotelplans

Once you know how to interpret hotel star ratings, you can easily skim hotels, photos, prices, etc. for the right hotel, make a comment to others invited in your group, and they can do the same (on that hotel or another). Communicating together in one central location (your trip “hub” page) does not get sent to the hotels – it simply stays on your trip hub page.

Put simply: TripHub allows you to both discuss hotel options online and then book a hotel.


Best Movies to Rent Before Your High School Reunion

Everyone has a favorite high school movie. To fully prep for your next reunion, or just for kicks, rent a flick that conjures up the sentiments of high school – whatever they may be. From gag reflexes about your former hairdo, to fond memories of your first love, take a couple hours to watch a film or two that gets you in the reunion mood before you slap that "Hello, my name is" sticker on your shirt.

Were you the class geek? Class clown? Most likely to succeed? Least likely to get married? My guess is we can all relate to at least one character in one of these movies.

1. American Graffiti
2. Breakfast Club
3. Election
4. Ferris Beuller's Day Off
5. Grease
6. Karate Kid
7. The Outsiders
8. Rock 'n' Roll High School
9. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
10. Say Anything

When you’re ready to reunite with old high school friends, you can use TripHub to coordinate things to do, lodging, flights and rental cars for your high school reunion.

What did I miss? Feel free to post a comment. I realize the frivolous nature of this post, but thought it might be fun to think about movies that get you in the mood for reunions.


What's a Trip "Hub"?

Imagine having your own Web home page for a trip where you and everyone invited can all go to coordinate and communicate plans for the family reunion, wedding, bachelor party, baby shower, college reunion or any other group gathering that involves people traveling.

The "hub" of your group trip is an Internet space mainly for the trip planner, but also the travelers, to convene online and simplify the trip planning process.

I recently used TripHub for planning a friend’s baby shower when several guests would be flying in for the occasion. From the trip hub page, it’s easy to:

  • Discuss hotel options online and book a hotel within the same page (it’s quite convenient that way – more on how this works in a later post)
  • Book flights (or if guests already have flights booked, enter in their itinerary info to coordinate picking people up at the airport or sharing car rentals)
  • Book activities in the city or region
  • Rent a car (or multiple cars)
  • Track who’s coming (RSVPs), track money owed (if applicable) and send messages whenever you need (to everyone invited or a select few)
  • Edit group trip details (i.e., description, dates, etc.) as the trip planning progresses
  • Add and change the group trip photo anytime (there’s a standard graphic, but I chose to add a photo of flowers for the baby shower as a nod to spring buds and new life… just a nice photograph for me and my friends to look at when we arrive at our trip "hub" and also because I didn’t have any baby photos).

Group-Friendly Golf Meccas

Where do the expert golfers go? You know – the smooth swingers with enviable handicaps. Don’t we all long to tee off at a place of undisputed beauty and repute? And nothing’s better than sharing such a grand moment with friends.

Here’s a list of group-friendly golf meccas (listed alphabetically - who can rank these?) for you to plan a group golf get-away with friends and put your link lovin’ ways to practice.

1. Arizona
The greater Phoenix and Scottsdale region is one of the biggest golf areas in the U.S. due to the combination of quality and quantity of golf courses, making it an ideal place for group golf travel. Plus, there’s plenty of après golf entertainment: shopping, nightlife, desert tours, a botanical desert garden, spas and more.

The Greater Phoenix visitors bureau boasts that their "courses deliver with playable, diverse designs and dedication to course maintenance, relaxed environments and professional customer service."

Scottsdale, a close neighbor to Phoenix, rivals (and may beat) its Southwest sister city in golf quality and quantity.

2. Hawaiian Islands
The Aloha State is a brilliantly natural spot for golf. With the sea as scenery (and course hazard) and a naturally hilly landscape to challenge any golfer, it’s no wonder Hawaii boasts so many glorious courses.

Other Hawaii golf courses to explore (all bookable on TripHub):

Maui's renowned Makena South Golf Course
One of the islands most prestigious courses in Hawaii has unobstructed views of the blue Pacific, neighboring islands, and humpback whales breaching during whale season.

Oahu’s famous Ko’olau Golf Course
Considered to be "The World's Most Challenging Golf Course" from the back tees, Ko'olau promises a memorable golf experience for golfers of all skill levels. Rated in Golf Magazine's "Top 100 Courses to Play" and named the "#1 Golf Course on Oahu" by Golf Digest.

3. Hilton Head, SC
Hilton Head Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, serves as a fairway haven to numerous golf courses. With the first course opening in 1961, and slowly building 20 more over the past few decades, Hilton Head has earned its title "The Golf Island," through careful craftsmanship.

Groups shouldn't have any complaints at Hilton Head, with numerous year-round tours, golf excellence, and sweeping Atlantic Ocean beauty. With a variety of accommodations, numerous restaurants, shops and services, Hilton Head seems built for groups, however small or large.

4. Myrtle Beach, SC
This self-proclaimed Seaside Golf Capital of the World lives up to its name with 100 golf courses laid out over undulating low country land and the majority of the Myrtle Beach golf courses being open to the public. Plus, many host professional and amateur tournaments. If you want a golf challenge and picturesque beauty, Myrtle Beach offers both with courses crafted by a host of world-renowned architects.

In 2002, the Myrtle Beach area was designated "Golf Destination of the Year" by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. This giant outdoor playground is also great for families. With 60 miles of beach, a plethora of courses and numerous accommodations (hotels, villas, etc.) you could also plan a family reunion here and incorporate golf into the mix.

See a directory of all 100 golf courses in Myrtle Beach, from the Myrtle Beach Golf Association.

5. Pebble Beach, CA
Four stunning courses make up the Pebble Beach Resort: Pebble Beach Golf Links, The Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and Del Monte Golf Course. They all either hug the Pacific coast or have spectacular views of the water. There are hotels and resorts close to the courses and in nearby seaside towns such as Monterey and Carmel.

At each course, a pro staffer offers individual and group instruction, clinics and group tournaments. Pebble Beach Resorts has this to brag about itself:

Pebble Beach Resorts, ranked the No. 1 golf resort in America by Golf Digest Magazine in 2004. Each of Pebble Beach Resorts' four courses offers a unique heritage, breathtaking beauty, and a once in a lifetime experience.

I’m an amateur golfer and haven’t (yet) golfed Pebble Beach, but I’ve cruised along its famous 17-Mile Drive. Brief but memorable, it’s a gorgeous way to drink in California’s rugged coastal beauty and stop for those classic vacation photo ops.

6. Scotland
Birthplace of golf, motherland of the green, a trip to Scotland is not out of the cards if you’re a true golf believer. The classic that comes to mind is St. Andrews. Here you’ll find six golf courses all open to the public (as are the clubhouse and golf practice center), and all worth a visit for historic purposes, if anything else. Older than most other sports, golf got its start here 600 years ago.

There are many other glorious golf spots or courses for a group gathering. If you know of any you think others should discover, please post a comment and share your insight. Any questions? Just post it online and I’ll answer.

Ready to plan a group golf trip with friends or family? TripHub makes it easy to communicate and coordinate on itineraries with your fellow golfers.


Travel Light, Sans Golf Clubs or Other Sports Equipment

Now, here's a hassle-free way to go for a golf get-away, ski trip, or other active vacation.

Let your clubs, skis, board, kayak, bike or other sporting equipment get picked up (valet style) with Sports Express, a new company that shuttles your gear (and luggage if you desire) between your front door and your vacation destination.

What a nice way to simplify the traveling process and offer peace of mind. Plus, you won't have to rent equipment once you arrive.

Here are some quick highlights of their service:

1. Sports Express may be able to take any size of equipment. You'll need to provide the dimensions to them first (either online or via phone). If the package is more than 150 pounds or if the length +(2 x width) +(2 x height) is greater than 130 inches, you won't be able to order the service online, but can call their 800 number.

2. They offer free insurance for $500 per item shipped.

3. They deliver mainly in the U.S., but also some international destinations such as Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Switzerland, Spain, and the Caribbean.

4. They use world-class courier service providers such as FedEx Express, UPS, and DHL.

5. Prices are not cheap - $125 to ship standard-sized golf clubs from Seattle to Honolulu. But if you're going on a personal golf (or ski or kayak) junket with pals and can spend a little extra cash on convenience, it seems like a great service.

For more information, visit Sports Express.


10 Bachelorette Party Ideas

She's engaged. Your best friend. Your sister. Your cousin. Hard to believe the day is coming when she may take a new last name, have babies, and will settle into a home with her husband.

Send the bride-to-be off to married life with a bang or celebrate quietly. You be the judge of her taste. Ask her for input so you don't find her yawning through a theater show when she'd rather be doing Jell-O shots and giggling at "pleasure props," or vice versa, rolling her eyes at strippers when she’d rather have gone for pedicures and wine-tasting with her best girlfriends.

Here are some ideas I've seen (or helped organize) to punctuate the bride's last days (or night) being single with an all girls get-together.

1. Go gambling – Take the girls to Vegas with themed hotels, jackpot potential, concerts and shows galore, spa splendor, and outlet shopping. Walk down the Strip and take your pick of pleasures in Sin City. Book a hotel in any of the themed hotels on the Strip such as Wynn Las Vegas (newest Strip hotel with 18-hole golf course, spa, Cirque du Soleil shows and more), MGM Grand Hotel (tropical oasis created with multiple pools, and a river for tubing), Caeser's Palace (a tribute to the Roman Empire's decadence) and others. Find a Vegas hotel that's right for your group.

Other gambling hot spots with casinos, entertainment, restaurants, bars, and more for the bridal gathering include Atlantic City, New Jersey or Reno.

2. Spa day – Spending a day at a spa is one of the best ways to bond. Many spas offer packages with a multiple services combined (pedicure, massage, facial, manicure, etc.) for a discount. Still a spendy affair, but worth it for a special occasion like this and a great way to let girls be girls. Ask a spa if they have specials for bachelorette or bridal groups.

3. Swanky slumber party – Plan a weekend "get-away" to a local, luxury hotel for a night. Rent a big suite-sized room (or two, depending on your group size) to split costs while still enjoying luxury. The concept is ripe for variation. When I helped organized an event like this, my friends opted to bring food to the room and our own spa accoutrements to cut costs. We painted our nails, toes, and rented chick flicks, then swam in the hotel's pool before drinking and visiting in the room.

4. Wine-tasting – Women are a sophisticated and silly lot. Nearly every woman I know roars with wisdom on every subject under the sun: life, men, work, current affairs, gardening, the latest fashion fads, whathaveyou. All we need is a few good bottles of wine and the company of other women to let the laugher and conversation unfold organically. Give the bride a night (or entire weekend) of this quality time with the girls. Napa Valley is ideal for this flavor of weekend get-away.

5. Pub crawl in style – Create a map of the top five (or so) pubs, designate a limo driver for your group, and hit the town. Don't forget the playful props that will properly embarrass the bride (you know, that candy necklace for guys to take a bite of and pay her a dollar, or a tiara worn proudly to direct attention to the bride, and so forth). This tends to work best for younger brides and bridesmaids, of course.

6. Do lunch – Simply pick a favorite local restaurant of the newly engaged woman and make reservations. This is a classic way to involve co-workers or family friends and multi-generations. Create a festive air by making arrangements with the restaurant to decorate the table an hour ahead of time so when the bride walks in, the seating area is festive with streamers, her favorite colors, etc.

7. Camping and the great outdoors – Ahhh, the great outdoors. I've always found that camping with a group of my girl friends is a great way to relax, get some much-needed time away from city stress and obligations, and focus on each other. Some of the best friendship bonding time has been while camping or doing something else outdoors such as kayaking, hiking, or biking. If your bride is highly active and her closest friends are, organize an outdoor adventure. The options are endless. Ask her for suggestions and then plan the trip or day excursion. Campgrounds: http://www.koa.com

8. Lingerie party – Prep the bride for her new bedroom and give her something pretty in pink or bad-ass black. You know her personality – pick something fitting. Careful not to embarrass the poor girl too much if her mom or grandmother is attending the shower.

9. Dinner theater – Options here are nearly endless, but are best geared for something that suits the bride's tastes and can offer a chance for group interaction. Do dinner before a show (Cirque du Soleil, comedy club, or a touring Broadway show), or find a dinner theater event such as a cabaret (Teatro Zinzanni in SF or Seattle) or restaurant that has live entertainment. If you're anywhere near New York, I highly recommend Mamma Mia! on Broadway. The wedding theme and disco dancing lend themselves perfectly to a bridal party. Check for the latest news on Mammi Mia!

10. Traditional bridal shower – Shower the bride with stories (funniest story about her), photos (funniest picture – everyone brings one and tells the story behind it), and focus the day on the bride. Whereas the wedding is all about the couple, this event should be solely focused on her and why she's such a great friend, sister, cousin, roommate, person. Traditional showers usually include a lunch or appetizers by the hostess at someone's house. Silly games are played like creating wedding dresses out of toilet paper and having the bride be the judge or opening gifts and tying the bows together to create a faux bouquet for her to hold while walking through the dress rehearsal. It's always a bonus when small door prizes are given out.

If you're organizing a bachelorette party or bridal shower before your friend's wedding, TripHub's group planing tools work well for collaborating and coordinating the event in one central location (or "hub"). You can discuss hotel options, talk timing of itineraries, plus plan event details.

I'd love to hear other bachelorette party ideas. What's hot? What's not? What's worked well? Any comments?


Vacation with Friends, without Your Mate

Ladies, long to spend a get-away weekend of massages and wine-tasting with your friends? Guys, want to play unlimited golf with your old college friends guilt-free on vacation? Even while you’re in a relationship, it can be important to get some space.

Maintaining friendships outside of a relationship are often healthy ways to sustain not only the friendships, but your relationship or marriage. How comfortable are you taking off to join friends on a vacation without your honey? What are the best types of vacations with your friends vs. your mate?

Dr. Ruth Peters, Ph. D., in an article on MSNBC, offers advice to anyone considering taking a separate vacation from their spouse or partner. She also notes that “there is safety in numbers — group travel is significantly more secure than traveling alone, especially in locations foreign to you.”

Traveling with friends in a group is a safe way to go exploring and return home feeling rejuvenated, ready to share the excitement of your travels and plan the next vacation with your sweetie.

What works? Any tips on ways to get away with friends, while still preserving happy coupledom? Any ideas for group "girls only" or "guys only" get-aways? Post a comment below.


Airfare Tips - How to Find the Best Deals Online

by Mike Fridgen, guest blogger

The most common airfare shopping behavior today among online travelers is to shop with an online travel agency, like Expedia or Orbitz, and book direct with an airline site, such as AlaskaAir or jetBlue.  In fact, travelers convert (from shoppers to bookers) twice as well at airline websites than at online agencies. The value in booking direct is clear.

When booking at airline websites you:

  • Never pay booking fees – ranging from $5-$17 with online agencies
  • Earn valuable bonus miles – generally 1,000 miles, worth up to $20
  • Always see their lowest fares – not all agencies have access to airlines' web fares
  • Get exclusive features – upgrades, web check-in, special offers
  • Deal direct for customer service issues – no more calling an agency just to be redirected to an airline

Given that booking with airline websites provides the most value, the best place to shop for airfare is with travel search engines. 

Benefits of shopping with travel search engines include:

  • Breadth of fares. You can see all the airfare options available on airline websites with one search.
  • Ease of use. Click through to the airline site to book direct instead. With online agencies, you need to open another browser and retype your search to book at an airlines' websites.

Popular travel search engines include Farechase, Kayak, and SideStep.

The savings in booking with airline sites really stack up when planning group travel. If it's a group of 10 or more, it makes sense to start with a group flight request form. Airlines will give additional discounts along with the benefits listed above. 

Happy airfare shopping!

Mike Fridgen has worked in the online travel industry, as entrepreneur and marketing leader for such companies as Expedia, AlaskaAir, and others for 10 years. He is currently the VP of Marketing & Product for a new travel start-up called Farecast, strategic advisor to TripHub, and blogger, covering emerging travel companies in his blog Travel Start-Ups.