I am not a Travel Agent. Really.

March 23rd, 2012 | Posted by jenfortecuomo in General Travel - (Comments Off)

People frequently ask me what I do. I tell them Travel PR. Dull look. “Travel Agent,” they ask politely. No. “Oh you do advertising for hotels.” No. Then I start to explain what I do and then I see the glazed look come over their eyes. So, I’ve given up trying to explain to people what I do for a living. I know my husband 99% gets it (cause he’s the official PR Guy to my PR Girl) and he helps me with the business. My mother-in-law mostly thinks I am taking a vacation when I am traveling for work, making me feel like mother of the year while she watches my kids. And tells me how they cry because I’m not there. And then she starts crying. But that is a different blog entry.

Really though, is it my fault that my work trips sometimes involve gourmet meals, boat trips, beach excursions and spa treatments? But alas, that does not make it any easier to explain what you do – it makes it harder. “Oh tough job you have.” Well actually, unless you’ve run a 6 person press trip you wouldn’t realize it isn’t really the most fun anyone’s ever had! But again, that is a different blog entry and I’d have to save that for after I retire. (Oh the stories I could tell. Actually I am going to compile a book with all my publicist friends about the worst press trip moments ever. Yes media peeps, we talk. And it isn’t pretty. You know what they say….there is one on every trip. If you don’t know who it is…it’s probably you.)

But as the closest thing to a travel expert any of my friends have, I am often asked travel-related questions and asked for recommendations. So I’ve compiled some of my favorites for you all – some are current and past clients and some are not….

The Sagamore, Bolton Landing on Lake George – this is by far one of the best family resorts we’ve ever visited. I went there for my 40th, with four other families and we had a blast. The resort is so wonderful for everything – food, activities, keeping kids occupied. Kids of almost any age will love the Rec. It’s got mini-golf, wiffle ball, basketball, Wii and more. There is spa, golf, a gorgeous pool and is on one of the cleanest, most beautiful lakes in the country. Plus, it’s only a four hour drive from NYC. It isn’t just me, we all loved it and had a fabulous time.

Sienna posing on the lawn of The Sagamore

Kids on the rocking chairs outside the Sagamore Rec - kid activity center

On the Deck at Sagamore

Curtain Bluff, Antigua – this is a charming, sweet, affordable all-inclusive hotel on the ocean in Antigua. The staff is wonderful, the food is top-notch, the rooms are all on the water. We went there for a three night romantic getaway a few years ago after my son was born. I highly recommend it for families or couples. It is relaxing and inviting. Some of the best staff you’ll ever find at a hotel. It’s on our very short list for our 10 year vow renewal in 2015.

Mustique – there is no place I would rather be than on this island. It is expensive but worth every penny. I aim to go again one day and that time, unfortunately, I will probably have to pay for it myself. There are gorgeous villas to rent by the week (staffed) and also a small hotel called the Cotton House. If you can afford to splurge, do it by going to Mustique. You will never experience anything so fabulous again!

Hibiscus Villa in Mustique

Ft. Lauderdale W Hotel – spent my other 40th birthday (i.e. kid free 40th) there with my best friends and my sister. If you’re looking for a totally cool and much more chill alternative to Miami, check this hotel out. Awesome rooftop pool, crazy scene, wonderful restaurant. Ft. Lauderdale is way underrated and much more laid-back than Miami.

At dinner in the W

Ocean City, NJ – everyone who knows me knows I am a Jersey Shore lover. Forget the Hamptons. Jersey Shore is so much more family-oriented and full of fun things to do. Rent a house one block from the ocean. Get one near the boardwalk and you’ll never have to move your car all week. Rent bikes, go to the beach, mini-golf, water park, munch on boardwalk fries, monkey bread, soft serve and salt water taffy. There is no better way to spend an evening than on the Ocean City Boardwalk with the warm salt air on your face and the sound of the amusements in the background.

Nick on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, August 2009

In reality, I am not an expert on travel. I will leave that to editors, bloggers, writers and adventurers who are probably way more well-traveled than myself. But I do keep my finger on the pulse, read a lot and am passionate about travel. So ask away! If I can help, I will. But don’t ask me to book your trip. Really. I don’t do that.

My INNriching Love Affair with New England

March 14th, 2012 | Posted by jenfortecuomo in Family Travel - (Comments Off)

I’ve traveled. I know there are wonderful places all over the great US of A. Some of my favorites include Colorado, Los Angeles, San Diego, Naples, FL and the Pacific Northwest. But I’ve come to the very clear conclusion in the past few years that the Northeastern part of our great nation is really where my heart belongs.

Somehow (by the grace of the PR Gods) when I started JFC PR I went from being a boutique Caribbean hotel gal to a New England Hotel Gal. Now I’m familiar with New England – I’ve been there many times over my life. One of my favorite trips when I was about 7 years old was a week long trip to Massachusetts, complete with a trip to the Salem Witch Museum. I also represented the beautiful and historic Equinox Resort in Vermont for many years and probably did that drive to southern Vermont about 15 times. So I totally got it before. But now, I get it in a different, more intimate way.

JFC PR now has the pleasure of working with the New England Inns & Resorts Association, an association comprised of nearly 250 different hotels, B&B’s and Inns across New England. This affords me, as a publicist, a unique opportunity to get to know a large number of innkeepers and hotels across the six states of New England and to become familiar with the seasons (did you know New England has an extra season, affectionately called Mud Season!) cuisine (yes I can now eat a lobster the right way, thank you Connie Russell at the Samoset Resort in Maine) and the lovely, genuine people of New England who are a pleasure to work and interact with.

View From Samoset Pool

Nick on Captain Jack's Boat

So great was my love of New England that this past summer my husband and I braved the seven hour drive with small children to Rockport Maine to visit the Samoset Resort. A classic hotel – newly renovated with the addition of a spa and a fabulous Italian restaurant La Bella Vita, that got rave reviews from us and everyone else we talked to! Mid-coast Maine is one of the most beautiful places we’ve been – so charming and so much fun. It was a perfect family vacation. Our week’s highlights included a trip on Captain Jacks lobster boat, a trip to the beach and state park and an amazing dinner at Primo in Rockland. Seriously one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

At Primos

So if you’re looking to get to New England – why wait any longer? I can’t recommend it enough, it’s drive distance from Boston, Philly (my hometown) and NY and it has everything for family fun and best of all, family memories.

Check out some of these amazing packages currently offered by New England Inns & Resorts. They are all designed to INNrich your vacation to the max – which is only a bonus if you’re going to New England….

INNrich Your Next Vacation with New England Inns & Resorts Association’s INNrichment Packages

North Hampton, NH (March 7, 2012)
– This spring and summer it’s all about INNrichment at New England Inns & Resorts Association! NEIRA’s members have so many terrific and unique INNrichment opportunities we’ve compiled them in one spot to make sure that those who want to experience the best of New England can INNrich their vacation to the maximum! The INNRichment packages offer life enhancing experiences such as lobster fishing, surfing, chef training, art classes, horseback riding and more. These terrific deals can only be found collectively at www.NewEnglandInnsandResorts.com – no other website can offer such a wide range of packages and information in one central location.
The New England Inns and Resorts Association is comprised of nearly 250 of the finest inns, resorts, hotels, and B&Bs in the region, with a wide range of accommodations to satisfy every visitor. The INNrichment offerings vary by property, and visitors can find the New England vacation that suits them best by visiting www.NewEnglandInnsandResorts.com. Sample packages include:

• Weeklong Tuscan Foodie Adventure (Hartstone Inn & Hideaway, Camden, ME) – Guests will join Chef Benedetta Vitali for a week of Tuscan cooking from June 4-8, 2012. Chef Benedetta is the author of the James Beard Award finalist Soffritto: Tradition and Innovation in Tuscan Cooking, in which she makes a compelling case for learning to cook as Italians do by fully engaging all of one’s senses and paying close attention to the transformation of ingredients that occurs during cooking rather than by following recipes. This wonderful package includes a five-night stay, private welcome dinner for two, lunch daily for one person, 6 cooking classes, a mozzarella making class at the State of Maine Cheese Company, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting at Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegars and a wine tasting/private tour of the Cellardoor Winery. Also includes a welcome amenity and apron. Room rate based on double occupancy and ONE participant in cooking school. Breakfast for two is included daily. Rate starts at $1,250 for two people. Charge for additional student is $525 and includes everything above.

Learn to cook at Hartstone Inn

• Catch the Maine Experience (Inn by the Sea, Cape Elizabeth, ME) – An authentic Maine experience for the whole family. Learn to haul lobster and live the life of lobsterman on a Casco Bay Lobster Boat. Includes two nights in a two-bedroom cottage accommodation for four people, an adventure onto Casco Bay in a real lobster boat, taking your catch next door to the Lobster Company and enjoying a lobster meal on Portland Harbor, along with a $50 Gift certificate for sides and drinks! Package starts at $1,093.02 and is available 5/31/12 thru 10/04/12.

Inn by the Sea

• Kid’s Create Art (Berkshire Hills Motel, Williamstown, MA) – A fantastic family getaway to share and discover a love of art, all before the summer camps and activities get into full swing. Package is one weekend only and includes breakfast daily, a clay workshop where kids will make a Garden Toad Sculpture, tickets to the Mass MoCA museum, a clay modeling class, an outdoor nature drawing class, smore’s and Friday game night, a guided nature walk and a booklet of discounted coupons for local stores and eateries. Rate starts at only $429 for a family of three to four people. Weekend is June 22-24. Space is limited.

• Three Night Horseback Riding Vacation (Mountaintop Inn & Resort, Chittenden, VT) – The perfect getaway for horse loving girlfriends or Mom and daughter duos, the vacation includes three nights lodging in a Classic Lodge Room, a hearty Vermont breakfast for two each morning, six hours of guided trail rides per person and use of the Resort’s facilities including the private lake-front beach, hiking trails, kayaks, canoes, tennis court and more. Starts at $1,150 and includes tax and resort charge. Save 20% off the package price if you arrive Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. Additional riding lessons can be purchased for $40 per one hour.

Mountain Top Inn

• Om & Foam Adventure (The Meadowmere Resort, Ogunquit, ME) – This three-night adventure includes accommodations, breakfast daily, one two-hour surf lesson per person (board and wetsuit included), one yoga lesson per person, a Surfrider Gift Bag and resort amenities. As an added bonus, for every night’s stay booked, the Meadowmere Resort, Ogunquit’s First Environmental Leader Hotel, will make a donation to the Surfrider Foundation to protect Ogunquit Beach. Package begins at $249 per person, per night and is available June 1 – September 30.

This PR Girl has little ones. Since my gig is travel PR, we do our best to make our kids portable. Although the thought of flying with my two-year old still puts a cold chill down my spine (yes – we’ve done it) we do take a lot of trips in the car. My brave PR Guy even drove 7 hours all by himself to Maine with both kids to meet me last summer. We had an amazing trip, even though travel with a 17-month old is no picnic.

But anything can turn into family fun – and this is a lesson I’ve tried to impart to my kids. Well to one kid. The other one is too non-verbal. This past weekend we took ride out to PA Dutch country, or Lancaster, PA. A place my husband is very familiar with and I’ve come to appreciate more and more over the years we’ve been going there. His family has a vacation home there and we go quite a bit. I myself am still a bit awed by the Amish, and so are the kids.

Really we went to hit the outlets for some bargain shopping (really HE went to hit the outlets, his wardrobe was sorely lacking) but me and the kids went along too. I wanted the kids to have a good time so I really hyped it up to my four (almost five) year-old as a “family fun vacation.” He got very excited. I got very nervous. The majority of fun things to do in Lancaster are not taking place in March.

I quickly scoured the internet for some family fun options. And found some great ones!

When we got there it was late in the day, too late to do anything significant but Nicholas was expecting some fun! We found that fun in the form of family bowling night! This actually, in hindsight, could have gone really wrong. A two and four year old bowling? But I give them credit not only did they embrace the sport, they were pretty darn good at it! Well, Nick was good. Sienna just jumped up and down each time the ball went down the lane and screamed “I win! I win!”

But we did have fun and Nick found a new activity to love.

Saturday, while hubby outfitted himself, Mommy braved the Hands-on House, a children’s museum in Lancaster. Sincerely one of the best I’ve ever been too. There were age appropriate activities for both kids and Nick was absolutely captivated by the assembly line exhibit with step by step instructions on how to build a watcha-ma-giggle. We stayed for over two hours. Sienna liked the dress up room and the snow men and women that she could put hats, scarves and faces on.

After we picked up daddy, we headed to a new attraction, The Turkey Hill Experience. A wonderful, hands-on exhibit there was definitely something for kids and adults of all ages. The opportunity to taste product, create your own, use lots of hands on experiences like a simulated cow milking and a big tub where kids can dump virtual flavors and watch them mix together in a big vat. Very cool stuff. It took about an hour to go through and the kids really had fun. And we did too!

Dinner that night was a favorite – a classic Amish meal served family style at Plain & Fancy. The best fried chicken you get up north. Seriously those Amish know how to cook. Mashed potatoes, fresh veggies, buttered noodles, chicken and dumplings, homemade country sausage, iced raisin bread, chow chow and more. It’s yum. My kids particularly liked the little canister of sprinkles left on the table for their vanilla ice cream at the end of the meal.

We had so much fun that we didn’t even get to go on the buggy ride we promised the kids! But we’ll be back to experience the more traditional attractions like Dutch Wonderland.

My takeaway is – any trip, any where is what you make of it. Family fun is about sharing an experience together and it doesn’t have to be as exciting as Disney World. My son sorted fake mail for over 30 minutes at the chldren’s museum. Now that’s good old-fashioned, imagination inspired fun. Like the Amish kids have.

Cruisin’ Along

March 1st, 2012 | Posted by jenfortecuomo in Cruising | Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

Lot’s of talk about the cruise industry lately and not exactly the kind of talk a PR person likes to hear. With the renewed interest consumers have over safety of sea cruises combined with a recent drop in bookings, I wonder, will River Cruises see an upswing in bookings?

River cruises are hot. Hot in 2011 and even hotter in 2012 – check out this article from Cruise Critic. Also, Conde Nast Traveler sites that cruising is still popular for their readers despite negative press and river cruising is growing in popularity.

River cruises are not only growing in popularity, but the deals are amazing. Really. Amazing. This is from a gal who looks at deals all day long. Trust me. Book one.

Premier River Cruises has the terrific knowledge of the industry, plus some amazing deals right now. One is below.

Premier River Cruises, America’s best travel agency for any river cruise vacations, is having a limited time only sale on select 7-night Amadeus Premium European river cruises on the Danube or Rhine Rivers. In order to take advantage of these extraordinary rates, which reflect savings up to 50% off, trips must booked no later than March 25, 2012.
These are not off-season sailings, but prime August, September and early October sailings aboard the luxurious Amadeus Diamond and Amadeus Princess. These 7-night Danube or Rhine river cruise itineraries stop in places like Budapest, Vienna, Melk, Regensburg, Cochem, Rudesheim, Speyer and other extraordinary cities – all in a French Balcony cabin for the extraordinary price of only $2,149pp (normal rate is $4,298pp).
To reserve a cabin, call Premier at 1 855 255 1200 or view details on line by clicking here