2.26.2014

The Waldorf Astoria N.Y. has this week's eye candy for #IGTRAVELThursday

History. Tradition. Iconic. Even a famous salad. All of those words come to mind when I think of The Waldorf Astoria New York City. The famous hotel, rich with history, totally blew me away on Instagram this week. This IG photo, from the annual Viennese Opera Ball, captivated me. 

Waldorf Astoria NY
The WaldorfNYC IG Account

The red roses. The white gowns. The men in white ties. It is tradition and formality at its finest. I could hear the music playing in my head, and then guess what?  The hotel showed a video clip on the IG account. I had trouble embedding it in my post, but you can watch on it on the feed here.  I truly felt like I was there, too.

I loved this shot of the ballroom's chandelier as it was getting cleaned for this long-running, prestigious charity event.

Ballroom at Waldorf Astoria NYC
Waldorf Astoria N.Y.  IG Account 

What a beauty. Think of all the people who have danced all night under that chandelier.

Chandelier in Ball Room at Waldorf Astoria NYC
Waldorf Astoria N.Y. IG account

For history buffs, you will enjoying learning more about the history of this hotel from its webpage. I love the easy time line, they came up with to show its history. On a quick price check, I found rates hovering around $500 per night currently for a simple room, but for those of you planning summer vacations, it's a good time to get some luxury for less. Rooms were found for less than $300 per night on my search.  That's grand for New York City.


Do you have a great Instagram travel story to share? Read the linky rules below and join us this week (but don’t forget to grab our logo {here} and link to at least one of hosts in your post). If you are not a blogger, but have an Instagram account tag your lovely travel moments with #IGTravelThursday. No blog, no Instagram? You can still join in the fun by reading our IG-related travel stories and by giving us some feedback love!  If you want to host the IG Travel linky on your blog so that your readers can easily find our posts, you may use this,  get the InLinkz code.







2.23.2014

Southern Tales with N.C. Blogger Leigh Hines

Week of Feb. 23

Grab your coffee, tea or even a glass of wine, and let's start chatting. I've got lots to share. If you are new here, I debuted this column last week in order for me to get back to the basics of blogging which is sharing information, starting conversations, and being true to my voice. I'm a trained journalist, but what I've learned lately after writing for several news organizations is that I love the informal writing style that makes blogs so unique. So, here we are with week 2 with my Southern Tales.

Tom Ford Private Blend Collection Available in Raleigh, N.C. at Saks

Raleigh is in big city leagues when it comes to luxury brands. Tom Ford has put his entire Private Blend Collection in the Raleigh Saks along with his lip and nail products. It is truly unusual that a city our size has the entire collection. Currently, this luxury beauty line is only available in big city markets like New York, Dallas, San Francisco, etc. I believe it speaks volumes about the South's sophistication, especially the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.



I had lunch with Tom Ford's representative, Amellia Glover, at Saks Raleigh this week. I had a private introduction to the Private Blend Collection. We laughed when I told her that I had the most terrible sense of smell so maybe I wasn't the best person for this assignment. My nose may not be an expert on scents, but I was quite impressed with the notes found in this collection.

First off, it's important to note that the Tom Ford Private Blend Collection is non-gender specific, and that is what makes this line special. The scents are not over-powering, and they are in the purest form which means what you smell in the bottle is exactly what it will smell like when you wear it on your skin.

Also, these scents are designed for layering. You can wear different combinations to reflect your mood. Since this a luxury brand, you are paying for the best. The bottles are pure craftsmanship. Inspired by the dark brown glass used in apothecary bottles found in perfumers work rooms, the bottles have a look of a chess piece. The smallest size, 50ml is $210. The large decanters are $520.

Learning about the Tom Ford Private Blend Collection at Saks is a true experience. You will start by telling Amellia what scents you like, and what appeals to your senses. For example, I told her that I didn't like anything overpowering and that is all I could tell her because honestly, I really didn't know what I liked. I like freshness and I don't want to smell like an old lady wearing too much perfume. I learned so much about myself on this scent journey. I was drawn to citrus, warm vanilla, and scents with oriental influence.



My absolute favorite fragrance from the line was Champaca Absolute. Tom Ford's love of the rare and expensive Champaca blooms fueled his desire to create this floral-oriental composition. The blooms must be gathered by the thousands to produce a single bottle of this fragrance. It's white-flower heart is given dimension through layers of cognac, vanilla bean, and sandalwood.

It's also important to note that the Tom Ford Private Blend Collection has a lot of scents, and I liked many, but I'm only highlighting what I would buy if I stole Will's credit card and could get away it without him knowing it was me. Ameilla changed the scent of Champaca Absolute by layering it with a few other blends. Throughout all of our time together, I kept going back to Champaca Absolute so we ended up marking that one as a favorite.

Tom Ford also has the Jardin Noir Collection, and one of the most popular scents in this collection is Cafe Rose.




I also like Noir De Noir, another Oriental scent with notes of saffron, black truffle, vanilla, and other florals as well as notes of masculine earthiness.  It's nice.

The Neroli Portofino collection stands out from the other collection with a vibrant, azure-blue packaging. This is very fresh with ingredients with notes of herbs, lavender, and citrus.  The Neroli Portofino collection includes bath soap, shower gel, body moisturizer, and body oil.  The body moisturizer is $65 for 5 oz.

My nose also guided me toward the Private Blend Atelier D'Orient Collection, inspired by the beauty and luxury of  Asia.  This collection uses ingredients that have treasured prestige in the Orient. I loved Rive D'Ambre.  This is a golden-toned perfume with exquisite citrus fruits.  Yeah, I'm back to citrus again.

Tom Ford Rive D'Ambre


There is so much more to talk about with this collection and his nail and lip line, but I'll save that for another Sunday. Have you tried the Tom Ford Private Blend Collection? It's Beauty Week at Saks right now.

Do we get enough Iodine in our diets today?

I have become obsessed lately with iodine consumption. I guess you didn't know that my middle name is "Hypochrondiac."  I recently read in a journal that stated several doctors who practice holistic medicine believe that the daily recommended iodine intake of 150 mcg is too low for our needs. They believe that more and more Americans are not getting sufficient iodine in our diets, and that the daily recommended intake should be higher. Iodine is important for thyroid function, brain function, and some believe it is essential in cancer prevention. But, too much iodine is a bad thing, too so you really have to be careful. It's not wise to go self-diagnosing yourself with over-the-counter supplements.

Do we get enough Iodine in our Diets?


After reading the journal, I immediately went to look at my vitamins, and iodine was completely missing from the ingredients. I get no iodine from my multi-vitamin all.  That's bad. I cook with iodized sea salt, but to get enough iodine to meet the suggested daily requirement, you would need to digest a whole teaspoon.

Seaweed is one of the best sources for iodine, but I'll be honest here. I don't remember when I ate seaweed last. I'm not sure if I've eaten it at all. Maybe I need to find me some seaweed chips.

Dairy and grain products are another source of iodine, but it is not on the packaging of how much iodine is in the products.  I found this table online with some general guidelines of how much iodine is in our food. Fruits and vegetables have iodine, too, but it depends more on the type of soil used when they were in the garden whether or not you get a good inake.  Three ounces of canned tuna has 17 mcg of iodine. An egg has 24 mcg of iodine.  I am truly seeing a pattern that I may not be getting enough in my diet daily. One cup of milk has 50 mcg of iodine. I may get that in cereal, but the only time I drink milk is when it's in my tea. Yogurt may be my best source with 75 mcg of iodine per one cup.

Anyway, it's been on mind lately so check your vitamins to see if iodine is listed. I think I'm going to buy a different vitamin now. The downside is that I just bought these and they are for 180 days. I also need to up my intake of cod and shrimp which are more good sources of iodine.

Top N.C. Chefs


Fearrington House Restaurant
Photo from Fearrington House Restaurant

The Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro, N.C. is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurant category for the 2014 James Beard Awards. Eight N.C. chefs are also semifinalists for the category of  Best Chef: Southeast. I have that story on Examiner.com this week, but I think this just shows that N.C. is a great culinary state. Take a look at the list, and let me know if you've been to any of these restaurants. I've only been to a few.

Michael Kors Shoes: Photo of the Week


Michael Kors for Children
Michael Kors for little feet. 


Well, the Diva's new Michael Kors shoes that I picked up last week at Marshalls for $19 won my Instagram community over this week. She got over 40 likes for showing off her little feet  at her brother's basketball practice whereas the photo of Sir Walter Raleigh in red dress in front of the Raleigh's convention center bombed. Less than 20 people even noticed in my feed that he was wearing a dress. Is it just bad to put Sir Walter Raleigh in a dress?

Sir Walter Raleigh Wears Red
Sir Walter Raleigh decked out in red. 

Meet Triangle Localista 

Triangle friends, I want to introduce you to another local blogger, Kim Alexander, who has a blog with a very local flair. Her blog is called Triangle Localista. We've been at several events together, and I think you will enjoy reading about the local side of Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh. Kim is a real foodie who can cook like a foodie unlike me.  I have to follow recipes. She recently participated in a social media campaign with Locals Seafood for the Winter Seafood Jubilee. I was so impressed with her recipes and have that story on Examiner.com.   There are a few more events scheduled this week for the jubilee.

Cooking with Clams for Winter Seafood Jubilee
Triangle Localista cooked with clams for Locals Seafood Winter Seafood Jubilee

I"ll be back Thursday with another hotel feature for #IGTRAVELThursday.  Don't forget you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, and Pinterest during the week. Talk to me!

2.19.2014

Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysees has this week's eye candy for #IGtravelThursday

I have been smitten with the Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysees Instagram account for awhile now. With photos this enchanting, how could you not be?

IG account @marriottchampselysees

The thing that I love about the hotel Instagram account is that they get out and show you the city at different times of the day.

IG account @marriottchampselysees

And their creativity gets better and better. Even Paris looks glorious in the rain.

IG account @marriottchampselysees
The Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysse is the only five-star hotel on the famous Champs-Elysse Avenue which is known for its high-end luxury shopping.  It is fitting that the hotel is housed in the old Louis Vuitton building.

IG account @marriottchampselysees

Rooms are modern, fresh, and some rooms have double beds which is often difficult to find in Europe.


Photo from Paris Marriott  Champs-Elysees
I loved this photo they put on Instagram the other day. I couldn't agree more.

IG account @marriottchampselysees
I've put it on my "Pack Your Bags" list. Have you stayed at the Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysees?

Do you have a great Instagram travel story to share? Read the linky rules below and join us this week (but don’t forget to grab our logo {here} and link to at least one of hosts in your post). If you are not a blogger, but have an Instagram account tag your lovely travel moments with #IGTravelThursday. No blog, no Instagram? You can still join in the fun by reading our IG-related travel stories and by giving us some feedback love!  If you want to host the IG Travel linky on your blog so that your readers can easily find our posts, you may use this,  get the InLinkz code





2.16.2014

Southern Sunday Tales with N.C. Blogger Leigh Hines

Introducing a New Series

I'm coming off of five days of being inside of my home with my two kids with very little to do. On one of those days, we lost power due to an ice storm. When you go without something that you may take for granted, you think about life, and you may even learn some things about yourself even when you have a tiara on your head.

You can call me "Queen Leigh" I cannot get the Royals song out of my head. 

This leads me to today's launch of "Southern Sunday Tales" on my blog. You see, I've spent many hours writing journalism-type articles for a news website lately. I recently attended some online training to refresh my aging memory. It has been a while since I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a Broadcast Journalism degree. While training, I heard on many occasions why I am now considered a writer and a working member of the press as opposed to a blogger. I like to label myself as both: a journalist and a blogger.

Honestly, I enjoy writing news articles because I don't want to clutter my blog with area news, and the nosy side of me likes to be in the know. Gathering travel news is easy for me because it gets me back to my formal education. But, I did not like putting writer vs. blogger against each other as if one is better than the other. It's different.

Journalists have to rely on a source to describe a bathroom in their stories whereas a blogger can give her own opinions about a bathroom, and can use social media to show you the bathroom in question.  It's probably the most like TV journalism than anything I have experienced.  I felt as if I filed a very professional and insightful story on how Country Inn and Suites is changing today's guest experience, and still was able to put my own spin on it.That's the beauty of blogging as opposed to old-style journalism writing.

You caught me in the bathroom at the new Country Inn and Suites in Springfield, Illinois. 
I'm proud that I can be both. I personally like to keep my blog reserved for the best of my content and for what I can cover in person such as my hotel features. After cranking out news story after news story this month for very little revenue though, my writing started to feel like it was tedious work and no fun.

Where's my opinion? What do I think? It had to be left out of the story. I missed writing for my own blog more than ever, and more importantly, I missed talking with the HinesSightBlog community. I'm going to begin devoting more time to my own personal space here, and I felt my new Southern Sunday Tales would be a good day to start and a way to make sure that I achieve my goal in terms of time management.  Being able to have a voice is the one thing that makes blogs fall into a category of its own when it comes to digital journalism.

I am fortunate that my editor, Katja Presnal,of Skimbaco Lifestyle has the same beliefs as I do, and by interweaving our opinion and experiences into our stories, its sets the website apart from other travel sites. I feel the same way about this space, too.

I hope you begin to join me weekly as we talk about different things each week because honestly, writing is not exciting for me when there is no conversation about it with others. That's just the way it is. I started this blog as a creative outlet in 2011 and it's time to get back to its foundation. Here are a few things I want to talk about today to kick off this new blog feature.

For those who knew me well before blogging, I wanted to share a photo of my cat Bailey. He lives with another
family now since my son is highly allergic to cats. Bailey is happy and healthy, and I love getting these updates. 
Chaos Always Erupts when you are Naked or in a Yoga Pose

I love my children very much, but there are days that I do not like them. Having spent day after day with them doing the same thing during these snow days, I thought I was going to go crazy. I wrote a piece for Triangle Mom 2 Mom called, "Chaos always erupts when you are naked or in a yoga pose" It's appalling that I can't do yoga or take a shower without some interruption. It never fails. If you get a chance, check out the piece and let me know if you experience the same problems.

The Best Coffee K-Cups

When we didn't have power all day on Thursday, all I could think about was tea or coffee. Honestly, I started seeing my kids walk around as giant latte mugs with legs.  Will says I have a huge problem. Maybe he's right.  I got a mini Keurig for Christmas, and I love it. Now, I'm on the hunt for K-cups at a reasonable price all the time. I'm trying to find a coffee that I like best. I bought Starbuck's Pike Place Roast, and told myself I wouldn't buy it again.  I didn't love it, and it's expensive.  I was in Walgreens yesterday and they had a sale on the overpriced Starbucks which made it even cheaper than the generic brands. I caved and bought Starbucks again. When I got home I realized that it was the Pike Place Medium Roast again. I need to start writing things down. What coffee K-cups do you enjoy?

Losing Weight and Staying on Budget



I've been trying to lose about 10 pounds, and save money in my financial budget. That's like a double whammy of pure hell.  I've successfully lost 3 pounds, but did not succeed in going under budget  for January and the really disturbing thing is that I really tried my best. I did not eat lunch out nor did I go to any of my local favorites for a scone and coffee. I made healthy food at home using mostly Denise Austin recipes.  I blame the cost of groceries and tampons for not staying within budget. My husband blames the category called "Hair and Skincare". And here's the bad part, I already need new mascara, and eye cream. I'm really hoping that the fact that February is a short month will be in my favor. It's frustrating that I used to be able to manage a work budget of several hundred thousand dollars, and was always under budget which delighted my boss.  But my current "boss"  is displeased.  I think the problem could be that it is the same budget I had for when we just had one child.. I've talked to friends and my grocery bills are in line on what they spend or even less. So, how do you save on groceries? If you don't mind sharing, what is your monthly expense for groceries?

Afternoon Tea at Southern Season in Chapel Hill, N.C. 


Southern Season tea


Southern Season in Chapel Hill is now hosting afternoon tea at its Weathervane Restaurant on a monthly basis. The price is $19 per person. I think it is something you should check out if you are an afternoon tea lover. The menu looks delightful. I toured Southern Season on a media visit for Skimbaco Lifestyle last month for a story on the popular gourmet food store that ran this week. The store has been reorganized and it's impressive. My kids and I attended a special children's tea with a Mad Hatter theme as guests of Southern Season so I did not pay for our tea. It was a fun experience, the food was, of course, child-friendly with items like cheese sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches instead of the typical adult tea fare. They did have scones though.

Someone loved the face painting. 


I would certainly do it again as a paying guest. Southern Season has so many events going on each month, and the store is working to offer more events for families in the future. Spring will be a popular time for those.

Top North Carolina Luxury Hotels 

I wrote this article on N.C.'s best luxury hotels recently. I have visited 7 hotels out of the top 10 in the list. I was impressed with my hotel staying portfolio. My goal is to keep you in the know about hotels so that you can plan your future travels. The only hotels that I have not actually slept in are: The Umstead,  The Carolina at Pinehurst Resort, The Sanderling,The Washington Duke Inn,  and the O'Henry Hotel. I have "Pack Your Bags" on 4 out of 10 properties. Any favorites on the list?

I listed Old Edwards Inn and Spa has my absolute best stay in 2013. The hotel does not pay me to talk about them. I talk about them because I liked the hotel. However, after I named it the best hotel of my 2013 stays, I did receive a special keepsake so that every morning can be a morning like waking up at Old Edwards Inn except without the mountain view.

I love my new Old Edwards Spa Robe 


Meet Triangle Explorer


Triangle Explorer is in the know in area events.

For my local friends, I want to introduce the blog, The Triangle Explorer. John, the writer, is a friend of mine and he covers a lot that is not on my blog. Hint: He has no children and he can get around the Triangle with ease unlike me. Plus, I rarely cover event previews on my blog unless it is a hotel and that is why I turn to John's blog to find out what is going on the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. I'm only in the know because of the Triangle Explorer.  He also likes to tease me about my love for coffee mugs. I don't like my coffee in paper cups so he loves stirring things up on twitter by starting hashtags like: #PapercupsforLeigh when he goes to coffee shops.  He also plays the trombone around town. You can follow him on Instagram @TriangleExplorer. 

Triangle Explorer also plays the trombone.  Here he is at the Krispy Kreme Challenge. 

I'll be back on Thursday with a hotel feature for #IGTRAVELThursday.  In the mean time, please check out my hotel review on the Disney Yacht Club at Walt Disney World. If you are going to Disney this year, you may want to read it.  I'll be back next Sunday for Southern Sunday Tales.



2.12.2014

The Langham Chicago has this week's Eye Candy Photo for #IGTravelThursday

The topic in N.C. this week is snow and ice again, but I'm thinking champagne and romance. The Langham in Downtown Chicago caught my eye this week with this Instagram photo.

@langhamchicago


I think it sets the mood for a luxurious, Valentine's Day celebration.  What about you? If you notice, that is a tub in the mirror. 

But, the Langham is also very family-friendly, and it's known for its afternoon tea. 

That's amore!  Anyone stayed at the Langham in Chicago or London?

Join us for #IGTRAVELThursday. 


Do you have a great Instagram travel story to share? Read the linky rules below and join us this week (but don’t forget to grab our logo {here} and link to at least one of hosts in your post). If you are not a blogger, but have an Instagram account tag your lovely travel moments with #IGTravelThursday. No blog, no Instagram? You can still join in the fun by reading our IG-related travel stories and by giving us some feedback love!  If you want to host the IG Travel linky on your blog so that your readers can easily find our posts, you may use this,  get the InLinkz code








2.10.2014

A Traveler’s Look at the Yacht Club Resort at Walt Disney World

The Yacht Club Resort at Walt Disney World


As a mom to two kids, I know a lot of parents. When people find out I am a travel writer and learn my travel focus is on the hotel industry, people ask me about Walt Disney World hotels more than anything else.

I have never been an invited guest to Walt Disney World as a working member of the press, so my experience there is like any other vacationer.  However, I am no ordinary vacationer. You all know that.  I probably borderline on the verge of “crazy” when it comes to the research I do on a property and destination before I visit.

Sleeping Beauty and a very happy little Hines

To make a long story short, we wanted to take my daughter to Disney at the age of 4. We did the same trip when my son was 4, too.  When you start to throw in park tickets, airline tickets, dining plans, and magical transportation, I felt better having a travel agent book my vacation as opposed to my doing it myself. There are just a lot of loose ends with this type of travel, and we’re talking about serious money, folks, especially for the Deluxe hotel categories.

Using a Travel Agent for Disney Vacations

I turned to a former colleague of mine, Judy Julian, who is the owner of Go 4 Less Now Travel, in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.  She worked with Disney to arrange my reservations, but I was able to get insurance through her, and she handled all of my deposits. Working with Judy did not cause my vacation package to be more expensive, nor did it cost me extra money. There was no fee to use her. She even worked to find me additional savings by suggesting we purchase a package sold by an airline, but it was for a studio Deluxe villa at Saratoga Springs Resort with one queen bed and a sleeper sofa.

I really prefer having beds for everyone, even if we are in the same room, because I do not want to pay a lot of money and somehow end up on a sleeper sofa, which is a risk you take when you have younger children so I passed on that option,  but the bottom line is that she will work with you to make your vacation perfect. And if she can handle me then she can handle anyone. 

Chairs on the Verandah at the Yacht Club Resort at WDW


This was my third trip to Disney in the past 14 years. I have stayed at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort, the Walt Disney Beach Club Resort, and for this trip, I chose the Walt Disney Yacht Club, which is in the exact same location as the other two resorts near Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Out of the three resorts, the Yacht Club is my favorite.


Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

The lobby of the WDW Yacht Club Resort


The common areas at the Yacht Club Resort are beautiful. We were there pre-Christmas, so the resort was stunning in its holiday attire.  The one thing that I tell readers about Disney-owned hotel properties is that you are paying for the Disney theming, location, children’s clubs, and other perks. You are not paying for luxury and poshness when it comes to the guestrooms.  

Even though these “Deluxe” hotels offer room service, full-service restaurants, and beautiful pools, the rooms are in the upper-upscale category for hotel chains and are not considered luxury properties. The prices per night will fool you into thinking it is a luxury property because they can run from as low as $325 to as high as $600 per night for a room, depending on demand and time of year. If you choose the club level rates then rates go even higher. 

The Yacht Club Resort is a full-service Deluxe hotel on Disney property.

Many upper-upscale chains such as Marriott, Westin, or Hilton may have rooms and bathrooms more plush for a better price.

But, with all of that said, the location for this property cannot be beat.  It is awesome, and that is why the price is higher, and in more of a "luxury" category for price. 

The Rooms at the Yacht Club Resort

Standard Room at the Yacht Club Resort 

Our room was spacious. The décor was nice, and it was clean.  Those are all good points.  Our bedding was nice, and we all slept well.  I really cannot complain. It was a nice experience.

However, our closet door was broken and basically would not stay on track. The built-in cabinet door to the mini-fridge was damaged, and one lamp wouldn’t work.  Hello.  You don’t usually find things like that in rooms that cost over $400 a night.

The bathrooms are the typical older-style chain designs with an exterior sink and small room for the tub and commode.  They were clean and had a cute Disney-themed shower curtain.

Double-sink vanity outside the bathroom

The problem with Deluxe Disney hotels is that you can’t compare them to other luxury properties, but when you are paying $400 or more for a hotel room and you have stayed in other hotels that cost less money per night and have killer bathroom, guest rooms, and turndown service, it’s truly hard not to compare. But you shouldn’t. 

There is no doubt that staying on Disney property enhances your Disney experience. Goofy called us to welcome us to the hotel. We were given special buttons at check-in to show we were celebrating a birthday, and to show that my daughter was a first-time visitor to Walt Disney World. But, typically in hotels with this price point, kids are usually given a nice amenity as a travel keepsake from the hotel or guests receive a special note or small welcome from the hotel complimentary. These types of things are all add-on expenses at Disney properties. 



What I Loved about the Yacht Club Resort

I loved the fact that I could walk home from Epcot nightly after dinner.  Their transportation system to the parks ran like clockwork.  It was effortless.  Cast members were friendly and courteous. The little hidden Mickeys in the resorts are fun to find. The new Disney bands open your hotel rooms which is great. And walking on the grounds makes you feel as if you have transported yourself to the most magical place on earth.  Well, you did. Additional park hours, magical transportation to and from the airport, and other perks to Disney hotel guests make you glad you made the investment.

Can you find the hidden Mickeys?


For instance, the Disney Dining Plan was a huge savings, and that is only available when you stay at Disney Resorts.

Ale and Compass Lounge in the Yacht Club



We ate a quick breakfast daily at the Ale and Compass Lounge before heading out to the parks daily. It’s a tight space, but we usually found a table. The typical morning delights like juice, yogurt, cinnamon rolls, and coffee will cost a family of four about $27 per day.  You can use your dining plan quick service or snack credits here, too. The food is good, and the rolls were huge. 

It is important to note that when you book a Disney vacation through Walt Disney World, you usually get a free “refillable” mug for coffee and drinks. This is a great perk to save on coffee, but I rarely used my mug for coffee while at Ale and Compass because we wanted to get on the bus immediately after breakfast. 

Refillable mug


The Yacht Club is big, and I’m serious when I tell you that it was almost a 20-minute walk back to our room from the lobby. I didn’t want to lug the mug around in the parks. It leaked in my purse one day when I put water in it so I typically paid for a fresh cup of coffee each day just so I wouldn’t have to go back to the room to drop off my mug. It is a fabulous perk if you are hanging out at the pool though. 

The Pool Area at the Yacht and Beach Club

The pool between the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts


The pool at the Yacht Club is also shared by Beach Club guests.  Hands down, it’s a dynamite pool at the resort, and probably the best of all the Disney hotels, which is another reason rooms are higher here during peak swimming times. We didn’t visit Stormalong Bay at all in November, but the pool area alone is a good enough reason to skip a day at the park and have fun at the pool.  There’s a casual eating area and full-service bar by the pool, too, which also accept the dining plan.

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop is a Hines favorite


Beaches and Cream Soda Shop is also located in the Beach Club and is a very short walk from the Yacht Club lobby. It is a favorite restaurant of mine.  It’s small in size but worth the wait for a table.


I did not frequent any other restaurants at the hotel during my November stay, but I did have the character dining with Goofy, Minnie, and Donald at the Beach Club Resort in the Cape May Café in 2009. It was a fun breakfast experience.  I would do that one again.

My experience at the Captain’s Grill, a full-service restaurant in the Yacht Club, was mediocre in 2009, so I skipped it entirely in 2013. I bought a park-hopper theme park ticket this time, so I booked most of my dining at Epcot, which is a quick and easy walk from the hotel. 

I have never dined at the signature restaurant, The Yachtsman, but it gets great reviews and would be a culinary treat.

Would I stay at the Yacht Club Again?



Absolutely, but I would try to get the best price possible on the hotel. During certain times, it’s listed around $325 per night. That’s more like it. When we stayed last year, Disney was offering free dining packages with the hotel, and our rate was close to $400 a night. That was a huge savings and helped make up for the cost of the hotel.  I love the location of this hotel, the lobby décor, and it is certainly my favorite of the three Disney properties I’ve stayed in thus far.  

The Yacht Club Resort overlooks Disney's Boardwalk. The location is fabulous. 

However, when prices start to hover around $500 a night, I’m not sure if it is the best way to spend hard-earned vacation dollars unless free dining was included.  And if $500 a night is nothing for you to sneeze at for a hotel room, then you probably won’t think it’s lux enough either to warrant the price.  You may want to go up to $700 a night and stay at the Grand Floridian.  They have turn-down service.  For true luxury lovers, the new Four Seasons to open later this year on WDW property will give luxury travelers more of a luxury experience for the price with awesome bathrooms. Prices will be more in line with the Grand Floridian Resort. 

I also have my eye on the Boardwalk Inn. I think it’s more intimate and would be a good place to stay as well when the price is right. The price for the Boardwalk Inn runs about the same as the Yacht Club. 



Now that I’ve been to Disney twice with kids, I would even be open to a more luxurious experience at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando off-property for a lot more luxury for your vacation dollars,  but it’s hard sometimes to give up the Disney location, airport transfers, and the dining plan perks if you are truly going to experience Disney.  It definitely has to be a personal choice on what is best for your family.

For many, Disney is the destination, and the hotel is not the destination, but you all know the Hines do it backwards.


2.05.2014

St.Regis Singapore has this week's hotel eye candy for #IGTRAVELThursday

One of the things I love most about Instagram is that I can connect and see the world through another person's eyes.

This week, St. Regis Singapore caught my attention with this one shot.

@stregishotels Instagram account
St. Regis Singapore #afternoontea

I think it's just beautiful. As you know, I love afternoon tea and I swooned as soon as I saw this photo in my IG feed from the main @stregishotels Instagram account. St. Regis told its Instagram community that the china is the Anatolia Blue pattern by Narumi. I think it is exquisite.

Of course by connecting with this hotel brand on Instagram, I wanted to learn more about the St. Regis Singapore I am very impressed with its family adventure program, and offerings for family travel at this property.  I'm not sure if, or when I'll ever get to Singapore, but I look forward to visiting a St. Regis somewhere in my future travels.

Who has stayed in a St. Regis? Where? Have you been to Singapore?

Join us for #IGTRAVELThursday. 


Do you have a great Instagram travel story to share? Read the linky rules below and join us this week (but don’t forget to grab our logo {here} and link to at least one of hosts in your post). If you are not a blogger, but have an Instagram account tag your lovely travel moments with #IGTravelThursday. No blog, no Instagram? You can still join in the fun by reading our IG-related travel stories and by giving us some feedback love!  If you want to host the IG Travel linky on your blog so that your readers can easily find our posts, you may use this,  get the InLinkz code







2.02.2014

Les Misérables Opens in Raleigh Feb. 11, Win Tickets to a Performance

Theatre buffs get excited - one of Broadway’s most beloved productions is coming to the Triangle stage this month.  For the first time in NC Theatre’s 30-year history, the company will stage its own production of the epic musical Les Misérables, taking place Tuesday, Feb. 11 through Sunday, Feb. 23 at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.

The HinesSight Blog is giving away two tickets to the Tuesday, Feb. 18 performance. You may enter below using Rafflecopter. 

Lauren Kennedy and her own daughter, Riley Campbell, in NC Theatre's production of
 Les Misérables
Photo by: Curtis Brown

Les Misérables is based on the Victor Hugo novel about an ex-con and others struggling to find redemption in the midst of turmoil in early 19th century Paris. I saw the touring production in Raleigh several years ago for the first time, and really enjoyed the show. I left my seat singing, "Master of the House."  I have yet to see the Les Misérables movie though. 

This N.C. stage version will include some local celebrities who are certainly Raleigh favorites.  Les Misérables will star Raleigh's own Lauren Kennedy as Fantine in a reprisal of the role she played on Broadway, alongside her real-life daughter Riley Campbell, who makes her NC Theatre debut as Young Cosette. Also starring in the production are Broadway veterans Craig Schulman as Jean Valjean and Chuck Wagner as Javert. If you love “Les Mis,” then you don't want to miss this all-star production!

Raleigh's own Lauren Kennedy in the Broadway Production of Les Misérables
Photo by: Joan Marcus

Lauren Kennedy is a bona fide Broadway star whose credits include starring as the Lady of the Lake in Monty Python's Spamalot, in Sunset Boulevard with Glenn Close, in Side Show as Daisy Hilton, and in Cinderella at New York City Opera. Her daughter Riley, making her stage debut, is poised to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

To purchase tickets to NC Theatre’s production of the much-anticipated Les Misérables, visit http://nctheatre.com/shows/les-miserables.

A winner will be drawn at random by Rafflecopter on Feb. 11. To enter the giveaway, make sure you sign in the rafflecopter box either by using a Facebook log-in or your email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NC Theatre sponsored this ticket giveaway. 

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