The busy summer travel season has arrived—and with it comes the dreaded decision-making: the who, where, what and how of vacation planning. With endless locales at your fingertips, Previews Inside Out recently consulted with Doug Gollan, group president and editor-in-chief of Elite Traveler, to give you an insider’s perspective on the latest luxury travel trends, as well as the summer’s hottest (and hautest) destinations.
“Elite Traveler readers make 41 trips per year, including 11 intercontinental trips,” says Gollan. “This means they really don’t have to choose, but it ends up being additive.”
Among the top luxury travel trends this year, two stand out for Gollan: multi-generational partying and pet pampering. For example, the Redentore Terrazza Suite at Luxury Collection’s The Gritti Palace in Venice and the Presidential Suite at Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto can accommodate parties of up to 60 people. Meanwhile, many eager-to-please hotels have begun arranging dog-walking services and special room service menus. The Langham Hotel in Pasadena has gone so far as to give guests a list of local activities to enjoy with their pet.
“It’s all about the experiences money can buy,” explains Gollan, who touts the magazine’s new series, Million Dollar Weekend Getaways, as an example of just how far some travelers can go for the ultimate travel experience.
And when it comes to summer experiences, where do the affluent prefer to holiday?
“It’s not unusual to hear from a reader that in a single summer, stops include Aspen or Vail, the Hamptons, Maine, Mexico, multiple places in Europe and perhaps someplace new and exotic,” said Gollan. “Often it’s back-to-back vacations sandwiched around a few stops to look in at the office.”
For private jet travelers and superyacht owners, “The Western Med is always popular,” he adds. However, Croatia, the Turkish Riviera and the Black Sea have begun to pique the interests of superyacht owners who often have the means to visit all three. Or “they might jet off to Paris or London for a weekend while their crew sails their yacht to a new location,” he notes. Other European locales such as Norway and the entire Baltic region are garnering attention for both boating and soft adventure, while dude ranches are once again gaining favor with elite travelers. Summer jetsetters shouldn’t discount Chile and New Zealand either, where they can get their fix of powder and après-ski luxury while their friends brave the summer heat back home.
Gollan shares three destinations on Elite Traveler’s must-go-to list this summer.
1. Las Vegas
Las Vegas has turned up the heat during the summer sun with the invention of the Day Club, turning pools into all-day parties with bottle service, live entertainment and an array of VIP services. Extensive air-conditioned shopping meccas, the big name entertainment and lavish suites all mean that, despite the heat, Las Vegas is a popular getaway—private jet arrivals remain at close to 75 percent of peak period levels during July and August.
Hotels: The new Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace is a must for sushi lovers. If you are willing to spend on a suite, Las Vegas has some of the most spectacular in the world, from the Sky Villas at Aria (where you can look down at the planes taking off from McCarran Airport) to the Hardwood Suite (with a full basketball court) at The Palms.
Shopping: You’ll find more Dior stores here than in Paris. Satisfy your need for retail therapy and air conditioning at Crystals at CityCenter, The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Eating: Name a renowned chef, and you will most likely find his or her restaurant here. To Do: While the heat is on, party at the pool. Cabanas and bottle service at the likes of The Wynn, Encore, Palms, Hard Rock and Aria are not for the faint of heart. “Hosting the gang in style can set one back multiple thousands of dollars, and that’s just for the daytime,” cautions Gollan. Perfect Day: Spend the day in a poolside cabana, then take the party upstairs to your suite at Nobu Hotel, where up to 45 of your guests can enjoy cocktails and a palate-pleasing platter of Chef Nobu’s signature sushi. Cap the night off with a VIP show.
2. Ascot, England
Known for its rich equestrian pedigree and royal roots dating back to the 18th century, the posh town of Ascot (pronounced as-cut) is home to England’s most prestigious horse racing course and the Royal Ascot meeting, a.k.a. the premier hat event of the summer. Visitors can enjoy Britain’s favorite pastimes: betting on their favorite stallions, afternoon teas and of course—show-stopping millinery. Think Phillip Treacy meets National Velvet in old world England.
Hotels: Coworth Park, the Dorchester Collection’s first countryside hotel rests on 240 acres of polo fields and wooded parkland at the edge of Windsor Great Park, a mere 20 minutes from Heathrow.
Eating: Restaurant Coworth Park, located within the hotel’s Mansion House offers a modern twist on classic British dishes. And of course, no visit to England would be complete without afternoon tea and biscuits at the Spatisserie.
To Do: Horseback ride on the estate, watch polo at the resort’s own polo grounds and let younger equestrian enthusiasts ride at the Pony Club.
Perfect Day: Start with a morning ride, followed by an afternoon polo match and a pre-dinner visit to the hotel’s award-winning spa.
3. Gstaad, Switzerland
Set in the Swiss Alps, Gstaad is a popular ski resort for high society and the international jet set. You’ll know it by one visit to Gstaad village, with its postcard-worthy promenade lined with five-star restaurants, art galleries, hotels and upscale shops from Louis Vuitton to Cartier. In the summer, the town manages to keep its haute spot status with events such as the Gstaad Promenade Party, Crédit Agricole Swiss Open Gstaad tennis tournament, Hublot Polo Gold Cup tournament and Menuhin Festival, one of the best classical music events in Europe.
Hotels: The Alpina Gstaad. Debuting at the opening of the 2012 ski season, the luxury hotel boasts gorgeous Alpine views, privacy and enough swanky amenities to impress the world’s billionaires, celebrities and political leaders who frequently visit Gstaad. Shopping: A short walk down the hill from the hotel, you’ll find a wide selection of high-end boutiques, from Hermes and Ralph Lauren to Breguet. If you need a touch of glitter, there is even a Graff Diamonds boutique in the hotel. Eating: MEGU, located in the hotel, has taken the celebrated modern Japanese concept from its flagship in New York to Europe. There is also Restaurant Sommet, which features inspirations from award-winning chef Marcus Lindner, and Swiss Stübli “for traditional Swiss cuisine, including raclette and fondue,” says Gollan. To Do: Gollan recommends hiking and mountain biking, as well as ballooning, hang gliding and scenic day trips by train or car. Perfect Day: Enjoy the Swiss mountains, followed by a visit to the hotel’s Six Senses spa and then a light sushi dinner at MEGU.