On the way to my stay in the Maldives, my husband and I took QSuites Business Class known as “the world’s best business class” from Chicago (ORD) to Doha (DOH) and it cost 70,000 American Airline miles. The flight was QR Chicago (ORD) Flights 725/726 Boeing 777-300ER. In my opinion, Qatars QSuites product is the best Business Class product in the sky and is far superior to many first class products.
The suite seat was not only incredibly spacious but it was so stylish. There are several different seating configurations in Qsuites. There are six paired seats in the center of the cabin, which allow for a double-bed setup, and the first five sets of seats can be booked as a Quad seat arrangement. The window seats are private.
My husband and I had the honeymoon seats in the middle odd numbered rows and were able to combine our suites when it was time to sleep so we could rest together. The seats lie fully flat and are able to be conjoined as to mimic a double bed. However, if you’re in one of those seats and next to a stranger, there’s still a partition you can put up to maximize privacy.
The design and aesthetic of the plane is incredibly pleasing and you can tell the seats are made of the highest quality fabrics. The pillows were soft and adorable and had fun messaging. You also receive a quilted mattress and a thick soft blanket (one of my favorite business class blankets). Pajamas are complimentary, and once you are ready to sleep you can turn on a ‘Do Not Disturb’ indicator to ensure no disruptions. The suites also have two air nozzles, a reading light, and a coat hook.
The suite is designed to give you the optimal amount of storage and features a cocktail table, large TV monitor, a tray table underneath the TV, and then a counter near the aisle. On the side panel of the counter was most of the seat and entertainment controls were there as well. That included a handheld entertainment controller, 110v outlet, two USB outlets, and a headphone jack.
Next to the seat was a storage ottoman where there was Evian bottled water, airplane magazines, generic headphones, and extra room to store more things. To give you an idea of how much space “extra room” means, I stored my entire breast pump device and bottles. One of my favorite parts about the suite is the door, you can have the ultimate privacy.
Having flown many other business class cabins, I have to say I was greatly impressed with the style and functionality of the suites. The designers went above and beyond and paid great attention to detail. It is sleek and fun, the purple and gray, the stylish overhead lighting, detailed seat stitching pattern, and the rose gold detailing did not go unnoticed.
FOOD: The food was great and the menu items were on request so you could order whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. No restrictions on drinks, etc. There was more than enough to eat and the options were great. As soon as you are seated, they will offer you, your drink of choice, your choice of warm or cool towel, and an assortment of nuts (you can also have Godiva chocolates). I recommend the mint lemonade and saffron karak chai to everyone, if you get anything to drink make sure it’s that. For dinner, they went all in with the tablewear including stylish water glasses and a fake candle.
I also appreciated how well organized the transportation was to the terminal. They had separate premium cabin buses so we weren’t too crowded on the bus and it only took a few minutes from bus onboarding to the terminal. The drive to the terminal took just a few minutes.
Overall, the experience exceeded even my highest expectations and it is a fact Qatar Airway Qsuites is the world’s best business class.
Have a long Atlanta layover and want to leave the airport? I have some great ideas for you!
On my way to Dallas from Cleveland, I had an almost 24 hour layover with the kids (not by choice, flights were cancelled due to weather). I decided to make the best of it and have some fun in the city. If you’re reading this and you have kids you know exactly why I didn’t just stay at the airport with 2 kids or wait for the sooner flights on standby with them. Fortunately, I used to live in Atlanta for 4 years when I went to school at the illustrious Spelman College. Coincidentally, it was actually my Spelman College reunion. Of course, I stopped by campus and I gave my husband and the kids a tour of one of the most influential places in my life, that shaped part of who I am today.
Some of my favorite places I recommend on any visit to Atlanta as a 4 year Atlanta resident are:
Then we went to Two Urban Licks which I recommend everyone frequent on any trip to Atlanta. It’s definitely not the best place to bring children but we still brought them anyway and we had an amazing time nonetheless.
Georgia Aquarium – you can even swim with whale sharks
World of Coca-Cola – Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola
Atlanta Botanical Garden
High Museum of Art
If you have children, definitely check out the Children’s Museum of Atlanta and Legoland Discovery Center Atlanta
WHERE TO STAY: My family and I stayed at the Canopy by Hilton Atlanta Midtown. The room was large and the decor was very stylish. Not only that but, the rooms were also recently updated and very modern so the furnishings were refreshed, large bathroom with walk-in shower, and a balcony. The complimentary breakfast for Hilton Diamond Members includes hot breakfast which includes waffles, pancakes, made to order omelets. It also includes a wide continental breakfast spread, as well as lattes and smoothies. It is a great location for getting around to the biggest attractions in Atlanta and if you have children it’s by Atlantic Station which is a shopping center that has a movie theatre, shops, and most importantly a TARGET. Anyone with kids knows how important a Target is haha. The room had free WiFi, a 55-inch TV, refrigerated drawer, Nespresso® machine, and bedding designed exclusively for the Canopy Brand. You can grab water anytime at the filtered spring water stations on every floor.
Do you have an overnight layover in NYC and are unsure what to do? I have some ideas!
FOOD: – NYC is the place to eat. One of my favorites are Miss Lily’s which is a Jamaican restaurant whose chef was actually a competitor on Chopped! The food is incredible and I do not frequent NYC without stopping by.
Another place, I had the pleasure of just recently frequenting is Kura. It is in every New Yorkers top 10 sushi restaurants in NYC if they have good taste buds and on top of that it’s mildly affordable. It is omakase only, which means you eat what the chef gives you. It has a very intimate vibe, there is under 20 tables and seating is right under the chefs table as they make your sushi.
Of course, you can’t forget dessert. Grace Street is both a coffeehouse and an Asian sweets spot in Korea town. They serve teas, Asian donuts, shaved ice, waffles, and matcha everything. It is always busy, always delicious, & worth the wait!
THINGS TO DO: Besides, eating at the places aforementioned above we decided to take a stroll down the touristy Times Square and head to a comedy club. The Gotham Comedy Club was great! Even though Chicago is the real Gotham City, I’ll let them call themselves whatever they’d like. My husband and I went to an 11:30pm show so if you have a late overnight layover this would be a great idea. We had such a great experience there and will definitely be back again.
When purchasing your tickets for the show, any seat is a good seat, there is honestly no need to purchase a VIP ticket, the way the seats are set up everyone has an incredibly great view. The staff was so hospitable and even warmed up a tea I got from a cafe I went to prior. There is a 2 drink minimum but if you don’t drink alcohol you can get Non-Alcoholic Beer, juice, water, etc. We went to go see Ramy Youssef from the self-titled show Ramy on Hulu about his personal Muslim-American experience. There were 4 other comedians as well who did an excellent job. We had such a great time, and the staff and the view were so incredible they put the Gotham Comedy Club on my list of Must-Do’s every time I’m in NYC.
I hope this gives you a couple of things to do during your overnight layover. If you have an opportunity to stay for a weekend for family fun check out How to Maximize A Weekend in NYC.
The Maldives has been on my bucket list for awhile so when given the opportunity to stay at the twice voted “Best Hotel In the World” that features the “First Underwater Restaurant in the World” I jumped at the chance to stay at the Conrad Maldives. The Conrad Maldives is a ritzy island paradise surrounded by the Indian Ocean in South Asia commonly known for its overwater bungalows. This idyllic tropical resort is actually two islands connected by a bridge. The resort offers huge beach villas, overwater villas, an extremely expensive underwater residence, a world-class spa, award winning restaurants, and a plethora of excursions and activities.
How To Get There: To get to the Conrad Maldives you have to take a seaplane from Male International airport which Conrad arranges and charges for at $560 per person. While waiting for the seaplane they have a Conrad Lounge that offers 15 minute complimentary massages, food, wifi, and drinks. As an honest reviewer, I will say that the lounge is extremely outdated and needs to be revamped. The couches definitely need to be replaced. When I arrived at the lounge and saw how run down the furniture was I was nervous about what to expect when arriving at resort. The seaplane luggage is 25kg per person plus 5kg of hand luggage. Any excess baggage costs $5 per 1kg.
The seaplane ride was great and the views were phenomenal. It was an awesome way to see the other Maldivian islands.
Arrival: The seaplane flies to a dock that has a small waiting area where you meet a staff member who is personally assigned to you for the duration of your stay. Your bags are gathered, they offer you a welcome slushy and you are then taken to the main lobby where your personal Conrad “butler” takes you to your room via buggy or walking dependent on how close your room is. The scenery, design, and atmosphere of the Conrad Maldives is incredible and beyond what I could imagine.
The Conrad Lounge at the airport definitely does not do the resort any justice because you would have no idea that you would arrives to such an idyllic paradise based on the airport lounge. Upon walking down the bridge that connects the 2 islands, I knew we were in for a real treat. Our “butler” gave us the details about the resort and our room. Surprise! Surprise! We received an upgrade from the water villa to the Retreat Water Villa. The Conrad Maldives does not have to do this for Hilton Diamond members because of the status of the resort, however they did so and we were more than ecstatic. Paid upgrades are available if you don’t want to take the chance of not getting upgraded upon arrival.
We took a buggy with our “butler” to our Retreat Water Villa on the Spa Retreat side of the island. The ride was so exciting and I could not wait to see what our humble abode was going to look like.
We were placed in villa 417 which was located at the end of the boardwalk, allowing for us to have maximum privacy. It was absolutely gorgeous. he interior of this villa is unbelievably huge measuring at 1615 Sq. Ft., featuring two rooms, one with its own double spa treatment room as well as a jacuzzi on the large sun deck with steps leading down into the ocean below. The villa has large glass windows, glass doors, glass, walls, glass everything. You can see turquoise lagoons and coral reefs anywhere you look, you are completely surrounded by it. Compared to the basic water villa, this villa is beyond impressive. The tall ceilings, the wood, the blue and white tones, create a sanctuary of bliss. It was at this moment, touring the villa with the Conrad staff member, that I knew I was going to have a very hard time leaving. The bathroom was huge and featured an obscenely large bathtub and a rain shower that also led to the sundeck. Let’s just say the villa was unreal. I saw pictures of all of the villas prior to arriving and pictures do not do it justice, I was in awe at the largeness and beauty of the villa.
Retreat Water Villa:
Cost: ~ USD 1350 a night
Size: 1615 Sq. Ft.
Occupancy: 3 adults
Dining and Amenities: As aforementioned the Conrad Maldives has the first underwater restaurant in the world. It’s a very cool experience but it is also incredibly expensive. We had dinner there for $390 per person. For a more affordable option you can have lunch or cocktails and canapés there instead. However, the dinner was great and I’m glad we went to the dinner as the lunch menu didn’t interest me as much and my husband and I don’t drink so the cocktails and canapés didn’t interest us either.
It’s important to note though that all of the restaurants are pretty expensive and even a burger costs around $40 dollars at the resort. I would definitely recommend a dinner at Ufaa by Jeremy Leung and the Fishermans BBQ.
The resort also offers so much to do in regards to excursions and activities. There are two spas and of course we went to both!
• A large spa positioned over the water at the northern tip of the main island (opposite Mandhoo spa restaurant) called the Spa Retreat. This was my favorite spa and the Private Heat Therapy is a MUST! Click here for more details and photos of Spa Retreat
• A smaller, 4-room spa off the smaller island called the Over Water Spa.
There is also an ocean dive centre, snorkeling excursions, jetpacks, jet skis, yachting, and so much more. All non-motorized water activities are free of charge, this includes are stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling at the house reef. All snorkeling equipment can be rented free of charge. We had so much fun snorkeling in the backyard of our villa and at the house reef we found no need to do a snorkeling excursion offsite. The water in the Maldives is the most clear and beautiful blue water I have ever seen in my entire life. Snorkeling and swimming in the Maldivian water on Rangali Island was such an amazing experience that I will never forget! Not to mention, I can never forget the soft white sand, huge palm trees, and gorgeous weather.
Another cool thing about the resort is that it is a shoeless resort so you can be barefoot your entire vacation. The lobby, restaurants, and walking paths all have sand floors. There is sand everywhere, the ritziest restaurant there even makes you take off your shoes before entering! I brought way too many shoes for no reason!
How To Stay For Free: 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night or 380,000 Hilton Honors points for 5 nights with fifth night free which makes it 76,000 Hilton Honors points a night
To sum this one up this resort is fantastic and you should not hesitate booking! The service was incredible and everybody was beyond friendly. The food was great and the villa was pure luxury. Not only that, but the location and the atmosphere was unreal and something out of a dream you once had of what heaven looks like. I will definitely be staying here again when I visit the Maldives for a second time which I absolutely must!
The Retreat Spa at the Conrad Maldives is absolutely gorgeous! The decor and aesthetics exude a feeling of tranquility and relaxation. You enter into a narrow hallway built of wooden thatches that lead to a tranquil pond. The hallway is filled with doors on each side that lead to a treatment room. We went through a door that led us to an overwater private heat therapy suite that featured a jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, 2 rain showers, and a massage treatment room. It was completely private and perfect for couples.
We spent 30 minutes in the heat therapy suite and then followed up with a 90 minute muscle relaxation massage in the massage treatment room. If you are a Hilton Diamond member you can receive and extra 15 minutes of your massage treatment. For our treatment, they used a warm lime and berry infused oil that smelled absolutely divine. I chose medium pressure and received deep and my husband chose deep pressure and received super deep. Whatever you would normally choose for your ideal pressure type I would advise you to choose the pressure below. Their technique was great and my muscles were indeed relaxed and we couldn’t stop raving about how great we felt after. The massage was phenomenal, I didn’t want it to end, and even fell asleep. Between the idyllic atmosphere and blissful massage, it was one of our best spa experiences to date. When visiting the Conrad Maldives on Rangali Island, I definitely recommend you visit the Retreat Spa.
THE LOUNGE: The Business Class Lounge in Dubai during our layover was incredible. It is truly one of the most luxurious flight experiences you can experience. Not only does it take up an entire floor but there is more to do than you would even have time for during your layover. It is truly a great way to begin your journey or relax during your layover.
There are quiet lounges, a plethora of gourmet restaurants, a kids club/daycare, multiple showers, nap chairs, bars, personalized barista experience, an ice cream cart and more. With partnerships with Moet & Chandon and Voss Water, I had our waiter bring as much Voss water as my heart desired and canapés crafted by Michelin starred chefs from the Moet & Chandon lounge. The service was great and so was the food from the buffets stations. I had teriyaki chicken, lamb, and rice. I relaxed and ate all of it while my husband took a shower and brought me tea and dessert. Safe to say the business class lounge was what Emirates calls a “seamless journey”.
THE FLIGHT: As if it could even get better than the lounge!!?? It does! We flew on one of their all new 777’s.
It has a 2-3-2 cabin layout, which the older one had before, it’s incredibly spacious. The interior is aesthetically amazing and the plush beige leather seats reminiscent of a Bentley Bentayga. The seat also features a privacy screen and one of the largest entertainment screen offered on any plane operating commercially. I absolutely loved the water and pellegrino in a glass storage box in front of me below the tv (super convenient). Also, the reading lights, storage space, fully flat bed, and Emirates classic woodgrain seat finishing was nice too. The seat was incredibly comfortable, I got a great sleep and the seat cushion (similar to a padded mattress cover, they lay on top of your seat for increased comfort) and blanket were big, plush, and thick. I could not have asked for a nicer seat besides not having a bar like on the A380 but besides that and the 2-3-2 configuration (configuration didn’t bother me as I sat beside my husband, so couples win!) the new 777 is a better product and I don’t drink alcohol anyway!
Additionally, the food and service was top notch! The food options were great and delicious and there were many times I was offered beverages or snacks that I declined because I was too full. I seriously got to the point of “jeez are people really still eating more food!” Needless to say you won’t go even a bit hungry.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my business class experience on Emirates new 777 and can’t wait to fly aboard again!
Need a Cape Town Itinerary? Let me help you plan your trip to Cape with some inspiration and ideas from my trip detailed below! Cape Town was a whirlwind and was so much fun. There is so much to do, see, and explore. Your adventure awaits…….
Our stay at The Westin in Cape Town was absolutely incredible! I plan on staying there again and would recommend it to everyone. The hospitality at this location was amazing and Jason (the manager) made us feel so welcome. Not only did he give us a tour of the whole property upon checking in but he also followed up numerous times to make sure we were enjoying ourselves. All of the staff, including the valet were so friendly and kind. One of the valet staff by the name of Michael was so friendly and engaging that even when our car pulled up we still wanted to continue conversation. The food in their Executive Lounge on the 19th floor was also a great delight. They offer free breakfast, hor d’oeuvres, and drinks during happy hour for Marriott Platinum Members and for guests who book privileges with room rate. The lounge features 360 views of Cape Town and was a great start to our day. The hotel also features a sauna, steam room, and infinity pool on the 19th floor as well that gives you access to impeccable views as well.
The hotel is in a good location and also apart of the Convention Center. I think it is an extremely ideal location for all of the activities and excursions you might do in Cape Town and the surrounding areas.
The room itself was an Executive Level suite with waterfront views. It was large and completely updated. It had an incredible view of the waterfront and was extremely comfortable, including the bed. As a pregnant woman, I give this room ultimate comfort level points. I am incredibly picky about hotel rooms, how updated they are, how nice the shower is, comfortability of bed, space, heat and water pressure of the shower, so this mean ALOT! Again, I say this room had my seal of ultimate approval!
Overall, this stay at The Westin was a 10/10. I would like to give a special thanks to Jason for making it such a memorable experience for us.
Test Kitchen: Noted as one of the best restaurants in Cape Town and the world. I would advise booking months ahead of time as reservations fill quickly.
FoxCroft: Dinner at the FoxCroft was the best meal we had in Cape Town. Cape Town is truly a culinary destination so that is saying quite a bit. From the food to the service it was a great experience.
Kloof Street House: This restaurant is highly rated and while the design and aesthetics are incredibly inviting, the food left something to be desired in comparison to all of our other meals in Cape Town.
High tea at the Belmond Mount Nelson hotel: Afternoon tea at the Mount Belmont Hotel is the best high tea experience the Mother City has! The service, the tea, the food, and the live piano music were a perfect treat!
Azure Restaurant: Azure is a contemporary restaurant inside of the famous Twelve Apostles Hotels that sits atop a cliff and overlooks the ocean. The location and experience was incredible.
V&A Water Front, Robben Island tour
Old Biscuit Mill Market on a Saturday
Other Must Do Excursions and Activities:
Boulder Beach Penguin Colony
Signal Hill Sunset
Beaches! Go take the infamous Musizenberg a Beach Hut Photo
Spa Walden is a world class spa oasis in the least place you’d expect!
1119 Aurora Hudson Rd., Aurora, (330) 995-9SPA
Let’s talk about the ultimate pampering experience! If you’re looking for a top notch spa weekend that features relaxation, privacy, and ultimate ambiance; Spa Walden is where you should plan to go! When planning a spa getaway at Spa Walden I would consider the Spa and Stay package which allows you one signature spa treatment per person for 2 people and a night in one of their spacious and luxurious guest rooms that feature huge luxurious Kohler massage bath tubs and massive Kohler showers. The rooms and Inn in general are incredibly designed and are truly a reward for any guest.
The service at the Inn and the spa was impeccable. The staff caters to your every need to make sure your stay is beyond unique and special. Not only that, but the spa tailors treatments to fit your individual needs so you experience the ultimate pampering.
Each Spa suites has its own Kohler bubble massage tub and a personal steam room and a Swiss shower for full-body shower massages. If booking a couples treatment, couples can enjoy in their spa treatment room an additional fireplace, extra-large hot tub, and a light lunch.
Overall, this is one of the best spas I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to first class spas around the world. This is truly a hidden gem on the outskirts of Cleveland, OH and I definitely recommend it for the ultimate Spa experience.
Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest games reserve and is often an additional trip partnered with travelers holidays to Cape Town. I throughly enjoyed my time here at this National Park as it features the Big Five and hundreds of other mammals, wildlife, and plant species.
The best time to visit is during the beginning or end of the dry season of the region which is April – September. I went in January so it was not the most ideal time but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself nonetheless and did not get rained out. One of the things that people like about Kruger National Park is that it is self-drivable. I did not self drive because in my opinion you should not go all the way to South Africa to see one of the worlds biggest National Parks to be limited to what you can see on the roadways but it is an option. Featured below is what you can look forward to seeing on your trip to Kruger National Park and also a guide to where to stay as accommodations are extremely important and an integral part of a safari holiday!
WHERE TO STAY?
Location, location, location! Searching for somewhere to stay on a safari holiday can be extremely difficult with all of the budget lodges, luxury lodges, and private game reserves. Then there is the question of whether to stay inside of the park or outside of the park. At private game reserves around Kruger such as Sabi Sands, Manyeleti, Balule, and Timbavati there are no other tourists so they offer a more intimate experience. There is a plentiful amount of luxury safaris lodges like Royal Malewane, Ngala, or Singita. I decided to stay a luxury boutique lodge outside of the park in Hoedspruit but still on a wildlife estate by the name of Unembeza Boutique Lodge and Spa.The reason I did this was it still allowed me to stay close but not in the park with luxury amenities for an affordable price. They can also book tours and excursions for you which makes your Kruger safari planning much easier and they offer a plethora of luxury amenities as aforementioned.
I thoroughly appreciated the attention to detail and service as being pregnant in the hot landscape of the Kruger and the surrounding area of Hoedspruit. They cater to special dietary restrictions and offer a 4 course dinner menu, fresh juices and lunch, breakfast included with stay, swimming pool, laundry services, complimentary wifi, bush spa, and more in the middle of a wildlife estate surrounding Kruger National Park. They scheduled my Kruger National Park tour as well and even though we didn’t get to see all of the Big Five, the open safari vehicle and guide were excellent!
Planning a trip to the Panorama Route? Thinking about what else to add to your Kruger National Park Itinerary? The Panorama Route is a perfect addition to your safari holiday and South African getaway. You can self-drive the Panorama Route in your own vehicle from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park, which will take you a few days. However, I decided to add it to my Kruger National Park stay as a one day tour.
The Route is incredibly breathtaking and I’m so glad I made it a priority of mine to see it! You get a true sense of the landscape which features the world’s third largest canyon, raging rivers, a plethora of waterfalls, and a dramatic terrain of mountains and cliffs. The most popular attractions to see on the route are God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Blyde River Canyon, Lisbon Falls, The Three Rondavels, The Pinnacle, Berlin Falls, and the Wonderview. Featured below are what you can look forward to on your Panorama Route trip.
BOURKE’S LUCK POTHOLES AT BLYDE RIVER CANYON RESERVE
Bourke’s Luck Potholes is a stunning geological formation in the Blyde River Canyon Reserve. Not only can you walk on bridges above the pools of water, you can also dip your feet in and take a seat in the whirlpools of this fascinating natural phenomenon.
Lisbon Falls is the highest waterfall in the province and I was lucky enough to capture and see it with a beautiful rainbow.
BLYDE RIVER CANYON
The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world, offers lush scenery, is 16 miles in length, and known as the largest “green canyon” in the world.
You might be thinking, what is a Rondavel? A Rondavel is actually a house or hut of the indigenous people and the three round rocks sitting on top together are reminiscent of such. The view here is absolutely stunning, a must see!! In my opinion it offers the best view on the entire Panorama Route.