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10 Totally Adorable Trailer Hotels

By Veronica Meewes
November 8, 2018
Trailer at dusk tents in background
Nick Simonite
Style and design take center stage at these unique lodgings set in Airstream trailers and other trailer home vehicles.

For lovers of the open road and Americana culture, few accommodations are dreamier than a vintage Airstream. And as temperatures drop, trailers also provide a good alternative to camping outside. With retro options running the gamut from eco-friendly to stylishly bohemian to high-end glamping, trailer park life has never looked so good—and all while reducing the environmental footprint, too.

1. El Cosmico: Marfa, Texas

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Situated on 21 acres of high plains desert by Texas hotelier Liz Lambert, El Cosmico (elcosmico.com) is more of a way of life than a campground. Choose to wake up in a yurt, a Sioux-style teepee, or a safari tent, if not in one of the property’s 13 refurbished 1950s-era trailers, painted in colors like robin’s-egg blue and daffodil yellow. Each trailer comes equipped with creature comforts like cozy serape robes, Geneva bluetooth speakers, Chemex coffeemakers, and minibars stocked with essentials like Topo Chico and rolling papers. Outdoor showers and a communal outdoor kitchen continually invite you to connect to your surroundings, while hammock groves and wood-fired Dutch hot tubs—not to mention a purposeful lack of WiFi—encourage you to truly unplug and enjoy the peaceful pace of desert life. Pro tip: Check El Cosmico’s calendar and plan a visit around its diverse programming, from the annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love to film screenings, yoga classes, and outdoor cooking intensives.

2. Kate’s Lazy Desert: Landers, California

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Kate Pierson, a founding member of the B-52s, and her wife, Monica Coleman, opened Kate’s Lazy Meadow (lazymeadow.com) to create a truly campy (wink!) travel experience. It all started in Woodstock, New York, where they added Airstream trailers to a cabin-studded campground, but when flooding from severe rainstorms damaged the newly renovated vehicles, they moved them somewhere safe and dry, and Kate’s Lazy Desert was born. Just 20 minutes outside of Joshua Tree National Park in California's Mojave Desert, the six trailers, which have names like Hot Lava and Tinkerbell, are colorful and kitschy, thanks to artist team Maberry Walker. After exploring the surrounding region’s near-intergalactic landscape by day, take in the star-glittered sky at night, or head to the iconic Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneer Town Palace for live music and burgers.

3. Hotel Luna Mystica: Taos, New Mexico

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Hotel Luna Mystica (hotellunamystica.com) is located eight miles from the heart of Taos, just across the street from Taos Mesa Brewery. Described on its website as “12-plus acres of mesa, 10 vintage trailers, 60 campsites, one planet, one moon, a gazillion stars,” the property features a collection of refurbished trailers from the 1950s through the 1970s, including Spartans, Airstreams, and Aristocrats. Each has a private bathroom, a kitchen, and a patio, plus amenities like high-quality linens, locally made soap, and French-press coffee makers. All the trailers maintain vintage vibes while incorporating eclectic design elements like potted succulents, Turkish lanterns, and colorful pillows. Some also have WiFi access, but living off the grid is really the best choice here. How better to enjoy the breathtaking mountain views before gathering around the fire pit to share stories with fellow travelers at night? 

4. The Shady Dell: Bisbee, Arizona

Unlike most renovated trailers that rely on modern amenities, the dwellings at The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court (theshadydell.com) include period-specific books, magazines, décor, and even appliances like percolators, phonographs, and black-and-white televisions. These 10 trailers range in style, from a 1947 Airporter converted into a tropical tiki oasis to a 1955 Airstream exuding Southwestern chic. Cooking is not permitted inside the trailers, but there are outdoor grills available at this adults-only, seasonal park (it closed every summer and winter). Located 30 minutes south of Tombstone, once the center of the Wild West, and just a few minutes south of quirky Bisbee, it’s a perfect home base for exploring the historic mining town.

5. Caravan Outpost: Ojai, California

Located just a stone's throw from downtown Ojai, Caravan Outpost (caravanoutpostojai.com) features 11 refurbished Airstreams shaded by lush tropical foliage. Each trailer comes with a stocked kitchen and peaceful outdoor shower and sleeps between one and five people. Most are pet-friendly. Record players add to the vintage feel, and vinyl can be swapped out at the on-site General Store. The hotel also offers tailor-made experiences like wine tastings and vineyard tours, visits to hot springs, meditation packages, and outdoor adventures from surfing to rock climbing to mountain biking. And even when they’re not hosting farm-to-table dinners or speaker series, there’s plenty of opportunity to connect with fellow travelers, particularly over s’mores and conversation around the nightly bonfire.

6. The Vintage Trailer Resort: Willamette Valley, Oregon 

Perfect for those who want to sample trailer living before committing to owning one, The Vintages Trailer Resort (the-vintages.com) is one section of the 14-acre Willamette Wine Country RV Park between Dundee and McMinnville, Oregon. With 33 vintage trailers of varying sizes and styles, each stocked with upscale amenities like L’Occitane bath products, plush bedding, pour-over coffee, and luxurious robes, the Vintages really does live up to its “trailer resort” designation. All accommodations are equipped with private bathrooms, and some also have private showers or even plunge tubs. There are also propane grills, so you can cook up a flame-kissed steak to enjoy alongside a glass of the Willamette Valley's famed pinot noir. The park also features a pool, outdoor yard games, and a dog park. A free cruiser bike rental for two is also included with each reservation, making day trips into Oregon’s wine country a breeze.

7. Hicksville Trailer Palace: Joshua Tree, California

Many travelers go to Joshua Tree National Park to disconnect in the desert and get away from it all. But Hicksville Trailer Palace (hicksville.com/joshuatree/motel.html), located in the heart of the small bohemian town, offers so much to do, you may never make it off the grounds. Choose from mini golf, darts, ping-pong, bocce, cornhole, archery, and a BB-gun shooting range, or just soak in the sunset from the roof-deck hot tub. Each of the 10 refurbished vintage trailers is uniquely decorated, from the alien-focused Integratrailor, which comes equipped with a star machine, to the big top–striped Sideshow. From March through November, enjoy a solar-heated saltwater swimming pool; in fact, this entire hippie kingdom runs off the power of the sun. And though the 420-friendly complex certainly encourages fun, note there is a list of rules (i.e., no geotagging on the property) that all guests are required to read and abide by. 

8. Shooting Star RV Restort: Escalante, Utah

The last thing one would expect to find in the middle of Utah is a collection of Airstream trailers designed to look like old Hollywood stars’ dressing trailers, but that’s just the kind magic created by Shooting Star RV Resort (shootingstar-rvresort.com). Choose from Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like It Hot hideaway, Elvis’s Blue Hawaiian paradise, Ann-Margret’s Viva Las Vegas cabana, and more. Each of the nine trailers captures the feel of the film’s era and the actor’s character, but with comfortable amenities like queen-sized beds, flatscreen HDTVs, and fully outfitted kitchens. During the day, go explore the stunning state and national parks nearby, and be sure to reserve one of the hotel’s vintage Cadillacs, where you can enjoy a movie at the on-site drive-in theater once the sun sets.

9. AutoCamp: Guerneville, California

AutoCamp (autocamp.com/guides/location/russian-river/) opened its first trailer park in downtown Santa Barbara in 2013, and another will launch in Yosemite this winter. But the Russian River location in Guerneville is the only one surrounded by breathtaking redwoods. Each of its vintage Airstreams features sleek midcentury-modern interiors and the amenities of an upscale hotel—think luxurious bedding, memory-foam mattresses, plush towels, and walk-in spa showers. And it's in the heart of Sonoma, an hour-and-a-half north of San Francisco and minutes from the California coastline, so there are endless opportunities for exploration. Hike through the redwoods, canoe the Russian River, cycle to wineries, and recount it all with new friends later at night around the fire pit.

10. Flamingo Springs Trailer Resort: Arkansas

Tucked away in the woods of Arkansas, this Palm Springs-inspired resort features eight renovated trailers from the '50s to the '70s. The website’s descriptions of each are as quirky as the themed spaces themselves: The Pour Some Shasta On Me allows you to “experience all the glitz and glamour of a '90s hair band without the drug problem and the narcissism,” and Candy Cane Lane is decorated in vintage Christmas decor, including “a nice selection of terrible Christmas albums.” In addition to 50 acres of woods to roam, Flamingo Springs also offers a variety of yard games (horseshoes, bocce, ladder ball, and baggo), plus a circular pool, a BB-gun range, ping-pong, vintage video games, and a jukebox that plays 45s.

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Budget Travel Lists

10 Books Every Traveler Should Read

Traveling is a wonderful way to explore the world, especially when it challenges you to step outside your comfort zone. Whether your trip is a spiritual quest or a physical adventure or a simple rest-and-refocus getaway, being somewhere totally new can inspire introspection and imagination, as well as open you up to meeting new people. Most have heard of Eat Pray Love and Wild, but there are so many other wonderful books that may not be on your radar. With that in mind, we have selected ten must-read books for travelers. From a classic about a female explorer who charted unknown territory to collections of travel writing by renowned writers, we guarantee that these books will spark your wanderlust. 1. Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude, by Stephanie Rosenbloom     Rosenbloom, a travel columnist for the New York Times, revels in the possibilities of traveling solo by spending time in four cities: Paris, Istanbul, Florence, and New York. She recounts her experiences in vivid detail, which are cleverly interwoven with interesting facts that reveal each city’s culture and history. She emphasizes the importance of solitude and what can be learned from it, including the value of slowing down and an appreciation of things that often go unnoticed. 2. To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life With No Regrets, by Jedediah Jenkins On the eve of turning 30, Jenkins decides to quit his day job and cycle south, from the coast of Oregon to Patagonia. What follows is an adventure that challenges his notions of both faith and identity. It is written in soul-stirring prose that that makes you feel like you are pedaling right alongside him, experiencing the vast and varied terrain of Central and South America. Like a modern-day On the Road, this is for anyone who wonders about the path not taken. 3. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman, by Alice Steinbach Penned by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Without Reservations is the literary equivalent of sitting down to a cup of tea with a good friend and hearing all about her travels through England, France, and Italy. Steinbach has a unique ability to self-examine and mindfully observe the behavior of others, as well as an attitude that is ideal for traveling solo—she’s unhurried, open to new experiences, yet also calmly cautious. She writes of her love for sending postcards to herself from each destination, in order to capture the moment and savor the memories later. 4. The Way of Wanderlust, by Don George Don George is a remarkable travel writer, and this collection begins with the 1977 essay he published in the since-shuttered magazine Mademoiselle about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Considering the different types of travel that one may seek, George divides the book into three sections: pilgrimages, encounters, and illuminations. In these essays he crisscrosses the globe from the Galapagos Islands to Japan to Greece, forging deep emotional connections with the people he meets.   5. The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels, by Freya Stark Published in 1934, Stark’s memoir recounts the experiences of a single woman traveling the unknown, unmapped lands of the Middle East with local tribesmen as guides. Like a real-life Indiana Jones, Stark was both courageous and unflappable, often using her wits to help her out of potentially dangerous situations in an area that was largely inhabited by bandits. A true pioneer of her time, she explored places that intimidated even the bravest of men. 6. Far Flung and Well Fed, by R.W. Apple    After reporting from the battlefields in Vietnam for the New York Times, R.W. Apple became a food writer for the paper, and in his quest to delve into the “gastronomic trenches” (as he put it), he traveled to some of the most exotic locales in the world. With more than 50 food-centric travel essays, Apple takes the reader to Europe, South America, Asia, and the U.S. Whether it is trawling through the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in search of the perfect soft-shelled crab or devouring dim sum in Hong Kong, Apple was always ready for a culinary adventure.  7. The World: Life and Travel 1950-2000, by Jan Morris     This collection of travel writing by renowned Welsh writer Jan (formerly James) Morris spans the second half of the twentieth century. From accompanying Sir Edmund Hillary on the first successful summiting of Mt. Everest in 1953 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Morris was an eyewitness to history’s milestones. She puts these world events in context with her travels and is able to eloquently capture the essence of the places she visits. 8. Sun After Dark: Flights Into the Foreign, by Pico Iyer     In search of the road far less traveled, Iyer visits places such as Cambodia, Oman, Tibet, and Bolivia. With his trademark philosophical approach and poetic observations, he meditates on the nature of travel itself and on the inner journeys one takes during their external wanderings. It's a collection of travel stories, essays, and profiles of such figures as the Dalai Lama and the Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. 9. Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, by Noo Saro-Wiwa     Noo Saro-Wiwa was born in Nigeria and raised in England, and every summer she reluctantly travels back to her homeland. But after her father, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was killed there, she doesn’t return until ten years later, at which point she attempts to reconcile her feelings about Nigeria. More than just a travelogue, Saro-Wiwa combines history with current affairs and observations of daily life during her travels through the country. 10. The Solo Travel Handbook, by Lonely Planet For any type of solo traveler—newbies and veterans alike—this guide by Budget Travel's parent company handles it all, from planning your itinerary to dealing with issues that come up on the road to trip ideas for inspiration. It incorporates suggestions on managing your money, ways to meet people and stay connected, and encouragement for those who may be hesitant to travel solo. An invaluable guide that will help you to stay safe and enjoy your trip.

Budget Travel Lists

5 Cocktail Bars With Epic Views

When you’re traveling, it probably feels like you spend most of your day going from stop to stop—historic site, buzzy restaurant, charming shopping district, scenic park. Sometimes, though, taking the longview of a city can help you understand its soul as well as you would if you were sitting in a café chatting with locals. Tourist favorite viewing sites, like NYC’s iconic Empire State Building, require advanced planning and pricey online reservations as well as some serious wait time once you get there. But what if you could instantly be swept up to a perfect perch which not only offers spectacular sights—but a civilized way to enjoy them? Check out these five bars and lounges that offer jaw-dropping vistas and a respite from the crowds. A beautifully prepared drink, snack, or meal seals the deal. 1. The Aviary: New York Head to the 35th floor of Manhattan’s Mandarin Oriental and you’ll find this dramatic lounge (aviarynyc.com) overlooking Central Park and much of midtown. Set within the massive Time Warner shopping complex at Columbus Circle, this is the perfect place to kick up your feet after a long day of sightseeing or bring out-of-town guests for a special treat. Not only will you enjoy the view from the curved, floor-to-ceiling wall of windows, you’ll be tickled by the playful array of drinks and small dishes on the experimental menu. The whimsical cocktails here make The Aviary as destination-worthy as the views. They typically involve smoke, dry ice, or exotic Instagram-worthy garnishes and vessels. If you've never had a cocktail poured from a plastic bag, now's your chance to try it. During daytime hours, a good bet is the $45, three-course lunch. Walk-ins are encouraged though if you want a prime seat next to the windows, you’ll want to make a reservation on took.com. 2. 71 Above: Los Angeles (Courtesy 71Above) Perched nearly 1000 feet atop the US Bank Tower building in downtown Los Angeles, this circular restaurant and lounge (71above.com) offers an unrivaled, panoramic view of the City of Angels. Once seated, you’ll be able to appreciate the seamless glass window panes which automatically darken for better daytime viewing and then lighten as dusk falls—and each table also comes with its own simulated compass to help you gauge your direction. The mood is old-world opulence and you can walk in any time for a well-crafted cocktail at the bar in the lounge. Stick to the classic vibe and order a Vesper, the gin, vodka, and Lillet Blanc mix that James Bond made famous. There’s also a special bar menu of small bites. If you’re after the $70 prix-fixe option, you’ll have to make reservations. The menu includes French classics like steak tartar, oysters in Champagne, and foie gras—balanced with more modern dishes like the surprisingly luxe parsnips roasted in duck fat. You can also reserve seats by the window.  3. Top of the Gate/Top of the Skate: Washington D.C. Politics may be on everyone’s mind these days, but the recently refurbished Watergate Hotel (thewatergatehotel.com/dine-and-drink/top-of-the-gate) promises to keep things lighthearted. Inside, you’ll find a few small, cheeky gestures with a swipe at the namesake’s complex past, including drink coasters inscribed with “Well, I am not a crook,” and Mad Men-inspired uniforms for the staff. But it’s the year-round rooftop, featuring 360-degree views of D.C.’s familiar skyline and monuments, that inject an element of fun and fancy to every visit. During warmer months, you can head up to the 15th floor and perch yourself at the bar for an array of fruity, cheery cocktails like the Key-Bridge Sunset with Jamaican rum, pineapple, lime and ginger, or choose something simple from the G&T Bar. A popular food option is one of the sweet or savory pizzas, served with a wink in a delivery box. Come November, Top of the Gate becomes the Top of the Skate, offering those same views to ice skaters on the open-air rink—as well as a skate-up bar with seasonal selections like a bourbon-spiked hot cider and hot chocolate with Bailey’s and Irish whiskey. You can book a table or lounge seating for a minimum of $50 per person. Guests will be charged the full $50 even if the order totals less than that sum.  4. J Parker: Chicago (Courtesy The J. Parker) The 13th floor of the Hotel Lincoln (jparkerchicago.com) delivers stunning views of the Chicago skyline, Lincoln Park Zoo, Lake Michigan, and the city’s Gold Coast. The bar, named after the eponymous president’s bodyguard, is an all-weather destination with an outdoor rooftop and a glass-enclosed space to enjoy the globetrotting cocktail program featuring drinks from Mexico, Cuba and Spain—like the Capri, stirred with gin, aloe liqueur, kiwi, and lime. Quiet, cozy times can be found on the banquettes and couches, or near one of the two fireplaces. But if, for instance, you’re coming in from the beach or a day of strolling the city, take a seat at the bar or one of the high-top tables and relax with an order of the house punch—served by the bowl-- or addictive snacks like truffle fries and cheesy polenta sticks. Reservations are available for larger groups, but otherwise it's first come, first serve. 5. Top of the Mark, San Francisco This 19th floor bar sits atop the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins (intercontinentalmarkhopkins.com/top-of-the-mark.aspx), which is perched above Nob Hill. There’s nothing here that falls short of the best of what San Francisco has to offer. Take a trip on the exclusive elevator to a throw-back, glass-walled, penthouse hotel bar. It’s a classy roost, where choosing a martini from the “100 Martini Menu” is as enjoyable as soaking in the views which include the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz. The wraparound perspective is perfect for sunset or a twinkling nightcap. Cocktails here lean classic with a contemporary twist. Tapas and small bites are served daily, touting locally sourced cheese and caviar, as well as shareable plates like Dungeness crab nachos. Check the online calendar for live music and dancing and if you want to make a brunch date with The City By the Bay, reservations on reserve.com is the way to go. 

Budget Travel Lists

9 Places to Learn a Cool New Skill on Vacation

You may have noticed, the older you get, the quicker time seems to pass. The reason behind this mystery is a scientific one that boils down to this: when you’re young, new skills and activities are a constant in your life; as you age, routine settles in and your brain doesn’t need to be as active because, essentially, it already knows the drill, so-to-speak. Want to slow down time? Learn something new. Since travel already has you in an unknown place, take the experience to the next level by trying out a fun class that will provide you with a new skill to take home. After all, physical souvenirs were so yesterday. 1. Coffee culture: Portland, Oregon (Georgy Iliin/Dreamstime)  Once upon a time, you’d order your coffee, the worker would ask if you want milk or sugar, and you’d be on your way. But in today’s era of single origin coffee, there’s much more to know. The artistry of a barista, some would say, is as involved as baking these days, and at Nossa Coffee (nosacoffee.com/classes/) in Portland, Oregon, you can develop your understanding of the art. Take your pour-over coffee skills to the next level with a free tour and session in cupping, the professional technique for tasting coffee. Or get more involved at one of the various 90-minute classes revolving around barista life. Reservations are recommended.  2. Cake decorating: Hoboken, NJ Wouldn’t it be nice to attend a birthday party or other celebration with a beautifully decorated cake, frosted and detailed with your own two hands? Bartolo Jr. “Buddy,” who oversees a  small but well known empire of Carlo’s Bake Shop bakeries (classes/carlosbakery.com) in New Jersey, can help you do just that. Considering he made an appearance on TLC’s “Cake Boss,” he certainly has a lot to teach. He offers two-hour classes at Carlo’s Bake Shop’s Hoboken location. From instructions on autumn leaves, comic-themed cakes, and everything in between, check out the shop’s calendar to find what best suits your taste. 3. Sushi rolling: North Andover, Massachusetts  Often times, when you crave a particular food, you can throw together the ingredients to satisfy your taste buds. Sushi, on the other hand, is one of those dishes that require some skill. Situated 20 miles north from Boston and close to tax-free shopping in New Hampshire, Taste Buds Kitchen in North Andover (tastebudskitchen.com) is home to a variety of cooking classes that focus on a variety of cuisines. There’s the aforementioned sushi class as well as lessons in handmade pasta, Thai cuisine, and how to cook with beer and with wine. Speaking of, if cooking with a glass of cabernet in hand is your thing, feel free to BYOB. 4. Floral Arrangements: Portland, Maine Picking up a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store and placing them just so in your home instantly gives the room a pick-me-up. Imagine how much more meaningful that could be if you thoughtfully arranged the flowers. There’s certainly an art to the perfect bouquet and a Wednesday evening class at Sawyer and Company (sawyercompany.com) in Portland, Maine, can help you find your florist fingers. When you’re done, hop over to Nosh Kitchen for a delicious grass-fed burger or check out one of the many local breweries for a tour and tasting.  5. Woodworking: Orlando, Florida (Kyryl Gorlov/Dreamstime) Maybe you are planning an all-things-Mickey trip, but in the event you find yourself in the city of theme parks with a spare day, Woodcraft of Orlando (woodcraft.com) can teach you the basics of woodworking (or something more advanced, like the art of creating specific joints, should you choose). In the all-women beginner class, for example, participants will make and take home a cutting board as they learn how to use a table saw, jointer, miter saw, and router. Classes run five to six hours. 6. Essay writing: New York, New York (Peter L Gould/Dreamstime) New York City is the publishing capital of the world, so there’s no better place to get inspired and tap your inner author. Susan Shapiro’s essay class (susanshapiro.net) can help you do just that. Her well-known “Instant Gratification Takes Too Long” is a five-week course at The New School, but she also offers an abridged version as a one-time evening course just about every month. The majority of her students get published in big-time publications. Everyone has a story, so after you’ve worn out your feet taking in the city’s myriad sites and sounds, take a load off and head over to Greenwich Village where you’ll learn the elements of a personal essay as well as tips for pitching editors. 7. Improv Comedy: San Francisco  San Francisco is a global capital of creativity and invention. Little wonder you’ll feel inspired to conquer something new when you’re there. While you may not have aspirations of stepping up to the mike and captivating a crowd of 30,000 with your jokes, improv is a skill that almost anyone can use. It’s more than just delivering funny one-liners. It’s about laughing, learning how to navigate a crowd, and coming out of your shell. Improv San Francisco (improv.org/school/3-hour-intro-workshop) has a three-hour intro workshop ($45) to help you with just that, with one class specifically dedicated to those who consider themselves shy.  8. Fly Fishing: Laramie, Wyoming  (Glenda Powers/Dreamstime) Perhaps it’s the calming effect of sitting out on a boat on a quiet lake, or the whooshing sound of the line as it goes to and fro, but any fly fisher will tell you that once you try it a few times, you’ll be hooked. Chances are, if you’re planning a trip to the Laramie area, you’re already a fan of being immersed in the great outdoors. Certainly, Wyoming is home to guided fishing excursions, but if you’re only first getting your feet wet, a fly-tying class is an excellent introduction to the sport. Four Seasons Anglers (fourseasonaanglers.com) provides classes to the public as well as private sessions on request. To take it a step further, try their free casting lesson. 9. Archery: Colorado Springs, Colorado You can’t hear someone mention Colorado and not think about the Rockies. Or mountains in general, for that matter. But situated a bit lower to the ground you’ll find many opportunities to practice patience and precision with an introduction to archery. The family-owned Archery Hut (thearcheryhut.com) offers a beginner class Wednesday evenings for $25. Beyond the class, there is a 4,000 square foot range that is open at a drop-in rate for all ability levels.

Budget Travel Lists

Top Travel Trends for 2019

Turns out, you can learn everything there is to know about the travel industry in a day and a half. Each year, hundreds of travel executives and professionals gather at the Skift Forum in Manhattan for two days of talks that essentially comprise a state-of-the-union-like overview on the travel industry. This September, presidents, CEOs, and other head honchos of companies like Delta, JetBlue, Hilton, Marriott, and Google took to the stage to give the rundown on what’s going on with their companies and what the future might bring. While jargony buzzwords like "digital engagement" and "aligning with partners" were tossed around with abandon, there were a few key points that you, dear reader, can put in your back pocket to stay ahead of the game and think about as you plan your travel in the coming year. THE TECH BACKLASH After several years of news headlines and water cooler talk of Jetsonian touches in hotel rooms, some executive are tugging on the reins and bringing things back down to earth. It's a reaction that was perhaps best summed up by Matthew Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, a digital network of luxury travel advisors, when he said "I don’t like the term 'intermediaries.' As technology gets more ubiquitous, there will not only be a desire, but a craving for authenticity." The emotional impact of good service or a memorable interaction, he said, lasts much longer than the novelty of any gadget. Technological enhancements in hotels, of course, cannot evolve or be implemented faster than those in society overall. Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott International, which, after the acquisition of Starwood Hotels in 2016 for $13 billion, encompasses 30 brands and 6700 hotels around the world, says there is a future for connected "smart" rooms, but we have a way to go.  “There’s a potential for connected rooms and voice search, but it’s a tool we’re collectively figuring out how to use," he said, noting a big pilot they're working on with Amazon Alexa. "It offers convenience to do things online and through voice, but as a society we’re still figuring out: are these devices that we can trust? Does it offer enough convenience that we can be confident that it’s not listening to us when we don’t want to?” But really, isn’t automation and digitization something people travel to escape from?After all, going on vacation to “unplug” is certainly something we all can dream about. “At the end of the day, it’s all about people. We can’t let technology override that," Sorensen added. "Everything we do is within the quest of serving guests in more effective ways, whether at our properties or online. 'Technology bling' is cool, it’s fancy, but at the end of the day, it might not work well, it may not be intuitive." ONE-STOP TRIP PLANNING If things go according to plan, the days of hopping from website to website to organize a trip will soon be a thing of the past. Several giant companies are expanding their offerings, aiming to become one-stop shops for an increasingly broad range of services and tools. TripAdvisor, which is home to more than 661 million reviews of 7.7 million airlines, restaurants, accommodations and experiences, announced in early September that they are overhauling their site to include features like a social-media-like personal travel feed that includes tips, recommendations, and photos from people in a user’s network as well as TripAdvisor-appointed influencers. Users will also be able to filter their searches by destinations to find site-specific information and more comprehensive planning tools. At the conference, the company’s CEO, Steve Kaufer, elaborated, “When we look at how we make travel decisions, reviews are never the only source of information,” he said, referring to the site’s defining feature. “Everyone reaches out to friends, their social network, old-style branded content, social influencers. I envision a day when people go to TripAdvisor for the whole trip. They can save things really want and make a bucket list, of sorts. A large percentage of our audience is already Facebook-connected. People are interested in where friends have gone and what they like, we’re just streamlining that process.”  AirB&B is also expanding its reach. The decade-old company, which has logged 400 million guest arrivals, is looking beyond accommodations at how to bring experiences into the fold. “Airbnb started with a community. There are lots of passionate artists and activities in local communities,” said Greg Greeley, President of Homes for Airbnb. “The way we think about evolution and extensions is by listening to the community. We ask: are we driving innovative travel that’s people-powered and centered on local experience?” ON FOOD AND DESIGN “A lack of innovation means a lack of charm,” said Ian Schrager, the legendary 1970s nightlife mogul who founded Studio 54 and later the trend-setting hotelier who pioneered the boutique hotel concept. While Schrager did not completely dismiss technology, conceding that it’s the “next frontier,” he lamented how young people don’t go to bars the way they did in the Studio 54 era and said, point blank, we’re not using technology well. It’s not about having an iPad or Echo in every room, he said. It should be more integrated. It’s about making every transaction in a hotel easier and cheaper for a reason.  What does have an immediate and emotional impact, which ends up making a lasting impression, is design. “What takes away from personal contact is ridiculous. It's fun to razzle-dazzle customers, but attention to design has the upside to blow people away.” According to Marriott's Sorenson, design and dining are two ways to ensure that guests have a localized experience. “The product and service experience at each individual hotel has to be very strong, especially when it comes to localized architecture, food, beverage and service experience, and a team with an authentic welcome,” he said. “Fundamentally that’s the product being sold.”

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