Coachella Valley-Rancho Mirage-Palm Springs Getaway

Often our trips to the Palm Springs, Calif. area involve little more than dining, shopping, relaxing poolside with an icy drink and a good book. We wanted to do a bit more this visit; we planned a couple of hikes, a tramway trip to the top of San Jacinto Mountains followed by the inevitable dining, shopping and relaxing poolside. But we found ourselves in the first week of this month with temperatures well below the average, accompanied by strong winds, rain, and at the top of the mountain: snow. Which brings us to the number one travel tip: Always have a “plan b.”

The first morning we started out with a short hike. The winds were whipping around the desert at 30 mph, so we located a short hike that was somewhat protected by nearby hills and a thousand or so palms: the easy 1.7 miles to McCallum Pond at Coachella Valley Preserve.

Our second hike on this getaway weekend was also fairly short. We made the 1.8-mile climb up to Tahquitz Canyon Falls.

Both hikes are excellent for all ages and abilities. Both offer great views, geographic variety and photographic possibilities. Both can be prime activities for those looking for one to two hour excursions to supplement a day of shopping, sightseeing, a round of golf or lounging poolside.

In the case of inclement weather, always have a few indoor activities lined up. Several museums, shopping malls, galleries in the area provide indoor things-to-do. Because both my husband and I enjoy craft beer, we opted to visit two of several craft beer breweries. One is La Quinta Brewing in La Quinta, a 15-20 minute drive from Palm Springs. Old Town La Quinta is a picturesque and pleasant array of shops, galleries and eateries.

Beers sampled at La Quinta included the Poolside Blonde, an easy-drinking, light blonde ale, the Bloody Hot Summer, a refreshing, fruity beer, the Even Par 7.2 IPA, a smooth, perfectly balanced IPA, the Heatwave Amber Ale, a tasty brew with malt and caramel, and the Koffi Porter, with rich coffee, chocolate and malt.

 

The second brewery we visited was Coachella Valley Brewing Company, located about two miles north of our resort Westin Mission Hills.

Coachella Valley Brewing (or CVB) has many types of brews with a wide variety of flavors and blends, something for almost everyone, except the amber, red or brown ale drinker.  Beers we enjoyed were the I-10 IPA, a lower alcohol session IPA, the Kolschella, a refreshing Kolsch-style German ale, the Harvester, an imperial IPA with grapefruit, and the Palms to Pines, a triple IPA at 13 percent APV!

After a weekend of wind and rain, we wrapped up our getaway with a day of abundant sunshine next to the Westin Mission Hills pool. We like to recommend: Allow ample time on the last day to let the events of your vacation soak in. Let the intermittent bursts of kids splashing and laughing blended with faint sounds of different styles of music and low rumble of adult chatter lull you into relaxation as you turn the page of your book or magazine or swipe your Kindle. Gaze up at the sun through the palms, take a deep breath and know: no matter what the weather or other environmental factors; you’ve had the time to unwind.

Checking in? Consider these items before your next hotel stay

Hotel Room Key Atop the Bed

We’ve all been there. Here’s the scenario: You’ve just completed your hotel front check in and you’re on the way up the elevator to your room. You suddenly think, “I wish I had asked about _____________.” You make a mental note, thinking you’ll go back to the front desk later, but after you get settled and start your vacation, later never comes and that question you had falls to the least important thing in your memory.

I’ve been jotting down some of those common concerns and questions many of us have wanted to ask before, during or immediately after we check in, but the vacation excitement of ‘first night syndrome’ takes over. To seasoned business travelers, these issues may be automatic but to the typical family vacationer who travels a couple of times a year — not so much. So here are some common items to consider when you check in:

1. Ask about the room itself. What’s the view like from your window? Which direction does it face? What floor is this on? Am I near an elevator, ice or vending machines, housekeeping closet or stairwell? Does my room overlook the roof air conditioning system? Does the room look out to a back alley or parking garage? If you’re concerned about noise or views, obtain or ask to see a hotel property map or room layout before the front desk staff runs your key cards. Many clerks usually will provide a map once you’ve completed registration, but not always. If there’s any doubt, ask to see the room first before you make your decision. A website and mobile app called Room 77 allows users to see the views from popular hotels in select U.S. cities. Think of it as a sort of a Seat Guru for hotels.

2. Ask about the property’s activities. Are there any construction projects happening during your stay? Are all restaurants, shops, services open and operating? Are there any major events occurring the same time – such as conventions, large weddings, etc.

3. Find out about extra fees and local tax rates. Are there daily resort charges? You’ll want to ask about daily parking fees, Wi-Fi or Internet charges, phone call charges and convenience charges for items such as bottled water, snacks and newspapers. Are there early departure fees? (Here’s an interesting item about resort fees.)

4. Special requests usually are made at the time of your reservation.  A day or two before my arrival date, I normally will call directly to the hotel property and confirm my reservation. At that time I will also verify they have received any special requests I have made.  Often special requests made on a website booking or through a toll-free number tend to get ‘lost in the shuffle.’ Popular special requests include room upgrades, connecting rooms, bed types, smoking preference, ADA access, views, specific phase, wing, room or floor location, early check in or late checkout. (At most hotels, bed type and room access usually are standard room rate preferences. Also, an increasing number of hotel chains are now smoke-free.)  Obviously, a good time to request an early check in is at the time of reservation, with a follow-up when you call ahead to confirm your reservation. But if you want to make a special request such as a late check out, and haven’t done so during your reservation, feel free to do it at check in. And it’s best not to overdo the special requests. If you make too many, they may not honor any of them.

5. Room discounts probably should have been a choice when you’ve made your reservation but in case you forgot, it can’t hurt to mention your eligibility for an automobile club, rewards points membership, travel credit card, professional affiliation or senior, government or military discount at check in.

6. Here’s some additional miscellaneous considerations:

  • Check out time
  • Wi-Fi passwords or computer access instructions
  • Special dining features (such as free breakfast buffet or continental breakfast), deals or discounts at gift shops or on entertainment (especially in Las Vegas)
  • Express check out procedures
  • Pet policies
  • Public transportation options such as buses, shuttles, taxis, rental cars
  • Luggage assistance

This list of hotel check in questions includes only what I have jotted down from my travels in the past couple of years, so I’m sure there are many other items to consider. Readers: I’d like to know your tips. What do you want to know about at a hotel check in?

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Seven reasons to visit Guaymas/San Carlos, Sonora

San Carlos is one of our favorite Mexican getaways. The resort area is about a seven-hours’ drive south from Phoenix and half an hour from Guaymas, Sonora. It’s an easy drive though Tucson, Nogales and Hermosillo. Spring is a perfect time to visit. We love San Carlos for the same reasons most tourists enjoy Mexico: beaches, fishing, boating, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, shopping, dining, nightlife, sight-seeing… the list seems endless. Here are just a few things we love best about the destination:

1. Crystal clean pools at our resort, the Sea of Cortez Beach Club

2. San Pedro Island’s sea lions

3. Walks along the beach: Playa Los Algodones

4. Sensational sunsets over San Luis, Doble and Venado Islands

5. Tours to Guaymas to see the city hall, municipal plaza and this church: Iglesia San Fernando

6. Snorkeling at San Pedro Island

7. Tetakawi Mountain and Lalo Cove

San Carlos has a wide variety of dining and lodging accommodations. Here are a few websites we recommend for additional travel information:

What’s Up San Carlos

San Carlos, Mexico

Go2SanCarlos

Desert Divers